He probably should have known better.
More inebriated than he could ever recall being, Skyfire lurched upright, gawking dazedly at the impassive stars. A delightful, warm numbness spread from his spark, tingling along his various sensor patches, and suffusing his very being with a sense of rightness. It was a strange phenomenon; somewhere between having his sensory perceptions on hyperaware status, and being dead out in recharge. He decided he rather liked it, despite the general sluggishness of his reactions, and the lapse in his optics. Not as if he really needed to be fast. He had, with much conviction about the matter, absolutely no intention of ever walking again, in any case. It was too nice to just lie there and experience the singular joy of overcharge in all its woozy wonder.
Overcharge. That wasn't right. He was no lightweight, after all, prone to slip under the table from such a small amount as one cube, even if it was high-grade.
Images drifted through his mind, little sparks of recollection; dim, faded around the edges, but potent nonetheless. Apparently, as one became further inebriated, counting became difficult; an unfortunate fact he had not entered into his earlier acceptance. He squinted, trying to focus through the miasma of his energon-soaked haziness, optics scanning for his partner in intoxication.
Empty energon containers littered the ground between them, across the cold stone of a dead world. Some distance away, Starscream lay sprawled in an apparent stupor, arms crossed contentedly over his chest. One foot twitched restlessly, and the jet squirmed, riding out another aftershock of too much energon and too little motion.
"I… I think I had more than one," Skyfire grunted to his prone companion, lethargically rolling over to rest on his front, chin flat against the dirt.
"Mm?" Hummed the stymied lump of steel and wiring that had once been Starscream.
"I said, I think I had more than one," Skyfire wobbled as he rose to his knees, his sense of balance shifting somewhere to his left. Accordingly, he followed the directions of his gyroscopes, and promptly clanked down onto his side. A cloud of dusty grit rose around him, settling nicely onto his white frame in skirls of brown and grey. "Oh," He mumbled, frowning, batting the air away from his face in a futile gesture. The motes, caught by the wind of his arm's passage, only hastened to their destinations, while he ended up haplessly throwing up more of the grime to swirl languidly through the thin air. His vision obscured by a thin glaze of powdery sand resting upon his optics' lenses, he gave up the fight, surrendering to his new coating.
He would have to have Starscream wash him again, after they went back to Cybertron. If he remembered it all rightly, and he was reasonably certain he did, that had been an extremely nice cleaning. The best he'd ever had.
A dopey smile crossed his face, his optics brightening and dimming behind their shroud of grey. "It was very nice," He said companionably, grinning at the eddies in the dirt. "I quite enjoyed it all."
There was a guffaw somewhere in the general vicinity of the tetrajet, followed by a rather garbled, "I think you did, too," and a general shifting of metal on sand. "On both counts."
"I probably shouldn't have done that," Skyfire muttered, to what ends he was not certain of, and tottered forward on his hands and knees, not daring to risk standing again after his last mishap. He crawled to Starscream, on a whimsy, and flopped down with a great, contented sigh by the jet's side, the residue of the dead world puffing up and around them both like agitated flies.
Lazily, Starscream tilted his head to regard him, and his newfound post; the motion taking far longer than it usually did as his processors lagged. A deeply satisfied smirk crossed his face, twisting lopsidedly upward, and his gaze softened somewhat from its customary hauteur. It did wonders for his features, normally so harsh and aloof, with his lips no longer arranged in angles so severe. The gentleness, so alien upon his face, made him all the more attractive, much in the way a sunrise could make even the steepest, most jagged of cliffs forgiving with its muted glow.
Skyfire decided that he rather liked the expression, and met it with a hesitant smile of his own, in the hopes that he could encourage it to stay.
As if remembering himself, and his ways, the softness flitted away, immediately replaced with the sardonic sort of glee such crooked smiles usually held. "It was fun. Don't lie." Starscream chuckled with obvious delight, raking his optics over a disappointed Skyfire's dust-covered form. He prodded the shuttle's side with one finger, leaving a white dot amidst the grey-brown. "You're a mess."
