Author: Koi Lungfish
Disclaimer: Based on characters and situations from The Transformers (c) 1986 Hasbro, Ltd. Used without permission. Text (c) 2007, Koi Lung Fish Mark of Lung. All Rights Reserved.
Subject: Thundercracker has to deal with Skywarp's infidelity.
Continuity: G1 cartoon, pre-Earth.
Thundercracker walked into their quarters and found his recharge plinth full of Skywarp. His wingmate lay in the crooked sprawl of a jet who had thrown himself down blindly; legs half-drawn up, face buried in his folded arms, wings pulled back and twitching. The air tasted of ozone and the room crackled with misery's static.
"Deathline didn't show up, huh?" Thundercracker asked, sitting down on Skywarp's empty plinth and taking off his guns to start daily maintenance.
Skywarp's response was a muffled whine, choked off hard. His wings shivered.
"I told you he was unreliable," Thundercracker said, propping his left gun up against the plinth and laying his right gun across his lap.
Skywarp lifted his head just far enough to glare at Thundercracker out of the very corner of his right optic.
"All right, all right," Thundercracker said, raising his hands from his gun. "High Flier probably caught him sneaking out."
Skywarp lowered his face back below the barrier of his forearms.
"You radio Deathline?"
Skywarp remained silent but his wings quivered slightly.
"You radio High Flier?"
Skywarp shook his head, forehead scraping on forearms.
"You radio Shorestray?"
Thundercracker's fuel-pump tripped. His hands froze in the middle of removing the casing from his gun. "Did he say where Deathline is?"
Skywarp lifted his head from his arms and rubbed his face. "He told me to stop calling."
"What, Deathline?" Thundercracker put the outer casing of his left gun aside and started checking the wiring, hands moving more on automatic than with thought.
"No, Shorestray," Skywarp said, resting his forehead on his forearms but not hiding himself this time. "Shorestray said that High Flier was tired of Deathline spending so much time away from their trine to ... to be with me."
Thundercracker paused in his maintenance, sliding his fingertips along the gun's support struts. He thought about High Flier, and about Shorestray, and about crushing Deathline's head in his hands.
Skywarp continued, lifting his head with a tired sigh. "Shorestray said High Flier told Deathline to stay away from me, not to go out to meet me again. Said there was an argument. Said Deathline went off duty yesterday, went out and didn't come back." He dropped his head against his arms again. "He was supposed to meet me. He said he'd meet me!"
"And he left you circling in the cold." Thundercracker put the unfinished gun aside and moved to sit down beside Skywarp, tucking himself against his wingmate between his knees and his wing. He put his left hand on Skywarp's back, on the place low between the wings that the black jet couldn't reach himself. "How long did you wait for him?"
"Two joors," Skywarp said into his forearms. "I checked in after my patrol and went straight there."
Thundercracker knew where there was. Their little special place, the place Deathline took Skywarp, the place where Deathline took Skywarp away from him. It's the top floor of a blown-out hab-block. Most of the roof is missing, most of the floor is nothing but struts and the walls are rusting, and I know you were there because you've got rust-streaks all over you again. Thundercracker said nothing, just running his hand in small circles on Skywarp's lower back.
"I radioed him four times," Skywarp complained, and Thundercracker was pleased to hear a tinge of anger in his cry. "But he never answered."
"Guess he must've run into someone else," Thundercracker said.
Skywarp kneed him in the back.
"All right, all right," Thundercracker grumbled, checking for a dent. "He didn't meet someone else. So what happened?"
"I went looking for him," Skywarp said, stretching out a bit. Thundercracker started to run his hand up and down Skywarp's back, up and down between his wings. "I flew all over the city, and did a spot-search outside the wall, and I kept going back to our place - ow!"
"Sorry," Thundercracker said, rubbing the wing-seam he'd clipped with his thumb. "No sign of Deathline?"
"Nothing. Nobody saw him, nobody knew where he was." Skywarp looked back at Thundercracker between his intakes. "If he stood me up, I'm going to murder him."
Thundercracker ran his fingers along Skywarp's wing-seam in long smooth strokes that made Skywarp's optics flare. "I'll hold him down while you hit him," he promised.
Skywarp looked dubiously at him. "Something's happened to him. Deathline wouldn't just leave formation like this."
"He's bailed out on his trinemates, why wouldn't he bail on you?" Thundercracker said, stroking Skywarp's wing tentatively.
Skywarp twitched his wing away from Thundercracker. "Because he loves me."
"Loves you?" Thundercracker yelled, voice crackling with mockery. "What is he, an Autobot?"
Skywarp kneed him again. "Shut up! He - he's smart, and he laughs at my jokes, and he catches new ideas out of the breeze. Whenever we're together something fun happens." He sunk his head into his arms again. "He makes me feel ... happy. He says I make him happy."
