+ desire +

Ah, great. Perfect.

Upon arrival to Starscream's lab, Skyfire stopped just inside the threshold, and felt the most wicked temptation to turn back around.

Would it be all that bad, really, to just turn right back around, and leave?

After all, who could blame him? Inside was a scene of cold war hostility, an unexpected and disconcerting tableau. In the one corner, perched on Skyfire's immaculate bench, was Windchaser. In the opposite, behind a far less immaculate bench, was Starscream. Skyfire appeared to have entered during an interpersonal duel of withering contempt. One would stand, one would fall.

Or maybe it would just be a case of mutually assured destruction.

Unfortunately, the decision to leave was taken from him. Starscream turned to glare at Skyfire almost immediately, a look that both said "this is your fault" and "fix this." The deep sense of blame radiating from the Seeker was almost laughably hypocritical, considering how hypersensitive he'd proven himself to be about any similar accusations sent his way. Affecting a serious, non-judgmental mien, Skyfire turned to look at Windchaser, and she was especially thorough in how she simply... ignored him.

Instead of registering his presence, Windchaser was staring across the way at Starscream, giving him a challenging, knowing grin, even kicking her legs out in a slow swinging motion. It was almost flirtatious, her hatred.

Skyfire sighed. No, he couldn't escape. "Hi, sport," he said, addressing the element he deemed least combustible, evil smiles not withstanding. When there was no real response other than an absent "mmm-hmm," he walked over to Windchaser and pressed a kiss onto the top of her head, an action which garnered an almost sheepishly apologetic look from her. That would have been charming and good, except that her expression almost immediately evolved into something more guarded, and almost regretful. That was far less charming, and far less good. "What's up?" he asked, quietly.

"I'm here to see the both of you off," Windchaser replied. She bit her bottom lip, and the sadness momentarily increased. But for some reason she followed up with another challenging look towards Starscream. "Mister Genius over there hasn't been very gracious, though. Did you know that he's been ignoring me the whole time I've been waiting?"

Uh. Skyfire turned to look back at Starscream, who was still glaring at him, with crossed arms and an air of almost smarmy restraint. "Hardly, Autobot," Starscream said, not bothering to look at her at all. "Professor, would you mind taking your Autobot elsewhere for these touching farewells? I have work to accomplish."

Windchaser hopped down from the bench, lightly, as if she'd been specifically waiting for that. She sauntered past Skyfire, and was back to barely acknowledging him, all attention focused on Starscream. "Oh, don't be like that," she said, softly, with patent insincerity. "I want to say goodbye to you too."

"Maybe we should go..." Skyfire cut in diffidently, with a slight cough.

/Don't you dare stop me,/ Windchaser shot back, via private commlink. Having lifted his hand towards her in an unconsciously imploring gesture, Skyfire now looked down at it with a frown. He then shook his head, backing off.

"I'm serious." Windchaser said, continuing. She cocked her head to the side and walked over to Starscream's bench, putting her hands down flat on the cluttered surface, leaning forward towards the standing Seeker, who was on the other side. She was a fair bit taller than him, so this little gesture brought her head level to his. Her predatory smile was, well... sexy. "I want to say goodbye, Decepticon."

For a moment Starscream looked almost surprised, and even nearly amused. But that moment was soon over, and he slapped his hands down on the bench, replicating her gesture lean-for-lean, and dialed up the contempt to eleven. "Your boyfriend's right here, you know," Starscream stage-whispered. "But if you must." Starscream reached forward, holding out a finger as if planning on stroking her face tenderly... a gesture thwarted by the way that Windchaser suddenly backed off, standing up straight, stiff. "Professor?" Starscream's voice became louder. "Were you aware your Autobot was so forward?"

It was impressive, the way that Windchaser barely quivered. Somehow she even called up a brittle little smile. "Charming."

This was not happening. Skyfire attempted to summon his own glare of disapproval. "Seriously?" He meant this for the both of them, because this whole confrontation had the air of game-playing farce, and Skyfire thought that Windchaser was above such pettiness... and that Starscream was too good for games, period. But what had been intended to come off as forceful, and maybe even irritated, came off instead as nothing more than weak-jointed incredulity.

Were they serious? Was this actually happening?

Starscream acknowledged Skyfire's ineffectual interjection with small head tilt. It was obvious that he was still annoyed, but somehow amusement was winning out. "The Autobot wants to play. Who am I to spoil the fun?"

"She does not want to play, and stop provoking her." Somehow this just caused Starscream to smile at him more broadly, so he faltered. "Please?"

"Very well." Starscream looked up at the ceiling and made a little face, bored and graceless. "Nevermind." The Seeker scratched at the side of his face. "Goodbye, then. Oh, how I will miss you." The insincerity was caked on like mud.

