A/N: Warnings for pure, unadulterated crack. (No, really, this only pretends to have a plot.) Also, a nod to all those fantastic writers out there who have written a version of this classic fairy tale. (There's really too many to name them all.)

All characters involved in this story are not OC's. Their identities will become apparent later (if they aren't already).

Once upon a time, on a tiny little planet that circled a tiny little star way out in the middle of nowhere, there stood a tall, shining tower surrounded by a deep forest of even taller trees. And within the tower resided a tall and beautiful mech. His plating gleamed sunshine yellow, even in the darkest nights. His curves accentuated his chassis in lines that would make the most hardened artist weep. His frame was neither too tall nor too short, his girth neither too stout nor too slight.

All in all, the mech was easily the most beautiful bot for klicks; possibly even further. And the problem was that he knew it. He cared for nothing but his appearance. A cleaning rag was his closest companion, a bottle of polish his dearest lover. Dust was his rival; grime a bitter and hated enemy. He would spend hours before his mirrors to ensure that his paint was just so.

All this, perhaps, could have been forgiven if the beautiful mech possessed a loving spark. However, he was cold and selfish, caring only for his own comfort. He was not intentionally cruel, but neither did he seem to trouble himself a whit for the well-being of others, even those who had served his family for generations.

He had not always been thus.

Once he had been a spark as bright and shining as the star his planet circled. But his creators had passed on early in his life, leaving him alone and solitary in his station. His servants tried to make up for the lack, but their master grew aloof and distant in his grief. He came to take comfort in the grooming rituals his creators had taught him until the rituals themselves consumed him.

The servants watched, helpless, as their bright young master grew in to a cold and haughty mech. And they despaired that nothing could crack the beautiful and bitter plating that he had built around his spark.

But fate can be relentless, even if its path seems twisted and strange at times. And lonely and dark beginnings can lead to bright and happy endings, if you just believe.

It was a dark and stormy night. (Well, it was. These things never seem to happen on bright sunny days that smell of lilacs and daisies. Blame it on the Universal Cliché Agreement, if you will.) Thick, inky clouds blotted out the sky, releasing torrents of rain on to the battered fields and forests. Heavy winds whipped through branches and rustled through high grasses; a multitude of voices howling through the darkness. Every now and then, the darkness was split by a white-hot flash of lightning, followed closely by the sharp crack of thunder.

All in all, it was an utterly wretched night to be out and about. Any sane bot would be tucked safely away at home with a cube of warmed energon and a bookfile, perhaps.

The mech trundling along the overgrown forest road in alt mode wouldn't be considered sane by many. (He didn't really have an issue with that; sanity is overrated, after all.)

He might have been red, once. Now, mud and grime coated every bit of his surface. His windshield was chipped and cracked; lines crisscrossing crazily across the glass like some imitation of a drunken spider's web. Bits of grass and ferns seemed to be jammed in to his tires and wheel wells. The lines of his alt mode might have been attractive, but it was impossible to tell under the thick coating of debris and muck. Only the warm, steady glow of his headlights cutting through the gloom belayed his sorry appearance.

The forest opened up in to a field, and the rain drummed down on his roof harder than ever. But the mech continued on, his goal now in sight. The tall, shining tower arose from the darkness, its smooth white walls repelling the worst ravages of the storm. He quickened his pace, his wheels spinning in the mud as he passed through the high gate (left open in the attendants haste to retreat from the storm? Perhaps…but then again, perhaps not). He passed the tall crystal spires of the gardens; their refracted surfaces dark and slick from the hammering rain.

Finally, he pulled right up to the front door of the tall, shining tower, dripping mud and rain all over the entrance. The dirty mech paused briefly as if gathering himself together, and released a loud, jarring note by way of his horn.

There was no answer. The mech huffed softly, and then sounded off again; a single long wail rising above the wind and thunder.

He was readying himself for a third attempt when the door burst open; light and heat an almost visible wave pouring out from the threshold. A tall figure stood within the light, his perfect sunshine yellow paint gleaming softly. Annoyance was written clear across his fine features. "What," the impossibly beautiful mech ground out, "do you want?"

"Shelter," the dirty stranger said, his voice weak and soft. He shuddered in the cold, shaking bits of mud on to the smooth grey flagstones. "Just for the night," he added pitifully, "some place out of the storm. Please, I beg you."

The gleaming mech gave him a slow, disdainful once-over, his gaze lingering on his mud-splattered roof and grime-encrusted wheels. "Maybe a night out in the rain will clean you up some," he suggested. "But you're not coming in and getting my tower all over in mud. I don't need any slagging vagabonds bringing who-knows-what inside. Get lost."

"Please," the stranger said, his voice wavering, "won't you reconsider? Even the dirtiest covering can hide a shining spark. It is, after all, what's within that matters."

His only response was a snort, and the beautiful mech stepped back, his hand already pushing the door closed. And then there was an impossibly loud crack of thunder, and the sky flashed white, and suddenly the mech in the doorway froze, his optics wide as he realized that his body was no longer obeying him, and he stood motionless as the stranger before him started to move.

The dirty, muddy mech was transforming; the muck and grime sloughing off as his parts shifted around. The scratches and cracks in his paintjob melted in to a smooth, unmarred finish, gleaming brilliantly in the warm light that cascaded out from the entrance. As the stranger finished his transformation, the mech in the doorway abruptly realized that his guest was quite possibly nearly as beautiful as himself.

"Well," the now radiant stranger said, his red and black plating gleaming in the darkness, "I guess that's that. You really should've reconsidered." He grinned widely at his captive audience of one. "Now I'm gonna have to punish you. Let's see…since you seem to hate ugliness so much, let's change that pretty form of yours, shall we?" And he reached out to touch the restrained mech just over his spark. And, impossibly, the haughty, beautiful mech began to change.

It wasn't much like a normal transformation at all. His spark flared with a singularly exquisite pain and he tried to shout; to scream in agony, but his voice refused to work. His mouth opened soundlessly as he fell to his knees against the cold stone floor, his head thrown back and his optics powered down against what seemed to be blinding light. It was as if he was melting, somehow; he wondered suddenly if this was what dying felt like. And then abruptly it was over. He slumped to the ground in relief, sprawling without regard for propriety against the flagstones, not bothering to power up his optics. And from somewhere far above, the impossibly beautiful strange began to speak.

"It's too bad about your servants, but rules are rules, after all. I'll have to change them to something more suitable, too. Anyways, you've got ten vorns. If you can't find someone to love and accept you despite your current appearance, you'll be stuck like that forever. Good luck!"

Another flash, and the warm, bright presence of the stranger was gone. And the once-beautiful mech pulled himself up and slowly opened his eyes to look down at himself.

And then he started to scream.