"Don't think twice before you listen to your heart
Follow the trace for a new start …"
--Enigma, "Gravity of Love"

Frantically I paced the dim, cramped confines of my quarters. I was nervous, anxious in the extreme. My mind as I paced was in a whirl, my thoughts disorganized, scattered, and screaming at me in the most strident of tones…

You've gone completely insane! one inner voice yelled at me. You're out of your mind!

You can't possibly go through with this! another insisted with horrified certainty. It's crazy!

If you do this, you'll regret it for the rest of your life, still another voice cautioned. It will destroy you. And him.

They were the loudest voices, the ones that disagreed with my current course of action, with the decision that had resulted in me pacing manically around my quarters, waiting. But they didn't entirely drown out the few voices that agreed with me, that encouraged and reassured me.

Don't listen to them, one of those voices soothingly cooed.

This is the reason you came here, you know, another confidently proclaimed. More and more often you've been wanting to know that, haven't you? So…now you know. You joined the Decepticons because he's a Decepticon.

Yes, you've been following him all along, yet another voice agreed. It was a quiet, mellow voice but quite an emphatic one. You just didn't know it…until now.

I stopped pacing then, blinking at what that last voice had said… The voice that had "spoken" was the one I tended to think of as the voice of reason, and although there were at times many voices that raged in my head, battling for my attention, that voice was the one that I heeded more often than not. And now it slowly it dawned on me that, yet again, that voice was right. I heaved a long sigh that was perhaps more of a groan and collapsed down on the chair that fortuitously happened to be nearby when I'd stopped pacing.

This…he…is what you've been searching for… the voice was continuing to whisper, meanwhile, now that it had my complete attention. You knew that two days ago, when you firstsaw him. For Primus' sake, Thundercracker, don't go and rationalize yourself out of what you know isyour destiny, what you know is right

And as I sat there, I knew, despite the other voices that yelled to the contrary, that this voice was completely, appallingly, and…well, terrifyingly right. Of course, I had known that already, deep down, without the voice having to tell me so, but it was nice, in a way, to have some sort of confirmation of the inexplicable sense of "rightness" that I'd been feeling for two days now, ever since I had first seen Skywarp…

…I think that maybe it was the way Skywarp moved that had first compelled me to notice him. He had a certain…lightness about him. His confident and carefree personality was reflected in the easy, artless grace that seemed to characterize his every move, even down to the smallest, most insignificant gestures that he made. That had to be it, yes… I mean, it certainly wasn't his physical appearance that attracted me to Skywarp. But for his color scheme, after all, he looked more or less exactly like me, as did a large number of our Decepticon brethren. But still, there was something ineffably different about Skywarp, at least in my own eyes. And whatever that difference was, it had compelled me to look up from what I had been doing – which at the time had been a terribly mundane ordnance inventory – as Skywarp and several of his comrades had burst through the doors of the armory, a riot of noise and color. They'd been out at the target range, and judging by their high spirits, they'd had a grand time. They had come to the armory to return the rifles they'd used out on the range. I had glanced up as the doors had opened. I did so not because I was necessarily interested in seeing who was coming in – It was the officer-on-duty's job to collect and inspect the borrowed weapons; my job that day was only to count and catalogue everything in the armory – but simply because… Well, when one hears a loud and unexpected noise, one tends to reflexively look to see what had created it. So I had glanced disinterestedly at the doors as Skywarp and his loud gang of four comrades spilled into the small, claustrophobic armory…

…And I had found myself immediately, inexplicably, and completely mesmerized. The details are still quite fuzzy in my mind and probably always will be, but I clearly remember slowly standing up from the bench upon which I'd been sitting. I recall the sound of the shells that had been scattered across my lap hitting the floor as I stood up. I remember not caring that they had fallen; it hadn't even occurred to me to pick them up. I remember approaching the counter where the bored officer-on-duty – I hadn't yet bothered to learn what his name was – was collecting rifles from the new arrivals. I remember just standing there, staring intensely at Skywarp, all of my attention focused solely on him. He had been, at that moment, talking to one of his comrades as they waited for the others to hand in their borrowed photon rifles. With one hand, he held his rifle so that it rested carelessly against the front of his shoulder, the barrel pointing toward the ceiling, while the other hand rested casually on his hip, and his posture, his entire bearing, was completely at ease, relaxed. His comrade had said something to him, and he had thrown back his head and laughed at whatever it was…and I remember thinking, quite fancifully, that his laughter was the sweetest sound that I'd ever heard. I simply stood there watching him, drinking him in, absorbing him…And then suddenly Skywarp was up at the counter, almost close enough to me that I could have reached out and touched him if only I had been bold enough to do so. And then for some reason –perhaps he felt the intensity of my stare or perhaps it was something…greater than that – he looked over at me.

Our gazes met…held…

I don't know how long Skywarp and I stared at each other like that. To me, it seemed like hours, eternally blissful hours, and during those hours I was drowning in his stare, consumed by it. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. And I felt my spark ever so slightly…shift, I suppose would be the right word. Its rhythmic pulse that I took for granted, that had underscored every moment of the few months of my life so far, halted for a dizzying moment before restarting and then steadying into a rhythm that I could feel was just slightly different somehow from its previous one. I unfroze enough to lay a shaking hand on my midsection, over my spark's location, and I could have sworn that I felt it radiating an odd warmth through the thick armor that separated it from my hand. Skywarp, meanwhile, smiled slightly at me as he watched me, and his was a smile that…warmed me…

…And then the spell was broken as one of Skywarp's comrades harrumphed loudly at him, tearing his attention away from me. I wanted to leap across the counter and throttle that comrade of his…but I controlled myself. Barely. Hastily, Skywarp handed his rifle across the counter to the officer-on-duty…and I noticed as he did so that his gaze started to slip toward me again, as if of its own volition. But then his comrades turned to leave the armory, going off to do who-knew-what. Skywarp, at their urging, followed them, although I remember thinking that he did so rather reluctantly, and I noticed that just before the armory doors slid closed behind him, he cast one last look over his shoulder at me, his expression almost…wistful…

But then he was gone. For long moments after Skywarp had left the room, I simply gaped at the closed doors, standing there like an idiot as my thoughts sputtered and whirled drunkenly around in my mind. Dimly, I noted the officer-on-duty giving me an odd look but then shrugging and wandering away to do whatever it was he'd been doing before Skywarp's party had arrived. I, on the other hand, just continued to stand there, staring at the armory doors. I don't know how long I stood there, my energon pump hammering frantically at me. It was, I imagined, loud enough to be heard on the other side of Cybertron, and my thoughts were just as loud as they tore through my mind in a dizzying flood. I think I would have stood there for days if it hadn't been for an unexpected voice that chuckled at me in vast amusement.

Startled, I glanced at its source.

It was one of the warriors who'd come in with Skywarp; I hadn't noticed that they hadn't all left with him. This one had remained behind for whatever reason. He was a big, dark blue mass of a warrior, taller and much bulkier than I was, and his face was an unreadable mask illuminated only by a narrow, red optic band across the center of it. A much older warrior than me, he was. Or so it seemed to me, at least, given his somewhat antiquated design and given the patronizing manner in which he eventually spoke to me.

