A/N-Finally! I was afraid that I'd never finish this story. It took me forever to write the final chapter. Sorry for a long waiting. It seemed that I suddenly lost the plot, and then tons of work came bombarding me in May, efficiently killed my inspiration .
Anyway, thank you all readers, reviews, favourites and alerts. You're wonderful! =D
After that, Sunstreaker stood by the repair berth, his own minor hands' injuries already tended. He watched First Aid repair other injuries on Sideswipe, his gaze still locked with his twin's. They still didn't have a chance to talk to each other after that greeting since Sideswipe had rebooted from emergency stasis lock. He barely noticed Ratchet's not-so-gentle discharge of Powerglide as the medic led Wheeljack, Perceptor and the newly fixed Powerglide out of the medbay with a threatening tirade. He simply stood there, basking in the comforting feel of Sideswipe's presence in the bond, oblivious to the world around him. Then, Sunstreaker found himself being yanked away by Ratchet, who grabbed his audio receptor fin and dragged him away towards the medbay's door.
"What the frag? Ratchet!" he yelled, craning his head to look back at Sideswipe.
"Out! I'm done my business with you already. So, get the slag out of my medbay!" the medic snapped and shot a look at Sideswipe, who struggled to sit up. "And you," he hissed, "lie down or I'll weld you to the berth!"
The medbay's door slid open and Ratchet practically threw the Lamborghini out unceremoniously, startling another mech standing nearby. Sunstreaker skidded to a halt and whipped his head to glare at the CMO, only to get an equally intimidating glare in return.
"If you want to wait, then wait out here," Ratchet told him, voice irritated but somewhat calmer than his usual snappish tone. Then, he turned to Jazz, who was the only one left waiting outside of the medbay. The others had left, going back to their respective duties, after Ratchet had announced Sideswipe's condition to them when he had discharged Powerglide earlier. "Sideswipe'll be out in half an hour. Keep an optic on the idiot until then. Don't let him do stupid things in front of my medbay."
"Aye aye," the saboteur saluted with a grin. Ratchet regarded Sunstreaker for a moment, giving him one last warning look before closing the door.
Disgruntled, Sunstreaker settled to wait, stood leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chassis. He could feel Jazz's gaze on him and knew the other is up to something other than waiting for Sideswipe.
"What do you want?" he asked, wanting the other to get over whatever he was up to and leave him alone.
"Well," Jazz started, "I don't know what those paintings are to ya or why ya kept'em hidden, but ya not the only one upset. Sides looked sad when he cleared the mess of his portrait. It's really a shame to destroy such a fine art like that."
Sunstreaker stiffened; seeing this, Jazz hurriedly added, holding up his hands in defence, "Hey, I know it's yer family's matter and I'm not interfering yer problem," he hesitated, "..just wanna see you two make up."
Sunstreaker's expression lost its rigidity. He stared at Jazz for a long moment before responded in a serene voice, "I'm not mad at Sideswipe…not anymore."
Jazz's faceplates lit up with a big grin. Sunstreaker sounded sincere; the officer could tell that he really meant it. "I'm glad to hear that and so would Sides, ya know," he drawled out good naturedly, visor flashing in an equivalent of a wink.
"I know," the warrior's voice sounded a little gruff as he looked away, feeling awkward at his own submissiveness, but couldn't bring himself to argue against the implied suggestion. Either way, he had to make it up to Sideswipe for their stupid fight which had almost caused him to lose his twin.
Thankfully, if Jazz noticed Sunstreaker's awkwardness, he didn't say anything to embarrass the warrior any further. He simply grinned amusedly. They stood, waiting in companionable silence until the medbay's door slid open, and Sideswipe flew out into the hallway with a hammer thrown after him accompanied with Ratchet's roar.
"Get Out! I don't want to see you in my medbay for a week. If you so much as to get yourself slagged again so soon, I'll rip you into pieces for spare parts!"
The door slid shut with the sense of finality, leaving the three mechs staring at the ominous entrance of the Pit in silence for a while before slowly leveling their gazes back amongst themselves. Heaving a sigh, Sideswipe scratched the back of his helm and mumbled, "Gee, sometimes I wonder why he bothers to put me back together at all."
Jazz laughed and clapped his back. "Cuz ya his favourite patient. I wouldn't dream of such an honour."
Sideswipe grinned and returned a clap, then turned his head to give a cheeky smile at his brother, who returned a small barely noticeable smirk of his own. Sensing a good sign of 'make up', Jazz quickly excused himself, leaving the twins to sort out their trouble in privacy.
