Hot Shot & Wheeljack – Standing Amidst the Ruins of Us
Two mechs stood across from each other, sizing each other up. One set of optics shone with anger; the other was darkened by guilt.
"Hot Shot." It was the towering black mech that finally broke the silence. The smaller yellow one just stayed quiet, having trouble finding words.
"Aren't you going to answer me?" The Decepticon asked.
Hot Shot stayed still, but this time finally uttered the other's name. "Wheeljack."
Silence came back to fill the air, leaving both the Decepticon and the Autobot to continue wordlessly watching each other, their thoughts rapid tangles.
The two stood in a long-abandoned parking lot near the outskirts of the city. It was overgrown with weeds, and lit only by a single pitiful, yellowed streetlight at its edge.
It looked as if the building that the weedy lot belonged to had once been very beautiful and successful. It looked artistic, with towering pillars and a Greco-Roman style of design. Now, it was a thing long forgotten. It was badly damaged and so overrun with graffiti and vines, it could barely be recognized as a building, let alone as whatever it was in its previous life.
Somehow, Wheeljack thought, it felt fitting.
"Haven't seen you in ages," He said, sarcasm in his voice. "How has function treated you?"
"Wheeljack," Hot Shot repeated quietly. He paused for a moment. "I… I never thought I would see you again."
Wheeljack gave a humorless chuckle, then turned away to look at the ruined building. "That's all you can say? To your dear old friend?" He said the phrase slowly, stressing the three words almost theatrically.
Words continued to escape Hot Shot. He stood there, silenced by shock as if seeing a ghost. In a sense, he had.
"I…" He tried again to talk, but kept coming short.
"You know… I waited for you to come back." Wheeljack didn't wait long for him to try. His rough voice ran cool and even as he spoke.
The black mech turned back to face Hot Shot, his expression difficult to read. His optics glowed eerily in the darkness, lighting parts of his angular face and bathing the rest in shadow.
Hot Shot looked into his optics, and flinched as realization and waves of guilt gripped him. But as a result, finally, his glossa was freed.
"Wheeljack, I'm so sorry--" Before he could continue, Wheeljack cut him off.
"It's a little too late for that now, Hot Shot!" The black mech snapped. "You left me to burn!" He took a moment to calm himself before continuing, his engine revving loudly before quieting to a low growl. "Oh, but I'm sure that doesn't matter to you. You escaped just fine and now look at you, you're one of the highest ups, aren't you?"
There was a silence. At last, to Wheeljack's utter shock, Hot Shot lowered himself onto his servos and knees, kneeling at the Decepticon's feet.
"I know there's nothing I could ever do to make it up to you." Hot Shot said, his voice shaky. "I can't apologize enough, even if you can't forgive me! If I had been able to go back, I would've! But, I…"
Wheeljack watched him for several long moments before turning back to the building and stepping toward it slowly, pacing in a uniform direction as he spoke.
"It's far too late for that." He said calmly. "You know, it wouldn't have been so bad. I did tell you to try and save yourself. But did you have to lie?" Pain crept into his rough voice. "Couldn't you have said your good-byes, rather than leaving me lying there, waiting for you to come back while I burn slowly to death, thinking that I was going to be saved? You could've at least put me out of my misery."
"I can't even imagine…" Hot Shot whispered.
"Of course not." Wheeljack spat. "You don't know what it's like to feel pain."
Hot Shot was silent. What was he supposed to say? Finding the right words was impossible. All he could do was repeat the same apology until Wheeljack got fed up. There was nothing, nothing he could do to make up for what he'd done all those vorns ago.
"What happens now, Wheeljack?" He whispered.
"You think I'm going to kill you, don't you?" Wheeljack asked, answering with a question.
Hot Shot said nothing. Wheeljack took it as confirmation.
"You're just an Autobot."
What did that mean?
Wheeljack laughed dryly and turned back once more to face his former companion. "You don't get it? Who do you think pulled me out of the fire that day, Hot Shot? I'm a Decepticon now. I'm not here to kill you out of spite. We're enemies now, plain and simple."
"No…" Hot Shot breathed.
"I guess from now on, we'll see each other on the battlefield." There was another pause before he gestured at the building and continued. "Say Hot Shot. Don't you think this place is fitting?"
"What do you mean?"
"This building was once a proud and beautiful thing, and now look at it." He gestured at spider web cracks, constricting vines and graffiti. "It's ruined. People have just abandoned it to die."
"Are you saying," Hot Shot ventured, "that it reminds you of you, or of…"
Wheeljack's optics met Hot Shot's once more, and for an instant, the coldness in them was replaced by the warmth that Hot Shot had once known, in the handsome white and tan mech he had once called a friend, a comrade, and…
The warmth was gone just as quickly, and Wheeljack turned away.
"I'm sure you can figure it out." He said, his voice lowered to a growl.
Hot Shot could, of course, and he did know what Wheeljack was referring to. That just made it hurt all the more. He pushed himself up to his peds, standing shakily. He cautiously approached the former Autobot, and put a tentative servo on his shoulder.
"Hot Shot," Wheeljack said coolly. "I'm a Decepticon now. You know that."