"Ahhhh, so another one falls under his spell, I see…" the warrior commented with unconcealed amusement in his voice.

I just stared at him for a moment, half embarrassed and half indignant.

"What…What do you mean?" I asked, attempting to keep my voice steady, once I had found it.

The warrior just chuckled at me again for a moment, his amusement apparently growing by leaps and bounds with every passing second. He jerked his chin at the doors through which Skywarp had swept a moment before.

"Skywarp," he said nonchalantly.

That had been the first time I'd heard Skywarp's name, and I found that upon hearing it, it echoed and ricocheted dizzyingly through my spark for a moment before finally settling down into my mind, into me. I remember that I silently repeated it several times, even, as if to somehow carve it into my being, to make Skywarp's name a part of who I was.

"He's got quite the legion of…uh, admirers around here," the old warrior was continuing, meanwhile, unaware of my thoughts, unaware that the hand of Fate had been resting heavily upon me since I'd had my gaze locked with Skywarp's, since my spark had reacted to him as if...

…As if it had recognized him…

"He does?" I eventually managed to answer the warrior, and my tone of voice was obviously crestfallen and barely above a whisper. The news that Skywarp already had admiring legions was rather…daunting, after all.

"Ohhhhh, yes," the warrior had replied with a wide grin in his voice that he couldn't display on his immobile face. He was quite obviously enjoying himself at my expense. "Many have admired that one since I've known him. A select few have even come close to snaring him…but no one's ever managed to succeed at that."

I just blinked at the warrior for a long moment, digesting that news, and then for some inexplicable reason I blurted out, "That's because they weren't me."

I hadn't known at the time where that knowledge came from – and I still don't – but I knew that it was true. And in response, the older warrior just stared at me for a beat. In the end, I'm sure he probably saw my words as yet another example of the self-aggrandizing boasting that seemed to plague Decepticon Headquarters. But at the same time…I think maybe for a brief moment the old warrior saw or perhaps somehow sensed that my conviction and the words that I'd said came not from my conscious mind…but from the deepest, surest recesses of my spark. Whatever the case, though, the moment passed and he laughed out loud at me. It seemed to me, though, that his laughter had about it a faint whiff of hysteria, that he laughed because he had sensed something beyond his ken and yet refused to acknowledge it as such, preferring instead to belittle it with scathing laughter.

"Kid," the warrior had commented between bursts of disbelieving laughter, "if you believe that… Well, if you believe that, you're crazier than Starscream."

And with that, he had tossed the concussion rifle he'd been examining onto the countertop that separated us, turned on his heel, and left the room, still shaking his head at me and what he perceived, I'm sure, as my foolishness…

And maybe you are crazier than Starscream, one of those dissenting voices in my head taunted me now, suddenly, which served to abruptly pull me from my reverie. Call him, Thundercracker. Call him right now, right this moment. Call Skywarp and tell him not to come, that you've had second thoughts, that you're both being foolish and crazy and reckless if you go through with this now, without even knowing each other, that you'll both destroy your lives if you do this, that…

But even as I listened to the voice fearfully babbling on and on in my head, I knew that I wouldn't do as it advised. I wouldn't call Skywarp. Moreover, it seemed that I couldn't call Skywarp. I had tried, several times, over the past two days, to do just as the voice was urging me to do, to call everything off. More than a few times, my finger had hovered mere millimeters over the button that would put through just such a call to Skywarp…but something had always compelled me to pull my hand back. Fate, I think it was. For better or worse, I had chosen a path – or rather, both Skywarp and I had chosen it, or it had been chosen for us, or whatever – and now we would just have to see it through. We would have to follow the path to its end…and just hope as we did so that it wouldn't be a bitter end.

And I wanted to see this…this thing through to that end, whatever that end would be. I wanted that more than anything. I knew that. I didn't understand it, not at all, but I knew it. With every fiber of my being, I wanted Skywarp. Everything that I was, every part of me was insistently crying out for him. I knew, simply knew, that he was the person who would complete me, and I him. Once joined, we would be one complete being living in two bodies. I knew that with unshakable certainty. Yes, the voices advised against it, some of them stridently so, but I had simply known, from the moment he'd walked through the door of the armory two days before and I had first laid eyes upon him, that Skywarp had to be mine. He simply had to be. I was more certain of that than I had been of anything in my life, as brief as that life had so far been…

…And that idea, the idea that I was meant for Skywarp, that I was meant to be a part of him and that he was meant to be a part of me, had plagued me for the rest of my shift that day, two days ago. I had hardly been able to concentrate on the inventory that had been assigned to me. In fact, my superior had checked in on me and had harangued me quite soundly for my slowness and inattention, particularly because he had caught me staring off into space. I had been busy carefully, lovingly etching into my memory every detail of Skywarp's appearance instead of working on my assignment.

So, it had taken me much longer than it should have taken to complete that assignment. I stayed in the armory until it was finished, though, working determinedly but distractedly, because I feared leaving it undone in the face of already having been rebuked once that day. But when the inventory was finally done, I trudged wearily out of the armory, my head down, Skywarp still inexplicably weighing heavily on my mind and on my spark. I had just turned to head toward the elevator at the end of the corridor that would whisk me off to the level where I was quartered…when I heard a voice behind me that both thrilled me to my core and filled me with utter terror.

"Finally!" Skywarp's voice exclaimed suddenly from behind me.

I winced, froze for a moment, and then I turned slowly toward him and stared at him. Skywarp simply stood there, utterly relaxed, his arms folded loosely across his chest, his head tilted a bit to the side, a faint smile playing over his face as he regarded me.

"I thought you'd never get out of there, Thundercracker," Skywarp was saying casually, meanwhile, apparently oblivious to my rather…dazed state of mind. I just gaped stupidly at him for a long moment…and then it vaguely occurred to me that he had called me by my name.

Fighting to keep my voice from wavering pitifully – an effort at which I did not entirely succeed – I hesitantly asked, "How…how do you know my name?"

It was a stupid question to ask, of course. Skywarp vastly outranked me; he could find out anything that he wanted to find out about me, if he but chose to do so. But I was…flattered – Intrigued? Alarmed? Scared out of my wits? All of the above? – that he had apparently made the effort to find out my name, at least. And besides that, asking him how he knew my name had been the only thing I could think of to say to him…or at least it had been the only coherent and acceptable thing I could think of to say him. The alternative was to say to him something like, "Primus, you are the most gorgeous creature I've ever seen in my admittedly brief life. I want you…I love you."

That last notion had shocked me. Especially because, as I stood there in the corridor staring at Skywarp…Oh, that was the moment – a moment that is and no doubt forever will be crystal-clear in my mind – that I realized that I did love Skywarp. I had loved him instantly, I think, from the moment I'd looked up when the armory doors had opened and he had swept into the room with all the blazing, unmistakable glory of a comet streaking across a clear night sky. And I realized, as I stood there in the corridor staring at Skywarp, that my completely incomprehensible and instantaneous love for him was every bit as deep, every bit as true, as it would have been had I known him for eons and had it taken all of those eons to slowly and rationally fall in love with him.

