"Somebody went to Area 51 and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"


Neophytes

Pairings: OP/Screamer, One-sided Skyfire/Screamer, Jazz/Prowl/Perceptor, Sunstreaker/Wheeljack, hinted Sideswipe/Bluestreak, Kup/Rodimus

Warnings for chapter: Unrequited mechxmech love, Angst, Glimpses of my random humour, Attempt at plot, Shifts in narration-POV, OCs, Horribly, horribly unbetaed

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A/N #1: Alright, guys, seriously, you rock! Heehee, 'Neophytes' has made it to two communities (TY Ceris Malfoy and Karin, da~aaarlings), and, yes, to me that's considered quite a big deal :D *grins goofily*

Also, Thank you to all my wonderful reviewers who's taken a few precious minutes of their time to write me a littl' somethin' after reading. M'aaaw, I heart you so much! Just for you, I wished I could update more regularly, feed you with endless streams of chapters of love-struck mechs trying to save the world, yet again, yet again. . . Plz, keep'em reviews coming :3

And, of course, many thanks to the people adding 'Neophytes' to their favs and/or alerts. . . *Ish stupidly satisfied with herself*

Y'all're fuel to mah fire!

A/N #2: Finally: an update D'8 – Sorry I took so long! I'm a rather busy girl at the moment, school and all. . . . . But now FINALLY: enter zeh Skyfire! This time in über introspective angst-like-mode, apparently . . . . . . Ugh, despite what all of you may think by now I actually adore the poor dork and enjoy the Skyfire/Starshine pairing. But my not-so-secret OTP is obviously OP/SS. . . So no SF/SS for you, not this time . . . Sorry if anybody got their hopes up.

Okay, it seems it's time to get on with my so-called plot. . . *sigh* Where did't go?

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Feedback is cherished and scientifically proved to be liquid encouragement (?) xD

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Chapter IV . . . New Apprehensions


In the bright glow of the morning-suns of Cybertron the gentle-mannered giant Skyfire could be found in the dimmed lights of his personal lab, rustling through old-dated data-pads, organic plant-samples, or, like right now, the morning edition of 'Iacon Daily'.

A smile tucked at the corner of his lip-plating, his sky-blue optics lightening up as he read the Art-section reviews of 'Remedial Razzmatazz'.

Small snippets of hieroglyphs had the space-shuttle chuckling softly to himself, pride and joy at his friend's brilliantly successful debut filled his spark as he read comments like ". . . as unique as the artist himself. . ." or ". . . bold, daring, unrealistically realistic. Keep your optical-sensors zoomed-in on Autobot Sunstreaker. . ."

Of course the overall headlines had been stolen by the Elite's son, Amazar, and his collection of old-fashioned, neon-coloured paintings, dramatic still-shots of war, of old-fashioned worshipping-ceremonies of Primes, chaos and beauty, scenes from classic Cybertronian tales. His talent truly was beyond this galaxy, the large scientist admitted to himself, but had to repress a shudder as he noticed a 'picture', a time-frozen hologram of the proud, aged Cronius posing next to the stoic, golden artist. The emptiness in the young, beautiful mech's 'eyes' had Skyfire put the data-pad aside uncomfortably.

At least I couldn't attend the Gala last night Skyfire mused, sipping at a small cube of energon, trying weakly to bring his focus away from gossip and back at his current experiments. Rumour has it most of my friends created quite the scenes. . . Wouldn't want to be caught up in anything of great immoral dimensions when I'm astro-seconds away from a break-through in my studies.

He took a moment to gaze around the room, taking in all the glistening glass tubes, the numerous data-pads lying around scattered on the floor and on the shelves. Quiet.

But of course it was quiet, it was his private lab; generously offered to him as a token of Cybertron's gratitude for his great efforts during the War. . . . And he wasn't even an educated soldier.

It was always quiet in the morning, providing the always appreciated serenity science demanded. Serenity for concentration and immersion.

