This Fair Destiny
It took so long to change my mind
I thought that love was a game
I played around enough to find
No two are ever the same
You made me realize the love I'd missed
So hot, love I couldn't quite resist
When its right, the light just comes shinin thru
.38 Special, "Caught up in You"
Flare burst into her room, turned around and slammed the pneumatic door shut. Leaning against its burnt orange frame, she let her shoulder struts sag and her crest drop from its proud arc. The metal ting'ed gently on the top of her grey skull, softly vibrated to her audios.
"I love you!"
Those words, intermixed with pain and desperation, knocked around in her cortex.
A slow trickle of washer fluid rolled down one sharp-planed cheek and into her neck-guard. Hastily, Solarflare reached up and scrubbed it away.
Love her? How could he? He – it – was just a walking, talking, emoting robot, with a complex computer for a control box and a wide range of pre-programmed lines, actions and reactions.
But … so are you.
Another tear, then one more, oozed from the other optic. Her wings dropped from their customary position, the metal pinions clanging on the floor. You are more than a robot; you are a metallic person. You are still Alina … somewhere in this body. You are Solarflare … and Alina. And Mirage … he is … Desolate, she made her way to her bed, hoping that the night would bring change. Or, perhaps, understanding.
Her crest flicked and her head came up. Something … was not right. She could feel a presence – faintly – but it was there. And she knew that feeling, a kind of ESP ever since she had woken up in this new reality. He was here. Astonishment and surprise over how he had managed, in those few nanoclicks that she had left the door open, to get in here undetected, gave way to anger and outrage.
"Mirage!" she hissed, vocalizer spitting a crude arc of static, arm arcing in one long swipe. "Don't play games with me!"
Something caught her wild swing. "No … no games." Mirage's baritone voice carried more than a trace of sadness – and perhaps, regret. First the hand with its long, slim black fingers emerged from cloaking, then the rest of the Ligier. He was leaning up against her bed, looking at her.
Snatching her hand from his grip, Solarflare backed away. His head slowly turned, following her movements; Mirage spoke no more, waiting for her to do so first. She eyed him back from the relative safety of the doorframe, not knowing how to proceed. She was still angry at him – with his rant in front of not only Jazz and Blaster, but the entire concert crowd. Why should she even give him the chance to apologize? Shouldn't she kick him out now and alienate herself from the rest of the Ark crew for the rest of eternity?
No. She couldn't. She needed them … she … needed him; despite her pain-filled tirade, it was all too true. He brought her from the darkness, he sat by her cradle's side all through those long days. "Why?" she whispered at last. "Why did you yell at me?" Her vocalizer was a ghost of its former vibrancy. "I was only doing what you had been training me to do – fight back. Fight and win."
The Ligier spy did not move, did not so much as shift to change his verbal posture. "Because …" He stopped, his facial planes slipping downwards, eye ridges meeting at the center of his crest. Flare watched him judiciously; for as long as she had known him, this was the first time she'd seen him out of his element.
Finally, he shifted and stood straight, whatever battle had been raging in his cortex now over. "Because … I … can't bear to lose you again. Before we met, I had one thing on my mind and one thing only – return to Cybertron. I wanted out of this blasted war, off this planet. I didn't want anything else. I fought for Cybertron, not for any one personal freedom." He stopped, paused. "You … you listened to me – when no one else would. When everyone else was tired and sick of my whining. You listened to me until you went numb." He paused again, a slow, thin smile gracing his light blue facial planes. She started at his admission. "I knew," he began again, nodding. "You're too respectable … Flare. You let me prattle on and on, because … that's you."
Pressed against the doorway, Flare could feel her Energon pump beat like a bass drum inside her titanium chest. New tears, fresh from her fuel-lines, wound their way down her sharp-planed cheeks. She wanted to say something, but she let him continue.
Mirage lifted a hand and touched the center of his pharaonic helm, seeking inner strength. The hand dropped back down, rod-straight, at his side. "There are days where I will sit there and watch you and I'll feel that thread of guilt worming its way into my spark. And know that I can't be there to protect you if something happens. If you go on patrol and are ambushed.
"I failed you once … I can't fail again."
A thousand and one thoughts, emotions, ran through her already-numb cortex. "You didn't fail me!" she exclaimed without thinking. All she received was a small, sad smile, a knowing smile. It was all he would ever believe. And nothing she would say could ever change that perception.
"You don't get it, do you?"
"Get what? You don't want me to fight? Then why spend all that time with the cannon, on the range? You can't protect me, Mirage– So stop playing nursemaid! I don't need you."