But it wasn't a conscious, rational decision I had made, that decision that I was in love with Skywarp. Rather, it seemed as if the decision had been made for me and that perhaps it had been made for me before I even existed. It seemed to me that, for the duration of my brief existence up to that point, I had simply been along for the ride, swept along by the riptide of destiny until it had unceremoniously dumped me there in an empty corridor with the one I was given to love. That moment, in that corridor, when I acknowledged my emotions, when I recognized Skywarp as the other half of me that I hadn't even known had been missing…that was when I really began to live, I think. Prior to that, I'd simply existed, patiently waiting for Skywarp to come along and make me truly alive.

I wasn't about to say any of that to Skywarp, however. After all, apparently many people admired and maybe even loved Skywarp. And probably, those others were better than I was, older than I was, more experienced than I was, and much more deserving of his attention and esteem, much less of his affection…his love than I was. Whyever would he take heed of a nondescript, brand-new someone like me? I was doomed, I remember dismally thinking at that moment, doomed to love him from the depths of my spark for the rest of my life…and he would never know… Skywarp, meanwhile, quirked an amused grin at me, accompanying it with a graceful, eloquent shrug.

"Eh, I asked around," he said lightly, answering a question that I'd almost forgotten that I'd asked. "I figured that it'd be good to know your name and all…"

There was suddenly an odd edge to Skywarp's voice, one that made me…wary, I suppose. His words were casual enough, and his tone was supremely confident, of course…yet there was an indescribable something to it, as well, something that I immediately detected but couldn't quite process. It was almost as if he was being too casual. It was a diversion, perhaps. A diversion from what, I had to wonder…and then it dawned on me that he must have been waiting for me to leave the armory, to be done with my duties for the day, in order to speak with me. And whatever the reason was that he was waiting for me, it had to be somewhat important. Otherwise, why would he have waited extra time, no less, for me? I was sure that he had other, better things to do to than to wait around for me…

And then I suddenly felt dizzy as I wondered if he had waited for me because… No, it couldn't be, I had automatically thought. The idea that Skywarp might be feeling as I was feeling was completely ludicrous… Wasn't it? I didn't know…but it occurred to me that I should probably find out.

"Why?" I asked shakily of Skywarp. "Why did you need to know my name?"

That odd smile was still playing over Skywarp's face as I asked the question. It widened a little as I spoke, illuminating his face with a radiance I can't accurately describe except to say that it thoroughly weakened my knees, so much so that I suddenly wished there was a convenient wall nearby to lean against for support. But I was in the middle of the corridor, so I simply willed myself not to collapse into an undignified puddle before him…

"Ohhhhh, I think you know exactly why, Thundercracker," Skywarp was practically purring at me, meanwhile.

I took a few steps backward, away from Skywarp, as he said that, as a dizzying conglomeration of emotions – shock, fear, confusion, pleasure, desire, and an utterly confusing chaos of others – stampeded its way through my consciousness in an overwhelming rush.

He can't possibly mean what I think he means…I remember insistently thinking to myself, over and over again, but aloud I only stammered, "I…I…do?"

Skywarp chuckled at that, shaking his head bemusedly at me…and then slowly, ever so slowly, he approached me, moving with that light, effortless grace that was distinctly his, that I knew I would never tire of watching. He steadily closed the half-dozen meters that separated us until he was close enough to me that it would certainly be considered an invasion of my personal space. And what surprised me the most was that I didn't shrink away from that invasion. The thought certainly occurred to me to back away…but I found, to my surprise, that I really didn't want to back away from him at all. In fact, much to my shock, I realized that my first unconscious impulse had been to move closer to him… But I didn't. I just stood there, frozen in place. And he stood there, as well, just out of arm's reach, and simply watched me as I fought to control the thoughts, the desires, that were merrily rampaging through my mind simply because he was physically close to me.

"Oh, yes," Skywarp asserted with a decisive nod after he watched me for that long moment. "Yes, you do know, Thundercracker. I wasn't quite sure before, but… Now I'm sure."

He paused for a long moment, during which he stared intensely at me, and then he finished quite casually, as if to belie the enormity of what he was going to say, "I'd say it's a good thing to know the name of one's future bondmate. Wouldn't you agree?"

At that, I did shrink away from him, and as I did so, I had to fight back the impulse to convert my surprised gasp into a shout of alarm.

"Ex—Excuse me?" I stammered instead, staring wildly at Skywarp as I backed a few clumsy steps down the corridor. "I…I don't think I heard you right…"

"Oh, you heard me right," Skywarp asserted firmly. When I just looked at him with an expression on my face that must have spoken of utter disbelief, he added, "Aw, come on, Thundercracker! Don't even try to tell me you didn't feel it earlier today, back in there!" he exclaimed, jerking his chin expressively at the armory doors. And then he continued solemnly, his voice lowered conspiratorially. "I did, you know. I felt it right here," he said, and he laid a hand on the right side of his midsection, where his spark must have been housed. So he had felt that shift, too…

"You…did?" I echoed dully, still stunned, as I stared wide-eyed at him. At that moment, I was thankful for my deep, gravelly voice. Deep, gravelly voices weren't given to squeaking in alarm, after all.

"I did," Skywarp confirmed calmly, with a decisive nod. And as he continued to speak, he once again closed the distance between us, this time approaching more closely even than he had before. "I looked at you…and I just…knew. And I knew that you knew, too. I don't understand it. I don't understand it at all, and I won't pretend to understand it. Others have caught my eye before. Many others, in fact, over the years. But you, Thundercracker…Well, you've caught more than my eye, you see…"

And it was then that he reached out to me, touched me. It was just a light touch, his fingertips running up and down the length of my forearm, barely making contact, but I found that it was infinitely…stimulating. No one had ever touched me before, certainly not like that. And I never realized that a simple touch could evoke such emotions, the helpless longing that was suddenly raging through my mind as Skywarp lightly stroked my arm. It was all I could do to prevent myself from reaching out to him, pulling him to me…

Unaware, perhaps, of what was going through my head, Skywarp eventually intertwined the fingers of that teasing hand with mine and quietly, sincerely confessed, "I spent all of today thinking about you, Thundercracker. I found that I couldn't think about anything else if I wanted to. And now, at the end of the day…Now, I know that I love you. I don't know why or how, and I'm not even going to try to figure out why. I just know that I do, even though it's totally crazy. And I know that I have to have you, too. And only you. Forever."

I nodded helplessly; he had indeed reached the same conclusion that I had reached that day.

"I know," I murmured longingly, my voice shuddering. "I know that, too… but –"

"No, Thundercracker," Skywarp interrupted gently, seeing my obvious hesitation. "No 'buts.' Don't question it. I'm not going to. I've learned to trust my instincts. "

Whereas I didn't trust my instincts as far as I could throw them, of course, preferring instead to follow a course of action dictated by more careful and rational thinking… But I wasn't about to tell Skywarp that, of course. Especially because in this case, despite the fact that a significant portion of my being was screaming in horrified protest, I knew deep down in the depths of my spark that my instincts…and Skywarp's…were right this time. My mind whirled with an odd combination of awe, jubilation, and terror at the thought. I had to fight the urge to lean against Skywarp for support; I had more than an inkling of what would happen if I did that, and that certainly wasn't something I wanted to do in a public corridor…

But I loved him. And now I knew he loved me. We would be bondmates, Skywarp and me. The very thought was overwhelming, especially because I suddenly knew it would happen very soon…

"When?" I asked softly, dazedly, and I realized I'd said it aloud only when Skywarp looked at me askance. I vaguely thought that perhaps he'd been expecting more of a fight from me…but then I realized that he'd just misinterpreted what I'd meant.

