This is a part of the immense world I have begun to weave, known as the "WE" continuality, although, like many of the other expansion one-shots, this one can be read as a stand-alone. But, for all those who are following these one-shots as part of the "WE" continuality, I just want to say my sincerest thanks to all of you. I think the world of you and when I see your reviews, they light up my day. Since these one-shots are designed to give my readers a better understanding of the characters I've been using/developing throughout the course of "WE", if there were any other characters that anyone wished to see with their own personal one-shot to get to know them better, drop me a PM with your suggestion and I'll see what I can do!
This is sort of a companion piece to "What's it feel like to be a Ghost?" See the dark, dark world through Sunstreaker's optics as he's looking back at Sideswipe.
Before I Fade Away
The only reason Sunstreaker was still alive was because a part of him belonged to his brother, Sideswipe.
While his frame could be beaten to slag, his innards pulverized, his processor stepped on, ripped up, scrambled across the ring, he would still be alive. Even when every last shred of civility and sense was torn away from him and the thirst for the fight took over, when everything within died and became a roar for death and violence, that single, integral part of him, his spark, would always remain within Sideswipe, alive and pulsing.
If anything were to happen to Sideswipe though...
"Is… Is he going to be okay?" Sunstreaker asked, waiting anxiously in the wake of his question, his low voice resonating dully in the dreary med bay found in Kaon's gladiatorial circuit.
Moonfly, the assistant medic seeing to Sideswipe, glanced up from her work with chronically dull optics, surveying the golden gladiator. "It's hard to say," she replied, returning to her work.
A flicker of irritation passed over his features. "It's a yes or no question," he growled.
Again, Moonfly paused, this time allowing her tiny hands to shift from their tool mode back to their original form. She was tiny compared to Sunstreaker, designed to fit into the tight spots on a damaged mech and conduct repairs where normal sized medics couldn't reach; she was tiny enough to fit into the palm of his hand. Or crush beneath his fist, if need be.
"It may be a yes or no question, but it is a maybe answer," she replied, staring up at the mech towering over her with something that might have been sympathy if she had been programmed with it. She reached out a hand and patted Sunstreaker's own where he gripped the berth his brother laid on. "Perhaps it would be wise for you to leave for the time being," she advised.
"I don't want to leave him," Sunstreaker replied firmly, optics raking the broken form laid out before him. A patchwork of red paint and oozing energon, barely clinging to life as it was. The overwhelming throb of pain in his chassis was damn near immobilizing; he could feel Sideswipe's agony. Even in the red mech's unconscious state, Sunstreaker was still able to feel the pure wretched torture of his brother.
The medic's continued flat gaze bore into him. "Sunstreaker, please, leave your brother to me," she urged calmly. "I have seen to you many times before and I assure you that Sideswipe will be cared for in the same manner. I swear, I will do my best for him."
"I can't leave him," Sunstreaker repeated, darker now. The bond prevented him from moving. The agony that tied him to Sideswipe held him fast as if it were a physical presence. Were he to stretch the intangible thread between them any further by leaving, it felt as if all they held between them would unravel and Sideswipe would be no more.
No more smiles. No more jokes, or pranks, or silly things that would annoy the slag out of him.
No more goodness.
No more light.
It was such a paradox, the situation. Sunstreaker was usually the one hurt, the one barely left alive after a bout in the ring. Sideswipe was supposed to be the one standing next to the berth on the verge of breaking down.
Sideswipe was supposed to be the one keeping Sunstreaker alive.
Not the other way around.
This way hurt more.
"Sunstreaker, please listen to me," the medic pressed. "You have a match in a few joors and the Master will want you in top form for the fight. If he thinks you're lacking, you know nothing good will come of it." She sighed and tried to adopt a pleading expression, but her emotional programming was limited and her imitations lacked imagination. "Do leave to get some rest. I promise you, I will contact you the moment his condition changes; for better or for worse."
The hollow ice-like blue of the mech's optics dimmed and he looked away.
Again, the medic touched his hand, her expression sombre. "You have my word, Sunstreaker. I will do everything in my power for him."
Still, he refused to budge.
Moonfly sighed and shook her tiny head. She returned to the red mech, carrying on with repairs. "He would not want you to mope," she murmured softly, aware that the mech she was speaking with was possibly one of the most volatile fighters Kaon had to offer. If at any time she set him off, she would have no defence against him. "Even Sideswipe understood the need for rest and keeping himself healthy in order to help keep you alive. The least you could do is show him the same kindness."