"All these kiloivorns and you're leaving me for an low-octane loudmouth whose best feature is his ability to get himself and everyone around him into trouble?" Thundercracker said in a low voice, trying not to clench his fists.
"No!" Skywarp snapped. "If you were stuck in a trine with High Flier, you'd act up too!"
"Is that what Deathline told you?"
Skywarp was silent.
Thundercracker stroked his wingmate's back gently. Skywarp twitched a wing, but didn't flinch. "High Flier's an cut-throat spawn-of-a-glitch with his guns out for promotion, but that's no reason for Deathline to behave like he's a reject from a ground-crawler goon-squad. You don't see Shorestray acting like that."
"Shorestray's a coward," Skywarp said from behind his arms. "A coward and a polish-junkie and a weather-vane."
"What?" Thundercracker said, bemused. "Is that Deathline's term?"
"Yeah. Shorestray's a weather-vane," Skywarp repeated spitefully. "He points his nosecone into the jet stream of whoever's most likely to get promoted."
"I heard he got drafted by High Flier," Thundercracker shrugged, casually running his fingertips up and down Skywarp's back.
"He didn't have to stay," Skywarp snapped.
Why? You want to replace him? Thundercracker thought, gears locking at the thought. You want to leave me to fly with the other black jets? Think you'd look good in bronze instead of purple? You want to join High Flier's High Flyers? Follow a rising star instead of a wandering storm like me? "Skywarp ... you and Deathline..."
"He's like my other me," Skywarp said, not really talking to Thundercracker.
Thundercracker clenched his jaw so hard he felt stress fractures start. "What about me?"
"Huh?" All uncertainty and tangled emotion, Skywarp twisted around onto his side to look up at Thundercracker. "What? I - I thought you'd like Deathline. Since he's like me. I mean, you like me, right?"
Thundercracker's jaw unclenched, his gears unlocked and his fuel-pump unseized. "Sure. When've I ever done anything less?"
Skywarp reached out and grabbed him, dragging him close, and Thundercracker slid his arms around his wingmate as he was pulled down, pulled against Skywarp's body. Thundercracker's left wing scraped against Skywarp's right wing, their chests and shoulders clunked together, and Thundercracker's body thrummed with one thought; Mine, mine, mine!
The room communicator beeped.
"I'm gonna rip that thing's speakers out," Thundercracker growled, letting go of Skywarp with an apologetic pat. Skywarp hung onto him, running his hands over Thundercracker's chest and sides and thighs as he stood. Thundercracker pulled away reluctantly, trailing his hand along the tip of Skywarp's wing, unwilling to let go of his torqued, needy wingmate. Skywarp curled up on his side, right wing sticking up in the air like a sail, sulking. Thundercracker went over to the room communicator and pressed the receive button on the console hard enough to hear it creak.
"Deathline?" Skywarp cried, sitting up at the sight of a black and bronze Seeker on the screen and making Thundercracker's inner workings spasm.
"No," said High Flier, "not Deathline."
Skywarp sank back down into a sullen heap.
Thundercracker recovered from the surprise enough to put himself between Skywarp and the screen. "What do you want?"
"Deathline," said High Flier. "Where is he?"
"How in Iacon should I know?" Thundercracker asked, leaning forwards against the console.
"He went out to meet your wingmate," High Flier accused.
"Your wingmate never showed," Thundercracker said.
High Flier's scowl momentarily softened into a pleased smirk, but he quickly covered it up.
Going to have to do better than that to make Battle Commander, Thundercracker thought nastily.
"Put Skywarp on," High Flier ordered.
"Go to Iacon," Thundercracker rumbled, finger drifting towards the end-call button.
"What was that?" Skywarp asked, coming over.
"High Flier wants a word," Thundercracker said, standing aside for Skywarp.
Skywarp glowered down at the screen. "Where's Deathline?"
"You tell me," High Flier said, leaning close to the screen. "You, Skywarp, are messing up my unit. Deathline was an obedient soldier and a good wingmate until he met you. You will stay away from my Deathline, you will stay away from him now and you will stay away from him for good. I'm giving my entire Attack Group orders to shoot you on sight."
"What?" Skywarp cried. Thundercracker touched his wingmate's wingtip, stroking the airflow sensors, but was ignored. "You can't! You -"
"I have a trine, a unit and a career to protect," High Flier yelled. "You are a slovenly, stupid, wing-breaking cockpit-jockey and you are not taking Deathline fro-"
Skywarp shrieked and punched the screen in.
Thundercracker jumped back, shielding his optics from the flurries of sparks. When he lowered his arm, Skywarp was rubbing his singed hand and shaking his head.
"He doesn't deserve Deathline," Skywarp said, more to himself than anyone else. "He doesn't deserve him and he didn't come to me and I don't know where he is." He leant on the console, head down and engines thrumming, optics whirling-bright. Thundercracker reached out to reassure him. Skywarp twitched his wing away. "Don't touch me."