"When did I learn to trust my instincts?" he asked, blinking in temporary confusion.

I chuckled at that, my unease loosening its hold on my thoughts a little bit, for just a moment…and then I spoke, before I could think about it and therefore think the better of it.

"No," I said, shaking my head. "No, I meant…Well, when do we do…uh, it?"

Skywarp just looked at me for a moment, surprise registering in his expression. And then he smiled lecherously at me. He has the most dazzling smile, I found myself distractedly thinking, and then, shyly, I reached out to him and lightly traced with one finger the line of his smiling lips…and his smile only widened in response.

"And here I'd been told that you can be indecisive," Skywarp said merrily, chuckling softly at me.

He had been asking around about me, apparently, if he knew that…although I wondered who in the world would know about my tendency to be…deliberative, as I chose to call it. I had only very recently joined the Decepticons, after all. It was somewhat…unsettling…that someone already knew that much about my personality. It momentarily gave me pause…but I determinedly put it all out of my mind for the moment, in order to concentrate on Skywarp. Paranoia, I decided, could wait…

"I'm glad to see that's not totally true," Skywarp was continuing, running his thumb lightly along the inside of my palm. "And I checked our respective schedules, actually. Just in case I was right about you and we decided to…you know… We have three consecutive days off in common, starting two days from now… Three days should be enough time to…"

His voice trailed off almost uncertainly, which I hadn't really expected. He had struck me as someone who would never be uncertain about anything. I had much to learn about him, indeed…and I found that I relished the notion. With him, I suddenly knew that, at the very least, I'd never be bored...

"Three days of…" I whispered wonderingly.

"Three days of…that, yes," he answered with a nod and an amused, affectionate smile.

"But first I have to wait for two days?"

Skywarp chuckled at me and confirmed, "Yes, first we have to wait two days. Best I could do." And then, letting go of my hand, he ran the fingertips of that hand lightly down my cheek and whispered, "I promise you that it'll be worth the wait, Thundercracker. I'll see you then."

I just stared at him, dazed, unable to speak. I felt oddly numb except for the path that

Skywarp's fingers had followed down my cheek, which blazed not unpleasantly at me, with the heat of a thousand smelters. And then he was leaving, moving away from me, and I could only stand there, frozen, watching him walk away. He looked back at me just once…and then he disappeared around a corner. It was then that I backed into the wall behind me, sank down slowly, weakly against it until I found myself huddled on the floor, my arms wrapped around my knees. Half-excited, half-terrified shudders ran their way through my body as I sat there, staring at the wall across from me. I couldn't believe what I had just agreed to do…

…And I still don't believe it now, two days later. I had seen Skywarp but once after that encounter in the corridor, and at that time we had been amongst others and so all that we'd said to each other, all that we'd agreed upon, was that Skywarp would come to me. It made sense, after all; I, as a new recruit, wasn't yet entrusted with free rein of the installation while Skywarp could go anywhere he pleased. And so…here I was…in my cramped little quarters…waiting…. I hated waiting. Or at least, I hated waiting in this instance. Normally, I was a very patient person, content to sit still and wait when most others, I had discovered over the brief length of my existence, would at least begin to fidget. But this… The two days of waiting had stretched even my patience to the breaking point. Those two days had seemed to pass more slowly than my entire life before them. I had spent them in a distracted daze, mechanically going through my duties but pausing often to think about Skywarp, wondering what he was doing and thinking at the moment that I was thinking about him. Most of the time during those two days, my mind had been capable of contemplating only Skywarp, of anticipating what would happen in the very near future…until at some point during those two days, I came to believe that they would never pass, that I'd managed to end up in some sort of bizarre time loop, one that cursed me to relive those two days over and over again, never reaching the end of them.

But now…

Now Skywarp would arrive at any moment, and my emotions were a self-conflicted mass that sat rumbling in my head, alternately encouraging and heckling me. I offered up a silent prayer that Skywarp would arrive soon…or else he might arrive to find me nothing but a babbling lunatic, huddled in a corner and overwhelmed by the loud and conflicted voices in his head…

And apparently someone heeded my prayer, since it was then that a soft chime sounded, indicating that someone was outside my door, seeking admittance. It couldn't have been anyone but Skywarp, but I nevertheless sat there in my chair a moment longer, working through my final deliberations. Half of me wanted to race to the door and unceremoniously leap upon Skywarp while the other half…the other half wanted to run in terror in the opposite direction. I ended up managing to banish entirely the latter impulse while simultaneously reining in the former so that I could manage a small – very small – degree of decorum…I hoped…

I took a deep breath, gathered my courage, rose, and then slowly approached the door on legs that trembled with equal measures of fear and anticipation. With a touch of the control panel, the offending door slid aside…and there was Skywarp, in all his beautiful glory. The dim illumination of the corridor outside my quarters caught and glinted off the polished planes of his body, which only emphasized his beauty. For a long, dizzying moment, we just stared at each other, just as we had in the armory two days before, lost in each other's gaze…and then Skywarp smiled at me and spoke.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," he said lightly, quietly. "You going to block the door forever?"

Wordlessly – I don't think I could have spoken if I'd wanted to – I stepped aside and Skywarp breezed past me, into my quarters…and I shivered at the rush of air that followed in his wake and washed over me. He, meanwhile, was looking around my quarters, an odd amusement in his expression.

"I'd forgotten," Skywarp was saying lightly, "how small newbie quarters are…" When I didn't answer – because I was simply too busy studying every elegant line of his body – he looked over at me. "You got rid of your roommate, I assume?" he asked.

I nodded slowly, silently at him. I was slack-jawed, my gaze never wandering from him, my eyes still hungrily tracing the sleek lines of his body. My roommate had been none too happy about his unceremonious temporary eviction, but I'd…convinced him that he needed to stay with someone else for a few days. Skywarp, meanwhile, was grinning at me, basking, I think, in my stare, in my unwavering focus solely on him.

"Not very talkative tonight, are you?" he teased.

"You didn't come here just to talk, did you?" I answered seriously after a moment, my voice low with...desire, I suppose. Desire mixed with apprehension and a whole raft of other emotions, that is, but mostly desire, I realized. A demanding desire, it was, too, now that we were finally alone together, now that he was all mine…

Skywarp gave me a surprised – but delightedly amused – look and shook his head slowly at me. And then his face lit up with a smile that was knowing, lecherous, as he returned my gaze. That smile…I would never tire of it, I knew…

"Nope," Skywarp said decisively, shaking his head slowly from side to side. "Maybe later we'll talk, but right now…? Come here, Thundercracker."

