What Darkness Brings

(A Complications of Life side story)

By: Nightelfcrawler

Disclaimer: I do not own, merely covet adoringly.

Authors' note: This is a prequel leading up to events in Complications of Life. You needn't read it first, they can be read in either order if you prefer.

Warnings: This is a slash story, both with back history of violence and forcible M/M, as well as complications thereof and pursuant romance. You have been warned.

Chapter One

Life really wasn't too bad, he honestly couldn't complain. Compared to what it COULD have been, given the state of the universe at the time. Granted, half of his lab was in disarray, his ship badly in need of several key repairs and upgrades, and this planet he'd chosen to orbit wasn't the most INTERESTING place to conduct his research, still… it could be worse.

Skyfire leaned back in his chair, kicking his over-sized feet up onto the large table across from him which groaned in protest at the weight added to it. A piece of dirt fell off of his treds and landed with a sick 'plop' on the surface of the desk, making him wrinkle his nose with disgust. Sure, he wasn't as tidy as he wished he could be, but he usually did his best not to contaminate his work surfaces with 'samples' from the planets he would occasionally visit. With a sigh, he shuttered his optics and leaned his head back, listening to the steady hum of the fans cycling heat through the ship. It was as quiet as it ever got. No matter where he went within the small ship he could still hear some kind of noises, whether it was the heat fans, the steady hum of broken cables lighting the corridor, or pumps of the fuel system kicking in to keep the ship running. But yet, it was reassuring. Skyfire had the sneaking paranoid suspicion that if it were ever completely silent, he would go mad from the silence. It was a reassuring presence to hear some kind of sound while in his solitude.

Lazily, he poked a button on the command console, watching as the scans popped up with their usual empty maps. Nothing there, just as there had been for the last hundreds of cycles. Big surprise.

Skyfire punched the scans off, pushing himself forward in the chair to land with a heavy thump on the ships' deck before he pulled his bulk upright. There were times when being so large was handy. However, with day to day activities, it was most inconvenient to have to stoop his head any time he entered or exited a room. He had bought the ship off a rather disgruntled scientist who had been peddling it to make money to pay off debts. Unfortunately the ship had been designed for normal-sized mechs, not over-sized ones like himself. He was just thankful at least the rooms were large enough for him to stand upright, albeit with very little clearance. His wings often bumped into things they shouldn't, but he was at least able to fold them back so they didn't protrude as much as some of his other winged brethren. He left the bumping to his helm, mostly.

Moving back through the ship, he exited the control room and entered the lab in the middle of the vessel. An assortment of tables with everything from chemical kits to microscopes and labeled slides sat cluttering their surfaces. A half-constructed pile of junk took over an entire back wall, where cubbies full of odds and ends sat filled to the brim. It was a mess, though organized to his mind. He smiled a little, as he sat down before a half-constructed piece of equipment and began to tinker with it. There was something reassuring about doing simple things like this. Some days he preferred to skim the surface of the planets, investigating life-forms and studying samples, other days he enjoyed tackling something more hands-on. Today, his processor seemed distracted for some reason. He kept picking over details of his life, wondering if things might have been different if he'd chosen another path. He was never one to regret his choices, but he did doubt and mull over them constantly. It was one of his failings. He always thought too much. His partner had always mocked him for over analyzing everything, but it was this failing that had driven him to science in the first place. He had been built for doing placid boring work, shutting supplies back and forth without question, but somewhere along the way he developed the need to think while doing his job. He had done very well in the fields of science, despite being not designed for this kind of thing. But then, his partner hadn't been programmed for that either, and he had done just as well… or had, rather.

Skyfire sighed, rubbing his face as he dropped all pretext of trying to be interested in the work before him. "Great." He muttered to himself. "Go and ruin your own mood, genius." Why was it every time he reflected, he ended up focusing back on that insufferable, irritating, know-it-all, neat-freak? Was it regret? Perhaps a smidge, but he knew there was nothing he could have done to change the outcome. He just wished that he'd had another chance before he'd had to flee into hiding with the rest of Cybertron as the war raged on. But then, he wished for a lot of things.

