Nothing fancy. Just something that smacked me in the head today. The continuing "adventures" of my sort-of-ex-human OC named Sunfall. It'll make absolutely no sense if you haven't read my other stories involving her. (That being, "Remembrance" and "The Little Things," both of which you can find here on .)
At first, Wheeljack wasn't quite certain that the flash of mostly yellow that flew past him wasn't a figment of his fertile imagination or a product of mental and physical fatigue. He was busily fabricating replacement components at Ratchet's request, in the wake of a fairly intense battle with the Decepticons. Once the casualties were on their way back to the base, Ratchet had sent down a list he'd composed based on the preliminary reports he'd received from the field medics. Now, a few hours later, Wheeljack had finished the more urgent, essential parts that Ratchet had needed ASAP and was just finishing up some more cosmetic bits that he knew that Ratchet would need eventually.
Wheeljack had been low on energy when he'd begun fabricating the urgent parts, and the harried couple of hours spent in hurried but complex and painstaking fabrication had drained him to the point that he was aware that he'd be receiving warnings from his internal diagnostics soon. So it wouldn't have been entirely surprising to Wheeljack if he had started seeing things. But then he heard the door on one of the three storage closets at the back of his lab click locked, and he figured that the probability of seeing things and hearing things at the same time was fairly low.
Wheeljack took a moment to consider who his visitor might be. The flash had been mostly yellow, but it had been too large to be Bumblebee or Huffer, much too small and not nearly noisy enough to be a Dinobot, and too small, even, to be Sunstreaker. So that left...
He sighed, put down his tools on the workbench in front of him, took a moment to flex his shoulders back because he'd been hunching again, and then headed toward the middle of the three storage closets situated across the back wall of his lab. He tapped lightly on the door. He could have simply unlocked the door and barged in, but that would have been rude. His visitor obviously needed some time to herself. Given her identity, Wheeljack was entirely willing to give her that. Still, he felt compelled to offer some assistance in lieu of completely ignoring her.
"Sunfall?" he said through the door, knowing she'd be able to hear him. "Are you all right?"
"No," came the trembling reply after a moment. "Go away."
Wheeljack sighed, thought for a moment, and then answered, "Look, I need energon. I'm gonna go get some. I'll bring back some for you, too. Just...calm down. I'll be back in a few minutes, and then we can talk if you want. All right?"
Wheeljack figured that would give Sunfall time to collect herself, which was what she usually wanted and needed when a crisis smacked her in the head. He'd learned that if he gave her some time and some breathing space, she was usually much more amenable to talking about whatever it was that was bothering her. This time, Sunfall didn't answer him for a long moment, though. Just when Wheeljack had come to the conclusion that he was going to be ignored, Sunfall chose to answer him in a voice so quiet that he could barely hear her through the door.
"All right," was all she said. Her voice wasn't trembling quite as much as it had been a moment before, but she was obviously still deeply troubled by something.
Nodding even though Sunfall couldn't see him, Wheeljack went off on his errand. Upon his return about ten minutes later, he strode to the locked closet and tapped on the door again.
"Sunfall?" he said. "It's me. I'm coming in."
"OK," she answered in a small voice.
Wheeljack balanced the tray he was carrying, which bore two fairly large containers of energon, against his hip and entered the unlock code into the keypad by the closet's door. The door slid quietly aside, and Wheeljack stepped inside.
Sunfall had the lights on, but they were dimmed. Wheeljack's vision took a split second to adjust from the brightness of the lab, but then he spotted her huddled in a far corner, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped tightly around them. She was looking up at him, but her expression was haunted, her eyes wide with...Fear? No, it wasn't fear, Wheeljack concluded. It was uncertainty, he judged, and not a little confusion.
Which, really, wasn't at all unusual when it came to Sunfall. Hiding in his closet, though? That was new. Still, it wasn't unusual for her to run to him when she was troubled about something. She'd told him not long ago that he had "major daddy vibes," and so she felt comfortable with him. Safe, even. Sometimes she helped him with his work, handing him tools and such, and they talked while he worked; sometimes she just sat quietly in his lab, watching him work, absorbing the daddy vibes, as she put it.
