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Alexis wasn’t allowed to watch medical procedures. She wasn’t particularly happy about it, but that was Red Alert’s rule.

Sometimes she guessed it made sense. Sometimes there was welding involved, and she didn’t have adjustable optics like the Autobots, and they didn’t have any face shields in her size, because they had never needed them.

Other times, she was pretty sure he thought she’d just be in the way, or it would be too much for her. And that annoyed her, because it wasn’t like she was all that squeamish to begin with, and besides, the robotic parts weren’t as graphic as if she’d tried to watch human surgeries. It wasn’t like they mattered less, just that she didn’t see it as the same because it was different than what would normally gross her out.

 One of few times she hadn’t argued was when Red Alert had brought Smokescreen’s remains from his run-in with the Requiem Blaster. That hadn’t been just a procedure, though. That had been death, warped metal and melting plating. Red Alert had been visibly stiff and, well…robotic. She would’ve had to be a really terrible person to have asked to stay. He was going to attempt a dangerous near-experimental procedure from what she understood, and there had been a high probability Smokescreen wasn’t going to make it.

With his going by Hoist now, she wasn’t entirely sure he had made it. The name change didn’t make any sense to her. It wasn’t like she would wake up from a coma and decide to go by “Lucy” or anything. But Optimus and the others had treated it like it was normal, so maybe this was a robot thing. She wasn’t really sure who to ask or even if she should.

She still slipped up every now and then, accidentally called out, “Hey, Smokescreen!” and then corrected herself.

Thankfully, for all his intensity during battle, he never seemed to take an issue with it. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, kid. We’re all still adjusting to it, right?”

In hindsight, it was a little silly to mix up his names when he didn’t even look like he had before. Thankfully, Rad and the others never called her on it. She'd get it right eventually, wouldn't she?

Still, it wasn’t like she couldn’t learn to handle minor procedures. Sure, she was tiny compared to them, but even the Mini-Cons could reconnect a cable in an emergency. Shouldn’t she learn to do the same?

“You’re still on that?” Starscream asked her with no small amount of amusement in his voice.

Alexis resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It wasn't like he'd said anything (this time), but by this point, she could probably have rolled her eyes at anything. “Well, it’s not like I can’t be useful! I could learn it if he’d let me!”

“Really? You could have done this?” He made a sharp gesture to his still spliced and braced arm, his rasp giving a harsh edge to his tone. “Did you ask then, too?”

Alexis sputtered. “Wha—well, emergencies, no! But—” She really wanted to say that she wished he wouldn’t do that. You couldn’t go brushing people off and dodging concerns and then go waving your injuries in someone’s face. “I mean, I could still learn small things…”

“You’re smaller than almost everything in the Medbay,” he smirked, but it faded at his next words. “Believe me.”

“I know that!” she argued. “But I could still learn something!”

Starscream stopped, and for a moment, she thought he was going to transform and fly, even with the bracing. Then, stiffly, he answered her. “So are you this persistent with watching your own procedures?”

“Well, no, but—”

“You think because we’re not human you can just watch whenever you want? Is that it?” Alexis found herself taken aback. He sounded offended. Like…actually offended, and not the tone he usually took on when she’d hit a nerve. Was it that bad?

She started to protest, then stopped. She didn’t trust herself to answer in that moment. She looked at the ground, fidgeting with her nails. Funny, she’d always thought she had outgrown that habit.

Yet he must have noticed, because his tone softened with his next words. “I wouldn’t have wanted you in for either of mine.”

That made sense, she guessed. She’d been so stuck on what she was able to do, she hadn’t considered… It was really so obvious, how could she not have...? It wasn’t like she thought it was okay when they weren’t human. She swallowed hard.

“Um…” She forced herself to speak, even though she couldn’t quite make herself look up. “I need to go take care of something. Be right back?”

He gave a grunt of acknowledgment, then watched as she ran back to the base. It wasn’t like he could fly off right now, after all.

When she got back to the Medbay, she stooped down to catch her breath, her arms locked against bent knees. Then she stood up, almost smiling with relief when he was there. “Hey, Red Alert?” she called.

The medic stopped in the middle of his adjustments, suppressing a sigh. Alexis flinched. She guessed she couldn’t fault him for that. She had been pretty persistent this past week.

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry for trying to push my way into the medical procedures. I’d just been thinking that I wanted to be useful, or maybe I was just curious, I…” she paused. Which had it been, really? A mix of both? “I hadn’t really thought about it from the other side, you know? I don’t know…”

There was a pause. Then, Red Alert set down his equipment. “It’s true that you should have thought about how my patients would feel. But I think I could also have explained it better, rather than expecting you would know.”

“Well, I mean…it would’ve been obvious if I was an Autobot, right?” She hoped that came out right.

He paused. “Perhaps…” His tone made it obvious he’d known some who’d thought otherwise.

“Anyway, thanks, Red Alert.” She smiled. “That’s all I wanted to say.”

She turned and headed back outside. Starscream wasn’t too far from where she’d left him. Apparently, in the time she was gone, he’d gotten into a discussion or a debate with Swindle (honestly, with Starscream, it was hard to tell sometimes. Especially when Swindle was involved).

He turned to her as she called out. Swindle beeped in triumph. Starscream scowled in response. “No, I don’t think that’s what it means.”

“Huh?” Alexis tilted her head quizzically.

Starscream waved a dismissive hand. “Nothing.”

More beeping. Starscream’s optics glitched. He exhaled, then turned to the Minicon. “Why don’t you go find Jetstorm and the others? See what they think of that.”

The Mini-Con chirped and beeped once more, then transformed and sped off. Starscream almost visibly balked at whatever he’d said. “Don’t even think about it!” he shouted after the speeding car.

“Something wrong?” Alexis asked.

“I don’t know what his problem is.” He’d tried to sound annoyed, but Alexis thought if he was human, he would have been biting the inside of his cheek to keep from betraying himself.

“I see.” She grinned.

He shot her a quizzical look, but didn’t ask whatever he was thinking. She could’ve brought it up, but he’d probably just dodge it like he did with almost anything else he didn’t want to talk about.

“I apologized to Red Alert,” she volunteered.

“Hm.” He acknowledged.

She swallowed. “I wanted to apologize to you, too. If I seemed invasive or anything. I wanted to be useful, so I didn’t think…”

If she didn’t know better, Alexis would have thought he seemed almost confused. He started like he was going to say something, then stopped several times. If she’d been an Autobot, she was pretty sure he would have turned and walked away, or maybe snapped back with something. Honestly, she was a little surprised he didn’t have anything to snap back with.

“Anyway,” she diverted the subject, seeing the minute shift as tension drained from his frame. “What’s been going on at the base today?”

That shook him out of it. “Didn’t we already go over this? What’s with you humans and small talk? How can you keep rehashing the same thing over and over? It’s like—”

As he continued, Alexis pressed a hand to her mouth to hide the grin cracking into her face. She’d hear about the goings on at the base sooner or later. Probably. But in the meantime, she was just glad she hadn’t damaged anything too badly. She knew Starscream was still adjusting to things, and on top of that, she didn’t want to lose anyone’s trust.

“And besides that, don’t you have human friends to do this small talk thing with?”

She sighed. Of course. They’d gone through this routine so many times before. “Well, yeah. But aren’t you my friend, too?”

He wouldn’t know how to answer that. He never did. Not that he'd ever admit it.

“So I wanna hear what you think of it. Y’know?” she continued.

There was a pause. He wouldn’t tell her much, of course. But it was a start. And that was all she could ask, a start.