So… this is awkward… To all of those who lost faith, feel free to visit my profile to see what my deal is. It's too much to put here.
Optimus sat behind his desk, allowing his irritation to churn through his tanks. He took up a stylus to make notes on some inconsequential piece of legislation, but he gripped it so tightly that he just dropped it to avoid breaking it. He wasn't mad, necessarily, though he was very close to it. Beneath that, however, he felt a mix of guilt and sympathy for Starscream. He knew that Starscream just needed time and patience and affection and encouragement and all those things that he had proven to have an affinity for. But at the same time, he hadn't met anyone yet that required so much of his attention. Not, of course, that he was opposed to giving Starscream those things. He was more than willing. He just wished that it was… easier.
And then that made Optimus feel guilty that he wasn't providing the amount of support that Starscream needed because it wasn't as convenient as some of his past experiences.
He couldn't even imagine how difficult this entire situation was for Starscream. To have everything metaphorically and literally ripped away from him and then to be thrust into the care of his enemies shortly after having been very nearly terminated? Optimus fully grasped the situation. Whether or not Starscream recognized that was another matter. And how Optimus planned on handling this when for the last few days they'd been ignoring these planet-sized issues was what had him entirely mystified now. The current conditions were new to both of them, though naturally things were infinitely harder for Starscream, who was going to need to learn an entirely new lifestyle with mechs he had been attempting to terminate not even a decacycle ago.
He could feel Starscream's anger as well. How could he not? It was the most vivid emotion he'd felt from his Sparkmate since that terrible day when he nearly lost his life. He could suddenly feel pain in his hands. Only faintly, but enough for him to infer what was happening.
He sighed quietly. He felt a gnawing guilt in his Spark for losing his temper with Starscream, knowing how volatile he could be, even if that same frustration hadn't completely gone away. He rested his head against his hand, trying to block out both his and Starscream's feelings. Part of him – most of him, really – wanted to go back to their quarters to apologize and see if they could try to talk through this, even though he was sure very little had changed in the last cycle.
But he couldn't. It wasn't… practical. He had basically already blown off two days of work for Starscream and he still had a job to do. Regardless of his personal life.
He needed help, he realized abruptly. He was the only one here that Starscream trusted. He had to get someone else on Starscream's side so that he wouldn't feel quite as alienated. Someone to keep him company when Optimus couldn't be there and to keep him occupied so he wasn't spending so much time letting his loneliness and despondency grow. Unfortunately, it wasn't like Starscream trusted others easily. Perhaps… someone that Starscream had a history with?
Immediately, Optimus heard Starscream's objections in his head. But really, it was only a matter of time before they ran into each other and it might be best if they at least tried to clear the air between them before then. Otherwise, it would lead to a very awkward moment in public and Optimus knew that Starscream wouldn't react at all well. Which would only make things harder for him, which would make things harder between them, and it would just be so much easier if Starscream wasn't so hard-headed.
He's been through a lot, he just needs time, Optimus reminded himself patiently.
As he came to a decision and pushed himself to his pedes, he couldn't help sending a little prayer to Primus that this would work.
Starscream stood rigidly, staring at the door of their quarters that Optimus had left through some insignificant number of kliks ago, head tilted slightly and optics vacant as he tried to sort through his emotional turmoil. Impulsively, he turned and punched the wall as hard as he could. The metal gave way, leaving a shallow dent. He felt the impact reverberate through the wall and back into his body, starting at his hand and vibrating all the way down his spinal column to the floor.
He vented harshly, not entirely certain what that accomplished, though he felt a vague sense of satisfaction over his pulsing aggravation.
Optimus just didn't understand. He didn't know what those words meant to him. "Barely sentient military droid." How could he? And how could Starscream possibly explain it to him without sounding like a petulant Sparkling? That someone a long time ago had said those exact words to him and hurt his feelings and he was still a little touchy about it? He couldn't. He wouldn't. Optimus probably already thought that Megatron had ruptured most of his vital neural connections and he did not want to enforce it.