The conversation, mere moments ago, shot into her cortex like a streak of lightning.
"… Primus, Solarflare! I love you!"
"I should go now," he said at last, pointedly avoiding optic-contact. Flare watched as he took one step, then another, and stood in the center of her quarters. Then she realized that she was baring the door, and he could not leave unless she moved. Well, if that's how it was going to be, she'd stay put as long as possible. He owed her that.
He wasn't human – how could he expect her to love him back? But neither are you, echoed in her inner audio once more. What little of Transformer relationships she knew came from the lip components of Sunstreaker – and he wasn't the most reliable or viable source of information in that department.
But her own actions, backed up by his admissions, told her a different story.
She searched his face, hoping for a sign, for some tic that would explain it all to her. There was no emotion on his face, none what so ever – and when a Transformer decided to clam up, it was so very difficult to read them.
Flare shifted, looking at his sky blue optics. Her vision altered accordingly, allowing her past the colored glass, into the very minute details that made up his visual system. And it was there, in the small optical components, that she found activity. They were flicking back and forth, up and down, right to left, all around in short, jerking motions.
Would he stand there for eternity, or would he fade away as he sometimes did when stressed? One way or the other, she would have to move, and he would be free to leave.
"I love you!"
The question was not did she love him – of course she did. As a friend and confidante. But to love as strongly as she had in the past, in her former life? To give something of herself?
"I love you!"
In the end, he was all that she had. A link from human to Transformer. The only one.
The avian femme found herself not a few inches from the Ligier, looking up into that emotionless face, through to those crazy, flickering optics. Slowly, she reached up, talons out, and touched his face. Still, he did not move; rather, his hands remained tight by his sides, all motionless, save for what was going on behind the glass. Those components suddenly stopped their twitching and locked in on her fingertips.
The nickname breezed past her charcoal lips. Her talons moved across one high cheek ridge, across his brow, down his sloping nasal ridge. As they crossed, so did his optics.
He's not a man, her cortex reminded her. No male human reactions, no way to gauge.
But he is who he is. He is a HE. No doubt.
And she … was teasing him. The thought somehow amused her. Teasing the resident spy; stoic Mirage. Feminine wiles gave her strength, courage.
Slowly, she dropped her hand to his shoulder, raised the other to sit where his cannon usually was locked. Wings lifted above her shoulders, she stood on tip-toe until they were at optic-level. Like twin pendulums, his optical components swung around to meet in the middle. Gently, she touched her lips to his, a small, wry part of her expecting it to feel like sucking on a spoon … well, metallic. But, she knew better … her own mouth felt like nothing of the sort – more like it used to when she had flesh, and blood was flowing through her veins instead of mech-fluid, coolant and other additives.
She felt the warmth, but none of the pliancy that she had expected. Surprised, she stood back. The tears that had since dried upon her stark white face began to blossom again. Wasn't that what he had wanted? What he had practically begged of her?
Wings sagging, struts low, she turned around and placed her hand on the inner panel to open the door.
His right hand fell on her wrist, the other at her waist. Optics wide, she felt herself being turned round, her wings and tail feathers scraping along the wall, so close was she. Surprise at his sudden motion, surprise at his use of her former name.
His slim black fingers touched her cheek first, then moved slowly across her face in the exact same pattern she had just used on him. But Solarflare was not Mirage; emotion bubbled up from deep in her spark and she began to tremble at the light motions. "I love you," he whispered, and bent his head, lips to hers.
"I love you, too," she managed to reply through their internal commlink, for other parts of her were occupied. There was no surprise this time, for it was all true. All he had said finally clicked. Camaraderie and friendship deepened, evolved, changed. It was more.
He moved closer, reaching around her with one hand to press a sensor on the wall. All around, the lights dimmed until all that remained was the dual glow of their optics, blue and gold, winking at each other. Everything was going so fast, Flare ruminated, but she was too caught up, and there was no way in hell she'd let him go now. Shifting her weight onto one pyramidal black leg, she tapped the privacy lock with her left holster. Now, no one could get in – or out.
"Teach me," she breathed, running her hands over his bare shoulders, "tell me how to love you."
The noblemech spy chuckled warm and low, passing his lips over her crest, then down the curve of her helm to her lips. "I think … that you should be the one to teach me."
His slim fingers, made for the finer things in life, not war, slipped over her shoulders, down to her waist, pressing her gently against the wall. Part of her cortex that still remembered sex as a human drove her leg upwards, arching around his thigh, bringing his groin guard into contact with her lower torso.