A beeping noise brought him out of his reverie. Strange… that sounded like a proximity alarm… but he hadn't heard the long-range sensors go off yet…. Puzzled, Skyfire rose to his feet and swiftly moved to the command room, squeezing his bulk into the rather over-strained chair to stare at the display. A blip… no, two blips, were moving rapidly towards the ship, having appeared out of nowhere. Alarmed, he slammed his fist down on the shields, and let out a very un-characteristic swear when they didn't ignite. A low-power warning flashed on the console telling him he didn't have enough power to raise the shields. Alarmed, he moved to the window. "Please not another meteor." He muttered, peering into the endless darkness of space, trying to see what it was that was approaching.

He almost didn't see them. It was just a small distortion of light against the darkness, but as it came closer he saw that the darkness manifested into a the shape of a mech… two mechs. In the shadow of the sun, he couldn't make out what build they were, but there was no mistaking the glowing red lights from their eyes as they slowed upon nearing the ship. "Not so fast." Skyfire muttered, slamming his fist into a panel nearby. Instantly, brilliant blinding light flooded all around the ship, causing the two to flinch, turning away from the window at the sudden brilliance, and giving him a good look at who they were. He was therefore a bit surprised to notice that he recognized them vaguely. He frowned, wondering what on Cybertron brought THOSE two here. "Stay where you are." He commanded, pushing the comm. next to the entry hatch which he had yet to unseal. "What do you want?"

"You're Skyfire, right?" Came a deep voice from the mech with dark blue coloring. Red optics squinted past the bright light, trying to identify the silhouette of the mech watching them.

"I won't repeat again, what do you want."

"Oh for frag's sake." The black one growled, and with a flash of black light and purple electricity, he was suddenly gone.

Skyfire tensed, optics widening the moment he heard a strange displacement of air and sound behind him, turned and was met with a punch to the face. Staggering backwards at the blow that had taken him by surprise, Skyfire groaned as he heard the catch to the airlock being released beside him, and managed to open his optics in time to see a black and violet body block his vision, bending over and offering a hand to the blue Seeker and helping him into the ship. "Did you HAVE to do that?"

"Well you were being difficult." Was the smug reply. "It's not MY fault you don't apply baffles to this little hunk of junk of yours."

"'Warp, lay off." Growled the blue mech who turned to face Skyfire as he stared up at them both from his rather undignified position on the floor. "We have more important things to discuss."

"And WHAT is so important, Thundercracker?" Skyfire said slowly, trying his best to remain calm. "What brings two of Megatron's elite all the way out here to break into my lab?" He frowned, staring up at the two pairs of crimson optics staring him down from their large forms blocking the entire hallway before him.

"We need your help."

"Oh no." Skyfire said firmly. "I know what 'help' means in your terms. You can tell your wing leader that if he has anything to say to me, he can say it to my face instead of sending his thugs to beat it into my processors."

The two of them exchanged glances, their gazes darkening. "You want to have him ask you, you're going to have a hard time of it." Thundercracker said coldly, and it was only then that he stepped aside, as did Skywarp, and Skyfire's optics dropped down to something he'd missed them bringing in.

His spark went suddenly cold.

What lay on the ground was not even recognizable. It was only due to their words, due to the fact that his spark ached when he looked at it, and due to the fact that he somehow KNEW… that he recognized the pile of scrap as his former partner and once-friend. The armor had been twisted and ripped apart, most of it missing or so completely mangled that it was not even close to it's original shape. Limbs were twisted into strange positions, and the one thing to which had been his pride and joy were simply gone, chunks of metal and wires jutting out from a broken back as the only remnant of the wings that had been mounted there at one point. There was no recognizing the face, as the mangled visage was in several pieces revealing critical systems and the delicate wiring of the neural processor showing through the cracks. The optics were missing entirely, and the entire lower section of the jaw and throat seemed to be also missing.

Skyfire desperately fought the urge to be violently ill. "W…what happened." He croaked out, unable to tear his eyes away.

The two seekers exchanged identical glances before looking back his way. "You're kidding, right?" Skywarp asked bitterly. "Do you EVER read the news?"

"Er…" Skyfire forced his gaze up from the mangled remains of his friend to stare blankly at them. "Not really."

