Cloudy Skies 4
A full month after the battle for the All-Spark found Skyfire watching the sun rise from atop one on the mountain peaks relatively close to where the Cube had been concealed. It was a new dawn, for this planet, and for the Autobot cause as well.
Megatron was gone for good, and the Cube as well. The boy, Sam Witwicky, and managed to shove it into the Decepticon warlord's spark, overloading it so that both were destroyed. All those Decepticons who had come to Earth (as the humans called their planet) were destroyed, with the possible exception of Soundwave. No one had seen the Communications specialist after Skyfire's aerial skirmish, and while it was possible that he'd inflicted fatal damage, it was much more likely that his null rays had been able to short out enough systems for the telepathic mech to decide that entering into a full-out battle zone at less than prime conditions and with his cassetticons still trapped within him was nothing short of suicide.
Skyfire didn't fool himself into thinking that the war was over, even though all the causes that both sides had fought for were dead. The Senate had fallen hundreds of vorns ago, Cybertron was failing, and its' one hope for survival was now gone for good. By now, nothing mattered to either side but the act of fighting, battle lines so firmly established, that one side might as well be separated by a chasm of light-years, instead of ideological differences. There was no future for his species save endless war until they were completely extinct.
How ironic was that, to clearly see the end of his race's existence, just as they had found a new world for them to live on. And they were staying. The entire Command Team was in agreement, the message to gather at their new location sent into the void where Prowl was waiting with the rest of the Autobot army. He'd protested when he'd heard of the decision, but the decision did not belong to him. He had been given his orders, and he would obey them.
Not to mention, there was Starscream to consider. Ratchet had to force him into stasis to calm him down when he'd learned what had gone on in Sector 7, and to even imagine that Starscream had been studied and experimented on like those mini-bots the humans had created using the Cube's energy. And that was after the irate medic had gone crazy over the various serious dings and dents the entire strike force had accumulated. Bumblebee's legs had been savaged by both Megatron's fusion cannon, and falling debris. Jazz had narrowly escaped being torn in half, but had torn and strained connections in so many places that it had taken the medic half an orn to simply catalogue the damage. Even Optimus Prime had spent time in the makeshift medbay under the far-from-tender mercies of the increasingly enraged Ratchet. The Autobot leader had not only been nearly defeated by Megatron, but had actually imitated the twins and tried his hand at some Jet Judo with the Decepticon warlord. Not to mention Skyfire's own injuries from his clashes with Blackout and Soundwave. Ironhide was the only one who had escaped relatively uninjured though that didn't count several serious dents that Ratchet was saving until later to repair.
Skyfire reflected that he shouldn't be simply sitting on a mountaintop doing nothing. There was so much to do and to organize, but Skyfire's spark couldn't latch on to something, even if it was simply to keep busy. Of course, there were some jobs that he simply wasn't suited for, such as negotiating with the human governments for what resources that the Autobots could use and were available. That was Prime's job, his and Jazz's. They were welcome to it, responsibilities of leadership and all that slag. He had as much place at the negotiating table as Ironhide, though if they were included, it would likely make things go a bit faster. Skyfire knew from experience that a null ray (or a cannon) in the right place could make things go much quicker than they otherwise would have gone.
Actually, now that he was thinking about that, what use did he have anymore? His skills in battle were obsolete at the moment, and given that the Autobots barely had a medbay, a proper lab was out of the question. He'd already flown endless patrols around the area where the Autobots had been given temporary accommodation, so many that if he had to fly just one more in the next few orns he would scream. And it's not as if he would lower himself to taking on a fleshy partner like Bumblebee or Ironhide. A human in his cockpit, the very thought was repulsive. He'd already had as much of that as he could stand.
Above him, the last star flashed brightly and winked out, causing Skyfire to involuntarily flinch. Primus take it to the Pit, he was trying to avoid thinking about Starscream! He didn't want to think about how he'd been avoiding his bondmate ever since seeing him escape from Sector 7 at Megatron's thrusters. Unmaker take it, he'd been trying not to think about the seeker ever since the surprise at seeing Starscream had allowed Soundwave that free cheap shot. Thank the Pit the Communication specialist's weapons were so weak. After recovering from that shot, Skyfire had seen Megatron take his chance to get away and go after the Cube, and had piled on the speed to catch the faster tyrant, arriving just in time to catch him with a null ray to one forearm and save Jazz. There hadn't been time to think about the seeker during the battle, and afterward, the Hatchet had taken him in hand. It had been easier to concentrate on the wrench throwing and grumbling of the medic, than on the fears and hopes crowding his processor. Much better to react to the Hatchet, or joke with Jazz, than think about Starscream.