But the silence and calm was so unlike his old work-sanctuary back from his time on Earth. The Ark had not been big enough to provide the Autobot scientists more than one room to work in, and the result had been a tight squeeze, awkward shuffles against each other, multiple metal-fingers fumbling for the same samples, instruments, and whatnot. In the end they'd all found it to hilarious to be bothered by it.

Skyfire's new workplace was way more accommodated to his basic needs, like for example: a high roof and broader doors. And the giant loved to joke with his friends, admitting to them how good it felt to not bend over or walk sideways when at work. One chair, positioned by the desk, had been purchased with the thought in mind that the space-shuttle-transformer was just a teeny bit larger and heavier than the average 'bot. The tools and glass tubes were also designed to be handled by stronger digits, so that the scientist would not be worrying too much about breaking the fragile things.

In short: the ideal paradise for a mech like Skyfire.

. . . . But his new sanctuary, his new paradise, it lacked Wheeljack's random explosions and crazy ideas, Perceptor's excited, constant chatter and obvious interest in every experiment he was running. It lacked the feeling of being part of something greater, the feeling of sharing the incredible experience of discovering and creating.

If he was to be honest with himself, Skyfire had felt horribly lonely since their arrival back on Cybertron.

All the parties, the social gatherings, they only added to that feeling. Every time Wheeljack or someone else got him convinced to go he was reminded that everything was different now, that peace had come. Not that he had enjoyed being at war, quite the opposite . . . but suddenly his friends began coupling up (Prowl and Jazz taking the prize of being the first), and he was cruelly forced to admit to himself that he had been in stasis lock, buried away in ice, for a long, long, long time; a long enough time to not be a true, ingrown part of any faction. He hadn't been Decepticon, that much was certain, but neither had he been an Autobot for as long as his friends. And all the other Autobots knew each other, had small threads of history with each other, had crushes on each other. . . He had had no change of finding true love, a spark mate, within the Autobot faction, new as he was to it, un-intertwined.

So he had waited. . . . .

And when peace had finally come, the one 'bot he had hoped, fantasized, prayed to have a future with, well, he-

The door to the lab slid open with a gentle hiss, interrupting his depressing train of thoughts. The giant turned around in his chair, ready to greet whatever friend that had come to see him 'good morning', but the words got caught in his vocaliser as his optics fell to rest on the red jet, the beautiful bane of his existence.

"Starscream. . ." he mumbled softly in wonder.

"Ugh, lower the volume, please, I'm hung-over!"

Skyfire had to chuckle softly, pleased that the matter of 'war versus peace' didn't change everything.

"Still can't hold your high-grade, Star?"

The Seeker glared but ceased to comment that, stole a cube of energon from his private dispenser instead, downing it while strutting slowly down by the shelf-covered wall. Skyfire watched him wistfully, his processor recalling old-dated memory-files of similar visions, back from his Academy days. He remembered Starscream and him arguing during science-debates, the red mech with his teeth bared, competitively fury flaring in his optics. An unlikely friendship had budded from that first encounter. Skyfire remembered joors spent staring at experiments, discussing the possible outcome of their hard labour. He smiled faintly as he recalled them experiencing high-grade together, for the first time, as a long-running experiment succeeded, making them famous in their class, in their entire year.

The following hang-over had been disastrous. Nothing but torture.

. . . . He missed the old days.

"Well, I'm impressed. . . You seem to have some sort of order in your 'pads," the small Decepticon commented as he studied the, painfully so, alphabetically arranged data on the shelves. He gazed shortly at the large Autobot out of the corner of his optic. "You never really grasped the fundamentals of 'basic cleaning' back in the old days."

"I like to think I've matured since then, unlike others-" Starscream made a face and poked his glossa out at the large shuttle, "- no, I simply figured that if I ever was to be respected as a scientist again, perhaps now was the time to act my age, gain full control of my life. . . settle down."

The 'Con didn't say anything nor did his face reveal his emotions to such a statement. But Skyfire didn't miss the way those red, sharp wings dropped, his former fellow-explorer's aura saddening.

He hurriedly changed the subject:

"But according to all I've heard this morning my friends, even those older than I, failed to stay democratically sober last night? Do you agree?" he drummed his fingertips against the tabletop, "Or are all us winners of the War behaving like true role-models?"