"I know nothing," she whispered.
A deep, sensuous laugh rolled from his vocalizer as he parted her lip components. "I think ... you'll find … that it's not … all that … different."
Pleasure that she had not felt in ages wormed its way into her living metal body. While some of the responses she had been used to were not transferable to titanium plating, everything else was the same. Finding this as such, she found herself able to return Mirage's caresses with some of her own.
"Flare …" he moaned, increasing the pressure so that she began to rise up against the wall. Armor plating scraped and howled against armor plating, creating a resonance that would have been horrible to human ears, but as erotic as flesh-on-flesh sounds and sensations.
Her reply could not be put into words, spoken or otherwise. Transformer she might now be, but she was still all female, and he would know that soon enough. As awkward as it might be.
Two sets of lights, blue and gold, cut out simultaneously, leaving them in the velvet darkness.
Jazz was loathe to report the incident between the two friends to Optimus Prime, but he knew that it had to be done. Optimus rocked back in his chair, fingers laced across his thick lower torso, nodding as his third-in-command detailed the conversation. "An' that's it, Prime," the Porsche concluded, shrugging his rounded shoulders.
Privately, Optimus wondered what had taken so long for the two of them to get to this point. It wasn't as if Mirage's interest in Solarflare was a secret. At first, when she had been human, there had been little to remark about; but as the spy's disposition and attitude began to change, his comrades started looking for the source of the transformation. It wasn't long before they figured out that he had been spending much of his off-time in Alina's presence, lamenting his lost glories and, towards the end, going out of his way to be with her for no reason at all.
Rumors began to flutter around that the Ligier was besotted with the human female; her death and subsequent resurrection only cemented their opinions. If he didn't love her, why did he spend all that time, day after day, night after night, by her cradle? Amongst some, it became a private joke; a look, a knowing nod, whenever they were seen together. Quiet, polite Smokescreen even had a betting pool going with Sunstreaker. As time passed, Mirage seemed to once again turn into himself; Solarflare, on the other hand, bloomed. Ever observant, Optimus realized what was happening: no longer trapped in a body of flesh and empowered by the mechs around her, Solarflare began to unknowingly distance herself from the spy she had once spent so many hours with, talking about life, poetry and their worlds.
"Where are they now, Jazz?"
The white-black saboteur shrugged again. "Dunno. Flare jetted outta there like 'er life depended on it. Raj? I sent 'im after 'er … dunno if he came back."
Tipping forward, Optimus pressed a button on his desk. "Prowl."
A split second, then: "Prowl here, Prime."
"Are Solarflare and Mirage in residence?"
"One moment … Ah, Solarflare's door was activated not an hour ago. I can't say the same for Mirage's." There was a pause. "Would you like me to hail him, Prime?"
Flicking his optics towards Jazz, Optimus shook his head. "Negative. Thank you, Prowl."
"Of … course." And there was puzzlement in the second-in-command's vocalizer, but he cut the connection all the same.
Seated in a chair across the desk, Jazz crossed his legs. "What now?"
Slowly, Optimus considered the possibilities. In a war zone, love and friendship were luxuries; similarly, sometimes they could not even be afforded those. He could do one of two things: prevent this liaison from progressing any further and ship Solarflare off to Cybertron; or, he could let things go and trust that his soldiers would uphold their vows to the Autobot cause first, before each other.
A low rumble rose from the commander's red chestplate, causing Jazz to look at him expectantly. "I will speak with them tomorrow morning," he said at last. Lip components unusually set in a line, all Jazz could do was nod. With a sketchy salute, he gathered himself together and left, leaving Optimus alone with his thoughts.
Did he trust them? When it came down to it, yes, he did. He trusted Mirage when no others would – when all his high-ranking staff warned him that an Elitist among them would only cause trouble. He trusted Solarflare, for all her newness and the manner in which she came to walk among them. Still; his answer and their futures lay within the new day.
Reaching into a drawer, Optimus pulled out a small hologram. "Nothing is ever easy, is it, Ariel?"
Time was a blur, something she could not count. Solarflare cracked one optic shutter and found it still dark. A swift check of her internal chronometer revealed that it was still late in the night. Dimming her optics, she looked up and across the wide chestplate of the Ligier spy, Mirage. His optics were wide open, but as dark as the room in which they lay in. Fast in the depths of recharge.
Flare smiled to herself and pillowed her head on her arms, which rested on his chestplate. She barely remembered the two of them getting on her recharging bed, but what followed was certainly clear. The grey femme smiled, faintly feeling the spy's dreaming thoughts through the thick chord that still connected them.