With a rather disjointed reply, the inebriated scientist reached out, and drew the indolent jet closer, snuggling the smaller body against him. It seemed like a good idea to lay his arm across Starscream's middle, to help keep him on the ground before they both drifted off into space. Yes. Even better to curl his fingers around the armor, just for a better anchorage. And why not, while he was at it, nuzzle against the top of Starscream's head? It was all for the greater good. His mind wandered, and something about water pressure floated lazily by his consciousness, and sunrises of distant worlds.
"Didn't know you were a cuddler," The jet in his arms chided, voice dropping into the husky. Was it just his imagination, or had the body beside his wriggled closer, despite the light admonishment?
"Mmm," Not entirely lucid, Skyfire began to run his mostly lax hand along Starscream's flanks, chuckling at the pleased purr of turbines. He felt a shifting in the small form beside him, and moved his hand accommodatingly as Starscream twisted onto his side, folding his wings back to allow the new posture.
The shuttle's optics flickered when a smaller hand slithered up his abdomen and over his torso shortly thereafter, curling possessively around him.
Skyfire sighed again, great puffs of dust rising from his lips, petting the captured jet absently, leaving trails of streaky sand in his wake. He felt an incredible sense of peace overtake him, all those annoying things that usually fluttered about his head thoroughly silenced by the sweet high-grade singing through his fuel lines. Memories, freed by a faltering processor, floated in and out of his mind, disconnected little parts of conversations and events from different parts of his life. Some more insistently than others.
"Do you remember when we met?" The question bubbled up out of nowhere, thoroughly out of any context. Nevertheless, he decided to go along with the trend, as thinking up a different query would require far too much mental effort.
Starscream paused, and Skyfire all but swore he could hear the jet's central processor slogging through energon to grasp at his memory banks. "Um, yes. I think the main lab exploded that day," He said, after a few moments of consideration. "Why?"
"I thought you were kind of pretty. Think, I mean," He amended, running a digit between the seams of those angular wings that had so long eluded him. When the tetrajet didn't object, he hooked a finger under ailerons, and flapped them back and forth, thoroughly entertained by their motion.
"Oh?" Starscream murmured, a quiet laugh under his voice. The arm around Skyfire's waist jerked, jarring the shuttle's hand away from the ticklish ailerons, and he reluctantly gave off his sport.
"I mean now, and then. Both. At the same time, but not exactly, because they were – are – different times, in fact," Skyfire clarified, resuming his previous path between the seams of wings, rewarded for his efforts by a quiet hum of contentment.
Reveling in the pleasant fuzziness that flooded his systems – both from the high grade and the proximity of their bodies, he tilted his head lower, dropping his deep voice into something resembling a whisper. "Dunno why. Didn't like little jets before. Loud ones especially, for that matter. Thought they were annoying." He hesitated, optics flickering in consternation, then, with great gentleness, broke the news: "You are rather annoying, sometimes."
"My, wherever did you learn to talk so sweetly?" Starscream's voice all but dripped with sarcasm, and he prodded at the shuttle's side. "Please, by all means, go on singing my praises. It's all so very flattering."
Skyfire chuckled dumbly, a number of verbal responses darting beyond his immediate ken, and took to running his hand a little more insistently in lieu of pursuing his previous tangent. Something tugged at the back of his mind, something sharp and cold like rational thought, so he pushed it away, concentrating on the warm murkiness of a heavy overcharge, losing himself in what daring it could provide. "I've been thinking about you a lot, lately. You and me. Us. We," He ran out of pronouns, and lapsed into a philosophical silence, feeling deeply limited by the range of language.
A wing, cool and magnificently tangible beneath his questing hand, shivered unexpectedly, not at all by what he had been doing, and he felt as if a great deal of attention was suddenly focused upon him. Mutedly startled, he waited patiently for Starscream to say something – something no doubt witty and cutting and clever as always – but no words came forth. He wondered if he had said the wrong thing, had somehow offended his partner. That would have been most unpleasant, he decided; if Starscream got agitated now, he would probably never let Skyfire play with his ailerons again, and that would be a tragedy on a cosmic scale.