"There was really no place for a barely sentient military droid such as yourself here anyway…"
The words replayed in Starscream's head, from another voice, another life, and brought back so many memories. Everything could have been so different. He could have been someone. He could have changed history, if only they hadn't stolen everything. His home, his purpose, his very essence. The Autobots. Even now, Starscream couldn't think the word without a shudder of fury racking his body. They stole everything from him without so much as shuttering an optic. They forced him to become the very thing that he so desperately despised. A killer. His only chance of survival, of retaliation, was to revert back to his natural programming, which he had tried for so long to distance himself from. They needed to pay for that and Starscream turned to the only one that he thought could help him. He was reborn and he was recognized for his talents.
And now he was here, in the Autobot base, of all places, seeking asylum from the one mech that he thought would bring him the greatness that he deserved.
The terror and rage and injustice of it all blinded Starscream and he just started pounding the wall. It sickened him that he needed the Autobots' protection now after all that they had done to him. With their vile sentiments about acceptance and tolerance that they spout only to turn around with their stereotypes and prejudices. Disgusting. They hadn't changed at all since Starscream's time at the Science Academy. And even after all of his vorns under Megatron's rule, the fighting and starving and bleeding for the Cause, it was all for nothing. Yet again he had been stripped of his life. He was a prisoner. There was nowhere else to go. No one else to help him redeem himself. He couldn't even fly away. He was grounded for Primus knew how long and the claustrophobia was setting in along with the stress and anger and confusion and… fear.
His servos were singing with pain and his vents were whirring loudly as he stopped hitting the wall. It was overwhelming. Everything. His mind was racing, replaying all of the mistakes that led him to this moment and he realized the biggest one of all… Asking for Optimus' Spark. Optimus' words echoed in his head:
"If we're going to bond…"
Starscream's Spark flared in its casing. Bond. Just the word sent a whirlwind of conflicting emotions through his core. It wasn't like he had meant for it to happen. It wasn't like he even really wanted it to happen. Not this way. Not when either of them hadn't had any choice in the matter. Optimus didn't understand that either and there was no way that Starscream could even begin to explain with anything resembling coherency.
Feeling somehow less aggravated, though more restless, Starscream opted not to pursue further internal contemplation and took up a blank datapad from Optimus' desk and buried himself in his work.
The large white shuttle looked up from the lab table he was standing over, less with a sense of surprise and more with patient resignation that he had been interrupted – not for the first time that day, it seemed – from whatever he had been doing. There was a minute flicker of recognition when he saw Optimus Prime standing in the doorway to the lab before melding to a soft, welcoming smile.
"Prime," he nodded. "It is nice to see you."
"You, as well," Optimus returned pleasantly, taking a few more steps into the lab. "I hope I haven't interrupted you from making any important scientific breakthroughs."
Optimus liked Skyfire. Most likely, it was that they shared such a similar temperament that was complemented by one another's patience and stillness. Unlike Optimus, however, Skyfire had the remarkable tendency to blend into the background while Optimus' presence simply garnered attention and respect. While Skyfire easily towered over the other Autobots, Optimus included, he was exceptionally approachable and never intimidating. As a scientist, Skyfire was rarely on the battlefield and even if he was, it was only as transport. He had made his stance on violence very clear, preferring to study and preserve life than try to destroy it. Other than a few shoot-or-be-shot scenarios, Skyfire had little use of his Autobot-issued blaster. As such, Optimus did not have as much to do with the shuttle as he would have liked.
"I'm afraid not," Skyfire laughed softly. "As of late, the only 'breakthroughs' we've had are Wheeljack's experiments excavating the other half of the lab."
Optimus let out his own quiet chuckle. "I've heard all about it from Ratchet. At least no one's been seriously hurt."
"Luckily. Though I believe this last time, Wheeljack nearly lost a headfin."
"Oh dear, Ratchet neglected to tell me that."
