A/N: Well, folks, this is it: the final chapter. I had thought perhaps there would be a few more, but the muse decided otherwise, and decided to go ahead and wrap it up. I hope you all have enjoyed this story as much as I have; I feel kinda sad that it's over.
However, chapter the second of Lapsus Memoriae is well on its way to completion; I hope to have it up within the next week. Thanks to everyone who reviewed—you guys have kept us going with this story, and we're grateful for all of the love and the constructive criticism you've showered us with. XD
Also, huge, huge thanks to VAWitch, for being such an awesome beta-reader and catching all the mistakes, large and small, that I'm too blind to see.
Bluestreak could not recall having ever felt so contentedly exhausted. He checked his energy levels; they were not as low as they would have been if the twins had not caught them on their way to their quarters and pressed some of their home-brewed high grade into their hands. They said it was to celebrate everyone coming back alive after yesterday's battle, and neither Bluestreak nor Wheeljack had protested the unexpected gift. Indeed, they had been very judicious in their use of it, keeping their fuel levels up as they spent their day off together memorizing just what exactly it took to drive each other wild.
The gunner's gaze was drawn to his lover's face when Wheeljack, recharging peacefully, shifted a little and muttered something unintelligible. Blue curled into him a bit closer, and the Lancia stilled with a pleased sigh. The Datsun gave a happy sigh of his own, once again marveling at the feeling of being in love, and being loved in return. For the first time since the destruction of his home, the burning need to fill the silence with meaningless chatter did not eat at him; lying here, in the comfort of his lover's arms, secure in the knowledge of his love, was enough to keep the demons at least temporarily at bay.
On a whim, Bluestreak carefully eased himself up on one elbow, taking a moment to study his beloved's scarred visage. It was really not so bad, he decided. And, as he had told Wheeljack, it truly wouldn't have bothered him if it had been. So what if others thought him unattractive—wasn't it enough that Bluestreak found him attractive? Impulsively he reached up to brush his fingers across the inventor's lips—they were warm enough, and pleasantly pliant when pressed against his own. He yanked his hand back as though burned when Wheeljack murmured, "Couldn't recharge?" and unshuttered his optics to look at him.
"Not really," Bluestreak admitted, embarrassed at having let the engineer startle him into such a reaction. After all, he'd had his hands in much less innocent places over the course of the past few hours, and Wheeljack certainly hadn't objected. "I'm still kinda keyed up," he added sheepishly, and his lover gave a soft chuckle.
"I'm not enough to wear you out, am I?" he teased, and Bluestreak ducked his head shyly. He opened his mouth to protest that Wheeljack was more than enough to make him happy—he suppressed a shiver at the thought of the way that the engineer had set his circuits ablaze with sensation—but 'Jack gently kissed him, effectively preventing him from saying anything.
Pit, he was finding it hard to think now, let alone to talk.
"Mm, love you," Bluestreak breathed, nipping playfully at his lover's lips as they parted and grinning at the way the Lancia's optics brightened. A sudden surge of energy through his circuits made his own optics widen as he abruptly realized that they had neglected to disconnect their systems after the last time they had uplinked, and he moaned despite himself as the dormant connection was renewed.
:Love you: whispered across the link along with a flood of sensory information that made Bluestreak gasp and press himself tightly against Wheeljack's chassis. He dug his hands into the inventor's armor seams, searching for a particular bundle of wiring he'd discovered earlier—there it was—and the white mech beneath him cried out sharply with the pleasure of it. The feedback from that alone was nearly enough to send Bluestreak into overload—and then Wheeljack, his energy levels already low from their earlier activities, gave out completely after a couple more strokes and dragged the gunner over the edge with him.
For a few hazy, euphoric moments they lay entwined and exhausted, and Wheeljack absently caressed Bluestreak's back and doorwings, causing the Datsun to shiver periodically.
Vaguely, on the periphery of conscious thought in the edges of his CPU, he was aware of Wheeljack thinking, debating something within himself—and then he did something that shocked Bluestreak to within an inch of his life.
He dropped all of his firewalls, and invited the gunner in.
