Author's Notes: I originally wrote this as a gift fic for Keaalu. This takes place during her G1 AU story Warped somewhere between chapters 10 and 11. Keaalu is an awesome writer and I highly recommend you go read Warped and its prequel Screaming Blue Murder. Her stuff can be found at: www. fanfiction. net/u/965981/Keaalu (take out the spaces).

Disclaimer: The OCs Footloose and Forceps belong to Keaalu and are used here with her permission. And not surprisingly Hasbro owns Skyfire and all the other characters mentioned herein.

Footloose trotted down the hallway, chirping quietly to herself. It had been easy to get away from Jazz – all she'd had to do was wait until he really got talking and he hadn't even noticed when she'd teleported out of the rec room.

She giggled to herself when she found the right door. She'd seen Perceptor and sometimes Ratchet going in and out but they never let her come in with them, telling her it was no place for sparklings – which only convinced her there had to be something interesting in there.

The automated sensor opened the doors in front of her and she poked her head in. When no one shouted at her right away she scampered inside. It was full of strange machines with blinking lights, and the tables were lined with beakers and flasks filled with strange, multi-coloured liquids. It looked a lot like Starscream's lab.

Footloose glanced around furtively, half expecting Starscream to swoop down on her like he always did and scold her loudly before carrying her outside by the scruff of the neck, away from all the interesting things. Footloose had treated this like a game, constantly trying to sneak into Starscream's lab and seeing how long she could hide in there from him. The best part was seeing his reaction when he finally found her.

When the door whooshed open Footloose glanced up hopefully. Maybe Jazz and Ausep were wrong and Starscream was here after all. But it wasn't the Decepticon seeker that walked in the door; this mech was HUGE - bigger than Day, maybe bigger than Hardline. Footloose was so busy staring in awe that she almost forgot that she wasn't supposed to be there. She squeaked faintly and 'ported behind a bank of computers with a 'shush' of displaced air.

At the noise, the big mech looked up from the datapad he'd been reading, blinking in surprise. Footloose held her breath as he scanned the room, but after a cursory glance he shook his head. "I must be working too hard," the sparkling heard him murmur ruefully. He moved to sit down at one of the benches and started doing something with the beakers of chemicals there.

Footloose crept closer to see what was happening. Maybe the stuff in the beakers would change colors or start glowing or maybe it would even explode like it had once with Starscream (much to the seeker's ire).

The big mech was absorbed in his work, occasionally making notation on his datapad but otherwise completely focused on his experiment, so Footloose felt it was safer to get a little closer. As she climbed up onto a chair one winglet caught a beaker that had been perched on the edge of the table, sending it to the floor with a *crash*.

The mech whirled around with a gasp. Footloose gave a squeak of dismay and 'ported down to the ground. She waited for the mech to grab her and start scolding her, but he just stood there, staring at her in shock. Footloose shifted form foot to foot; what was she supposed to do? Maybe she'd done something really bad this time. She'd broken the glass thing after all, and everyone got mad at her when she broke things – even Spotweld. She gave him a wavering smile, "Hi" she whispered shyly, "I no touch," she hid her hands behind her back.

That seemed to rouse the mech from his shock. "Uh, hello little one," he had a surprisingly gentle voice for his size. He knelt down; even on the ground he was still much bigger than Footloose but she felt better without him towering over her like one of those tree-things. He held out a white hand, "I won't hurt you - you just surprised me appearing out of nowhere like that. I'm Skyfire."

Footloose curled her fingers around his thumb, "Skafie," she repeated, "Am called Oosie."

"Ahh, so you're the one Jazz found. I didn't think there were any sparklings left…" when Footloose gave him a curious look at this comment he hastily added, "Not here on Earth anyway."

"Am from Cy'ron not Urth." Footloose corrected him. "Came to find Day. Found him an' los him again," she *peeped* sadly, feeling downcast, but it passed when Skyfire started carefully picking up the pieces of glass that littered the floor. "Skafie make science? Like Sta'zim?" she asked brightly.

Skyfire jerked his hand back, a look of shock crossing his faceplates, "Like St-…how do you know about him?"

Footloose knew she wasn't supposed to tell about Day and Sta'zim and Dacker but something about Skafie made her feel comfortable about telling him. Maybe it was because he had wings like a seeker or maybe because he was white with bits of red, the same colours as Starscream – and he made science like the red seeker too.

"Is unnol," she explained cheerfully, "Was on Nem'sis with Day."

"He's what?!" Skyfire's expression was utterly dumbfounded, making Footloose giggle loudly.