". . . ." Starscream grabbed a random 'pad, started skimming it, "You'd have decided to get drunk, too, had you actually been there. The hosts made one consider self-deactivation, all those expensive wax-jobs hurt my optics, and those insufferable Lamborg-, gaaah, damnable processor-ache!"

"A successful night, I take it?" He smirked.

"Slag yeah, all of my and 'Warp's hard labour paid off, as we finally got to see Thundercracker rightfully smashed! Heeh, though, after witnessing noble and stoic TC grab a tiny Elite's aft, we decided that our 'reward of succeeding' had to involve getting drunk ourselves, erase those images from our processor;" the 'Con grinned softly, played with the empty cube in his servos, "- admittedly, it wasn't my most brilliant of impulses during the span of my lifetime to let Optimus feed me all that high grade. I have serious trouble remembering what time today we're leaving for Earth through the Space Bridge. . ."

Skyfire jerked softly, involuntarily, his 'hand' dropping from the tabletop, came to rest on his thigh.

"Huh," the jet mused absently, "- No doubt that geezer Ironhide'll give me an earful if I'm lat-"

"You got over-energized with Optimus?" the shuttle interrupted softly, his servo rising to press to a newly developed ache in his temple. A tiny voice began whispering in his mind, a voice he had successfully managed to ignore for the last couple of days.

"Well, yes, I did," a bright pair of red optics narrowed, almost as if daring him to protest. . . no, more as if warning him against doing so. "We happen to sit in the same Council, I'll have you know! Why, actually there only is that one Iacon Council, that one Parliament of factions . . . And I'd choose to socialize with that huge, sentimental dork over those snobbish Tower mechs and femmes anytime."

"Of course, I see," the large Autobot fidgeted with his empty energon cube again, this time in his lap. His mind was racing, forming the sentence he was about to speak, the huge, growing bubble of disappointment and regret in his spark overtrumping his mind telling him to 'change the subject again! Say something else, anything but this!' . . .

". . . But I guess I was still somewhat right all along. Your type really is the tall, silent ones."

There.

The way Starscream immediately tensed, wings flinching violently, face horribly unguarded in his shock. . . It was clear now that the words that had travelled through the city had at least some truths to them. Skyfire's lip-plating flattened into a thin line, optics dimming in understanding.

He had subconsciously ignored every story, every rumour spoken in either excitement or disgust; his processor had refused to acknowledge the possibility, the sheer spark-breaking tragedy, of his former Autobot Commander, and . . . . . and his Star. Involved.

Starscream really didn't like him back in a romantic way.

The 'Con quickly threw his cool façade up in place again, an unpretty sneer on his lips. His usual arrogant Air Commander act was back on:

"Quiet snivelling, it's degrading!" he huffed, pacing around the lab, proving exactly how Cybertronian fliers were incapable of standing just remotely still when distressed, "- Hah, adult mechs don't go around weeping like fraggin' femmes when they don't get their way!"

Skyfire sat jittery in his chair, huge servos folding and unfolding in his lap, chest aching as the Seeker ranted on in his screechiest and most furious voice, cascading him in insults and mockery; the Seeker's own way of getting his frustration out of his system.

Neither mechs managed to look the other in the optics.

"Primus, you," the jet gestured angrily at the giant, accidently knocking several liquid-samples in their glass tubes off of a table with his arm, "- you never had any right to expect and plan a future for the two of us without . . . slag! That really pissed me off, Sky'!"

"I thought-," The shuttle began abruptly, cutting of another tirade, but stopped himself, corrected his words, "- I mean, I believed, I hoped! And I'm s-sorry that I wasn't being more of a gentlebot with my f-flir- . . . with my c-courtship, I was over-energize-"

"C-courtship?," Starscream's jaw dropped, his optics locking with his friend's in disbelief, "You dolt, you weren't 'wooing' me, or whatever pathetic expressions you foolish Autobots use in these matters! You were practically groping me, licking my servo, calling me nicknames, right in front of my entire faction, the Elite I'm representing every day in the High Council! In front of your slaggin' faction, too, for that matter!"