Made inconsolably morose by the very notion, his finger twitched up, and pushed the flap up and down with a rather endearing squeak. Oh, yes, a horror not worth contemplating.
Jolting in surprise, Starscream bucked away, rattled by the tickling invasion. "What were you saying?" He said abruptly, as if the words had been torn from his vocalizer by some implacable force. With effort he propped himself up, putting himself optic to optic with Skyfire. "What were you saying just then?"
"Oh… nothing," Skyfire sighed gustily. The aileron he had played with was out of convenient range. He would have to shift, now, if he were to reach it again, which was quite impossible, considering how very comfortable he was. Instead, he let his optics drift over and around Starscream, thinking that he should perhaps draw back to spare them some distance, but not particularly inclined to. "You're quite dusty," He informed the jet apologetically.
"Yes, yes, I know that, but," Slurred by the high-grade, his words blurred together, becoming a jumbled mass of syllables, nigh unintelligible from one another. "What was that, that all you were going on about, just then, with us and we?"
Not up to the task of interpreting the mass of almost-words, Skyfire tilted his head back, as if a wider view would give him a better understanding of the jet's point. "What?"
Starscream gave him a very blank, if vaguely hostile, look, that was, in and of itself, its own new emotion that defied explanation and reason. "We?"
"We what?" He paused, and thought of the order of words, sounding them out to better ease his greatly inhibited mental processes. "What we?" But understanding did not come, and his optic ridges drew low in contemplation at the profound differences between such similar sentences.
There was a curious, flat silence, and suddenly all of that focus that had been turned upon him seemed to drain away. "Oh," Said the jet, quietly, withdrawing his arm, and then scooting away. "Never mind, then."
Not quite following, Skyfire spent a bewildered moment struggling to comprehend the sudden gulf between their bodies, and the lack of tangibility beside him. His hand, of late exploring realms only imagined of, fell on empty air, and unfeeling dust. No, no, no, some part of his still-functioning psyche whined, flailing its metaphorical arms and legs in a fit of incomprehension. Come back, come back—
"Come back," He mewled plaintively, reaching out with one wavering hand. "I didn't mean to say it, I won't say it again," He promised, thinking if he swore not to speak of the dangerous 'us' again, the jet might return to him.
But Starscream did not venture toward him again, staring at some space beyond the dead planet between them. "I, I didn't think about what I was doing. I suppose I assumed that… it was rather stupid of me, wasn't it? Putting so much emphasis on such a silly, fleeting thing. Well, not that much. I don't really care one way or another. Really." The jet said with a bitter sort of wistfulness, a smile that was not at all a smile twisting up again, some note of self-mockery evident within its warped symmetry. "I understood what you meant by it perfectly well. You don't have to say it again."
Skyfire did not at all like this turn of events. Stammering, he began, "I'm sorry; I can't help it. I've been thinking, and thinking, and I don't know, I just, I want you to, us to…" He trailed off uncertainly when the words failed to help his cause, grasping in vain at a coherent sentence. It eluded his grasp, slipping ever farther into the dazed recesses of his mind. Trying anew, he said, "I'm…" before again falling into that disoriented, baffled silence, and feeling more damage was done still.
"It's not that important," Starscream said suddenly, huffily, looking at anywhere but the flummoxed shuttle. "It never was. Not as if I need you. I got along just fine before, after all." He said scornfully, tottering to his feet, staring out at the horizon as if he suddenly willed it to burst into flames. "Not in the slightest. I can do perfectly well on my own."
Panicky now, Skyfire lumbered to sit upright, reeling, feeling as if something very dear and precious to him were slipping through his fingers, retreating to the far reaches of impossibility. Floundering helplessly, he shook his head, some cynical part of him intoning: nothing for it now, might as well have out with it.
