After a day spent locked in battle with the most wilfully obtuse bunch of self-serving councillors on his side of the planet – and coming within a wing-width of feeding Waveguide all his carefully-drafted budget assessments – Starscream had been looking forwards to a quiet night to himself.
The building was already empty when he dragged his tired pedes over the threshold. Thundercracker had taken Celerity out to New Vos, to see their growing tribe of younger sparks. Skywarp had made plans to see some inane sports thing half a planet away with friends from work. And Skyfire had been asked back to Earth for some science project involving altogether too much mud to be healthy, which the red seeker had, ah, “politely” declined.
So things had all looked on-schedule for a pleasant, private evening of relaxation. Possibly spending a little quality time alone with all those lovely polishing tools in the washracks. (And the insulated step-stool the bikes were always raving about.)
…then Skywarp had come home early.
Apparently, the game had been called off because half of one team had come down with a virus – and the disappointed, slightly-cranky teleport had brought with him the packet of fulminating candies he’d been planning on taking to the match. It wasn’t the candies that were a problem, as much as the type of candies. In fuel terms, they were next to worthless, but folk liked them because they had a pleasant crunch.
The teleport was most definitely making the most of that part, and it was all making Starscream’s helm hurt. Skywarp had been throwing the confectionery into the air and trying to catch them in his mouth for most of the evening – without great success, if all the residue scattered across the floor was anything to go by.
Starscream had sat and watched his plans for a nice, quiet, relaxing evening trickle off down the drain. He sat and glared at the news, until he couldn’t stand the incessant noise any more. “Are you going to share those, or what?”
Skywarp looked at him, hesitating mid-crunch. “…I hadn’t been planning to?”
“Says the mech who’s already shared half the packet with the floor, and was probably going to pelt the opposing team with them anyway?”
Skywarp narrowed his optics and pouted, but finally relented and held out the packet. “Fine. But don’t eat all of ‘em,” he warned, with a little finger waggle. “I was gonna save a few for when the Squeakster comes home.”
Starscream carefully tipped a handful into his palm, and flicked the packet back at his wingmate. “Doesn’t she get tired of all the permutations on ‘squeak’ that you come up with?”
Skywarp gave him a brief suspicious look – presumably cross-referencing the meaning of ‘permutation’ – before wrinkling his nose. “Nah. It’s her name, isn’t it?”
“One of these days you’re going to find a variation on Squeak that she doesn’t like, and she’s going to slug you round the face for it.” Starscream wriggled more comfortably into his chair. “I only hope I’m here to get to see it.”
Skywarp offered a dismissive pfft. “What are you watching, anyway?”
“The news. It figures that you wouldn’t know what that is.”
Skywarp snorted. “I know what the news is, dude. I was expecting you to be watching it while you waited for something more interesting to come on.”
“No, I am in fact watching the news just because I want to watch the news? Some of us like to know what’s going on around the world before they blunder into it.”
“Get you, Winglord Grumpy. Who shoved a spanner up your exhaust?”
Starscream fixed him on a glare, although it didn’t have quite the same effect on Skywarp as it might have on one of the junior councillors. “I was looking forwards to a relaxing evening to myself,” he growled, frustrated. “Then you came home with slagging exploding candies and I haven’t had a breem’s peace since.”
Skywarp gave him a small, sly smile. “You could go see Skyfire. I know he’d love your, ah, help. Washing all that mud off.”
Starscream’s glare turned into a pout and he sacrificed one of his candies in favour of throwing it at his wingmate; it exploded like a whipcrack in the teleport’s audio vent and almost made him jump out of his chair. “Why don’t you go find someone else to harass, you obnoxious glitch.”
The dark seeker rubbed his helm and sulked, but finally went (blissfully) silent.
Pulsar finally crawled in at some ungodly time of the dark cycle, and flopped in Skywarp’s lap with her chassis-lights still lit.
“Hi?” Skywarp propped his thrusters against the low table, so she could relax a little more comfortably against his chassis. “You’re back late.”
She snorted. “Whatever would we do without your keen powers of observation.”
“And you’re dented.”
“Again with the skills. I have my lights on, too, in case you hadn’t seen them.” She proper herself just enough that her headlights shone straight into his optics; Skywarp snerk!ed and covered her chassis with both palms. The bike vented a subtle sigh and leaned into his hands. “I’m going to have to go to the paintshop again. I only went two orns ago!”