Finally, there were only the two of them standing in the hallway. Although Sideswipe looked fine, Sunstreaker felt the other's fatigue through the bond and cancelled his intention to have a spark-to-spark talk with him – that could wait until later. For now, Sideswipe needed to rest. Sideswipe's intention, on the other hand, seemed to differ from his brother. His cheeky smile turned fierce, a malicious glint flashing in his optics. Sunstreaker barely had a time to blink before Sideswipe struck, decking him with a hook which caught him by surprise, landing him on his aft ungracefully.
"What the frag was that for?" he demanded, glaring daggers at his twin, only to get an equally nasty look in return.
Hands on hipplates, Sideswipe shot back with a huff, "THAT was for blocking me out, you slagger!" Then, he broke off and chuckled, a mischievous grin plastered on his faceplates once more. "And now, we're even for the first round, but don't think you're off the hook yet. I'm in no way finishing with you"
He held out his hand to Sunstreaker as a sign of peace offering. "Let's go back to our quarters before Ratchet decides to disassemble us for real."
Sunstreaker stared for a moment, then smirked and took hold of the waiting hand, more than willing to play along with Sideswipe's antics. That was always how they made up after a fight; trusted Sideswipe to initiate the first step of reconciliation in his own teasing style, and soon, they would find themselves bickering, swatting at each other and laughing together again, leaving all the bitterness and the guilt behind. This time, however, it wasn't going to be that easy, especially on Sunstreaker's part. There were questions to be answered, things to be explained and an apology to be made. Not that he would shy from them, anyway. He had made up his mind. There were to be no secrets between them; he would make sure of that.
Sideswipe helped hauling his twin up to his feet, then to his surprise, found himself being pulled close to his brother's side. Sunstreaker released his hand, only to sling an arm casually around his neck instead, securing the red twin comfortably to his side. Sideswipe cast a curious glance at his brother in mild surprise, apparently not expecting an affectionate gesture out here in the open where everyone could see. To which, Sunstreaker only urged him to move along as he walked them back to their quarters.
Once they were in their room, their gazes landed on the dull metal box on the desk simultaneously. Sideswipe disengaged himself from Sunstreaker's arm and went to the desk. Gathering all paintings from the box, he sat down on the bottom bunk of their recharge berths, paintings stacked in his lap, looking through them one by one with longing optics as though they were his long lost treasures. In a sense, they were. He had seen Sunstreaker paint them with artistic passion shown on his faceplates, had given comments on how he had liked them, had cherished them, had shared the pride his twin possessed when someone had shown admiration towards them. Not just being a part of his memory, these paintings had been so much a part of his life he could say that they were his as much as Sunstreaker's. Looking up, he saw the same longing look in Sunstreaker's optics, even felt it seep into his spark through the bond – now that there was no barrier between them – and mingle with his feeling. A gentle smile appeared on his faceplates as he patted the space at his side, signalling the other to come and sit beside him, which his twin complied wordlessly.
"Never thought I'd see these paintings again," he said, gaze fixed on the paintingpad currently in his hands, fingertips caressing the outline of Tytra's buildings lovingly. "I always love this one the most."
"So do I," Sunstreaker whispered, staring down at his hands resting in his lap, unable to let his optics wander to his most beloved work or the person holding it lest he snatch it away and smash it with his hands.
"You've been keeping them all the time," Sunstreaker didn't look up, but knew instinctively that Sideswipe was now turning his gaze on him while he said. "Why didn't you tell me?"
The question was simple, devoid of accusation or anger that had been there when it had been asked the first time, yet he still found it hard to operate his vocalizer. His voice came out as a croak at first, but gradually gained volume as his emotions got the better of him.
"How could I tell you? I left you for these paintings and you ended up getting caught by the Decepticons. It was all my fault! I should've been there for you, but I was so selfish, so blind as to choose them over you – my own twin. If I didn't leave you, then we wouldn't get separated at all."
"It wasn't your fault," Sideswipe soothed, sending a wave of comfort through the bond. Though, he didn't try to stop the other's confession, knowing his brother needed to let out all pent up secrets, guilt and frustration as much as Sideswipe needed to know what had been hidden from him. They both needed this to mend the rift between them.