Kindness. The word sounded so foreign. Had it really been so long since he'd done anything in kindness for anyone? "I wouldn't know where to start."
"Recharge, perhaps? Or replenish your energon stores?" the medic offered, her upper half disappearing into the open chasm of Sideswipe's chassis, soldering a few gouges from the inside. When next she spoke, her voice rang slightly off of Sideswipe's innards. "But, I suppose I know you well enough to know that neither of those options hold the slightest amount of appeal to you."
"Not enough to have me leave, in any case," Sunstreaker acknowledged.
"No, I wouldn't think so." Moonfly's hand suddenly reappeared, twisting in the air to reach around her back and grasp one of the long, dull-grey lengths of temp plating that hung from her back. Disconnecting it, she dragged the piece back to where she was working, welding it over an open wound. "The shipping yard where you found him is not far from here, and, as I've said, you have a few joors until your next match..." She wriggled her way out of Sideswipe's chest, peering up at the golden twin with a perpetually dull expression. "If you will not rest, then perhaps a drive would be in order?"
Nothing short of a violent thrill shot through Sunstreaker's spark, causing Sideswipe to jolt slightly on the berth. Marginally calming his sudden thirst for energon, the golden mech nodded and backed away. He knew Moonfly was simply pandering to him, playing on his driving need for energon shed and violence. He didn't care at the moment. He wanted something else that was a lot more important; revenge.
"I think I will go for a drive," Sunstreaker acquiesced, not able to keep the growl from his voice.
"Be back before your match," Moonfly said as parting words as the golden gladiator swept from the room. "And, for Primus' sake, don't get yourself hurt too."
Sideswipe and Sunstreaker
There was no Sunstreaker without Sideswipe.
They needed each other.
And as fury drove Sunstreaker on, quickening his pace through the labyrinth beneath Kaon, shoving his way to the surface and thrusting himself into the weak, grey light of the dirty city, those very thoughts were playing in his processor.
From the very moment they were brought online, they'd been together. Through all their vorns growing up in Centaurie Tetrax, they'd been there for each other. Supported one another. They shared each other's pain, their sorrows, their joys. Now, all these vorns later, they were all they had left.
In Kaon, they had nothing but each other.
Spark singing a tune for spilled energon, vision slowly started to blur into that all-too-familiar haze of death-lust, the golden mech transformed and hit the transport ways with a fury, sending commuters scurrying as he flashed them by like streak of golden sun.
Sideswipe was not the one who was supposed to get hurt. Not now, not ever.
When Sunstreaker had gotten into fights when they were young, he always shoved his brother out. Sideswipe was eager, but had too much of a spark. Sure, he could fight, and he was almost as vicious as Sunstreaker himself, but never sparkless. Never sparkless. He still cared. He was still good. He still got hurt.
Sideswipe didn't deserve to get hurt.
He didn't deserve half the things Sunstreaker forced him to go through just for be being around him.
Most of all, he didn't deserve what happened to him today.
That was why Sunstreaker was going to make someone pay.
It had been early morning when Sideswipe had left their shared apartments, grin firmly in place, claiming to his half-conscious brother that he had a couple clients in the shipping yard to deal with. Being a merchant of barely-legal, sometimes-shady merchandise was a tough, thrilling business. He loved it. The thrill of it. The mischief involved with sneaking around at all hours of the orn and night under the olfactory sensors of the Security Response teams that patrolled Kaon's shadier districts. It was almost as if he had been created for the function.
Mischief and trading were two of Sideswipe's talents.
Never once had Sideswipe gotten into more trouble than getting caught for his various forms of mischief. The worst his mischief had ever come to was getting caught by the tactician of Security Response in Simfur for unlicensed possession and distribution of potent high-grade and other various materials thus listed as illegal. That jaunt had quickly become a racked up bill of evasion of justice, disorderly conduct, defacing of public property, becoming a public nuisance, and, lastly, harassing a Security Response officer who lacked all sense of humour.
Somehow, Sideswipe still managed to weasel his way out of it.
The tactician (Prowl, maybe? Nobody quite knew his designation), had not been pleased.
Time and time again, Sideswipe proved himself capable of taking care of himself. It had been a long time since there had been a reason for Sunstreaker to worry about him.
That was, until mid-afternoon rolled around and a wave of dread suddenly rolled through Sunstreaker's spark. It had been so sudden that it sent his attention spiralling out of what he'd been doing, thus allowing his sparring partner to land a strike on him. Flamestrike had been unforgiving the moment she caught her fellow gladiator's opening, driving her sharp claws into his hip joint and sweeping him off his feet. Sunstreaker, once he'd gathered himself, retaliated just as viciously, throwing the femme out of the ring and into a wall. And then he'd called the match to a close, disturbed by the throbbing pain that had taken hold him. A ghost of his brother's.
It very nearly scared him.
All he knew at that moment was that he needed to get to the shipping yard as fast as he could. Nothing had stood in his way as he ran. Only to find his once smiling, laughing, cheeky brother lying crumpled on the ground, broken and silent. Of the trip back to the underground rings, Sunstreaker remembered nothing but trying to reach his brother. Trying desperately through their bond as twins to get something out of him that was not pain.
And nothing had come.
For the first time in a long time, Sunstreaker knew fear of the deepest kind.
And shame. Guilt.
Trying to reach out to Sideswipe through their bond had been like trying to open a rusty door, stuck closed from misuse. Even prying it open a little, their connection felt raw. Like prodding a newly ripped open wound. Somehow, in the time Sunstreaker had fallen into the clutches of violence and death, he'd forgotten about the other life he was connected to. He'd forgotten what it was like to feel his brother's spark pulse in tune to his, his impish thoughts acting like a tickle in the back of his processor. For so long, it had been a dead, black silence inside of him, and now… now it was like waking up again from a nightmare that had gone on for far too long. Except, when he thought of Sideswipe holding on by threads, pulsing only pain from his spark, Sunstreaker had to question himself; what was more of a nightmare, living as if his brother hardly existed, or living while his brother's existence faded away?
Shaking himself back to the present, Sunstreaker burned into the dreary ways of the shipping yard, skidding his way around dull mechs as they worked their lives away in oblivion. They ignored him as he ignored them.
Forcing a rapid transformation, Sunstreaker jumped to his feet, trembling with the fury he was reining back. It wouldn't be a good thing to let fall into the berserker storm raging within him. Not out in the open here. There'd be nothing to stop. Nothing to sate his thirst. He needed a true target. His brother's attackers.
As luck would have it, laughter caught his attention. It was loud and slightly off-kilter. Someone was over-energized and amused with something.
Working purely on instinct, Sunstreaker followed the noise, stalking into the dim allies between the warehouses. Several silhouettes were outlined at the far end. One held something that glinted red in the weak light; a jet pack that had been ripped from the back of his brother. A death sentence, if Sunstreaker had any say in things.
The dark growl that rumbled through the darkness of the alley caught their attention and they turned in time to witness death come upon them. Ice-like optics melted into a blazing red haze in the dark, the embodiment of a pit-hound raised from the pit. It was the last image of life any of the mechs were given before they saw no more.
With a roar, Sunstreaker leapt, allowing his entire being to be consumed by the frenzy of rage and hate and blackness that clawed within him. He let go of his pain and Sideswipe's, of thought, of self, of anything that made him a mech.
He became a monster.
He revelled in the hot spray of energon that burst from the mechs as his claws thrust into their frames and tore. Limb from frame. Lines from internal structures. The heat of the fluid soothed him somewhat. Energon freely flowing. The more there was, the more he felt soothed. Sated. Satisfied.
He heard their screams as if they were a distant song. Like the screaming of the crowd in Kaon when they called for energon, when they wanted the innards of his opponent spread across the ring. He grinned a poisonous smile that twisted his handsome faceplate into something far more terrifying. Claws ripped through poor defences, ramming into slates found in poorly kept armour, relishing in the screams as he tore out a vital pump, a tension wire, a head.
His armour was more blue than gold now.
Someone was begging him to stop. Shaking hands outstretched to him with the energon-soaked jet pack held out in offering.
Empty red optics regarded the mech. That vicious smile never left his faceplate; he was in the heat of the moment, more alive and dead than any other time in his life. He struck, faster than what could be seen, taking the jet pack, and then taking the mech's life. Dark laughter rumbled fiercely in the ally, ricocheting off the metal walls.
It was only when a gentle pain that was not his own hit him that Sunstreaker was able to back to the world.
He'd done it again. He'd forgotten his brother in the thrill of the fight.
He felt more empty now than he'd ever felt before. If he'd ever entertained the idea that vengeance would sooth his guilt, he'd been more than dead wrong. He felt worse now. A faded version of a ghost of who he used to be. Empty. Almost dead.
The only living piece of himself left was lying on a berth back in a grungy med bay, barely holding on.
Voices rang distantly in the yard. Someone had heard a monster- roaring and screaming. Sunstreaker paused in the midst of his personal massacre, now hardly soothed by what usually brought him such pleasure. He stared down at the jet pack in his hands, bringing it to his faceplate in order to press the metal against him. The energon on it was lukewarm and left streaks where it touched him. It was Sideswipe's. The shouting in the distance was drawing nearer.
He had to go before he was caught. As a gladiator in the rings, death of his opponents meant victory; out here, it meant his was a murderer. So he ran like the monster he was into the shadows that welcomed him. He needed to get back.
He wasn't scheduled for a death match tonight, but Sunstreaker knew even before he set foot in the ring the other mech was going to die. It was going to be a long time before he worked off enough of his rage and shame and guilt to allow another mech to leave the ring alive with him.
Tires burned black scars against the metal freeways.
Not only did he have a match to get to, or risk the wrath of the Master of the death circuit, he also had a jet pack to return.
And an apology to give.
By the time dawn rolled around and Kaon began to tie up for the night, Sunstreaker managed to stumble back into the med bay. He was, as per the usual after a night of being in the ring, still feral, his optics bright with wild energy. There was a warning about him that kept others at bay, like a creature waiting to pounce.
Never would there be enough death to ever sate the raging beast within his spark. He would always be bound to this empty hole inside of himself, seeking out that which gives life to others, only to crush it, spill it, make them as dead as he was on the inside.
But, as he stumbled towards the berth where his spark tugged him painfully, Sunstreaker knew he wasn't truly as dead as he thought he was. Because Sideswipe was still alive. As long as Sideswipe was there, a part of him could hold on to life, no matter how hollow and faded his life had become.
Moonfly was still in the med bay, stripping the frame of a mech Sunstreaker had killed earlier in the night. She glanced up as the golden mech entered, and then hopped down from the berth she stood on as he made his way towards his brother. Her exit from the bay was silent, sparing Sunstreaker the agony of trying to remember how to form words, to speak like a mech when he was barely holding on to his own sanity at the moment.
That was the extent of his vocabulary. It was the extent of his universe. Nothing more than his brother.
Leg supports gave out as he approached the edge of the berth. The jet pack he'd been clutching to went skittering across the floor, grasped up in shaking hands, and then set lovingly next to Sideswipe's side. There was barely enough strength in his frame to reach over and grasp hold of the metal hand laying at the very edge of the berth. It took everything in his being to summon the control to stop his trembling and grasp that very limp hand.
While fighting, while immersed in his world of rage and hate and violence, blind in the blackness of his own spark, the pain he felt from Sideswipe had been void. Gone. As if Sideswipe had been dead. Like he never existed. And that was what was most terrifying to Sunstreaker. His thirst for the ring, for the kill, was enough for him to forget his own brother; even though Sideswipe had never let go, kept grasping for him, holding him up, and dragging him to the light when he wandered too far into the darkness.
Sunstreaker had managed a sin beyond his own comprehension. He'd abandoned a part of himself. His bond. His brother.
His voice was ragged with emotion when he next spoke.
"I- I'm sorry,"he whispered hoarsely. "I'm sorry for everything. Please forgive me."
The silence in the med bay was deafening.
"Please… please, don't leave me. I need you. I need you, Sideswipe." His voice fizzled out for a moment and he was forced to wait until his vocal processor rebooted.
"We're twins, remember? A part of each other. I might have wasted away every single piece of my spark, but you still have a part of it, the good part, and if you go… I'll disappear without you."
Energon-soaked hands clutched tighter to the hand they grasped as if it were a lifeline.
That admittance hurt more than any other words he'd ever uttered.
"I don't want you to go."
His voice grew even quieter, taking Sideswipe's hand and pressing it to his forehead.
"I don't want the last good piece of me to fade away."
"It won't," whispered a soft, static-laden voice.
A gasp blew from the golden one as his head shot up, his azure gaze meeting the soft glow of Sideswipe's dim optics as he stared over the ledge of the berth.
"It won't," he repeated, his hand slowly moving to stroke his brother's dirtied, handsome faceplate. The weak smile on his faceplate made Sunstreaker's spark soar, and the answering wave of joy that came from Sideswipe was enough to knock the both of them over. It was like discovering each other again for the first time.
"I won't let you fade away," he whispered hoarsely. "Not when I just got you back."