A/N: Uhhh... This is by far the longest oneshot I've ever written! I would have split it into at least two chapters, but I didn't write it with chapter breaks so there isn't really anywhere to split it. Anywho. This is post-2007-movie, hence the other Decepticons that are referred to but never named are... new ones. O.o Pick your favorites, I guess!
I hope you enjoy it!
Sounds assaulted Sam's ears from all directions: the pounding of immense, metallic feet; the roar of inhuman voices; the rumble of non-terrestrial vehicles; the screaming of jet engines. Then, for a moment, there was eerie silence.
Sam was unprepared for it, but Bumblebee wasn't, and even as the boy heard the explosion he was practically crushed as the Autobot seized him and held him tightly against his chest. A billow of noise and heat passed over them, and then the sound was followed by an unearthly scream, the eerie, keening wail of a robot in pain. Hearing it reminded Sam of the sounds he had heard Bumblebee making within the Hoover Dam and an involuntary shudder passed through him. Though inhuman, he knew that the sound was the Cybertronian equivalent of a scream of unspeakable agony. He wriggled out of Bumblebee's grasp and took a quick look around. Optimus Prime was there, Ratchet somewhere over there, Ironhide swearing and scorched but mostly unhurt. It wasn't an Autobot making that horrible sound.
Sam ran towards the place where the explosion came from. He saw no Decepticons but one, lying on the ground and making that screech. The chilling realization struck him as he searched the surroundings. There were no hostile Transformers to be seen besides the injured one.
"They just left him?" he said in shock.
"That is their way," Optimus answered, eternally calm and composed.
"But we're not going to leave him, right?" There was no answer. "Right?"
He approached the fallen Decepticon with caution, ignoring Ironhide's warning to stay back.
"Wait. He's still dangerous."
"But he's hurt," Sam answered. "Bad."
Sam didn't know much about these mech's bodies, but he knew enough to see how bad the damage was. If the body were human, it would be dead. Pieces of the Decepticon's armor were broken off, and what remained was melted in some places. Many of his joints were sparking. His right arm hung by a bit of wiring, limp and useless. Bright energon was splattered about; Sam knew better than to touch it.
"Sam," Bumblebee hissed, coming up behind him. "Don't get too close."
"We're not gonna leave him like this," Sam replied, though it came out more like a question than an assertion. He ignored the warnings and approached the fallen mech, feeling queasy at seeing the damage close-up. The Decepticon's red optics focused on him for just a moment before shuttering shut as he screeched again, arching up from the ground. Now that he was closer, Sam could see the remnants of what had probably been wings. The right was gone completely, blasted away in the explosion, and the other was in bad shape. It was enough to make Sam feel even sicker.
"Ratchet," he croaked, his mouth dry. "You can fix him, right?"
"Sam." This time it was Mikaela who came up behind him, also eyeing the Decepticon. "They've been fighting for a long time. We don't know anything about it. I mean, this guy could have killed all their families, for all we know."
"He's dying," Sam insisted. He turned his appeal to Optimus. "We're not just gonna let him die like this, right?"
Ironhide rumbled beside him, "He's a Decepticon. He wouldn't think twice about—"
"So then it's okay to just stand here?" Sam demanded. "That's no better than the Decepticons."
He jumped at the sound of halting English from behind him and whirled to see the wounded mech staring at Optimus.
"Use your… pathetic… mercy." He laughed, but it came out as a cough. The scarred and pitted armor at his chest slid back and Sam saw something glowing inside. He heard Ironhide's cannon powering up and spread his arms, forming a tiny barrier between the enemies.
"What're you doing?!"
"He wants to be put out of his misery," Ironhide growled. "I'm helping him." Sam shook his head.
"Move, fleshling," the Decepticon hissed.
"No way," Sam insisted. "We're gonna fix you. Ratchet's the best."
His answer was another choked laugh, then silence. Suddenly apprehensive, he turned to see that the Decepticon's optics were shuttered and he lay still. For a moment, fear surged inside of him. Was it too late? Had the Decepticon died anyway?
Then Ratchet was beside him, examining the fallen mech. "He's offlined temporarily," the medic explained. "I can only do so much for him, Sam. These wounds are every bit as serious as they look."
