The thing about being the supreme duly elected ruler and protector of all Cybertron was that, after millions of years of war, people actually expected you to rebuild things.
Things like the wretched old Academy of Sciences.
Personally, Starscream had been planning to erect the first statue of himself on the spot, but apparently people had views about the importance of making Iacon as much like it had been before the war as possible. They wanted their shining citadel of education, their oh so exclusive shrine to All Knowledge.
I thought being supreme leader meant people did what I wanted.
Starscream stared mutinously at his schedule before delicately pressing a button on his desk, deigning to speak to the minion acting as his secretary at the moment. "Send in my next appointment." Yet another simpering Autobot science officer, or worse yet, a cowardly NAIL-
The floor rattled under the heavy tread of his next visitor, accompanied by the familiar, quiet growl of an idling flight engine meant for a truly impressively large mech. Starscream blinked once, reaching for his schedule once more. He was going to have to do something truly awful to his secretary; the wretched little creature hadn't so much as bothered to include a designation to go with the appointment.
But even after four million years, Starscream knew that rumble, that tread. The careful gait of a mech living in a world much too small for him and doing his best not to break something.
Starscream spun his chair around, ostensibly taking in the finest view to be had of the newly rebuilt Iacon. But the only thing his optics took in was his own reflection in the glass. Was that a dribble of energon at the corner of his mouth, or a speck on the window? A scratch on his finish?
Do I have time to get a crown?
No, the door had already slid open, and Skyfire ducked to avoid hitting his helm on the mantle, one large hand reaching up to touch it as he passed through. It was a gesture Starscream had always found mildly endearing, though only Primus knew why. He'd often seen it repeated even on doorways that Skyfire could fit through without ducking; Skyfire didn't even realize he did it most of the time.
Starscream watched the reflection of his office in the window. Skyfire hesitated at the door, letting it close behind him. Awed by the view, perhaps? He'd always enjoyed perching on the highest spire of the Academy, where none of their ground bound peers had been able to follow-
Starscream swiveled the chair around, reaching casually for a data pad. The inclination of his helm and the tilt of his wings were carefully calculated; a greeting to a respected colleague who is none the less of a lesser rank. He caught just a hint of a sardonic smile as Skyfire gave an oh-so-correct bow in return, wide white wings lowered as they should be. Only right and proper.
He could tell Skyfire was only just keeping back a laugh, though his expression was entirely sober when he straightened up.
"Skyfire. I would have thought you would have more interesting prospects than... this." He glanced down at the data pad, waving a hand towards one of the seats.
Skyfire settled gracefully on a couch, spreading his hands before resting them on his knees. "I admit, I had given some thought to just moving on." The couch creaked under his shifting weight, but Starscream was far more distracted by the familiar crooked smile. "But then I started thinking... if I don't, who will? We've got a real chance to rebuild Cybertron into something better than it's ever been, and I want to be a part of that."
"But the Academy?"
And there it was. That *grin*, that ridiculous slag eating grin that had always come just before he'd do something like spend an hour proving just how wrong Professor Bering was about astro navigation, or jail breaking the expensive new textbooks for the entire student body. Starscream couldn't resist grinning back. For just a moment, four million years of war, of separation, of conflicting ideologies, of change fell away.
It was only for a moment. Then the centuries settled back on their shoulders. Starscream settled back in his chair, drumming his fingers against the mirror finish of his desk top. "So tell me about your plans here."
Truthfully, Starscream didn't give the Academy of Sciences much thought at all, beyond trying to minimize the amount of shanix he had to commit to the project.
Somehow, he still found himself taking fuel with Skyfire one night out of every eight. It wasn't anything deliberate, not on Starscream's part and certainly not on Skyfire's. They were working in the same city, and Skyfire's quest for permits and funding brought him around the Tower often enough that it just made sense that they would take fuel together.
And unlike most of those wretched, obnoxious Autobots that filled most of Starscream's time, Skyfire was willing to talk to Starscream without absolutely having to.