Skyfire's mind was a mess of mixed emotions as he processed the information with a sense of disbelief. How was it possible that this innocent young sparkling was calling that deranged creature his erstwhile friend had become, 'uncle'? Surely Footloose had to be making this up. "Decepticons aren't anything to joke about," he said frowning down at her and trying to sound stern.

"Is true!" Footloose said, her voice turning squeakily irritable as she stamped her little foot for emphasis. "No lie. Ama an' Hardline say that if lie, police come get," she nodded vigorously. "Sta'zim unnol. Told to find Dacker, then we save Day and Ama."

Skyfire, never having had much experience with sparklings, found it difficult to follow her speech patterns so it took him a nano-klik to work out exactly what the little one was saying. The implications were…disturbing to say the least. "So who's 'Day'?" he asked wonderingly. Given that many Decepticons seemed to hate Starscream almost as much as they hated the Autobots, the list of suspects was short. "Skywarp…?" he hazarded, looking at the little one's colour-scheme.

Footloose seemed to fidget uncomfortably, "Is secret," giving him a look of wide-eyed urgency, "Promise not to tell other Autobots?"

Skyfire instantly felt a headache coming on. He didn't want more trouble on top of what he already had. It was only recently that the whispers of him still having Decepticon sympathies had finally died down. He couldn't really blame them for being suspicious of him, he wasn't a soldier and he could never bring himself to accept the violence and destruction of war like some Autobots – namely Ironhide and the Twins – did. Nor was he able to bring himself to join in the mocking of his former friend and he usually left the room whenever someone got started.

Despite everything that had happened since he'd been dug out of the ice he wasn't a hateful mech by nature and he wasn't the sort to carry a grudge (a requirement for putting up with Starscream in their early days).

"I won't lie to you," he tried to explain, "but this secret is dangerous and if Optimus doesn't know…"

"Jas knows," the sparkling interrupted him, "And Powel."

"Alright…" Skyfire said, still uncomfortable. But if the second and third-in-command knew about this then he wasn't going to interfere with their business.

"Promise, Skafie?" the youngling had hold of his wrist with both hands and was trying to shake his arm, and again Skyfire marveled at how tiny she was.

He gently tipped up her chin so that she was looking him in the optics, "You have my word I won't tell anyone," he told her plainly. He couldn't help wondering how many promises made to her in the past had been broken.

She nodded solemnly and raised both arms, clearly wanting to be picked up. Feeling very awkward Skyfire lifted her into his arms. She was practically small enough to fit in the palm of his hand and he held her gingerly, like a delicate piece of glass that might shatter at any moment. Footloose squirmed in his awkward hold and climbed up his chest to perch on his broad shoulder.

"Make more science now?" she asked brightly, "I help? 'Septor say can help. Sta'zim always say 'get out'," she pouted visibly at this.

"Footloose…" Skyfire hesitated before asking something that had been worrying him, "Did Starscream ever….hurt you at all when you were on the Nemesis?"

Footloose looked perplexed at the question and shook her head, "No, just yell at Day lots," she giggled, "Say lots of bad words! Ausep be mad!"

Yes, he did recall Starscream having a very inventive vocabulary, Skyfire thought. He only hoped that the sparkling hadn't picked up too much foul language, otherwise her mother-creator was going to – what was the Earth term? 'Wash her mouth out with soap', yes that was it. If her mother was still alive.

He got to his feet carefully, mindful of his little passenger. He winced when she gripped one of his antennas for support – she had a strong hold. "I'm afraid I'm probably not doing anything you'd find interesting," he explained apologetically as he picked up the datapad that he'd flung half-way across his work-bench in his surprise, "Just a biochemical analysis of the non-nuclear life forms this planet calls prokaryotes and comparing them to non-living viruses and individual proteins. I'm trying to determine exactly at what stage an organism can be considered 'alive'."

He turned his head and Footloose was staring at him with wide, curious eyes. She probably didn't understand a word I said, thought Skyfire, feeling embarrassed. "It's the sort of work I used to do with Starscream when we were younger," he finished quietly.

"Skafie friends with Sta'zim?" Footloose asked, sounding excited, "Help find 'im?"

Oh slag, I should have known better than to bring that up, he reproached himself. Nothing good ever comes of it. "It was a long time ago," he said heavily, "Things have changed since then."

"So Skafie not help find?" the sparkling disappeared off his shoulder with a 'pop' and reappeared on the table, further proving that she was Skywarp's offspring. She put her hands on her hips and glared at him as if he were the errant sparkling. "Even if friend with Sta'zim?"

Skyfire sat down and rested his forehead in his hands. Primus, how do I explain this to her? She can't possibly understand and I can't possibly explain.