"But you'll try," Sam said, staring stubbornly into Ratchet's optics. The Autobot nodded solemnly.
"Do not expect gratitude from him," Optimus said, also approaching. "Starscream will not thank you for this."
"He'd sooner turn you into a little organic scrap heap," Ironhide grumbled. "Unless Ratchet offlines his weapons."
"I assure you, I will."
"I feel like I'm collecting them," Sam said, and Mikaela gave him a most unladylike snort.
"That's like collecting rattlesnakes," she replied. "Sooner or later, one of them's going to bite you."
Sam laughed. "Naah. They're cute. Girls like cute, don't they?"
"Not when 'cute' means 'evil robot from outer space come to destroy humanity.'"
"These guys were born on Earth," he reminded her, casting a fond glance at the new additions to his room. "They're not evil, Mikaela. They were scared. Wouldn't you be scared if you'd been sitting around dead your whole life and then suddenly you had a brain?" Mikaela nodded reluctantly, casting a doubtful glance at the innocent-looking machines. Sam took the opportunity to ask, "Soda?"
After a moment of hissing and clunking, the machine in the corner ejected a can of soda. Sam caught it deftly—smooth!—and handed it to her. "Thanks," he told the Dewbot, which chirped in reply. "See? He's fine. And the X-box is really great."
"Look," Mikaela said, opening the soda and taking a tentative sip. It was plain Coke. "These two seem harmless enough, but what are you going to do about him?" She jerked her head towards the open window.
"Ratchet offlined his weapons," Sam said earnestly. "Mikaela, he's hurt. Don't you feel sorry for him at all? Who knows, maybe he'll be on our side."
"I doubt it," she sighed. "I do feel bad, Sam, but he's a Decepticon. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"I'll be careful, all right?"
The Decepticon resided in a corner of the backyard, sheltered by the fence on two sides. Sam's mother had gotten into the habit of hanging out her laundry in such a way as to form a makeshift triangular shelter, giving their unusual guest a small measure of privacy.
Sam went to see him after Mikaela left. The Decepticon was a sorry sight, even after Ratchet's emergency work. Though many of his injuries had been patched up, the medic could do nothing to heal the mangled wings. For the past two weeks, Sam had been trying to get the mech to speak, to no avail. On the other hand, the Decepticon hadn't attacked or made any attempt to leave—though Sam suspected that this was more due to the mess that would result if he tried to transform in this state. As long as Sam kept to the very edge of the Decepticon's territory, he managed to avoid any unpleasant conflicts.
Didn't I read a book about that once? he wondered idly. Rule Number One when dealing with a dangerous wild animal… keep out of its territory.
Crimson optics flared to life as Sam sat just close enough to show that he wanted to talk, but carefully out of reach. The mech glared at him silently as though daring him to venture nearer.
"Hey," Sam said. "How're you doing?" Predictably, there was no answer. "Mom hasn't been bugging you, has she? I thought she might be pestering you or something… she's a little new to the whole 'robots from outer space' thing. And I know she talks a lot. I know it's probably annoying when people talk a lot, just blabbering on about totally pointless stuff. I get that a lot. Really annoying, makes you just want to punch them sometimes… oh. Uh, I guess it must be a genetic trait or something, and maybe I should shut up now…"
Don't expect gratitude, Optimus had said. Sam didn't, but he'd thought that the Decepticon would at least talk to him. But he hadn't said a word, despite all of Sam's efforts.
"Soooo," he faltered, drawing out the word. "It's, uh, Starscream, right?" Still no response, although the mech's optics narrowed. "That's, uh, pretty cool. I mean, if you like… you know, death and destruction and all that… stuff… which, I guess, well, you do… being a Decepticon and all…"
He nearly jumped out of his skin as the Decepticon made a sound, a combination of metallic chirps and a low hum.
"Uh, sorry? Didn't catch that… I don't speak Cybertronian."
The mech repeated the sound, then surprised Sam by adding in English, "The proper pronunciation."
"Oh, it's your name," Sam realized. "Right. Well, I don't think I can pronounce that, so if it's all the same to you I'm sticking with Starscream."
"Save your breath, fleshling. I have no interest in communicating with you."
