Disclaimer: I own nothing – at least nothing Transformers related.

AN: I posted this story once already in my collection of "28 Starscream's".
The story kept growing and growing
while forcing me to hear Pink's "Waiting for Love" nonstop, until it was a complete story of its own.

I noticed, that most stories here with Skyfire show him as a calm and silent guy, who is so flat that he almost has no character. So, as somebody requested a story with him in a main role, I didn't know what to write without making it boring.
But fortunately I got an idea I hope you will all like. I know there are some stories on this site that look awfully similar at first glance, but believe me, that's not true.
Or at least I hope so.
Tell me if I did a good job.

Thanks to mdnytryder for correcting this chapter and thanks to ShiTiger, who requested a story with Skyfire.

Special 2: Monster – The Darkness Within (G1 AU Starting after "Fire on the Mountain")

"Why should I?"

Skyfire fidgeted a little bit under the furious ruby red glare of the Decepticon Supreme Commander himself. The silver behemoth stood uncomfortably near, right in front of him, his lack of bulk and mass in comparison to the white shuttle compensated by an aura of pure menace and guarded interest.

Why, indeed.

Why should Megatron accept a traitor like Skyfire back in the ranks of his army?

The white mech straightened his shoulder plates, determined to stand proud and tall and hide how uncomfortable he felt under the sly, measuring stare of the silver gunformer, and amidst the blatant snarls of contempt from all the other Decepticons around him.
He could see Starscream out of the corner of one optic, pure hatred contorting the dark face in an ugly grimace.

This was his chance.

His only chance.

Skyfire stared at a point right next to the fiery red optics of Megatron, his own expression carefully blank, and explained what exactly had driven him to return to Decepticon Headquarters to ask for a second chance. "You're aware that the Autobots freed me some days ago from the icy prison I was left in after the battle in the Arctic."

"In which you betrayed us," stated Megatron, his optics narrowing and his fusion cannon humming to life.

"I didn't know any better, Sir. Now I know that some things aren't exactly as they seem to be." The blue optics of the shuttle dimmed to a dull color, a visible sign of the sadness, confusion and bitterness that he was feeling.

"They revived me and expressed their delight to see me alive and well again. Then they asked me if I could do them a favor and bring them to Peru where your troops were trying to take possession of the Crystal of Power."

"And you not only helped them to reach the temple in time, no, you took part in the fight as well." The blood red optics flashed. By now the fusion cannon roared hungrily and pointed squarely at Skyfire's chest, right above his frightfully whirling Spark.

The white shuttle did his best to ignore the steadily rising heat that emanated from the black barrel and concentrated on telling his story, "As I have stated previously, Sir, I didn't know any better."

"And now you do?" The question sounded amused, but testing all the same.

Skyfire sighed heavily, "Now I know that the Autobots are hypocrites of the worst kind. After they defeated your men, I returned them to the Arc. When we arrived, Optimus Prime and his officers presented me with two choices."

"Let me guess... to become an Autobot and stay at the Arc or to stay a Neutral and return to Cybertron. This goes nowhere, Skyfire…. Prepare to be deactivated."

The heat on Skyfire's chest plates became unbearable and he thought he could see an ominous glow from inside the barrel pointed at his chest. He hurried to tell the rest of his story, an obvious bitterness creeping into his tone, "No, they didn't. They gave me the choice to be terminated by their CMO, painlessly and unaware of my occurring death under the influence of a heavy dose of sedatives, or to return to the Arctic and become imprisoned in eternal ice once more."

Megatron's optic ridges rose, "What?"

His fusion cannon powered down and Skyfire could hear quite clearly the surprised murmurs of the Decepticons surrounding him. Even Starscream seemed to forget his hate for a moment in favor of his confusion.

"Why should Prime do such a thing? This doesn't sound like the famous Autobot philosophy at all!" New suspicions found their way into Megatron's processor and he powered up his cannon again.

Skyfire couldn't hold his head high any longer, it was too heavily weighed down with bitterness at the memory of his betrayal at the hands of the mechs he thought he would be calling "friends" in the future.

"Autobot philosophy only goes so far…. They said that my life would go against the natural order of the universe, that I should have died millennia ago and had no right to live any longer…. That it was a mistake of cosmic proportions that you freed me from the ice and that no being has the right to oppose the fate that Primus has decided for them.
I had no intention to die again, used and thrown away when I no longer held any worth for them. So I fled."

Skyfire turned around, so that Megatron could see the ugly black marks on the back of his wings and his legs. The silver mech regarded the wounds carefully, but his face remained blank and expressionless.

"So you came here," Megatron stated flatly.

Skyfire nodded, "There was no other place I could go and, to be honest, I'm no longer sure if my first decision regarding your ideals and goals wasn't a little bit rash, Sir. If the Autobots are the supposedly "good guys" and are capable of something like this, how bad can you really be…?"

He managed a weak smile. Megatron was not impressed.

The shuttle hurried to continue, "What I mean is that perhaps you are right – no, that you are right about them and assuredly the former government of Cybertron as well. I know that I missed a lot while being imprisoned here on Earth and I know that I failed you two times already. I also know that I'm still too soft for this war and that I have much to learn to be considered a warrior and member of any army – but I am willing to forget my previous illusions and ideals and learn and to give my everything to become a worthy subordinate."

He hesitated a moment, then he knelt down in front of Megatron and bowed his head, "I'm not asking for mercy. I'm aware that mercy only is for the weak and I'm not willing to be used again. But I'm asking for a chance. A chance to become a part of the Decepticon Army and help you annihilate the Autobots and their hypocrisy. And I'm asking you for time to learn how to be a Decepticon and to overcome my misguided ideals. I'm yours to judge, Lord Megatron."

Skyfire stared at the dirty, metallic floor, waiting for the decision of the Supreme Commander, knowing that he no longer held his life in his own hands.

He could hear some Decepticons whisper in the background but he didn't dare lift his head and look around. So he didn't see the blow that knocked him completely off his knees.

Despite his bigger mass the shuttle was thrown half across the room until he came to a screeching halt, his shoulder heavily dented under the impact.

Skyfire struggled to overcome the shock at the sudden pain and tried to sit up. He never got the chance. A vicious kick hit his side and left him choking and coughing as one of his Energon pumps crumpled. A second kick shattered his canopy and damaged the sensitive interior within.

The shuttle bit his glossa to stop himself from screaming at the horrible pain.

"Get up!" roared Megatron as he kicked him again.

Skyfire hurried to obey, only to be sent reeling once again, this time from a heavy punch that cost him an optic.

His mouth filled with Energon as he was subjected to the most brutal beating of his life, but he refused to scream, cry or beg. If this was his only chance to become accepted, then he would use it. And if Megatron only wanted to kill him as painfully as possible, Skyfire certainly wouldn't give the silver tyrant the satisfaction of hearing him plead for him to stop.

Finally, Megatron decided Skyfire had enough and looked down at the half conscious mech lying on the floor in a crumpled heap.

In spite of himself, the tyrant was a little impressed by the shuttle. Perhaps he wouldn't be as much of a liability as he was dreading. Yes, Megatron would grant him his chance, and even some time to adjust to the new situation.

But first, "Soundwave!"

The Communication Officer ejected Laserbeak, already knowing what his Lord wanted, "Confirmation of information: Initiated."

The robotic bird flew away, in the direction of the docking bay and from there, onward to the Arc to spy on the Autobots.

"Good," Megatron lifted his optics and glared at his assembled troops. "I have decided that I will grant Skyfire his chance."

Most of the Decepticons seemed indifferent, if a bit irritated at this revelation, but some showed clear signs of rage and contempt. The Decepticon leader had to hide a smirk as he caught a glance of Starscream's hate filled expression as the Seeker looked at his former friend on the floor. A wonderful idea blossomed in the processor of the silver tyrant.

But first things first, "As a generous leader, I will even give him the time he requested. But…" Now Megatron turned to regard his Second in Command directly, a superior smirk on his lips, "considering his actions so far, I'm not willing to let him freely roam the base. Not until he has demonstrated to me that he is capable and willing to change and put aside his preconceived notions and become a true Decepticon."

The giant mech folded his arms behind his back and slowly strolled over to his Air Commander, who clearly struggled to determine what his superior had in mind for him this time.

"So I think a guard would be appropriate and considering that you, Starscream, and my new recruit were such good friends once upon a time...," by now Starscream had comprehended the scheme and the Supreme Commander could see his outrage rising, ready to boil over and erupt over every living thing that didn't flee as far away as possible right now.
Oh yes, his plan was brilliant. "I think it is only fair to give both of you a chance to renew your friendship."

Megatron took a moment to relish the simmering rage in the ruby red optics of his inferior, then he abruptly turned around and strode back to the middle of the room. "From now on he's your responsibility, Starscream. You will watch over him, take care that he has all he needs and that he doesn't betray us. After all, schemes are your specialty."
Some laughter was heard in the surrounding ranks of Decepticons. Megatron allowed himself a small chuckle.

"You will also teach him the ideals of the Decepticons and help him adjust to his new role. But don't overdo it, every unnecessary injury will also be inflicted upon you."

He spun around and fixed his SIC with a glare, "Am I clear?"

The red and white Seeker glared right back, his jaw set and his optics full of defiance. For a moment it looked as if he would rebel, then he lowered his gaze, "Yes, Lord Megatron."

Megatron smirked, satisfied, and turned his back to Starscream, to show exactly how much of a threat he thought his Second to be. "What are you waiting for, Starscream? Your new charge is bleeding to death while you're wasting precious time. Remember, every injury of his will also be inflicted upon you."
He added slyly, "That means, if he dies, so do you"

He chuckled evilly as a hurried shuffling was suddenly heard behind him, accompanied by an assortment of Starscream's nastier curses.

"If he is too heavy for you, I'm sure that the Constructicons will be glad to help you, if you ask them nicely…." Megatron said without looking.
He could practically feel how his SIC bit back a curse and answered with a strained, "Yes, my Lord…."

"As for the rest of you: Dismissed!" the tyrant observed his troops leaving the room, only the Constructicons staying behind – in case Starscream managed to swallow his pride enough to ask for help.

The silver behemoth hid his amusement as he threw a glance at the Seeker and his new charge, observing the hate-filled optics of his Second.

Yes, Starscream would be a good little watchdog, indeed. After all, who would be more fitting to guard Skyfire than the very mech who hated Skyfire probably even more than he hated Megatron? And who would be more capable of teaching him how to hate…?

The last thing Skyfire saw before he offlined after the savage beating, had been Starscream's face, ugly in its expression of disgust, contempt and hatred.

So the shuttle was unsettled as he onlined not to the sight of his former friend, but to an unfamiliar ceiling in a strange purplish color. A strange face came into his line of sight, scrutinized him closely, then declared rather loudly and a tad disappointedly, "He's online and functioning. Seems as if you will live another day, Seeker."

"Too bad…." Another voice in the background murmured and some snickering could be heard.

A familiar face appeared in Skyfire's vision, still wearing the same ugly snarl as before: "Get up! I don't have all day!"

The white shuttle obeyed and curiously looked around.
He seemed to be in the medbay of Decepticon Headquarters. Apparently, he had survived the disreputable care of the Constructicons – now he only had to repeat this miracle with Starscream's rage.

Skyfire took a moment to run a diagnostic, then he stood up fully and looked down at his former friend, who impatiently tapped one foot. "What now?"

"Megatron accepted you in the Decepticon ranks – on probation – after Laserbeak confirmed your story. I'm stuck with babysitting duty. Now come on, like I said, I con't have all day!"

Starscream immediately turned and left the medbay, shooting a parting glare at the occupants, some of whom had the gall to wave goodbye, certain that they would see him again in just a few hours, if his attitude today was anything to go by.

Skyfire followed quietly, relieved that he had not only survived the wrath of Megatron, but had also been allowed to stay.

Even if Starscream was peeved beyond belief that, of all things, he had to keep an optic on Skyfire, he knew he had no choice and he had to do it properly or he would find himself looking into the business end of Megatron's fusion cannon – again.

So he showed the new recruit around the base, commenting now and again on how to keep out of trouble with some of the Cons they met, and more or less giving Skyfire the basic rules on how to survive his stay at the Decepticon Underwater base.

Finally, they came to the end of the tour and entered a laboratory.

"Actually, the Constructicons act as our chemists and scientists, but this is my realm." Starscream gestured vaguely in the direction of some beakers and computer equipment. Skyfire cast his optics over the contents of the lab, quite impressed with what he saw. There seemed to be enough professional equipment available for someone as brilliant and talented as Starscream to work miracles, if he put his mind into it.

But, Skyfire also noticed that there was a layer of dust over everything, at least a centimeter thick.

"You don't use it often, do you?"

"Not really. Proving scientific theories and developing inventions nobody needs are dull in comparison to the excitement of battle." Starscream shrugged and subspaced some data-pads. "Megatron is willing to give you time to adjust as long as you're beneficial to the cause all the same, so you will research and invent here. The Constructicons will divide this lab tomorrow. Then you can work in one side, while I work on the other, fulfilling my duties as the Second in Command without being disturbed and watching about you at the same time. I will take the part with the door, so I don't even have to see your ugly face while making sure you're staying put here. Everything clear?"