Would that serve? Windchaser half turned to give Skyfire an appraising look. He tried his best to look completely innocent: making a "what do you know?" face, shrugging his shoulders upwards as if amazed by Starscream's (admittedly weak) stab at something resembling courtesy. That was the best she'd get; he hoped she would take it.

And for a moment it seemed like she might, giving Skyfire a level gaze and then nodding, slowly. When she turned to face Starscream again, the grin was gone. "I expect you to take good care of him." It was not bravado. It was not a threat, exactly, either. "Not that I need to remind you of how breakable shuttles are."

For a moment, the silence echoing through Starscream's lab was total.

Casually, ever-so-casually, Starscream detached his shoulder mounted null ray, laying it lengthwise along the bench. Lightly, he stroked along the shaft. This alone was ominous, but even more so was the suddenly serious look on his face as he stared down at his weapon, a look stripped of all lust, avarice, annoyance, or amusement. His expression was beautifully blank.

Oh no. /Be nice,/ Skyfire found himself pleading, agonized and beseeching over private commlink as he addressed Starscream. /Please./

To this, Starscream gave Skyfire a frank stare, not bothering to hide the fact that he was looking beyond Windchaser, and after a moment his expression settled into an annoyed pout. "Sure," he said at last, ungraciously, turning his attention back to his gun. He hefted it and then pointed the barrel at the ceiling, screwing off the element containing the live munitions. "I'll watch out for him."

/Don't I always?/ Starscream added, turning to the wall to take down his cleaning kit.

Oh.

Hmm. /Yeah./ Skyfire looked away, feeling kept and shy.

There was a long pause, wherein no one said anything, and in which nothing happened other than Starscream opening his kit and laying out the equipment.

Finally, Windchaser stirred. "Mh-hmm," she said, answering Starscream "promise" with a noncommittal murmur, before whirling around to face Skyfire.

"Your turn," she said brightly, with false cheer.

"So now I get your full attention?" Skyfire noted, bemused.

"Yes. I got what I wanted from Mister Genius." Windchaser took a few steps towards him, and the stopped, just looking up. "I'm going to miss you," she said after some time.

Ah yes. This brought up a curious issue that had been nagging Skyfire from almost the moment he had shown up. Why was Windchaser here? She'd said she had wanted to say her goodbyes, which was odd because Skyfire and Starscream weren't leaving yet, not for a fortnight. He hadn't been able to process any confusion about that, however, since she'd launched right into her unnecessary (but sweet) confrontation with Starscream. Now that was over, it really sounded like Windchaser still wanted to say goodbye to him, too. It didn't make a lot of sense. "Kinda premature for that, don't you think?"

"Uh. No, not really. My own trip has been bumped up a bit."

Skyfire's optics widened. "How soon?"

"Later today." She looked away. "I'm sorry, it's pretty last minute."

"I'll say."

It had always been a difficult thing, these farewells, but usually Skyfire had ample time to prepare himself. Now, he was simply stunned. Skyfire stared and stared, as if waiting for her to say "just kidding," but he knew that this wasn't a joke. Now he understood her regret from earlier, but it still didn't explain why she hadn't told him sooner, or why she'd decided to tell him here.

Windchaser didn't return his stare, instead preferring to look off to the side. She seemed sad, and it looked like she was waiting. Waiting for him to say more.

"C-can we go somewhere?" Somewhere else, was what he meant. "I want to see you before you go..."

"He wants to fuck you," Starscream added from the sidelines.

Now Skyfire looked down, and he and Windchaser shared a moment of agonized awkwardness. For his part, Skyfire felt himself heating up, annoyed but mostly because what Starscream said was true.

Not that he had been thinking that before Starscream decided to provide editorial-- but he was now.

"Here... here is fine," she said faintly.

It was disturbing that Windchaser could find Starscream's presence helpful in any way.

/It's not true,/ Skyfire said to her privately, trying to be reassuring. /I just want to talk. Don't listen to him./

/I know./ She replied, and then-- surprisingly-- she walked right up to him, pressing her forehead to his chest. /It's just... easier. I want to finish this quick./

Finish this? /What do you mean?/ he asked, feeling hollow, apprehensive. He put his arms around her, and made a point of not looking at Starscream.

/You really trust him, don't you?/

That wasn't an answer. Not really. The hollowness in his spark intensified. Unless. Had she.... did she....

/It's... it's not like that./ Windchaser thought he was in love with Starscream. That was the only explanation. /He's just my friend. Only a friend. Nothing else./

She was wrong.

Windchaser's response to this bit of babble was to rub her face against his chest, negating his words, while at the same time pulling him closer. /That's not it. You're nothing if not faithful. It's just.../ There was static in the pause. /You really trust him./

The fact that she wasn't accusing him of anything made that sound even worse.

And he couldn't even deny it. He could deny that there was a relationship, because there wasn't one, and he could deny being in love, since that was certainly not true. But there was trust.

