Contains: One mild word and brain twistyness.
Notes: An attempt to reconcile the various names we've gotten for Bayverse Arcee and her three parts. Comic spoilers if you haven't read Reign of Starscream or don't know the basics of the story behind Arcee's RotF appearance.
Edited to respond to a very polite anonymous commenter (and I normally don't do this, but it seemed like something that might be unclear for multiple people): This story was meant to take into account the multiple canon but contradictory backgrounds for Arcee, including the RotF movie, toy bios, Reign of Starscream, Tales of the Fallen #6: Arcee, and whatever source it was that had people thinking the third bicycle's name was Flareup instead of Elita One for quite a while after RotF came out in theaters. The TF wiki does not, at the time of posting, include information from all of these on Arcee's page.
She has to sort out this mess in her head. She doesn't tell anyone else. She has to present herself as entirely pulled together, not crazy. They all expect her to be crazy, crazy like the twins are crazy. Pitied for their misfortune, and tolerated, but not liked. Never followed, never respected.
Twice now she has been captured. Twice now she emerged, changed.
This isn't just acquiring an extra set of limbs or installing a new set of senses. It is a little like that, a little like suddenly becoming aware of vision or feeling in a way that didn't exist before. Only when she turns her head there are three bodies to choose from, and she has to get the right one. Not all three at once, so those who are watching, always watching, twitch and flicker and she can hear the subsonic buzz of comm conversations that she isn't a part of. Or when she gestures with her hand only it's the one ten feet to the left and she would have knocked over one of their human allies had he not been more aware of his surroundings than her. Her body knows that there are three of her, her programming is perfectly capable of utilizing her body, all of them, but her spark, her mind, herself... herself woke up Arcee as one, remembers when Arcee was only one, not three. And perhaps it is a weakness - she thinks it must be, because she looks at herself and sees many, many weaknesses - but she finds it easier, at times, to think of herself as three. Three distinct in mind, as in body. As in body, as in strengths, as in flaws. Herself who is well-armed and strong and thrills from the power of her canons. Herself who is expert at snap decisions but impulsive, so impulsive. And herself who is still Arcee, still quick, still not quick enough.
Chromia is the first to separate. Chromia, firmly that, and never anything else. The second she thinks to name in honor of Elita, who she greatly respected. Even if something about that doesn't seem quite right, as if it is a mantle that she is not suited to carry. Flareup, the name whispers through her three minds, but surely Arcee owes Elita at least this. Flareup, and the last can be Elita.
But that would be three and she wants to remain Arcee. She is Arcee, damn you, she will keep at least that.
And is it only processor ghosts that begin to make their voices sound distinct? She wonders if anyone else can hear it. But the others – the twins they escaped with, the Autobots they found after, the humans she must learn to live with and fight alongside – still call her only Arcee.
And so they have acquired names. No one else knows; they are still Arcee. Even when Chromia begins spending extensive amounts of time with Ironhide. He has long been mentor, friend, but this newfound interest she isn't sure of. Even when the second decides she will be only Flareup, and Arcee only Arcee. She is in a way relieved. The other is such a large name to carry.
Even then, even as three, they are still Arcee.