"Who's there!?" Demanded Magnus, pulling his weapon when he heard a clatter in the heap of trash and reject parts. "Show yourself, or I shoot!"
For a moment, the only noise was the metallic tinkle of a bolt bouncing from a piece of scrap plating, and then, red paint that the City Commander had at first thought was another piece of lifeless metal twitched and shuddered. There was a small noise. A human might have called it a sob.
"... Ultra Magnus...? Don't shoot..."
Magnus lowered his weapon slowly.
The scientist nodded as he extracted himself from the heap of scrap and discarded parts he had been crouched in, peeling old paint from where it clung to his plating. "Yes."
"What are you doing sitting out here?"
Perceptor rose to his feet slowly, and Magnus noticed his side dented in, though he did not comment on it. "... I was thinking."
"Out here? In the scrap?"
"..." The microscope turned his head away and did not answer.
The silence was awkward, and it dragged on uncomfortably. Eventually, with a 'by-your-leave', Perceptor bade Ultra Magnus farewell and retreated inside Metroplex.
The red-bodied microscope raised his hand to his cheek to ease the soreness, suppressing a wince as it sent shocks of pain through his receptors.
"Perceptor?" He turned when he was hailed, his hand still up to hide the awful dent.
A smile, slightly distorted by the bent derma-plating, lit Perceptor's pale face. Though it was slightly hidden from Ultra Magnus' view by the defensive hand, he saw nonetheless. Worry crept over his kind faceplates.
"... huh, you're damaged? What happened to your cheek?"
"Nothing..." the little scientist turned his head away, though whether it was in embarrassment or shame was unclear. "I tripped and hit my head."
Magnus looked disbelieving. "The third time this deca-cycle?"
A little shrug, "I'm clumsy..."
"Not so clumsy, surely?" The City Commander's blue optics had narrowed in suspicion; though he was only a soldier and certainly not medically trained, even he could see that the damage on the scientist's face was not what one would expect for the victim of a fall – it was concentrated and quite severe in small spots, and had even caused a thin crack in his optic.
Perceptor looked away. "You'd be surprised. Sometimes I just get caught up in what I'm doing. What did you want me for, Magnus?"
Still the soldier stared suspiciously at the red-bodied researcher. "Are you sure you're all right? There's not anything you want to tell me, is there?"
"No." said Perceptor firmly. "Sorry, but it's not your business. So what did you want for me?"
"Hmm? Oh, I was asked to tell you, someone's waiting for you in your lab."
A little nod. "Do you know who?"
"No, sorry, that's all I was told."
Perceptor turned away, his hand back up at his damaged cheek. "Thank you for passing on the message." Without waiting for Ultra Magnus' nod, he left to head back to his lab.
Oh, he had no doubt who was waiting there for him, who would ask after him and send warriors to fetch him. Half of him was touched and blissful. Half was apprehensive and quivered in fear.
The walk, at the same time, dragged for too long but was over far too quickly.
Sure enough, as he saw when he approached the threshold to his private laboratory, he had not been wrong about the identity of the mech who waited on him. A smile pasted to his lips, he raised a hand in greeting.
"Hello," his voice was soft, unobtrusive, barely-there, "have you been waiting long?"
His bondmate took him into a close and warm embrace, cooed loving nothings into his audios, raised a hand to brush over his injury with a deceptive gentleness. Perceptor had to catch himself – he almost flinched. It was easy to forget, when he was being held close like this, and cherished, and valued, and loved.
"Do you mind if I don't recharge with you this night?" He whispered, barely daring to raise his voice any louder, "I have a lot of work to do for Optimus and I promised him I'd make it top priority."
It was the wrong thing to say.
Expressions of adoration turned into vengeful snarls. A loving caress turned into a harsh backhand that stung his already-wounded cheek and sent him crashing to the floor. Promises of 'forever' and devotion turned into accusations of weakness, of worthlessness, of not valuing his mate enough.
Perceptor flinched, but he'd long learned how not to cry under such an assault. He loved his mate. Sometimes he thought his mate loved him, too. Sometimes it was hard to tell.