"What?" Thundercracker cried in surprise.
"Don't touch me!" Skywarp looked away, folding his wing away from Thundercracker. "I'm going to look for Deathline."
"You're low on fuel," Thundercracker protested, "and you've only got a couple of joors before you go on duty." He reached out for Skywarp's shoulder. "Come here, I'll do your maintenance."
"Don't touch me!" Skywarp shoved his hand away. "I want Deathline!"
The coolant froze in Thundercracker's reservoirs. The image of Deathline sprawled out steel-dead, head crushed beyond repair, flashed across his mind. "Did Deathline ever do your maintenance?" he asked softly. "Did Deathline ever fix your wings?" His optics narrowed in suspicion. "Did you let him touch your engines?"
" ... no," Skywarp said sullenly, hanging his head.
"He's no good with fixing things," Skywarp said, folding his arms over his chest, guns pointing at the floor.
Thundercracker noticed the outer casings on Skywarp's guns were connected askew, wiring sticking out. "You get in a fight?"
"No," Skywarp replied sulkily.
"What happened to your guns?" Thundercracker reached out and touched the loose plating, the exposed wires.
"Maintenance," Skywarp said, not withdrawing from Thundercracker's touch. "Couldn't find Deathline. Came back here. Tried to do maintenance on them. Kept getting it wrong. Kept messing it up."
Thundercracker stroke Skywarp's gun, then his arm, and Skywarp leant into the touch. Thundercracker stepped closer and slid his arms around his wingmate, stroking his wings and his lower back, chest to chest with the black jet he'd lived with, fought with and trusted since the War began. "I didn't realise you were so close to him."
"I want him to leave High Flier," Skywarp admitted quietly. "Be our third."
I know, Thundercracker thought. "Did he want to?"
"He's been with High Flier since they were built. High Flier won't let him go."
"High Flier can't stop him if he's dead."
Skywarp pressed into Thundercracker's arms, rubbing the side of his head against Thundercracker's cheek. "You always come up with good ideas."
Thundercracker smiled, sliding his hand along the edge of Skywarp's wing, and his wingmate pressed into his arms in ways too familiar to ever let go of.
Thundercracker? came a low-toned voice on the radio. It's Shorestray.
Thundercracker rattled his intakes, his hands stalling on Skywarp's body. This is a bad time.
"What?" Skywarp asked, running the back of his fingers down Thundercracker's wing and making him shiver.
"Shorestray," Thundercracker said grouchily. "On the radio. Wants something."
I know, Shorestray said. I need to talk to you.
"Is it about Deathline?" Skywarp asked, nudging his head against Thundercracker's.
Thundercracker admitted reluctantly, stroking Skywarp's chest-vents,
but Skywarp was still and frowning. Skywarp's here. Just
Just to talk.Shorestray's quiet voice was disarranged by an urgency.
I said Skywarp's here. Skywarp's here in my arms, where he hasn't been since he met Deathline, where I want him, where he belongs, and you are the icon of bad timing, Thundercracker thought.
It's important. It's about
Deathline. What about Deathline? I'll tell you
when I arrive. Not now!
What about Deathline?
I'll tell you when I arrive.
Not now!Thundercracker protested, sliding his hand up Skywarp's side and hearing his wingmate's low noise of approval.
I'm halfway to you already. Shorestray closed communications.
Thundercracker pulled back from Skywarp a bit and cursed Shorestray when Skywarp didn't hang on. "Shorestray's heading this way."
"He's heard something about Deathline," Skywarp said.
"Sounds like it," Thundercracker said with a shrug and a hand on Skywarp's elbow. "Doesn't sound good."
Skywarp groaned and let his head fall against Thundercracker's shoulder. "Just fix it, Thundercracker. Fix it for me."
Thundercracker stroked his wingmate's radio-crests, his head-vent, his shoulder. "Don't I always?" Skywarp made a wordless sound of agreement and rubbed his face against Thundercracker's shoulder. "Here, take your guns off. They're dangerous like that."
Skywarp allowed Thundercracker to pull him over to his berth, to sit him down and to remove his guns. Thundercracker ran his hands over Skywarp's bare arms, feeling the connector ports under his palms, feeling Skywarp shudder and press closer.
"You stay here," Thundercracker said quietly, giving Skywarp his own still-intact gun to hold. "I won't be long." Skywarp grabbed his hand as Thundercracker turned away, but said nothing, just hanging on to him. "I won't be long," Thundercracker repeated, and went outside.
Shorestray was already there, shifting nervously from foot to foot and pointedly not looking in his direction. The moment the door closed he grabbed Thundercracker's hand. "Everything's fallen apart."
"What? What's happened?" Thundercracker tried to tug his hand free.