Sunstreaker continued his rant; now that he had started pouring out his spark, he just couldn't stop it, "I was terrified when I knew you were captured and it only got worse when you suddenly disappeared from the bond. All I could think at that time was what if you were deactivated…because I left you to get these Primus-slagging paintings? They weren't worth it. Not at all. Nothing in the universe was worth it compared to you, my other half. I should've thought of that before I let go of you, but I didn't. What kind of a brother was I? Thinking that made me angry and I just wanted to destroy them all, but I couldn't…a pathetic part of me still loved them. When we finally reunited, I just couldn't tell you I had saved them. I – I was afraid that you might not forgive me. Even when you found out today, I was too cowardly to tell you 'I'm sorry' and just covered it up with anger, lashing out at you instead. How disgusting I am!" His voice thick with bitterness, hands clenched into tight fists in his lap.
Then, a black hand wrapped loosely around his slightly trembling fist, a physical comfort added to the flow of sympathy and soothing feelings surrounding, caressing and embracing his spark gently. He gazed up from that hand to its owner's faceplates and saw a sad smile and equally sad, yet loving optics staring at him. The stare captured his spark and his entire being that he couldn't look away; and surprisingly, Sunstreaker found that he didn't have to. There was no guilt or shame in being on the receiving end of Sideswipe's stare like he thought it was supposed to be. A weight on his shoulders seemed to dissipate into thin air as well as the cold fear gripping his spark during his ranting earlier.
Sideswipe squeezed his hand lightly as he said, "Don't ever say you'll destroy your paintings. I'm glad you didn't do that. How can I loathe them? I love you, bro. And I know these paintings are a part of you; destroying them means destroying you – I'll never want that."
His smile turned slightly bitter, Sideswipe was overcome with guilt himself – now that he had heard his brother's confession – and decided that it was only fair to give out his own confession as well. "I know how much you love to paint. You always love the arts, even until now. But you've disguised your feelings ever since that separation – no, since I lost my connection to the bond. Even though it's involuntary, the truth remained still that I left you for a whole slagging month. Worse, I even played along with your pretence, when I should've known your true feelings all these years. When I found your paintings, I was actually angrier at myself for turning my back on that part of you, for not noticing it. I'm sorry, Sunny."
Sunstreaker interlaced his fingers with the hand holding his and gave a tug, pulling Sideswipe towards him. His other arm swung around Sideswipe's neck, bringing him close as he leaned to touch his forehead with Sideswipe's. Off lining his optics, he let out a sigh.
"I'm sorry, too, Sides," he said sincerely.
They remained in that comfortable hug for a while, accepting apology and forgiving each other before pulling back. Sideswipe grinned cheerfully, passing the painting of their hometown to its creator. Sunstreaker stared down at the paintingpad in his hands as though he wasn't the one painting it. He never thought of having a chance to simply enjoy seeing these paintings with his twin again. A familiar warm feeling of contentment bubbled up in his spark as a smile crept up on his faceplates, which made Sideswipe even more gleeful. A while later, the paintings were shifted to Sunstreaker's lap, and they looked through all of them together, revelling in happy memories they brought back, which reminded Sideswipe of an unsolved mystery still nagging at him.
"Sunny," he ventured tentatively, "I've never seen that portrait before. I mean the one you broke. When did you paint it?"
Sunstreaker put down the painting of Crystal City and heaved a sigh, looked like he didn't want to talk about it, yet he answered anyway. "I made it when I was in the Tytra resistance force, just a few days after you had disappeared from the bond. I needed something resembling you with me lest I go insane"
"I see," Sideswipe nodded understandingly. He had felt the same during that torturous month, and might have gone crazy himself if not for the constant 'distractions' sent into his cell, courtesy of the Decepticons. And sometimes, there had been an odd feeling like he could somewhat sense Sunstreaker's presence vaguely close to his spark despite their out-of-tune bond, which had calmed him down and given him hope.
"What a shame," he sighed wistfully, "it was my portrait and I only saw it for a few minutes." Then, he brightened again. "Hey, Sunny, could you paint another one for me? It'll be great to see you working in the field of arts again."
"I'm a warrior," Sunstreaker frowned. "I'm no longer an artist. I can't paint anymore."
"Oh~ come on," Sideswipe wheedled. "I can tell you crave to hold a paintbrush again. You want to paint and I want you to paint. So, what's the problem?"
"You saw it," Sunstreaker looked away, determinedly fixing his gaze on the far wall where he had hurled the portrait at. "Your portrait was my last painting and it was all wrong. It resembled you alright, but it looked noting like you at all. I couldn't paint your smile or your liveliness no matter how much I tried to. Every time I looked at it, I saw a sparkless statue, not my twin. Didn't you see? It was my failure. I've changed and I can't go back to the way I used to be."
"No!" Sideswipe retorted, slapping his hands on Sunstreaker's cheeks, trapping his faceplates and forcing his head to turn towards him. Sunstreaker scowled, but Sideswipe wasn't about to be deterred.