It certainly made for a pleasant change from sullen Autobots and NAILs who wouldn't stop going on about his war record, or his fellow Decepticons trying to play on faction loyalty to get a leg up, or some damned colonist with no idea of how the wider universe really worked and thought they could browbeat Starscream into giving them what they wanted.
Fools, all of them.
The comm system chimed gently, announcing another interruption by the universe's most annoying secretary. The useless little creature's sole saving grace was that his inanity often served to drive away all but the most important or stubborn of interruptions. At the moment, Windblade was cooling her turbines out there, subject to whatever thought was passing through the twerp's tiny processor.
Starscream turned, looking out over Iacon. Let her wait a while longer. He was going to enjoy what little quiet there was to be found. At least until Skyfire arrived.
"I hate to admit it, but the landing strip is something of a final up yours to the old administration," Skyfire said, zooming in on the holographic blueprints so Windblade could see. She smiled, and there was an understanding twinkle in her optics.
"It's beautiful." She shifts closer, admiring the sweeping spires meant to hold classrooms and laboratories and so many students. "We don't really have anything like this on Caminus. It's like a temple to science."
Skyfire let out a soft laugh. "Starscream always called it the same thing... and it wasn't a compliment. There'll be the obligatory shrines to Solomus and Epistemus, of course." He spun the hologram, showing her the spaces he planned to dedicate to the gods of wisdom and knowledge. "Nothing particularly grandiose, but it brings in some much needed donations."
"Nothing like Caminus," Windblade noted. "If half the space isn't given over to a performance hall, it's got a temple to Solus Prime. Usually, it's both."
"That seems very.... devout," Skyfire murmured, aiming for tact.
"The way of Flame is a central source for research grants." Windblade's smile told Skyfire everything he needed to know about that. Skyfire found himself nodding in complete understanding. Appealing to the patron was always a matter of the gravest importance; so far, he'd managed to gather the shanix for the Academy by appealing to bots' desire for a return to normalcy. To the stability that they thought they remembered from the days before the great war. Never mind that that stability had been nothing but an illusion, a shining paint job covering the rust.
Well, he could certainly give them the trappings of the old days.
And he was more than happy to explain his plans to someone who hadn't lived through the last so-called Golden Age.
"When I was in the Academy, I was one to three fliers given the 'honor' of being allowed to attend., and there were only five mechs there that would admit to being constructed cold." The medical school had been only slightly more accepting, but only for exceptional skill. "I won't allow that to happen again."
"The other..." Windblade nodded towards the door to Starscream's office, still firmly closed.
"Where we met." Skyfire didn't bother to hide his smile. "He was amazing in every sense of the word."
"You've known him a long time, then."
"Yes, I suppose I have."
"Has Starscream always been so..."
The smile only got bigger, and he nodded. "From the first day I met him. I find it one of his more endearing qualities. I might," Skyfire added, "be the only one."
"He's very..." Several emotions flicked across Windblade's face.
"Oh yes." And Skyfire's own expression said it all.
"Is he making you cool your thrusters too?"
"Doesn't know I'm here, actually. I was just coming by to see if he wanted to get lunch." He cast a glance at the closed door, and at the secretary guarding it.
"Must be very busy in there," Windblade noted dryly. "How about I take you to lunch, and you can tell me more about this Academy? Maybe tell me your policy on colonists getting a spot?"
"Only if you'll tell me about Caminus and your sororities."
If nothing else, Starscream's denta filled rictus of a smile did much to put the fear of Primus into his secretary.
"You, ah. You did say that you didn't want to be disturbed, my lord," the little toadie murmured, trying to make himself look as small and inoffensive and not in need of being thrown into a smelter as possible.
Starscream still seriously considered it before finally deeming a smelting to be a waste of energy. "I should think by now that it would be clear that Skyfire is the exception." He was aiming for menacing purr, but to his annoyance, what he was getting was testy screech, but it still had the desired effect, making the mech in front of him cringe in mounting terror. "Did either of them happen to mention where they were going?" he drawled.