"Yeah? Well, you're sitting in my backyard, and not talking to me isn't gonna cut it."
"I never asked to be here."
"Yeah, well, here you are."
"An excellent example of your stupidity."
At least he's talking now, Sam thought, and left.
True to his word, Starscream showed no interest in talking to Sam. He sometimes made a biting comment, usually involving his disdain of humans, particularly Sam and his ancestors. Sam wrestled the occasional tidbit of information out of him, an effort which would have been easier if he understood Cybertronian. Starscream delighted in answering Sam's questions in rapid series of unintelligible electronic sounds, a habit which usually resulted in the teenager getting frustrated and storming off. It occurred to him that perhaps that had been Starscream's plan, but he couldn't bring himself to remain in the Decepticon's presence while he was being so insufferable.
"Seekers are always like that," Bumblebee explained when Sam complained about it.
The government had handed over Sam's accidental Transformers to the Autobots, who had in turn given two of them to the boy. These resided in his room, docile enough once matters had been explained to them. They were a source of no small pride—how many high school students had their own soda machine?—as well as entertainment for Sam. The "X-bot," as he had nicknamed it, was always ready to simulate a multiplayer game. Sometimes even the soda machine played, connecting remotely to the X-bot to join them. The X-bot played as well as could be expected, giving Sam excellent practice for playing against Miles.
It was in the wake of a hard-won victory that Sam looked up and nearly had a heart attack at the sight of Starscream's face in the window. This was the first time that he had moved from his corner since being brought here. Either loneliness or curiosity finally compelled him to get up; Sam betted on curiosity. He said the first thing that came to mind.
"You're not on the flowers, are you?"
Starscream looked down, then back up, peering at the T.V. screen. "No. What are you doing?"
"It's a game," Sam said. "You know, like a simulation. Racing."
After a moment, Starscream said something in Cybertronian. The X-bot promptly set up a game with four players.
"Don't you want me to explain how to play?" Sam asked. Starscream gave him a derisive look.
"Do I have to wait all day, fleshling, or are you going to start?"
To Sam's utter shock, Starscream won the first race. "You've never played this before, have you?" the boy asked. Starscream looked very smug.
"Beginner's luck," Sam grumbled. "I demand a rematch."
The mech gave Sam no answer, but his optics glowed through the dusk.
"I've been thinking, about, you know…" Sam waved his hand, stalling. He didn't want to say anything that might shatter their shaky peace. "The… the wings thing."
He knew right away that he had struck a tender spot. He had seen glimpses of Starscream's mutilated shoulders and back, hints of the warped and twisted remnants of his once-proud wings. He'd noticed, but always remained silent, when he saw Starscream flinch whenever anything accidentally brushed his ruined back. He surreptitiously watched whenever he heard a plane flying overhead and saw red optics following the dot in the sky with what may have been longing.
But Starscream didn't attack or even glare. This didn't reassure Sam in the least. "I mean, it's… it shouldn't have to be like this. Sitting around on the ground all day… well, I sit around all day, but I'm human. You're built to fly. It must be pretty awful, right?"
For a while, he thought the Seeker wasn't going to answer. Then there was a sound like a mechanical sigh. "You can't imagine what it feels like." His voice definitely took on a wistful tone as he went on. "I've been flying for millennia and never tired of it. You, pitiful ground-crawler that you are, have no wings to properly appreciate the air with—" Here he stopped, momentarily silenced, and Sam bit his lip.
"What would happen if you tried to transform like this?"
"I would not even consider it," Starscream said flatly. "Many circuits and plates that perform other functions during transformation are damaged or missing, and my…"
He fell silent again. Sam nodded. "I get it. But can't you just scan another plane? I mean, when Bee was all old and beat-up, he just scanned a new model."
Starscream gave him a patronizing look. "Of course not."
"Conservation of mass. According to the educational standards of this state, you learned this concept in grade eight. I cannot feasibly spread my mass enough to fill the form of a second human craft."
"But… but maybe you could settle for something smaller," Sam said. "Would it really be so bad? I mean, it doesn't have to be the latest model all the time."
"My performance is affected by the aircraft I choose. Although my personal specifications far outrank those of your pathetic military jets…" Real modest, Sam thought. "…it is preferable to have an alternate form that is compatible to the Cybertronian systems. Your older drones are simply not advanced enough."