Wheeljack didn't mind in the slightest. He didn't consider himself a very good counselor, really, but he did feel somewhat responsible for Sunfall, having been one of the people who had been instrumental in bringing her into the world in her current form. It was the very same sort of responsibility – and, indeed, paternal, protective affection – that he felt toward the Dinobots, so he supposed that he did have some "daddy" experience. It wasn't surprising that Sunfall would pick up on that, especially since the real, human father of half of her thought she was dead. And so, over the nine months or so of her life so far, Sunfall and Wheeljack had developed a familial bond of sorts, upon which Sunfall had rather obviously come to rely. Sunfall leaned on Wheeljack quite often for support, sometimes heavily. Wheeljack didn't mind that in the slightest, either.
And now something had happened to throw off Sunfall's hard-won equilibrium, sending her reeling off-kilter again. Wheeljack had his suspicions about what it might be: When Sunfall felt a need to run to him, the reason nowadays pretty much always had something to do with Prowl in some way, either directly or indirectly. They were dancing around each other. Quietly. Slowly. Very carefully, on Prowl's part, very warily on Sunfall's. Or half-warily, perhaps. The part of Sunfall that was Claire was entirely willing and very eager; the part of Sunfall that wasn't Claire, though, was stubbornly digging in her heels, trying desperately to assert her own will instead of being helplessly dragged into a relationship that had developed, sort of, before she had even existed. That was the trouble, Wheeljack supposed, with being a single individual composed of two completely different – and often diametrically opposed – personalities: What to do when one personality wanted to zig while the other wanted nothing more than to zag?
Questioning Sunfall directly about whatever had happened this time would accomplish nothing, though. That, Wheeljack had learned all too well. But he had also learned that if he didn't push her too hard, she would eventually tell him what was rocking her world, all on her own. He just had to be patient. In the meantime, he sat down cross-legged on the floor, facing her. He handed her the container of energon that he'd brought for her, and then drained his own. Afterwards, as his body and mind assimilated the energy input, Wheeljack regarded Sunfall levelly, making no attempt to conceal his curiosity, but also making no demands that she talk to him.
For quite a long while, Sunfall showed no indication that she was willing or ready to talk. She wrapped her hands around the container of energon that Wheeljack had given her, thanked him absently for it, but she didn't drink from it. She stared at the container, stared at the energon it held, stared at the wall, stared at the floor, stared at anything so long as it wasn't Wheeljack. Wheeljack merely waited; he'd been through this before with her. She'd talk – or not – in her own time, and nothing he could do would convincer her to open her mouth before she was damned good and ready to do so. Eventually, though, she locked her gaze with his, and then she spoke.
"He kissed me," she announced, out of the blue.
Wheeljack just blinked once. Twice. Sunfall wasn't leaping for joy, so he now knew for certain that this was not-Claire who was talking to him, and that was an important piece of information to know when talking to a person who was really two people. He also knew who the "he" of whom Sunfall spoke was. It could only be Prowl. And it wasn't as if Wheeljack never would have thought such a thing might happen between Sunfall and Prowl, given that he knew without a shadow of a doubt that Claire wanted it to happen, and he was fairly certain that Prowl wanted it to happen just about as much as Claire did…
"Right there, smack in the middle of the Control Room," Sunfall was adding tonelessly, meanwhile. "In front of a dozen witnesses, at least."
But that was unexpected. Very unexpected, even. Public displays of affection were not something that Wheeljack or, likely, anyone else would ever associate with Prowl. It was so unexpected, in fact, that Wheeljack felt perversely compelled to ask, "Are you sure it wasn't Bluestreak?"
Sunfall speared Wheeljack with a deeply unamused glare, and then Wheeljack felt compelled to mutter an apology. Sunfall was quiet for a moment after that, but then she continued her story.