No, she did not regret the words or actions that led to this moment. She did love him – then as much as she did now, only deeper. Loved as a friend, companion – and, ultimately, champion. Idly, she wondered what kind of man he would have been: a playboy billionaire with a fast car, jet and boat? Long hair? Muscular with a slim, tapered waist and powerful legs? But really, her sober side reasoned, with the person whom she'd been, would she really have had a chance at the "man" he'd been? A pinpoint of blue, doubled, glowed before her. Mirage tilted his head to the side, looking at her; his hands ran up her thighs and rested on her waist.
"We can't debate possibilities," he murmured, gazing at her. "I have you now. And that's what matters the most."
"I know," she apologized, crest flicking flat.
He merely grunted, the shadows playing over his thin lips as they pulled upwards in a smile, trying to lighten the mood. A soft beep told her that he, too, was checking the time. But, unlike a human male, he did not move. "Do you want me to stay?"
The question, again, surprised her. "Of course," she whispered, pulling herself up so that her chin rested atop his shoulder panels, nasal ridge touching his helm. It was the best they could do – what with her wings and all.
"Good, because I don't feel like leaving you just yet."
A slow, sultry smile graced the avian femme's facial planes. "Sleep in?" she suggested, trying to make things up to him.
His hands moved from her waist and began rubbing the sensitive plating under her avian head. "Perhaps," and turned his head to kiss her once more, drawing his slim fingers across her sharp cheeks. " … Flare?"
"Mm?" she murmured against his neck guard.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "For everything."
Slowly, she pulled away from his fingers; setting her hands on either side of his shoulders, she pierced his optics with a very avian stare. It was her turn to be the serious one. "Don't be. I don't regret this life, neither should you." Flare paused, drawing a deep breath of air through her ventilators, trying to put her thoughts together coherently. "But, Mirage … you have to let me be me. I don't like this war anymore than you do … but it's who I am now. And I accept that."
Gentle fingers touched her cheek in apology. "I know. I have to accept that, too. And … you'll have to bear with me … because I'm not, well, not used to this."
Flare laughed softly, remembering his idle boasts and tales of conquest. "Well, Mom always did want me to marry a rich man so that she and Dad could retire early." A slow drop of washer fluid formed at the corner of one optic; delicately, Mirage reached up to wipe it away. His arms drew around her, held her, as they both remembered what they had lost – and what they had found.
Presently, Solarflare became aware of a beep – a persistent one at that. It was coming from the top right-hand corner of her chestplate; there was another, similar, beep coming from Mirage. Touching the spy's face, she tapped her commlink open. "Solarflare here."
"Solarflare." Optimus' voice resonated from her shoulder. "Will you please come to my office?"
"Of course," she replied, tilting her head questioningly at Mirage. The spy merely placed his finger to his lips and activated his own comm.
"Mirage, will you please come to my office?"
"Right away, Chief." Rising up on his elbows, the Ligier turned his sky blue optics on the femme. "I'm assuming Jazz and Blaster informed him about our argument."
She sat up, crossing her legs over his knee caps. "I guess so," she sighed, tipping her head. "I suppose we'll have to tell him what happened?" Optics wide, she covered her mouth, cursing the way her words might be perceived.
Idly, he nodded, not at all offended. "I would have liked to wait a day or two – for our sakes – but Optimus needs to know."
"We won't be … punished?" she asked in a whisper. What Sunstreaker had told her about Cybertronian relations had not included court marshaling for inter-solider rendezvous.
Mirage pondered the situation from his reclined position on his elbows. "Normally, I'd have to say no. But a lot has changed since the early days of the war. That, and we are a small contingent here, with a lot at stake." He paused, sitting up completely and looking towards the door. "Don't worry. You know as well as I do that Prime is fair. Come." There was a catch in his vocalizer, as if he were trying to convince himself to wholly believe in their commander.
She shifted and popped off the bunk, drawing the thick chord that connected them from her left side. Mirage retracted it back into himself and followed her out the door.
Optimus was waiting for them when they arrived. Lifting his head from Prowl's morning reports, he simply gestured; they took the chairs in front of his loaded desk, and waited.
"Jazz told me that there was an altercation at a concert he attended with you. Is that correct, Solarflare?"
"There was," she assented, her crest echoing her words, taloned fingers tapping at her thighs.
Prime laced his fingers together, his brow ridge creasing slightly at her brief reply. "It seems to me, judging by your attitudes, that whatever it was has since been solved. Am I correct, Mirage?"