"Well, you can't afford to be picky in your state," Sam said. "I'd be happy with two wings and an engine." God, I sound like Dad.
Starscream's glare was venomous. "There is a key error in that statement, fleshling. Two wings."
"Then let Ratchet try to fix them!" Sam said. "He fixed Bee's legs, and now he's as good as new. There's gotta be some Cybertronian metal lying around from the battle…"
"Only a fleshling would be naïve enough to suggest that I allow an Autobot to perform an extensive and delicate operation on my most vital components."
"Fine!" Sam replied, throwing up his hands. "What's the big deal? So Ratchet's an Autobot! In case you've forgotten, it was Ratchet who saved your life back there!"
"I would rather have died," Starscream growled. "A fleshling could never understand."
Sam decided not to push his luck by pursuing the matter. Instead, he hurried off as quickly as he could without seeming rude. In need of more friendly company, he approached Bumblebee and patted his hood, sighing. "Can I lie down?"
Sam hoisted himself onto the hood and lay down, pillowing his head on his hands. Why did it still hurt when Starscream snapped at him? He should be used to it by now. After all, the jet was a Decepticon.
"What's bothering you, Sam?" Bumblebee asked from under him. "Is it Starscream? Did he hurt you? Did he say something?"
"I just don't get it," Sam answered after a long moment of consideration. "I said that Ratchet might be able to fix him and he bit my head off."
"Your head appears to be in its proper place."
"Funny. I mean he got mad at me. I was just trying to help."
"Starscream would not willingly allow Ratchet to perform such a repair. It is against his programming… Decepticons are not capable of such trust. The only reason Ratchet was able to save him at all was that Starscream was in emergency stasis."
"But why? Ratchet's a medic. He knows what he's doing."
"Any Decepticon is suspicious of an enemy medic."
"Well, I guess any Autobot would be suspicious of a Decepticon medic. But here on Earth we have these rules called the Geneva Conventions, about how prisoners of war and wounded soldiers are supposed to be treated, so someone doesn't have to worry about things like that."
"We made a similar treaty long ago. But it's been a long war, Sam, longer than a human can possibly fathom. Treaties have been broken. Even medics aren't trusted anymore. Rumors circulate. I'm sure that Starscream knows as many horror stories about Ratchet as I do about Decepticon medics."
"I'm not a philosopher, Sam. I'm not a historian or a psychologist. I'm sure Optimus Prime could explain everything, if you asked."
Sam hummed his agreement and tried to forget about it. No matter how hard he tried, however, he couldn't get Starscream's wistful tone when he spoke of flying out of his head.
"Hey," he said at last. "Which way's Cybertron?"
Bumblebee pointed the way with one of his headlights. Sam stared at the stars, contemplating an alien war so ancient and vicious that even medics were no longer trusted.
Sam waved a cheerful goodbye to the mech in his backyard. "We're taking off for a few days," he said. "Places to go, people to see. You know how it is."
"You're leaving me alone in your home?" Starscream asked. "With your creators and your pet rodent?"
"Oh, not all alone," Sam said, and grinned as he heard a car rolling into the driveway. "I hired a babysitter."
"All right, where's the glitched slag heap?" Ironhide's voice rumbled as he transformed.
"Samuel James Witwicky, I will never forgive you for this."
Sam's grin widened. "Play nice, you two," he called as he climbed into Bee's driver's seat.
It was the first time that Starscream had called him by his name.
I love having friends in high places, Sam reflected as he and Bee pulled into the driveway. He'd spent the last week talking to the relevant parties, calling in favors, arguing, cajoling, and begging. Now there was only one more person to win over, and it wasn't going to be easy.
He was pleased to find that Ironhide and Starscream hadn't killed each other in his absence. Of course, with the Decepticon's weapons deactivated he hadn't had much say in the matter, but Sam tried to maintain some confidence in the Seeker. Judging from their body language, they'd probably been dueling verbally since the moment Sam and Bumblebee left.
"Finally," Ironhide grumbled.