"He'd just come in from the battle," she said, "and I was relieved that he was all right because I'd heard that it was a bad one and that there were a lot of casualties. Every time he goes out there, I worry because Claire worries. She prays to her god that he comes back. But I…Well, sometimes I hope that he doesn't come back. Isn't that awful of me?"
Wheeljack shrugged. "Maybe," he answered. "Maybe not. I can sort of understand it. It would make things easier for you, in a way, if he…wasn't here."
Sunfall smiled fractionally at that, took a moment to take a sip of her energon, and then, setting the container aside, she answered, "Oh, I don't think so. Because then I think Claire would totally lose it. And then where would I be?"
Wheeljack knew a rhetorical question when he heard one, so he didn't answer, and Sunfall settled back into telling her story.
"Anyway, I went up to him. I hugged him. I don't really know why. Claire wanted to, I guess. And then he kissed me. Just like that. And it wasn't just a friendly peck or anything. Went on forever, it seemed like. People were hooting in approval. Loudly. And it was…Wow. He's a good kisser. Very good. I saw stars."
Wheeljack chuckled at that.
"Prowl's very good at everything he does," he said. "I'm not surprised to hear that kissing is no exception to the general rule. And I'm not surprised that people were hooting, either. Some have been waiting to see that happen between you two since…Well, since you were born, so to speak."
Sunfall smiled at that. "Not to mention that betting pool that no one thinks Prowl and I know about," she said, suddenly and momentarily bright; it was a bit of sunny Claire peeking through, perhaps. But then her face clouded over just as quickly as it had brightened, and she added, "But I hope no one's spending their winnings yet."
Wheeljack would have frowned at that, if he could have.
"Why?" he asked, confused. "Prowl doesn't just go around randomly kissing people, Sunfall," he added. "I think that was a pretty loud and clear kind of message. To everyone. And it doesn't seem as if you didn't…" Wheeljack's voice trailed off as Sunfall gave him a troubled look. "You didn't enjoy it?" he asked.
Sunfall pulled in a deep breath at that, held it for a few seconds, and then slowly let it out. She slumped back against the wall behind her, extended her legs out in front of her, and planted her feet comfortably in Wheeljack's lap, for lack of a better place to put them.
"Sometimes," she said with a drawn-out sigh, "I think I should just go away. Let Claire have…everything."
Wheeljack just looked at her, knowing that she would say more.
"He wants her," she said simply. "She wants him. Me? I just gum up the works."
Wheeljack murmured wordlessly at that, but then pointed out, "But without you, she's incomplete."
Sunfall gave him a resigned look. "I know that," she said simply. "That's why I haven't gone away. I can't, really. Because I'm incomplete without her, too."
"Yes, that's true," Wheeljack agreed, nodding. For a long moment, he thought about not saying anything else. He thought about not pointing out to Sunfall what was, to him, blatantly obvious. But at the same time, he knew that she needed to hear it, even though she might not want to. So he further asserted, "And I think that Prowl knows that, too. And I don't think that he only wants Claire." Sunfall just looked at him, frowning disbelievingly, so Wheeljack continued. "Look, you know how Claire feels about Prowl, right?"
"Um," Sunfall answered, "I'd say that's pretty obvious to just about everyone, much less me. She adores him. Is infatuated with him. Loves him to distraction. Has for years."
"Yes," Wheeljack replied readily, nodding. "Yes, but what about the opposite side of the coin?"
"Well, uh…" Sunfall temporized. "Well, given what just happened up in the Control Room, I'd say that's pretty obv—"
"Ah, ah," Wheeljack interrupted, holding up a remonstrating finger. "Prowl kissed Sunfall. Not Claire." When Sunfall just frowned at him uncomprehendingly, he continued. "Look, she was seven years old when they met. In some ways, she's still seven years old to him. She's just the little human girl who, once she got to be a teen and the hormones suddenly kicked in, developed this huge crush on him. Followed him around like a puppy. It was very cute. Probably a bit flattering to him, too, although he'd never admit it. And in some ways, she's still just that teenager to him, too."