I obeyed his command, could do nothing but obey his command. It was as if there was some irresistible, almost gravitational force between us that dragged me inexorably to him, and now… Now, I wasn't going to fight it, no. There was, after all, no reason to fight it, not anymore. I approached Skywarp…but stopped half an arm's length from him, suddenly uncertain. He smiled at me encouragingly but didn't insist that I come closer. He was, I sensed, letting me take things at a pace that was comfortable for me…and I found that I appreciated that more than I could say. Somehow, he must have sensed my uncertainty, because he reached out to me and, as he had done two days before, ran the fingertips of one hand slowly, lightly down my cheek.

"It's all right," he assured me softly as he did so. "Take your time, Thundercracker. We've got plenty of it."

I nodded slowly at that, relishing the feel of his fingers against my face…down my throat…across my shoulder…to my wing. Emotions that I couldn't identify because they rushed by so quickly flooded into my mind. Desire…a lustful, heedless desire…headed the pack, but along with it, there was uncertainty, confusion, and a damnable hesitation. Don't do this! a voice protested suddenly in my head. Think, Thundercracker! Think! But the hand that was teasing me, running slowly along the front side of my wing was…distracting. And it was soothing away the dissenting voices until they were only a faint murmur in the back of my mind… But Skywarp's touch couldn't completely caress away my unfortunate need to think, to rationalize, to understand… Understanding was always the stumbling block, it seemed…

"I still don't understand this at all, Skywarp…" I croaked weakly…and then gasped in delight as Skywarp's tickling fingers happened upon an exquisitely sensitive spot on the trailing edge of my left wing, one that I hadn't even known that I had. "I don't even know you…but…but yet, I know you…"

"I know," Skywarp whispered soothingly back to me as he ran a trembling hand further along the edge of my wing, his touch gossamer-light. Seeing his trembling hand, though, it occurred to me that he was as nervous as I was. He concealed it far more competently than I did, but I knew that he was nervous, too. Somehow, that made it easier for me to deal with my own uncertainty…

"Is it…Is it supposed to be like this?" I stammered after a moment, half-rhetorically, my voice wavering with a steadily growing, though still very confused, passion for Skywarp. Without thinking about it, I reached out to him then and tentatively, shyly ran the fingertips of one hand lightly down his side. A shudder immediately ran through his entire body in response to my touch. I was utterly amazed that I could affect him that easily…and I might have imagined it, but I could have sworn that I felt an…echo…of his shudder run through my own body, as well… "Is…Is this how it is for everyone?" I wondered, awed at the thought.

Skywarp at first only heaved a shaky sigh as an answer, which for some reason sent a wave of shivers skittering through my own body, shivers that dangerously weakened my knees, not to mention my composure. In some dim, faint part of my brain, I contemplated for a moment what it would be like– what I would be like – once Skywarp's arms were wrapped around me, once his body was pressed against mine…once our sparks were merged. Oh, how I suddenly longed for that moment…and yet at the same time, I feared it. Those conflicting emotions briefly battled their way through my rapidly-disintegrating rational thoughts, threatening to overwhelm me…but then again, Skywarp's light touch was slowly wiping away even that from my mind. Soon, all that would be left in there would be…him. It was a dizzying, exciting, and…well, terrifying thought.

"I don't know…" Skywarp was saying softly now, in answer to my question, as I battled to control myself, as his shaking hand moved uncertainly away from my wing, skipping lightly across my shoulder again in order to run almost shyly down my chest. "But if it's like this for everyone, then it has to be the best-kept secret on Cybertron."

"Mmmmmmm…" I murmured, momentarily lost in his touch. Wherever Skywarp's fingers traveled on my body, a mellow warmth immediately followed…and I knew that warmth would soon transmute itself into a blazing fire…which would then build into a raging, out-of-control inferno… I shuddered at the thought, dimly heard Skywarp chuckle as he watched me, as he watched the effects of what he was doing to me.

I don't know exactly how long I stayed lost in the sensations that Skywarp was so easily wringing from my body and mind. The passage of time was impossible for me to judge. I was capable only of absorbing Skywarp's light caresses; there simply wasn't room left in my brain to process anything else. All I knew was that his touch was becoming surer, bolder with each passing moment…and that I was being slowly washed away on a rising tide of an all-encompassing need that was welling up from the depths of my spark, the likes of which I had never felt before. But oh, I liked the feeling…

For some reason, though, more questions were suddenly ricocheting through my brain

as well. Such is my lot in life, to ponder and to question everything. It is, indeed, my very own

personal curse.

"So…why is this so…so different, then?" I suddenly needed to know, the words burbling out of a throat constricted with longing.

"I don't know, Thundercracker," Skywarp answered me calmly. Nor did he seem to care, really; his attention seemed completely absorbed by tracing with teasing fingers every tiny detail of my torso. I battled back a strangled whimper that threatened to rip out of my throat in response and spoke again, if only to distract myself…

"I don't understand this at all!" I reiterated, suddenly rather…frustrated, was maybe the word I wanted. It was a frustration born of a lack of understanding, I think. My world was a happy place when I knew the rational reason why everything in my life was happening, when I could easily answer that one ever-plaguing question: Why am I doing this? But this…this thing with Skywarp was completely irrational. I didn't know why I was doing what I was doing, couldn't even begin to fathom it. My attraction to Skywarp, my need for him, defied all logic, all reason. And on top of that, being there with him was an instance of me acting completely upon instinct, upon emotion…and that wasn't like me at all. But yet, at the same time, I knew on a deeper level even than logical, rational thought that it was right. Still, the conflict was eating away at me. I had to express it.

"I know it's not like this for everyone," I babbled before I could stop myself, as Skywarp's hand quite distractingly began to caress the canopy in the center of my chest. "I know that this isn't how it usually is…But then…then…Ohhhhhhh, Primus, this is so right, Skywarp…but so…weird. So fast… Too fast… It's—"

Skywarp was chuckling at me all the while, as the confused-yet-longing words poured from depths of my being. And then he suddenly stopped what he was doing and trailed one hand lazily up my chest, his fingertips barely brushing against me. He cupped my chin in that one hand, abruptly silencing me as he stared into my eyes.

"Are you always going to talk this much, Thundercracker?" he asked of me, his tone of voice playfully exasperated.

And the look on Skywarp's face as he spoke and as I stared into his eyes – drowning in them, suddenly lost in them – was hard to describe. There was amusement in his expression, certainly, and a playful affection. Moreover, there was a deep, awakening passion there. The planes of his face seemed somehow softer, less angular because of it. His eyes seemed to sparkle, as if a spotlight had been trained upon them, one that was angled just so, so that each of his eyes reflected a tiny, iridescent scintilla of light back at me. And his mouth – that marvelous, sensuous mouth – was curled ever so slightly into a small yet stunningly beautiful smile that was almost anticipatory, that swept me away, dizzied me. Without even thinking about it, I brought up one hand to trace the contours of his face. I couldn't resist...