"Look, bro," he said patiently, hoping he could get through his twin's thick helm to give some sense into his processor. "I'm your other half. No one in the universe knows you better than I do. Yeah, maybe you've changed – I've changed, too – but you're still you. You were desperate at that time, and so was I. That separation affected us badly; slag, it still affects me. I was so depressed when Prowl sentenced me to solitary in the brig five days ago 'cause it reminded me of that slagging solitary in Tytra. See? We were both miserable at that time. So, how the frag could you paint me all happy and smiley? If you did paint my portrait like that, it would only be a fake. Really, I didn't see anything wrong with that portrait; you just painted the truth."
Sunstreaker was stunned by his twin's lecture, unable to come up with any objections. The reason he didn't draw or paint anything again was mainly because he felt guilty towards his brother and thought he had lost his talents already – with that portrait as an obvious evidence – that he wouldn't be able to work in the arts again, even if he wanted to. Never did he consider the cause of his failure in making Sideswipe's portrait to be anything other than that he had changed and lost his skills to the rage consuming his spark. Sideswipe's words brought a new light, something akin to hope, to his reeling mind. Was what Sideswipe said true? That he didn't lose his skills after all. Perhaps, he could paint again?
"It wasn't your failure," continued Sideswipe. "Yeah, it looked sombre and emotionless, but it wasn't exactly sparkless. If anything, I'd say it was so sparkful that it looked alive as if a part of my spark was there."
Releasing his hold, Sideswipe still locked optics with Sunstreaker's, watching as his words sank in, slowly working their way into his twin's processor and turning some gears in his head. A look on Sunstreaker's faceplates now was priceless that he would have laughed if the situation wasn't so serious. His brother looked like he had just realized how stupid he had been. Really, he could be such a glitch head sometimes.
"I'm not forcing you to do anything you don't want to, you know," Sideswipe stood up, glancing at his brother with a sad smile. "Just think about it."
With that said, he turned and climbed up on his top bunk to take his much needed recharge, leaving his twin to his own devices. He had said what was on his mind already, the decision was Sunstreaker's to make. Even as he slipped into the realm of recharge, he still felt his brother's indecisiveness as he sat and pondered the matter silently.
Three days later.
Sunstreaker was in his quarters, sitting on a chair with determination clearly shown on his faceplates, staring intently at the object in front of him. He was alone; Sideswipe was out on his patrol duty, which was good, considering that he needed to concentrate solely on what he was about to do, and couldn't risk having it ruined by any distractions. He hadn't done this for millions of years, anyway.
Lifting his arm, he drew the first line with a length of stroke, long and steady as it had been in the past. A little surprised, he halted and stared at his hand holding a paintbrush for a moment. Admittedly, he had thought that it would be awkward to hold a paintbrush and use it again. Even if he didn't lose his skills, the lack of practice for a long time alone should be enough to hinder his movement. And that it would take some time to get re-accustomed to the activity. Seemed he had been wronged after all.
Shrugging, he added another stroke on the paintingpad, pushing all doubts away from his mind, concentrating only on the movement of his hand, letting inspiration lead him. Each stroke brought back more and more familiarity and confidence, and soon, he was an artist again, painting with fluid movements of hands and optics. The long lost passion ignited his cold spark once more, warming him as the mental image of his inspiration – what captivated his spark – gradually appeared on the paintingpad…
The greeting sight upon Sideswipe's return was to find his twin slouching on a chair facing towards the door, arms crossed over his chassis, head bending so that all the red twin could see of his faceplates was the contented curve of his lipplates. Apparently, Sunstreaker had fallen into recharge while studying a paintingpad on an easel in front of him. Even though he only saw the back of the paintingpad setting on an easel, he could tell that it was a newly finished work of Sunstreaker if a paintbrush, a pallet on a desk or smudges of paint on his twin's glossy plating was any indication.
Sideswipe smiled fondly, genuinely happy to see his brother in this light again. He had felt Sunstreaker's concentration and anxiety during his duty, and had almost felt jumpy himself, but the stress had slowly melted away, replacing by calmness and contentment, which had soothed him comfortingly. He had known what his twin was up to, and had refrained himself from rushing back to his quarters lest Prowl punish him again.
He slowly approached Sunstreaker's recharging form, careful not to interrupt his recharge cycle. Then, he turned to see the painting. His faceplates lit up at the sight as a soft laughter emitted from his vocalizer, his optics twinkling with joy.
There on the easel was the portrait of Sideswipe smiling happily.