Much of the time, he was happy to be in the arms of someone who claimed to love him and who had, once, treated him well. At the beginning of his courtship, it had been the happiest place in the world. Some of the time, it became a nightmare, harrowing and soul-rending.
Now, he was happiest when he was finally left alone.
"Perceptor?" It was Magnus again. The microscope turned his head away, not wanting his commander to question him, not wanting the awkward topics that would be raised.
"Sir?" He responded obediently enough, but managed to shorten his tone, make it clear he did not want to talk.
Magnus sighed, did not approach further. "Perceptor... you've never called me 'sir' before for as long as we've known each other."
No answer. There was nothing he could say to that.
The City Commander took a seat next to the red-bodied scientist, who angled his body away ever so slightly. Before the blue and white soldier could even start to question, Perceptor had spoken his answer.
"I want to be alone, Magnus."
Ultra Magnus did not move.
"Perceptor, I respect your right to privacy," he stated, his tone soothing and calm and strong and warming. Perceptor lowered his optics in shame, despite that his superior could not see, "but if you ever find yourself in need of somewhere safe... you know where my quarters are. Feel free to let yourself in."
Again, he had no answer to such a statement. Again, the silence reigned, but more because the microscope was chilled by a growing dread... did Ultra Magnus know...? Did he just suspect...? Yet... the offer was more than he could have asked for, and just what he had needed.
When Perceptor looked back, Magnus was gone.
Magnus had been surprised when he returned to his quarters and found Perceptor standing quietly to attention outside the door. He'd ushered the microscope in, found him a small cube of energon, given him a seat at the workbench.
"Is everything all right," he had asked, but Perceptor had not responded. The scientist merely sipped his energon quietly, stared into it as though wondering why he had come.
For the longest time, they'd sat in silence, and then Perceptor had set his cube on the table – still mostly full – with a word of thanks, rising to his feet to leave. Magnus had noticed his lip was split and bleeding purple, hardly distinguishable from the traces of fresh liquid around the smaller robot's mouth from the cube he had been drinking.
A scrape... the shape of a finger. Magnus noted that as Perceptor left. He'd suspected. Hoped he was wrong, but suspected nonetheless.
But what Autobot could be so cruel...
"What's the matter?" Perceptor lowered his optics to the floor, his audios ringing at his bondmate's shrill, hurt screaming, "Don't you love me any more!?"
"Of course I do..." whimpered the microscope, not daring to meet those angry golden optics. "Of course I do, I love you..."
A hard smack to the back of his head stunned him. A blow to the front broke his nose. Energon poured from the wound, seeping between the fingers of the hand he clamped to try and stem the flow.
"So why do you betray me like this, Perce? Why go running to Magnus?"
"Are you telling him I don't love you?" Piercing yellow optics narrowed. "But he won't believe you. Why would he believe you? You're a liar!"
Perceptor stumbled back, trying to dodge another enraged backhand which, despite his efforts, caught him in the chest and cracked his examination tray. Overbalanced, he fell to land heavily in a sitting position on the floor, one hand still pressed to his bleeding nose, staring fearfully up at his lover.
"Mirage," he begged softly, "Mira-aaage..."
"Don't use my designation when you don't even have the honour to be faithful!" spat the Ligier, turning his back. With his spare hand, Perceptor reached out, but he gave up. Mirage was too far away now...
He'd been coming almost every orn now. At first, the microscope only showed up at Magnus' door sporadically, but now it was almost every orn that the City Commander found him there. He never entered of his own accord, even though the soldier had given permission many times. He always stood there, meek and silent, as though expecting to be sent away...
Perceptor rarely spoke. He would sit at the desk with the cube of energon Magnus invariably gave him and, more often than not, would not drink any. When he did drink, it was never more than a quarter of the cube.
Instead, he would sit and stare at it in silence for sometimes as long as two joors, then push it towards Magnus, quietly thank him and then leave. He never asked for more. He never expected more. He never started a conversation, or looked as though he wanted one started with him.
Sometimes, he would have damage. Once, the tray on his chest had been cracked through. Once, he had been nearly-blinded by damage to his optics. Once, the lens on his scope was shattered. Once, he could hardly walk for a crumpled leg.
