Another one of my one-shots, this one featuring a little bit of Bumblebee/Arcee, but only vaguely. Again, like many of the one-shots, this could either be considered part of my "WE" continuality or as simply a stand alone one-shot. I hope you all enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers.
A Handful of Frozen Time
Bumblebee had an amazing gift. He made the war seem far away.
Even as battle waged on and fires still burned beyond the walls of Iacon, to even be within Bumblebee's presence made everything else seem to fade away.
"Arcee, look out!"
Blinking back to the present, the femme only had time to see a blur of yellow before she was hauled into a pair of strong arms and thrust against the protective wall of a hard, metal chest. Explosions rang around them. Shrapnel flew wildly. The roar of fires and destruction swelled. Still, the protective presence of the mech hunkered around her did not move.
As the rattling grew dimmer and the explosion carried off to raze another section, Arcee pushed herself out of the slackening embrace, searching for the optics of her saviour. She had not far to look, for his faceplate was only a breath above hers, and his optics had been searching for hers.
"Are you alright?" Even his voice soothed her inside.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Arcee assured, wriggled away to stand up. "You didn't need to do that, though. This is only a training simulation. I wasn't really going to get hurt."
Bumblebee twittered lightly, his optics sparkling. "Ironhide told us to treat this like a real battle- standing around daydreaming is not something you should be doing in battle," he teased.
Pursing her mouthplates, the sniper smacked him away. "I wasn't daydreaming," she retorted stubbornly.
Bumblebee prodded her, his smile wide and playful despite their surroundings. "Then what do you call standing in the open with a dreamy look in your optics?"
"Tactical recon on the enemy's position," she snapped back.
"Standing in the line of fire?"
She sniffed, turning her head away. "I'll be more careful where I stand next time."
Bluestreak dove into their ditch, back against the wall, rifle smoking at the muzzle. "They've really amped up the training simulations, haven't they?" he asked genially, not at all concerned with the illusion of destruction going on around them.
"Ironhide wants to test us," Bumblebee replied. "He wants to see if he's taught us anything."
"He's taught us so well that after this we'll be showing the master how it's done!" Bluestreak laughed, flipping around to lay in some rapid fire on the encroaching enemy. He counted four shots directly to the heads of the holo-'Cons before they shattered into a shower of pixels- a new record for his constantly improving sniper skills.
Arcee balked at the other shooter's skills, scrambling up onto the taller mechs' shoulders and steadied herself, taking aim, and then firing off seven rounds- each striking their own opponent and taking him down in a flurry of multi-coloured pixels. While Bluestreak looked a little put out, Bumblebee was a mask of delight.
"You've gotten good, Arcee," he said warmly, easing her down from between his and Blue's shoulders.
"Let's show Ironhide how much he's really taught us," she replied, now looked a little more determined to play this exercise through.
Moonracer's rounded faceplate suddenly appeared over the ledge. "Come on you three, you're behind! We're supposed to be advancing on them!"
"Oh, right!" Bluestreak scrambled topside after the femme, leaving Bumblebee and Arcee to their own devices.
Arcee glanced to Bumblebee, and he returned her look with a warm smile that made her spark skip a pulse. Once again she felt like she wasn't standing in the middle of a war zone.
"Hey… uh, we should get going, too," the yellow mech offered, breaking the moment. His optics still sparkled when they looked at her, but the expression was innocent. He had no idea about what was going on inside her processor, the thoughts concerning him.
"Yeah, sure," she shrugged, shaking her thoughts out. "Toss me up so I can lay in some cover fire for you." Having been a femme who willingly transferred out of the Femme Division without reformatting, Arcee had a distinct size difference between herself and the mechs and minibots she worked along side with, her frame being at the lower end of femme frame height range, bordering that of microbots; at first, the disparity in size was annoying, but after vorns of adjusting, she'd learned the advantages too.
"Ready?" he whispered, excited delight alive in his voice.
Arcee couldn't help the replying smile that stretched across her face. It didn't matter if they were in the middle of a real battle or just a simulation, walking through the halls of Iacon or sprinting through the burning warzone of the Cybertron, when Bumblebee's optics sparkled like that, staring directly at her like she was the only femme in the universe… everything slowed down. A single astrosecond could stretch on for eternity. She didn't mean to let her processor drift, caught as she was in the scouts sparkling gaze, so she gave her head a good shake and nodded firmly for the yellow mech.
