A/N -A character study piece I did as a reference for an exchange. Hangtime was supposed to be a throwaway character, but now I'm considering keeping the guy. :D If Waterspout's world-view seems a bit counter-intuitive, that's because it is. The Autobots don't get him either. The Decepticons think he's kinda fun to kick.

x-xxx-x

Everything hurt. He was lying on the ground, surrounded in darkness.

Where am I? What happened? ... We were patrolling Sector Three... the Decepticons...

The Decepticons!

Hangtime struggled to sit up, to find his weapon-

Hands caught him, pushing him back down. "Easy," murmured an unfamiliar voice. Fingers felt along the back of his head. There was a soft snap, and his vision cleared.

"That's better," the strange mech said with a nod. Red optics glowed behind a visor, watching him calmly.

"Decepticon!" Startled fear blocked the pain as Hangtime grabbed for his weapon again. He seized the strange mech by a shoulder plate, jamming the barrel of his gun under the other's chin. "One move, and I empty my clip into your processor," he growled.

Head forced up by the gun barrel, Hangtime's captive raised empty hands in surrender. "Easy! I'm not a Decepticon. I'm here to help."

"And why should I believe a fragging word you say, scum?" Hangtime's finger tightened on the trigger.

"Well, to start with, if I was a Decepticon, I probably would have disarmed you," his captive pointed out reasonably, a slight tremor in his voice and rotors betraying his anxiety.

"My team. Where are they?" Hangtime demanded, not loosening his grip.

"I don't know. I found you and the little one – Filch, I think he calls himself – and brought you back here. Your friend's scouting around outside," he added. "Could you move the gun? I'd really rather not get shot today."

Hangtime pushed him away, keeping his weapon trained. "If you're lying, I'm going to gut you myself," he told the stranger flatly.

The other managed a weak smile. "Good thing I'm not, eh? You should lay back; you're still hurt."

As if on cue, pain shot through Hangtime's side and chest. He slumped, shuddering.

Catching the Autobot carefully, the other mech eased him back to the floor. "I'm Waterspout, by the way," he said conversationally as he checked Hangtime's wounds.

The door hissed open. "Hey, Hangtime! You're awake!" the little mech called cheerfully, skipping in. "Guess I can't sell you for parts then, eh?"

"Go rotate your extruder valve," Hangtime growled, trying to hide his relief at Filch's arrival. His sometime-partner seemed none the worse for wear, just dented and scuffed a bit in places .

Filch looked him over, taking in the rifle still in his hand, and the way he leaned ever-so-slightly away from the medic. Waterspout was working with his head down, rotors tucked tight against his back. "Oi, you trying to shoot our allies again? Come on, Hangy, you know that it's hard to get people to help us when you keep threatening to dismember them."

"I did not!" Hangtime protested, glaring.

"This time," Filch teased. "I spotted a couple of seeker tail-fins poking around the west wall," he told Waterspout. "Looked more bored than anything else."

The medic nodded, snapping the access panel in Hangtime's leg closed. "I'm fairly sure that they don't realize that you're still alive."

Hangtime winced, easing away from the neutral and into a more comfortable position. "Let's keep it that way."

x-x-x

The cycles passed in monotony for Hangtime. Unable to stand without aid, much less walk or transform, he was stuck sitting around, watching the walls rust. Filch spent most of his time out somewhere, doing something.

Scavenging, most likely, Hangtime thought with a trace of disgust. The war had forced the Autobots to resort to stripping abandoned cities – and sometimes bodies – to survive, but Hangtime didn't have to like it.

Waterspout slipped into the room, pulling his rotors in as he ducked through the doorway. "How are you feeling?" he asked quietly, stepping over to Hangtime.

"Bored," Hangtime growled. He shifted to let the medic examine his side. "You should be an Autobot," he said suddenly.

"Heh. Me? Hardly," Waterspout snorted.

"Why not?" the warrior demanded. "We could use someone with your skills, and you could use the backup-"

"Because the Autobots are wrong," Waterspout broke in. "And I won't be a part of it."

"What?" Hangtime was floored by the response. "We're fighting to save Cybertron! We risk our lives to save those hurt and oppressed by the Decepticons!"

"No, you risk your lives to win," the medic said roughly. "This war is not about saving people, it is, and always has been, about control. Control of the government, of fuel, or each other..."

"Are we supposed to just stand aside and let the Decepticons take over?" Hangtime demanded, pulling away from Waterspout. "And let them do whatever they want?"

