Title: Toy With Me
(Series: Lost Time)
Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, own the Transformers© franchise or the characters it contains. All publicly recognizable characters are copyrighted to Hasbro, and the respective artists/writers/et cetera. No infringement intended.
Continuity: G1 (Generation One)
Characters: Skyfire, Starscream
Summary: Earth was alien in every capacity, stimulating in ways Skyfire did not altogether understand; there was a time when he would have given much to have his leave to study it. Perhaps everything. But that had been a better time.
Author's Note: Haven't updated any Lost Time series for a while, dredged up one of the ficlets from way back to share. SO MUCH ANGST, gah, and so clunky. Criticism encouraged.
Sometimes he thought he could actually come to love this planet.
Skyfire flew quietly over the landscape, shrouded in shades of indigo and glossy blue by the night. A shy half moon hung despondently above, voluminous clouds scudding across its pallid features. The stars were at his back, silent and foreign and not a one recognizable as home, and this alien world spread out below him, ripe with possibility.
There was so much life here. Too much, it seemed, until everything seemed thick and choked with it. Vegetation and animals and bacteria; he had never seen so many things crammed together. And what variety. Every mile of it housed a new enigma, a new discovery for him to marvel at. Earth was alien in every capacity, stimulating in ways he did not altogether understand; there was a time when he would have given much to have his leave to study it. Perhaps everything.
But that had been a better time, an era dead for long millennia before his reawakening. When knowledge was still held in regard, and weapons were considered an eccentricity of criminals and slack-jawed brawlers. The universe had moved on long ago, leaving him as a puzzled relic of an age long since departed. And it had not taken long for the war to touch upon him as well, and twist what it found. Not very long at all.
He had come to this planet with a firmness of belief; a surety born of knowing that all in the cosmos had its place and its function, and, despite whatever adversity, he would persevere. And he had awoken with the same certainty, unable to comprehend that so much that he had known was gone, and the universe so different, so wrong. The signs had been many and blatant, yet still he had resisted, falling back on his arrogant faith that things would go back to as they were supposed to be, as if his mere presence could change the course his people had set upon.
Had he really been so naïve? Such unashamed, simplistic idealism was inexcusable. And he had fancied himself an objective observer, a scientist to the core of his being.
Disgust swam through him, warm and prickling almost-sensations, a bruised feeling of betrayal that had never altogether dissipated. It was formless, directionless, encompassing all things, every little slight compounding the rumbling echo of not right. Nothing could be proper again, not between the casual apathy of his newfound comrades, the everyday treatment of the war, the little insanities that ticked away behind their stutter-chuckles and skittish idiosyncrasies. He couldn't understand it, couldn't grasp it with any part of him, drowned in it.
So he flew, when Earth was dark enough to pretend the trees were silhouettes of towers, and the cold could almost remind him of the dead-space skies far from here.
He had never pined for Cybertron before. Perhaps because home had always been an option for him; comforting and solid and real, always waiting for him to come back, and subsequently leave again. He had never stayed long on her surface, had barely explored her sprawling, decadent metropolises, the long cracks between cities and structures, where strange creatures were rumored to haunt. There seemed to be time to do such things later, always later.
… It was really gone. Everything.
Something quick and bright darted past him, close enough scrape paint, for energy signatures to coil, briefly, and silence of a mechanism in freefall to deafen him.
Recoiling instinctively, Skyfire pulled away, rolling wide and out toward a cloud bank in a half-processed bid for escape, for cover, for invisibility. Below him, there was the shuddering sound of engines coming back online, and the shriek of a high velocity turn. It was a startlingly familiar sound, one he had recently become accustomed to hearing only with the shrill accompaniment of artillery fire. But no discharge of weapons tore the night, and Skyfire remained quite unscathed.
The unfortunately recognizable jet – now flying just below him like a distorted afterimage – slowed its turbines, until the sound was a monotone purr.
Torn between his choices – flee, hail, or dog the seeker to the ground as he probably should have – Skyfire haltingly began to slow and loop around, abandoning his bid for cloud cover and the false, flimsy safety it promised. It would be a useless endeavor to run, in any case; Starscream would find him regardless of what he did. Skyfire would never outrun a seeker on his best day.
[What?] He snapped instead, hoping bravado would mask the very real creep of fear making its way through his stabilizing circuitry.
The sleek jet below him declined response, drifting from side to side in either indecision or some sort of strange, pointless denial.
Made cautious by familiarity, Skyfire scanned the vapor-laden air around him, already anticipating the ghosts of radar-pings. But no; there was not a trace of hostile units in the sky, not even the sly duo that usually trailed not far behind the Air Commander.
He turned his attention back to Starscream, irritated by his own uncertainty in verifying the seeker's motives. Skyfire had not strayed terribly far from the Autobot base. Nor had had come near the usual patrol range of the Decepticon's headquarters. There was no reason for this strange intrusion upon his solitude, this unsolicited breaking of the mutually established taboo.