He'd never been comfortable discussing his past relationship with Starscream and how could he explain that the Starscream he knew, the real Starscream was long dead? The memories brought forth a flood of disappointment, anger, and guilt as they always did. Guilt, because it was his disappearance that had cause Starscream to be accused of murder and thrown out of the Academy onto the streets in a time of starvation and despair. He supposed it was understandable that his friend had latched onto the first mech that had offered him any sort of hope.

But that didn't excuse some of the things he'd done. No matter what had happened to him Starscream had had a choice. He didn't have to take part in the slaughter of civilians – including many sparklings like this one - and the wholesale annihilation of entire cities.

"It's complicated," he sighed.

Footloose scowled, "Is always comp'cated. Jas say, Day say," she plopped herself down and crossed her arms sulkily, "Is stupid an' not fair."

Skyfire gently stroked the top of her head with one finger experimentally and was encouraged when she seemed placated by the gesturing, leaning into his touch. "When you get older you'll find that many things in life aren't fair, I'm afraid."

The door chime sounded, shaking Skyfire out of his gloomy reminiscing and he got up to answer it. The door opened on a stocky green female he had never seen before. The scientist, having expected Wheeljack or Perceptor blinked in surprise, momentarily at a loss for words. At his feet Footloose whispered, "Uh oh, is Ausep!" and ducked to hide behind his legs.

"Sorry to bother you," she said briskly, "But I'm here to collect that little pack of trouble that's hiding behind you. She directed a stern look at the sparkling who was peeking around Skyfire's ankle-joint.

"Looks like the game is up, little one," he chuckled as she pouted. The sparkling reluctantly went over the female and allowed herself to be scooped up.

"I'm Skyfire and you must be Forceps," Skyfire guessed. He'd heard about her rescue and all the ensuing drama the last time he'd been in the rec room….which had been almost a week ago. Maybe Wheeljack was right and he needed to get out more often.

"Well don't believe everything you hear," she said darkly.

Skyfire smiled sympathetically, recalling hearing what Jazz had dubbed 'Sunstreaker's conspiracy theories', "I won't, especially since I've had some of the same directed at me at one time or another."

"Ausep, Skafie make science with Sta'zim!" Footloose interrupted excitedly, "Long 'go."

"And you need to learn to keep a grip on your vocalizer and behave yourself you little troublemaker," Forceps scolded her charge who only gave her an innocent 'who, me?' look.

"Look, I'm sorry about this," the surgeon apologized, "Jazz…explained things to me and I promise this little pile of bolts," she nudged Footloose who chortled, "Won't bother you again."

"Oh, she wasn't being a bother," Skyfire protested, never mind that he would probably be cleaning up broken glass for the next cycle. "With war as it is I haven't seen a young Cybertronian in…a very long time," as in before he had crashed on this planet thousands of vorns ago, "And it's refreshing to see a youngling with such a lively sense of curiosity."

"That's one way of putting it," Forceps commented dryly, "You're a more patient mech than I would be in your place."

Skyfire spread his hands, "It used to be a job requirement," he said wryly. He wondered if the female would catch the reference to his old partner. There had been some insinuations made by certain parties in regards to her relationship with the Decepticon Air Commander – not that Skyfire lended them any credence, but there did seem to be some sort of connection between her and Starscream. Like just about everyone else on the Ark Skyfire had seen the photo Jazz and Prowl had brought back from their little vacation to Cybertron. It made him feel wistful to see Starscream looking so at ease and, dare he say, happy?

Forceps chuckled, "Yes that I can understand."

"And Footloose is welcome to come here and visit," he offered, changing the subject so that he wouldn't be tempted to interrogate her for more information about his old friend. "It's mostly just myself who uses this lab, although Perceptor shows up from time to time. So long as there's someone in to supervise her…" he trailed off wondering if he was going to have to sparkling-proof the entire lab, a rather daunting task.

"I'll keep that in mind, it'll be nice to have another pair of optics looking out for her when she gets rambunctious," Forceps cast her optics skywards, "But for now, I'll take her out of your servos."

"Bye Skafie, byyyyye!" called Footloose waving her arms so enthusiastically she almost bopped Forceps in the nose.

Skyfire chuckled fondly as he waved goodbye (much more sedately) in return. He could certainly see the appeal of sparklings, he thought as turned to clean up the rest of the mess. This be-smelted war had stolen away far more than just Cybertronian lives; it had taken their innocence and their future.

Why would anyone want to engage in war, he thought, sweeping up the broken glass, when the price of it was high beyond telling? It was something he knew he would never understand.