Thundercracker shot Skywarp a 'you'd better let me handle this' glare and then addressed him. "Did you at least hear about the rebellion? Three solar cycles ago?" Skyfire shook his head mutely. "Well there was one, and it failed. This is the result." He gestured almost flippantly at the pile of scrap on the deck.

Skyfire frowned, slowly pulling himself into a kneeling position and carefully bending over the mangled remains of his friend. "….so why did you bring him to me?"

"He's not dead."

"What?!" A jolt of electricity seemed to send his spark a kick-start. At first glance he'd thought there had been no possible way anyone could be alive after that, and the realization that he WAS still alive was enough to kick him out of his state of shock. "Well don't just stand there, help me!" He barked sharply, bending down and carefully gathering the broken body into his arms. The two seekers moved swiftly, picking up the loose limbs that sagged out of his grasp and moving with him back to the lab, where Thundercracker cleared the table in the center with one swipe of his hand. Skyfire didn't even flinch at the destruction of his research, but slipped the body down onto the surface as carefully as he could, straightening the limbs gently. "Details. Now." He demanded. "When was the last time he had energon? How long ago did this happen, and what else do you know?" He didn't wait for their responses before grabbing an emergency energon supply and beginning to hook it up to a feed.

"It happened a while ago, Skyfire." Was the rather calm reply, far too stoic for the big mech's liking, as he turned to stare darkly at Thundercracker with an accusing glare. "Will you calm down for a moment? He's not kicked the bucket yet, he's not going to in the next breem, so slow down."

Skyfire frowned, but set the feed line down and forced his racing spark to calm. "Ok… tell me then."

"This happened a while ago, ok? For the last year he's been rotting in a cell. Megatron just left him there and forgot about him. He still doesn't know we broke him out, and we have to get back quick before he suspects something. Warp left a pretty good duplicate there, but there's no telling how close of a look anyone will get if someone just happens to get a glimpse. Right now, we need you to promise us something."

Skyfire frowned. "What?"

"No matter what he says, or what he does, for Primus' sake, DON'T let him come back this time." Thundercracker pressed firmly, pushing his hands flat on the table to lean forward, staring directly at the large mech. "If he comes back, he's going to end up in pieces scattered across the fraggin' galaxy. Keep him AWAY." Skyfire frowned, but nodded in agreement. "There's one more thing." Thundercracker said firmly, his voice lowering it's volume though Skyfire didn't see why as the way Skywarp was staring with that unnerving piercing gaze of his he obviously knew what was going to be discussed. "Skyfire…" Thundercracker pressed quietly, his glowing optics intense. "You have to open up his spark chamber, and get that second spark out of him. It's like a parasite, and it's killing him."

Skyfire blinked, as his spark ran cold. "Primus." He whispered faintly, as the implications slammed into his processor like the weight of a building. "Are you saying that….?"

"Just do it, ok?" Thundercracker straightened and glanced back to Skywarp who nodded. "We need to go before we're missed. It took us far too long to get out here, we need to make time getting back." He paused for a moment, then glanced down at the broken form of their air commander. "Just… promise us when he's awake you'll let us know somehow?"

"I've got your comms." Skyfire murmured. "I promise you'll know as soon as possible."

"Good." Thundercracker straightened, and then turned, heading for the airlock.

Skywarp lifted his optics to meet Skyfire's, and gave a tight grimace. "Take care of him, k? He's an annoying, insufferable freak of nature… but…."

Skyfire smiled faintly and put a large hand on the black seeker's shoulder. "I'll do my best."

Skywarp glanced once more over at the figure of their wing leader, before following his wing mate out the airlock. Skyfire closed the hatch after them, watching their engines burn brightly through the darkness before they winked out as Skywarp opened a rift.

Skyfire shuttered his optics before turning and returning in silence to the side of his friend.