Perversely, he felt a skirl of anger, cold and bitter, at Starscream's very existence, as if it were some heinous crime for the Decepticon to share the universe with him. The less-than-amicable sentiment had been mutual, he was certain. Absolutely certain. Their last meeting had… well, suffice to say, they had not parted on the best of terms. But they had already settled their accounts with each other; there was no reason for this peculiar behavior.
[What do you want?] He demanded, sharp and terse and brittle despite himself.
Starscream pulled back with a painful whine, either skittish of Skyfire's antagonism or, more likely, simply growing bored with whatever fancy had driven him out to enemy skies. In either case, the notorious Air Commander had clearly found Skyfire's company too distasteful, and fled for friendlier patches of firmament Starscraem circled back and wide, to the very edges of Skyfire's immediate radar sensors, patrolling around a tight loop of sky before simply twisting and heading for the upper atmosphere.
Fine, thought Skyfire, with a touch of resentment. I don't care where he goes. Putting on a burst of speed, the shuttle went along his way, intending on leaving the Decepticon to his own devices. He tried not to think too hard on why he hadn't reported the Air Commander's presence, or why he hadn't fired to push him away and back to where he belonged. Some questions, he had always believed, were better left unasked.
Lost between sullen animosity and guilty loneliness, Earth's landscape rolled unheeded beneath him. The trees lost their fanciful spires, becoming, once more, mere leaves and branches, delicate and fleeting.
There came again the glint of moonlight on metal from above, and the Decepticon abruptly pulled parallel to his flight path, not a wing's breadth away. The seeker rolled lethargically about, almost invitingly, keeping pace with exasperating ease. Then, quite out of the blue, he shot forward, arced up, back, and rolled neatly alongside once more, engines humming in haughty challenge.
[Depart immediately, Decepticon,] Skyfire warned, turning as sharply as he could manage away, [You're trespassing on Autobot airspace.]
Starscream banked about, following doggedly.
[Go away, Starscream,] Skyfire demanded, surly that his warning was so easily ignored. He nudged his nosecone in the general direction of the Ark, adjusting his itinerary in a silent, dire threat.
Starscream did not depart, or even seem hesitant in the slightest sense, continuing to fly alongside the Autobot, as if all things were perfectly fine. His ailerons flapped coyly, disrupting the airflow over his wings, causing him to wobble slightly.
By this point oozing frustration, Skyfire jerked further away, creating a wider buffer of empty air between them, and set about ignoring his unwanted companion. With gusto, he set himself at analyzing the landscape; taking fly-by scans as deep and intense as he could manage. Starscream only continued to hassle him for the sake of his reactions, surely, since he was clearly not attacking and seemingly without intention of leaving. The Seeker had always thrived on such things. If he disregarded the Decepticon's presence, he would surely give off the sport, and go back to his own faction's territory.
Something nudged Skyfire's wing from below, a tap almost too subtle to be noticed. It was a friendly gesture, one from days before the war. A way of saying, 'I'm here; watch me'.
Discomfited, Skyfire pulled away again. But there was the nudge, again, a little harder, a little more insistent, and the sound of a transformation.
Cool fingers slid down the shuttle's underbelly, lightly, as Skyfire left the slowing mechanism behind. It was a tender gesture; the gentleness threatening, frightening, only a twitch away from cruelty.
The shuttle slowed, banked, and began to circle indecisively.
Starscream hovered in mid-air, held thus by virtue of the Decepticon-produced anti-gravity technology. His optics were bright, red, beacons in the darkness. Moonlight wavered in molten reflections across his gleaming form, bright and bejeweled by the borrowed light of a thousand stars.
Skyfire remembered the data tracks, groons upon groons of captured videos of slaughter. Genocide. Mechanisms caught unaware, torn apart before they had a chance to surrender. Explosions that ripped the skies asunder, blotting and obscuring horizons with roiling, thick smoke, and heaped piles of the dead and dying, disregarded as the Decepticons picked through, searching for spare parts and entertainment. But he also recalled images of an time before such depravity; meandering conversations and pleasant, loving touches and vorns spent with only one spark for company.
He slowed, and drifted below, landing on a clear hill. He unfolded from his alternate, craning his head back to stare at the haughty vision of the past suspended so far above him.
Starscream descended slowly, warily, from his lofty throne on high, landing with a quiet thump a guarded distance away. His silver had captured the sky, blue and black and dotted with distant planets - the prince of the firmament, tyrant of the skies. Had any monster ever been so beautiful? wondered Skyfire. When had cruelty deigned to wear such a perfect form?
"We have got to stop meeting like this, Autobot."
"Don't toy with me," Skyfire rumbled, the symbol blazoned on his chest burning a hole straight to his spark. It was more the weariness the prompted Skyfire to speak, and a wretched, longing sorrow that he hesitated to put a name to. "What do you want?"
"I don't have to explain myself to you," The Decepticon grimaced, and glanced away, up, aside, and back. "… Just tonight?" He asked, gruff and lonely and somewhere along the way, full of self-loathing.
Skyfire paused, untrusting of Starscream's intentions, searching his face for what passed for honesty. And, waveringly, he held out his hand.
Just for tonight… they could be something else again.