Skyfire nodded weakly, a little disappointed that he wouldn't be working together with his former friend.

Starscream, who by now had just about reached his tolerance of the taller mech and couldn't hold his hatred at bay any longer, sighed and went to the door.
As the shuttle moved to follow him out, the Seeker shot him a glare.

"You will stay here and get accustomed to the equipment or whatever…. I've already wasted enough of my precious time on you. An Energon dispenser is there in the corner, a foldout berth, over there. Get lost!"

Skyfire sighed and watched as the Seeker slid out the door and locked it behind him. He could hear Starscream fuming all the way to the bridge, cursing Megatron, Skyfire and the injustice of his fate to the pit and back again.
After a few minutes, the screaming became slightly muffled but didn't stop. Apparently, Starscream had found Megatron and was now directing his anger fully at him. The shouting became louder and louder as a second, much deeper voice began to answer the screeching insults, then some crashes and dull thuds could be heard, emphasized with painful cries and screams.

Then it went silent altogether.

Skyfire sighed and retreated from the door, where he had pressed his audio receptor in an attempt to hear more clearly.
He looked around the lab and sighed again.

His first day at Decepticon Headquarters….

He sat down on a slightly undersized chair and grabbed an old rag with the intention of cleaning some of the dust away. The shuttle didn't follow through with the plan, opting instead to just stare at the dirty piece of fabric and feel miserable.

His first day….

But what other chance did he have?

Starscream had spoken the truth.

The next day, the Constructicons sauntered into the lab and made a great show of building a dividing wall with a door in the room. Most of the scientific equipment found its way over into Skyfire's part of the lab.

Some hours later, the white shuttle didn't dare turn too quickly or carelessly in the now cramped room.
He was afraid that he would break something valuable and even further enrage the already irritated Starscream, who sat in a new, makeshift office on the other side of the wall.

Skyfire spent the first days in his new home cleaning and polishing until he could see himself in the chrome parts of the devices.
When he finally could focus on his appearance, he wasn't sure he liked what he saw.

The Constructicons had replaced his shattered optic with a red prism, now he had two different-colored optics.
He looked somewhat strange and eerie, and he had the feeling if he ever woke up in the middle of the night, forgetting about the replacement, he would be seriously spooked if he saw his own reflection.

"You look like a lunatic on the loose with those mismatched optics," commented Starscream from the doorway, peeking curiously at the now shiny-clean lab.

"I could help you," he suggested and came a few steps closer, a sly look in his blood red optics. "It would be my… pleasure to punch your other optic right into your cranial unit." Skyfire didn't like the wicked sneer on the dark face and shied away.

"A very generous offer, Starscream, but I'm afraid I will have to decline."

The sneer only grew, while hatred let the red optics sparkle, "That was no offer, Skyfire…."

Before the Seeker could put his threat into action, the door to the hallway opened and one of the Cassetticon twins peeked in. "Hey Screamer, I've got a message for ya."

"What is it!" Starscream snarled through clenched dentalplates, his optics still on Skyfire, his fingers twitching to inflict violence on the familiar face he now so despised.

"Our big boss wants me to remind you, that every injury he receives," the red mech jerked a thumb in Skyfire's direction, "will also be inflicted upon you. Have a nice day!"

He cackled and disappeared down the hallway.

Starscream stood frozen on the spot for some seconds, then his gaze wandered up, above the new wall until he spotted a tiny black dot in one corner.

"He wouldn't dare…." He whispered, his face a mask of shock and disbelief that rapidly turned to a grimace of rage, indignation and humiliation. "He dared!"

Without another word he whirled around and left the room, not bothering to lock the door behind him.
Skyfire could hear the Seeker screaming, as he searched for his Commander in order to bitch about the camera that had been installed. Not to check on the shuttle, but on him, Second in Command of the whole Decepticon army, prince of the sky, yadda-yadda-yadda….

Skyfire had the distinct feeling he already knew the most probable outcome of the argument.

He smiled, glad that his face would be spared the punch, and then worked keeping himself busy until the time Starscream would return.

The next few days passed surprisingly quickly for Skyfire.

Even more surprising, Starscream seemed to be the only one who was acting downright hostile to the tall white mech.

The shuttle never left the lab, but more than one Con came to catch a glimpse of their newest member, curious to see if Starscream had killed him yet, or they simply threatened the white mech in an attempt to keep him in a servile position.

But it was just that: Threats.

Starscream, on the other hand, didn't just threaten Skyfire, he put his words into actions only seconds after spouting them. The Seeker got back everything he dished out to his former friend at the end of the day, when Megatron reviewed the camera recordings, but that didn't seem to hinder the white and red mech very much.

Skyfire suspected that Starscream was accustomed to almost constant pain by now.

The shuttle just tried to stay out of his way as much as possible, and to give him no excuse to attack him or even be annoyed with him.
The white mech tinkered with his equipment and just kept himself looking busy, a bit lost and wondering how he would ever become used to being a Decepticon if he was kept in a glorified prison cell all day.
Nothing ever happened to him here, and there was nobody to speak to or learn from but himself.

Surprisingly, Megatron agreed with him.

The gunformer was not pleased with the progress, or lack thereof, of his newest recruit and that had to change. He already had some ideas how – but first he would make sure this would never happen again. With a sinister smile he summoned Starscream to him.

The next day Skyfire was awakened by Starscream staggering into his part of the room, holding a transparent box into his hands.

The Seeker looked horrible, dented and scratched, a wing completely missing and coated with the Energon that had leaked from his wounds.

He thrust the box – it was a cage, Skyfire noticed – into the hands of the shuttle, then he wobbled out of the room without another word, barely finding the strength to lock the door behind him.

Skyfire stared after him, horrified at his condition. But he pulled himself together and set the cage carefully on a table to analyze its contents further. He had to get used to seeing Starscream like that. With an attitude like his the Seeker really begged to be punished.

The shuttle sighed and looked at the tiny organic creature that writhed inside the transparent cube. He had seen beings like this before - at least they had been similar in appearance - even if it hadn't been on this planet.

The white mech activated one of the computers and scrolled through the databanks in the hope of discovering more information about this intriguing little creature. He was lucky and found a whole file that had been uploaded recently, supposedly with the purpose of giving him something to work with.

The specimen in the cage was a rattlesnake, and a rather large one at that. It had curled up in a corner and seemed absolutely unfazed that it slept somewhere deep under the sea, thousands of miles from its natural habitat, in the dubious care of hostile alien robots.

'Well… and now?' Skyfire didn't know what to make of the new development. He somehow doubted that Megatron wanted him to prove his loyalty by keeping a little snake as a pet.

He reread the whole file about rattlesnakes again, hoping to find a clue as to what he was supposed to do with it.

Perhaps that was the real test? He had to prove that he could think like a Decepticon?

Rattlesnakes had a rather nasty poison with a high mortality rate….

But, it only was lethal if used on other organic species.

Suddenly Skyfire had a foreboding of how the Supreme Commander intended to use the venom, and he wasn't sure if he liked his suspicion. But, he told himself, it wasn't his job to like or dislike the decisions of his Commander, but to figure out the exact components of the venom and to synthesize it in greater amounts.

He fortified himself for what he had to do, then he opened the cage and prepared to dissect its hissing occupant.

Starscream soared above the energy plant and observed with wicked glee how the Autobots swarmed frantically around the building, trying to find all humans who had worked in the now smoking building.

It seemed as if Skyfire had not only told the truth about how the Autobots had treated him, but also about his intentions to join the Decepticons. He had obediently synthesized more of the rattlesnake venom, even if he must have a known that Megatron would use it for no good. In the end, he had provided a whole canister of the chemical, more than enough to fill the sprinklers of the power plant in a cloak-and-dagger operation some nights ago.

Today, the day of the actual attack, Rumble and Frenzy only had to sneak into the building and set some refuse bins on fire.

The reaction to the smoke had been instantaneous. Sirens began to blare, the sprinklers activated and the humans panicked and ran to the nearest exits, hurting themselves and others in their haste. And the venom only needed a little scratch to do its job and poison somebody.

The arriving Autobot medic had scanned the fleeing humans for serious injuries as he always did – and had recognized the danger of the venom immediately.
Now, all Autobots were busy to gathering the humans together and transporting them to the nearest hospital. They had no time to shoot the arriving Decepticons. They could only watch from the corners of their optics while the laughing and sneering mechs helped themselves to more and more Energon cubes, all the while taunting and mocking the worried and shocked Autobots.

Starscream passed above his leader, standing on a hill overlooking his troops and the desperate Autobots with a smirk on his face-plates.

For once, the Seeker couldn't find any fault in his Commander's tactics, as much as it irked him to admit it.
Today's raid had been a stroke of genius.

But, what irked him even more was that he somehow felt proud of Skyfire, who had thought like a real Decepticon and understood the plan immediately.

"I told you he would be useful," he radioed to his leader, if only to annoy him a little. Megatron looked up, raising an optic ridge, "Your delusions never cease to amuse me, Starscream. You told me I would be a fool for allowing him a second chance! You wanted me to kill him! So shut up, before I make you and prepare to land and load your share. Thundercracker will take your place as guard!"

Starscream winced at the harsh tone, but decided to hold his tongue – for once.

Skyfire didn't need to ask if the mission had been a success, he could hear it.

The whole base buzzed with excited, cheerful voices and more than one Decepticon seemed to have wasted no time in getting drunk.

The white shuttle busied himself with his equipment, trying not to think about what he had done. He only looked up as the door to the room opened and heavy steps could be heard, entering his lab.

"Milord," the white mech greeted his leader respectfully.

Megatron grinned, arms folded over his chest. Starscream stood behind him, a scowl on his dark face, his body stance wary. "Well done, Skyfire. You're a perfect example of why I make an effort to never listen to Starscream."

The scowl changed into a snarl.

"Keep up the good work," praised Megatron, and then he left.

Skyfire couldn't help but grin happily. Seems like if he had passed the first test.

"My, my…. Aren't we happy about our little success?" Starscream was still there, leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded over his chest in an imitation of Megatron. But, on him, it looked more as if he was hugging himself, bracing against an unexpected blow. His face was blank, but in his optics revealed his rage and bitterness.

"Why not?" asked Skyfire, his smile only widening.

The Seeker pushed off the doorframe and wandered over to the shuttle, "You do know exactly what we have done with the venom?"

Skyfire tensed, then forced himself to relax again.

This was too important to let his conscience bother him over his choices.

"Yes, I do," he nodded.

Starscream tilted his head to one side, intently observing Skyfire's reaction, "Really? And you have no problems with it?"

"No!" even Skyfire was surprised how determined he sounded.

And that he meant it….

Pleased by the early success, Megatron was not only willing to give Skyfire time to adjust, he was also very lenient regarding the tempo of Skyfire's progress and his willingness to find ways to overcome his natural loathing of violence.

Megatron assigned Skywarp and the Cassetticon twins the job of catching more animals for the shuttle to dissect and experiment with, knowing that it would also occupy three of his most restless soldiers.

The days began to run into one another.

Skyfire would obey without a question, even if there was no discernable purpose to his work.

Starscream would screech and bitch, arguing with Megatron and bullying Skyfire whenever he could, and receiving his fair share of punishment at the end of the day, without achieving anything other than making an even greater fool out of himself.

Finally, Megatron thought it was time to go a step further.

He ordered Ravage to catch a human, kill it, bring it back to the base and take it to Skyfire. When the shuttle received this latest specimen, he stared for a moment at the corpse, tensing under the optics of not only Starscream and Ravage, but Megatron's as well – even if the tyrant sat in another room and watched the proceedings via the camera - then, he straightened his posture and dealt with the situation like the others before.

Megatron leaned back in his chair and smiled darkly….

Starscream fumed.

More than a month had passed since Skyfire had suddenly hovered at their doorstep, asking for a second chance. And the slagging traitor was still alive and well, not only becoming Megatron's new pet project but passing all tests with flying colors as well.

He never buckled once, he always obeyed every order, kept his thoughts to himself, and answered his Commander each time with a slimy "Yes, Lord Megatron, no, Lord Megatron, however you wish, Lord Megatron..." that would have made Soundwave proud.

But what really drove Starscream crazy was the simple question, 'Why?'

Why this?

Why now?

Why not some months before when Starscream had asked Skyfire to stand by his side and become a member of the Decepticons?

Why had Skyfire betrayed his, presumably, best friend, only to reappear later to ask for something that he could have already had? If he only had put more trust in said best friend, and less trust in his ideals, which he now could seemingly throw away without regrets and second thoughts?

It just wasn't fair….

Another data-pad found itself flung against the wall over his table and shattering into a thousand shards of metal, glass, plastic and a bundle of sparking wires. The whole lot slid the wall onto the junked remains of its predecessors.

"Perhaps you could cease that?" a calm voice asked from behind Starscream, a little louder in his right audio receptor than in his left. The next data-pad was thrown over his right shoulder and wing and Skyfire barely had time to catch it before it smashed into his face.

"I said stop!"

"And I decided that I don't want to!" was Starscream's answer, as he reached for another data-pad to throw.
A large hand closed around his wrist and hindered its movement.