"I've been thinking about us so often," He said quickly, remorsefully. "Sometimes it's all that I can think about."
Starscream's head jerked toward him, and he glared with sudden, wounded fury at Skyfire, as if some immense hurt had just been callously jostled. His mouth opened to make some blistering remark—
But Skyfire had already moved, heaving forward and onto his knees to plaster a hand over the jet's mouth before a rebuff could form. "Please, just, if you don't want to listen to it, fine, but I, I have to say it all, or this will," He waved his free hand, struggling for the proper sentence to order his chaotic, hysteric thoughts in. "Otherwise this all will end messily, and I don't want you to… for there to be anger between us."
The red optics, the only part of Starscream's face visible over Skyfire's massive palm, narrowed, but his head twitched up and down once, in a sullen nod.
"I, I wanted to tell you that," He took a moment to steady himself when he would have listed aside, only dogged willpower keeping him upright. "I can't help but look at you, and want you, and I thought that if I ignored it all it would go away and it didn't, and I'm sorry, because I would- I want to stay with you, even if you don't feel the same, and I promise I won't talk about it anymore, but, if you don't want to be around me any longer, I, I, just, please, just stay for a little while longer. Please. Please stay."
As he had spoken, Starscream's optics had widened by leaps and bounds, until they were very nearly perfect circles of carmine. Still wearing the expression of absolute shock, he said something, the words lost behind Skyfire's flattened hand, transmogrified into a lilting murmur of sound.
Skyfire, sheepish, he pulled the offending limb back to allow the jet to speak. For some, inexplicable reason he was relieved that he had finally broken down, and yet somehow all the more terrified for that fact. Exposed, on some level. "… What did you say?" He managed, after a few, tense moments of silence.
"Great Primus, shuttles are so stupid," Starscream hissed abruptly, with acid in his tone. "Could you get any more convoluted, you great floundering idiot?"
Before Skyfire had time to let the rather unkind remark sink in past his muddled servos, there was a sudden, heavy weight colliding with him, sending him sprawling backwards into the dust. Mostly by instinct, his arms went forward to grasp at the threat, and he stared upward at the stars that blanketed the sky, quite at a loss. "What?" He said, for what felt like the hundredth time, deeply and profoundly perplexed when the object – which he quickly identified as a rather peeved Starscream – punched his cockpit rather hard, and then flopped down gracelessly to clasp him once again.
"I can't believe you were so inane by accident. By Iacon, you make no sense, you silly thing!" It was an odd medley of emotion, all boiled together in his tone; breathless irritation, colored over with a veneer of weak-kneed incredulity, and, incongruous to his words, he pulled Skyfire all the closer, as if seeking some sort of osmosis. "This, this is why I never look for shuttles."
"I think I might have missed something important," Skyfire uttered, in a sonorous voice of grave puzzlement. But he looked down and, abruptly, decided that it wasn't very important that he understood it; only that it had happened. "You're not upset?" He folded his great arms around the body so suddenly, blessedly near again, a heady sense of joy bubbling up in his spark.
"Of course I'm upset, you great lummox! Don't you know how long I've been waiting around on you?"
"So – so this whole time…?" Skyfire stuttered, feeling quite the fool.
"Yes, with no help from you. Primus, you took so long, that I thought—" He broke off suddenly, clearly loathing to drift back to such unpleasantness.
"But why didn't you say anything, then?" Aghast, Skyfire struggled against the commands of his gyroscopes, forcing himself to incline at a better slant to stare down disbelievingly.
Starscream gave him a frank look, blandly stating: "I like to be pursued."
He gave himself a few moments to process the remark, past his inebriation. When it did, he groaned aloud, feeling a static migraine starting up somewhere in the leftmost region of his cranium. "Oh, by the Towers and the Pits," He muttered, slumping back as, all at once, the nervous, tense energy that had so sustained him abandoned him in a rush, leaving only dizziness in its absence. "You – you're so contrary," He wailed quietly, shutting off his optics. "If I wasn't overcharged, I don't think any of this would make sense. Even then, it doesn't make a great deal."
