Title: Thou Art Too Dear
Author: Tirya King
Rating: T for language (Just for the record, I don't like these new rating things)
Archive: Just tell me where it's going!
Timeframe: A couple of years after the movie before Op comes back. A year or so probably after 'No Longer Mourn.'
Summary: G1. Sometimes something is too precious to keep. Sometimes you must lose it to keep yourself. Takes place after 'No Longer Mourn.'
Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers, hence the term fanfiction! Suing me is pointless. You'd actually lose more money than gain, such is the level of my college debt. The poem 'Farewell! Thou Art Too Dear' belongs to William Shakespeare.
A/N: This is just in case ya'll were feeling too happy with your lives. It's… er, rather depressing if I may say so. But then, it's the sequel to a depressing story, so it wouldn't exactly be fluffy. It's rather long to make up for my slow updates. Enjoy!
Thou Art Too Dear
It hurt so bad.
And all he could do was lay there and take the pain like a warrior.
This battle had been a bad one, and many would not be alive the face the aftermath. But he was still alive. And of all the mechs on the field that day, it was he who most wanted to die.
At first, the battles hadn't seemed so bad. Just coming out of the Academy, experts in melee fighting, he and his brother felt at the top of the universe. They were being paid to be violent. They were good at it and loved every minute of it. Even when they met the wrong end of a cannon barrel and had to be fixed up by Ratchet the good doctor, they always looked forward to the next battle.
Back then, it was ok to enjoy it.
It was an unspoken rule among the other mechs not to love anyone else. Everyone lost. Everyone learned the lesson the hard way. Everyone's life had been ripped to shreds in one way or another by this war. Everyone but the twins.
Sideswipe grinned slightly, a mere shadow of his former mischievous grin. Those were the days. A new wave of pain shot through his central processor, making him gasp sharply. Damn that Scourge! The bastard nearly cut his body in two with that blast. Through some twisted grace of Primus, nothing too critical had been hit, leaving him very badly damaged but alive.
He was a survivor.
He was always a survivor.
"Sideswipe? Hey Sides, talk to me," a voice cut through the pain, clearing the white haze he currently lived in.
"Who's there?" he rasped. Why weren't his optics working properly?
"It's Springer. You look terrible, man," the triple-changer tried for humor but failed. "First Aid is on his way so just hold on. Don't give up now, buddy."
Even in incredible pain, Sideswipe managed a humorless snort. Didn't this punk know who he was? Sideswipe was a survivor.
Whether he wanted to be or not.
Besides, he didn't want First Aid. He wanted Ratchet in all his cranky, angry, glory. He wanted to be cursed at and threatened to be rebuilt as a tricycle if he dared pull a stunt like that again.
But Ratchet was long dead. Sideswipe couldn't have him put him together again.
The wait for medical aid was a lot shorter than previously thought. He entertained himself with thoughts as to why. But when First Aid finally came to his side, Sideswipe knew the reason. Casualties had been high today and First Aid and his assistants couldn't do much for many other than to ease their pain.
First Aid was slowly losing it day by day. Sideswipe could read it in his optics, could see just how closely the new Chief Medical Officer was to snapping. In war, with everything, anonymity was the best shield to madness. If you didn't know the place destroyed, the bots killed, the enemies whose innards you stepped on as you fought on, you could maintain the mental distance needed. But once you started to care, you were doomed. The war becomes personal and it gets you every time.
The red warrior could only imagine what it was for First Aid to lost patient after patient at such a young age. To stick your arms up to the elbow in the innards of people who sat and drank energon with you on your time off. And as First Aid knelt at Sideswipe's side and his vision cleared, the warrior could see just how badly the medic was taking it. Today had been bad, he didn't even need to ask.
Vaguely he wondered if Ratchet was ever like this. Close to the madness that had taken so many medics who lost too many. He decided he probably was. On the days Ratchet lacked the fire the twins loved about him, or on the days where he cradled a glass of high-grade energon, singing at the top of his vocalizer like he hadn't a care in the world. Or how he always looked just a little tired, in the need of a good mid-day shut-down.