How the mighty have fallen, he couldn't help but think as he stared at the offline form of his friend, once the mighty Air Commander, 2nd in command of the Decepticon forces, the name that made most cringe for various reasons: Starscream. This was NOT even a shadow of that presence, this broken shell. Skyfire shuddered as he gently turned the mech's damaged head to the side, staring at the damage. It was unbelievable that he still functioned after this. Skyfire's optics immediately roamed to the twisted chest cavity before he grimaced. There was no opening it with this amount of damage. Dutifully, he reached over for a small saw and got to work. As he worked, he did his best not to think about what he was doing, cutting his friend's chest open. It had to be done, but it wasn't a pleasant task. It took several breems for him to finally cut away enough pieces to peer within. He grimaced at the sight. Most spark chambers were spherical in shape, covered with tight protective plating that kept the spark safe within. Starscream's spark chamber was a crumpled mess, as if someone had reached in and squeezed it, compacting it. It barely looked large enough to contain a spark, as mangled as it was, but from the cracks and missing pieces, he could see light spilling forth. Indeed, through whatever miracles of miracles, his friend was still alive. Unfortunately, he didn't see any way to get a better look.

He was going to have to cut open the spark chamber.

Skyfire was no surgeon, and in fact his repair skills were very limited. While he thought that with enough time he would be able to try and reconstruct something out of the mess before him, spark chamber surgery was another matter entirely. The wrong move, the wrong cut could leak the spark out into the mech's body, overcharging it and giving the spark no safe place to rest. It would burn itself out before it could be stopped. Unfortunately, Skyfire was well aware that there was no other option. There was a reason Thundercracker and Skywarp had brought Starscream to him, Megatron had ostracized him, giving him no chance of being repaired by the Decepticons. The Autobots would be just as eager to mount his head on their walls, and no neutral in their right mind would ever accept enough credits to repair the former Decepticon Air Commander. Starscream literally had no where else to go, no one else could, would, help him. He was the only chance that he had to live again.

He slowly reached in, and carefully began to make small precise cuts in the spark chamber. It was excruciatingly difficult, painstakingly so, but he did not hesitate. Several breems later, he carefully removed the square cut panel, revealing bright light to the air. Though there was very little space within, glowing strongly, if dimmer than usual, was a bright golden spark with a strange nova circling it in the form of a double helix. Though this was very unusual for sparks, it was something that Skyfire was familiar with. He knew of his partner's strange uniqueness, and after studying it's flickering pattern, turned his attention to the other occupant of the small space. It was a fraction of the size of it's parent, and a dull dirty white color rather than a bright gold, but it was there. It pulsed with it's own rhythm, and as he watched he noticed that there was a faint aura around it, similar to it's sire's…. it was possible whatever uniqueness Starscream had may have been passed on to the sparkling as well. "Hello there, little one." Skyfire said quietly, staring at it with a gentle smile on his face. "You've been quite hungry haven't you? Lets see if we can't help you out a bit, shall we?"

Abandoning the pair of sparks, Skyfire walked back to his storage area and began to search for a small box he knew was buried at the bottom of the piles of junk. He'd nearly forgotten about it, nearly forgotten that it existed at all, but now he was very glad that he had kept it. Tossing other boxes aside, he finally spotted the item of interest and pulled it free of it's dusty pile beneath the years of collections he'd acquired. It was small, rather dented, and bore the seal of the Science Guild, but he knew instinctively what was inside. Taking it back with him, he placed the small box on the table and opened it. Within were jumbled parts, very tiny parts. It had been one of the more treasured items he had salvaged from the Science Academy before it had shut down, something that wasn't easy to come by, and these days near impossible. It was enough parts to build a small basic mechling protoform. It was nothing special, nothing fancy, but it would do for now. He carefully began to assemble it, watching the pair of sparks off to the side as they pulsed in quiet harmonic balance, complimenting each other. "I find it strange…" He said aloud, knowing his friend had no way of hearing him at this point, but finding he needed to speak to him, as if unconsciously re-assuring him. "…that you of all mechs would be burdened with this responsibility. You who only cared for yourself and no one else, you who always scoffed at the idea of children." He shook his head lightly. "Perhaps Primus decided you needed some responsibilities to someone other than yourself." He worked in silence, tightening miniscule bolts and carefully constructing the miniature protoform that easily lay in his palm. Finally, he sat back, exhausted and studied his work. It was very basic, very simple, but it was complete, save for one element. He heated a dish, and poured in the crystallized metal fragments, watching as they slowly melted into a shimmering alloy, and then carefully placed the protoform in it's double mold, sealing it before he poured the metal in. He watched as it formed small armor plating, covering the skeletal form in a more recognizable form of a complete mech. Once the metal had cooled and hardened, he removed the molds and studied the tiny form. It was cute, he supposed, in that tiny-nopersonality kind of way. Basic protoforms were good for one thing, housing the newborn sparks of their offspring, allowing it to adapt and mold the liquid organic metal he had used for it's armor, shaping it into what it would become. It would grow, expand, and adapt now, using this small fragile shell as a building block. It's own nanites would build new structures, expand the skeletal building blocks and allow it to become more than it was now.

