Flesh Without, Spark Within

by

Luminous Blane

Disclaimer: ownership is Hasbro's, no profit, yada yada yada. If I do somehow make money off this, sue me for all I'm worth.

The following takes place during an indeterminate period between TransWarped and Human Error.

"There are two martial disciplines at the core of every Cyber Ninja's training. The first, Circuit-Su, is about focus and clarity of the processor, knowledge of one's inherent abilities, and how far the extent of your parts can get you. With that knowledge, you can apply your own mental prowess, focusing your willpower to go even farther than your physical body would allow on its own.

"The second discipline, Metallikato, focuses on the ability to strike with precision, clarity, and the desire to defeat a foe with as few blows as possible. It is said that the first masters of this art derived it from their own desire to fulfill their duties of protecting others without causing undue suffering to their foes. You have asked me to train you? Then these will be your curriculum." Prowl stood motionless, having given his lecture, his face serious and firm, yet calm and gentle. What he knew of teaching these arts, he would have to base on his memories of Yoketron. "Once you master these aspects, full control of your physical and mental faculties, you will be able to unlock the powers of processor over matter." Sari stared at him silently for a moment, appreciative of his willingness to teach her.

"Um...Prowl-" He held up a hand.

"Tradition states that you are to call me Sensei." Sari nodded, and continued.

"Sorry, Sensei, but...do I really have to learn all of that? I'm only interested in about half of it." Prowl let out a sigh of dismay.

"I presumed as much. I understand your desire to forgo the less...exciting of these arts, but the true power of a Cyber ninja comes from the culmination of the two. I will not teach you Metallikato unless you are willing to learn Circuit-Su."

"But...That's not what I meant." Sari frowned. "You're always talking about control, and discipline...well, I know what it's like to lose control...to almost lose everything...I don't care about learning to fight efficiently. I just want to make sure that never happens again..." Prowl smiled, and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I will teach you both, though I was admittedly reluctant to do so. You will learn Metallikato from me. When and if you use it is a matter I leave to you. I know I cannot induct you, officially, into the Cyber ninja corps. Regardless, you will receive the full training." Sari scowled at this.

"Fine. Let's start with Circuit-Su. It would be irresponsible to learn Metallikato first, right? I mean, I have to learn control before I start learning to hurt things. Of course, I might not stick around, once I'm done with Circuit-Su." She smirked a bit, certain that he'd give in at this point.

"It is true that, at any point, you may abandon your training." Sari straightened up, her smirk growing into a smile. "But know that, if you quit half way through, I will be so very, very disappointed in you..."

Sari's smile faded and she looked to the floor, feeling ashamed. "So, which discipline lets you guilt trip friends into doing whatever you want, Sensei?" Prowl smirked.

"That would be Metallikato, actually. The focus is on ending the fights in the fewest strikes. If you can guilt your foes into surrendering, you win without striking once. Now, let us begin with the basics of Circuit-Su. Now, I would remove all non-essential parts from you, but to be honest, I'm not sure how it would affect you. Therefor, I would prefer you remain in your human mode. Now, let us begin." For just over two hours, Prowl educated, instructed, and lectured Sari, on the philosophies, codes, and principles behind Circuit-Su. Finally, it was time to begin actual training. Or it would have been. Bumblebee walked into the room, scowling.

"What's this I hear about you agreeing to teach Sari to be a Cyber ninja? I've been trying to get you to do that since I found out you were one!"

"And I tried once, remember? You lack the patience and will to fully apply yourself to the training." Bumblebee took a step back, and put his hand to his chin, looking thoughtful.

"...Oh! Right! I remember now. Yeah, never mind training, that stuff is boring with a capital bore. Good luck, Sari." He gave her a warm smile, though she frowned in return, looking away.

"Pro...I mean, Sensei...I...I need some fresh air...Can we take a break?" Prowl stood for a moment in thought.

"Well, we have been in here for nearly a megacycle...Take the rest of the day to reflect on what I have talked about. We'll hold off practical training till tomorrow." Sari nodded, and walked quickly out of the room. Bumblebee slumped to the floor, sitting with a frown on his face.

"She hates me now." He sighed, staring after her. "I don't know why, but she hates me now." Prowl put his hand on his comrade's shoulder.

"I don't think that's the case. I think she's just uncomfortable around you." He told the compact, and began to leave.

"Wait, wait, why would she be uncomfortable?" Prowl turned around at this, staring into Bumblebee's optics.