"I said stop!" sounded Skyfire's voice near his audio.

"And I don't want to!" The Seeker tried to free his hand, to no avail.

The shuttle only tightened his grip, the fingers around Starscream's wrist slowly leaving dents in his metal skin.

"How dare you," hissed the Seeker, his wing hindering his movement as he tried to turn and glare at the taller mech.

Skyfire calmly gazed back, "Cease it, some of us have work to do."

"You call this work?" challenged Starscream. "I can remember a time, only months ago, when you called this slaughter. Meaningless and cruel slaughter."

"Like you said, that was months ago. And if I recall correctly, you said at roughly the same time, that things have changed and I would have to adapt to survive. I'm only following your advice, my friend…."

"We are not friends," the hiss was filled with pure venom, and the data-pad cracked under the pressure of Starscream's twitching fingers.

Skyfire observed him for a moment, his gaze calm, but the mismatched optics giving him an eerie look.
The he let go of the other's hand.

"Perhaps you are right." With those words, Skyfire turned and walked back into his lab, leaving a stunned, gaping Seeker behind.

Starscream paced up and down Skyfire's lab, peeking now and then at the remains of the last experiment, but mostly glaring nervously at the floor.

The shuttle himself was currently on the bridge, presumably getting praised by Megatron for his progress, again.
As if Skyfire was one of those tiny, howling earth creatures called dogs….

The Seeker didn't know whom he was more jealous of.
Skyfire for getting praise and attention from their leader or Megatron for having Skyfire's loyalty.

Loyalty that should belong to him, and him alone.

He cursed and kicked a table.

"Are you out of data-pads now, that you have to destroy my equipment instead?" asked a voice behind him.
Starscream spun around to come face to chest-plate with Skyfire.

He never got the chance to answer as the shuttle simply shoved him out of his way and checked his instruments.
"What do you want?" the white mech asked, sounding more tired than anything.

Starscream immediately went into defense mode, "This is my lab! I don't have to explain myself to you! So shut up!"

Skyfire stopped what he was doing, vented air sharply, then slowly turned around and planted himself in front of Starscream.
The Seeker backed off until he could feel the wall against his wings.

Somehow he had lost control of the situation, and this made him very uneasy.

Skyfire didn't seem to notice this or he simply didn't care. He loomed over Starscream, his two-colored optics flashing with barely controlled rage.

"No, YOU shut up! I have had enough, Starscream. I have had enough of your insults, your threats, your bullying and you treating me like rust. Even if you are my superior, at least for the near future, you have no right to treat me like this, and I'm no longer going to let you. I'm warning, just this once. Don't mess with me or you will regret it! I won't overlook things because I believed that we were friends once. Leave me alone and get lost!"

Starscream stared at the shuttle, for a moment totally at a loss for words.

Skyfire glared at him for a few more seconds, then seemed satisfied and finished with the matter and turned back to his equipment.

Starscream gaped at his back, needing some time to find his voice again and organize his thoughts. "Believed… that we were friends?" he finally managed weakly.

"I said, get out of my lab!" Skyfire didn't even turn around.

The Seeker bit his glossa to hold back the bitterness that threatened to overwhelm him. "I see…. Looks as if I shouldn't have been so surprised when you betrayed me. It seems I was the only one of us who thought that our friendship actually meant something. After all, you only believed that we…."

He never had the chance to finish his sentence.
One moment, he was standing there, feeling miserable, the next, he was pressed against the wall, his feet dangling helplessly in the air, Skyfire's enraged face nearer than he would have liked.

"At it again, Starscream? Again you call me a traitor? Somehow this sounds ridiculous coming from your lips. Pray tell, what exactly do you know about loyalty? You were never loyal to anyone!" the white mech shouted.

"I was loyal to you!" the Seeker shrieked back, now furious himself, even if his Spark still clenched painfully in bitterness.

"I searched for you until I had barely enough fuel to make my way back to Cybertron! I begged and pleaded with everyone, everywhere, to send a search party for you!

"I was accused of your murder and expelled from the Academy!

"When we found you in the Arctic, I vouched for you, I told Megatron again and again that you would learn, that you only needed time!

"And how have you thanked me?

"You betrayed me!
You left me standing like a fool in front of my comrades! You left me like I didn't matter! You left me for a bunch of strangers and some tiny organics who can't even fly! You attacked me!

"And, do you know what I did for you after that, Skyfire?

"I took the beating for you - for your mistakes!
I got the beating because I vouched for you, my old friend, who, apparently, never was a real friend at all!
Who only believed he was!

"And, do you know what is ludicrous about the whole situation? What is really ridiculous?"

He stared hatefully at his friend, not even realizing that tears streamed down his face.

"I still feel guilty about it all! I feel guilty because I made you fly to the Artic! Because I couldn't find you! Because it's all my fault! Although you betrayed me in the end….
So don't speak to me about LOYALTY!"

Both mechs simply stared at each other for several moments, one with bright tears streaming down his cheeks, the other with an unreadable expression and dim, mismatched optics.

Then suddenly Starscream felt the ground beneath his thrusters again.

Skyfire still gazed at him, now calm, his former rage completely gone, "I won't apologize for helping the Autobots."

The Seeker started to say something, but Skyfire closed his mouth with one hand.

"Let me finish!
I won't apologize…. I thought it was the right thing at the time and I won't apologize for the things I did while not knowing any better.

"Perhaps I would have decided otherwise if you hadn't lied to me, not only about the Autobots but about the Decepticons and yourself as well.
Perhaps it would have changed nothing.
Perhaps it was your fault that I crashed, perhaps it was only an unfortunate accident, I don't really care!

"What really matters is, too much has changed. You, the universe, perhaps even me….
Too much has happened. I don't think that we can ever go back to being the friends we once were, Starscream.

"It's simply too late for that."

Starscream offlined his optics, new tears staining his dark face.

Skyfire would have none of that, "Oh no, you don't…. Listen! You will listen to me!"

He shoved the Seeker hard against the wall, again and again, until he onlined his optics.

"I'm not finished, you will listen to me until I'm done, whether you like it or not! I won't allow you to simply block everything out and deny everything you don't like. Is this clear?"

The smaller mech nodded weakly, unable to speak because of the giant hand still clamped over his mouth.

"I said, we can never go back to being the friends we once were...

"But I would like to try anew. A new start, without all the baggage of the past.
What happened has happened, no chance in changing that….

"Everything forgiven and forgotten, a whole new page….
Does this sound this acceptable to you?"

Starscream hesitated only for a moment, then he nodded again, still crying.

Skyfire sighed, relieved, and removed his hand.

"Forgiven and forgotten?" asked the Seeker, once free to speak as he pleased.

"Forgiven and forgotten." Affirmed Skyfire, smiling.

Starscream hesitated again, a watery smile forming on his lips.

"I hope we don't have to do the whole introduction part again. That would be really awkward," he joked half heartily, his voice slightly shaking.

"No, I think we could skip that part," Skyfire replied.

Starscream sighed and leaned his head lightly against the chest-plates of the taller shuttle, as if to hide his tear stained face.
"Megatron will have a field-day with this," he whispered.

"The camera has no sound and he will have problems seeing through me, so he won't know. I could see the camera feed and its controls at the bridge," explained Skyfire.

"That's… good to know, I think…. That's good to know, my friend."

It was strange how fast things could change and how much these changes mattered, mused Starscream.

He sat on the counter of a table in Skyfire's cramped little lab and watched the shuttle work.

The first few days after his outburst had been awkward, both mechs tip-toeing around each other, not really knowing what to make out of the new situation.
But, with each passing hour, talking and simply being around each other felt more normal, more right, and the awkwardness gave way to a pleasant feeling Starscream had almost forgotten he could feel.

Before Skyfire had ended their previous friendship, the Seeker had thought he could happily live with what he had, be it a friend encased in an ice-block, a friend on the opposite side of this war or a friend who he tortured and who hated him. He thought he could live with anything by relying on himself, as he had done for so long and for so many times before.

But then, he had to learn that there was one exception: he couldn't live if Skyfire was not his friend.

He didn't know why, but the thought alone that he lost his best, last, perhaps even only friend ever, scared him more than any of Megatron's threats and beatings. Starscream couldn't say why, but he needed Skyfire, perhaps as a constant, perhaps as his last link to a long forgotten past. As long as he was simply there, no matter what form or state he was in, the Seeker could live and follow his own goals and dreams.

But, when the shuttle suddenly began to defend himself against Starscream's bullying and ended their friendship, the white and red mech's whole world began to break, to shatter into tiny pieces like a delicate object made of glass. His whole balance, his whole belief that he could and would survive alone, that he would reach his dreams, suddenly disappeared and left him lost and alone in a far too dark and cold world.

He simply needed Skyfire. Period.

"Don't you have any work to do?" Skyfire's voice woke him from his thoughts.

The white mech looked at him, a smile on his face-plates. If another Cybertronian had asked Starscream this question, he might have felt criticized and would have retorted with a venomous insult, but with Skyfire he only shook his head, "I'm done for today."

"Then don't just sit there and be bored! Come help me!"

Starscream hesitated, and then jumped from his seat to join Skyfire, who was tinkering with some chemicals at his workbench. The Seeker was reluctant to let his optics wander from his friend for more then a few seconds.

He had learned the painful way that, if something good happened in your life, you had to watch out constantly or you would lose it before you even knew….

Starscream was nervous.

Skyfire watched him with some amusement, as the Seeker stood in the door, fidgeting and unable to look him in the optics. His hands were hidden behind his back, and he had a strange, insecure expression on his face that one didn't see on him very often.

Sure, if one knew him, or at least made the effort to see through his acts and boasting, you became aware that he was more insecure than he let on and only hid it behind elaborate insults and arrogance.

But this time, he behaved differently.

The shuttle decided to relieve his friend of his inner burden, "What is it, Starscream?"

"Well… you remember what I told you about our new human contact in Africa?"

Skyfire's optic ridge rose.
Starscream only began to beat around the bush if he felt guilty or was in trouble – or both.

The shuttle strode carefully nearer, deciding that he probably wouldn't like the direction their conversation would lead them.

"Yes, I think I remember that you told me he was member in some strange human faction that basically operates the same way our faction does. The only real differences between the Decepticons and this group, if I recall correctly, were – besides the obvious - the number of their members and that they act because of economical and religious reasons. Oh, and that they have an idiotic, incomprehensible weakness for suicide attacks and martyrs. I believe you called them terrorists?"

"That's correct. I give you an A. Now, if you can repeat exactly why we were willing to even consider a partnership with these morons, you will officially gain the title of the second most intelligent Decepticon ever."

Skyfire would have rolled his optics if it had been possible. A simple "yes," would have sufficed. But nooooo….
Starscream's lips twitched into a short smirk.

"Oil. They have offered us oil in change for help against their enemies. Oil we can convert into Energon."

Starscream sighed and nodded, "The only problem is, suddenly they aren't willing to hold their end of the bargain anymore. Apparently, we resemble some ancient human demons or something like that."

Skyfire had a sinking feeling in his Spark, "So the deal is off?"

The Seeker sighed again, "Yes, it is. And Megatron wants to teach them that you can't mess with a Decepticon and get away with it. So… have fun."

And with these words, he handed over another transparent cage to Skyfire and fled out of the door as fast as he could, not wanting to see his friend's face when he recognized his newest specimen.

It was a human.

A living human.

Megatron watched the screen in front of him very closely.

This was one of Skyfire's final tests.

He had betrayed them before because of his sympathy for humans. If he wanted to prove that he really had changed, then he had to kill this fleshbag.

The silver gunformer had even been generous. This particular human was not even innocent, in Decepticon optics or in the eyes of his own species.

So, would Skyfire do it or wimp out?

Megatron heard shuffling behind him and turned around in his seat to see his Second slink onto the bridge.

The Supreme Commander smirked and beckoned him over.

Starscream seemed to be even more nervous than his giant white friend as he glanced uneasily at the screen.

Megatron's smile grew and he leaned closer to his subordinate, "What's wrong, Starscream? I thought you hated him? Or are you suddenly feeling compassion for the squishy?"

The Seeker shot him a glare but kept silent.

Megatron laughed, "Oh, don't worry, I know that you and this pseudo-Autobot are friends again and I have nothing against it."

This time the glare was more surprised and mistrustful than hate-filled.

"Surprised?" Megatron grinned and patted one white and red wing. Starscream quickly squirmed away.
"Until now, your friend has showed good progress, and I'm fairly certain he will become a very useful Decepticon in no time. The new possibilities he provides for the future are countless."

Malevolent red optics flashed in dark glee.

Starscream warily backed off some meters.

The Supreme Commander of the Decepticon army glanced at his Second with a strange, knowing smile on his lips, "Enjoy your friendship to the full, Starscream. But be careful, there are reasons that friendships are uncommon among our kind."

On the screen, they watched as Skyfire stared a few more moments at the cage and the screaming, begging human inside, then he visibly straightened and turned to his work-table.

Some time later, red liquid began to seep over the worktop and dribble down the edge.

Megatron grinned sinisterly and leaned back in his seat, while his Second seemed more relieved than anything.
So relieved in fact, that he missed the purred words of his Lord altogether, "Be careful, indeed…."