Thank Primus the others didn't know Starscream was his bondmate. Ratchet suspected, given the combination that he knew his bondmate had been lost, the tantrum he'd thrown at learning Starscream's fate with Sector 7 (just thinking about them make his optics briefly flash red) and the fact that his self-repair systems were suddenly functioning at full capacity again, after vorns of slowly degrading, left little to doubt in the medic's mind. However, Ratchet never asked Skyfire directly, so he hadn't lied by keeping the knowledge safe. But the others shouldn't know: apart from that one time with Prowl, or getting overcharged with the twins that time, he hadn't told the Autobots that he was bonded. Oh, some of them did know that he'd lost his research partner to ice before the war, but as far as he didn't say differently, most assumed the relationship to be purely professional. So that meant that Jazz didn't mean anything personal when Skyfire had come across him and Starscream talking oh-so-intimately together not 2 breems ago, but try telling that to the flood of jealousy that had overwhelmed his processor and made him leave the base before he finished what Megatron had started with the saboteur. Oh he knew that Jazz was naturally friendly, even discounting his job as the temporary 2IC of determining the loyalties of strange mechs. He knew all that, and it hadn't kept him from running like a scared sparkling at the sight of his bondmate talking to another mech.
Why in all the layers of the Pit had Starscream chosen to bond with him of all mechs. Why had the seeker, who could have chosen anyone, really, settled with one who was far too prone to brooding, too idealistic to ever be comfortable with a cause, too intelligent to keep from thinking himself into a rut, too stubborn to quit once he had committed himself to something, and had far too many other faults to even count? Why had a beautiful, brilliant, graceful, blindingly fast seeker like Starscream chosen him?
And did Starscream even know he was on the planet? It wouldn't have surprised Skyfire to learn that his bondmate thought he was elsewhere. After all, he'd avoided his bondmate ever since he'd found him. Not to mention, he looked nothing like the Skyfire that had previously been to this planet. The last time Starscream had seen him, the last time they had truly been together, his alt-mode had been a valkyrie class exploration shuttle, not a human V-22 osprey. His coloring had also changed over the vorns of war, where once he'd been a bright white with red highlights, now he was a neutral grey whose few highlights were a pale blue. Only his size and optics remained the same, and that wasn't much on which to base a positive identification.
He was the very definition of pathetic. All those long vorns of war, the one thing that had allowed him to keep moving was the thought of seeing Starscream again. And now that his bondmate had been found, what did he do? Run away with his wings tucked.
The rising sun glinted on a patch of metal, causing Skyfire's systems to freeze. That…couldn't be who he thought it was. It was. Within the breem the stray patch of metal had resolved itself out of the glare enough to be readily identifiable as an F-22 raptor. Despite his apprehension at the coming conversation (read: fight), something in him gloried in seeing his bondmate in the air. Starscream had always been so sure in flight, always pulling stunts that even other seekers shied away from attempting. A subtle grin curved his face, remembering the hotshot seekers and flyers that had dared to attempt to best Starscream in the air, nearly all of them had ended up falling ignobly from the skies, or lagging so far behind that it was no longer funny, when his love piled on the speed and left the pitiful challengers gasping on his fumes. The grin faded as his mind reminded him of why his partner was there. He was not looking forward to this.
Starscream couldn't tear his optics away from the unmoving bulk of his bondmate. Skyfire, oh, he'd wanted to believe that the mech fighting the impressive-looking dogfight a month ago had been his partner, but even with Jazz's encouragement, had begun to have doubts about the flyer's identity when Skyfire had consistently ignored him. True, the coloring of the mech hadn't matched with his memories, nor the obviously new alt-mode, but his spark had sung at the sight of the flyer, and that had only happened for one mech, and one mech alone. Looking at him now, Starscream couldn't believe that he'd allowed that nagging little voice at the back of his processor to almost convince him that Skyfire wasn't on the planet.