He smiled and flicked her aerials. “You’re only worried the staff are gonna think you’ve got pink optics for them, or something.”
“Huh.” Something finally clicked, and she gave him a long, suspicious look. “What are you doing at home, anyway? You’re not even meant to be here.”
“Now who’s got the amazing powers of observation?”
She snorted softly, pressing into his hand as he skimmed his big fingers around the back of her helm and across her antennae. “Guilty as charged, especially if you keep doing that. What happened? Did it get cancelled?”
“Yeah. Sucks slag, right?” Skywarp grunted and shifted his wings into a more comfortable sprawl, continuing to draw little loopy fingertip doodles on the back of the bike’s helm and listening as her purr deepened. “Captain of the enemy team is purge-for-brains who didn’t keep his firewall up to date and passed it on to half his team. Match is postponed until… I don’t even know. Whenever the doctors sign ’em off as fit, I guess?” He squinted at her. “Are you even listening to me?”
Pulsar didn’t reply; still just purring gently. Sounded like she’d already slipped into idle. Not a great surprise, given her rash of new dents and paint flecks – obviously had a hard day.
He tried to lean down, so he could be closer to her audios. “I saved you some candies, but I figure you’re too tired for them, too, and I should just eat ‘em for you, right?”
She stirred, onlined her optics – although they were a muggy, dim shade of blue instead of her usual turquoise – and opened her mouth at him, like a small bird begging to be fed.
“Ugh! I’m not feeding you, femme, I mean Primus. What do you think I am?” But he posted one of the candies into her mouth anyway.
She snrk-ed softly. “Thank you. …I think? Because ow-!” Her voice skated briefly up the scale, and she had to cover her mouth with a palm to avoid egesting crumbs of explosive blue confectionery all over her seeker. “Those are properly zingy! Where in Pit did you get them from?”
Across the room, a semi-dormant Starscream muttered something about don’t people know what the fragging time is.
Skywarp shrugged. “Mighta swiped ‘em out of the evidence store.” He watched her dissolve in a fit of alarmed spluttering, and grinned. “Nah, seriously. There’s a new shop out on the main street. I figured I’d see if they were as good as folk were saying they were. Not bad, huh.”
It took her a moment to regain control of her vocaliser, and even then her words came out watery. “If you like feeling like your helm’s exploding, I guess? I think they’re designed for bigger machines than me.”
Skywarp picked a slightly smaller blue crystal out of the packet. “Want another?”
Pulsar actually recoiled a little. “Thank you, but no. I’d prefer my intake components stayed where they were installed.”
Skywarp snickered, and crunched on the candy. “Aw. I was hoping to see what other noises I could get you to make.”
“…don’t you use me as a way to aggravate your poor wingleader.”
“But you’re such a nice way to aggravate him, too.” He cupped his hand gently around her blinker and pinged at her antennae. “Especially when you use this…” His fingers drifted around towards her siren.
“…I feel a little used.” She purred and leaned into his hand, anyway, and lowered her voice; “How about you give me a better reason to visit the paintshop tomorrow.”
“Now who’s the aggravating glitch?”
“What can I say. You rub off on me.”
He snickered softly and added his purr to hers – a deeper, throatier sound that made his chassis vibrate subtly. Pulsar made a funny noise against him, elbows buckling.
On the opposite side of the room, Starscream sighed loudly enough to make the maple’s nearby leaves flutter, put up his hands in defeat, and retired to his private quarters.
The approaching dawn had begun to spread smudges of deep blue onto the horizon when Pulsar began to stir from the comfortable tangle of limbs and charging cables on the couch with Skywarp.
She managed to extract an arm, propped her chin in one palm, and for a while just listened to the subtle purr of his fans. For a former warmech, he looked surprisingly non-threatening, with his features slack in recharge – although at least part of that was probably down to the fact he wasn’t awake and being belligerent.
Her voice nudged Skywarp out of idle. “Uh?” He struggled to get his optics to reboot. “What.”
“It’s officially been 10 vorns, as of this morning.”
“Has it?” He thought about it for a few astroseconds. “…what has?”
She gave a little huff of amusement. “Since we crashed into each other’s lives.”
