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“So.”  They both spoke at once, both shut up at once, both gave a nervous laugh at once.  If they crammed any more awkward in here, Velocity feared the walls might buckle.  She waved a hand, less a flag of surrender than a distraction so she could get the jump on talking.  

“You’re Drift,” she said. Mistress of the obvious, but it was a place to start.

The mech gave a guilty bob of the head, settling down awkwardly on the exam table. “Yeah. The,” and his voice dropped half a pitch, as if sliding off the sudden droop of his shoulders, “Ex-Decepticon.”

“The other ex-Decepticon, you mean? Because, well, Megatron?”  He was a former Decepticon, too, right? That had been a question, after all, on Swerve’s weekly Gossip Quizzes. And his quizzes were tough!  

“Oh. Right. Yeah. Right. Him, too.” If she’d thought the idea of having another former team-mate around would cheer him up, she was wrong. Way wrong. This felt almost like going through the exams back on Caminus.  And this was something her mediscanner couldn’t help her with.  

Still, the scanner was good for something, and that’s what Drift was here for: Ratchet had insisted he get a full scan, his mouth pinching over the comm as he’d said something about Drift’s hygiene, and how he suspected that the mech had been ‘places’.  She was still trying to learn how to use Censere (‘Necrobot’ just sounded so...grim and there was enough of that to go around already)’s lab, but she could manage a scan.

And probably, she thought, be happy that the scan was on a living mech. She had a feeling that soon, well, she’d see worse things than a few glitches and melted circuits.

Right. Time for conversation!  I-if only she knew how to do that.  Relationships, though. That was a topic it seemed all mechs were interested in--at least, judging by how many had asked her about her own love life.  “Is there, uh, something between you two?”

The blue optics flashed with something that she’d call alarm if she had any faith in her ability, at this point, to read mechs.  “Between us? Me and Megatron? No! No.” His hands flailed, knocking the scanner out of her hands. He snatched it in midair, handing it back to her, sheepishly.  “Uh. Of course not. I mean….not that there’s anything, you know, wrong with him, just…”

“Just the fool’s energon. I know.” Her supraorbital ridges furrowed.  “Honestly, I don’t like it. It seems….” The words trailed off with a shrug. Maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to judge these Cybertronians.  They were, in a sense, the homeland, their origin.  

“Wrong,” Drift said, apparently not having a whit of her concern about judging the situation. “It’s wrong.”

“I’ve been trying to monitor him, you know, medically.” Suddenly that sounded awfully lame, like she was still complicit in it somehow.   She looked up from the scanner.  “To make sure it doesn’t reach a toxic level.”

The mech grunted, a scowl settling into his face plates, as if that was their natural position, or old dents that hadn’t quite been hammered out.  “It’s old thinking.  The whole reason we started the war is because other mechs tried to dictate what we could or should do with our lives.” His hands curled into empty fists, before he opened them, slowly, fanning the fingers out.

Well, that sure was...intense.  “But…maybe that’s not bad?  I mean, shouldn’t everyone serve a useful function?” In Caminus, useful wasn’t as important as, well, artistic.  She was still trying to wrap her head around the whole idea of things being any other way.

“Shouldn’t everyone have a right to be happy?” Drift countered sharply, and then shrugged, nervously displaying palms. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I just…I’m sorry.”  

For a mech who talked about happiness, he sure seemed, well, unhappy. “No, no. I’m sorry. I should…not talk about things I don’t know much about.”  And here Velocity was, again, riding the edges of a swamp of failure. Again.

“No!” The mech’s voice was sharp. “I mean, talk about what you want to. I’m just, you know.” The palms spread again. “N-not so good with people.”  

“I know the feeling.”  So many parties on Caminus, as her friends danced, and sang, and painted and did a hundred beautiful things and she...could explain methylization of histones.

Another awkward silence, as Velocity bit her lower lip-plate, wishing she had half the charm of Nautica.  Or anyone.  Even Ten was better at conversation than she was.  


The scanner in her hand went off,  startling her so much she had to fumble not to drop it.  

“That’s bad, right? I mean, that doesn’t sound like a good kind of sound.” The mech tried to peer over the edge of the scanner, as Velocity scrambled to cut the alarm.  

“It’s...a thing.”  A thing she’d read about as soon as she could get the siren turned off. And the stroby light.  And who designed this scanner?!? Seriously, it was a bit much.

FINALLY! The siren whined--well, weezooled--down into silence. And then she was back to awkward.  Great. “Uh.” She peered at the readout. “I’m going to need to see your spark?”  Apparently? That’s what the scanner said.

“That’s a bit, uh, personal, don’t you think? What is it?”

Yeah, she did think so. It was really, really, REALLY personal to see another’s spark. “It’s, uh, there’s apparently some kind of contamination of silicate nanomites.”  

“Oh.”  That tone of voice that said he had no idea what that meant, but it sounded bad.  

Oh, indeed, but at least he settled back on the slab, rocking his shoulder armor over the sides.  “Is this going to hurt?”

“Probably not.”  Oh, great, Lottie. Totally reassuring.  But she’d always believed in honesty, at least.  

“Okay.” Well, what else was he going to say?  His face did a weird thing, before she heard the soft click that retracted the heavy armor over his chassis.  