Skyfire turned from the tiny body, scooping it into his palm and then approaching the broken shell of his friend, bending over to study the two sparks before reaching down with a small scooping tool and caught the tiny spark, pulling it gently free of it's parent. It came free reluctantly, strands of energy still trying to wean life from it's creator, starved for fuel. He smiled. "Easy there, you'll have all you can hold." He re-assured it, carefully lowering it into the open tiny spark chamber within the mechling protoform, and dropped it in, shutting the seals quickly before it could escape. Immediately, the organic armor began to glow faintly as it was charged by the spark now live within it. Skyfire carefully walked over to his workbench and set the sparkling down, then gently inserted a tiny needle into it's neck where it's primary fuel line was, and started the energon feed. Nearly immediately there was an obvious change. The little sparkling's body began to glow brighter, the energon and spark charging the organic armor, initializing the organic nanites to begin their work, as it's transition was finished. After a few moments watching the amazing process as the sparkling took host of it's new body, Skyfire turned and left it to its' refueling, turning his attention now to his second patient.

Starscream was a mess.

There was no easier way to describe it. Skyfire stared at the scrap pile, wondering where on Cybertron he was supposed to start. Now that the sparkling was safe, he had to first ensure that Starscream would remain functioning, which meant he needed to see how badly damaged the fuel lines were before he could start him on an energon feed. Sighing, he carefully positioned all of Starscream's limbs into a straight line. There were severe breaks there, most of the limbs were only hanging on due to a few wires, or a damaged joint, but were completely useless. He carefully traced each energon line, capping off the feeds to the limbs, and focusing on simply fixing the lines that led to his critical systems. It was difficult work, and something that did not go by quickly. Many of the lines were buried beneath ruined armor, resulting in the need for him to just simply remove the armor. It was useless in this shape anyway, and he would need to completely re-build it, so it was best in the long run. He would have no need for armor while being repaired anyway, so he had no qualms in removing it. When he was finished, a pile nearly as high as the table sat to the side, and his friend looked incredibly small and vulnerable with just his protoform, basic skeletal structure along with his wiring and piping. Even the weapon that normally inhabited his arm had been removed, probably during his captivity. There was evidence of snapped struts and torn wires that had clearly belonged to the removed device. Once he was satisfied that all the energon lines were repaired and whole, he jabbed Starscream's main line with a needle and started the feed, watching to make sure there were no other leaks. There were a few he hadn't caught, and he worked quickly to patch them up, trusting that his poor job would hold at least until Starscream's self-repair system could attack the affected area. As he watched the read-outs, slowly the critical lights began to turn green, as the energon circulated and began to power systems that had long since shut down. His friend's body had been in such a state that everything, even the self-repair, had been shut off, leaving only the spark to survive, in whatever strange manner that allowed it to do so.

Now that he was out of immediate danger, Skyfire sat down on one of his stools, and sighed, running a grimy hand across his face. "You are hopeless." He told the silent figure. "No matter where you go, it seems trouble follows you." He leaned forward and lightly traced his fingers over the jagged points of the mask that covered his face. It was so torn and ruined, that he could actually see Starscream's real face beneath… and a thought occurred to him. Carefully, he felt around the back of his helmet, searching for the catches until he found them, and pressed down. With a click, the helm released from it's catches, and he carefully pulled it away from his face. As he did so, several pieces disconnected from the thin tears that had been the only thing holding them on, falling to the ground with a loud clatter. Skyfire set the helm aside, and studied his friends' face.