"Sideswipe, can you understand me?" First Aid asked, checking his vitals. He was gentle in his handling of the wounded Lamborghini. Sideswipe could barely feel his touch through the mind-numbing pain. Pain that the medic was slowly but surely blocking to his processor so he could think clearly. He was always so gentle with his patients.
If this were Ratchet, he would have gotten a smack across the head with his own dismembered foot for being stupid. At his most irate, getting repaired by the Chief Medical Officer hurt just as badly as getting the injury to begin with. They were always told it was added incentive not to get hurt in the first place. But no one could question his skills. He could heal anyone with any injury. Casualties were so low because he simply would not allow anyone to die.
He would not have allowed Sunstreaker to die.
"Sideswipe?" First Aid asked again, worry creeping into his expression at the lack of response.
The red warrior painfully tilted his head so he could look at the Protectobot. His optics were frosty and unforgiving. "I'm still here."
That would have earned another beam across the head with one of his appendages.
First Aid only sighed in relief softly. "I almost thought I had lost you for a moment." Sideswipe did not reply as an answer was not needed. So First Aid returned to work, using well-practiced hands to get his patient out of immediate danger. "What happened this time?" he asked casually. The question served to both keep the melee warrior awake and to also keep his own mind off the carnage he had dealt with and the violence sure to follow.
"Scourge," Sideswipe relied flippantly as though speaking about the weather. As though he hadn't been nearly blown in half at point blank range.
"Scourge did this?" the medic's optics widened in surprise.
"Maybe some of his Sweeps too. Hard to tell." On the front line it was nearly impossible to tell who had hit you when you were surrounded by enemies on all sides. Sideswipe was probably telling the truth.
First Aid frowned to himself at his comrade's careless words, but said nothing about it. Springer didn't look as upset at what he heard. To the triple-changer, Sideswipe had nearly always been like this. And even when he hadn't been so… callous, there had been something in his optics. Some dark unnamed thing that set he and his brother apart from the others. Now it was just more pronounced.
The medic worked silently from then on. He preferred the chaos of his own hurting mind to his comrade's careless words. There was little to say anyway and there were other wounded who needed his attention.
"I've numbed the pain for now," he said when he had done what he could. "I have to see to the others now. Perceptor will be by soon with Rodimus Prime. Do not move until he arrives. You'll be riding home in Rodimus' trailer, alright?"
Ratchet wouldn't have numbed a damn thing.
Sideswipe didn't want to be numb. He had been numb for too long already.
"Yeah, fine, whatever."
"Look, just go alright? There are others who are hurt. I saw Jazz go down just over that ridge over to the left and I don't think he came back up."
The medic nodded, convinced at last. He couldn't ignore a bot in need of his services. "I'll see to him now then."
Primus, he'd better not let anything happen to Jazz…
"I'll stay with him, First Aid," Springer offered as he settled next to the red warrior. "Till Perceptor and Prime comes." The Protectobot must have agreed, for in the next moment he was gone, presumably, to look for the fallen Special Ops officer.
Prime, huh, Sideswipe managed a small snort that thankfully didn't shoot bolts of pain through his body. That pup? Prime? Hardly. What did that rookie know about leading an army? Sideswipe didn't care what the Matrix did to him physically. Mentally, he was still the little punk that tried to butt in on his elders' games in the lounge. The one who wanted to be one of the 'big boys.' Hell, even Grimlock, who had all the charisma of a rock, made a better leader.
Primus above, that pup hadn't been out of the Academy a year before the battle with Unicron. He wasn't leader material. And he would never be a Prime. He wasn't Optimus' successor, he was his usurper. Ever since he became Commander, things had only gotten worse and worse. Casualties were higher than ever and whatever fun Sideswipe found as a warrior was gone. The thrill, the rush of adrenaline, the pure logic and instinct that drove him… now it was just a desperate race to shoot the processor out of the 'Con in front of you before yours was shot out first.
Maybe it had always been like that. And maybe the only reason he had loved being a melee warrior so much was because he knew that at the end of the day, he had his brother to share stories and banter with. Yes, that had to be it. His love for his job had died with Sunstreaker. And his love for anything else.
