Putting Things in Focus
You never stopped being one of Megatron's elite, Thundercracker thought as he stumbled back into his quarters at the rebuilt War Academy. Thirteen years ago, Shockwave had approached him and Skywarp about taking up teaching posts when the Academy got rebuilt. As soon as the final rivet was made, Thundercracker had moved his gear in, and he'd been training fliers ever since.
The annual officer flight-exams was rapidly approaching, and Thundercracker was flying his wings off working with young hopefuls who wanted to earn a commission. None of his students ever forgot for a moment that he'd flown with Starscream!
And then there were his regularly-scheduled classes. The jet groaned and lowered himself down onto one of the chaise lounges, pressing his cockpit into the soft material. "Cut my wings off, Skywarp!" He called out to his partner. "I don't want to deal with this anymore."
"I'm afraid I sent Skywarp down to fetch an order from Esoterica's shop."
Thundercracker jerked upright at the sound of Reflector's rich triple-voice. "'Flec? What are you doing here?"
The camera-spy walked in from the kitchenette that the jet pair never used, two cubes of energon in his hands. "I had leave."
Resentment bubbled up under the fatigue, resentment that the camera was just walking back into their life after years away. How could Reflector just walk back in? How could Skywarp let him? "The last time you had leave, you went to Earth instead. I haven't seen you at all since I took this post."
Reflector glanced among himself, mouths showing slight puzzlement, then gazed up at Thundercracker. "I'm sorry."
And that was it. Thirteen years of not seeing their third-through-fifth, and all he said was that he was sorry. Maybe if it had been thirteen years when they were stationed on opposite ends of the world, Thundercracker could understand it. But Reflector had taken leaves-of-absence before, and he'd always gone off-world instead of coming to visit his...
Not bondmates, not consorts, they'd never made anything official, had they?
Friends, some little part of him whispered hopefully.
He snapped, "You can't just walk back in and expect things to go back to the way they were before! It's different now! Everything's different now!" Thundercracker wrapped an arm around his mid-section, pressing the curved cockpit against his hand. Four million years away from Cybertron, waking up just seventeen years ago on that stupid little mudball with an alien body that marked him whereever he went. Seeing traces of mental scars on the people who'd remained behind, knowing that he'd missed something big, and being glad that he had.
"Everything is different now," he repeated.
"Would you like an energon cube?" The camera asked quietly.
Thundercracker stared at the offered cube, then at Reflector, suddenly feeling as brittle as old human-made glass. "I want an answer." He found himself saying, not bothering to reach out for the proferred cube. "Just one, Reflector. What the frag have you been doing for the past thirteen years?"
The camera met his optics calmly. "I have been spying. Seeking out Autobot hidey-holes and mapping, providing the data needed for us to remove them from Cybertron. I have been doing what most Decepticon spies cannot do because they are dead and I am not."
It hit like Reflector's rebukes usually did, right in the pilot array.
"It'd be kind of hard to spy if you were dead," Thundercracker muttered, looking out towards the window. "So why'd you go to Earth instead of coming here?"
The camera turned and peered hard at the corners of the room where the floor met the wall. "Please understand that if I hadn't checked out this room myself, I wouldn't say this. But I went to Earth on Megatron's orders to seek out the Autobot Navy that had gone to ground there."
A shock went through Thundercracker like an ill-caught lightning bolt. "But your files said-"
"Thundercracker," Reflector said severely, "You know files don't always say what's really going on."
Yeah, he did know. He'd seen Reflector edit out pieces of his file that the camera didn't want anyone to see. It was a blatant abuse of power that he was amazed Soundwave overlooked, until he remembered what Soundwave's abuses of power were like.
It was also an unpleasant reminder of how important Reflector was to him in ways outside of the hangar. "Why you?" He asked numbly.
"They have very, very few spies of my caliber."
"If they're that desperate for spies, why didn't they rotate you through the Academy? Starscream does a session every three years."
"I... cannot teach what I do. I've tried, but I'm too unique to be able to teach what I do to other members of Central Intelligence." Reflector spoke in the quiet voice that Thundercracker remembered from shared secret sessions. One head turned to stare out the window with the blue jet. "It's enough that I work."
