Skydive ambled along over the South Atlantic Ocean, lazily nosing toward Angola. He waggled his wings a bit, checked his chronometer again, and mentally sighed. Maybe he should start heading back-
Something pinged on his radar.
Or not, he thought dryly, straightening himself out and flying with far more purpose than he had been before. /Fireflight,/ he acknowledged.
/Skydive!/ Fireflight replied happily. /Where have you been? We've been looking everywhere for you!/
/I was just flying,/ Skydive said, easing up on his speed slightly. Fireflight wasn't in visual range yet, but he would be soon. Skydive was sure. /I haven't received any status requests since the battle. I'm sorry if I worried you./ And...there. Sure enough, between one flap twitch and the next, Fireflight's bright form appeared, heading at him from the northwest.
/We weren't worried,/ Fireflight said immediately, then, /well…except Silverbolt. What are you doing all the way down here?/
If Skydive had been in root mode, he would have smiled a very grim sort of smile. /As I said, I just wanted to fly. Have you informed Silverbolt of my status? I would, but since I haven't picked up any of you calling for me it's probably a safe bet that my long-distance communications are out./
/Uh…oh, right,/ Fireflight paused for a while, supposedly contacting Silverbolt, while Skydive changed directions easily, heading toward Fireflight. His wing twitched approvingly as Fireflight swung out wide to let him through, barely even seeming to realize he was doing so. /Okay, he says we need to come back now. Are you hurt?/
Skydive passed Fireflight while his teammate banked (too tight and too fast, coming through a tad sloppy, but Skydive didn't need to mention that), completing his own turn on Skydive's wing. /No, I'm not hurt./
Skydive kept himself from twitching nervously at how close Fireflight had ended up next to him, but he still eased to the side a little, smooth enough that if it had been anyone but Fireflight they wouldn't have even noticed.
/But why's your radio out, then?/ and Fireflight, if he cared about Skydive's maneuver, didn't say anything.
/I'm not hurt badly,/ Skydive amended, flipping over so he was flying on his side and Fireflight could scan his belly. There were one or two scorch marks there, but nothing serious. /It seems to be that only my communications that were affected. I can have it checked when we get back./
/Okay,/ Fireflight said brightly and, just like that, his worry vanished, /but why are we going this way then? Isn't base the other way?/
Bingo, 'Flight. After a long pause, Skydive spoke, /…is it?/
Fireflight went quiet and then bobbed slightly in confusion. /You can't tell?/
/…My GPS isn't…at its best right now, either. Apparently./
/But…then…wait, you were lost?/ Fireflight yelped, falling back a bit in surprise. /Was that why you were all the way down here?/
/…/ Skydive said.
/You were!/ Fireflight whooped, laughing. /You were lost!/
Fireflight didn't reply, but there was a distinctive buzz of phantom electricity over his wings that belied the transmissions. Skydive resisted the urge to sigh guesses as to who was on the other end, and the first two didn't count. /Fireflight./
His teammate only giggled, weaving dangerously in his amusement and forcing Skydive to swing out quickly to avoid being clipped. /I told the others. They said they're gonna come and help…y'know, just in case./
Skydive didn't reply, wing flaps falling unnaturally still. His entire body screamed his irritation, but only to those who could recognize it.
Fireflight giggled again. /Come on, Skydive. It's not that bad. I do it all the time!/
/Yes, Fireflight. I know./ Skydive said, but Fireflight didn't take offense. He was even humming happily over the general radio, so Skydive sighed audibly, dropping altitude in something of a slump of defeat. /…And the others' ETA?/
/Fifteen minutes,/ Fireflight chirped. Skydive didn't groan.
Fifteen minutes later, when Skydive had Air Raid laughing his tail-fins off and turning ever-more dangerous loops around him, and Slingshot flying off his other wing, him and Fireflight having a contest on who could give Skydive the most…"helpful" suggestions, Skydive radioed Silverbolt. /Sir,/ he said, wearily resisting the urge to spook when Air Raid nearly brushed his cockpit.
/Skydive,/ Silverbolt replied almost immediately, /I think I'm supposed to be out of your contact range./
/Yes, I know,/ was all Skydive said. He let the whoops of Air Raid in the background and Fireflight's giggles say the rest:
You owe me.
Silverbolt didn't reply at first, but eventually, sounding apologetic but still far too amused, he said: /I have your documentary of World War Two fighters here with me now, just arrived; would you like me to order you the second volume?/
/Yes that would be appreciated. Thank you, Commander./ Skydive would have, had he been able, smirked.
/Of course,/ Silverbolt said with a small laugh, but something...something in his voice kept Skydive from closing the line on him, waiting. It didn't take long, but Silverbolt awkwardly rebooted the connection a couple times before speaking. /Is…Fireflight. Is he…?/
Without replying Skydive performed a quick, basic scan of Fireflight's systems and compared the behavior of the last half an hour with how he had been acting for the past week since his latest crash, then ran it by his extensive knowledge of Fireflight's usual state of being. /Yes,/ he said eventually. Confident. /Fireflight's running optimally, by my estimate./
Silverbolt's faint smile was easy for Skydive, who spent so much time he would never admit looking for it, to hear. /Good. Thank you, Skydive. Again./
/No thanks necessary, Commander,/ Skydive replied evenly, careful to keep his voice from giving away the faint static of warmth he felt at Silverbolt's gratitude. He closed the link as Fireflight tried to bump against his wing, coolly pulling away and shaking himself lightly, while Fireflight yelped an apology to the laughter of his teammates.