"You really don't get it, do you? Bumblebee, out of all of us, you and Bulkhead have always been closest to her. In fact, whenever the option presented itself, it was you she would ride in. Now, I want you to think about the last time that you two were together before she started acting like this." Prowl waited for a response, watching as Bumblebee scratched his head.

"Well, I guess when she got overloaded. What does that have to do with anything?" Prowl rubbed his forehead in dismay at the yellow Bot's response.

"Which was when she skewered you, her best friend, nearly taking you offline. I swear, you're so dense it's amazing she could penetrate you at all. She feels guilty, Bumblebee."

"You're sure about that?" Bumblebee stared at Prowl in a bewildered combination of shock confusion.

"Guilt is part of a Cyber ninja's arsenal. I know it when I see it." Bumblebee continued staring, raising a brow. Prowl sighed. "I'm as sure as Primus was that the Fallen had betrayed him, alright?" He barked at Bumblebee.

"Well, if that's the case, I gotta go talk to her about it!" He sped out of the room, and Prowl stared after him, shaking his head.

"Why can't he just give her space. Her body has just grown a great deal. Her spark needs some time, and some room, to grow to match it."

Sari walked down the street, staring at her feet as she went. So much had gone wrong, and it had been her fault. The destruction, the loss of the key...And worst of all, Bumblebee nearly died trying to help her. No, it wasn't that he got hurt trying to help her. He'd done that plenty of times in the past, she just managed to fix him up and brush it off. It was part of his duty as an Autobot. But this time...This time it wasn't that she nearly got him killed. It was that she nearly killed him.

As if he knew she'd be thinking about him, Bumblebee pulled up along side her, opening his car door. "I really need to talk to you, Sari..." She frowned, and walked faster. He sped up along side her, matching her speed, and keeping beside her as she broke into a run. As they reached a corner, he picked up speed and swung in front of her, catching her in his cab, and closing the door. "I'm not gonna make you talk...but at least let me give you a lift! You used to ride in me all the time..." She didn't respond, clenching her eyes shut. "I'll...I'll swing by Burger Bot...we can get you a vanilla shake..."

After failing to discern a destination, or get any hint of desire for a shake out of Sari, Bumblebee made his way to the park, and let her out. She silently made her way to a bench and sat down, the Autobot taking a seat next to her, and then quickly getting up as the wood began to creak, opting instead to sit on the ground beside the bench. Time dragged on as the sun began to set on Detroit. Minutes passed, slowly and awkwardly, until a desperate Bumblebee decided to try to break the tension.

"So, uh...I've been meaning to tell you...Your new chassis is really nice..."

"Why don't you hate me?" She mumbled, her voice only just loud enough to register on his receptors.

"What? Hate you! How could I...No, how could anyone hate you? Well, except the Decepticons, but I'm pretty sure they hate everything, including each other...Wait...are your eyes leaking?" He frowned as he saw the tears streaming down her face.

"I almost destroyed the city, I broke the key, and worst of all, I almost took you offline! I...I almost took you offline...you should hate me...why won't you hate me..." She broke down into sobs, and Bumblebee looked around, a bit panicked, not knowing how to handle the situation. Prowl was way off. She wasn't uncomfortable. She was on the verge of a malfunction! He realized now, she took all of this so much more seriously than he had ever suspected. The part that frightened him the most was who the person in front of him was. This wasn't like Sari! She wasn't supposed to feel this bad over stuff she did! She was supposed to bend the rules, cross her fingers, work around it, and laugh when it all worked out!

In that moment of fear and panic, he realized something. Carefully, he put his arms around the Techno Organic. "Sari, I want you to listen to me. There's no system damage, no holes in my armor...but right now...that water leaking down your face...it hurts more than that energy blade ever could, because I know that water's for me...I know you're upset, but please...don't feel so bad...I've made my own share of mistakes...please, just...don't shut me out..." He held her in silence, waiting. Finally, her sobbing died down, her face pressed to his chest plate.

"I think...snf...I think I'm ready for that trip to Burger Bot now..." She gave him a weak smile as he wiped the tears from her eyes, and transformed, swinging his door wide open for her. As she sat down and closed the door, she felt her face begin to redden. "You, um...you really think my new...er, chassis, is nice?"

"Oh, heck yeah! I mean, you were always cute as a human, but now you got all that cuteness wrapped up in a sleek fembot shell!" Sari smiled a bit bashfully, feeling her cheeks get hot. They drove through and parked, continuing their talks as Sari began to eat.