He turned his helm and showed a cold smirk. "Don't go fraternizing with the enemy. It's a dangerous business."
"But Wheeljack, wait, it doesn't have to be this way." Hot Shot protested, servo still on the black mech's shoulder.
With a low growl, Wheeljack reached up and unsheathed his weapon, slipping it skillfully out from its place behind his free shoulder. The gun's golden plating glistened in the dim glow of the streetlight, making the deadly object appear almost beautiful.
Hot Shot flinched as he felt the cold metal press against his chassis, threatening to destroy everything inside with just the pull of a trigger. Still, he did not move his servo. If he did, he would just be proving himself a coward, possibly even provoking Wheeljack to shoot him.
"Didn't I tell you not to fraternize with the enemy?" Wheeljack asked, voice still a low, even growl.
"But I don't want to be enemies." Hot Shot whispered.
Wheeljack laughed humorlessly. "You should've thought of that before you left me." He said. "Actually, there's a lot of things you should've thought of. Did you ever really care about me? Or was I just a stepping stone to a promotion?"
"No, of course I cared about you!" Hot Shot protested.
"Did you lose a night's recharge over me? Or were you too busy shining your new medal?"
"I never felt that way! I always cared about you! I still do!"
"Why aren't you running yet? Don't you know I'm about to delete you?"
Hot Shot stood firm, gazing into the cold blue optics. "Because I can't run… Why can't you understand, Wheeljack? Why won't you listen to reason?"
Energy charged inside the weapon, causing it to rapidly grow hot against Hot Shot's chassis. The Autobot winced against the heat as it quickly came to painful levels.
"You just don't know when to give up, do you?" Wheeljack demanded. "I'm a Decepticon now, and there's nothing in this world that can change that."
"I tried to come back for you, I swear it. I can't describe how much guilt I felt after that day! You act like I never cared, but I never forgot!"
Wheeljack said nothing. His optics narrowed, and he gave a low growl. His finger tightened on the trigger.
"Save your excuses." He growled. "Save it for whatever's waiting for you in the Pit."
He pulled the trigger, and a shot rang out. Hot Shot could only give a low groan as he felt the sharp pain burn through his chassis; he staggered backward, clutching his wound, optics widened in shock and pain.
Wheeljack turned his back on the Autobot before he hit the ground.
"The next time we meet, it'll be as enemies." Wheeljack called. "Don't forget that."
He walked away quietly, and transformed once he was several meters away. Then he sped off across the lot, barely veering past the abandoned building, and vanished into the night, his black form quickly blending into the darkness.
Barely clinging to the last of his consciousness, Hot Shot listened as the sound of his engine faded away, pain, guilt, and sadness gripping him.
"Wheeljack…" He whispered, feeling the last of his strength slipping away.
How could he find the words to express how he felt? How could he say that he was sorry, and explain how desperately he had tried to save him? He had disobeyed orders and risked his life and his career as a soldier just for a chance to go back, but he had failed.
But then, that was all that mattered, wasn't it? No matter what he had done that day, he had failed.
He gave a shaky sigh as darkness overtook his vision. It was all his fault. If it weren't for the Decepticons, whoever it had been, Wheeljack would have died a horrific death, alone and waiting, waiting for Hot Shot to come back and save him from his fate. And who could ever imagine a more horrible end than that?
Hot Shot's optics faded back on with the last of his energy, and he looked up at the ruined building, lit so perfectly by that single dim, yellowed light. A cold breeze blew, causing the leaves and vines to wave and to rustle quietly.
Wheeljack was right. The building made a fitting setting for their joyless reunion, and a haunting monument to the love that they once shared. Looking at it, he felt a horrible sadness overwhelm him, and finally all his bottled emotions let loose.
Saline formed at the corners of Hot Shot's optics as darkness overtook him once more. He could hear someone's voice calling out to him, probably Sideswipe; the young rookie had been lost not too far back and had likely finally caught up to him. Perhaps he could get him back to base in time to keep him from dying.
Was it really all to end this way? What they had once shared, was it dead and gone?
No, not at all…
He laughed softly, feeling tears he couldn't wipe at streaming down his white cheeks. Somehow, Hot Shot didn't feel afraid, even as the sound of Sideswipe screaming his name faded away to a dull hum, and finally into silence.
Because that building, for all its damage, for all its years of neglect…
Wheeljack had said his farewell so casually, but there laid a purpose in his tone. He had intentionally aimed away from his vital places, injuring Hot Shot, but not fatally.
That building was still standing.
A/N: This one-shot story was created as a writing exercise, diving into the views and emotions that Wheeljack and Hot Shot feel when they're reunited during "Past". However, the setting was changed drastically from a noontime highway to midnight in the parking lot of an abandoned building. Since it was intended to reenact events from the show, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't leave a comment that says "I already watched it :B". I'd still love to hear what you think otherwise!
This won't be my last Armada story, though I'm not sure if I can keep from calling them by their original names because always I'm used to the JP version. Only thanks to my beta Loco did I keep from calling them Rampage and Hot Rod even in this story. I hope you enjoyed it!