"No, Lord Starscream." The little toadie paused, then suddenly brightened. "But Representative Windblade said she'd buy him lunch, and I do know her usual haunts! I'll just go and see which one she picked-"
And that is why you still function. "See that you do." He dismissed the mech with a wave of his fingers. No need to go hunting through Windblade's favorite fueling stations when he had mechs to do that for him, after all.
He just hoped wherever she'd chosen was actually palatable.
The tumbler of triple distilled energon was ridiculously tiny between Skyfire's fingers, and the look on his face as it slid down his face was entirely comical.
"I'm told it's something of an aquired taste," Windblade admitted, smothering her grin with a hand.
"Is that what they're calling it these days." There's a twinkle of humor in Skyfire's optics.
Windblade laughed, raising her cube in a salute. "Next time, you can pick the spot," she offered.
"You'll love shuttle bars," Skyfire assured her with a cheerful grin. "I'm told it's like living the mini bot experience, and the cubes are as big as your helm."
Windblade leaned back in her chair, sipping on her cube. "So, you wanted to know about sororities."
She was still explaining how education on Caminus worked (or didn't) -- much to Skyfire's growing horror -- when Starscream swept in to the bar, cape fluttering behind him like a banner.
"Oh sweet Solus Prime, he even polished the crown," Winblade whispered, slapping a hand over her mouth.
Skyfire couldn't be bothered with hiding his own amusement. "He always did know how to make an entrance."
All optics remained on the supreme ruler of all Cybertron and protector of it's colonies as he swept through the bar, a glittering hawk amongst a flock of brightly painted doves. Skyfire barely had time to pull out a chair for him before Starscream threw himself into it, accepting the unspoken invitation as his due. "Well, isn't this cozy."
"Windblade's been telling me about the Camien education system."
"Appalling, isn't it? I took a tour of one of their so-called schools-"
Windblade didn't miss much -- everything about Starscream's body language was possessive, and Skyfire turned ever so slightly towards him, like iron shavings towards a magnet.
She'd never seen Starscream smile before like he did whenever Skyfire said something that amused him. It was an actual fragging smile, not the sharp baring of denta before ripping out a throat, not the meaningless pull of cables and dermis in front of cameras and mechs too important to dismiss.
She wondered, briefly, if Skyfire had the slightest idea of the effect he hand on Starscream.
And she wondered if there was a way to get him permanently installed in Starscream's office.
"It's becoming increasingly obvious that we should make a proper schedule of it."
"Hm?" Skyfire turned his gaze from the Camien dancers on the street corner to look down at Starscream. He'd ditched the crown into his subspace after the third cube, and the cape was mostly wrapped around one arm as they walked through Little Caminus on their way back to the Tower. They could have flown -- Skyfire had been about to transform when they'd left the bar, but Starscream had caught his arm and insisted that they actually have a look at what these colonists were doing to his city.
Starscream pretended to watch the dancers, watching Skyfire out of the corner of his optics. "Lunch, you oversized taxi." He sniffed. "I'd rather not have to you running off because my secretary is so profoundly stupid that he can't tell the difference between who I want to see and who I don't."
Skyfire cocked his helm, lips twitching in a smile he quickly smothered. "I'm honored to be so welcomed."
"You should be." Starscream raised his chin and sniffed again. "Not even Optimus Prime has that honor."
Skyfire turned his face to the sky. It didn't do anything to hide his smile from Starscream; the seeker only dug a sharp elbow into his side, right into a transformation seam, until Skyfire bent over. He was still grinning, and he could see it infecting Starscream in the way the corner of his mouth lifted.
"Once a week," Starscream went on, raising a warning finger. "I'm a busy mech. I'll probably have to cancel all the time. But we can put you on my agenda once a week."
"Of course," Skyfire agreed, straightening up. "Shall we retire to your office to work out the scheduling?"
Starscream's lip curled up. "After that underwhelming example of Camien cuisine, I need a real drink. I hear there's a place north of the market that does a halfway decent Vosian brew..."
"Well, how can I possibly say no to that?"