"It hasn't made sense from the onset; why start now?" Starscream challenged, now a distinct, heavy slur in his voice. His hand slipped down, and suddenly drifted along the side of the reeling shuttle's nosecone, evoking both sensors and scandalously vivid memories. Skyfire gave a strangled gasp, surprised by the brazen move, and his optics came back online in a blaze of azure light.
"Sensitive area?" Teased the jet primly, tapping one finger against the side of his plating, all painfully false innocence.
Mortification bid Skyfire to fling himself into the nearest sun as realization dawned. Hunching his shoulders, he rebooted his vocalizer needlessly once, then again, before meekly inquiring, "You, ah, you knew about that?"
"Tch. Of course. I did it on purpose," Starscream said archly, quite well pleased with himself.
"Oh," Skyfire said slowly, wondering how long it would take him to reach the nearest star. "Oh. I see." But then a hand slid down his side, alerting him again to the welcoming presence half atop him, and he had no more room to think of such things as petty, life-threatening embarrassment in the sudden tangle of limbs that followed.
It was not the most graceful affair; but then, with such heavy levels of energon consumed as they had, it rarely was. In both their minds, in later recollection, it would come across as a blurred hodgepodge of images and sensations, and perhaps it was for the better. A great part of it was trial and error – though mostly error, as intoxication generally made limb coordination a chore in and of itself.
Afterward, of course, they flopped down together and went into a deep stupor, contented to the point where exhaustion, at last, could lay claim to them. In this routine they continued for a margin of short cycles, until, inevitably, energy began to run short, and reluctantly their conversation turned towards returning home.
"I can't help but feel faintly used, in all of this. At a disadvantage." Skyfire said with a drowsy sort of cheerfulness, more relaxed than he could remember being, for the last few cycles at the institute. It was unfortunate they would have to return so very soon; but they had gotten no leave, both expecting it to be a simple, short jaunt.
"Used?" Starscream parroted for the sake of conversation, still quite willing to slip back into recharge – and slag the institute to the Pit for all he cared – curled placidly against Skyfire's side. He made a small, unhappy sound when Skyfire shifted, peering down at the half-dozing tetrajet with a reprimanding mien, and clutched useless in an attempt to keep the larger mechanism in place.
"First you attack me in the wash rack," Skyfire waited for the disbelieving guffaw to subside, before continuing on persistently. "And then you proceed to take advantage of my inebriated state to ply your wiles—"
"You were the one who—" Indignant, Starscream started to pull himself up, only to be restrained by the gentle but firm hand resting upon his waist.
"Now, hush, let me finish," Skyfire chided, repressing a grin. "And leaving me here all the while in the dark to your machinations. I mean, you took advantage of me, while I was intoxicated. On purpose. It seems, now that I think of it, somewhat imbalanced, not to mention morally questionable. Thus, I believe a compensation for my abused person is in order."
"Compensation? Abused? I don't see why you—oomph!" Starscream, not expecting the roll, stared up with a charming, all-too-rare timid nervousness, thoroughly pinned beneath Skyfire's bulk.
"No, fair's fair, I think," He overrode whatever statement the trapped jet might have made, determined to make the most of his liquid courage. Looking down, he gave his captive a long, thoughtful perusing, frowning sternly. His confidence was greatly improved by their mutual admissions, and he found himself in wonderment that he could have so long avoided such bliss as he had found, on such a long dead planet.
Starscream squirmed, disliking to be at such a vulnerability as he was presented at. "What?" He snapped, dredging up some hint of his usual acerbic tone. "Why are you staring like that?"
"Starscream…" Skyfire said, leaning down until they were nose to nose. He smiled, lips curling into what, he supposed, was an all-but perfect imitation of Starscream's own wicked smirk, and his optics raked the smaller jet's dust-coated face.
I am going to break my own taboo and do an end note, because I am probably sending out a horrible message to everyone: getting drunk fixes everything. D: