The seeker clung to his tail as they shot around a crumbling skyscraper, intent on getting a missile lock and blowing the irritating Harrier out of the sky.
Slingshot had something else in mind. He banked hard, darting around an old tower before opening up his throttle. Less maneuverable, the seeker had to swing wide, but quickly closed the gap between them, lining the smaller jet up in his sights.
You may be fast, but I'll bet you can't do this, Slingshot thought at him, opening his airbrakes and kicking his thrust nozzles down and forward. The sudden shift in the direction of his thrust sent the Harrier skyward, wrenching his wings and tail. It was a maneuver that Skydive had pointed out to him ages ago, on Earth... Slingshot shook the memory off. Now wasn't the time to get maudlin.
The seeker flashed by under his belly, unable to slow or turn fast enough. Slingshot snapped off a shot, sending the seeker spiraling down, trailing fire.
Slingshot didn't bother to wait around to see the seeker crash. There were still more Decepticons to kill.
Slingshot ignored the voice, stalking across the tarmac. The mech followed.
"What the frag is your problem? You think orders don't apply to you? Hey! I'm talkin' to you!" He grabbed Slingshot by the arm.
Slingshot glared up at him. "Let go."
The mech – Slingshot couldn't remember his name, but he thought he was a squad commander or something like that – didn't loosen his grip. "What they frag do you think you were doing up there? You were supposed to covering us, not haring off on your own!" He gave Slingshot a shake. "Answer me, slag it!"
"I was killing Decepticons," Slingshot told him coldly. "Someone had to, because you fraggers couldn't even hit a spaceship at point blank range!"
"I don't give a frag about orders." Slingshot shoved the other mech off. "Especially not from a commander who doesn't know a real threat from a toaster."
"You arrogant, selfish little slagger," the mech snarled. "You really don't care about anyone but yourself, do you?"
"Not really, no." Slingshot turned sharply, stalking away, leaving the other mech to stare after him in frustration.
"Hey, 'Flight," Slingshot murmured, slipping into old lab that had been converted into Fireflight's room. Someone,probably Smokescreen, had painted the walls and sky blue, and stenciled in silly little fluffy clouds. The other jet didn't look up, but Slingshot was used to that. "Sorry I haven't been by. They've had me out the Rim playing ground-support." He settled down next the Fireflight. "But I did manage to get you some pictures."
He took the colored block-puzzle out of Fireflight's hands, replacing it with a capture. "You shoulda seen some of these places, 'Flight. Air Raid would have loved the canyons." He pointed the rocky silhouette standing against a brilliant sunrise. "Twisty as anything we ever saw on earth, and taller, too."
Stealing a quick glance up at Fireflight's face, Slingshot smiled to see him staring intently at the picture. He leaned against Fireflight's shoulder, bringing up the next image and pointing out all the little details.
Above them, Smokescreen watched from the old observation deck, marveling at the change in Slingshot's attitude soon as he walked through the door. In here, curled up against Fireflight, Slingshot almost seemed... normal.
Slingshot had always had a prickly personality, but someone used to looking through masks like Smokescreen was had no problem seeing right past the defensive attitude. As much as Slingshot tried to hide it, he loved his brothers, and was happiest when they were happy.
Then his brothers had died, all except Fireflight, who had withdrawn from the world so utterly that he stopped reacting to anything that wasn't placed directly in his hands. He wouldn't even pick up an energon cube when he was hungry, merely playing with whatever he was given until he lost interest and dropped it, staring off into space.
Smokescreen leaned against the railing, smiling as he watched the jets through the reinforced glass. The movement caught Slingshot's attention. The Harrier murmured something to Fireflight, climbing to his feet and heading for the stairway leading to the observation deck.
"How has he been?" Slingshot asked quietly.
Smokescreen hesitated. "He's..." He sighed. "His condition hasn't changed much since you've been gone. He still isn't responding to anything that doesn't directly effect him. He is getting better with actually manipulating things handed to him, but he has yet to acknowledge anyone."
Slingshot nodded, looking down at Fireflight below. The red jet was cycling through the images on the capture, focused on the screen. "Do you think..." he trailed off, then started over. "Is there any hope? Is he going to get better?" He turned to look directly at Smokescreen with a pleading look. "Please, Smokescreen, I need to know."
"I don't know," Smokescreen said quietly. "There's still a chance..."
"But you don't think so." Slingshot slumped against the railing.
"I don't know," Smokescreen said, more firmly. "Don't give up on him quite yet." He watched Slingshot for a moment. "How have you been, Slingshot?"
Slingshot shrugged. "I see someone's been going to town with the paints," he commented instead of answering.
"Don't avoid the subject, Slingshot." Smokescreen's expression was serious. "I heard about what happened-"
"Then why the frag are you asking?" Slingshot straightened, posture turning defensive.
"I want to hear your side of it."
"Yeah? So? I want my brothers back. We don't always get what we want." Slingshot turned sharply on his heel, stalking for the exit.
Smokescreen grabbed his arm. "Wait. Talk to me, Slingshot."
"I don't have anything to say," Slingshot said coldly.
Smokescreen sighed. "Do you really think this is what Silverbolt wanted for you? Do you think he would have wanted to watch you throw your life away?"
"Silverbolt's dead," Slingshot snarled. "What he wanted doesn't really matter anymore." He pulled his arm out of Smokescreen's grip.
"Killing Decepticons isn't going to make it stop hurting, Slingshot," Smokescreen said to Slingshot's back.
"Neither is behaving myself and acting like a good little soldier," Slingshot snapped back, not even slowing.
"Frag off!" He stormed down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to compose himself. Fireflight had always hated it when he was angry, and the last thing he wanted was to upset 'Flight into withdrawing completely.
Smokescreen didn't follow him, and Slingshot avoided looking back up at the observation deck as he crossed the room to where Fireflight was still flipping through pictures. He paused in front of the other jet, watching him in silence. It hurt to see his brother like this – his bright, inquisitive brother, the one who was always happy, always wanting to see new things... and now he wouldn't even walk across the room by himself.
"I guess I'll see you around, eh?" Slingshot muttered finally, turning away, unable to watch anymore.
He'd barely taken a step when Fireflight turned his head slightly, optics unfocused. "...Slingshot?"
Slingshot stopped short at the tremulous whisper. "'Flight?" he asked, turning back slowly. He crossed back to Fireflight's side, sinking down beside him. "Did you...?"
A sweet little smile crossed Fireflight's face as Slingshot settled against him. Then it was gone as he turned his attention back to the pictures in his hands.
Slingshot smiled back and rested his head against Fireflight's shoulder. For the first time, he let himself hope that things really might someday be okay.