"But," Sunfall attempted to interrupt, blinking in confusion, "if that's the case, then why did he even bother with—?"
Wheeljack interrupted her in turn, continuing his explanation. "Toward the…uh, end," he said, "I think Prowl was starting to see something more in Claire. A lot more. They had a lot in common and all. But I also know that he's very cautious, that the emotions were very frightening to him, deep down, and I'm pretty sure that he ultimately would have held back from her. Forever. He would've broken her heart. And it wouldn't just have been because she was human and he wasn't. It would have been because, to him, she was and always would be that little girl. Seven years old. Maybe twelve at best." He paused for a significant moment, then added, "But then…she died. And you were born. And you are not entirely Claire. And you are the one he kissed."
When Wheeljack finished his speech, Sunfall was still blinking at him. Plus, her jaw was hanging open as she attempted to assimilate and digest his words. Her mouth then opened and closed a few times as she tried but failed to form words. Finally, she managed to blurt out, "How do you know all this?"
Wheeljack shrugged. "I've known him for a long, long time, Sunfall," he said. "You kinda get to know a guy after a while. Besides, we talk sometimes, too. There aren't many people around here that he'll willingly talk to about more personal things, but he'll talk to me on occasion. I think it's mostly because he knows that I don't turn around and tell everyone what he told me."
"Except that you're telling me," Sunfall pointed out.
"Only because you badly need to know," Wheeljack reasoned. "And he, knowing him as I do, will never tell you. Not in words, anyway."
Sunfall snorted. "No, but he'll give me all manner of vague clues wrapped in out-of-the-blue random kisses, apparently. And I'd dearly love to hear his logical justification for that," she said. She paused thoughtfully and added, "He really is a piece of work, isn't he?"
Wheeljack chuckled. "That he is. But he's a good piece of work."
"Mmmmm," Sunfall murmured. And then, after a quiet moment, she added, "So you guys talk. About me." It wasn't a question.
Wheeljack shrugged again. "Once or twice it's been about you, sure," he answered. "Maybe ten times. Or was it five hundred times…?"
Sunfall laughed and kicked him playfully. "Shut up!" she said. "Seriously!"
"Seriously," Wheeljack answered. "Yes, he's talked to me about you. More than once. Just a little bit each time, though. He's not the most effusive guy in the world, you know, and he doesn't let people worm their way through his armor easily. He's let you in, and that's a minor miracle. And I can tell you with some degree of confidence that he doesn't just see you as Claire. Claire might be the…the conduit between the two of you, but she isn't all that he sees in you. Not anymore, at any rate. He sees all of you, Sunfall, and that includes…well, you. You can tell by the way he's treated you these past six months or so."
"How he's treated me?" Claire echoed, confused.
"If he just saw you as Claire – and he's fully aware of exactly how Claire feels about him, I assure you – then what's with the fascinating and exotic mating dance he's been performing lately?"
Sunfall shrugged, at a loss.
"He's trying to convince you of his intentions," Wheeljack answered. "He doesn't have to convince Claire of anything. She's right there with him already. Has been for years, as you said. But he wants you, too. He needs you, even. Because it's you that makes Claire not just that little human girl or that infatuated teenager. You make her…real. Alive."
Sunfall frowned. "I…never thought of it that way," she said thoughtfully.
"Mmmm. Thought not. So now," Wheeljack said, "the question remains, and I notice that you conveniently didn't answer it when I first asked it: Did you enjoy that kiss?"
"Yes," Sunfall immediately answered, without thinking, then qualified the answer further. "No. I don't know. Maybe."
Wheeljack snorted at that and said, "They say that your first impulse is usually the correct one, so I'm going to take that as a 'yes.'"
Sunfall glared balefully at him.