::Bond with me,:: the engineer whispered. ::To the Pit with the consequences.::
Bluestreak's first reaction—what humans might call 'gut instinct'—was complete, unmitigated horror. He could feel his lover's confusion beginning to melt into a terrible hurt, but all he could think was, 'He'll know!'
"Bluestreak…?" Wheeljack asked, plaintive. "Blue, please, what's wrong?"
The gunner realized that he was shaking his head in unthinking negation, and he forced himself to be still. Why, oh why did he have to…? "I—I can't," he managed miserably. "I just—I can't." With shaking fingers, he disconnected Wheeljack's interface cable from his data port and then scrambled up off of the berth and stood there, trembling. He knew that what the inventor had just done was irreversible. He would forever after be wide open to Bluestreak, now that his firewalls had been configured to accommodate the young gunner.
"At least… at least tell me why." The Lancia's voice was raw pain, and Bluestreak's spark twisted excruciatingly at the sound—but how could he ever let Wheeljack in that deep, how could he bear for his lover to see exactly how weak he'd been during the destruction of his hometown? Instead of standing strong with his family, he'd hidden like a spineless sparkling and watched through the ventilation grate as they'd slaughtered his creator and his creator's sib. Wheeljack was so brave—he would regret tying himself to a coward for the rest of his life.
Why couldn't he just leave it as it was? He had been so happy in the engineer's arms; he could forget about the war, and about his hometown, when Wheeljack held him. But now… if they ever interfaced again… Bluestreak shuddered. His lover's spark called out to him like a siren's song, and he didn't think he would be strong enough to resist if Wheeljack offered himself up to him again. He took an involuntary step forward, and knew that his longing was written all over his face when the engineer's expression took on a hopeful tinge.
When Wheeljack made as though to stand up, reaching his hands out to draw the gunner into an embrace, Bluestreak panicked.
By the time he realized where he was going, he was back in his own quarters. Mechanically, he locked the door and then sank down onto his berth, burying his face in his hands and struggling not to give voice to his anguish.
He'd just lost the love of his life, all because he was a sparkless coward. Wheeljack would never forgive him, he was certain.
Wheeljack stared dully at the closed door long after Bluestreak had fled and tried not to let the pain and bitterness of the rejection overwhelm him. He had offered up himself, had been so sure of Bluestreak's feelings for him…
Instead, the gunner had been shocked when he dropped the firewalls protecting his core programming and his spark.
He replayed the disaster in his head; he had thought that Bluestreak would accept his offer to bond, but the younger mech had practically radiated terror before he had broken their link. It confused him, made him wonder what Blue could possibly have done to be so afraid of letting him in.
'Is he afraid of me?' he wondered, before dismissing the idea out of hand. Now that the initial hurt had passed, he could sit back and think objectively about what had gone wrong—and Blue had been far too relaxed with him before he'd dropped his firewalls for the fault to lie with him. He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face—and suddenly realized that he had no idea where his mask had gone. "I'll find it later," he muttered to himself, shaking his head.
He stood, needing to pace, needing to do something instead of sitting there on the berth and doing nothing. He leaped back with a startled yell when his door slid open and a furious Jazz swept into the room.
"What did you do to him?" the saboteur hissed, his usual jovial demeanor subsumed by the force of his anger.
"What?" Wheeljack asked, taken aback.
"Bluestreak," Jazz snapped. "He ran past me in a blur, lookin' like his spark had broken. What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything deliberate, unless you think that offering to bond with him was intended to hurt him!" the engineer snarled back without thinking, too enraged by the Porsche's sheer nerve at coming in here to question him to consider what he was saying.
"You what?" Jazz asked softly, all of the fight fading out of him at Wheeljack's reply.
Feeling defeated, he repeated himself. "I offered to bond with him. Dropped my firewalls for him and everything, and he ran away." He sank wearily back down onto his berth and hid his face in his hands. "I don't know what went wrong. I thought everything was going right." He shuddered despite himself, and then ended up spilling everything to the saboteur in a broken whisper, even though normally he would not have considered the black and white mech a confidant. "I let him in—he's imprinted on my spark now—I'll never have another. Not that I want anyone else…" He trailed off for a moment, then forged on. "I don't understand! He was flat fragging terrified! I was so sure that he would want me—"
Jazz interrupted him with a tired sigh. "Blue ain't the most confident mech in the ranks, if you haven't noticed that by now," he said quietly. "I'd say the load of guilt he carries on his shoulders is what's gotten him so jumpy."