Springer watched over his red comrade. He didn't even know why he tried so hard to win over the warrior's friendship. He supposed it was because so few did. Apparently, if you weren't already a friend of Sideswipe's before the battle with Unicron, you had missed your chance. He was a cold hard shell that few could crack. According to others who had been on Earth from the beginning, it hadn't always been like that. That it had been Sideswipe's twin brother who was the ruthless one. And it was Sideswipe who was the prankster, the shameless imp with the ready, mischievous smile. Springer didn't even remember ever seeing a real smile, mischievous or not, from the bot lying before him. Apparently it had been a common thing, especially when he was trying to get he and his brother out of punishment from the commanding officers.
Then the beautiful, terrible yellow warrior died.
It happened not long after the battle with Unicron and the separated brothers reunited at last. The Autobots couldn't understand the sudden madness that seemed to take over their enemy. In their state of unreadiness, many, too many, were killed.
Having spent little time with the twins, and virtually no experience with any sort of siblings, Springer didn't understand what was going on. He didn't know why it was that one death could change someone so much. Yes, everyone had their own personal tragedy. Their own sob story that brought them into the war. But he had never seen the sight of twin brothers being separated like this. Maybe it was this lack of understanding that drew him to befriend the one left behind. The one who would have given his bad-tempered, ruthless brother a run for his money were he alive to see him.
Perceptor and Rodimus Prime finally made their appearances, cutting off the triple-changer's thoughts. While the scientist-turned-medic knelt at Sideswipe's side to make him ready for transport, the Commander smiled down at them.
"It's good to see you holding up, Sides," he said approvingly. "I heard you gave some a good scare."
"It'll take more than that to kill me," Sideswipe replied evenly. Perceptor, who had known the young mech the longest of the three, shook his head as he worked.
"Do attempt to reign in your disappointment," he murmured softly. The melee warrior didn't know if he was being sarcastic or not; or even if he himself was being sarcastic in the first place.
"He's ready for transport," Perceptor reported when his patient was stabilized enough to be moved. As terrible as it looked, the damage was mostly superficial, thank Primus.
"Don't worry," Rodimus assured the melee fighter as he was loaded in. "We'll have you back and on your feet in no time." Sideswipe said nothing to the young Commander. What was there to say? That he didn't want to be back on his feet? That he didn't want to be repaired only to be sent back out to fight this stupid 5 ½ million year old stalemate?
With the pain numbed to a dull reminder, and the lull of the snores of other sedated bots laying next to him, Sideswipe found himself drifting off into a recharge against his will. He hated to recharge, hated it almost as much as he hated this damned war.
Because recharging usually meant he could dream.
And he hated to dream.
Dreaming meant he could see his brother again.
This time the dream was not as bad as it usually was. No scenes of death or destruction filled his gaze. Sunstreaker sat there in front of him on the red warrior's bunk. Sideswipe was sitting next to him, leaning easily against the wall.
They were talking. Just talking.
His audios couldn't hear the words that were being said. Did it really matter? They used to talk often before settling down for the night. Nothing of importance was ever discussed. Nor any cross words. Just the easy, peaceful things that calmed their minds enough for a good recharge.
He watched as his twin laughed at something he had said. And the sight eased some of the heaviness of Sideswipe's soul. As a brother, he would never admit it. It was his duty to deny it to the best of his ability. The endless ribbing he would be forced to endure ensured it. And it wasn't as though the ever-modest Sunny needed any stroking of his ego.
But as he gazed upon his brother's laughing visage, he had to admit that for all the yellow warrior's insistence, he really was beautiful. Certainly much too beautiful for his grisly occupation. Seeing his mouth curled into a wicked sneer, frosty optics narrowed in deadly focus, it was hard to see the beauty. Few had ever seen Sunstreaker laugh or even smile in pure happiness. If they did, they might wonder at the murderous nature that lay beneath.
The yellow twin said something to him and Sideswipe felt himself laugh as well, though he couldn't hear what was being said.