Oddly… it looked no different than his memory banks recalled from their youth. Though his face appeared older, a bit more worn and tired, it was a familiar shock to his system that he had not had the pleasure of getting the last time he had seen his friend, completely changed from the mech he had been before. No, this was a familiar face. Skyfire lightly ran a finger down a thick silver seam that ran from Starscream's left temple across his face clear down into his shoulder. It had been healed over, and appeared to be an older wound, one caused perhaps at the beginning of his captivity, but it was stark and strong against his dark grey face. Skyfire knew instantly this would be a wound that his friend would carry for the rest of his life. No amount of self-repair could completely hide it, though it likely would fade with time, it would stay there as a stark reminder of his experience. A battle scar… a constant reminder. He sighed and lightly turned Starscream's head, lifting it so he could study the back where his neural processor sat now exposed to the air. Though some of the exterior wiring closest to the surface appeared to have been damaged in the past, nothing appeared greatly damaged. It seemed that his thick helm had protected his processor as it should have, and with all hope there would be no damage to his thought processes or intellect. Skyfire was a bit concerned that the back appeared to be dented in a little, but nothing appeared out of place, and as he held the head carefully, a few lights began to blink on one-by-one, and he smiled at the sign of life returning, gently lowering his head back down. "You my friend, are lucky in more ways than one to be alive." He murmured, staring at the silent expressionless face. The empty optic sockets just stared back at him in silence. He sighed, lightly tugging on a few of the wires protruding from the sockets, and studying the ends. Most of them were still plugged in, though there were a few that were missing. He fumbled around for some proper wires, and then carefully began to poke and prod around within each eye socket, finding the right place to attach the new wires, glad that there appeared to be no damage to the actual plugs within. That would have been a devastating issue that he would not have been able to fix here. Several hours passed, and Skyfire worked in silence, attaching the wires, wondering what on Cybertron he was thinking by agreeing to this at all.

Something beeped off to his right. He glanced over at the display, and blinked, seeing read-outs begin to scroll down the screen and glanced down sharply at his patient, quickly withdrawing his tools just in time, as Starscream's head jerked, and his body lurched, as if in an attempt to sit up, but there were so many lacking connections all he could do was twitch. Skyfire quickly put a heavy reassuring hand on his shoulders, keeping him from moving. "Easy there." He soothed softly. "Don't struggle about, you'll only do more damage to yourself." To his dismay, this only seemed to ignite more struggling, as Starscream's head twitched back and forth, struggling in protest. "Starscream!" He insisted, his grip tightening, which only seemed to make it worse. "Stop!" He demanded, before something occurred to him. It was very likely that the mech was not only blind, but deaf. He had no idea where he was, nor who was holding him, and given his experience he probably thought he was somewhere undesirable. Frowning, Skyfire pressed both his hands flat against Starscream's slim shoulders, and calmed himself, speaking loudly, letting the reverberations of his words travel down his hands, into the mech's body beneath him. "Starscream. Calm down. You are in no danger here. You are safe." He spoke calmly, lightly giving the mech a small squeeze on the shoulder, urging him silently to stop fighting him. In truth, he didn't expect this to work, as there was no way that the mech could hear what he was saying merely from vibrations in his bones, however as he spoke, Starscream's struggling eased, and then finally stopped, though his head moved to and fro, as if desperate to see where he was, frustrated he could not. Skyfire gently released the pressure on the mech's shoulders, leaning back but remaining close in case he began to struggle again. When he did not, he sighed and grabbed another tool. "Ok… first things first… let's see what's wrong with your audio receptors."

He gently took Starscream by the chin, and tilted his head to the side, not so much to be uncomfortable, but firm enough to keep him still as he carefully prodded at the nodes attached to the audio receptors. The one on his right side appeared to be completely crushed. Skyfire winced, picking at the pieces, and finally prying them out. He would have to install a new one there. Tilting Starscream's head the other way, he studied the other one, and was relieved to see it was not as badly damaged. It appeared to have been dislodged, some wiring had been damaged, but it was easily fixable. Carefully picking at the damage, he stripped the fried wires, linked them with fresh ones, and began to re-attach them to their proper place. There was a slight fizzle as the last one was connected, followed by an audible screech that made Starscream flinch beneath him. "Sorry, sorry." He mumbled, doing a quick adjustment on the level. "There… can you at least hear me now?"