"Enough for who?" Thundercracker demanded, turning back to the camera-trio that still hung in a loose semi-circle around him, just out of arm's reach. Skywarp would have tried to distract him with kisses by now, he thought. That was the problem with having an argument with Skywarp. "Enough for Skywarp? Enough for me? Because it isn't, Reflector!"
"For Soundwave. For Central Intelligence."
"And they're the ones that are important?"
"They give me influence," Reflector answered levelly. "You're not stupid enough to not realize how much I need their influence. There are a lot of people who wouldn't mind seeing me dead."
"No, I'm not. It's..." Thundercracker waved his hand as he searched for the word, then gave up as he realized that it wasn't a single word he'd wanted after all. For the seventh time in his life, he let himself admit his doubts to Reflector. "It's never going to change, is it? Like this war. They're going to use you until you die. And you're not going to die with us, you're going to die alone and far away."
Reflector drifted closer, offering the energon cube once again. "The war is ending. We're winning. We've routed the Autobots, pushed them off Cybertron to the moons and Earth. A few short years at best, a few centuries at worst, and the war will be over."
Thundercracker accepted the energon cube and took a long drink, then hunched over on the chaise. "What happens when it's over, Reflector? What happens to us?"
The camera arrayed himself on the chaise around the jet, two of him curling up tightly against both of Thundercracker's sides while the third sat himself on one of the arms. "We'll rest, the whole planet will rest and get a chance to recuperate from all the damage the war has inflicted. We'll figure out what to do with the neutrals. We'll repair and rebuild and build. And when we are ready once more, Megatron will take us to the stars."
"Is it always going to be about fighting?" Thundercracker took another draught. "Yeah, there's nothing like combat flight, but I'm just... tired of fighting the people who should be on our side. We're all Cybertronians, aren't we?"
"We are," Reflector agreed, passing an energon cube between himself. "And we won't always be fighting each other. It's going to end in the not-too-distant future... All the signs point to it."
"The way people talk, the way they act. We pushed the Autobots to the moons, and suddenly I heard neutrals talking about what they'd do when the Decepticons ruled everything."
Thundercracker finished the energon cube, mulling that over. "They think we're going to win."
"Yes." Reflector passed the energon cube to the component on the arm, then laid one of his heads against Thundercracker's wing. The component on the opposite side reached out and languidly ran his fingertips down the jet's canopy. "And when we've won, we can truly remake the world as it was meant to be. No more starving, no more going out factory-fresh and untrained, no more looking at your own kind as the enemy."
"'Flector," Thundercracker groaned as the camera's devilish fingers probed the canopy-seal. The layered voice practically begged him to submit and be ravished or to turn and be the ravisher.
The camera-component that wasn't feeling him up rubbed his head against Thundercracker's wing, hands drifting up to run along the wing-edge and make Thundercracker hiss and arch and wriggle.
"They'll take me out of the field when we've won," Reflector purred, hands feeling like they were going everywhere on the jet, rubbing and teasing mercilessly at all of his good spots at once. Then the third component joined in, sliding into his lap to take over handling his cockpit while the other component turned his attention to the jet's unfondled wing.
"Oh yes. Put me someplace nice and safe and dull where they don't want me ferreting out secrets." Reflector leaned in and blew lightly on Thundercracker's cockpit, smiling as it fogged up. "Or maybe Soundwave will put me some place where I can watch his enemies for him. Some place like the Academy."
"You could get wings," Thundercracker gasped out as the camera nipped each of his canopy struts in turn, and one hand tweaked a set of ailerons.
"There's a thought."
"You could be three U-2s, and we could fly together. Make love in the clouds and winds like jets." He wormed one arm out from amid the three bodies pressed against him and yanked the component on his lap up for a kiss.
The component undulated his hips against him, capped lens rubbing against Thundercracker's chest. "Are you objecting to my current method? Should I stop?"
//No!// Thundercracker trembled as all three of Reflector moved against him, pressing kisses to his metal, dextrous fingers reaching up to carress the leading edge of his wing and reaching down to flex his ailerons. //Please, don't stop-!//
"Skywarp will be home soon," Reflector remarked, apropos of nothing, as they broke apart from their kiss.
"Skywarp can wait his fragging turn," Thundercracker snarled and swept the camera components up in his arms and laid bites and kisses over Reflector's faces as the camera struggled in his grasp. He ignored the niggling thought at the back of his mind: 'Since when is this place Reflector's home?'