"He's fine," Skyfire waved away Optimus' concern. "Hopefully, he's learned his lesson to not mix Cybertronian and Earthen elements before testing them individually first." Skyfire shook his head with an indulgent smile.
"And how has your research with Perceptor been coming?" Optimus knew that the two of them were in the process of trying to develop some new solar powered Energon generator.
"It has been going well," answered Skyfire, placing the soldering iron in his hand that he had been idly twirling in his fingers down onto the table he had been working at. "We've run into a few bumps along the way, none of which have greatly set back the project. Over all, I would say that things could not be going better. The humans have requested that we share our findings with them. In some ways, they remind me of the Decepticons' constant search for alternative energy." He met Optimus' optics. "Forgive me if I'm assuming, but I do not think that you came for a progress report from the science department."
"I'm afraid not," Optimus replied casually, not feeling the least bit caught-out. It was why he was here, after all.
"Have you spoken with him about this yet?" The question sounded innocent, but Optimus couldn't help feeling a little like he was going behind Starscream's back.
"Not… in detail."
Skyfire nodded knowingly. "I understand." Skyfire sighed. Behind his optics, Optimus could almost see him replaying a time long past. "How is he?"
Optimus wondered how deeply Skyfire wanted him to interpret that question. "He's trying to adjust. I think he's also beginning to feel a little restless."
"I can imagine why." A pause. "I couldn't believe it when we first saw him. I didn't think he would make it; he'd lost so much Energon. Then, when I saw him two days ago…" A shudder ran visibly ran from his back out to the tips of his wings.
As a flyer, Optimus knew that Skyfire could sympathize more effectively with Starscream. Perhaps that would help his case. "As I'm sure you've inferred, Starscream has been searching for a way to regain his wings. Ratchet ordered a generic pair from the United States Air Force, but they weren't… exactly to his tastes."
The corner of Skyfire's lip twitched into a fond smile. "I see. And so this brings us to the full intention of your visit?"
"Starscream mentioned a desire to redesign his wings entirely. While he is recovering quickly, I don't want him to strain himself. He has recuperated remarkably, though the damage, as you know, was extensive and he is still not entirely well. And he seems like he has the tendency to focus entirely on a project while overlooking his body's needs."
"Yes… He does… did… have a habit of fully immersing himself in a project." Skyfire looked directly into Optimus' optics. "And it also couldn't hurt for Starscream to have a friend. Don't you think?"
"No," Optimus said quietly. "It couldn't hurt."
"I'm glad," Skyfire grinned. "I will be more than happy to help him in whatever way he needs."
"Thank you, Skyfire. Your cooperation is most appreciated." Finally, something was working out.
"I only hope that Starscream is equally as willing as I am to patch things up." Skyfire seemed genuinely pleased to have the opportunity to mend things with his former friend and lab partner, though Optimus could sense a hint of trepidation.
"As do I," Optimus agreed. "I will let him know that you are eager to repair your partnership."
"Thank you, Prime."
Optimus returned to their quarters, his Spark a little lighter knowing that at least Skyfire was willing to overlook past discrepancies and try to help his friend through his recovery, to find Starscream sitting thoughtfully with a datapad on their couch, idly making notes with a stylus.
Starscream made no indication that he heard his Sparkmate enter the room. He planned on giving Optimus the silent treatment for a while for no reason other than that he hoped he could guilt Optimus into an apology for storming off earlier.
"Hello," Optimus said, announcing his presence, though he was sure the Seeker knew he was there. The tension in the room was stifling.
Starscream studiously ignored him.
"May I ask what you are reading?"
There was still no response. Starscream had yet to even look in his direction.
Optimus felt a brief twinge of frustration at being completely unnoticed, but he subdued it. "I've been thinking about you all day. I wanted to talk about earlier."
Nothing. Not even a hint that the Seeker had heard. He just continued jotting things down on the pad.
Optimus cycled. "Would you prefer if I left you alone?"