"Did I not say," she growled, "that he's a very good kisser? Just because I enjoyed being on the receiving end of that particular talent of his doesn't mean that…that…"
"That?" Wheeljack prompted curiously when Sunfall's voice sputtered out helplessly.
Sunfall sighed. "You know, you're really annoying sometimes," she accused.
"Don't change the subject," Wheeljack immediately countered.
Sunfall scowled. "Fine," she said peevishly. "You want the truth? Here it is: Just because I enjoyed kissing Prowl doesn't mean that I'm in love with him. I don't even know him, really. She does, though, and I…I…"
"You what?" Wheeljack prompted when her voice trailed off again and she settled into a troubled silence.
Sunfall didn't answer for quite a while. Instead, she balled up one fist and banged it slowly and softly against the floor as she gathered what thoughts she had.
"Sometimes…" she finally said quietly, barely loud enough to be heard over the sound of her fist impacting with the floor, "Sometimes I get really tired of living someone else's life for them. Sometimes I just want a life of my own. I want to have my own past, my own memories. I want to make my own decisions. I want to not fulfill everyone else's expectations. Not Claire's. Not Prowl's. Not anyone's. I just want to be me. Except that I can't be because there is no me. Not without her. And with her comes…all of the things that I'm tired of. I'm trapped, Wheeljack, and the worst thing about it is that I know it's a trap from which there's absolutely no possibility of escape. Ever."
Wheeljack winced but didn't say anything for a while after that, mostly because he was suddenly fighting an undertow of guilt. The fact of the matter was that Sunfall was right. She was forever yoked to Claire, as Claire was to her, because neither was a complete personality on her own. They were indeed inseparable, like Siamese twins who shared a vital organ, and if Sunfall was as unhappy as she seemed at the moment, then she was doomed to a long and miserable existence, and it was partly his own fault. But what could he say? That he was sorry? It was too late for apologies, and it was far too late to undo anything that had happened. The only thing that he could do was to do whatever he could to try to make Sunfall less miserable.
"Have you talked about this with Prowl?" he asked gently.
Sunfall gave him an odd look.
"No," she answered simply.
"Why not?" Wheeljack wanted to know.
Sunfall sighed. "Because as much as I'm chafing at living up to other people's expectations, I still don't want to disappoint anybody. You have no idea how hard it was to break that kiss and run the hell away because I knew that in doing so I was disappointing both of them."
Wheeljack thought about that for a moment, then offered, "I think if you talked to Prowl – really talked to him – he would understand. This is a three-way relationship, really, and you all need to be in agreement about how it's going to proceed, if it's going to proceed at all. It's not fair that you should have to suffer or sacrifice what you want in order to make them happy."
"That might be true" Sunfall answered solemnly. "But by the same token, it's also not fair to them to make them suffer or sacrifice what they want in order to make me happy. Is it?"
"I suppose not," Wheeljack said softly. "I suppose there is no easy answer."
"No," Sunfall quietly agreed. "No, there isn't. But I think you're right that I need to talk to Prowl. We need to settle this one way or the other."
And with that, she removed her feet from Wheeljack's lap and abruptly stood. She was halfway to the door when Wheeljack spoke up.
"Wait, where are you going?" he asked.
Sunfall turned around and regarded him as if he was an idiot.
"To talk to Prowl?" she said.
"No time like the present," Sunfall replied with a half-smile. "Right?"
At that, Wheeljack stood himself up, too. He folded his arms over his chest and gave her an approving and encouraging look. And then Sunfall, all unexpectedly, walked back over to him and hugged him.
"Thank you," she whispered as she clung to him.
"For what?" Wheeljack asked, softly and comfortingly stroking her back.
"For everything," she said. "But especially for the things you said about Prowl's…thinking. It helps a lot." Then, after giving him a final squeeze, she let go of the engineer and stepped away from him.
"You're welcome," Wheeljack said warmly. "Good luck."
Sunfall gave him a wan smile, and then she turned and was gone, off on a mission that Wheeljack could only hope would go well. For all of their sakes.