"Guilt?" Wheeljack echoed, confused. "What could he possibly feel so guilty about?"
The Porsche gave him a humorless smile. "Ever heard of survivor's guilt?" he asked grimly. "Bluestreak was the only survivor of a Decepticon attack on his hometown. Accordin' to Blue, he should've died there in the ruins—livin' is a betrayal of his people and his family. Apparently, he watched the 'Cons kill 'em while he hid away. Never mind the fact that he couldn't have been more'n a youngling when it happened, and the smartest thing he coulda done was to just keep his head down. He don't believe that, more's the pity."
"Primus," Wheeljack breathed. "I didn't know—I would never have pushed him like that if… oh, slag! What now?" He felt positively miserable by this point. He'd been crass and insensitive to not even ask what Bluestreak thought about the whole thing, just assuming that the gunner would want to bond with him, and on top of it all, the half-formed link was beginning to ache abominably.
"Well, you're not gonna let him go, are ya?" Jazz asked sharply, and Wheeljack didn't even have to think about it before shaking his head.
"Of course not," he retorted, pushing himself back to his feet. "In fact, I'm gonna go look for him right now," he added, glaring at the saboteur as though daring him to stop him.
Jazz merely offered him an enigmatic smile. "If you're goin' out, you might want this," he said and, to Wheeljack's dawning horror, held up the inventor's mask. "It's not that bad, you know," the Porsche added, but Wheeljack just snapped the mask back into place with a mortified glare and stalked out of the room in search of his lover.
By the end of the week, Wheeljack was beginning to think that Bluestreak had been taking lessons in sneaking from Jazz or the twins, except Jazz and the twins had been trying to help the Lancia catch him.
Subtly, of course. Didn't want to scare him again.
The unfinished bond was a constant dull pain in the background of his processors; Ratchet had told him grimly that there was nothing to be done for it except to complete the process, if and when he could get his partner to stop avoiding him. Wheeljack hoped that Bluestreak got over his reluctance soon—Sideswipe was getting frustrated at the lack of progress, and the engineer was afraid that the red twin might do something drastic in an attempt to help and end up making the whole situation worse.
In a fit of desperation, he had finally agreed to let the red Lamborghini help him break into the Datsun's room so that he could be there when he got in from patrol. It was acutely embarrassing that he'd sunk to this level, but something had to give or Wheeljack thought he might go mad. Bluestreak was apparently not going to budge, even though it was obvious that he was just as upset as Wheeljack was over the whole thing.
So it was that the engineer found himself sitting on Bluestreak's 'charge pad, waiting for the moment that the younger mech came back while his nerves jangled so badly that he almost couldn't be still. Sighing unhappily, he flopped back down on the berth in an attempt to calm himself down.
He only realized that he'd fallen into recharge when the sound of the door cycling open woke him.
"Wheeljack!" Bluestreak gasped and turned to leave again, but the Lancia was already up and across the room and wrapping his arms around the gunner to keep him from escaping.
"Blue, wait, please!" On hearing the engineer's beseeching tone, the struggling young Datsun finally stilled, though he did not relax. "You've been avoiding me," Wheeljack said quietly. "You're almost as hard to get hold of as Jazz is when he doesn't want to be found."
"Please don't make this harder than it already is," Bluestreak mumbled against his shoulder.
"I don't understand what's so hard about it—I love you, Blue," the Lancia replied earnestly, pulling away from the gunner far enough to look into his optics. His own optics widened in surprise when Bluestreak flinched at his admission. He gripped the younger mech by his shoulders and held him out at arms length and said fiercely, "Tell me you don't love me, Blue, and I swear I'll never speak of it again!"