Why couldn't he wake up! What the hell was a dream good for if it wouldn't let him forget the story's end? If it wouldn't let him hear his brother's voice? Embrace him and be told he was an emotional slagger who would be murdered if he dared scuff something?
Sunstreaker got up, presumably, to go to his own cot. The nightly talk was over and now it was time to sleep.
It was then that Sideswipe gained control of his body.
Sunstreaker had barely landed his leap from the top bunk before he was tackled by his twin.
"Sides!" he exclaimed, nearly falling from the force with which his brother attached himself. "What the slag are you…"
Every curse thrown at Sideswipe was received as glorious music. It had been so long since he had heard his brother's voice. So long since he felt the sleek plating that made up his exterior.
"What the fragging hell?" his brother ranted on trying to dislodge him. "Are you a millennia old or what? Get off!"
The red warrior wasn't sure what he began babbling in response. He didn't care if this dream-Sunny thought him mad. Just let this be real. Let him stay.
"You know you can't stay," Sunstreaker murmured, going very still.
The illusion of reality shattered.
"Just try stopping me," Sideswipe hissed even as his grip tightened. He lost Sunstreaker once. He wouldn't let him leave again. His brother would have to terminate him first.
"I won't have to," dream-Sunny replied, once again knowing his thoughts. The tone of his smooth voice caused Sideswipe to lift his head up from where it nestled at his brother's neck. There was no emotion in Sunstreaker's lazuli optics, but it was the strange lilt of his voice that set off warning alarms in his mind.
The yellow twin's mouth lifted slightly at the edges. The sad smile brought the old fear into Sideswipe's fuel pump. The same fear he had felt right before Sunstreaker slipped away to a place he was forbidden to follow to. Something was very wrong. He could feel it.
"You're going to leave me," was the dead warrior's reply.
Sideswipe leave his brother now that he'd found him? He'd have laughed if the situation weren't so serious. "Don't be stupid," he denied. "I'm not going anywhere. You told me I couldn't follow you, that I had to live no matter what. I'm sick of doing what I'm told, Sunny. So you know what? To hell with you and your stupid order. I'm a monster now because I've been surviving so long." He buried his face again into his brother's neck. "The hell with the fraggin' war. I'm not leaving."
Sunstreaker's arms came up to wrap around Sideswipe. "You'd let them fight this thing without you? Let them die because you aren't there?"
"Yes." The answer came without hesitation. He'd let every last one of them die if it meant he could have his other half back. Perhaps he really was a monster. He didn't care.
The yellow warrior chuckled darkly. "So damn stupid," he sighed affectionately, nestling his head against his brother's. "You're going to leave me and you don't even slagging know it."
"What the slag are you doing!"
First Aid didn't even look up as Mirage entered the room. The young spy had been worried about his friend and came into the O.R. without permission. And it seemed the sight of Sideswipe's cranial unit being fiddled with had understandably startled him.
"Exactly what needs to be done," the young CMO replied tersely, Ratchet's influence shining through. He would have to tell him eventually anyway; he would have to tell everyone. Rodimus could rightfully discharge him for this, even though the Commander desperately needed every medic he could get. Not to mention the need for him to join with his four brothers to form Defensor.
But honestly, First Aid no longer cared if he was discharged. He didn't know how much more of this damned war he could take. A pacifist by nature, it was all the medic could do to stomach putting his patients back together only to send them back out to get blown up again. How in the name of Primus did his old mentor do it for so long?
"And what would that be?" Mirage demanded, breaking his line of thought. "I may not know a lot about body structure, but I know enough that tells me he wasn't shot in the head."
"The damage to his torso has been stabilized for now. The damage to his psyche, however, has gone untreated for far too long."
"And what does that mean?" the spy bristled defensively. He was forced to endure so many of the others' comments on Sideswipe's sanity. He didn't need First Aid to join in too. The red melee warrior wasn't crazy. Just… different that's all. But weren't they all? He certainly wasn't the turbo-fox hunting nobleman that was thrown into the war anymore. As much as he wished it, he didn't think he could ever be that mech again.
"I'm getting rid of Sunstreaker," the CMO came right out and said it, pausing from his work to stare down the stunned Mirage. Daring him to protest.