It had all started innocently enough.

Megatron had summoned Skyfire to him, and had accepted him into his ranks in front of everyone, Starscream grinning like a lunatic at his side the whole time.
Then the celebration had started.

The white shuttle had never seen so many over-energized mechs all at once.
Brawling, betting, drinking, cheering, dancing (if one squinted both optics the right way – or was over-energized himself), mocking, playing, making out – there were drunken Decepticons everywhere, many who had forgotten the purpose of the party mere seconds after its beginning.

It was, to say the least, a bit overwhelming for Skyfire.

All the sounds, the motions, the violence and tension….

He had problems trying to stay out of the randomly happening brawls and had to concentrate on staying out of trouble in general.

Starscream had watched him for half an hour while standing in a corner, apparently greatly amused by his predicament, then he proceeded to save his Skyfire's aft from a very nasty encounter with Bonecrusher and took him back to his lab.

Skyfire's systems had almost crashed then and there. He wearily sat down on one chair and looked at the smirking Starscream, who had settled on the corner of a table.

"And you call that a party? How have you survived so long?" the white mech asked tiredly and rubbed a hand over his face.
Starscream shrugged, still grinning, "Practice, I guess. You will get used to it, I promise."

"Yeah, sure…." Skyfire didn't look too convinced. Starscream's smile only grew wider, and amusement danced in his optics.
The Seeker stood up and vanished through the door.

Skyfire stared after him, a bit confused and a greatly disappointed. He had hoped that Starscream would stay for a while and they could simply talk about old times or gossip or something like that. Something more… normal and quiet than what the other Cons were doing.

Well, perhaps, it simply was not meant to be.

Just at the moment he turned to his equipment for another night of pointless but mind-busying research, the Seeker snuck back into the room, his optics darting, half-excited, half-anxious, toward the hallway and back again to Skyfire. He carefully closed the door behind him and locked it, and then he turned to his taller friend, a huge grin plastered on his face-plates.

"I have the feeling I will be in trouble before this night is over," deadpanned Skyfire.

"Could be," Starscream shrugged and stepped closer. "I saw your expression as you tasted our high-grade. Don't let the Constructicons know you hate it, or they will rearrange your fuel lines and fill your coolant tanks with acid the next chance they get. And given that they are our official "medics" in the broadest sense of the word…."

Skyfire grimaced, "I will remember the warning. But you have to admit, the stuff is horrible."

"I knew you would say that. And that's why I brought these," he pulled some innocent looking cubes out of subspace and put them on the table.

The white mech eyed them warily, "More of their homebrew?"

Starscream shook his head. "No, more of my homebrew!" he declared proudly.

Skyfire lifted an optic ridge, "I thought you would use your scientific mind for better purposes…."

"Believe me, there is no better purpose than to be totally wasted in no time after a hard, painful battle. But if you don't want…." Starscream made a motion to pick the cubes up again.
Skyfire stopped him, "I can at least try one."

Starscream grinned and eagerly settled on the table-corner again. He watched Skyfire's every movement with an unsettling, expectant expression on his face.

The shuttle blew air through his vents. What had he gotten himself into?

He gingerly picked a cube up and scanned it.
It looked relatively innocent, rather dull and pastel-colored, compared to the neon-pink color Energon normally sported.
He hesitated a moment, then he took a sip.
And another.

"Not bad. Definitely better than the homebrew of the Constructicons. Much better, in fact."

Starscream only grinned, a mischievous twinkle in his optics.

Not good….

Skyfire took another sip of the high-grade, which was smooth and almost velvety in taste – and it hit his tank like an explosion.
The white mech almost dropped the cube as he doubled over at the unexpected sensation, and he began coughing and choking.

Starscream leaned forward and dangled his feet, eagerly watching Skyfire's every reaction, obviously very pleased with himself. "Nice, eh?"

The shuttle choked helplessly and nodded, blindly feeling around for his chair.
Once settled, he needed a moment to get over the shock and regain the ability to speak.

"What the slag have you put into this stuff? I know people who would kill for something like this," he croaked.

Starscream dimmed his optics in a display of false modesty. "Why, Skyfire, I've only tried to do my very best."
He snorted, "And believe me, I had plenty of time for experimenting in the last million years or so…."

He picked up his own cube and sipped carefully. Skyfire laughed as he ended up coughing and choking himself.
"I will admit, some things are still improvable," Starscream's voice was even more raspy than usual.

"And how do you intend to improve the quality? I have all of your equipment and your lab." Skyfire took another mouthful of Starscream's homebrew.
If you know what to expect, the sensation wasn't even that unpleasant. Unfamiliar, but not unpleasant.

"Seems as if you have to help me then. Come on!" The Seeker hopped from the table and eagerly began to grab some beakers and chemicals.
"It's been a long time since I've used any of this," the Seeker mused with a look at a Bunsen burner.

Skyfire stood up and joined him at the worktop. "Then you're lucky that I'm here to teach you everything again."
The shuttle bumped his partner playfully with his hip.

Starscream giggled, a definite sign that the high-grade had begun to work on him as well.

"Okay, professor, but let's start with something easy, 'kay?"

It all started innocently enough... until they suddenly realized they had invented something new while fooling around.

The liquid they developed had a strange, unstable atomic structure that allowed its atoms to shift and move with almost no resistance to friction, and the translucence of the fluid changed with each movement or change in environment. It was fun to watch it shift colors while being heated, or blown on or just moved from one corner of the table to the other.

Some cubes of high-grade after the first discovery, scientific caution and curiosity had been thrown out the window and the strange substance found its first purpose as missiles in an all-out private war….

Hours later, the whole lab was splashed with bright, cheerful spots of all the colors a Cybertronian could think of, plus a few more.
While the substance slowly dried to the consistency of bubblegum, Skyfire and Starscream lay in the middle of the room, laughing and giggling and covered head-to-pede in the traces of their "war", empty high-grade cubes scattered around them.

Skyfire gazed intently at Starscream's dark face, as he was busy trying to explain why from now on, Decepticons and Autobots should always solve their problems and disputes in this way.

The Seeker's previously light-blue hands waved erratically in the air, gesturing wildly and carelessly, smacking against armor plates and empty cubes, leaving colored traces and erratic patterns, as he slurred on and on, not even a third of his words understandable, but making perfect sense to his drunken comrade all the same.

When Skyfire made the effort to listen….

Most of the time, he tuned out the constant babbling and only concentrated on the movement of the lips and the bright, sparkling optics of the Seeker. It was fascinating how many shades of red the different light patterns of each movement or emotion could create, fiery and dim, soft and hard, simply amazing….

Suddenly, those amazing optics were a whole lot nearer than before and blinking rapidly and uncomprehending at him.

Skyfire smiled in the kiss.

This was a nice idea, he decided. A very nice idea, indeed.

Starscream's CPU was having problems processing exactly what Skyfire was doing, so it settled on the next best action it had stored in short-term memory.
An action the Seeker had repeated for hours...

Now it was Skyfire's turn to blink stupidly as lime-green slime dripped down his face-plates and seeped into the gaps between his armor, changing to a dark purple as it slid down.

Starscream giggled.

Skyfire wiped some of the distracting liquid away, then he determinedly reached out and brought Starscream's face closer to his, pressing their lips together again.
He hummed contentedly at the contact.

The Seeker's giggling turned nervous and questioning, and then it stopped altogether.
The sensation registered as pleasant, so he settled for just letting it happen, his optics peeking with an innocent curiosity at Skyfire, simply waiting.

The taller mech took this as an invitation to go further and began to awkwardly stroke the dark face-plates.
Starscream leaned into the touch and offlined his optics – until his CPU finally connected the sensations to actions and their specific purposes.

The Seeker onlined his optics in shock, looked at his friend for a moment, then pushed him away, crawled to his feet and fled as fast as he could stagger.

Skyfire stared disappointedly after him, – it had been such a good idea, after all - then he curled up and fell into recharge.

It had never happened.

It was funny how two independent organisms could come to the same conclusion, at roughly the same time, without ever speaking with each other.

It had simply never happened.

Starscream hadn't woken up in his quarters, with the worst hangover of his life and colored spots all over him – a particularly large one in the form of a yellow hand-print on his face – and he hadn't avoided Skyfire for the next four days or so.

And Skyfire, in turn, hadn't woken up in the middle of his newly decorated lab, among empty Energon cubes, equally splattered with strange colors.
And he certainly hadn't snuck into the wash racks, thanking Primus over and over again, that all Decepticons were sleeping off their binge, and weren't awake to see his sorry state or make any noise that would cause his pounding head to explode.

It simply. Never. Happened.


It took a few days to establish that both mechs involved had come to the same conclusion. After that, Skyfire and Starscream's behavior reverted back to how things were before "The Incident".

Nobody was the wiser, not even Megatron, because one of the slime projectiles had hit the camera lens and obscured the view. Skyfire never bothered to clean the camera and the tyrant never said anything about it, confident that his newest recruit would stay true to him and the cause.

The silver gunformer even thought Skyfire was ready for battle, therefore, a month later, Skyfire found himself soaring through the air, watching out for Autobots, while his comrades attacked a power plant to siphon its energy and convert it into Energon.

The white mech repeated to himself again and again, that a battle fought as a Decepticon wasn't any different from a battle fought as an Autobot, but he couldn't help but feel nervous. He just couldn't mess up.

This was Skyfire's opportunity to impress Megatron with his flying and fighting skills. He didn't want the warlord to regret accepting a traitor back into his ranks.
That he just couldn't risk.

Not now.

A familiar voice screeched over his com, "Skyfire, you fool! You're drifting off your flight path. Bank left!"
The shuttle instantly adjusted, grateful for the distraction from his nervous thoughts, even if it meant that Starscream was now angry with him.

Oddly enough, the Seeker seemed just as nervous as the taller mech and scrutinized his every move.

Skyfire would have smiled if he could in his alt form. Odd or not, it was somehow comforting.

He continued his circling, feeling like one of these great earth birds, called vultures. Circling and circling, while under him the hyenas made the kill.

The shuttle tuned out the screams that reached his audios and concentrated on the ground, keeping a lookout for dirt clouds or unusual landmarks that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

"Hey Screamer, I've got them. North-Northwest. " Skyfire banked to get closer to Skywarp's position. A sharp command from Starscream had him turning again.

The danger that the Autobot had split their forces to surprise them from two sides was too great to allow him to gawk at the dust cloud at the horizon.

His thought was correct – only the Autobots were already there.
Seconds later, a well-aimed shot downed Mixmaster and prevented Devastator from entering this particular fight.

Skyfire winced as the other Constructicons cried out in rage and shared pain, searching for the culprit who caused their brother to fall.

Autobots suddenly appeared out of nowhere as one of them, Skyfire believed he was called Hound, deactivated a hologram that had kept their approach hidden.

Suddenly the world dissolved into chaos.

He remembered hearing Megatron, roaring with anger and cussing a storm, ordering his troops to attack. There were explosions everywhere, laser fire, bombs, screams of rage, hate, pain, desperation….

So many screams.

The sky seemed to contort and twist, ugly now that dust and smoke tainted its purity, the once white clouds brown and dark one moment, illuminated with colorful lights the next.

Skyfire froze, unable to tell friend and enemy apart, to see the difference between human blood and Energon, to remember why he was here in this madness, a world he no longer understood and that seemed to be falling apart….

"SKYFIRE! What are you doing, soldier? Help us! ATTACK!"

Starscream's voice snapped him from his stupor like a saving light in a stormy night.

He scanned the area, trying to find his friend.
Starscream turned up right beside him, shielding him from Autobot fire while one of his own thrusters was already smoking from an unfortunate hit.

Skyfire's Spark clenched painfully.

He had let him down.

Again, he had let him down.

"I said ATTACK!"

"What?" Skyfire's thoughts were still disorganized, but Starscream's presence helped him to concentrate and focus.

"You are a DECEPTICON now! So shoot! There are the enemies! Help us! SHOOT ALREADY!" The Seeker screamed enraged, firing some shots himself and slapping the shuttle with a wing as he saw an opportunity.

"Right…. You are right," Skyfire's CPU finally cleared and he remembered where he was and what he had to do.

And that he couldn't mess up!

He banked left, away from Starscream who seemed relieved and began to screech obscenities at every Autobot who dared to fire at him.

Skyfire searched for a target and spotted the twins trying to catch Skywarp unawares to try their Jet Judo on him.
The shuttle hesitated for a moment, then he fired, piercing red armor with his shot and causing angry roars all around him.

He could hear the Autobots calling him a traitor, an unnatural occurrence, a relic of a past that had to be destroyed, because, surely, everybody could see that his processor didn't work right anymore if he willingly joined the Decepticons. Nobody could be sure what he would do next with his damaged CPU.
Perhaps trying to get the Earth to collide with the sun?

They wouldn't put anything past him.

Skyfire could feel his Spark clench again, then he felt anger rise within him. Anger at all these mechs whose fault it was that now he was here and had to fight for his life. Anger at all these mechs who had taken everything from him and forced to change himself in order to survive and reach his dreams.

He fired again, hitting the yellow twin this time, who cried out in obvious pain and crumpled in a heap. Skyfire didn't spare him a glance but turned around and searched for a new target.