The Datsun's expression became that of a cornered animal, and then his face crumpled in anguish. "I—I can't!" he whimpered, and collapsed into Wheeljack's arms so abruptly that the inventor nearly overbalanced and fell. "I c-can't!" he sobbed, harsh heaves wracking his body even though their kind was incapable of producing tears.
"Shh, Blue, it's alright," 'Jack murmured, one hand cupping the side of Bluestreak's head where it lay pillowed on his shoulder, thumb stroking the pale cheek soothingly, while the other rubbed gentle circles between the gunner's doorwings. The engineer lost track of how long they stood there before Blue's shaking calmed and, finally, stopped.
"I'm such a c-coward," Bluestreak hiccoughed after what seemed like an eternity of silence. "You don't w-want to be bonded to a coward, 'Jack."
"Oh, Blue," Wheeljack said helplessly, arms tightening involuntarily around the younger mech. "You're no coward—and I'll decide who I want to be bonded to, if you please. Besides, I couldn't change my mind now if I wanted to—my permissions are all keyed to you."
"I'm sorry," the Datsun replied in a small voice, shrinking into himself a little in the engineer's embrace, but Wheeljack shook his head.
"Not your fault," he said ruefully. "I was an idiot for not asking what you wanted first. I just… did it. Didn't think beyond the moment—I just knew that you were the one I wanted for the rest of my life, so I acted." He paused, then added sheepishly, "I can be a bit impulsive sometimes."
It took so long for Bluestreak to reply that Wheeljack wondered if maybe he'd fallen into recharge—judging by his haggard appearance, he hadn't been resting any better than Wheeljack had over the past week. At last, though, the gunner asked softly, "Does it hurt? Having the bond unfinished, I mean."
"I—yeah," the Lancia admitted. "It's… not all that pleasant."
Wheeljack's fuel pump stuttered and skipped a beat when he felt the younger mech's arms wind hesitantly around him. "Then—then we should complete it," Bluestreak breathed, and the nervous uncertainty in his voice made the inventor's spark ache.
"Blue," he said gently, "we don't have to do this just to spare me some pain. You shouldn't tie yourself to someone just because you feel obligated—"
"I don't feel obligated!" Bluestreak interrupted insistently. He lifted his head and met the older mech's gaze. "I love you," he added softly. "I just—I don't deserve you. And I was—am—afraid that, if I let you into my spark, you won't want me anymore." He sounded as though it nearly killed him to make that admission.
Sorrow filled Wheeljack when he heard the unhappiness in the younger mech's voice. "Look, that's not going to happen, I promise you that! I love you, Bluestreak, lumps and all—and didn't you tell me the same damn thing not so very long ago? I seem to recall you saying that you didn't care if I were pink with purple polka dots—" Wheeljack brightened when that got a weak chuckle out of the grey mech. "Am I not allowed to feel the same for you?" He let go of Blue long enough to pull his facemask off. "I showed you my scars," he said quietly. "Can you trust me with yours?"
Bluestreak's answer was to crush their lips together in a fiercely passionate kiss. When the gunner's hand found that particularly sensitive bundle of wiring, Wheeljack's legs refused to support him anymore and he crashed to the ground, dragging the younger mech down on top of him and mindlessly stroking his doorwings. "Need," Bluestreak whined, and he found one of Wheeljack's data ports and locked his cable into place with a soft 'snick'.
They were both too frantic, too desperate, to make it last, and overload took them almost before they even realized what had happened. It was in the aftermath, as both of them were coming down from the release and excess energy still crackled along all of their relays, that Bluestreak chose to delve deeply into his lover's spark—and took down his own firewalls.
Wheeljack gasped, and suddenly they were one, nothing separating them as their sparks and minds entwined. Though neither was sure where the thought had come from, they both agreed that, if this was what Ratchet shared with the twins, then it was no wonder the medic was so happy with them.
They held nothing back from one another. They couldn't hold anything back—but there was no accusation, only acceptance.
After what could have been hours or mere minutes, they could feel themselves finally receding back into their own consciousnesses, but they knew, now, that they would never again be fully apart.