"Okay, toss me."
Suddenly, she was soaring. With the wind whistling past her audio receptors, her frame twisted delicately in the air, she swung her bow-cannon around to take aim on the enemy. Targeting systems suddenly became wild with life, seeking out her opponents and delivering distance, time, angle, and force needed to destroy them.
Without thought, devoid of hesitation, the barrel of her weapon glowed hot before exploding several volleys of energy shots; it was a seemingly wild, wasteful cascade of power with no direct purpose of target. The hunkered down holo-'Cons processed the oncoming threat as minimal, seeing the marksmanship as inferior and nothing to worry about. Hissing in victory as her body continued to twist about, slowly beginning to drop from the air, Arcee let loose another round of shots, aimed for her previous barrage and hitting the flying blasts of plasma at the exact angle needed to throw them into the path of the creeping holo-'Cons.
Ironhide had taught her well.
From out in the burning ruins of the hologram warzone, someone whooped out Arcee's designation excitedly, cheering for her. Bumblebee joined in as he straightened up, deftly catching the falling femme in his cupped hands, and then curling around her as their opponents answered her attack with mortars and plasma of their own.
"You get better every time I see you in action," he murmured into her audio receptor.
"Thanks," she replied quietly, hoping that his sensors had not picked up the slight skip to her spark that occurred when she heard those softly uttered words. Once more, her frame was curled into Bumblebee's as if she had been designed to fit there, moulded to him, protected from the outside world by his protective arms, his sunshine-yellow armor. The world faded for an astrosecond, quieting ever so slightly. Her hand came up to lay gently against his chest plating, but when her gaze traveled up to his faceplate it was still smiling brightly, completely innocent and naïve to her internal dilemmas.
Quashing her useless unrequited feelings, she jerked her gaze away to appraise their situations, missing the shadow of disappointment that crossed Bumblebee's optics.
"You can let go of me now," she urged, trying to pry herself out of the scout's arms so that she did not succumb to the floating feeling her spark was trying to impress upon her being with his proximity.
"Not yet," he replied, the impish light in his optics returning. He threw her to his shoulder so that she sat astride it, grasping the side of his head for stability. "I have a few moves of my own to show off." He ducked low and took off at a sprint, faster than what Arcee thought his frame would allow. Suddenly, her seat below her was shifting as Bumblebee collapsed into his alt mode and Arcee found herself crouched on the wide, sleek top of a yellow serpentine beast revving like an animal as it streaked through the destruction. Stabilizers on either side were the only things allowing Arcee to stay on as her friend hit speeds that quite possibly would have outshone Blurr any orn.
"I don't remember you being this fast!" Arcee shouted, using her forearm pistol-cannon to keep encroaching 'Cons at bay.
"Mirage has been teaching me a whole lot about being able to increase my speed without overtaxing my frame's limits," Bumblebee shouted back. Ever since he's joined Intelligence and Espionage under Mirage and Hound's tutelage the scout had had nothing but a grin on his faceplate and bounce in his step. He enjoyed finally being treated like a mech instead of a youngling, like an equal.
Before Arcee knew what was happening, they were circling around the back of the 'Cons in a wide arc, zigzagging as the enemy took notice, and then screaming out of no mech's land as they completed their circuit.
Feeling the blistering heat of a fake energy discharge shoot past her head, Arcee's sharp feet dug into the mech she was riding. "What kind of half-bit fragging stunt was that?! You could have gotten us killed if this was real!"
"I was doing my job!" Bumblebee replied gleefully. "I was collecting information on that detachment's position and the extent of their dispersal!"
"The pit you were! Were you trying to get us killed?!" she spat, kicking the hard top of his alt mode.
"Of course not! I'm a scout! It's part of my function to gather information, not matter how dangerous the means of gathering it are!" He paused to send the collected information to all the bots participating in the exercise. "See, now everyone knows."
"What you did was just stupid! You could have gotten yourself hurt or maimed or killed!" she protested angrily. "What would I have told Ironhide?!"
"Oh, like you couldn't have gotten hurt daydreaming in the middle of a training exercise?" He huffed stubbornly. "What do you think Ironhide would have thought if I told him that?"
"Yeah, it is, because you would have let yourself get killed while I, on the other hand, wasn't even in danger of getting shot."