Starscream joined him, cheering and taunting the downed Autobot.

He could hear Skywarp cackling as the black and purple Seeker appeared at Starscream's other side.

"There! If we hit this mountainside, the resulting landslide will take care of the Autobots for us!" Starscream excitedly shouted, transmitting coordinates as they neared three ground pounders, hiding in a crevice.

Skyfire sent his affirmative, aimed and fired….

In the end, the raid had been successful enough for Megatron to allow a party to celebrate their victory.

Some Decepticons were confused or mistrustful, unused to such generous behavior from their Lord.

Yes, the attack had been relatively successful, but not to such an extent that precious Energon could be wasted by converting it into several versions of homebrew.

Naturally, Starscream was the most suspicious of those Cons with a functioning logic center in their cranial units, but he was too shaken to voice his doubts and demand explanations.

Megatron had praised him.

HIM! In front of everyone! Because he had snapped Skyfire out of his trance and together with Skywarp they had buried two of the Autobot officers and their best gunner under tons of earth and stones, with one, perfectly ordered and executed maneuver of his aerial troops.

The Seeker didn't know what to think about this historic event.

It was just too… unfamiliar.

"You know, at parties, one drinks and has fun. You will have plenty of time to stare into space later, Starscream," said Skywarp helpfully from his side, a huge grin on his face.

"Now, now, Warp, give the poor mech a break. Some things need time to fully settle in." Thundercracker gently patted one white and red wing, visibly amused by his Commander's unresponsive state.

A tall shadow fell over all three Seekers as Skyfire arrived, four cubes balanced carefully in his arms.
He passed some of his burden out to the two grateful Seekers, than he looked at his friend, a frown on his face-plates, "Is he still out of it?"

"Yep," Thundercracker chuckled good-naturedly, while Skywarp couldn't resist waving his hand in front of Starscream's face up and down.

"Wow…. To think that Megatron has tried since, like, ages to break him, and all he would have needed to do was give him a single compliment…."

The purple and black Seeker clearly found the whole situation hilarious. He would never let Starscream live this down.

Skyfire sighed and pressed a cube of high-grade into a light blue hand, "Now, come on Starscream. It's not such a big deal!"

The white and red Seeker mechanically lifted his arm to take a sip. Nothing happened for a few moments – then the mech wheezed for air, choking and spitting, while clutching his midsection.

Laughter roared throughout the room and one "brave" Con called from the middle of the crowd, "Looks as if someone can't hold his high-grade!"

Starscream didn't even look up from his coughing, he simply held one hand up and made an odd gesture with his fingers, that Skywarp translated for Skyfire as a very rude human gesture called "flipping the bird".

Thundercracker patted Starscream's back while they all waited for the red Seeker to clear his intakes. "So…. I see you were granted the privilege of tasting some of Starscream's ultra secret, special homebrew?" he asked conversationally.

Skyfire nodded with a grimace, "I think I still have the headache from the other day. Primus, that stuff is tough."

Thundercracker laughed while Skywarp leaned conspiratorially over, "But it's the best stuff you can get around here. Even if the Constructicons claim otherwise. If you want some, and Starscream's bitchy again, ask me, I have some cubes stocked."

"Oh! That's where my secret stash went," grumbled the SIC, finally over the initial shock.

Skywarp only grinned, "I know nothing."

Starscream lifted an optic ridge, but kept silent and sipped at his cube.

Skyfire turned to observe the party.

All the chaos around him was still hard to believe and even harder to endure, but he tried to stop flinching and wincing at every brawl, bellow or shout and to see everything with the optics of an explorer. If he affected that the main forces of the Decepticons were a particular primitive tribe somewhere on a remote planet he had once cataloged, their behavior even made sense.

The shuttle sighed and turned back to Starscream, who now sat alone on his bench, Skywarp and Thundercracker obviously gone.
The Seeker smirked at his taller friend, "Still overwhelmed?"

"A bit," confessed Skyfire and smiled weakly. "But it's better than last time."

Starscream chuckled and shook his head. "Come on, you big Sparkling. I won't risk frizzling your logic chips about the odd behavior of drunken Decepticons."

'Look who's talking,' thought Skyfire dryly, but said nothing as he followed Starscream out of the rec room. After a short stopover at the SIC's quarters to retrieve some more high-grade, they settled in Skyfire's lab again, this time content to simply talk.

They revived stories of their time at the Academy, laughed about little funny incidents and events in the Decepticon army. Starscream regaled the shuttle about his own training at the Decepticon War Academy and his first battle experiences.

It was a comfortable and calm time, a conversation between two friends of the past and the present, with the high-grade used only as a way to underline the experience and loosen the tongues and inhibitions.

The night was halfway over before Skyfire felt confident enough to ask the Seeker a question that occupied his CPU since he first heard of the war between the two factions.


"Hm?" The Seeker sat on the table again, leaning against the wall behind him, his optics dimmed to a dull maroon tone.

"Why are you a Decepticon?"

Starscream didn't even brighten his optics as he answered with a strangely indifferent, "What else should I be?"

Skyfire sat beside his friend and studied the dark face, "I think you misunderstood. Why did you join the Decepticons in the first place?"
The Seeker smiled in a strange, disconcerting way as he turned his face to look at his friend, his optics still dull and almost lifeless.

"I understood you the first time, and the answer stays the same: What else should I be?"

"An Autobot, perhaps. Or a Neutral." Skyfire sounded unsure, disturbed by the reaction of his friend – or more precisely, the lack thereof.
He had thought Starscream would launch into a speech of the glory and justice of the Decepticon cause and his destiny as its leader.

But this?

This half-smile, so tired and sad?

Starscream sighed and faced the room again, slumped against his wall, one leg dangling, the other bent on the table so that he could use it as a pillar for one of his arms.

"When you look at us, Skyfire, when you look at the Decepticons, what do you see?"

The shuttle frowned, caught off guard by this question. "I see a glorious cause, the future of Cybertron."

Starscream barked a short laugh, "Yeah, sure…. You know, you can answer truthfully. The camera is blind, Megatron can't hear us and I'm too drunk to really care. So, honestly, what do you see?"

"Mechs?" Skyfire shrugged as Starscream laughed again.

"A whole lot closer, but not exactly what I wanted. Let's try again: What do you see if you look at the Autobots?"

"Another bunch of mechs – Starscream stop laughing! I asked you a question and you play games with me! That's not fair!"

The Seeker hiccupped two times, then he pulled himself together, "Sorry, Sky, I just couldn't resist."
He chuckled quietly.
"So…. Why am I asking you these apparently inane questions…." he struggled for a moment for the best way to explain himself.

"You see, if you want to know why I am a Decepticon, you have to see both factions the way I do. The way everybody did as this whole war started.

"If you look at every single Decepticon, he is either a military type, a former construction worker or a Cassetticon. The Autobots, by contrast, are the remaining classes. They have former scientists, workers, traders, medics, security mechs and what-do-I-know-what-else in their ranks.

"There is not one single, real warrior by build. Even those obnoxious twins for all their brutality worked as a trader and an artist before the slag hit the fan.

"We," He waved with a hand, encompassing the whole room and the base around it, "are the rejects, the lowlifes, the misfits and the mechs who have outlived their usefulness. They could and can be anything they want."

Skyfire opened his mouth to say something, but Starscream silenced him with a raised hand and a stern look, "Listen! You want the whole ugly truth and I'm willing to spill it. But only now, because I'm too wasted to lie or really think about what I'm telling you. So, shut up! Or leave.
Your decision!"

Skyfire stayed silent. After a moment, the Seeker continued as if nothing ever happened.

"When I returned to Cybertron, nothing was as it was before. Everything had changed and not for the better.

"You know how they treated me at the Academy in my student years. How aghast most were to have a military type in their midst, easily keeping up with all of them. How they tried to make my live harder and to bully me away.

"Returning to the Academy after your crash, things got worse and I didn't even know why.
They barely heard my story and they had already petitioned for a trial and accused me of your murder and the plagiarism of your work from all the years we worked side by side. They simply kicked me out, erased my records and assigned you the creadit for all my inventions and discoveries.

"And there I was, homeless and creditless, not understanding why everybody around me threw odd glances or glares my way.
I wandered around, trying to find work or at least a gracious Spark who would give me Energon.

"No such luck.

"Some security mechs arrested me, accused me of spying, vagrancy, damaging property, rioting and a whole list of other things.
I convinced them to release me, that I had done no such things – only to run into the next patrol and repeat the whole farce.

"In the end, I was "kindly" asked to leave Iacon as fast as possible and kicked out of the city.

"I somehow wound up in Kaon, and finally somebody had the kindness to tell me about the Energon shortage, the dawning war and the animosity between the military type mechs and the rest of Cybertron.

"You know, the Council of Elders wanted to scrap us, because we were fuel inefficient and weren't needed anymore.
Some even said we had never been needed to begin with.
In their optics, we were nothing more than primitive brutes, incapable of anything other than violence.
They thought we weren't worth giving a chance, and didn't consider us as real, sentient beings.

"They made us, so they decided that they had the right to kill us.

"Many things were closed during this time, War Academies, construction sites, military bases, transport companies, docks, everything….

"And we were left to die.

"You know, Skyfire, I didn't join the Decepticons because I believed in their cause. Perhaps I did to an extent, at that time, but it wasn't the main reason.

"I did it, because I wanted to survive.

"They had a goal, a future to strive for, something better than resigning yourself to your fate, waiting to die for the good of the populace, mechs who never did anything for you.

"Even then I knew, that it would be tough, that I would lose some part of myself in all the fighting, and that I would end up doing things that would be simply wrong and against everything I once believed in.

"But you know, a very thin and blurry line divides right and wrong. And if you want to survive, this line doesn't even exist anymore.

"The only comfort I had was the knowledge that I was built to fight. I knew that I would come to enjoy it, thought not as much as doing research with you."

He flashed a small, sad smile at his friend.

"You know, to be completely honest, sometimes I played with the thought, how it would have been, if I hadn't been created as a Seeker. If I had been a shuttle like you, or a ground pounder.

"Would I have been an Autobot, fighting because I chose to fight, not caring if I had wronged the opposite faction in the first place, believing in my right and my cause?

"Or would I be a Neutral, hiding away from the struggle and simply living how I choose to?

"The fact is, I will never know. I was built as a military type, and, as such, I will ever be a Decepticon."

"Why? You could desert anytime." Skyfire gazed at his friend, who sighed.

"You still don't understand my point.

"There are no military types under the Autobots and Neutrals.
And don't believe that there weren't any who didn't try to desert.

"Thundercracker would probably be the first to go if he could.

"But, if a Neutral or an Autobot sees a mech with weapons built in his armor, not belatedly added, red optics and thrusters in his feet, he will simply shoot, not caring if the mech is wearing an insignia or not, and never thinking if he, perhaps, wanted to defect.

"You know, sometimes all the preaching about friendship and compassion doesn't sound so bad.
It would be nice to be accepted, to be respected and treated like a real comrade – but all these ideals only apply to Autobots, Neutrals and puny organics, not mechs who fight against their ordered extinction.

"So I'm stuck with being a Decepticon.
Now and forever.

"What else should I be, Skyfire?"

The shuttle stayed silent for a long time, pondering over Starscream's words again and again.
How much truth did they hold?
How much had changed since Starscream had resigned himself to his fate as a Seeker, a warrior?

He had no possible answer to that.

"And Megatron?" he asked after a while.

"What about him?" Starscream took a sip from his cube, now dangling both legs.

"Why do you try to overthrow him?"

Starscream grinned humorlessly and swirled the contents of his cube, "Why not?"

"Huh?" Skyfire stared at him, failing to see the reasoning.

"Look, I'm already on a one-way street leading to a dead end, so why shouldn't I have a bit of fun on my way down?
Or, to use another metaphor, I'm already down so low, that there's only one way left to go, up, else I fall into the pit.
The pit I'll be seeing soon enough, so why not try to get achieve the highest position I can before my final downfall?"

"You are only doing it for fun?" Skyfire couldn't believe it. Somehow he had expected… more?

"And for the excitement. Oh, and don't forget the crown. Did you see his crown?"

Skyfire gave him an odd look and the Seeker began to laugh.

"No, really, the fun is only one of the reasons. Another one is that Megatron comprises everything a Cybertronian sees in a Decepticon: A warrior, violent, malevolent, cruel, fuel inefficient, he loves to torture and kill, he wastes Energon for his useless plans….

"He is the perfect image of everything the Council accused us of being, so if I fight with him and insult him, then it's as if I could distance myself from this image. For a few invaluable moments, I can prove everyone wrong and be simply me, and not what they want to see in me."

"That's insane," commented Skyfire.

Starscream only shrugged. "I know."

He downed the rest of his cube and shifted on his seat until he got more comfortable.

"You know what's really insane?

"We got along, once. He respected me and even heeded my advice. Sure, he punished me now and then, but only little slaps compared to what he does to me now. And he never humiliated me in front of everyone, no, that came much later.

"But I fragged it up.

"I was the one who started this whole circle of treachery, hate and pain. I think I simply wanted one Cybertronian in this universe who really had a right to hate me from the first surge on. Just to check if it somehow would feel different."

