Another WE Continuality expansion fic! Yay! Been a while since I've posted one of these babies! I hope you all enjoy!

Burning Me Terribly
"Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle." -Lewis Carroll

It was as if the flame were a hypnotizing element; Punch's world had shrunk down to the size of the gently licking flame as it lapped at the makeshift brand he'd fashioned for himself. It was a blue flame, deceivingly cold looking in its icy appearance, but the closeness with which he sat allowed him to see past the deception and feel the heat of the fire. Hot. Burning. A deceiving fire; two faced. Like himself.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

Doubledealer's voice was enough to startle Punch out of his thoughts, shaking him to the present. The Decepticon watched him with guarded optics, trying to judge his friend to see how well in the processor he was. Then, upon remembering that neither of them were in their right minds for going on with this ridiculous plan, the double agent relented and looked away, focusing his attention back on the brand as it neared readiness.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" the 'Con repeated, turning the glowing brand so that all sides would glow white-hot.

Punch contemplated the glowing head of iron that sat at the end of the rod; he'd made the brand himself, with his own hands, when it first had occurred to him that he couldn't remember what part he was playing or what faction he supposed to be. That scared him. It made him question a lot of things. It was one of the few times when he considered calling up Jazz and requesting to be taken off this mission. He almost did. Doubledealer, of course, had stopped him from making the mistake. His friend was good like that, reminding him of the things he tended to forget. Doubledealer was so much better at the game than he was.

But the fear that had filled Punch the moment he realized he couldn't remember never left him. It stayed and festered like an infectious wound. It followed him through waking and recharge. He'd forgotten. It had happened more than once, and more often now than in the past, but that single moment of fear was enough to galvanize him through all the subsequent memory lapses.

This, now, was a reminder. This would be the burning balm on his wounded spark. He would never forget, even as Counterpunch did as Decepticons do, that he, Punch, was an Autobot. He never wanted to forget which part he played in the game ever again.

Doubledealer continued to watch his friend with undisguised scepticism. "Are you sure-."

"I'm sure." The Autobot double agent finally replied. "I'm sure. Don't worry."

"Alright." The Decepticon rolled the brand through the blue flame a few more times, inspecting it carefully. Was it ready? Was it hot enough?

Punch shuttered his optics, leaning back against the grungy wall of the room the two of them had rented for this. It was a cheap, dark, dank hole. The walls were discoloured with rust and stains of things Punch didn't wish to enquire about, the dirty floors they sat on caked with grime. There was a constant buzz of noise filtering in through the walls. The light was dingy and the air was stale. It was one of the few havens the two mechs could run away to on order to be themselves.

Suddenly, the Autobot was aware of a presence looming in front of him. Opening his optics, he realized Doubledealer had moved, positioning himself at Punch's side, albeit turned a little in front for leverage for when he would plunge the brand into the mech's chassis. Something vulnerable showed through on the mech's faceplate now, something that was not of himself.

"Dealer," Punch greeted softly.

There was no light anymore except for the gentle burning of the Autobot-brand, its white-hot face frowning in the darkness. The dull source was enough to illuminate the softened features of Dealer's faceplate as he appeared.

"Punch," he sighed softly. A hand came up to stroke the mech's faceplate. "You don't have to go through with this, you know. You can still back down."

"I don't want to."

The Autobot frowned, leaning his forehead against Punch's. "What does Counterpunch have to say about this?"

"You won't trick me into changing my mind by bringing him into this," the double agent replied flatly. "He's a coward and a Decepticon. He doesn't want this."

"Don't you think you should consider what he wants?"

"It's my frame," Punch snorted.

"But he has to live in it too."

Punch turned his faceplate away from the softly glowing optics watching him. "Bring back Doubledealer so we can get this over with."

The other Autobot cocked his head, acquiescing to the request. Doubledealer shifted back to himself, frowning. They were quiet for a breem before Punch found his voice.

"He didn't talk me out of it," he intoned.

"I didn't think he would," the 'Con replied.