Mirage did not disappoint.
"You're what!" he cried, rushing forward. "You're wiping his memory chip? You can't do that!"
"In another few minutes it will be done," First Aid shook his head. "So much as jostle him, Mirage, and you'll end up really wiping the whole thing. I do not fancy raising an infant Sideswipe, I don't know about you. Much as it would help."
"And you actually considered that?"
"It was a thought," he nodded. "It would certainly be easier."
"First Aid, you can't just get rid of Sunstreaker! He's his brother for Primus' sake! His memory is all Sideswipe has left of him!" Mirage watched with helplessness, unable to do anything to stop it for fear of causing more damage than had been done.
"That's the problem! I don't know if you've noticed or not, Mirage, but Sideswipe is completely off the deep end. He's not a melee front line warrior anymore, he's a slagging berserker! Losing Sunstreaker is making him lose his mind. I can't let him continue this anymore. If he does as he has been doing, he'll be dead within a year."
"You have to reverse this! It's not right and you know it!"
"What isn't right is watching him die right in front of me and not doing anything for so long. He's been dying ever since his brother did. It's only a matter of time before he's completely gone."
"But… but First Aid, there has to be another way. You just can't make someone forget their twin." He was desperate to change the medic's mind, knowing that it was losing battle. He didn't care how much sense it made, to alter someone's memory could not possibly be right!
"And you know this from experience?" It was a low blow, but true nonetheless. Mirage had no siblings. Didn't even have a friend close enough to count as one. He knew better than that having seen mechs stronger than he lose themselves to the war. The young spy could never know what his friend had gone through. Couldn't even come close. But First Aid could. "Do you think I want to do this? If I ever lost any of my brothers… I don't know what I'd do. I might very well turn into another Sideswipe. But as his doctor and his friend I will not stand by and watch him charge out to battle every day with the full intention of throwing away his life. Why he hasn't just committed suicide to just get it over with, I'll never know. But I am going to save his life whether he wants me to or not."
"He'll hate you for this," the recently commissioned Intelligence officer whispered, staring at Sideswipe's slack face. He had lost so many friends already in this damned war. He didn't want to lose the endearing imp too. Even if that imp hadn't played his tricks for far too long.
"He hates me already," was the quiet answer. "He hates me for what I didn't, couldn't do. At least now he can hate me for what I'm doing with my own hands."
"He doesn't hate you." First Aid looked back up from his work, a wounded grin on his face.
"I let his brother die. There's no stronger hate in the world than for someone who could have saved your twin brother's life and didn't. Ratchet could have saved Sunstreaker's life. He could save anyone."
"You don't know that."
"It's what Sideswipe believes. Does it matter if it's true?" His gentle lazuli optics were filled with pain. Pain that one of his patients had such little faith in him. That they preferred another to him no matter how hard he tried. He wasn't Ratchet, could never replace him, and nor did he want to. But mechs like Sideswipe only wanted what they couldn't have. It hurt more than he would say.
Mirage didn't know what to say to this. He highly doubted that his friend could hate anyone. But he did know that if he didn't hate First Aid before, than this act would do it. The medic was damning himself with optics wide open. "What will he remember?"
"You're right that I can't erase Sunstreaker completely. There will be holes that need filling in, mementos that need explaining. But even if he is told everything that I am taking away, he won't remember it happening. He won't remember his pain, and that's all I want. If he doesn't know how much his brother's death is killing him, then he won't know how much he wants to die. With luck he'll go back to being just regular old Sideswipe."
Mirage's fuel pump tightened as he contemplated the red warrior's handsome face. Until now he didn't even know how much he missed the regular old Sideswipe. He was a double-edged sword to be sure. One never knew when a comment or action would snap him from the charming imp into the dark warrior, but anything was better than what he was now. This mech before him wasn't Sideswipe. It was some ruthless, twisted, hurting imitation of the well-loved Lamborghini. Their Sideswipe may as well be dead already.