That sure was a lot of armor, more than she was used to seeing, even from the Lost Light crew, and way, way more than her friends from Caminus.  Underneath it, though, the gaskets and leads from the spark chamber looked, well, terrible.  In her professional opinion. In fact, she could barely see them under a mass of white-grey buildup.  Right. Time to stop her own face from doing a weird thing, and get to work.

First step, scrape off the, er, crusty stuff, there.  Velocity grabbed a file-edged chisel, applying it to the frothy-looking white stuff that started flaking off like powder.  Just needed to clear this away so she could see the extent of the damage.  The alarm had to be a little, well, off, because if it was that bad, how’d he even be walking?  

Kthoop .  And that’s the sound of being distracted, Velocity, as the chisel lodged itself into a patch of the white stuff, gummy and stiff under the dusty exterior.  Lodged itself in tight.  Really tight. Really-really tight.  

“Oof!” Drift grunted, as Velocity tried, once again, to jerk the chisel out.  “Uh. Everything all right?”

“Yeah. Fine. Just fine.”  Wow, Velocity, you are the worst liar in the history of ever.  “Just,” tug, “a little,” tug, “stuck!”  And….third time wasn’t the charm that time.

Drift craned his head up over his chassis. “I could maybe try?”

“No, I can get it.”  She wasn’t weak, and she was a good medic! She could do this!  Despite that the next tug didn’t work either.  She stepped back, ex-venting, thinking.  He nodded, and she stepped forward, taking the tool in both hands and yanking back, hard enough that his chassis lifted off the slab.  

“Maybe I just need some leverage.” That would do the trick, for sure! She clambered up on the berth, and there was a clumsy scramble as they tried to arrange things so she wasn’t squishing him. She ended up half-straddling one hip, her other foot pinning his shoulder. “Ready? Count of three!”  He braced himself, curling his hands to grip around the sides of the slab.  And she sent up a small prayer that this wouldn’t end up on Swerve’s next quiz! If...there was ever going to be another one.

“One. Two. Thr--”

The frag is going on here ?!”  

All that potential energy went startled and kinetic, both of them almost springing off the slab.  The chisel gave a ‘spoooooiiiiing’ sound as Velocity’s hands flew off it, barely drowned out by Drift’s blurt: “It’s not what it looks like!”

“I’m not even sure what it looks like,” Ratchet said, his face every bit as disapproving as his voice. “I presume there’s some gesture toward an explanation heading my way.”

“Mites!” Drift said, his hands crossing demurely over his still-opened chassis. “And can a mech get a little dignity here?”

“Hfff. Not in my medibay,” Ratchet said, peering over, just for spite. Velocity wanted to point out it wasn’t his medibay, either, but it didn’t seem like that would really help anything. “Got that stuck in there pretty good,” he said, his voice shifting to a too-careful neutral.  

Velocity felt her face sting. “I was trying to get it out.”  

“Obviously.” Dryer than the white mite dust, that voice.  He turned to Drift. “And you! I told you hanging out with those rock creatures was a terrible idea.”  He was actually wagging a finger at the swordsmech.  “You never listen.”  

Drift’s face fell into a pout. “Listened to you about coming back,” he mumbled.  

“Yeah, so fine. ONE terrible idea on my tab.”

Velocity gathered the tools and the scanner, everything but the chisel, still lodged under his spark in the mite gunk. “I, uh, I should just go and leave you two?”

They both blinked, turning to her. “Why?”

“Because,”  Because if they were going to make this awkward, she was going to make it more awkward. It was her gift!  Velocity planted her hands on her hips. “If there’s one thing I learned from Caminus, I know what a lover’s quarrel looks like.”

“LOVERS?” Ratchet drowned out Drift’s stammering. “You think we’re together, or something?”

“Well, you did go after him! A-and then you must have spent decacycles together, alone, on the same ship, and all.”  It sounded like the plot of one of those novels Firestar was always reading, honestly.

“She does make a convincing case,” Drift conceded.  

“Stow it, Drift.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with the idea?” Drift lifted up onto his elbows, sounding hurt.

“What’s wrong with the idea? What’s WRONG with it?” Ratchet began ticking points off on his fingers.  “First, you’re always running off to try to get yourself killed--in increasingly stupid ways, I might add.  Second, swords. Really. Who brings a sword to a gun fight? YOU. And third?” A pause, as he was fumbling for some idea. “Third….you have a chisel stuck in your anterior manifold!”  

Drift shrugged. “Hey, nobody’s perfect.”

“Besides, the chisel’s my fault,” Velocity said.  So there, Ratchet, one of your objections shot down.  Maybe she’d snuck a few reads at Firestar’s novels, herself, okay? Who wouldn’t want to help romance get off the ground--er, medislab?  

Ratchet spend a klik trying to divide his glare between the two of them. It wasn’t a great look for him. And then he sighed. “Get me some fraggin’ fluorocarbon, if you’re going to be like that.”  

“Why didn’t I think of that!” Velocity blurted.  Of course, fluorocarbon would dissolve silicone.

“Because I’m the chief medical officer,” Ratchet said, tartly. “Didn’t get that title for my pretty face.”

“Or bedside manner,” Drift offered.  “What! You can be kind of...scary. And mean.”  

“I’ll show you scary and mean!”

He rounded on Drift, as Velocity darted out for where Censere kept his pharmacopia, shouting over her shoulder, “Don’t you two kiss until I get back!”  She could swear she heard Drift’s voice echo down the corridor after her, “No promises!”