"Yes," Waterspout said flatly. Hangtime stared at him, stunned. "You've seen what this war has done to our world-"

"Because of the Decepticons!"

"Of course, the Autobots have magical weapons that only kill evil people, and never drop buildings on innocent civilians," Waterspout bit back. "Our world is in ruins! Can you look at the casualty lists and honestly say that Decepticon rule would have been worse? That more people would suffer? Is there anyone who hasn't been hurt by the war?"

"How dare you judge us," Hangtime growled. "You're too cowardly to fight, so you make excuses-"

Waterspout's visor flashed. "Believe what you want," he snapped. "I can't stop you. But it won't change the fact that innocent people die everyday because of your arrogant stubborn greed-"

Hangtime's fist caught him in the faceplate, buckling metal and sending him crashing to the floor. The warrior glared down at him, hands clenched.

Optics unreadable, Waterspout pushed himself to his feet, rotors pulled back tightly. He turned sharply and stalked out without a word, leaving Hangtime to stew.

x-x-x

The atmosphere in the hideout was strained. Even the irrepressible Filch had picked up on the tension between the warrior and the medic, and had started to spend as much time as he could out scouting.

Hangtime fumed in silence, ignoring Waterspout whenever the medic checked his wounds. For his part, Waterspout didn't seem inclined to continue their earlier argument. Just as well, Hangtime thought to himself angrily. I'm not sure I'd able to resist putting a shot in his face next time, instead of just my fist.

Filch skidded in the door, interrupting Hangtime's train of thought. "Decepticons! They spotted me out by the old factories; I don't think they followed me, but they definitely know we're here."

"Primus' foot in a smelter, Filch! What the slag did you do?" Hangtime struggled to his feet.

"It's not like I planned this!" Filch hissed. "Less whining, more moving." He darted back and forth, snatching up gear. "Even if they didn't follow me, it's not going to be long before they find this place, now that they know to look. I hope you're up to moving, buddy, because we've got to go."

"I'll keep up," Hangtime gritted out, grabbing his rifle. "If we keep low, we might be able to slip around the backside of the-"

"Take the tunnels," Waterspout advised them from the doorway to the back room. "The maintenance shafts will take you out to the watch towers. The security systems were stripped for parts ages ago, so it should be a relatively clear shot right to the edge of town."

"And you?" Filch asked. "Come with us."

Waterspout shook his head. "The more people sneaking, the more likely that they'll all be caught. Besides, I wouldn't be much help in a firefight, but I might be able to cover your tracks."

The sound of approaching jet engines cut off Hangtime's response. He allowed himself to be herded to the exit. Filch darted down the maintenance tunnel, but Hangtime hesitated, turning back to the medic. "You don't have to do this."

"Don't be so dramatic," Waterspout said dismissively, waving Hangtime off. "I'm in a whole lot less danger than you are."

"Until they realize you've been sheltering us," Hangtime reminded him flatly.

"Well, then don't get caught, eh? Now get out of here before they break down the door."

Reluctantly, Hangtime followed Filch down the passageway. As injured as he was, he wouldn't be much use if it came to a fight. Even walking hurt; fighting was out of the question. And while Waterspout's repair skills might be enough for the Decepticons to spare him, they wouldn't show the medic mercy if they found him aiding Autobots.

Hangtime's fists clenched. It still felt like he was turning tail and running. He limped on anyway, as Waterspout closed and hid the door behind him. Filch was waiting anxiously down the passage for him, shifting nervously from foot to foot.

Moments later, a loud crunch and raised voices announced the arrival of the Decepticons.

"Well, well. I get reports of Autobots scrambling around loose in my sector, and then I find a whiny little Autobot sympathizer conveniently taking up residence right where Spinbreaker lost track of the Autoscum." A cold voice rumbled, audible even through the walls. "What are the odds that it's a coincidence?"

A hand grabbed Hangtime's arm. "There's nothing we can do," Filch hissed. "We're in no shape to fight a squad of drones, much less trained Decepticon warriors! You go back there, and all you'll do is get killed along side him."

"Am I supposed to let them kill him just because he tried to help us?" Hangtime demanded quietly. "We're the ones they're after, Filch, not him!"

"They won't spare him if you go charging in there. They'll kill you, then they'll kill him." The minibot kept a firm hand on his partner's arm, his optics serious. "He's got a better chance by himself."

Reluctantly, the warrior nodded. Filch was right, but that didn't stop him from feeling like a coward as he walked away, trying not to flinch at the wet crunch and cry of pain that filtered through the wall.