"I...I have something I've been wanting to ask about for a while..." She said, before taking another bite of her Big Bot Burger. "I know there's fembots and mechs, I mean, I've seen Black Arachnia, after all...but, do they ever, y'know, couple?" Bumblebee fell silent at the slightly awkward question, then finally began to mumble something in response, something Sari couldn't quite make out. "What was that?"

"I said the lucky ones do...me, all the fembots laugh at. Too short, too childish...oh, and don't get me started about that crazy lemon who said she'd only go out with me if I stopped hanging out with Bulkhead...I've pretty much given up on finding that special someone that I can share a true, spark-felt binary-bond with."

Sari shifted uncomfortably, not quite sure how to proceed. She had still only been alive and online for 8 years, but she had suddenly developed so much. She looked, acted, and thought like a teenager now. Many new emotions and thoughts were revealing themselves, the most painful of which was these new feelings for Bumblebee. Before, she could hide behind her guilt, but his embrace had made it all just melt into tears and pour out of her. She didn't know how it would go, but she wanted to try.

"Well, um...Bumblebee...maybe don't give up on it just yet...okay?" She smiled meekly, placing her hand on the dashboard, and rubbing it gently.

"You...You do realize you're pretty much scraping the bottom of the team's barrel for Bachelor Bots, right? I mean, Prowl's sleek, Bulkhead's strong, Prime's got the whole dashing hero thing, Ratchet...well, OK, Ratchet's the bottom of the barrel. But me...I'm small, I'm childish, I'm weak..."

"Don't forget about brave, fast, and loyal...besides, if you weren't small and childish, I don't think I'd feel this way..." She leaned forward, then hesitated a bit, before kissing him in the center of the steering wheel.

Startled, Bumblebee transformed, accidentally dropping her and her food on the pavement. He stared at her for a moment, then, once the shock began to subside, he helped her to her feet. "Sorry about that...you, uh...caught me off guard...See? Stuff like that? That's why I'll never be able to get a fembot..." Sari smiled softly, and transformed, her organic and mechanical components rearranging their configuration, restraining the organics, and bringing the mechanical parts to the surface.

It wasn't much of a transformation, and she still wasn't sure which one technically constituted her alt-mode, but she was stronger, faster, more durable, and her energy spheres packed a bigger punch. She placed her metallic hand on his arm, and smiled up at him, pulling her face plate back from her helmet, revealing her pale yellow face, and orange lips.

"You've got one right here." She stared into his optics, and he stared back into hers. His face grew red. His spark was surging. Steam came blasting from the vents on his helmet without warning, and he fell backwards onto the ground, falling into sleep mode. Sari stared in shock, and quickly grabbed her cell phone, transforming back as she did.

Bumblebee exited sleep mode, finding himself on Ratchet's work bench, several tubes stuck in his head. "D-Doc Bot? What's happening?" Ratchet turned around, scowling at his patient.

"You null-pointered, overclocked, reckless slag head!" He shouted angrily at the compact.

"What did I do!"

"The problem is what you did NOT do. You've been neglecting regular self-maintenance. You mind telling me how far you thought you'd get, blazing around as fast as you do, with hardly any coolant in your tank?" Bumblebee frowned.

"So, I overheated, huh? Um...yeah, I meant to get some coolant about a decacycle ago..." Ratchet was filled with anger at this.

"A DECACYCLE? WHY SHOULD I EVEN BOTHER FIXING YOU IF YOU CAN'T EVEN KEEP YOURSELF WORKING ON YOUR OWN, YOU DIODE-BLOWN, GEAR-GRINDING-" He felt a small burst in the back of his head, and turned around, his magnetic claws activated.

Sari closed her palm over the sphere emitter. "Sorry, Ratchet. I've been trying to get you to turn around for a while, and nothing else was working. Shouldn't be any more damage than when Bulkhead dropped Bumblebee on you on the way here." Hearing this, the yellow bot snapped to attention, though his inquiries were ignored.

"Fine, you've got my attention, now what do you want?" Ratchet frowned, rubbing the back of his helmet. It was sore, but there was no real damage.

"I was just gonna say, you need to calm down. I don't know what's going on, but your bedside manner seems worse than usual." She hopped up onto the work bench, dangling her legs over the side as she sat down. Ratchet shuttered his optics and let out a sigh.