At that, though he made no visible changes, Starscream internally protested at once. If he was going to give Optimus the silent treatment, he demanded that Optimus remain present. He couldn't very well actively ignore Optimus if he wasn't even there. Logically, Starscream was fully aware of how petty he was being. But he felt so justified in acting this way that he simply couldn't help it.
"Should I get Ratchet? Because it seems as if your audio receptors are not working properly."
Starscream couldn't entirely rein in the dirty look that briefly crossed his face.
"Ah, so you can hear me."
"Of course I can hear you," Starscream snapped, holding onto this one last bit of rebellion by staring at the pad and not at Optimus.
"Good. Because I was uncertain if you'd be able to hear me tell you that I spoke with Skyfire earlier today."
The stylus finally paused over the screen and Starscream went visibly rigid. Without looking up, he said flatly, "Did you?"
The urge to know the outcome of that conversation was overwhelming, but Starscream repressed asking out of spite. Spite for who, though, he wasn't sure. But it made him feel better that he wasn't playing along with Optimus.
"Would you like to know what we spoke about?" Optimus could not help sinking down to Starscream's level of pettiness. He felt almost as if he were holding an Energon treat over the head of a starving mech. Naturally, Starscream would be curious as to what they spoke of. It must be burning him up inside to not know. And naturally, Optimus would know the effect his statement would have on him. Yet after Starscream's little game, Optimus only too happy to take part.
Starscream shot him a withering look before looking back down at the datapad that he was no longer interested in. "Why would I care what the filthy traitor had to say to you?"
"He is no traitor." Why did he feel a brief flutter of satisfaction at Starscream's weakening façade?
"Ha, sure, says the mech that he swore his allegiance to."
"Would you or would you not like to know what we spoke about?"
The dilemma was written clearly over Starscream's face. He wanted to know oh-so badly… But at the same time, he didn't want to have to ask for the information. Finally, his stubbornness won over. "I don't care. You are free to speak with your troops about whatever trivial things Autobots have to speak of without reporting back to me your results."
"'Trivial things'?" Optimus repeated. "You would consider yourself 'trivial', then?"
At that, Starscream shot up from the couch, blind fury replacing the feigned indifference, as he hissed, "How dare you speak to him about me."
Sensing that maybe a line had been crossed, Optimus immediately dropped the act. "I wanted you to have someone that you could speak to aside from myself—"
"You know nothing of what has happened between us. How dare you—"
"I assure you, Starscream, he is more than happy to speak with you and repair your relationship—"
Glaring heatedly across the room, Starscream spat, "Why should I care whether or not he is willing to speak with me? Why are you less concerned with how I feel about anything regarding him than how he feels about me?"
Optimus frowned. "I am not disregarding your feelings, Starscream. I was trying to make sure that when you two eventually run into one another that you do not react poorly and make things harder on yourself. And I decided that he would be easier to speak to about this than you would."
The dark scowl that followed Optimus' words immediately put into perspective exactly how Starscream was going to interpret them.
"What I meant was—" Optimus began, trying to backtrack and hopefully regain some control of the situation.
"Don't," Starscream barked harshly. "I get it."
With that, he swept away into their bedroom without uttering another sound.
Optimus felt an immediate surge of regret for his impulsive and immature actions. Not wanting to disturb Starscream anymore than he already had—and hadn't he just made a fine mess of the disaster that was already there?—he flopped down on the couch, very nearly crushing the datapad that his Sparkmate had discarded in his anger. Out of a numb curiosity, he picked it up and began looking over its contents. It took him longer than he wanted to admit to decipher what exactly he was looking at, but when he got to the final page, he realized these were schematics for Seeker wings. He flipped back through the pages and actually looked at the gibberish he had scanned over out of lack of understanding. There were calculations upon calculations, little notes regarding ventilation and transformation seams and things that Optimus only had the basest of knowledge about, but more apparent than anything was exactly how badly Starscream wanted his wings back.
Deciding against following Starscream into their bedroom, Optimus instead chose to recharge on the couch. As his optics powered down and he felt his processor slowing, he silently vowed to make Starscream's vision a reality.