"If you ever leave me with this sorry excuse for a maintenance drone again, fleshling, I swear by all that is holy that I will personally vaporize you," Starscream added. His smugness suggested that he was the winner of the contest of tonguelashing.
"Glad to see you too," Sam replied. Ironhide and Bumblebee immersed themselves in a rapid Cybertronian conversation and Sam approached Starscream. "Did you think about what I suggested at all?"
"I wouldn't trust an Autobot to oil a knee joint," the mech replied. "Don't start this again, squishy."
"Will you stop that? You called me by my name before I left. But listen. I know you guys have been fighting for longer than humans have even existed, and I know you've heard some horrible things about Ratchet that aren't true at all. You know, I bet I could ask Bee about you and he'd go off on how you've destroyed planets and stuff." A low chuckle made him hesitate. "Um… you haven't destroyed planets and stuff, have you?"
"A story for another time."
Sam swallowed, looking quizzically at the Seeker. Well, his name was Starscream, after all. "Okay, well, you get what I'm saying, right? People make stuff up all the time to make their enemies look bad. Propaganda."
"You cannot comprehend our nature, fleshling. Your pitiful species has only a short time to nurse grudges. We accumulate our hatred of each other over astrocycles… thousands of your years."
"But… wouldn't you like to fly again?"
"I will not be helpless in the hands of my enemies."
Same hesitated, but the words would not be stopped. His tongue had a nasty habit of moving before his brain could think it through. "Aren't you already?"
Starscream's optics flared and his huge, taloned hand swung for him, but Sam scrambled out of the way just in time. Immediately Bumblebee and Ironhide were there; the former scooped Sam up into his hands and held him protectively against his chest, and the latter hooked his fingers under the lip of Starscream's chest armor and dragged him closer, shoving the humming barrel of one cannon under his chin hard enough to make his helm clack against the ruins of his wings.
"I hate to leave a pile of slag on Mr. Witwicky's grass, but if you make one more move, I will," the black mech promised.
"Don't!" Sam cried. "I deserved it!"
"Don't think I wouldn't have crushed you, fleshling," Starscream hisses.
"But you wouldn't have," Sam replied, peeking through Bee's fingers. "You do want us to fix you. You want to fly bad enough to let an Autobot do it, but you won't admit it!"
"Sam—" Bee warned.
"Just admit it already, Starscream! What do you have to lose? Your pride? Whatever! Swallow it!"
"I didn't ask to be spared!"
"You could have walked away at any time, but you didn't. You stuck around because you don't want to be alone on a strange planet where everyone wants you dead!"
"Someone should deactivate your vocal processors," Starscream spat.
The Air Commander of the Decepticon forces was notoriously difficult to surprise, but that was just what Ironhide managed to do, moving while Starscream was distracted and doing something with his fingers at the back of the other mech's neck. After a moment the Decepticon's optics went dark and he slumped to the grass.
"You didn't hurt him, did you?" Sam asked.
"It's a temporary emergency shutdown," Ironhide answered, sounding as though he wished it were worse. He activated his comm. "Optimus, Plan B has been carried out. Plan A, as I predicted, was unsuccessful."
"Affirmative. I'll be there in two minutes."
"He won't be happy when he wakes up, Sam," Bumblebee mentioned. Sam grinned.
"I think he'll forgive me."
Sam leapt to his feet in excitement as a group of humans filed out of the room, peeling off goggles and gloves. Mikaela was among them, tired and grimy, but she smiled at the sight of him.
"These guys are really good," she said. "I felt so out of my league in there."
"No, not at all. I mean, they needed someone their size who knows giant robots," Sam answered. "How'd it go?"
"Hard to say. I've never seen such a weird operation! Military mechanics and plane builders, two hackers, a girl who fixes stolen cars, some giant robots, and a hell of a lot of armed personnel. Ratchet seemed happy, though, so I guess that's good."
"Starscream's gonna be pissed when he wakes up, isn't he?"
"Well, you did have Ironhide knock him out and all… Ratchet sent us all out, so he could reactivate him without worrying about us."
Right on cue, a metallic screech made them all jump.
"I'm going in there," Sam said.
"What?! Sam, are you nuts?!"
"I'm going in," Sam repeated. "Trust me, Mikaela. He's not gonna hurt me." I hope.