"I'm glad to hear that …"
"Prime," Mirage delicately interrupted. Across from the spy and femme, Optimus' brow ridges rose. Mirage rarely spoke when someone else was, a product of his upbringing. When the Autobot commander gestured, the Ligier continued, "We're together now, Flare and I."
If Optimus was surprised, he gave no immediate indication. However, there was a decidedly pregnant pause before he spoke, laying his hands out on the desk. "As I believed it would." The Autobot commander's battlemask dipped in wry humor at their expressions. "Was it ever a complete secret, you two?"
Optics wide, Solarflare glanced at Mirage; the spy had the good grace to give a twitch of his shoulders – the only indication that he was squirming inside. "I –" she began, fishing around for a suitable explanation.
Optimus lifted a blue finger that shut her lip components quickly; he continued, "Regardless, I do not think I need warn you about the division between relationship and work; the two of you are well-schooled in responsibility. Because of this, I have no objections." Slowly, Optimus' great blue-grey head turned and pinned Mirage with a soft, knowing look. "I never thought I'd see such an expression on your face, Mirage."
Dumbfounded, Solarflare's gaze flickered between commander and spy; the Ligier laughed, rich and low, only the set of his brow ridge betraying his own inner astonishment. "Neither did I."
"Indeed. You are dismissed to your duties. Solarflare, I will see you at this afternoon's meeting …"
Rising, Optimus spread his hands. "Until then."
Together, they saluted the Prime and left. Hesitantly, for all this was still so new, Mirage took her by the hand as the doors closed behind them. "I will see you tonight," he promised, touching his lips to her crest.
Smiling, she squeezed back. "You'd best watch yourself out there. I want more than just spare parts to come home to."
"Only if they see me," he replied, already fading into the ether.
Glancing around the hall, Flare made for the elevator. It was still early enough to catch the chill February wind coming from the rising sun. Alone, she walked through the main bay and to the outside. The patrols were already leaving; she waved to their bumpers and tailfins before she began to climb the well-worn rocky staircase up to her favorite perch. Against the stark brown of Mt. St. Hilary, she stood, a grey-white-black female in the form of an eagle. Drawing her wings around her for warmth, Solarflare, once the human Alina Michaels, regarded the rising globe of flame in the east.
This is my life, her quiet stance asserted. I am a part of it, accepted by it. Mom, Dad, Rich … I miss you every day. If only I could tell you what happened; if only I could introduce you to some of the best people in the world … But I am still here, even if you don't know it. And I'll always watch over you … as you did for me. I love you …
With a powerful thrust of her legs, she transformed in mid-air, sweeping the new day into herself with great strokes of her wings.
I am Solarflare, once human.
I am a warrior, an Autobot.
This is dedicated to all those Transfans out there who can write a really good story. And to my long-suffering friends, who seem to take this infatuation all in stride.
Lyrics on: Chapter One, "Click, Click Boom" – © Saliva
Chapter Two, "Good is Good" – © Sheryl Crow
Chapter Three, "Give a Reason" – © Megumi Hayashibara, from the Japanese Anime Slayers
Chapter Four, "Take this Heart" – © Richard Marx
Chapter Five, "World on Fire" – © Sarah McLachlan
Chapter Six, "Cruel Angel's Thesis/Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE" – © Takahashi Youko, from the Japanese Anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Chapter Seven, "Alone" – © The BeeGees
Chapters Eight and Ten, "Rise" – © Origa, from the Japanese Anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Chapter Nine, "The Phoenix" – © Cynthia McQuillan
Chapters Eleven and Thirteen, "Caught Up In You" – © .38 Special
Chapter Twelve, "Valerie" – © Steve Winwood
Text from John Milton's Paradise Lost found in Chapter Six was transcribed from Renascence Editions (http:// darkwing. rbear/lost/ lost.html). Lyrics and text are not used with permission. The author has no intention of putting this work of fanfiction up for sale in any way, nor does she want to.
Transformers, Jem and the Holograms © Hasbro, et al.
All other material © 2005-present Melissa A. Hartman.
The San Diego Zoo did not come to have Harpy Eagles until the 1990s; thus, my placement of these magnificent monochromatic raptors at the Zoo in 1986 is in historical error. However, I believe Ratchet would have suffered an aneurysm if Hound and Mirage took a trip to South America. To view the Harpy Eagle, head on over to the Zoo's website to see the real-life inspiration for Solarflare's altmode: http:// www. sandiegozoo. org/ animalbytes /t-harpyeagle. html (Just put the URLs together.)