There was a long pause, in which Starscream remained silent, still and tense, obviously a little startled knowing who it was who was his medic. However, after several seconds, his head dipped slightly in a small nod. "Good." Skyfire said, sighing as he leaned back, staring at his friend as he turned his head slightly towards the area in which he perceived him to be. "At least that solves one problem then. I imagine you are wondering what's going on." He mused, and saw a minute change in Starscream's face, indicating a slight frown. "Your wing mates rescued you from your… situation, brought you here to me. I realize I may be the last person you wished to run into again, but given your situation, I don't think you have much options here." He studied Starscream's face intently, watching as he frowned slightly, taking in his words. For a moment, Skyfire wondered what was going through his mind. Was he thinking he would rather kill him? Was he bitter that it was him here? Was he grateful? Starscream surprised him, by turning his head and positioning it back to the ceiling. Skyfire frowned, uncertain how to take that gesture, but sighed, and moved forward to the diagnostics screen, staring at the read-outs as he pulled up his communications' system. "It seems most of your internal relays are in good shape, but your data processor is giving me an error. I'll take a look and see what kind of damage we're looking at…" He tilted Starscream's head to the side, and pulled out the data chip, turning it over. "Looks ok… a few relays appear burnt, I'll fix those and re-install it. The rest will be up to you then." He glanced down at his friend, who hadn't moved, and sighed as he moved to his bench and started welding. "You little one is safe, by the way."

He caught the flinch. Starscream tried to hide it, but there were a myriad of emotions that crossed over his damaged face. It was impossible to read them all at once, but Skyfire knew he'd hit a nerve, and honestly couldn't blame him. "I've placed it in it's own body. It's powering up now. It should be awake soon." Starscream's face seemed to relax visibly, and Skyfire smiled secretively, seeing the tension leave his friend. "Call me a sentimental fool if you like, but I think it's admirable that you kept it alive, sacrificing your own spark to help it live. I think that's what made your wing mates act… finding out what you were doing. They were both worried about you, and made sure I knew about the sparkling right away." His gaze shifted to the tiny figure, and he paused as he saw the energon feed had stopped. "Speaking of which… seems it's full." He took the feed out, and as he did so, the small body quivered before miniature optics flickered on. White light shone out from behind the tiny facets, and they blinked, focusing up on the giant hovering above it with a puzzled blink. "Hello little one." Skyfire rumbled, only to receive a sudden burst of clicks and chirps as the sparkling reached out, a low whine in it's newly developed vocal processor. Skyfire instinctively knew what it wanted, scooped it gently into his hand, and turned back to his friend, lowering the tiny creature down and dropping it right on top of Stasrscream's chest. The little sparkling squealed in it's nonsensical tongue, and curled up on top of it's creator, a soft chirruping sound of contentment escaping it's vocal processor before it scrambled down inside the prone mech, curling up in a comfortable spot near Starscream's open spark chamber, a soft rumbling chirrup of happiness filling the small space as it made itself comfortable inside it's creator's chassis. "It knows you." Skyfire said gently, smiling as he could still see it's tiny silver form curled up among Starscream's damaged struts.

Another strange expression crossed Starscream's face, and Skyfire took that chance to re-insert the data chip, watching as the diagnostics showed yellow now. "Ok… set your self-repair to fix that so we can at least talk through your comm." He watched as the light began to blink, indicating Starscream had done as he asked. "Good." He patted his shoulder lightly, pausing as he stared down at the mech. "It's been a long day for me… and you should focus on repairing anything you can internally that I can't reach. I need to rest. I'll continue after a recharge. In the meantime, don't strain yourself, ok?"

He left his friend laying on the bench after making sure he'd slipped back into recharge, before he quietly closed the door and slipped into his back chambers, sighing with exhaustion as he sunk down on his recharge berth. He wasn't even sure what hour it was. It felt like he'd been working for cycles, and a quick check to his chronometer told him that he HAD been working straight through several well-needed recharge cycles. No wonder he was tired. But even as he grabbed a cube of energon and lay back to re-fuel as he relaxed, he couldn't shut his mind down. He had so many questions, not just about what he was going to do with Starscream once he was more coherent, but what this meant for the both of them. Would Megatron come for him, or would he simply ignore him? Would the Decepticons seek them out at all? And more importantly… what was Starscream going to do?