"Does it?"

Starscream nodded tiredly and whispered, "Yes, it does. But, besides that, it is just plain, simple hate.
And hate never vanishes."

"That's… sad," said Skyfire lamely.

Starscream shrugged, staring at his hands and the empty cube between them, "It's existence. Not life, but existence."
He looked up at Skyfire, "What else is left for me?"

The white mech kissed him.

Starscream hesitated for a moment, then he silenced all the frantic warnings in his CPU that he was about to make a terrible mistake and he responded to the eager lips.

He wanted the comfort Skyfire so openly offered.

He wanted to pretend that life could be good.

Just once, just tonight.

A huge hand settled on his right wing and Starscream smiled into the kiss.

Life was good.

The next day, Starscream positively floated through the base, a huge smile plastered on his face that just didn't seem to waver, regardless of what Skywarp and the Cassetticon twins tried to do.

Nothing could destroy Starscream's good mood, neither the other Cons' snide comments, nor Megatron's amused smirk, nor the harassing of his wing mates for details.

He neither shrieked, nor insulted, nor screamed, nor argued, he simply smiled dreamily and floated away.

It was downright creepy.

Rumors began to spread that aliens had replaced their Air Commander with a robot.

The theory enjoyed great popularity, until Thundercracker pointed out that it was ridiculous because a) they were aliens themselves and b) they were already robots, a form of android to be precise.

TC earned himself a half dozen glares and a muttered "Spoilsport," from Skywarp, then the Decepticons decided that the evil aliens were assuredly the Autobots and that they owned them a "Thank You" card.

Starscream didn't care about the rumors.

Life was good.

Another loud scream.

Starscream winced and looked up from his data-pad, to the door to his right that led to Skyfire's lab.

What the slag was the shuttle doing with this human? Couldn't he simply kill it like all the others before?

Sure, Megatron had suggested that the white mech should practice interrogation and torture techniques on his newest toy, but Starscream had the feeling that his friend was a bit too eager to please his leader and overdid it.

The fleshling had screamed for hours already and no end was in sight.

The Seeker sighed and tried to concentrate on his work again. Another agonized scream interrupted him only minutes later, high and keening in its desperation and pain, begging for a death that just didn't seem to come.

Starscream stood up and knocked on the door.

It opened some moments later, revealing a questioning Skyfire, "Yes?"

"Could you please kill it a little more quietly? I'm trying to work."

"Oh, sure. Sorry. I didn't want to disturb you, it's just…." The shuttle trailed off, looking as if he didn't know if he should speak further or not.

"What?" Starscream folded his arms over his chest and lifted an optic ridge. If there were any problems he would rather deal with them now, before Megatron caught wind of them and changed his mind about his new favorite flyer.

Skyfire looked a bit sheepish, "It's just that I never expected it to be so… easy. And interesting. It's really fascinating how something so small and fragile can endure so much, especially if given the proper treatment when it becomes too damaged and close to death. The possibilities…."

He trailed off again as he noticed that Starscream only stared at him, mouth wide open.

"Did I say something wrong?"

"No… nothing at all. Simply try to be more quiet, okay, Skyfire?"

The white mech grinned amiably and winked with one mismatched optic, "Your wish is my command, love."

The door closed and Starscream stared dumbfounded for some moments, then he shook his head.

What exactly had just happened?

"Have you noticed anything odd about Skyfire lately?" Starscream would give everything at the moment for one sane mech in the Decepticon army to discuss his worries with, but said sane mech was currently the subject of the discussion, so his wing mates had to do.

"No, not really. Why?" Thundercracker sounded thoughtful as he flew beside Starscream, wriggling his wingtips a little, imitating a shrug.

"Yes," Skywarp's answer over the com was more promising.
The black and violet Seeker was flying near Skyfire on the other side of the power plant, completely bored with his position as a guard and jumping at every distraction.

"I noticed that each morning you can see him coming out of his room with this really huge grin on his face. And he is usually right behind you. Oh, and his optics are always wayyyy south on your frame, Screamer."

Two voices sniggering were heard over the com link while Starscream tried to come up with a dignified response.
He failed.

"Is that all?" he asked lamely. Was he truly the only one who had noticed Skyfire's changing behavior?

"No, he winks a lot in your direction, too. You should ask him if he needs a new optic."

More laughter.

"Morons!" screeched Starscream and closed his com-link. Thundercracker's frame beside him trembled slightly as the jokes between the two other Seekers continued.

The red and white jet cursed inwardly while he passed over the power plant.

Why didn't anybody in this slagging army take anything he said seriously?
Why did everybody only laugh about his thoughts and worries?

For the past few days, Starscream had the feeling that even Skyfire had begun to take on this behavior.
Sure, he would listen to him if he ranted and rambled, he would nod or do something to try to calm him, but more and more often he would just stop him with a kiss or not even give him a chance to start.
He would wink, as Skywarp mentioned before, smile and leave.

Just like that.

Starscream sighed and assured himself that he overreacted, that Skyfire didn't mean anything by acting like this, that he himself behaved like a spoiled Sparkling who felt as if he didn't get the full measure of attention he felt he deserved….

It didn't help much.

"Starscream? STARSCREAM!" The red Seeker yelped as Thundercracker roared in his comlink, startling him out of his thoughts.

"What?" he hissed, embarrassed.

"Oh, can it. You should be glad that it was me and not Megatron. The Autobots have arrived and you were so spaced out you didn't even notice."
Thundercracker sounded as if he wasn't able to decide if he should amused, worried or irritated.

"Your friend seems to be having fun," the blue Seeker remarked after some seconds.

Starscream hurried to do a U-turn and look for himself. Thundercracker was right, Skyfire really seemed to be enjoying himself.

The shuttle fired round after round at the Autobots, soaring closely over them, obscuring their view with the dust clouds that followed in his wake.

Skywarp egged him on, giggling like a mad mech.
He used the distraction the taller mech and his attacks afforded to teleport again and again, right into the midst of the disoriented Autobots and cut them down effortlessly, one by one.

Starscream opened his com-link fully and listened to the comments and insults that spilled from the hidden lips of both flyers, taunting and tormenting their helpless enemies, while their comrades collected Energon without disruptions.

"You know, I think I get why you asked me about Skyfire," said Thundercracker as he observed their two fellow flyers having the time of their lives.
"He behaves like a real Decepticon now."

"Yeah, he does…," murmured Starscream.

The blue Seeker nudged his red and white counterpart gently with a wing, "You don't sound too happy about it."

The SIC shied away from the friendly gesture and snarled in the com. "You're imagining things! I am happy!"

Both Seekers fell silent, but each of them had the same thought in their processors:


"You should have seen it! They ran around like some of these squishies, yelling for their Creators or for Prime to save their skid-plates." Skywarp laughed and waved his hands around, retelling his story for the umpteenth time.

"When they weren't busy insulting us and demanding that we come down and fight. The nerve of those slaggers," commented Skyfire, much calmer than his purple and black wingmate. The shuttle shook his head with a mock indignant expression and downed a cube of high-grade.

"Yeah!" Skywarp went on. "They just kept calling us cowards. Someone should teach them some manners and the value of a good tactic!"

The Seeker thrust a hand in the air, spilling the high-grade in the cube he held on everyone around him.

His comrades roared and imitated his gesture, coating the rec room in a fine film of bright pink liquid.

Starscream observed his subordinates from a corner of the room and shook his head.

"Skywarp preaching about manners and tactics," he murmured. "We should enjoy this day to the fullest, it will be our last. Unicron is coming, I'm sure of it."

He lifted his own cube in a mock toast, a blank expression on his face, and then downed it as if it would be his last.

"Has anyone ever told you that you tend to exaggerate, Starscream?" chuckled Megatron from a table not far from his somber Second.
The Seeker turned to face him, lifting an optic ridge, "Yes, I think there were some complaints in the past, but after the first few casualties, they shut up."

"Don't tell me you couldn't take it, Starscream?" Now it was Megatron's turn to lift an optic ridge, an anticipatory sneer spreading over his face.

"Oh, I think I took it very well, Megatron. They, on the other hand…. Well, I think they would have called my reaction a bit… exaggerated."
The red and white mech offered a nasty grin and his superior chuckled again.

Starscream smirked to himself. Even Megatron was likeable when intoxicated.

The Warlord passed his SIC a new cube, than he nodded at Skyfire and Skywarp on the other side of the room, "He makes a good Decepticon. I should have listened to you sooner."

Starscream had to struggle to keep his jaw locked and in place. He gingerly took his cube, looked at it for one moment, and then he downed it in one gulp.

He turned his gaze back to Megatron just in time to see him look amused.

"Don't you agree with me, Starscream?"

The red Seeker glanced over at his friend and noticed how he talked and joked with the Decepticons around him, finally fully at ease in their presence.
A fight started not far from him, but the shuttle didn't stare or try to scoot away like before, but cheered the two brawling mechs on, and laughed at the insults shouted across the room.

"Yeah, he fits right in." Starscream narrowed his optics thoughtfully.

Megatron sighed and leaned back in his seat, "It's good to see that he finally doesn't stand around in a corner, observing everything and everybody as if something would jump out of the shadows and try to scratch his optics out. A good Decepticon should know how to enjoy a party."

The Decepticon Lord shot his SIC a sly look, a mocking grin on his lips. "Don't you agree, Starscream?"

The Seeker almost answered the question, but then he realized the hidden insult.

He glared at his leader, threw his empty cube on the floor and stormed out of the room, passing Skyfire on his way out without so much as a glance from the shuttle in his direction.

Megatron's laughter followed him down the hall.

"You left the party early, tonight. What happened?"

Starscream looked up from his data-pads, glaring at the white shuttle that blinked, slightly worried down at him. The Seeker looked at his friend for a few seconds longer, then his expression wavered and he sighed.

"I just wasn't in the mood, that's all." He sighed again and stared tiredly down at his work.

A huge hand settled on his shoulder near the wing joints, and squeezed in a comforting manner.
"If you say so," whispered Skyfire in his audio receptor. "But you really missed a lot of fun."

"It's good that you finally feel at home," murmured the red Seeker lamely, still gazing at the glowing pads.

"Yes, it is." Starscream could hear the grin in Skyfire's voice.
The hand on his shoulder began to massage him slightly and the red flyer leaned into the soothing motion.

"They aren't as bad as I had dreaded. In fact, they are pretty okay. And it's simply great to finally be able to do exactly what you want, without having to be afraid that somebody might not approve."

Starscream sat up abruptly, smacking Skyfire's arm away with his wing.

He turned to stare at his friend with wide optics, "What?"

The shuttle rubbed his arm and tilted his head in confusion, "Did I say something wrong?"

Starscream's optics narrowed. "Perhaps…. But perhaps it was just a misunderstanding…. What did you mean with your last sentence?"

The shuttle shifted his weight slightly and shrugged, "Well, as a Decepticon my possibilities for research are much larger than ever before. At the Science Academy it was unheard of to work with living sentient creatures the way I do now. I have many more liberties here. By the way, don't you agree that the term "sentient" is somewhat stretching the truth with regards to these organics?"

Starscream gaped at his friend, something he found himself doing more and more often lately, and somehow it made him feel ill.
He shook himself out of his stupor and nodded weakly, "Perhaps…."

Skyfire smiled, bent down and kissed the Seeker.

Starscream could taste the high-grade on his lips and his Spark clenched slightly. He pulled back and turned his face away.
"Don't you have patrol tomorrow morning?" he asked with a forced, stern voice.

The shuttle shrugged again, another thing that happened too often lately, for Starscream's liking. "Who cares? Megatron will be too hung-over to even notice when I'm a bit late."

The Seeker hesitated for a moment, then he grabbed his lover by the collar and pulled him nearer to accept the eager white lips.

Another day, another battle….

Humans fled, screaming for their female Creator or their multiplicity of gods, buildings burned, mechs laughed, Jets soared overhead, Megatron bellowed orders, the Cassetticons giggled manically, Starscream stood at the side and had problems keeping his thoughts to himself.

Nothing out of the ordinary, really.

Only that Skyfire, peaceful, patient, docile Skyfire, had way too much fun squishing the fleeing humans in flat, red blotches on the ground.

He didn't laugh or show some of the insane glee other Decepticons often displayed, but he made an effort to catch at least one human with each of his steps, spattering blood and bone pieces everywhere. Every two or three steps, he halted for a short moment to analyze the results of his efforts with scientific curiosity.

Starscream couldn't help it, his tank churned.

He managed to hold his Energon down, but he still felt terribly sick as he watched his tall friend having his fun.

It wasn't so much the sight of the little organic spots everywhere – he himself stepped more often then not on at least one squishy at their raids, even if he hated the feeling under his thrusters and the horrible sounds it made – but the knowledge that it was Skyfire who did it.

And that he enjoyed it.

He felt like an Autobot.

Starscream sat on his berth, head in his hands, staring unseeingly at the floor and felt – like an Autobot.

He was disgusted by what he had witnessed today and just couldn't get the images out of his head. Skyfire walking around, leaving red traces wherever he went, looking at him, smiling at him as if nothing had happened.