…And I knew that soon…Oh, very soon I wouldn't be able to resist doing much, much

more to him…

He was beautiful, so beautiful as he stood there with me, only half an arm's length from me, an expression of deep bliss playing over the planes and angles of his face as he absorbed my touch. It was an expression that only emphasized, in my mind, his magnetic beauty. There was…something about him. Something inexpressible, indefinable. His was a beauty that, to me, encompassed the physical, yes, but that also managed to transcend it, and it inexplicably jolted me to the deepest depths of my spark. I didn't understand it at all, and I wouldn't have been able explain why it was so even if I was offered me all the energon in the universe. My attraction to Skywarp had been instant and overwhelmingly powerful, and now it was just…there, a part of who I was, incomprehensible and awe-inspiring. I had slowly realized during the two days that we had waited between meeting and bonding that it wasn't something to be rationalized. It was something simply to be felt.

And perhaps most surprisingly of all, Skywarp wanted me. Me, of all people. I still couldn't quite understand it, couldn't quite wrap my mind around the concept, no matter how hard I tried. Some part of my brain still faintly insisted that this, all of this, wasn't possible, that someone – Skywarp himself, perhaps, for he was known for practical jokes, I had learned – was playing the cruelest of tricks on me. But the longer Skywarp stayed with me now, the further we traveled down the road we had chosen, and the closer we became to being one, the less inclined I was to listen to that part of my brain until, finally, it surrendered and was silent.

"Noooo…" I finally managed to choke out in answer to Skywarp's playful question. The single word was drawn out into a long and impassioned moan as I lightly traced the lines of his face, drowning in a raging and suddenly all-consuming desire for all of Skywarp, for every part of him, every tiny facet of him. Physical, emotional, spiritual; I wanted it all. I wanted every little thing that made him who he was. Most of all, I wanted to be an integral part of who he was…and I knew that, soon, I would be, and that he, conversely, would be a part of me.

That intimate knowledge suffused me with…fear, actually. It was a fear of the unknown, a fear of acting upon instinct rather than careful, rational thinking. I was about to commit myself forever to someone I had just met, whom I didn't really know at all…and even if I had known Skywarp for eons, I'd probably still be afraid. And yet here I was…

Insane! a faint voice suddenly called out in my head.

But I ignored that voice because, quite shockingly, my doubts were suddenly gone. What Skywarp and I were doing was insane, yes; I freely acknowledged that. But it was also right. It was a deep-set knowledge, that rightness. Spark knowledge. It was an inner acknowledgment, I realized, of destiny, of fate, of things that were just meant to be. And so the inner voices that had plagued me before Skywarp had arrived on my doorstep tonight were suddenly muffled, becoming progressively fainter until they were finally, blessedly silent. And they apparently dragged my shyness and hesitation along with them when they vanished, for I felt suddenly…bold, something that was the very opposite of my characteristic demeanor.

And now…Now I knew exactly what I wanted – needed – to do, and that need was a flame that demanded acquiescence, that licked insistently at me, burning with a searing but welcome heat.

"No, Skywarp," I murmured as he simply stared at me, his mouth slightly open, his eyes alight. No doubt, he had noticed – felt, maybe – the sudden change in me, the sudden banishment of my doubts and hesitation…and perhaps he didn't know quite what to make of it.

But at that moment, I didn't care in the least. Rational Thundercracker was completely gone. In his place was…me, and at that moment I simply wanted to leap upon Skywarp and take him, make him mine forever.

Right now.

"Sometimes I won't talk at all," I murmured softly to him. "Sometimes I'll just do this…"

Skywarp had been inching steadily nearer to me as I spoke, as if I was a magnet slowly, patiently drawing him in. And as I said those last words to him, I reached out with lightning speed across the small distance that still separated our bodies, slipped my arms around his waist and roughly, abruptly pulled him to me. And I held him, just held him, clinging to him as if I would never let go of him – and, yes, I suddenly knew to the very depths of my spark that I never would be letting him go of him at all, at least in a more figurative sense. That realization suffused me with a wave of heat, heat that made me, conversely, shiver to my core in anticipation of what was soon to come. It was a thought that was overwhelming, one that was at once powerfully exciting and infinitely terrifying…

And then I went suddenly down on my knees, not entirely of my own volition. And since he was wrapped rather demandingly in my embrace, Skywarp was compelled to collapse along with me. I had noted the surprised – but delighted – expression that flitted across his face, heard his surprised indrawn breath as I had pulled his body to mine, and now I heard his deep-throated, anticipatory laugh as we made that abrupt shift halfway to the floor. And this time I definitely felt a frisson of his excitement tickle at me as he snaked his arms between my head and my shoulder-mounted air intakes, rested his forehead against mine, and held on to me every bit as tightly, as insistently, as I was holding on to him

So this is how it is, then… I marveled idly as I just held Skywarp close for a moment, not moving, not really thinking. I was simply drinking in the entirely new sensation of another body pressed against mine, of my personal space – which I usually jealously guarded, more so, even, than most – suddenly being completely gone, completely…occupied

I had often heard descriptions of what it was like to bond, but they had been only vague descriptions. It seemed to me that no one could accurately describe in detail what it was like.

But even from vague descriptions… Well, to be quite honest, the very idea of bonding had always…deeply disturbed me, actually. I had always firmly insisted to myself that I would never, ever do it, not under any circumstances whatsoever. After all, more so even than most of my kind, I had always been an intensely private person. I preferred to keep my body – much less my mind and my innermost thoughts – to myself, and I had a marked tendency to shy away when others simply came too near me, much less if they tried to touch me.

So the amazing thing, now, was that I didn't care at all that I currently had no personal space to speak of. The idea of Skywarp this close to me – not to mention the idea of him becoming even closer to me and on more than just a physical level – didn't summon even a faint hint of alarm to the forefront of my thoughts. It was just…right. Skywarp was just supposed to be where he was right at that very moment, wrapped safely and securely in my arms, forever. It was his destiny…and mine. I don't know how I knew it. I just…knew it, just as I had known two days ago, as our gazes had met and had held for that tellingly long moment, that Skywarp had to be mine, and that even more than that, he would be mine, soon.

Dear Primus, I never thought this would happen to me…I found myself marveling as Skywarp and I held each other for the first time.

Me, either…

I gasped in response to hearing Skywarp's voice – his thoughts – shimmering faintly in my own mind…and I jerked abruptly away from him. I pulled entirely out of his embrace, even, and my momentum propelled me away from him with more force than I'd anticipated. I ended up a small distance from Skywarp, somehow sprawled ungracefully on my back. I pushed myself up on my elbows a moment later, to see Skywarp settling back to sit on his heels. He was staring at me intensely as he did so, all sorts of emotions flickering across his face. Among them was…hurt? It stabbed at me like an energon dagger plunging deep into my spark. I had not meant to hurl myself away from him; I did not want to leave his embrace at all. But his reply to my silent, unspoken thoughts had startled me, rattled me…and, in truth, it had deeply frightened me, as well. I hadn't expected such a thing to happen, not yet. I was still adjusting to the idea of physical closeness, physical connection, with Skywarp, after all; I didn't feel at all ready for any sort of mental communion…

Oh, I knew, of course, that I would share Skywarp's thoughts once our sparks were merged, and that such a merge would happen fairly soon. And I was fine with that. More than fine, actually. I was willing, eager. I longed for it, even, which in truth profound surprised me. But this had been…different. This was…was…

I didn't know what it was, actually… Oh, I knew that bondmates who'd been together for a long time could communicate in such an intimate, silent manner even when their sparks weren't physically merged, as Skywarp and I had just briefly experienced. Bondmates who enjoyed such a close and intimate communion that they were very nearly one person, one soul, could do so easily, even, without even thinking about it; I had heard it said that some spoke silently to each other more often than they ever spoke aloud. And some bondmates, so I'd heard, eventually became so merged, so shared, so one, that they never spoke aloud to each other at all, for there was simply no need to do so in the intimate depths of such a complete communion.

But Skywarp and I… We hadn't even bonded…yet…but already, inexplicably, just by way of close physical contact, Skywarp's thoughts had somehow settled in and nestled themselves comfortably in and around my own. His mind had gently caressed my mind, just as his hands had caressed my body. And now…Emotions tumbled through my head in response to Skywarp's faint but definite presence there in my mind, a presence that… Well, when I concentrated on it, I realized that it persisted even though I was no longer, for the moment, in physical contact with him. It was much fainter for that lack of contact, yes, merely an odd, new tickle in the back of my consciousness…but it was there – He was there – nonetheless.

I knew that he shouldn't be there. Not yet, anyway. But there he was. I could not deny it…and I also couldn't deny that it frightened me. And delighted me, too, but the fear, initially, had won out, indeed, and I had reacted to it without thinking about it…

And Skywarp, I suddenly knew as I stared dumbly at him, was just as startled, just as frightened as I was. He didn't show it outwardly, no…but he didn't have to show it outwardly for me to know that his fear was there. Not anymore. I didn't understand how I knew what he was thinking and feeling, no…but slowly, stealthily, acceptance of the situation was already beginning to seep into my mind. After all, he and I were together here, tonight, in order to bond, and of course slowly coming to know each other's thoughts was a natural outcome of that status. Normally, of course, that "knowing" happened in due course of time. Hundreds of years, usually. For us…Well, it had happened in about two seconds. And I suddenly decided that I was not going to let it deter me, the fact that things seemed to be happening at a rather more accelerated pace than I had anticipated. I still desperately wanted Skywarp. More than that, I knew that I needed him. I didn't know precisely how or why I needed him…yet…but I needed him all the same. That relentless need pulled me to Skywarp with the force of a thousand very insistent electromagnets.

"I'm…sorry," Skywarp was saying to me now, his voice reflecting his own confusion, his own fear. "I don't know how that happened, Thundercracker…I didn't mean to…I mean, I could…I could hear what you were thinking, and I… I just…thought back. But I didn't mean to frighten you…Primus, not you, no…" he stammered out.

It was the first time I'd seen or heard anything less than ringing, rock-solid confidence from Skywarp. I found it…endearing, this unexpected, underlying vulnerability that he was displaying. I knew, suddenly, that it was something he would show to no one else, only to me….and I also knew that he didn't understand why he felt safe enough with me to show that side of himself. He just felt it…and he, unlike me, was a creature deeply in touch with his own emotions. He trusted them to lead him to the right path and so he rarely questioned them. He simply acted upon them.

For a moment, as his voice trailed off in adorable uncertainty, I just smiled at Skywarp as my defenses – and more importantly my fear – melted suddenly, like a chunk of scrap tossed into a smelting pool. He sensed, I knew, the direction of my thoughts. Dimly, I heard him think that he didn't trust his legs to support himself. I briefly wondered why…and then was given my answer when he started moving toward me again, this time shuffling awkwardly on hands and knees. My smile widened as I watched him approach, as I greedily drank in the way that the muted lighting of my quarters played softly over the angles of his black and white body as he moved. And then he was at my side, and I made a move to sit up fully…a move that he interrupted by laying a gentle but firm hand on the front of my shoulder, pushing me insistently down again, all the way onto my back.

"No, don't bother getting up, love," Skywarp was whispering to me, and it was the first time he used that term of endearment. I looked up at him wonderingly as he smiled down at me, his eyes alight with a mixture of desire and mischief. "Because I'd only have to knock you down again…" he added, in answer to my silent, unspoken why.

I gaped at him, watching in a foggy daze as he folded back one wing and seemed slowly to…melt down next to me. He nestled himself alongside me, fitting his body easily with mine as if he'd been laying next to me like this for millions of years, and laid one arm possessively across my midsection.

The next few moments…or maybe they were hours or days, I don't know…seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. All I knew was that I was drowning in Skywarp, basking in him. I delighted in the expressions on his face, alternately playful, gentle, and, in the end, urgently passionate. I exulted in his amazingly light but endlessly stimulating touch as we moved together. I rejoiced in his simple physical nearness, a nearness that was, in the end, comforting in its complete rightness. And I discovered of a sudden, quite by accident, that I could feel what I was doing to him. If I ran a hand down his chest, I could feel it run down mine as well even though he wasn't touching me there, and it evoked in me the same shivers that it evoked in Skywarp, on top of the shivers Skywarp was eliciting from me on his own. It was almost too much. The sensual pleasure was vast, indeed, but not quite to the point of sensory overload. Not yet, at least. Skywarp and I were new at this bonding thing, but we were somehow already quite good at it, moving neither too quickly nor too slowly for each other, each somehow knowing exactly what the other could withstand as we skated for an extended period of time along the fine line that separated sensual ecstasy from overwhelmed, overloaded unconsciousness.

I wanted it all to go on forever. I wanted never to leave his side. I wanted him in physical contact with me for the rest of my life, however long that turned out to be… I wanted…I wanted… And then, at some point along the line, hours or days after we'd begun this adventure, I found that I suddenly wasn't alone, that I wasn't alone in my own mind. Without even consciously thinking about it, Skywarp and I had instinctively merged our sparks…and then Skywarp was there in my mind as much as his body was in my arms, and I was simultaneously in his mind, and we were moving closer to each other, mentally, with each passing moment. Very quickly, it seemed, we arrived at a point where there was no difference between the part of us that was Skywarp and the part of us that was Thundercracker; our two consciousnesses had become entwined to a greater degree than our far more awkward physical bodies ever could be. We were, for however long our sparks remained merged, a single entity, one who was finally – blissfully – complete, as neither one of us was complete when we were apart from each other.

In bits and pieces, brief but enticing flashes of Skywarp's life, the experiences that made him who he was, came to me during that time in which we were soul-merged. They were scattered, disorganized, out of chronological order, and they flitted through my awareness far too quickly, for the most part, for me to be able to "see" them clearly, much less to analyze and understand them. We were not yet used to each other and neither of us, of course, had ever done what we were doing now. But I tried to make sense of what I experienced of Skywarp, as I knew that he was simultaneously trying to make sense of what he was experiencing of me. We wanted – needed – to know each other, of course. We each needed to understand the person that the other was. After all, there was now no going back. Our sparks were one, we were bonded, and that was an eternal and inseparable link, a lifelong commitment. Our life's paths were now tangled together in a knot that no one could undo. So I would know all that I could about Skywarp, and I would know it as soon as I possibly could. That was my goal.