Bluestreak unshuttered his optics to see that he still lay sprawled on top of his bondmate. He felt a little giddy thrill at being able to call Wheeljack that, and he heard the engineer chuckle softly when he caught both the feeling and the thought. He carefully disconnected himself from the Lancia, and marveled when the strength of the older mech's presence in his CPU didn't abate. "Don't laugh at me," he protested weakly when Wheeljack's amusement at his wonderment became more pronounced.
::Can't help it. It's cute:: echoed in his processor, and the inventor laughed aloud at Bluestreak's expression of slack-jawed, starry-eyed amazement on 'hearing' his voice in his head.
"You let everyone think you're older than you are," Wheeljack commented idly, absently letting his fingers rub along the joints of the gunner's doorwings. Blue stiffened, and apprehension bled through the new bond. "It's alright," the Lancia quickly reassured him. "I don't think any less of you for it. It's just a surprise, is all. You were still a youngling in truth until very recently, if you don't count all the time we spent in stasis, weren't you?"
Hesitantly, Bluestreak nodded. "Yeah," he murmured, sliding off of Wheeljack to lie beside him on the floor. "All of my records were destroyed with my city. It made it easy to lie about my age, though the recruitment officer was suspicious. Still, he couldn't prove anything in the end, and no one wanted to deny me the right to fight the bastards who razed my home." He laid his head on Wheeljack's shoulder as he curled into the older mech's chassis.
"Just don't tell Prime. Or Prowl. Primus, they'd have a conniption fit," the engineer replied, grinning.
Bluestreak snorted. "I'm not that stupid—I've kept it from them this long, haven't I?"
"Mm-hmm," 'Jack agreed. "Y'know, we should probably get up off of the floor," he suggested mildly.
"Probably," the Datsun echoed, voice muffled in the engineer's shoulder. "I'm pretty happy right here, though," he added, pressing himself even tighter to Wheeljack's side. Eventually, however, he sighed and levered himself to his feet, pulling his lover up off of the floor with him.
As soon as the newly bonded mechs settled onto the berth, exhaustion and contentment dragged them down into the most peaceful recharge either had ever had.
Ratchet looked up from his inventory as Wheeljack wandered into the medbay, humming tunelessly as he fiddled with some contraption that he held in his hands.
"Morning, 'Jack," the CMO said warily, well aware that anything Wheeljack was working with had a tendency to explode, and he had no desire to rebuild the medbay, thank you very much.
"Oh! Morning, Ratch'," the engineer said cheerfully. "Morning, Sunstreaker," he nodded to the yellow mech, sitting on an empty berth near his bondmate with a bored expression. Sunstreaker smirked a little at Wheeljack's chipper mood and nodded back.
"You're feeling better," the CMO remarked. "I take it last night with Bluestreak went well?"
The engineer beamed at his friends. "I'd say it went better than well, actually," he said, earfins flickering bright blue in happiness.
Sunstreaker's smirk widened marginally and Ratchet could not hold back a grin of his own. "So you bonded with him, then?" the medic asked gleefully. At Wheeljack's nod Ratchet grabbed the Lancia up in an enthusiastic hug. "It's about slagging time!" The ambulance pulled back to glance around the 'bay. "Just where is Blue, anyway?"
"He's got comm duty with Jazz this morning," Wheeljack replied dryly. "I somehow got the feeling that Jazz arranged that on purpose just so that he could get all the juicy details before anyone else did." He cocked his head to the side as though listening and then snickered. "Oh—I was right," he said, optics crinkling with amusement.
Sunny laughed, drawing the other two mechs' attention to him. "Knowing Jazz, it'll be all over the Ark by noon," he observed. "Blue's not the only one that likes to gossip." He paused, then, as though it had just occurred to him, asked bluntly, "Does he talk as much in his head as he does out loud?"
Wheeljack snorted, ignoring Ratchet as his friend hissed the Lamborghini's name in mortification and annoyance. "More," he answered, vocal indicators flashing. "It takes some getting used to," he added ruefully. "I don't regret it, though."
"I don't think I could take it," Sunstreaker muttered. "I'd have to disable his vocalizer before the day was out."
"Be nice," Ratchet warned, narrowing his optics at his yellow bondmate. Sunny just gave him a bland look and didn't reply.