"What makes you so sure?" she hissed.
The yellow alt mode under her paused for all of a brief second, the vibrations slowing ever so slightly as Bumblebee replied to her impassioned demand.
"Because you're with me."
There was no acidic retort in her arsenal to those softly uttered words, the hint of determination edging them making her spark pause for a short moment.
"You're one of my best friends, Arcee. I'd never let anything happen to you," Bumblebee continued. "Besides, if I had let a single shot get through, I'd never hear the end of it from Ironhide. I'd be doing this tactical simulation 'till the end of time!"
"Yeah." The femme deflated ever so slightly. Why did she feel so disappointed? It wasn't like Bumblebee had ever shown any overt signs of being interested in her before, nor had she ever revealed to anyone her soft spot for the minibot. But, for the briefest of moments, she thought she might have had a hope, only to have it crushed.
Bumblebee picked up on the slightly breezy sigh in her voice. "Hey, hey, don't be like that. I didn't mean it that way- I'm not just protecting your aft because you're Ironhide's star pupil. Like I said, you're my best friend, Arcee. We've known each other since, well, forever. I'd never let anything happen to you."
Arcee smiled softly, nodding. "Don't worry about it, Bee. I knew what you meant," she assured.
"Oh, that's good."
They had known each other for practically forever; the orn Prime had brought the strange little sparkling in from the warzone was the first orn they'd encountered each other, Arcee being under Ironhide and Chromia's tutelage at the time, and Bumblebee being thrust into the weapons specialist's guardianship from that orn on. Even then, staring at the sparkling who was nearly the size of her, she'd known he was special.
And sometimes, just sometimes, when times like these came about, Arcee wondered if she should say something to the mech. Drop him a hint to let him know of her feelings for him. But every time the thought reared, she threw it away, buried it, pretended it didn't exist. They were in the middle of a war, after all. Neither of them could afford to put their sparks out there like that. Friendship would have to do.
They kept on driving in silence after that. It may have crossed Arcee's processor once to slide off Bumblebee's back and transform herself, but she found that the smooth hard top of the scout's alt mode was actually ridiculously comfortable once she shifted her weight a bit. Bumblebee made no move to ask her to get off, either. The fading effect happened again, where the training simulation drifted into the distance and it was simply her and Bumblebee in that moment in time.
Arcee shuttered her optics, not afraid of being hit by the non-lethal holo-rounds that were flying about. She wouldn't have even been afraid if they were live rounds. She knew Bumblebee had meant his words from the very bottom of his spark; he'd never let anything happen to her.
"Hey, Arcee, after we're done here… do you want to go to Nebula one for a cube of energon? I mean, if you're busy or something, that's okay-,"
"No, I'd love to go to Nebula One with you, Bumblebee," Arcee replied quickly. Sharing a cube at Iacon's makeshift "bar" wasn't a new routine between them, but it was a very enjoyable one.
"That's great! I was so worried that you had something planned with Moonracer or one of the other femmes!" Bumblebee replied, relief and excitement clear in his voice.
"It's no big deal. I wasn't planning on doing anything special." She'd actually agreed to go to the wash racks with Moonracer to help pry out some accumulated grime from under the femme's armor, but she could easily find someone else to help her with that.
"I'm so glad! I mean, you know about that rumour going around that I might be put in charge of my team, and if it turns out to be true, we might not be able to enjoy each other's company as much and I want to do it as much as possible before that happens."
"That's sweet of you, Bumblebee," Arcee laughed, keeping her voice light and teasing. She didn't let on that the offer actually made her feel a little giddy on the inside.
They swerved around the holographic corpse of a blown up mech, reminding them of exactly where they were and the complete contrast it was compared to their light conversation.
"You know, Ironhide's probably going to fritz at us for shirking off like this," Bumblebee pointed out.
"Wouldn't be the first time he's fritzed at us," Arcee replied.
"Maybe we should start heading towards the rendezvous point, then- you know, before somebody starts thinking we're dead."
She didn't reply right away, having to think about it for an astrosecond. "Not right yet, okay? Just a longer..." she sighed, one hand absently tracing patterns over Bumblebee's armor. "I kind of want to keep driving around a little more."
"In the middle of a warzone?"
"Ironhide's tastes are starting to rub off on you."