Skywarp's life flashed by me in a flood that for now I could only partially absorb. He allowed me to "see" brief episodes here and there, things that allowed me to understand him better. I allowed the same to him…although my life was substantially shorter and far less…exciting than his so far. My life, after all, had only really begun when I'd first seen Skywarp…

But Skywarp's had been an…eventful…life already. I now knew, as I relived some of it with him, that it was full of horrors that I hadn't even suspected, that no one, in fact, would suspect just through knowing Skywarp casually, for he hid them well. He buried them deep down in his psyche, and they were well-camouflaged by his generally carefree persona, one that he had carefully forged over the long years of his life. But the cumulative effect of his life's experiences was such that, so I was learning, Skywarp was secretly haunted by his past, of which I was getting, for now, only the briefest and most disjointed of tastes. Oh, he was genuinely happy and self-confident now, now that he was secure in his position and now that he had settled himself comfortably amongst the highest echelons of the Decepticon command hierarchy…but it was a confidence that had been hard won, and it had some thin but rather deep cracks, as well. When those cracks threatened to widen, as they occasionally did…Well, Skywarp did anything to make sure that that didn't happen…

But there were times, I suddenly knew, when that was a difficult effort for him, indeed.

Sometimes, Skywarp needed someone to be strong and confident for, so that he wouldn't "sink," as he thought of it. And so Skywarp needed me because I, being eternally doubtful and unsure of myself, needed someone strong to pull me out of frighteningly frequent over- analytical and occasionally depressive funks. Without that someone, before I had met Skywarp, I had often feared that I'd end up a babbling lunatic arguing endlessly with the voices in my head. Skywarp, I now knew to the very depths of my being, would prevent that. This, I began to understand, was one reason for our instant, powerful attraction to one another. The knowledge simply flooded into my…our…consciousness as Skywarp and I laid there on the floor of my quarters with our minds and sparks as tightly intertwined as our bodies were, as we remained in that place, merged and exploring one another's minds and memories. We needed each other. We were uniquely suited to each other. Our sparks had known it even if we hadn't consciously known it ourselves. Each of our sparks had detected in the other the missing bits and pieces of itself. It wasn't the only reason that Skywarp and I had been attracted to each other, though, and I was sure that, in time, we would slowly discover all of the other reasons together.

We only had forever, after all.

As it was, now, in having some sort of explanation for the craziness, the desperate longing and needing that had compelled Skywarp and I to do what we were doing at that very moment… It made me much more comfortable with the whole idea of bonding, particularly the fact that I had gone and done it with someone who was, when all was said and done, a complete stranger. And with that understanding…I felt myself relax. Completely. Utterly. I felt myself become more open to Skywarp, physically as well as mentally, since I realized at that very moment that I'd been holding back, still uncertain, still afraid. I had been afraid of Skywarp, afraid of relinquishing control of my mind and body to someone else. Most of all, I had been afraid for some reason of completely letting go and just enjoying what I was experiencing, as if I thought I didn't deserve it.

But I was no longer afraid. Skywarp at that moment was on top of me, straddling me, his weight on his hands, which he had placed on either side of my shoulders, pinning me to the floor beneath me by the wings. It was a position that had made the spark merge easy to accomplish since our sparks were conveniently on opposite sides of our respective midsections.

But I suddenly wanted Skywarp closer. I knew that the spark merge wouldn't last much longer.

I could feel the surface of my body tingling with the extra energy surging through me, and

Skywarp's entire body was trembling as he fought to support himself, so much so that even his wings were shuddering. I realized that if that communion was going to end soon, then I at least wanted every square millimeter of Skywarp's physical body against mine. So I reached up, wrapped both arms around his air intakes, and insistently pulled him down on top of me. He didn't offer much resistance, collapsing down on top of me with a long sigh that became a moan by the time it ran its course.

I love you, I thought to him fiercely, holding him tightly against me, wrapping both arms and both legs around him as I felt the first shudders of overload pass along the connection between our sparks and then outward to both of our trembling bodies. I felt the world spin around me then, felt a sudden wave of tingling heat run through my body. I ran my hands along the edges of Skywarp's wings, feeling the echoes of his pleasure at my touch as I did so, as he answered in my mind with wild, impassioned abandon, You are everything I've always wanted, my love…and more…

I whimpered uncontrollably as Skywarp propped his elbows against my chest then, arching his back in ecstasy as the final shudders of overload ran between our connected sparks and they began to disengage in self-preservation. As shudders wracked him, Skywarp's fingers dug powerfully into my chest, in a way that should have been painful but wasn't, not now, because I was suddenly drowning in his pleasure. Reflexively, reacting to his passion, my own fingers dug into his shoulders, where my hands had come to rest on him. I left dents there, and I could feel the pain-pleasure in my own shoulders…and it was…was…

It was too much. It was enough to drive us both over the edge, into that abyss of sensory overload that we had so far managed to delay but could delay no longer. We cried out in tandem as Skywarp collapsed against me, both shuddering in the aftermath of what we had just done, both spent but both…jubilant was too weak of a word, but in my complete physical and mental exhaustion it was all that occurred to me.

It was some time before either of us was coherent, much less before either one of us could move. During that time, I just held Skywarp against me, my arms wrapped loosely but protectively, possessively, around his narrow waist and my legs still twined around his. I felt wonderfully content, relaxed, and I was amazed – though I shouldn't have been, of course – to find him still there in my mind, a quiescent but definite presence now, one that I knew would be there forever and that would only strengthen with time. A scant few days ago, the very thought would have terrified me, repulsed me. Now it was just…reality. My reality, and it felt completely natural, filling me with wonder. I let out a long and contented sigh as I drifted happily in that feeling…and then I heard Skywarp chuckle softly, fondly. I refocused my drowsy, hazy attention on him then, and saw that he was looking down at me, one elbow propped on my chest, his hand cupping his chin. A soft, beautiful, affectionate smile was playing over his face as he watched me, and when he knew that I was looking at him, he snaked his other arm up so that he could caress my face, tracing its lines.

"You're beautiful when you're happy, Thundercracker," he breathed softly, wonderingly to me, his voice roughened with his own weariness. "You know that?"

I smiled as I caught the hand that was tracing my face, interlaced my fingers with his, and asserted quietly, contentedly, "You're beautiful all the time."

He grinned widely, impudently at that, chuckling mischievously.

"I know," he said lightly, his voice floating to my audios as his head drifted down to rest on my chest again.

I heaved a mock-exasperated sigh at that and playfully smacked one of his air intakes.

"You are horribly arrogant," I accused, but I palliated the accusation with a happy, luxuriously sated, "but I love you, anyway."

Love you, too, TC, came the quiet, happy mental reply, the thought brushing gently against my separate-yet-not-separate mind.

And so I had earned a nickname… I sighed in satisfaction as Skywarp completely relaxed, his body settling comfortably against mine, and I felt myself begin to…drift. But before I fully drifted off into unconscious oblivion, with Skywarp sprawled contentedly all over me like a security blanket, I had the presence of mind to check my chronometer. And I found, half in wonder and half in dismay, that not even an hour had passed since Skywarp had walked through the door of my quarters and into my soul… I chuckled softly, with contented weariness, which elicited a sleepy squeak of protest from the dozing Skywarp. He settled down again a moment later, though, and the very last thought that my mind was able to entertain before recharge completely claimed me as well was that it was going to be a wonderfully long three days…

And then I, too, was gone.