“Technically it’s been more like forty-seven vorns.” He pursed his lips and looked askance at her. “You’ve been timing it?”
She snorted. “Of course not.” But she’d answered so quickly, she knew she’d betrayed her own confidence, and hastily revised; “Okay, maybe a little. It’s a nice milestone. Hadn’t you even noticed it coming up on your chronometer?”
“I-… was I meant to?” He sounded wary, as though trying to gauge how big a faux pas this might have been.
“I guess maybe I assumed you would have?” She folded her arms under her chin. “Because some days, it feels like you’re the most brilliantly observant mech I’ve ever known. You spot things none of the rest of us notice.” She vented a little sigh of warm air. “But then equally, on other days, you’re the most wilfully, intentionally unobservant individual on our side of the district rift, so I don’t know why I’m surprised.” Seeing him grin, she thumped his chassis. “That’s not something you should be proud of.”
Skywarp blew out a dismissive raspberry. “What, I’m not allowed to feel proud of myself when someone calls me brilliant and observant instead of a brainless quantum browser?”
Pulsar glanced away. “…All right. Nice save.”
“Ten vorns, huh.” He laced his fingers behind his head. “I never thought I’d survive that long, out of the ’Cons.” He pondered on the thought for a moment. “Honestly, never figured I was gonna get out alive in the first place, so the extra vorns are a nice bonus.”
She propped her elbow against his chassis and rested her chin on her hand. “How did you think it’d end? Or don’t I want to know.”
He gazed up at the dwindling stars still visible through the crystal ceiling, thoughtfully. “I’unno, really. A glorious death on the battlefield, I guess? Didn’t figure I was much good for anything else.”
“Seriously.” He shrugged awkwardly against the chair. “I was sparked for war, right? Maybe not civil war, but. You know. I’d not known anything else, so I suppose… it never occurred to me that I could be anything else?” He grimaced. “Didn’t help having a boss who always told you that you were an idiot, that you were only any good at following instructions – sometimes – and who’d punch you in the head or worse if you got on his bad side.”
Pulsar was silent for a beat. “…what makes him different to Starscream, who also calls you an idiot and punches you in the head if you get on his bad side?”
The grimace relaxed into a comfortable smile. “Yeah, but he doesn’t only call me an idiot – not all the time, anyway – and I’m not scared to punch back if I disagree with him.”
She felt oddly prickly, at the reminder of his old life.
“You’re not gonna get wibbly on me now, are you, femme?” Skywarp let her wriggle a little further up his chassis and tuck her head up under his chin. “It’s not like they tricked me into joining up. I signed up for it knowing what my prospects were, and… yeah, I guess I enjoyed it? Was nice to feel like I was doing something important, for a while.”
“And it’s not like you’d have objected greatly to the need to fight other machines, either.” Pulsar vented a little sigh. “Couldn’t comment on the rest. Until your trine showed up, I don’t think I did anything important.”
He made a little snrk noise. “Yeah, you’re such a martyr. Is self-pity programmed into all bikes, or just you?”
She made an aggravated noise and flattened a hand over his mouth, but he just licked her palm in response. “Should have expected a lack of sympathy from you,” she griped, ineffectually trying to wipe her hand dry against his chassis. “Glitch.”
He grinned and waited while she got comfortable again. “S’funny, isn’t it. One orn, you’re the most feared warrior to ever take to Cybertron’s airspace-”
Pulsar offered a snort! So he poked her in a ticklish spot. She almost lurched right out of his lap.
“The next, the whole world’s changed, war’s over, and you’re snuggling with a mortal enemy, in the house you share, in a district you never knew existed until you wound up there by accident one time, mulling over how long you’ve managed to stay together and not kill each other.” He closed his arms possessively around her, making her snicker against him. “I’m glad we crashed into each other. It’s kinda nice to have someone to do horrible things to, who’ll let you do horrible things to them because they actually like it. Weirdo.”
“…I still have no idea why I love you, you objectionable airhead.”
He pressed his cheek against the smooth top of her helm and purred. “…let’s call in sick, and sneak off somewhere exciting. What better way to celebrate ten vorns than to relive the glory days?”
“I’m not sure getting hooked on dangerous illegal drugs counts as glorious, but sneaking off work sounds like a very good idea.”