The Seeker could feel his tanks churn again and ruthlessly fought down the Energon that rose in his throat, regardless how much the half-processed liquid burnt as it passed pumps and valves again.

He sighed after some moments, finally certain that he had won against the contents of his tanks and rubbed a hand over his tired optics. How he hated being so weak, but he just couldn't help it.

At least he had maintained a blank face until he was safely back in his room, away from prying eyes. He remembered the time some hours before, the looks of horror he had seen on the faces of the arriving Autobots….

He still shuddered, even now.

For the first time in his life, he could understand their hate against him and his comrades without any problem.

It had simply been revolting.

And he didn't know if he should be more ashamed of the deed or of his thoughts.

He sighed and lay down, pressing his hands on his optics as if he could keep his CPU from replaying the scenes over and over.

A quiet beep alerted him to a visitor and he groaned, "Come in!" without even thinking about it.
The door opened and closed, while deceivingly light steps neared his berth.

A massive shadow fell on the shape of the red Seeker and white digits carefully peeled one hand from the ruby red optics. "Are you all right?"

Starscream didn't know whether to smile or purge his tanks as he saw Skyfire's concerned face, and for the umpteenth time, all that happened only hours ago raced again through his CPU.

The shuttle didn't know his friend's dilemma, and sat himself down on the edge of the berth. "What's wrong?"

His mismatched optics glowed dimly with worry and Starscream smiled after some moments of hesitation.

"Nothing." He pulled the taller mech closer, wanting nothing more than to be comforted by his presence and to forget.

To deny and forget, like he's done so many times before.

"You should come help me sometimes. Humans may not be the brightest beings in the universe, but their anatomy is certainly fascinating. They are a lot tougher than most Decepticons give them credit for, at least for purely organic creatures. The theories behind their bodily functions are simply amazing. Their whole evolution from slimy little monads to complex, multicellular, communicating and building bipeds…."

Starscream paid no attention to the excited explanations of his lover and friend. He didn't want to know about the inner workings of the squishies, nor their accomplishments, nor their place on the evolutional ladder of the universe.

In his opinion, Skyfire's words were completely unnecessary.
They only got him to think and remember, and that in turn made his tank churn and his wingtips quiver in disgust, not only because of Skyfire, but because of himself as well.

Starscream wanted to just live with Skyfire's voice in his audios, singing him a wordless lullaby without even realizing it, that soothed his racing processor and took his mind away from all unpleasantness.

The Seeker huddled closer against the shuttle, nestling his dark face in the crook between neck and shoulder, hiding himself away from a world he didn't want to face anymore.

White fingers smoothed over white and red wings, relaxing the tension without even realizing their owner was the cause of all of it.

Starscream offlined his optics, only to fall victim to his thoughts again.

It had been almost a month since the first time he had first felt sick while watching Skyfire squish the running humans at the power plant. It had only gotten worse since then, but Starscream made great efforts to look in the other direction whenever his Spark clenched painfully and told him that things were not quite right.

What could, or should he do anyhow?

He had become much quieter and withdrawn in the last month.
Everybody had noticed the change, but most only thought, relieved, that he had finally learnt his lesson and simply didn't want to antagonize Megatron anymore. Some others thought it was Skyfire's doing and joked how the shuttle had tamed their feisty SIC until he was nothing more than a good little pet, doing anything just to be patted on the head.

Megatron himself only smirked in a knowing way whenever Starscream saw him, supposedly laughing himself silly in the confines of his quarters.
He had known from the beginning that this entire scenario wouldn't end well and he enjoyed every moment of the show.

Only Thundercracker and Skywarp seemed a bit worried, although the black and purple teleport was more irritated than anything else.
His favorite prank victim had become all docile and quiet and he didn't like it one bit.
No more colorful insults, no screams that shattered the inner workings of his audios, no chases through the base, no creative punishments and pay-backs.

Life was a whole lot more boring now Warp decided, as he tried again and again to lure his old wingmate out of his strange mood.
Without any success.

But he finally found another way to occupy himself….

Starscream couldn't bring himself to care what the others thought or said. He just wanted to stay where he was, in Skyfire's arms, away from the horrors of everyday.

Just a little, little while longer….

Here he could forget what Skyfire had done to the humans at the power plant, the horrified, accusing faces of the Autobots, the noises, the smell, the sights.

He could forget the screams heard from specimens when his friend worked in his lab.
He could forget Skyfire's bloodstained hands when Starscream brought him Energon, and the excited glint in his optics whenever he spoke about his research.
He could forget Skyfire's laughter when he had first heard the pet-jokes and how the shuttle had joined in the joking himself and made innuendos.
He could forget that most Decepticons thought that their current SIC would soon lose his position to his lover, not because of skills but because of the simple fact of greater obedience and cruelty.
He could forget the way Skyfire had begun to treat him, as if he was an object to take for granted and could control and use however it pleased him.

He could forget that he had seen Skywarp and Skyfire together after the last party, groaning and moaning, chanting each other's names.

He could also forget how Skyfire had come into his quarters the same night, purple scratches on his white paint, and had kissed him as if nothing had happened.

Just a little longer….

He would break up with him soon enough – but not now. Not at this moment.

Just a little longer….

Day after day, week after week passed by and nothing changed.

Skyfire lived his life as a Decepticon, happy with his new liberties regarding his research and his duties in battle, while Starscream seemed to wither away.

The Seeker swore to himself again and again that he would end their relationship soon, and then everything would go back to normal.
No remorse, no nightmares, no guilt because he had made Skyfire into who he was now.

But he couldn't do it.

Each time Skyfire came to him, he greeted him with a smile, even if it was shallow and pale now.

The taller mech never noticed and just continued on as if nothing was wrong.

It could have continued like this for eternity, if Skyfire hadn't broken the pattern….

The Decepticons had organized another party.

By now Starscream was more than sick and tired of the frequent parties.
Just as sick and tired as of everything that was even remotely associated with the Decepticon cause.

He had stayed in his quarters, unwilling to endure Megatron's silent mockery or the sight of the tall, white stranger who once had been his best friend and short-term lover, Skyfire.

There was nothing for him at this party, just guilt and pain.

So he sat on his berth and remembered better times, his past on Cybertron as everything had been, perhaps not always peachy but at least bearable as long as Skyfire had been there.

But now that Skyfire was gone, lost to him forever – and it was Starscream's own fragging fault, and there was no freak snowstorm he could put the blame on.

The red and white Seeker noticed how his optics blurred, this was becoming a familiar sensation to him now.
He suppressed the Energon flow to his optics and shut the lines leading to this particular spot of his body with some mental commands.

He hadn't sunken so low… yet.

Loud laughter roared through the hallways outside his quarters, and the Seeker lifted his head to look to the door.

Somebody – one rough voice sounded like another when the owner was overcharged – shouted a comment in the rec room, incomprehensible to Starscream through the slurring and the distance, then the assembled Cons laughed again, a distinct mean undertone ringing in the guffaws.

Starscream narrowed his optics.

Loud, unsteady steps resounded through the hallway, nearing his room, accompanied by shuffling noises and the sound of metal scraping against metal.
The mech outside halted in front of Starscream's room and seemed to busy himself with the door panel, if the noises were any indication.

The Seeker sighed, guessing who tried to gain access to his quarters.

He lay down and turned around, facing away from the door and offlined his optics in an attempt to fool Skyfire into believing that he was recharging.
He could always go to Skywarp if he wanted to have his fun.
Starscream certainly wasn't in the mood.

The door opened with a swoosh and pale light illuminated the otherwise dark room, painting a sharp shadow on the opposite wall.

Skyfire staggered into the room, supporting himself with the wall, while behind him the door closed and left the room in darkness again, aside from two gleaming optics, one red, one blue.
The mismatched optics searched for a moment, then they locked onto the flyer lying on the berth and the shuttle made a pleased noise.
He careened over to the berth and let himself fall, almost crushing Starscream in the progress.

The Seeker said nothing, just scooted away from the taller mech as the other made himself comfortable. A huge white arm wrapped around his waist and restrained him from moving any farther away from Skyfire.

"Where are you going?" murmured the white Decepticon into the darkness, his voice holding a definite slur.
Starscream decided not to answer, still playing his role.

Skyfire didn't yield and began to shake the smaller flyer, "Hey! I'm speaking to you!"
He sounded angry, irritated that his lover hadn't acknowledged him.

A frown appeared on his features, rapidly changing into a scowl as Starscream just wouldn't wake up.

Well, then he would have to make him.

Skyfire pinched one red and white wing and was rewarded with a half startled, half painful yelp and abruptly onlining optics.
The shuttle smirked satisfied, rolled his friend effortlessly onto his back and leaned over him to look into the now red-hued face, "I knew, you were awake. You can't fool me, Starscream!"

It was said playfully, but there was a certain edge to Skyfire's voice that Starscream didn't like. He didn't like it at all.

The shuttle bent closer and the smaller mech could smell the high-grade the other had drunk.

"I'm not in the mood. Go away!" Starscream hissed and tried to turn around again.
Skyfire didn't let him.
The mismatched optics looked almost pleading and a bit hurt, "Don't be like that…. I just want to have a bit of fun. What's wrong with that?"

Starscream shoved the other away, his optics glittering in the darkness, "And I want to recharge. So search for your fun somewhere else!"

The mismatched optics narrowed and Skyfire actually growled, "Are you trying to order me?"
The question was asked with a surprising calmness, even if still somewhat slurred. But the edge was still there, even more pronounced than before.

"Right now it's just a request, but I can make it an order if you push me! After all, I'm Second in Command!"

Skyfire stared at the Seeker for a moment, then snorted.
He snorted in disbelief and laughter, "Second in Command? And that should impress me?"

Suddenly Starscream found himself pressed flat against the berth, Skyfire above him, the mixed glow of their optics bathing the shuttle's face in an eerie purple glow, casting dark shadows over the rest of his body.

"I don't care if you are Second in Command or Megatron himself!" the taller mech sneered. "I'm stronger than you, so I'm in charge and you are the one who has to obey!"

"What?" screeched Starscream, squirming and writhing to get out from under the other mech.

He tried to find his anger, his rage and hate to scream in Skyfire's face, to chase him away and to show him why exactly he was feared by Autobots and Decepticons alike, but he just couldn't. He felt disbelief, he felt guilt, he even felt despair, but not anger or hate.

And more than anything, he was scared.

Skyfire regarded the smaller mech coolly, "What's your problem? It's the Decepticon way. The strong rule the weak. I'm strong and you are… weak!"

From one moment to the next Starscream went rigid. Skyfire used his chance.

He leered at the flyer under him, then he bent down again and began nuzzling a dark cheek, "You are mine! And now… I want some fun…."

Starscream's optics widened.
He shook himself out of his stupor, wriggled one leg free and planted it firmly in Skyfire's midsection. Then he ignited his thruster.

Skyfire screamed in agony as the flames practically exploded around his torso, melting paint and metal and setting his Energon to boil.

He tried to escape the burning pain, fell off the berth and writhed on the floor in anguish.

Starscream stared at him for a moment, his audios still ringing from the horrible shriek, then he quickly crawled backwards across the berth to get away, his frame shaking and his optics never wavering from the opposite edge of the berth, expecting to see Skyfire appear at any moment.

He almost fell off the berth, but caught himself just in time, slipped onto his feet and rushed to the door, keeping his optics on the pale, almost invisible shape on the floor.

The Seeker opened the door and fled, away from his one-time friend, through the hallways, past the rec room and its wasted occupants, nobody coherent enough to even raise their head, and to the lift.

Never before had the rise to the surface taken so long….

He couldn't stop trembling.

Starscream stared at his fingers, clutched into tight fists before him, and tried desperately to stop himself from trembling, shaking, shivering, twitching, quivering, whatever you wanted to call it.

The Seeker sat on a hill, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, chilled despite the warm breeze around him, all alone in the beautiful summer night.

He felt his innards rattling inside him, an echo to his outer quaking. Even his wings twitched frequently, confusing his sensors with useless, chaotic readings that threatened to give him a headache.

As if the situation could get any worse.

He offlined his optics and curled into a ball in an attempt to become as small as possible and stop his trembling.
Hot Energon tears streamed down his face-plates as he repeated again and again in his CPU, 'What have I done?'

It was entirely his fault that the Skyfire he used to know now was lost forever and to everyone.
Only a stranger was left, a true Decepticon, thru and thru.

Not his Skyfire.

This was not the tall mech he had liked and loved, who spent endless hours researching in a quiet, peaceful way, who had limitless patience and an optimism that could drive Starscream insane, who was always nice and polite to everybody until they really slagged him off, who seemed so innocent in one moment and who could amuse himself with sly little comments the next, who only saw Cybertronians, never types or models, who listened to Starscream and agreed with him or forced him to think when he was obviously wrong, who had never deserted him and calmed him whenever the Seeker threatened to overreact, who completed Starscream in every way possible and emphasized his strengths, who treated him like he mattered….

All gone now.

And it was Starscream's fault.

A strangled, desperate sob escaped the vocalizer of the lone Seeker.

If only he had died in those blizzard all that eons ago. Or as he returned to Cybertron.
If he had died none of this mess would ever have happened and he would eventually be reunited with Skyfire in the Matrix.