It was not usually so serious. Usually, it was just a dented face, a scratched cheek, the slight marks of blue paint over the white of his faceplates.
Not that he ever asked to be repaired, though. Not that he every asked anything. He just sat there with his energon and did not seem to mind whether Magnus even sat with him or not.
Once, a few orns back, he'd smiled at the commander when he'd thanked him before leaving – a small, sad smile, a rare smile these days. It had been warped by a long scrape of light blue that went from the corner of his mouth to his chin.
Magnus had wanted to carefully rub that mark away with his thumb...
Poor Mirage. He'd never before suffered from these bouts of anger, terrible, uncontrollable anger. Not before he'd taken a mate. Perceptor had fallen in love with him, after all.
Of course, he'd always been a rich mech. He'd always had his way and lashed out at servants, but what mech of his caste did not? That was etiquette. That was normal. Poor Mirage, the war was really taking its toll on him... He'd always hidden it well by either not talking to his fellow Autobots or being somewhat forcedly jovial around them, but it seemed his private life was tearing up...
Maybe it was the stress of having to watch out for Perceptor as well as himself? If Perceptor died, now, Mirage would suffer unbearable pain as part of his spark tore away. Maybe he was trying to make Perceptor better. Maybe he was trying to convince himself that Perceptor was worth such a sacrifice.
Huh... how could he, when Perceptor did not believe it himself?
"Don't pretend to be innocent! I was there! I saw you! I saw you standing there, waiting for him!"
Oh yes... Perceptor thought to himself as Mirage held him up by the neck. His mate could make himself invisible...
"Magnus!? That boring, dull-witted, unimaginative soldier!?" His lover dropped him. "You could violate the sanctity of a bond... for that? You disgust me! How could you, when I trusted you!"
"He is gentle..." Perceptor found himself muttering, and instantly regretted it.
"You don't deserve 'gentle'." hissed Mirage venomously, glaring down. "You lost that from me when you started to betray my trust, when you started to find any excuse to be someplace else!"
There was no point arguing. When Mirage was in one of his rages, there was no point trying to reason with him. Just sit and try to last it out...
Funny. Mirage had never been angry before he'd taken a bondmate...
"Perceptor!" this time, Ultra Magnus could not repress the gasp that escaped when he saw Perceptor leaning on the wall outside his quarters.
All the signs of the usual damage. His throat was crumpled, too. Those were definitely finger-marks.
"Enough is enough, Perceptor." Magnus said sternly, guiding Perceptor in to his quarters, sitting him down and glaring at him without bothering to fetch the energon he would not drink. "Who is responsible for this? I will not have any Autobot so blatantly disregard protocol within my command."
Perceptor turned his head away, no matter how it hurt his throttled neck.
"It's not your business."
"It's not your business who I spend my time with."
"No," agreed Magnus, "but I am Commander at Metroplex and it is my business who disobeys the rules I set down for my squadron to follow. You will tell me who is responsible, Perceptor. That is an order."
The scientist shrugged and sniffed. "You'll have to lock me away, then. It's not your business."
In the end, Magnus let him go, none the wiser.
It was times like this that Perceptor remembered why he loved his bondmate. The glitter in Mirage's golden optics when the Ligier was happy, the lilt of his voice, the uplifted tone...
Primus, he was beautiful.
"I love you," the microscope whispered as Mirage clutched him close, safe, secure, warm. Their berth was perfect. This was perfect. "I love you," saying it made it real.
He did not speak further, not wanting to shatter this. He'd fallen for the aristocrat, and he didn't regret that. Mirage was not a bad mech. He'd never suffered anger problems before bonding Perceptor.
"Night 'Raj..." whispered the microscope as he curled further in to his sleeping mate and offlined his optics. The aches on his cheeks had faded away by now...
He slept safe that night.
Disclaimer: all recognised names property of HasTakTomy.
Note: Mirage is based more on his appearance in the IDW comics (the batshit version of him we have actually seen) than on the Geewun cartoon. Just to, uh, clear that up.