Skyfire pinched his nose, leaning back with a heavy sigh, his bulk settling down in the recharge berth as best it could as he shuttered his optics. It seemed so long ago that he had been getting slagged in a bar, celebrating their graduation from the Cybertron Science Academy. Starscream had gotten him so rip-roaring slagged that he hadn't walked straight for a week. The seeker himself had forsworn ever drinking high-grade again after that, and for good reason. That night… Skyfire felt his systems heat up with the memory. Well, both of them had been a bit out of line. They had never talked about it, as it seemed better to just move on and pretend it hadn't happened. Yet…

He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. His heat fans were trying to kick on, and he held them back, letting his coolant take charge as he settled down. He shouldn't think of Starscream as if he were the same mech that he'd known before the war. He had changed, and dramatically so in more ways than one. They had once been friends, close friends… but that had changed after the failed expedition in which he had nearly lost his life. As it was, a good part of it had been stolen from him, as being frozen in ice for several solar cycles had been more than enough to change things. The timing had been less than ideal, with everything. Merely a few orns after he'd lost contact with everyone, apparently the initial rebellions had started, the system had started failing, and the government panicked. The Academy had been shut down, the entire system placed in a state of martial law, and everyone who was able had been trained to fight the rising flood of dissenters. Shortly after the Autobots and Decepticons had started their war, tearing the planet apart. Skyfire had missed most of the lead-up, only being rescued from his icy prison by chance after a group of mechs fleeing the war had stumbled across him after finding a hidden cache of energon nearby. If it hadn't been for them, he probably would have still been there, rotting away forgotten. In some cases, he would have preferred that. At least then he would have been oblivious to the war… oblivious to the monster his friend had become.

When he'd first uncovered what had happened to Starscream, he hadn't believed it. It was crazy, after all, to think that his good friend, a rational brilliant and quite logical mind, had decided to go join the group of rebel fighters in uprooting everything that Cybertron stood for. He thought perhaps it was a mistake, a joke, someone using his name as some kind of prank. After all, the fierce and dangerous looking silver angel of death looked NOTHING like the proud red, white blue and silver mech of his memory. The design wasn't even close, there hadn't been even a shred of his friend left in that monster. But when they had met during some fateful encounter, they had met gazes, and in that moment he knew the sad truth: his Starscream was gone, this red-eyed monster was a poor shadow of what he had once been.

That encounter had been less than pleasant. Skyfire had been so shocked at the brash, rude and violent words that had spewed from his former friends' mouth, urging him to join them, to fight to put an end to the injustice, to become glorified as heroes… they had parted with their limbs intact, but their memories shattered. He had the feeling that if it hadn't been HIM who Starscream had spoken to, he would have been blown into scrap and left for the scavengers. The only reason he'd escaped without a blemish was because somewhere deep within that horrible creature, a fragment of the mech he once knew still lived.

He'd separated himself from everything after that. He had no other friends, he'd always been a quiet recluse. It had been Starscream who had constantly nagged him to get out more, to meet people and socialize with the other scientists, when he'd much rather have been studying or reading in his room. It had been Starscream that had taught him to not take everything so seriously, to enjoy oneself now and then. And it had been Starscream that had taught him the value of a friendship, despite putting him through multiple scoldings, insults and lessons in humility. He had nothing else to really tie him to the ruins of their world, and as such he had taken what little credits he had to his name, bought the little ship, and set out on his own to pursue his own research away from the tides of the war.

He hadn't even been back there since.

It was hard then to look impassively at the broken shell of the once-fierce warrior that lay on his lab table and see anything more than an enemy. For so long the name Starscream had been a bitter taste in his mouth, the object of anger and resentment, destroyer of once treasured times in his life. Though he had left before he'd had to witness half of what had been done to their world, he knew how many lives must have ended at his former friend's hands, how many mechs he had killed. There was no ignoring that, no forgetting it. But the real question was would this stand between them as it had for the last hundreds of cycles? What kind of mech would Starscream reveal himself to be when he had nothing left of his former life to tie him there? Would he change? Would he have changed too much to be anything but an enemy?

These thoughts plagued him long into the night, and it was a very long time before he finally slipped into a fitful recharge.