But now, Skyfire's Spark was tainted beyond recognition and he would never be the same again.

Starscream sobbed again, shaking like a leaf.

He was the reason why Skyfire had been buried in the ice, and why he had become a Decepticon in the first place.

If not for him, the shuttle probably would have ended up as an Autobot, accepted by them and not sentenced to death or eternal imprisonment.
And, after Skyfire returned to the Decepticons, Starscream had helped him settle in and overcome the unsuitable personal traits that weren't appropriate for a Decepticon. But the Seeker had overlooked that all these "unsuitable traits" were what made Skyfire Skyfire in the first place.

His fault….

"Are you blaming yourself, again?"

Starscream jerked at the unexpected voice behind him.

Deceivingly light steps neared him and halted just a few meters away, almost silent in the quiet rustling of the grass.

"You are incredible, you know? If something bad happens you are always the first to blame everything and everyone around you and deny every fault… but if you finally do realize that perhaps you have made a mistake, you suddenly take the guilt for almost everything, however ridiculous and coincidental it is. Unicron himself could appear out of nowhere in this moment and I'm sure that you would find some way to link it to your failures."
Skyfire stated this dryly but with a sad glint in his mismatched optics.

He stood tall, if somewhat stricken, his arms folded over his chest, but not hiding the area of melted and twisted metal that covered his midsection.

Starscream didn't dare turn around, even if Skyfire sounded sober and reasonable. He just stayed quiet and hoped that the shuttle would go away.

Skyfire sighed and took a few steps in Starscream's direction, until he stood behind the sitting Seeker. "I have to apologize to you."

"Okay… accepted. Can you go now?" whispered the red and white mech on the ground, huddling more into himself.

Again he sighed, "No, I can't." Starscream flinched.

"I don't only mean for what happened in your quarters, Starscream. I have to apologize for nearly everything that has happened the last few months. I'm sorry, terribly sorry… but I had no other choice."

Starscream hesitated, then he uncurled a bit, "What… what do you mean?"

And a third sigh. "It was an act. Everything. The Autobots freed me, that's correct, but they never tried to deactivate me or chase me away.
I left of my own accord…."

Flashback, some Months ago

"What do you mean, you have to decline?" Jazz stared, confused at Skyfire, who shifted nervously from one foot to the other.

Both stood in Prime's office, Jazz at Optimus Prime's side, Skyfire at the other side of the large desk. Prowl, the forth occupant of the room, stood at Prime's other side, his expression carefully blank, even as his optic ridge rose.

"Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate all you did for me and the offer to become and Autobot, but…. I can't stay…. Not yet. I have… things to do before I can call myself an Autobot." Skyfire explained softly, even as his optics glinted hard and determined.

Optimus observed him quietly and intently and came to the conclusion that, whatever Skyfire wanted to do, he had already decided that he would do it, with or without the blessings of his new friends.

"I can't force you to stay and even if I could I wouldn't be willing to. But, I have to confess that you have me curious. What do you intend to do? Perhaps we could help you somehow?" Optimus smiled behind his face-mask, trying to reassure the tall white mech.

Skyfire seemed to sag in relief, glad that he had the approval of the Autobot leader for his daring plan.
Even if this approval would be short-lived, once he began to explain what he had in mind.

He cycled his intakes to calm himself, then he began to speak, "I will join the Decepticons."

Three mouths gaped open.

Skyfire used the shock to explain further before they declared him insane, "I can't just leave Starscream in their clutches. Not before I haven't at least tried to free him."

"I'm sorry to destroy your dreams, Skyfire, but I don't think that Starscream believes that he has to be freed. He's been a Decepticon for millennia, frag, he's even their Second in Command, even if he seldom acts like it." Jazz shook his head, his face sincerely regretful and sad for the taller mech.

"I have to agree with Jazz," stated Prowl. "You've already tried to reason with Starscream and you had no success at all. So, even if Megatron would accept you back in his ranks, which is highly unlikely, what would you do to convince him that he chose the wrong faction? And then there is still the issue of all his crimes…."

Prime held a hand up and stopped his SIC.
The tall, blue Cybertronian propped his head on his hands and sighed. "Skyfire…. None of us knows Starscream as well as you do, even if he has changed over the years. Are you
sure that you have a chance to convince him to defect?"

Skyfire didn't hesitate and nodded firmly.

"And are you willing to risk your life because of this chance?"

Another nod.

"I know him. He is stubborn and it's hard to change his mind if he's gotten on the wrong track, but he isn't naturally cruel. A bit careless, yes. Arrogant and sometimes downright irritating, sure. But not cruel. His current behavior is nothing like he used to be, and I think he knows it deep inside. He is just in denial. I think I have a chance if I go about it the right way."

Optimus Prime sighed and gazed directly into Skyfire's optics, "Megatron will want to have proof of your willingness to join his ranks. Are you sure that you are able to do what he will certainly demand from you?"

"Yes! I will do what is necessary. He is my friend, Optimus, my best friend, and I know what awaits me. But I can't just turn my back on him and go on with my life. How could I ever call myself an Autobot if I never try to save him from himself?"

Optimus Prime was silent for long moments, then he nodded, "How could you…."

Prowl and Jazz exchanged a glance, knowing they had lost this argument.

"What about his war crimes, Prime?" asked the SIC after an inaudible sigh.

"If he deserts, I'm sure that he will provide us with valuable information. Besides, he wasn't among the first Decepticons who started the war. Actually he didn't appear in their ranks until some vorns into the war. Starscream may have made it to Second in Command, but I'm not aware of any direct involvement in torture of prisoners or their more violent and unnecessary raids. But, I think we should leave off further discussions until we know if Skyfire is successful or not."

Prowl nodded, "Very well."

"Anything else?" Prime looked at the other two.

"Megatron will want to know a reason why I didn't stay here," said Skyfire.

"I will help you fabricate a convincing lie. We will have to let all the others know, though," mused Jazz, as he glanced expectantly at his leader.
Prime nodded, "I will make an announcement later. You should talk to Wheeljack as well, perhaps he has some ideas that could help you in your future as a Decepticon."

"Thank you," Skyfire smiled gratefully for everything.

The meeting dissolved and Jazz stepped near Skyfire, grinning to hide his worry, "You know, I can understand the whole thing about saving a friend from himself – but Starscream? I just can't get my CPU around it, how you and him can be friends. He is annoying, arrogant and insults simply everything."

Skyfire smiled, "I think his character is refreshing. And the problem, my dear Jazz, isn't that he insults everyone he hates…. The problem is that he is absolutely honest to everyone he likes!"

"Oh…. Good that he hates me then."

"So it was just…." Starscream trailed off, unable to finish his sentence, his processor ringing with thoughts and emotions.

"Just an act. Yes…." Skyfire still stood behind the Seeker, glancing worriedly down at him.
He had the feeling that he had gone too far, but for the life of him, he couldn't think of another way to wake Starscream up and get him to look around and see the truth.

"I still believe that the Decepticon cause is wrong and that the humans deserve our protection as the sentient beings they are."

"But you have killed humans. Directly and indirectly."

Skyfire sighed, relieved. If Starscream tried to argue with him, he couldn't be totally shell-shocked and at least was trying to wrap his CPU around everything that had happened.

"From the very first, it was clear to me, that I would probably have to kill if I wanted to become a Decepticon.
I accepted it – and cheated my way around it whenever I could. Selfish of me, I know, but I'm still a Neutral. I will try to make up for it in the future, sure, but even now you are far more important to me and I know that I will never regret my decision." The Seeker could hear the determination in the calm voice and his Spark seemed to warm.

Perhaps Skyfire told the truth?

Starscream turned half around, so that he could look at the taller mech with one optic, even if he still remained in his guarded position.
"What do you mean, you cheated your way around it? I saw the corpses and the…," he shuddered strongly. "The splashes under your feet."

"I'm a scientist, Starscream. I know how to modify a venom to be less lethal and disastrous and how to kill somebody quickly. The "specimens" Megatron gave me always died a quick and painless death, only he couldn't see it because my bulk obscured the sight of the camera."

"But I heard them scream!" insisted Starscream, wincing at the desperation in his own voice.

"Wheeljack helped me upgrade the documentation equipment installed in my body.
I recorded screaming before I came to you and at every opportunity after that and replayed them while doing my work.
It was all just a fake.

"And the crushed humans you saw were also a trick.
I managed to send a message to the Autobots while I was on patrol, told them the location of the next raid and asked them for a favor.
The humans I crushed were just holograms, created by one of them who hid near the plant."
While he explained, Skyfire slipped nearer and nearer to the sitting Seeker, slowly decreasing the space between them.

"What if they hadn't received the message or hadn't gotten there fast enough?"

"A risk I was willing to take." Again Skyfire spoke with a determination that helped to convince Starscream of his honesty.

The Seeker hesitated and fidgeted a bit, then he asked almost inaudibly, "And Skywarp?"

Starscream winced as Skyfire began to laugh unexpectedly.
The smaller mech curled up again, offlining his optics as all hope seemed to die again.

The shuttle pulled himself together quickly, even if he still chuckled now and then.

"For once that wasn't my idea," he said with a grin evident in his voice.

Starscream felt like crying again.

"It was Skywarp's. He had hoped to provoke a reaction from you if you saw both of us together in a… compromising situation. He was devastated when you said nothing, even though we both had seen you in the doorway that night."

"Just a prank then?" Starscream knew he sounded pathetic, but he didn't care.

Skyfire nodded and smiled, "Just a prank. Nothing ever happened between us."

Suddenly the taller mech shifted and looked uncomfortable.
"And before you ask…. I never intended to really rape you. I just wanted to scare you, hoping that it would be the last push that you needed. To be honest, I had run out of ideas."

"Seems as if you were successful. I'm here – and I'm scared."
Nothing could hide the bitterness and hurt in Starscream's voice, and this time it was Skyfire who flinched.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.

The shuttle hesitated for a moment, then he stepped beside Starscream, feeling the cold metal of the Seeker's wing against the back of his leg.
The wing twitched uncontrollably, causing Skyfire to bite his lip.

He had clearly overdone it.

He started as the Seeker suddenly leaned against his leg, cautiously, ready to withdraw and run at any second.
But Starscream seemed to be searching for closeness.

Perhaps all was not lost.

"Are you… are you still thinking that the Decepticons are the best side for you?" Skyfire asked warily.

Dull red optics looked up at him, but there was no answer.

"You have seen how I would have changed if I had become a Decepticon in truth and you clearly didn't like it one bit…. Don't you think that you have changed in a similar way? Do you still want to be such a monster or be among them?"

Starscream was silent for several minutes, contemplating everything that had happened, not only in the last few months but the last millennia.
He could no longer look the other way as he had done so often before, or deny the wrongness of his decisions or how the Decepticons acted.
He had to accept that he hated being one of them, even if the freedom they promised had once been intoxicating.

He hated the way everyone just wanted to kill or harm each other, how Megatron promised a brilliant future they never would achieve.

And he hated how he had become what everyone always had seen in him.

"But what else should I be, Skyfire?" He whispered silently, new tears streaming down his cheeks.

Skyfire smiled, knowing that he had won.

"You know, you're not the only one to have changed over the years. The Autobots have changed, too. I think
Prime knows intimately that not everything is black and white in this war, and he is willing to a least give you a chance.
And I think the other Autobots know it too.
And if not, they will learn it. I will make sure of that!"

Starscream snorted, nestling closer to the white leg at his side. "And how, pray tell, do you hope to teach them that."

"You know, Skyfire, I didn't join the Decepticons because I believed in their cause. Perhaps I did to an extent, at that time, but it wasn't the main reason.
I did it, because I wanted to survive."

Starscream jerked as he heard his own voice echoing over the hill.

He looked up to Skyfire who smirked proudly, "Don't you know the saying that Sparklings and drunks always tell the truth? I think that you've already created your perfect defense."

Starscream shook his head, even as he felt a smile twitching at his lips. "You would have made a wonderful Decepticon."

"I try my best." Skyfire only grinned, completely unfazed.
Then his expression turned serious and he held a hand out to Starscream, "Can you forgive me for all that I've done to you?"

The Seeker nodded slowly and let Skyfire help him to his feet.
He still shook slightly, but it wasn't as noticeable anymore.
He knew that he wasn't alone, regardless what the near future would bring.

He was a strong mech, he would find a way to deal with the Autobots - as long as Skyfire was by his side.

The shuttle smiled at him, relief clearly visible, "Thank you."

He opened a com link, "Skyfire to Optimus Prime."

Some minutes passed, then the answer came, "Optimus Prime here. It's good to hear your voice again, Skyfire. What can I do for you?"

Skyfire couldn't help but grin and slip an arm around Starscream's shoulders.

The Seeker tensed momentary, then he relaxed. "I was successful. Starscream is willing to defect."

He could hear Optimus' smile over the com link, "That is wonderful news. How did you accomplish it?"

"I... forced him to look in the mirror."

A sequel for this story is already planned and in the making, thanks to my Beta and many readers of "28".
It will be called "What Else Is Left?" and concentrate not only on Starscream, but his wing-mates as well.

Reviews are always appreciated.