But why had the flyer been shutting him out? And what had happened to him to turn him into the icy, cold, and irritable mech of Jazz's stories? Frankly, when he'd asked the silver Autobot if he knew his bondmate, the picture Jazz had painted with words hadn't seemed like Skyfire at all. Distant from his colleagues? The Skyfire he'd known had been friendly; Primus knew that the flyer had made the first move in their relationship, asking that he be assigned to be the flyer's exploration partner after seeing the more vicious bullies of the Science Center picking on him in the halls. Problems with Autobot High Command? Skyfire had never had a problem with authority, not that he could ever remember. He sometimes did, but only when the Expedition Council were being so moronic that their processor's were so deep in slag that their cranial units were buried up their afts. The only things that Jazz had said that sounded remotely like Skyfire, was the overfull work schedule which included, combat rotation (of all the slag?), a patrol schedule, lab work, and something else Jazz wasn't telling. Much as he resented being cut off from any information about Skyfire, Starscream intellectually understood why Jazz was being cagey with the details. He wasn't an Autobot, and apparently the Olympic battlecruiser he'd followed out of the underground cavern (Sector 7 if he'd heard correctly), had been the leader of the Autobots opposing faction. They weren't taking chances with his loyalties.
'Opposing faction'. If he hadn't been in alt-mode, he would have shaken his head. How could he have missed so much? When he'd left Cybertron, the planet had been at peace, sure there had been murmurings of an energy crisis, but the whole idea behind his and Skyfire's last expedition, had been to search out alternative sources of energy that could be converted into energon. There hadn't even been the faintest rumbles of discontent when he'd left, and he was the one who paid attention to the latest news. Primus knew how Skyfire could get wrapped up in lab work and simply tune everything else out. That reminded him of when he'd asked Jazz if anyone routinely checked in on Skyfire to make sure he wasn't overworking himself with that exhausting schedule his bondmate had managed to trap himself into. The other mech had laughed at the thought. Sure, he knew that Skyfire could get testy if interrupted in his concentration, but firing weapons at mechs to get them to leave him alone? Frankly, he was having trouble even imagining the flyer with weapons. When he'd known him, Skyfire had been a pacifist.
Only…, he'd seen his bondmate with weapons, and not only that, using them in a very professional manner to boot, a mere human month ago. For a moment, his CPU was bombarded with two very conflicting images: the Skyfire he had known, and the Skyfire in Jazz's stories, the one that had not only been fighting, but had been winning a dogfight against what had looked to be a tough opponent. Did he really know Skyfire anymore…?
Enough with the brooding. It was time to pry some answers to the questions crowding his processor out of his bondmate. Skyfire had had long enough to brood, and try to think his way out of a mental box. The flyer should have remembered that he needed help to find the way out once he'd thought himself into a rut.
There wasn't room for a proper landing on the mountain ridge the flyer had chosen, so Starscream transformed back to his standard form, before walking up behind his brooding bondmate. The flyer didn't twitch, though he must have known that Starscream was coming up behind him. The seeker halted just behind his bondmate, close enough to put out a hand and touch Skyfire's wings. "Sky," he said, hating the way his voice came out, uncertain and almost vulnerable, completely unlike the confidant tone that was his normal way of speaking. "Why have you been shutting me out like this?"
No answer. Not even any reaction. "Slag it Skyfire!" Starscream burst out. "Do you hate me now or something? I don't know what I did to make you avoid me like this, but whatever I did, I'm sorry!"
Something twisted inside Skyfire's spark at Starscream's words. His bondmate thought that he, Skyfire, hated him, and that was why he was distancing himself from the seeker. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Couldn't Starscream see that it was for his own good that he stay away from him? He was stained by vorns of war, no longer fit to associate with someone who had been kept from the long bloody conflict. No, of course Starscream wouldn't see that. The seeker had always been far to idealistic for his own good.
And he had been unfair to his bondmate. He could see now what his actions had looked like to the other half of his spark. Primus take it to the Pit, couldn't he do anything right?