"- And I told you I'm sorry!", Skyfire rose to his pedals, his height had him towering over the leering jet. It would have made a threatening pose if not for the Autobot's pleading look, his facial features almost making him look like a sparkling, "- All I needed you to know, to understand, is that I've wanted to honour you since forever; be with you, make you feel like the incredible mech you are . . . For the rest of our lives. I just wanted you to- . . . I just wanted you."

The desperate fury in the jet's aura drained, his wings hanging sadly from his shoulders. His true self shone through, and the mutual misery they shared in that moment became visible to the shuttle's 'eyes'.

Skyfire couldn't believe the pain he had caused to the mech he claimed to love. He suddenly hated himself. He hated the war for ever happening, hated the peace for ruining his dreams of sharing a life with his former science partner. He was deeply shocked by his ability to hate this deeply, and therefore he forced himself to swallow the grief, regain some of his trademark calm; and he forced himself to ignore how it seemed as if his spark was shrinking, disappearing into a bleeding knot of light; almost like a dying star.

"I just wanted my friend back!" Starscream hissed quietly, sitting defeatedly in a lone, visitor's chair, optics off-lined.

The was a long silence.

"Yes. I know that now. . . Probably knew for a while," Skyfire admitted, falling back into his chair facing the Seeker, optics off-lined as well. "I . . . I guess I subconsciously decided to ignore what I knew in my processor. Decided to let the hope in my spark do all the reasoning, take all the decisions when it came to regaining your trust."

"Huh . . ." Starscream muttered, brushing a small piece of dirt off of his red armour half-heartedly.

"I just wish I could go back, stop myself from ruining everything between us. As friends, I mean."

"Fragger," was the impatient huff, followed by a sad sigh, "It's not a lost cause. We've been at war for decades, we've won our peace, saved our home planet; so don't tell me you're now too much of a coward to fight for our friendship."

"I'm not," Skyfire assured softly, searching out the 'Con's optics, finding them. "I'd never stop fighting for you. You're my oldest friend, you're precious to me."

"Sap . . ." the Seeker mumbled in vague embarrassment, but a quick scan proved to the shuttle that his cheek-plating had heated in childish delight, ". . . Let's never fight again, okay?"

"Of course, I'd never willingly be unkind to you . . . Though I don't know about you're ability to keep such a promise. I know how you tend to bitch a lot when you disagree with someone or if you're not getting you way," he chuckled softly, raising his hand at the immediately flash of fury in those ruby 'eyes', "-Now, Starscream, I'm only being honest. You get that way, and it's okay. I wouldn't have you any other way. . ."

"Fine," the 'Con huffed, grabbed the morning edition of 'Iacon Daily' and slapped it over the smiling shuttle's knee, "If that's how our friendship is going to be, fine! You get to tease me constantly, while I can verbally abuse you, have you as my personally outlet of stress. . . And I didn't mean anything kinky by what I just said!"

"Sounds like any other Cybertronian friendship, really." A soft grin.

"Except I'm way more awesome than they'll ever be!" A confident smirk.

"Hmm, perhaps I could find someone else, someone nicer-"

"Don't you dare!"

Skyfire actually laughed this time, overjoyed to see how Starscream's shoulder relaxed in subtle relief at his teasing. The jet did want his friendship. They would still be together, even if not in the way he had prayed for them to be.

"Don't worry, I could never find another 'bot like you to be your replacement," he smiled a bit wryly, "If you ever need it, you know that I'll listen. Whenever you need to unwind, you can always come to my lab, rant about how Optimus' dedication to protecting you is starting to get on your nerves? . ."

The jet gaped at him, wings rising in disbelief at the comment, the suggestion.

"We're still only co-workers, didn't you even listen to me, you daft- . . . Ah, never mind! I could never, ever talk sense into you, not even back in the Science Academy. You even refused to call me anything but that indignifying nickname of yours!"

". . . 'Star'?"

"Yeah, that's the one," the 'Con crossed his arms. "That name does my repetition as a fearless Decepticon Leader no justice!"