"At Iacon," he began softly, "we had a word for someone like him. We were so far from the war then, we didn't really understand it… but we heard stories. And there was a term for mechs who lost their minds to the war. We called it being Red Listed. Berserkers who sought their own deaths by charging into battle rather than take their own lives. We noticed that these Red Listed were given more dangerous missions, missions that no mech should receive. Almost like they weren't even worth keeping alive anymore, that you should get as much use out of them as you could before they finally died."
"That sounds like our boy alright," First Aid nodded. "I… Mirage, I'm one of the senior officers and there are things I'm told that the rest of you aren't. This can never leave this room."
Optics wide, the spy stared at the medic in disbelief. "He has been Red Listed, hasn't he? Rodimus is going to send him away."
"Not in so many words. But high command is getting worried about Sideswipe and his rising aggressiveness. They're not sure what to do with him anymore. Deactivation has been brought up. So has outfitting him with more berserker-like gear. So far Rodimus Prime isn't going for it. He's convinced that our boy here can still recover."
"But he can't."
"He has." The CMO closed the open panels on Sideswipe's head. "It's done. I'm going to finish the damage to his middle, then wake him up. Do you want to stay?"
"Yes." Mirage didn't want to leave until he knew his friend would be alright.
As First Aid moved down to work on the red warrior's middle, Mirage stepped closer, optics tracing every dent and scratch on the war-worn body. "Where's Swoop?" he asked conversationally, uncomfortable with the silence he usually reveled in.
The young Dinobot was often found hanging around the medical bay, always eager to help. He was picking up things too if his minor repairs on his brothers were anything to go by. So many took him for granted as being about as intelligent as a droid, but he was actually quite clever. Certainly the most intelligent of his brothers who were also not as dumb as first perceived. First Aid had recently taken him under his wing, allowing him to help more and more with his patients. Ratchet and Wheeljack would have been proud to see their Dinobots still taken care of. Especially if they knew the smallest would follow in their footsteps.
"Fixing Sideswipe's quarters as I requested," First Aid supplied absently.
"Why? To get rid of Sunstreaker's things?" the Intelligence officer asked morosely. Despite the pain it must have caused every day to see, Sideswipe hadn't touched a single thing of his brother's in their shared quarters. When asked about it, he would just reply that it was still as much his twin's room as his. The magazine thrown to the side when the call for battle was sounded that day, the tossed waxing rag in the corner… it all stayed as it was.
"No, just to pack them away and dislodge the bunk. We wouldn't throw them away." The medic stopped what he was doing and placed a hand on Sideswipe's chest, sadly contemplating what he had done. "Mirage, you have to believe that I never wanted to do this and I take no pleasure in it. I would never want to forget any of my own brothers no matter what."
"I can't lose him too." Mirage stepped back in surprise as the CMO looked up at him. The deep sadness in his optics, the fatigue, was all there for him to see. On Ratchet, Ironhide, Kup… it was ok for them to look like that. But it hurt to see one so young already reaching their limit. "Too many are dead, Mirage, and I can save this one. I will save this one. It's selfish, I know," he looked back down at his patient. "But if tomorrow or the day after, he finally succeeded in his insane hunt for death, and I could have prevented it… I'd never forgive myself. Sunstreaker would never forgive me either."
"What are we going to tell him when he wakes up and finds half his life missing?"
"We tell him nothing. Only that his head is a bit fuzzy from his serious injuries."
"He won't buy that. Not in a million years. He'll know you did something to him, and when he finds out, there's no telling what he'll do."
First Aid didn't look the least bit frightened of facing what he knew would be the unholy wrath of the Red Rose of Death as so many referred to him now. "It will keep him until we think of enough memories to fill up as many holes as we can. Perhaps someday he will be ready to know what he lost. But until then, you and I and the rest of the crew must work as hard as we can to get the old Sideswipe back as soon as possible. We need him."
The pair fell silent as the CMO picked up the arc welder once more. There was nothing left to say.
Holding his breath, Mirage watched as First Aid reactivated Sideswipe. He had no idea what to expect at this point, and wanted to be ready for anything from violence to confusion. However, he was not commissioned as an Intell officer for nothing. Any nervousness or anticipation was carefully hidden behind a neutral face.