And the name the seeker had used. No one called him "Sky", if anyone wanted to call him by a nickname, they called him "'Fire". "Sky", was Starscream's personal name for him, the one that was rarely uttered even when the two of them were alone in the lab. He couldn't leave his bondmate like this, he couldn't, and at the same time would never be able to share what exactly had happened to him that had made himself no longer pure enough to remain in Starscream's presence.
"It's not something you did.." Skyfire wasn't even sure he had spoken until he heard the words leave his vocalize. He hated this, hated the feelings of inadequacy that swamped his spark and stifled his connection to Starscream's pure, unsullied blaze.
"Then why, Skyfire! Make me understand. Why have you been shutting me out?" oh Primus, here was Starscream's pleading voice, the one the seeker hated to use, that grated on his bondmate's proud spark, and added to the torment of the moment.
Slag this. He wasn't going to stay here. He needed to fly, to get clean air under his wings, to be anywhere on this forsaken mudball of a planet that housed his worst nightmares and was now trapped on by the Autobot chain of command that wasn't this particular spot. He got to his feet, impatient to be off, and stopped, feeling a delicate hand lightly touch his left wing, right in the spot next to the flaps that made his spark melt, every single time. That wasn't fair. Starscream knew it was his weakness, being touched there. While flyer's and seekers both shared extremely sensitive wings as part of their design structure, the sensitivity of that spot was one of the quirks that was unique to Skyfire. And only Starscream knew all of his weak points, just like he knew all of Starscream's. Just one of the many consequences of bonding.
"Can't what? Stay? Leave? Be my bondmate anymore? Take your pick Skyfire! Make up your mind. Tell me what's going on!" Starscream was angry, and had every right to be. Something shattered in Skyfire in the face of his bondmate's well-deserved anger.
"…I… I can't..shut you out. Not completely. I've tried, if only to keep from being overwhelmed by the massive, gaping hole in my spark that was with me every breem, every joor I was without you, but I…, I never could shut you out! I…" Skyfire trailed off as he felt himself begin to shake as each tortured syllable, until he was visibly shuddering, shaking so hard that he had to sit down again or risk his stabilizers giving out on him again. Apparently his systems were still fragile thanks to the remaining bondshock he had yet to overcome. He's hated the procedure to fix them from the first, likely because they would always be linked to that first horrible orn in Ratchet's medbay, when he'd realized that Starscream was still alive. He shivered as he recalled Ratchet's innocent, devastating question:"how do I find your bondmate."
Starscream stared at Skyfire in naked shock. Skyfire was literally shaking with emotion, something he had never seen his bondmate or any flyer do before. Flyers were supposed to be more emotionally solid than their more volatile seeker cousins. He couldn't count the number of times when it had been Skyfire's unflappability that had saved their afts, either in the field like when he'd panicked after accidently flying into an asteroid field and gotten an acute case of claustrophobia, or back in the labs such as when that power coupling experiment they'd done together had blown and damaged his wings, or even in relatively safe surroundings, such as the Expedition Council chamber, when Skyfire's patience and soothing nature had saved their funding and allowed him to smooth and flatter the Council into giving them the assignments that were, if not their first choice, at least not too dangerous for survival. He knew for a fact that the Council had tried to get rid of him in just that way on a number of occasions, and only Skyfire had managed to put a stop to that. Of course, he never knew about those instances when they'd happened, only after the fact and on at least 3 of those times had been the impetus for one of their rare fights.
And for calm, level-headed Skyfire to be shaking with emotion, it whatever was bothering him must have been really bad. For the first time since he had awoken, Starscream really thought about the time that had passed since he crashed. The war had been going on for about 1000 vorns according to Jazz. Of course, Jazz had told him that he was counting from where open battles had begun, so, 1000 vorns, added to that however long hostilities had been simmering before fighting had erupted, which he didn't know, he would have to ask Jazz for more accurate data. Anyway, he was getting off topic. There hadn't been the slightest whisper of hostilities before he and Skyfire had left Cybertron, so Skyfire had been alone…. Skyfire had been alone, completely alone, the whole length of the war, from the first stirrings of hostilities, to now.