They had used a hangar for the operation, but as spacious as the place was, it seemed extremely crowded at the moment due to the presence of four Autobots, one Decepticon, and one small, fragile human. Starscream looked as though he wanted desperately to attack, but Ironhide's cannons kept him at bay. When he spotted Sam, the Seeker's optics blazed furiously.
"You put them up to this!" he shrieked. "Fleshling scum!"
"You betrayed me! I expected no less from a stinking bag of organic matter!"
"Hang on a second, haven't you—"
"If my weapons were online I'd make you regret that you didn't let them kill me when you had the chance!"
"Starscream, LOOK AT YOURSELF!"
Obviously, the mech hadn't expected such volume from such a tiny creature. He halted his tirade, and though he still looked angrier than Sam had ever seen him, the dimming of his optics showed that he was running a self-diagnostic. Shock flashed across his metallic face.
"Look," said Sam. He made for a likely-looking control panel and activated the hangar door, which opened slowly. "See? It's okay. You weren't a prisoner before, and you're not a prisoner now."
He watched as the Decepticon observed the open doors, his frame still tense with suspicion. Then, without another moment of hesitation, Starscream transformed. Sam watched, openly admiring. There was no way to tell that the F-22 had ever been missing its wings. Sam shielded his face as light and heat flared from the Decepticon's boosters. When he looked again, Starscream had gone. Sam ran to the hangar's exit, but the jet was just a dot in the sky, and soon had vanished from sight.
Disappointment was bitter on his tongue and he slumped. He heard giant steps approaching.
"Don't be sad, Sam." It was Bumblebee.
"I know. Don't expect gratitude and all that."
"You couldn't have expected him to stay," Optimus added. "It's not in his nature to be around humans."
"And it's only a matter of time before he gets his weapons back online," Ratchet noted.
"I know, I know," Sam said. He had known all along that Starscream wouldn't stay if he had the choice. A Decepticon would never remain in the constant company of humans and Autobots. It was against his programming.
He didn't even say goodbye.
Sam was moody all week, despite his friends' attempts to cheer him up. He jumped and looked up hopefully every time he heard engines from overhead, but it was always only a passenger plane. He took Mikaela to dinner and dropped her off afterward. Bee was silent on the way home, but he appeared at Sam's window later to race. It seemed strange to have the little yellow car racing against Sam's blue one and the X-bot's black one instead of Starscream's one.
Finally, Bumblebee bid Sam to "get some recharge" and returned to the driveway to settle down for the night. Likewise, Sam flopped down on his bed and was asleep before he knew it.
Sam was awakened in the middle of the night by a none-too-gentle prod. He muttered groggily, rolling over.
"Nng… five more minutes…"
He was poked again. "I will speak to you now, fleshling, not in five minutes."
Sam's eyes flew open and he sat bolt upright. Scarlet optics glared through the darkness at his window. "Starscream?" he asked, scrambling out of bed as the mech's arm retreated from his room. "You came back?"
"I'm not on the femme's flowers."
"Yeah, cool." Sam went to the window and leaned over the sill. The dim night lights gleamed on the Seeker's metallic form. "So… how are they?"
"Everything seems to be fully operational."
"Well, that's good, 'cause Ratchet wanted to know if anything wasn't right. Apparently there aren't too many flying Autobots. But the military guys helped with the basic mechanics and Mikaela was watching to make sure they didn't damage anything…"
"Why would you do this?" the mech interrupted. His voice was muted, probably to avoid waking Bumblebee. "I am your enemy. If our positions had been changed, I would have destroyed you without a qualm."
"Well, we humans… not 'fleshlings,' by the way… are a little different. Okay, some of us might be nasty, but some of us aren't. It's called 'common decency.' You were hurt and the others left you to die."
"Death was acceptable."
"If it makes you feel any better, you can believe I did it just to spite Megatron," Sam suggested, and caught the smirk that played across Starscream's mouthplates at that. "Or you can try to believe that I saved you just because it was the right thing to do."
"Hey, okay, enough of that! Am I saying 'Hey, you, Decepticon?' My name's Sam. And don't call me 'Samuel,' I hate it. Just because I call you by your full name an not, I dunno, 'Screamer' or something."