"You're right, you're right...I've just had a lot more work to since the key ran out of juice. Thanks to that piece of slag, everybody just thinks they can do whatever they want. They forgot how to take care of themselves. Anyway, Bumblebee, you've got plenty of coolant in you now..." He stopped the flow and removed the tubes, handing the compact his helmet. "Sorry if I was a little hard on you. But I want you to be more careful from now on. AND DON'T FORGET REGULAR MAINTENANCE!" He grumbled, and headed off for a stasis nap.

Sari smiled up at Bumblebee. "He's right, you know. You guys need to be more careful. I can help you keep up with maintenance if you want." Bumblebee smiled back, and silently, he wondered if her affection was nothing more than a glitch in his memory from the overheat.

"I'd appreciate that." He gently put his hand on her head. "I owe ya one." Sari shook her head.

"You owe me two. I think you're forgetting the shake you dropped after I kissed you in the parking lot." She smiled wryly. Before Bumblebee could respond to her, a familiar sound echoed through the med lab. Sari answered her cell phone after checking the screen. "Hi, daddy! Yeah, I'm with the Autobots. Bumblebee overheated, and I wanted to make sure he was OK. No, I think I'll stay here tonight, my room's still set up...OK, I'll be home by lunch time tomorrow. OK. Love you too, daddy." She put the phone back in her pocket, and turned to Bumblebee.

"I still can't get over how much he trusts me, just because I upgraded. I mean, I'm not THAT much more responsible." She sat down on Bumblebee's lap, stretching.

"Well, maybe he realizes you can take care of yourself since you got your powers. Or maybe he trusts us to take care of you. Or maybe he knows you'll get your way, even if he tells you to come home." Bumblebee spoke calmly, but his optics darted about anxiously.

"Or maybe you're coming up with this stuff to avoid talking about something that's bothering you?" She asked, looking up at him. He sighed, and hung his head.

"...Maybe...maybe it's not bothering me...maybe I just don't know how to handle it..." Sari frowned at this response.

"Maybe bringing it up in the first place was a mistake...maybe you're not interested in a techno-organic..." She had no tears, but felt a dull ache in her chest.

"Maybe I am interested, but maybe I'm so used to rejection, maybe I don't know how to handle the other bot being interested... Maybe I'm nervous because I never thought about one of my best friends like that...Maybe now I am thinking about it like that...maybe I'm realizing I'd like to give it a try...Maybe I'm scared of how it might end...Maybe I'm worried it won't work...Maybe I'm worried we won't be friends anymore..." He frowned, gently giving her his hand to lean back against. She thought for a moment, trying to come up with a response.

"Maybe you should act more like Bumblebee? Maybe all this worrying isn't like you? Maybe you should go with your spark, and worry about the consequences later? Maybe you should trust yourself more...maybe that's what I like about you..." She rested her hand on his insignia, smiling softly.

"MAYBE YOU SHOULD BOTH SHUT YOUR SYNTHESIZERS! MAYBE I'M TRYING TO TAKE A STASIS NAP IN THE NEXT ROOM! MAYBE YOU'RE KEEPING ME AWAKE WITH THIS LOVEY DOVEY DRAMA! MAYBE YOU DON'T HAVE ANY BUSINESS IN THE MED LAB ANYMORE!" At the sound of Ratchet's shouting, they both quickly evacuated to the safety of Sari's room.

"Do you need some time to think it over? No more maybes...just tell me. I can give you all the time you need..." She sat on her bed, staring at him. He gave her a cocky smile in return.

"Maybe you're right. Maybe this isn't like me. Maybe I should just go with my spark." His optics widened as she opened the generators in her hands. "Okay, okay, no more maybes! I...I don't know how it'll turn out, but you're right. I've never let that stop me before."

"Actually...you can worry about it all you want. It's...well...now you've got me nervous...this might be a bad idea..." Bumblebee chuckled and sat next to her bed, leaning over and putting an arm around her.

"When has that ever stopped us? We both go with plenty of bad ideas! And most of the time, when we work together, we manage to pull it off!" He smiled at her, and she leaned toward him, transforming and opening her face mask. She shuttered her optics, waiting. Finally, after taking a moment to steel his nerves, he kissed her.

It was soft, gentle, and only for a moment, but both of them felt their sparks surging at the feeling. It was their first kiss, and it was the beginning of their new relationship. For better or worse, they were going to give it their all.

NOTE TO REVIEWERS: Before nitpicking ANY of my terminology, I request you double check and make sure I didn't actually have it right. I used TF wiki several times to ensure I had the correct time units.