Starscream wanted to curse. How could he have forgotten? This wasn't like a trine, which could be broken up and reformed as many times as needed, this was a bond they were talking about. No bond was entered into lightly, because once bonded, the very sparks were entwined. And not only was it a bond, but it wasn't a sibling, gestalt, or even a semi-mythical twin bond they were talking about either, but a spark bond. Spark bonds needed contact, needed the other partner close in order to maintain spark coherence. They needed to stay together, needed closeness almost more than energon. While siblings had a connection, they could be separated with no trouble at all. Gestalts stayed together all the time, and yes, they needed a connection in order to link, and yes, if a member of the gestalt died the whole gestalt would be crippled, but they could and would move on, eventually. He didn't know much about twins, they were so rare that he had never met one, but he'd heard that they could be separated, at least distance wise, for long periods of time, sure they might have some serious mental problems when they were reunited, but distance alone couldn't kill them. The only thing that would kill them was if one twin was killed by a third party.
Looking at Skyfire's miserable frame, Starscream was struck by the horrible knowledge that Skyfire should be dead. He hated the thought, but looking at those drooping wings, the way Skyfire cradled his helm in his hands, reminded him of those old romantic tales he'd once dismissed as nonsense, the ones that said that if one member of a spark bond was killed, or was separated from their partner too long, sooner or later the survivor would die. Skyfire could have died, should have died, and he would have never known, simply because he would never have woken up and seen him again.
And not only had they been separated, Skyfire had been in the middle of a war, something utterly alien to his nature. The last time Starscream had seen his bondmate, the flyer hadn't been able to contemplate fighting. It was a long way from that place to being able to handle yourself in a professional dogfight. He'd know; all seekers were given basic air-combat training when they were assigned into trines, and he could still remember the mental shift that had to occur for even a mock-battle. Skyfire hadn't been trained to make that shift, and would have had to find it on the fly, and making that shift for the first time was a very unsettling experience, even when you were coached through it. He'd had to be coached out of it as well, and had found that the combat-buzz to be so eerily addicting that it could have been easy to get lost in it. A thought froze his CPU for a moment, then he relaxed a fraction. He'd thought for a moment that Skyfire hadn't come out of battle mode; that he was locked in it, but he should have known better. You couldn't guilt-trip yourself when your optics could only see enemy and ally.
And now, now that they were reunited, Skyfire couldn't allow himself to get close again, because freezing his spark had been the only way to survive the long vorns of loneliness. Primus, he was worse off than he, Starscream had been all those years ago, after his trine had been shot out under him, and he had joined the Science Academy, trying to find a place for himself that didn't remind him of his old trinemates, and found bullies determined to keep seekers in Vos and out of their hallowed halls in any way possible. Skyfire had saved him from doing something that would have resulted in his expulsion and a ban from ever joining a trine again, now it was his turn to save Skyfire from getting the both of them killed just when they had found each other again.
"It's alright Skyfire." He said in as gentle voice as he could manage. Primus, he really wasn't good at this at all. He'd always known that he'd never been cut out for the "sappy stuff" and he'd once sneeringly called it. It didn't matter; Skyfire needed it, needed a gentle touch after so many vorns of war. The flyer needed that touch to return him to a place that Starscream could reach, and from there, talk to him and be able to find that first instance of understanding. He moved closer to his miserable bondmate, hands pressed against the flyer's straight wings. "I'm here now."
Till chapter 5
I know!!! You've been waiting forever for this to update, and I'm soo sorry!!! And I know I said that chapter 4 would be the last chapter, but my rewrite generated so much more material, that I couldn't squeeze it all in, without spoiling the flow of the story. Not to mention that writer's block has hit me hard on this, to the point that I simply could not work on this story two days in a row, no matter how hard I tried. I hope that none of you hate me for abandoning this to work on my Final Fantasy VIII story. As a matter of fact, I'm having writer's block there as well, so I decided to try and direct my creative flow here. It… didn't entirely work.
I have no idea when chapter 5 will come out, none whatsoever. Until then, thanks for hanging with me on this horrendously long wait. I know that you would be perfectly within your rights to not review this after testing your patience this long, and I would imagine that some of my readers would have given up on following it after the long wait, but, hang in there. This story won't be abandoned until the complete marker is attached to it.
See you all in chapter 5