And there was desire.

Together, was that enough to sink him?

/I trust you, too,/ he said. That sounded lame, even to him. But what else could he say?

Slowly, carefully, Skyfire looked up. Starscream had stopped what he was doing, watching brazenly but with very little expression on his face. He narrowed his optics slightly when he noticed Skyfire looking at him, but whatever he saw in Skyfire's face caused him to look away with a shrug.

/He's such a jerk./ Without warning, Windchaser released him, and looked up. Catching Skyfire in the act of looking at Starscream. /But if you like him.../ She allowed that thought to trail off.

She sounded apologetic. And very sad. It was enough to break his heart.

/I don't have to go with him./

She just shook her head. /Yes you do. It's your future, right?/

/You're my future./

/Not anymore./ Windchaser gave him a tremulous smile, and a small wave, twirling in that sweet way of hers. "Time for me to go." /I release you./

What? Release him?

The frag?

"Please don't."

It was difficult to keep his voice steady.

Skyfire held out a hand, willing her to take it. She didn't.

/Why?/ he asked.

/This is for me, not you. I need some time to myself, to... think things through./

/A-are you breaking up with me?/ With a pang, Skyfire remembered how he'd previously declared this impossible. Oh, sweet irony.

"I have to." She paused, and then came in close. One last time, she sneaked a sideways glance at Starscream, and this time there was no hiding that she was drawing courage from the presence of her nemesis. Her optics flashed, and she drew Skyfire down for a long kiss.

A long, last kiss.

"I'll... miss you, though," she added, after the kiss was over.

Before Skyfire could properly reply, Starscream piped in uninvited. "You two do realize this is my lab, don't you?"

Primus. Could Starscream never just shut up?

But Windchaser just took that and ran with it. "A future diplomat of Cybertron, you're not," she said, falsely demure. She pointed at Starscream, winking. "Don't quit your day job."

It was kind of amazing, how she could take her hatred and loathing and twist it into a shield.

"Never fear, Autobot." Starscream drew himself up, boasting. "Ambassadors such as yourself are the reason why Cybertron requires such a robust army in the first place."

Even more amazing was how similar she and Starscream were. Skyfire wondered why he hadn't noticed it before.

In another, happier universe, perhaps all three of them could have been friends.

Finding this all to be far too much, Skyfire moved over to sit near his bench, taking a stool on the near side. He could beg some more to be allowed to follow her, or worse, he could just trail after Windchaser like a lovelorn idiot. But she'd come here because she wanted a clean break, and although he still wasn't quite sure what was actually happening, he would give her what she wanted. "Go safely," he said. /I'll be thinking about you,/ he added, privately just for her.

Windchaser nodded, and opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something more. But she didn't, and Skyfire didn't add anything either, so after a moment she waved, this time with no coy twirling, just a shy and honest goodbye.

Then she was gone.

And that was... that?

Skyfire leaned back against the bench, and looked up at the insulated ceiling. That was that.

"Are you going to mope?" Starscream, getting right to the heart of what was important.

Desire for Starscream was the most pointless, aggravating feeling in the world. Skyfire had no wish to pursue desire without love, but for Starscream, that was the only kind that mattered, or had meaning. Skyfire sighed, and didn't move. "Yes, but I'll be quiet about it. Carry on."

This response apparently caught Starscream off guard, for there was no immediate contemptuous come-back.

It was possible... likely, really, that Starscream was the least enchanting person ever. With his grating, mincingly tart persona and prickly, arrogant demeanor, he really did come off as the big jerk Windchaser advertised him to be. But there was just so much more to him, too. He was so complicated. So distinguished. So... adorable.

But what did that mean? Windchaser was the one he wanted, and she'd just walked out the door, possibly for good.

What Skyfire wanted from Starscream, he already had. They were friends. Starscream, a mech who seemed satisfied to care for no one, actually seemed to care for him. This was gratifying. More than gratifying, really...

Some would say I belong to him.

This thought really, really shouldn't make him feel as good as it did.

He'd have to be an idiot to frag that up.

"I still maintain that yours is the worst relationship ever," Starscream finally said, as though making the case in point, winding up as if daring Skyfire to become openly morose. Skyfire made note of the clicking, scratching noises and surmised that Starscream had resumed cleaning his weapon, but didn't feel much like sitting up so that he could see for himself. "It would be one thing if she put out, but since she doesn't..."

Since she didn't, obviously her continued existence in Skyfire's life was mystifying to Starscream.

Well, it looked like that was a mystery that Starscream wouldn't have to worry about for all that much longer.