"If you dare to call me that, I will not hesitate to refer to you as Samuel."
"Okay, agreed. Sam. Starscream. Sam."
"Whatever your reasons…" Starscream hesitated, his optics dimming as he struggled with his pride. "…thank you."
Sam raised his eyebrows, surprised that the words were even in the mech's vocabulary. "You're welcome."
Suddenly Starscream stretched out his arm again, holding a clawed hand beneath Sam's window. "Come."
"Uh…" Should he wake Bumblebee? Should he run away? Or should he trust Starscream and climb out of the window? But if Starscream had wanted to hurt him, he could have done it long ago. He clambered out onto the metal hand and Starscream carried him silently to the street, set him down, and transformed. Sam watched in awe. He loved to watch them changing smoothly from humanoid form to vehicle mode and back, and he enjoyed studying the various ways they achieved it. After only a few seconds, an F-22 sat on the otherwise deserted street. The cockpit was open. Taking the unspoken cue, Sam scaled the side of the fighter jet and sat inside. He spied the pilot's gear and arranged it as well as he could.
"Who's this for?" he asked, almost laughing. "You wouldn't let a pitiful little human fly you, right?"
"Only if I had to," Starscream answered at the cockpit closed. He sounded disgruntled. "Don't touch anything."
"What, are you ticklish?"
"It's distracting. You wouldn't want me to… accidentally drop you five thousand feet up, would you?"
"Uh… I'll pass." Sam kept his hands to himself.
He appreciated the almost-silence as Starscream taxied down the street—it wouldn't do to have the neighbors wake up and look out at the strange sight. The Decepticon waited to take off until he'd reached a less-populated street. The ground dropped out from under them and Sam leaned to the side to look as the streetlights shrank.
"So… can you see, like this? Where are your eyes?"
"I sense well enough. My optics only function as such in bipedal form."
"Oh, I get it. Thing is, I can't see anything. It's dark out there."
"Um… how far exactly are we going? Sure, tomorrow's Saturday, but people will get worried and I don't want you in trouble with the Autobots any more…"
"You'll be back by morning. Brace yourself."
"Holy shit," Sam said into his oxygen mask as they descended towards Tranquility's outskirts. "How fast was that?"
Starscream sounded smug. "Over three times the speed of sound."
"Woah. I thought I'd be sick for a minute there."
"You would have regretted it. It would have been worse if you were flying a human jet," the Seeker answered, disdain just dripping from his disembodied voice.
Bumblebee was waiting for them near the abandoned warehouse, looking very agitated. As soon as Sam climbed out of the jet, Bee snatched him away. "Are you all right? Are you injured?"
"I'm fine. We just flew… nothing happened. It was so cool, Bee!"
"Satisfied?" Starscream asked. "I haven't harmed your precious human pet."
"We would have hunted you down," Bee growled. "You would have been slag before you could say 'Megatron.'"
There was a low, threatening hum as Starscream's arms rose, his assumed-to-be-offline weapons coming to life. "Had I wanted to attack, I could have," he hissed.
"Woah, woah, guys, put the guns away!" Sam said, raising his hands. "Drop it! It's okay!" He turned to Starscream. "How long have your weapons been working?"
"Since three Earth days after I came back online."
"See?" Sam cried triumphantly. "I knew it! I knew you stayed because you wanted to!"
"I stayed to be repaired."
"But you came back!" Sam crowed. "You don't really want to be alone all the time, on a planet full of stinky little organic fleshbags?"
He half-expected the Seeker to attack, but Starscream stayed where he was, arm-mounted cannons neither firing nor powering down.
"It is a… less than advantageous situation," Starscream admitted finally, and Sam gave a little sigh of relief as the mech's weapons were lowered. His optics flared. "But that doesn't mean that I've changed my mind about you, fleshl…" He paused and Sam smirked. "…Sam. Tonight was the only thanks you'll receive. Next time I may not be in such a good mood."
He transformed and was gone in seconds, the whine of his engines receding until Sam could no longer hear them. This time, however, Sam smiled at the sky rather than mope about. He had a feeling that he'd see more of Starscream in the future.
A/N: I can't say "press the magic button" anymore! T.T Click the magic link thingee? Anyway... hahaha.