"He does tend to talk a lot," Wheeljack admitted mildly. "Or, er… constantly, actually." He shrugged. "It's kinda reassuring, really. As long as he's talking, I know there's nothing wrong with him. It's when he's quiet that I worry."
"Just figuring that out, are you?" Ratchet asked in a voice thick with sarcasm. In a gentler tone, he added, "So he told you what happened to him before he joined the Autobots, and why he talks so much?"
"Not in so many words, as odd as that may seem," Wheeljack replied. "But then, words aren't really necessary, are they?"
The medic's lips quirked upward in a small smile. "Not really, no," he murmured with a fond look toward Sunstreaker, who'd apparently lost interest in the conversation and found a rag somewhere to buff at some smudge, either real or imagined, on his armor. The Lamborghini glanced up at his bondmate with a crooked little half-smile before turning back to his obsessive polishing.
Wheeljack arched an optic ridge at the display; in a low voice, he asked, "How in the world do you put up with that narcissist?"
Ratchet sniffed in annoyance. "He has his redeeming qualities," he protested. "And you have to admit that he is beautiful, even if he's far too aware of it for his own good," he added in thoughtful amusement.
"He's certainly pretty," Wheeljack agreed, chuckling. "Prettier by far than most anything else you've dragged home before, and you were such a promiscuous wretch," he couldn't resist teasing.
"Hey!" Ratchet exclaimed, and Sunstreaker chortled and puffed up arrogantly, proving that he was paying more attention to them than he let on. The medic made a show of ignoring them both, going back to sorting his inventory.
Wheeljack turned his nameless little device over in his hands restlessly, mindlessly tweaking this component or that as the silence grew. To his surprise, it was Sunstreaker that broke it.
"He's a clingy little glitch," the Lamborghini said quietly. "Sides and I learned that a long time ago. He needs reassurance all the time—think you can handle it?" He watched the engineer with sharp optics. The other two mechs in the room were abruptly reminded that the twins used to share Bluestreak's berth, and they realized that the pair still watched out for the young gunner. Sunstreaker, in his own way, wanted to be sure that Wheeljack could give Blue what he required.
"I know what he's like—and I can deal with it. He needs me," the Lancia said insistently, and the yellow twin subsided, seemingly satisfied. Ratchet, too, looked pleased as he raised his optics to meet his friend's gaze.
"That's good," the medic murmured. "I'd hate to see either of you unhappy, 'Jack. You both deserve to be happy." Ratchet began to say more, but he stopped when he recognized the particular far-away expression on the inventor's face. He waited patiently for the distant optics to refocus, and couldn't help but smile himself when Wheeljack's vocal indicators flashed cheerfully and his optics crinkled in such a way that the ambulance knew he was grinning broadly beneath that mask.
"Hound just came in and took over his shift," he said excitedly. "Blue says that Prowl ran into him and told him what had happened, and that Hound said he deserved another day to 'get to know his bondmate better.' So he came in and relieved Blue and told him to get out of there." It was obvious that he was almost giddy at the thought—though it occurred to Ratchet that the engineer was most likely being heavily influenced by the gunner's emotions, as well.
"Well, then, what are you waiting for?" Ratchet demanded, chuckling. "Scram, you!" Wheeljack didn't have to be told twice, rushing out of the medbay as though the Unmaker himself was on his heels. First Aid and Swoop entered right after their creator cleared the doorway, and they looked askance at Ratchet, who laughed outright at the looks on their faces.
"He made up with Bluestreak," the elder medic explained, and understanding dawned in the two youngsters' optics. They exchanged looks; Swoop grinned widely, and First Aid's expression brightened visibly.
"It about time," Swoop said happily, clapping his fellow apprentice on the shoulder and making him stagger. The Protectobot did not protest the rough treatment, merely nodded agreeably.
"I'll agree with Swoop," he said, as he collected the material Ratchet had set out for them to study for the day, and then, in a bout of playfulness that he'd never really displayed before, mimicked the Dinobot's cheerful voice. "'It about time.'" Ratchet could not help but laugh.