The red Lamborghini's optics flickered once, twice, then flared to life. Groaning softly, he held a hand to his temple, shaking his head a little as though shaking off the last of a bad dream. Limbs flexed and relaxed hesitantly, testing his body before making any sudden movements in case of remaining injury.
"How do you feel, Sides?" Mirage asked, as lightly as he could. Primus, he didn't even remember how one should talk to the Sideswipe of old.
"Weird," was the soft reply. He furrowed his optic ridge, trying to concentrate on something before giving it up. Letting the last of the bad dream fade away into nothingness.
"Yes, well, you'll be feeling groggy for a good while after that stunt you pulled," First Aid replied gruffly as he put away various instruments. Anyone could see that Ratchet certainly had rubbed off on his young pupil when it came to the scolding of reckless patients. "Do that again and I won't be surprised if you are shipped straight to the junkyard."
He was testing the waters, Mirage realized with a start. The new Sideswipe would make a strange retort to such allusion to his death. One that no one knew whether to take seriously or not. His response would help them see just what the CMO's work had accomplished.
To his wonder, the young melee warrior's mouth twisted into an impish smirk, the fox-like gleam glittering in sapphire optics. It wasn't what it used to be, but it was a definte start. "Takes more than a few Sweeps to shut me down, you know that. You can't get rid of me that easily. Sorry to disappoint you. Oh!" his optics widened. "Jazz! He fell over that ridge there. Is he ok?"
"He's fine," assured the Protectobot. "Perceptor patched him up and sent him on his way already. Just a little banged up that's all."
Sideswipe sighed in relief. "Good. I thought it was worse than that."
The breath caught in the spy's intake to see such change in his friend. This wasn't a Sideswipe who had forgotten everything, there was still a dark shadow in his face where years of warfare had worn on him. The past few years had been especially trying on everyone, and no one could erase that. But this was a Sideswipe reborn. One that was living, breathing, talking… hell, smiling! Looking like he had had such marvelous fun out there on the field and wouldn't it be wonderful to do it again!
"Apart from fatigue," First Aid continued in his inventory of his patient, "how else do you feel? Any pain still?"
Again, Sideswipe carefully moved each part of his body, checking for hidden wounds. Then he brought a hand to his temple again, the odd look on his face returning. "Not really. A bit stiff, and I have this headache…"
"I suggest you get back to your quarters and get some recharge in." The CMO showed no sign whatsoever that anything was out of the ordinary. "And no sneaking off on some wild adventure. You need rest if you want to heal properly. Your headache should be gone in no time."
Yesterday, no one would have mentioned Sideswipe's previous impish ways or his penchant for finding mischief. Now though, seeing the roguish twinkle back in the mech's optics, Mirage had no doubt that he was hatching something fun, and most likely, illegal to do.
"Who? Me?" Sideswipe asked, feigning offense at the accusation. "In my delicate condition?"
"Yes you," the medic smiled fondly, relief in his optics. "Now off with you. And not a step outside your quarters, do you hear? You are on strict medical leave and I want you to rest."
"That won't be a problem," the red melee warrior assured him, yawning for emphasis. "I feel like I haven't recharged in years." He stretched out, looking very much like a large red cat. "Well, it's been fun, First Aid." Hopping down, he winced slightly at the jostling of his torso. The CMO frowned.
"Do not do that again," he requested. "I just spent 4 megacycles putting that back together."
Sideswipe grinned sheepishly. "Uh, yeah, sorry 'bout that."
"How about I walk you back, Sides," Mirage offered. "It's on my way anyway."
The younger mech agreed and headed out while the spy lingered, having made the excuse of asking their CMO something.
The two conspirators stared at each other for a moment, still not believing what they had just witnessed. "Did you see him?" Mirage asked, "Sideswipe… he's gone. That wasn't our old Sideswipe and it wasn't the new one. Sideswipe's gone."
"No, he's not gone," First Aid shook his head. "Sunstreaker's gone. After all this time, he's finally gone."
"Primus, he was smiling… he doesn't even know."
"He can't know, Mirage," the medic looked at him pleadingly. "He's not ready to deal with it. You can't tell him what he lost. Not yet."
The Intelligence officer made his way out from the back O.R., looking around for his companion. Sideswipe had stopped in the middle of the room, rigid and with the oddest expression on his face. The spy, all senses hyper-aware of every movement of his friend, stopped at his side. He felt a tightening of his laser core, expecting Sideswipe to lash out at any minute. "Are you ok?" he asked.
Following the younger mech's line of sight, he saw what it was that had stopped him. A cot in the corner, empty of occupants now. It had been where the medical staff found him the morning after the battle, clutching his lifeless brother tight against him and quivering like a cornered petro-rabbit. "Sideswipe?" He couldn't remember that, could he? Sunstreaker was gone.
Sideswipe shook his head, snapping himself from the trance he was in. The blank look was replaced with one of uneasy assurance. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's just…"
"I don't know. Like… like déjà vu or something, y'know? Like… oh never mind. It's just my headache. Nothing a few megacycles of recharge won't fix." He smiled easily and headed for the door.
Mirage caught up to him, concern not leaving him. "Are you sure? You were, well, you were shaking. We can go back to…"
"Nah, I'm fine," the red warrior chuckled, waving off his friend. "Who died and made you slagging mother hen? It's just a bit chilly that's all."
But the blue and white mech could feel the temperature around them as they made their way to Sideswipe's quarters.
It wasn't the least bit cold.
Swoop was long gone by the time they reached the door, thank the Matrix. It would have been difficult for the Dinobot to explain his presence. Not to mention that while he was able to learn things much easier than when he was younger, he still had not learned the art of lying.
There was no large reaction to the sudden change in the room as Mirage expected. Odd looks, certainly, but he didn't question what he saw. Having slept on the top bunk, it was the bed that got the longest double-take. It was now just a regular recharge berth, close to the ground. What Swoop had done to the one on top, Mirage didn't think he even wanted to know. But it seemed safe for him to leave for the moment.
"Hey, Mirage," the young warrior asked softly, his back turned. Mirage stopped to glance back behind his shoulder. He saw Sideswipe was holding something in his hands, staring at it. Had Swoop forgotten something?
"Yes?" The spy wished he would just go to sleep and shrug off his lingering confusion as fatigue and let it lie.
Sideswipe turned around slowly, a soft rag clenched in his hands. His soft blue optics were sad, mystified with the missing pieces. He needed some sort of explanation and the spy wasn't sure he could give one just yet. "Mirage? I… I've been having this feeling. Like I'm forgetting something. Something important."
"First Aid said it was because of your injuries," Mirage quickly lied, amazed at how easily he could do so. Was there such a thing as being too good at your job?
"Yeah, I know," Sideswipe fingered the well-loved piece of cloth, unsure as to what it was or how it had gotten to his room. A room that seemed too large and sparse. "But…"
"It'll go away in time," Mirage promised. "Nothing's changed." He stared straight into the red mech's optics, willing him to believe him. To just drop the subject.
"You're probably right. I mean, everything's still a bit foggy, so it's all in my head," he shrugged. "And if I was forgetting something, you'd tell me, right?"
If this was the right thing to do, why did it feel so wrong? Would Sunstreaker really want it this way?
Sideswipe smiled, the hint of the fox-like grin reappearing on his face. He put the rag in a nearby trashcan. It was a dirty old thing, who knew where it came from. "And besides, if you can't remember something, it can't be that important then, right?"
Farewell! Thou Art too Dear
Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gav'st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav'st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter
In sleep a king; but waking, no such matter.
A/N: um… yeah. I'm off to write some comedy now.
Once again, I decided to post it before I changed it for the billionth time. Originally I was going to kill him off. But then I figured that that might be a bit too predictable. Then I was going to kill off Mirage or Jazz, making him just more miserable. That didn't have anything to do with the previous story, so that got dumped. Then he was going to request the memory wipe himself, but then I figured that didn't make much sense. Somewhere along the way, this happened. Anyone catch how Sideswipe quoted his brother? No? Eh, I tried.