"Deathline's dead." Shorestray clung to his hand, looking up and down the corridor. They were alone.
"What?" Thundercracker shouted. "What happened?"
"No one's sure yet." Shorestray kept looking down, refusing to raise his gaze to Thundercracker's for more than fleeting glimpses. "A security patrol found his body dumped up a tower a few breems ago. His head was crushed."
"So no idea who killed him? Or why?" Thundercracker pulled his hand free of Shorestray's grip. Shorestray glanced up at him piteously, folding his hands together over his cockpit. "Don't give me that look. Skywarp's inside."
"Someone probably thought he was High Flier," Shorestray said, flicking his wings and making them flash, all sea-foam teal and sun-washed gold. "It happens often enough."
"Well, the way they look ... "
"I said it happens a lot." Shorestray continued to look at the floor, to sway his weight from foot to foot.
"So why come tell me this in person?"
Shorestray glanced at him quickly, flicking his wings again. "Your room communicator is broken."
"I have a radio." Thundercracker folded his arms and glowered.
Shorestray shifted, plaiting his fingers. "High Flier threw me out."
"He said he only needed me to make up a trine. No Deathline, no point keeping me. He said he'd do better on his own."
Which is probably true, Thundercracker thought. "So he didn't know...?"
Shorestray touched Thundercracker's hand, stroking it with smooth fingers that moved easily, slowly, longingly. "I don't think so. I always tried to be careful."
Thundercracker took Shorestray's hand, twining his fingers with the teal jet's. "I know."
Shorestray clung to his hand, edging closer, flicking his wings temptingly. He glanced up at Thundercracker, flashing optics bright with suggestions, and ran a fingertip along the edge of Thundercracker's cockpit. "With Deathline dead ... "
Thundercracker stroked Shorestray's cheek, Shorestray sighing into his touch.
"... are you ..."
Thundercracker heard the door open in time to yank his hand back.
" ... looking for a third?" Shorestray asked, raising to Thundercracker optics gleaming with quiet adoration.
"No, we're not!" Skywarp yelled, and shot Shorestray in the face.
The teal jet's head exploded, showering Thundercracker with flecks of silicon and metal, flash-blinding him. He heard the headless body stumble back, convulse, and fall clatter-twitching to the floor.
He was a venomous, manipulative flirt and I wanted him for mine! Thundercracker cried in his mind, optics clearing. And he was an idiot not to see that coming.
Skywarp turned on Thundercracker, pointing Thundercracker's own intact gun at him. "You never told me you were flying with him!"
"You never told me you were flying with Deathline!" Thundercracker yelled. "I only found out when Shorestray turned up here looking for him!"
"Is that how you -"
Skywarp flinched. "But - it's only for fun! It isn't serious!"
"Serious enough to mess with a cutthroat like High Flier? Serious enough to screw up your maintenance over? Serious enough to blow a tank of fuel searching the city over? Serious enough to scream at me for touching you?"
Skywarp lowered the gun. "He's fun to be with. He likes my jokes."
"He's dead," Thundercracker said.
Skywarp winced and turned away, almost dropping Thundercracker's gun as he did. "I knew something had happened to him. Did Shorestray come over just to tell you that?
"High Flier threw him out. He wanted to be our third," Thundercracker said with a tired sigh.
Skywarp looked up again, looked at him hard. "Would you've taken him on?"
Thundercracker laughed without humour and reached out. "Skywarp, I wouldn't share you with anyone."
"Not even Deathline?" Skywarp asked quietly.
"No. Not him, not Shorestray, nobody." Thundercracker grabbed Skywarp by the arm and pulled him close. "Did you trust him?"
"Did you -"
"No!" Skywarp looked embarrassed. "I - I loved him, sure, but I didn't trust him. He was like me, but - but ... every time something went wrong, he just flew away." Skywarp handed Thundercracker back his gun. "You fix my mistakes." Skywarp looked Thundercracker in the optics. "I trust you. Even if you do cheat on me."
"I trust you too, you two-timing sub-sonic cargo-plane," Thundercracker smirked, wrapping his free arm around Skywarp's waist, "because you can't keep a secret to save your life."
"Hey!" Skywarp thumped him and then scowled. "You killed Deathline, didn't you?"
"It took you this long to realise?"
"Thundercracker, you killed my boyfriend."
Thundercracker looked down at Shorestray's smouldering, headless corpse. "Sounds familiar, doesn't it?"
Skywarp shrugged carelessly. "I'm yours, you're mine. Let's get him inside and see if he's got any interesting bits for spares."
Thundercracker grabbed Shorestray's feet and started dragging. "Skywarp, you're a 'con after my own fuel-pump."
"Nah," Skywarp grinned, lifting Shorestray's shoulders. "I've got four spare ones already."
Author's notes & addenda:
Feedback always welcomed.