She shrugged. "I don't mind."
Bumblebee revved gently. "Neither do I."
They kept driving aimlessly, completely shirking whatever mission they were supposed to be undertaking at the moment. Somehow, this became more important.
Arcee sighed and let herself shift from side to side as Bumblebee turned and weaved at much safer speeds than the breakneck speeds he'd used to get through enemy territory. She knew the rumour of Bumblebee getting his own team wasn't just a rumour; Ironhide had let it slip of Chromia, who, in turn, let it slip to her. Once Bumblebee got the position, it would be a lot harder to hang out as they had in the past.
It felt as if she were holding on to a handful of frozen time. Every moment she spent with Bumblebee felt as if time had slowed down for them personally, drawing out the course of their encounter to near infinite measure. But, now, those moments had become grains in her hands, slipping through her fingers too quickly, losing more as the astroseconds ticked by. She might as well in enjoy the time she had left.
"You know, Bumblebee, I really enjoy the time we have together," she said quietly, carefully.
There was a moment of silence where Arcee thought Bumblebee might not have heard her, but then his engine hummed a little louder. "I enjoy our time, to-,"
But before he could continue, the entire world around them suddenly shattered into a shower of pixels. They suddenly found themselves alone at the far end of a very large arena, the rest of their team at the other end by the doors, Ironhide at the head of the pack watching them with narrowed optics.
"This isn't good," Bumblebee sighed.
"No, it's not." Ironhide growled through the open team channel, making the two of them jump. They'd completely forgotten to turn theirs off, which meant the entire team and the evaluators had been privy to their entire exchange.
A private message was suddenly sent to Bumblebee, the sender identified as Bluestreak. Upon opening the message, the words 'you're in trouble!' became embarrassingly apparent.
Arcee slowly slid off of Bumblebee's alt mode, allowing the mech to transform and stand up. They both stood awkwardly at the far end of the room, optics cast to floor as their mentor/guardian glared at them.
"I'm disappointed in the two of you," he growled.
"Don't blame Arcee, Ironhide," Bumblebee urged. "I was the one driving around- I could have transformed back at any time-."
"No, I was the one who asked to keep driving! Bumblebee had wanted to get back to everyone else-."
"Does it matter who's at fault? Neither of you did anything to stop the other, so you equally have something to be blamed for. Where in the pit do you two get off thinking that it's all right to abandon your team mates in order to simply drift about like a pair of lovesick younglings?" The accusation sent a hot zing through them. "If this had been real, someone could have died because of your foolishness."
"Sorry, sir," Bumblebee murmured softly.
"It won't happen again," Arcee said.
"It better not or else I'll lock the both of you away in the brig, in separate cells so you won't be able to enjoy each other's company."
Embarrassment burned hotly under their armor as the rest of their team laughed. Ironhide did nothing to soften his voice or his harsh gaze. There was an irritated snort through the comm. channel before he spoke again.
"As it stands, since you enjoy each other's company so much, why don't you enjoy for the rest of the day, running this program until you get it absolutely right. Just the two of you."
They groaned miserably, sagging on their feet. It would have been suicide to try and object, so they remained silent, listening as the old mech issued their orders, giving them no quarter as he ordered the others away and named himself sole evaluator for the rest of Bumblebee's and Arcee's training, meaning they were going to be put through pit and back and he didn't want any witnesses to their torture.
As the training room emptied and Ironhide turned to reset the program, Bumblebee glanced down to the small femme at his side, smiling softly when she returned his gaze. He sent her a private message of his own.
'We still on for Nebula One after?'
She sent her reply quickly. 'Wouldn't miss it for the world.'
She didn't miss the way the mech's optics lit up went he received the message, nor the way his hand reached down and grabbed hers a little more tightly than he normally would have as the simulation started over and they were thrust back into the war. He was still naïve, still unaware of the way he made the world distant when he was with her, and she was still reluctant to ruin the friendship she treasured so closely.
Absently, she wondered if there would ever come a time when Bumblebee would look at her with more than innocent friendship in his optics and she would not have to hide her optics from him so he would not see the feelings deeper than friendship simmering in them.
Arcee spared a glance to their clasped hands, his large one wrapped around her dainty one. Maybe, with his hands helping her, they'd be able to hold on to their handful of frozen time a little harder, enjoy each other a little longer.