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Reading is a Dangerous Pastime

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When Thundercracker finally arrived home, it was to find Skywarp standing around in their lounge, staring at a datapad and looking vaguely perturbed – “vaguely perturbed” was also generally “situation normal” where Skywarp was concerned, to be fair, but not often outside of work.

Now, Thundercracker knew for a fact that Skywarp had clocked off and gone home some time just into the orn’s second quarter, because the teleport had pulled a double and wanted sympathy from everyone he bumped into. It was now approaching the fourth. So why was he still just standing around – still partially in uniform into the bargain? He hesitated in their yard, not sure what might actually confront him when he got through the door.

The sound of someone else’s engines bumped him out of his contemplation, and he glanced round to see the third of their trine making an unsteady approach in a brisk crosswind.

-why still outside?- Starscream pinged, annoyed that his wobbly approach had been observed.

Thundercracker brought one shoulder up in a shrug, and pointed through the giant front window.

Optics narrowed, Starscream stepped closer and peered in. “…what’s he doing?”

The blue seeker spread his hands. “Guess we better just go ask him?”

The sound of the door was enough to bump Skywarp out of his trance. He waved the datapad in a way that was almost threatening. “Have you guys seen this?”

Starscream offered his most arch look. “I’m sure attempting to read your mind would be far more entertaining if I knew there was anything actually in it, Skywarp.”

Skywarp curled his lip in a sneer, but waved a hand, flapping the insult away. “So I figured maybe Darkwater had told you about it as well; I guess not. I thought he was gonna give me grief for Seem giving him lip again, but he said I ought to check this out, instead.” He glared down at his pad. “Some… weirdo bunch of squishies have been writing fanfiction.

“Fan… fiction?” Thundercracker repeated, hoping his wingmate would elaborate.

Starscream had already lost interest and was making his way towards the storage facility, looking for something cold and restorative. “I never rated the species in the first place, but if they’re writing romantic stories about impellers, perhaps they are a lost cause, after all,” he drawled. “I guess it’s up to me to go open the high grade-”

“US, guys.” Skywarp threw up his hands. “They’re writing about us.”

A momentary silence took hold. Thundercracker glanced over at Starscream, to find he looked equally mystified.

In the lull, Skywarp added; “why do they always make me sound like a five-year-old…?”

“Just… run that past us again,” Thundercracker suggested, in the tone of voice that always got the junior officers running for cover. “Writing about us?”

“Yeah. Well. Us, the ‘Cons, a bunch of Autobots, you name it.” Skywarp wrinkled his nose. “Even old Buckethead, for some reason. And they’re obsessed with you.” He waved a threatening finger at Starscream to underline the point. “Primus only knows why.”

“All right.” Starscream spread his hands, with a sickly smile. “On this one occasion perhaps I could forgive them for all being classless idiots. And it sounds like they’ve got you down quite well.” He approached with a hand out, requesting the pad. “I’d wager they’ve been following you around, taking notes.”

Skywarp backed off, holding the pad protectively close to his chassis. “You’re probably right. Which is why they always write you like a clingy crybaby who tries to kill himself every six breems. They must have been following us around.”

Starscream immediately darkened. “What?” The demanding hand became grabbier. “Give me that.”

Skywarp continued to retreat, but his mood had begun to brighten. “See there’s a thing called hurt and comfort. It’s where some poor glitch – usually you – gets the almighty slag beaten out of them. Then some nice kind mech comes along to put them back together.” He paused, for dramatic effect. “There’s lots of interfacing involved. I mean, I thought I got my end away plenty regularly, but whoo. These squishies are obsessed.”

Give me that.” Optics narrowed to hot little slits of threat, Starscream made a lunge.

Skywarp pranced out of reach, pad held high above his head, putting the couch between them. “Oh, no no no; this is going on the notice board in the break room. Why should I be the only one to suffer.”

Starscream launched himself bodily at his wingmate, clean over the back of the couch, and brought him down with an almighty crash that almost took out the potted maple. Alarmed, the tree sucked all its leaves in towards the ceiling, turning briefly into a giant red bottlebrush.

Thundercracker listened as the sounds of two mechs wrestling intensified into a noisy scuffle, and sighed. “Really, guys? D’you think you can maybe take it outside, before you go through a window again? Do you know how much a pane of perfect glass costs, these days?”

He might have been fully invested in their squabble, but enough of Skywarp’s attention was on his other wingmate to parse the request; he teleported himself and his fellow combatant into the yard a microsecond before they hit the glass.

Thundercracker watched them depart; Skywarp with a grin, a raspberry and a thumbed nose, and Starscream, swearing, in hot pursuit, nullrays already online.

“Of course you don’t, because neither of you glitches have to deal with paying for them.” The blue mech pinched the bridge of his nose and concentrated on bleeding off a little excess pressure before it turned into another migraine.

No point going after them. He knew they’d come back, in their own time – filthy, paint chipped, and unrepentant, but friends again. And he valued his polish enough to not want to get involved in the scrap. An evening spent on mutual polishing would reaffirm trine bonds, and mollify their mercurial leader enough to get him back to his usual sarcastic good humour.

Right now, the chiller of energon in the back of the property was calling Thundercracker’s name.

Rounding the corner, though, he found the pad on the floor. “Really, guys? Weren’t you literally just fighting over this?” He stooped and picked it up; there was a big crack in one corner, but it still worked. “Guess I could see what all the fuss was about.”

A long, long list of links confronted him; Thundercracker’s brows came up in surprise. He’d expected a couple of hundred words. This was… thousands upon thousands. Millions. About… them?

He perched on the edge of the couch, and cautiously opened the topmost link.

Time drifted away from him as that initial sense of morbid, slightly anxious fascination turned into a need for just one more chapter. He sank further and further back onto the couch as he read, wings relaxing, motors unwinding. The sun slipped away below the horizon, blushing the sky a dirty orange.

He didn’t even notice Celerity arrive – late, hot and dusty, covered in paint transfers and smelling of hard work – until the giantess sagged to the floor by his thrusters and leaned into his legs with a low, satisfied sigh of microhydraulics and displaced air. Her pleasure at seeing him still awake bled across their bond.

Thundercracker smiled and stroked her antennae, just the once, and felt a subsonic purr thrum through her big chassis. “I know. I got distracted.”

-what read?- she asked, layers of sleep fogging her words.

He pinged the bristly antennae that spread back from her sidelight. “Fanfiction.”

After a second, a hesitant image came back across the comm, of an oscillating fan on someone’s work desk. -?-

“No-oo. Fiction written by admirers. Um. About us, actually?” It sounded horribly vain now he’d said it out loud. “Stories, from fans. Not about fans.”

There was an instant of contemplation, then a new image came over the bond. Three pretty jets, in familiar colours, in various states of interfacing. Her purr took on a subtly sultry note.

Thundercracker snorted – of course, Darkwater was under her command. Figured that he’d have told her all about it as well; probably just took a few moments for her tired cortex to join the appropriate dots. “Uhhhm, yes. There is a bit of that. Quite a lot actually. Uh.”

He felt a flash of embarrassment simmer through his field, but realised she’d probably sensed the mood through their bond as he’d been reading, anyway.

How embarrassing. Getting charged, by… reading about yourself getting charged?

He rebooted his vocaliser with a cough, and slid off the couch, to sit next to her on the floor, slotting his wing in behind her. “There’s some pretty good ideas in some of these, actually.”

Another image from his partner; himself, in handcuffs, and lingerie.

“That… wasn’t precisely what I meant? But who knows, maybe I could be tempted. Uh.” Another little cough. “Ahem. Anyway. What I actually meant was… who knows. We could have ended the war a whole lot sooner, if we’d read some of these. Screamer might not have ended up quite so neurotic.” He flicked through some of his bookmarks, which he’d totally made as they made so much sense – really good psychology, not… not for any other reason, not at all, no. “Perhaps I ought to consider employing a few as advisors.”

A flutter of amusement brushed his awareness; she was almost offline, only just parsing his words. -think screamer would allow it?-

“I don’t know. I think he could be persuaded. Flattery will get you anywhere. He really doesn’t come across as bad as Warp tried to make out.”

Celerity let her head rest against the point of his shoulder. -read em together tomo, eh-

Thundercracker gave her a glance, and realised she’d already gone dormant. His expression softened into a fond smile. “Sure.”

Tomorrow felt like it might be quite weird.