The Autobot's blindingly yellow-orange chassis, muted in the near non-existent light, hissed, clicked, and then slid open. In quick succession, his sparkcase followed suit, folding open under the unaffected gaze of Doubledealer. The most intimate part of himself open, exposed, under the optic of the enemy, and Punch felt no fear. Not even as the brand he fashioned with his own hands position itself, its burning face close enough to blister his vulnerable sparkcase.

Doubledealer appeared mesmerized for a long moment, simply caught in awe as he stared at the very essence of his best friend. He hadn't known what to expect when he gazed into the core of Punch- perhaps a spark split in two? Or maybe two sparks coexisting in the same case? What he saw was neither. Before him pulsed a healthy spark that glittered and sang to him as only pure energy could, untwisted or tarnished by the division of the frame it was carried in.

Coming back to reality with a shake of his head, Doubledealer fixed his gaze on his friend. The brand moved for a steadier position, angling the right away over the exposed spark so as to miss it and strike the metal of the sparkcase.

"This will hurt," he grunted.

"I know."

No other words were needed. The brand plunged down, making contact with the delicate, untouched metal on the inside of Punch's sparkcase. There was a moment of absolute silence where even the spark residing over the procedure seemed trapped between pulses. And then sensation caught up with him; there was a hiss as the blistering, burning heat penetrated deep, spreading through the entirety of Punch's frame. A scream pushed passed his mouthplates before Doubledealer reached out with his free hand and drew the writhing mech to himself, holding him as he twisted and cried out, smothering his faceplate into the crook of his shoulder so that the screams could be muffled.

And before he knew, it was over.

The handcrafted brand withdrew and clattered to the side, Doubledealer's shaking hands moving in to close Punch's burning sparkcase and seal his chassis. The Autobot sat unmoving as he allowed his friend to wordlessly go through the motions of caring for him. The Autobot's optics followed the mech, but his frame was unable to comprehend movement. He felt dull, sapped, in a state of agonized lethargy.

Finally, once satisfied that he'd put his friend back together properly, Doubledealer reached out to run a hand along Punch's faceplate. For the first time, Punch noticed the mech's fingers dripping blue; an energon line had burst from the induced pressure. No wonder he felt so lightheaded.

"It's over," the 'Con announced.

Punch opened his mouth to reply, but all that came up was a gurgle before he turned to the side and purged several orns worth of energon. The movement seared through his chest like hot blue fire, the purging leaving him wrung out and empty. There were no words to speak with; he was throbbing and delusional, able to feel the pulse of his spark as it kissed his blistering wound, burning him with every pulse of life.

They sat unspeaking for a long time. Punch stared dumbly, unable to form words. Doubledealer sat in wordless understanding, absently wiping at Punch's chassis when the energon from the burst line leaked through. He hoped the mech would come out of the shock soon. If not, he was going to run out of energon.

It was easily a joor before Punch moved, his head lulling forward, frame trembling as he hunched forward and attempted to raise himself to his feet. He shook so badly his hands came out from beneath him, but a pair of strong arms caught him before the fall. Together, they moved to the tiny piece of cracked, polished glass that served as a mirror in the dank room. A tiny light unfolded from Doubledealer's shoulder, angling to illuminate Punch's chest.

Carefully, grunting with the effort it took, Punch opened his chassis, steeling himself as he pried open his sparkcase. A wave of nausea coursed through him, almost putting him on his knees if it wasn't for Doubledealer's continued support. When a mild amount of strength returned to him, the double agent dared to look into the mirror and witness his reminder. The truth that he'd burned into himself.

Still smouldering, blistered, scarred, the Autobot insignia stared back at him.

I am an Autobot.

I am an Autobot.

I am an Autobot.

With unsteady fingers, he reached in to touch the mark. He would carry for the rest of his life. He would never forget. Never.

Shaking away from Doubledealer's grasp, Punch stumbled over to the stand in the far corner of the room, moving for the single item that sat abandoned on its tabletop. He wrapped his weak fingers around the cold metal rod, bringing it close to his faceplate to examine. He then turned the rod's face on Doubledealer, revealing the Decepticon symbol the 'Con had fashioned for himself with his own hands.

"Your turn," Punch murmured quietly.

"I know," Doubledealer sighed.

They sat down together wordlessly, Doubledealer watching as Punch laid a blue flame to the iron face until it burned terribly.