After several long moments in which Skyfire stubbornly refused to respond, Starscream continued. "She really kind of highlights all the things that are wrong with Autobots. Do you have any idea how entitled she is, just showing up and expecting me to let her wait for you? This is my private and sacred space, and she just... sits right down, not a care in the world! And almost immediately she was nagging me about you. As if I'm your slagging keeper. I don't have any idea why you put up with that. I guess it's because you're an idiot, but all the same... are you really that stupid? What kind of magical interfacing do you expect on the other side of your sparkbonding? I can already tell she's a frigid, uptight, moronic little flirt, with no natural aptitude or appetite. I feel sorry for you, really..."

And the ranting continued. Skyfire let the words wash over him. Something about Starscream's callousness was just so fetching, but he was too tired and too guilty to take pleasure in that right now. With no end in sight, Skyfire eventually sat up, so he could watch. Starscream, of course, was gratified for the attention, and just went on to achieve even greater heights of obnoxious punditry. Skyfire leaned back with one elbow on the bench, angling his weight a little so he could slouch nonchalantly. It almost felt like being bored.

Almost, but not quite.

Since when had watching Starscream become the most entertaining part of his life? Since always, it felt like.

"How dare you not listen to me! I am imparting precious wisdom, garnered from a long and varied life, full of many impressive accomplishments!"

Somehow Starscream had figured out that Skyfire had tuned him out. "Er..."

"Not good enough!" In moments Starscream was out from behind his bench, coming at him with waving arms and an expression of confrontational annoyance. It was quite the spectacle.

Skyfire didn't move. He did, however, find himself sighing.

He wasn't going to apologize. He'd learned that lesson pretty damn thoroughly.

"Well?" Starscream stopped just a pace or two away, hands on his hips as he leaned forward.

It was so easy, too easy, to think wrong things. Like, wasn't that just about kissing range?

These were not thoughts he wanted to entertain.

Better to find an answer for Starscream's... concern. Best to be blunt.

"You're not very good at having friends, are you?" Skyfire really didn't know of any other way to say this.

Starscream became still, and then cold and proud. Dangerous. "Your point?"

The point was that Starscream was too adorable for words, the way he prattled on. And he was just as attractive like this, full of himself and his own arrogance.

Skyfire couldn't imagine an Autobot reacting like that. An Autobot would probably take such an observation as an accusation, and become defensive. Alternatively, an Autobot might agree with the thought, and treat it as sentiment, becoming emotional in turn. But it was simply true: Starscream wasn't good at this. The way Starscream reacted just confirmed that he acknowledged the truth. There was something astute and canny in how he accepted Skyfire's words, while simultaneously preparing himself to take offense if Skyfire decided to treat this as a weakness, or pity him for it.

This was what Decepticons were, Skyfire thought. It was what he could never be, no matter how hard he tried.

The thought filled him with weariness. "If you really want to cheer me up, why don't you just shut up and let me enjoy my quiet mope in peace?"

"You think I want to cheer you up."

Starscream was still weighing whether or not he ought to be offended. Skyfire could guarantee it.

"It's obvious. And you're terrible at it." Skyfire smiled, a thin smile.

It was stupidly endearing, the outraged look in Starscream's face (no doubt over the fact that Skyfire saw through his ingenious scheme). But Skyfire didn't really have the patience to deal with that right now, and listening to insults about Windchaser just hurt.

Slag it.

He crooked his finger. "Come closer."

"What?"

"You heard me." He paused. What was he doing?

"This had better be good," Starscream warned, but he did lean in a bit closer, narrowing his optics.

Oh, this was such a bad idea. Skyfire looked down. He couldn't very well say "never mind," that would just piss Starscream off all the more.

Starscream would never forgive him if he made him stoop for nothing.

Well, Starscream was his friend. Best to stick with that. It was hard, but he looked up, and looked directly into Starscream's optics. He reached out, placing one hand on each of Starscream's shoulders. "Thank you," he said simply. "I mean it."

Optics wide open, Starscream looked up at him, apparently too startled to respond.

It was so... it hurt. Touching Starscream like this, when it didn't matter, was going nowhere? It hurt. Skyfire felt so lonely, and Starscream was just so attractive. "I mean it," he said again, pitched even lower. "Now... may I please be excused?"

He needed to grieve... no, mope... in private.

Starscream was still staring at him, wary, but also appearing slightly unmoored. "I... I suppose," he said, lamely. "Yeah, sure. Go ahead."

Under other circumstances, this unguarded response would probably make Skyfire very happy. As it was, it just made him feel more miserable. With a sad sigh, Skyfire lifted his hands from Starscream's shoulders, only to briefly press one of them down on the top of Starscream's head, a casually affectionate gesture which communicated all of the simple gratitude he wanted to feel. He wished he'd been able to see it sooner, how Starscream did genuinely care for him. Perhaps he could have headed off the very unfortunate complication of his current lust.

Without waiting for any further reply, Skyfire stood, and then left.

This was going to be a problem.