". . . You prefer the name 'Screamer'?"

". . . Primus! What the frag? My designation is Starscream, S-T-A-R-S-C-R-E-A-M. It symbolizes impossible speed, right? It fits perfectly, why ruin it?" Starscream glared, jabbing his digit to the giant's knee-joint. ". . . You've been influenced by the twins, haven't you? Are you gonna start making crap, wannabe-art now, too?"

"Actually," Skyfire spoke to cover his chuckle, "Sunstreaker's exhibition was rather well-received-"

"Well, tie me up and call me Georgia."

"- Even back on Earth I could see his artistic potential, so I'm thrilled to finally witness him being praised for his talent-"

"Yeah, yeah, that's an intriguing story," Starscream deadpanned, studying the joints of his fingers with little interest, "- but maybe it's better if I went and found out when I'm supposed to meet the others, prepare for take-off."

"Oh, right," Skyfire smiled gently, "for how many days will you be staying on Earth?"

"The meetings themselves shouldn't take more than a couple of days, but since the space bridge demands such enormous amounts of energon every time it's on-lined we'll probably be gone for a week. You know, just 'til the new harvest is in house."

"Who'll run the Council meanwhile?" the space shuttle asked as Starscream got to his legs, winching meanwhile, proving he was still mildly hung-over. "The Prime-"

"- Is coming with us. The humans wish to meet the new Autobot Leader, despite the fact that they still consider Optimus the true symbol of a Cybertronian Commander. . . But whatever, it's not like they'll ever understand our society's way."

"They're smarter than you may think, Star."

"I know that; that's why I'm not that keen on the idea of letting them have access to our weaponry-designs. . . And my name is Star-scream!"

"Sorry," he reached out and squeezed the Seeker's shoulder softly, friendly, "Will you tell 'Bee, Hound and 'Raj 'hi' from me when you get to Earth?"

". . . You know, maybe it would be less odd and, you know, awkward if you got another Autobot, someone who actually knows them, to do that." But Starscream smirked all the same, patting the arm on his shoulder firmly. "I'll see you soon, friend."

Skyfire let the word run on repeat in his processor, let his spark taste the strange endearment. Starscream had spoken it in pride and subtle joy, relief even. Because a 'friend' was all Starscream had longed for in him, seen in him. Nothing more, nothing less.

The shuttle's spark still ached, but the pain was more numb now than anything. He realized that his systems were beginning to accept the fact that his romantic wishes for the two of them would be rejected from now on and far into infinity. It would take time, but he would get over it. . . Even if it seemed unfair to give up on the love he felt, since he could name a billion reasons for why they could have been perfect for each other.

". . . We would have been good together, you know," Skyfire mused out-loud as Starscream started to make it for the door, melancholy colouring his words.

It was beautiful. The glistening dark-red colour of the Seeker's wings, limbs, and 'eyes'. It fit perfectly into his laboratory of fuming liquids in glass tubes, samples of organic material; even the screechy sound of his friend's voice in contrast to the dead silence of his 'sanctuary'. It would truly have been good.

Starscream tensed, ruby optics avoiding the space-shuttle's longing gaze, wings dropping sadly.

"Skyfire, please. . ."

Skyfire's mouth quirked sadly, but also a little wryly.

". . . But, admittedly, we were great as friends. . ."

The 'Con turned his head, studied his face with surprise written all over his dark, expressive face. Then he smiled. A true, thankful smile, devoid of masks and arrogance.

A smile for Skyfire.

Skyfire smiled back, letting his gentle, obvious adoration escort the Decepticon out of his so-called sanctuary. As soon as the door slit shut again, however, the smile faltered and the giant zoned out, his Autobot blue 'eyes' stared off into nothing.


Optimus sat in his quarters, watching a sleepy-looking Jazz sitting across from him, staring at a data-pad with a bleary visor. He almost felt bad for asking his friend to help him plan and schedule the next week's duties, knowing it was something that the visored mech had never really found as entertaining as his bonded did, but the fact that Prowl had had to endure a whole meeting with the Elites and attend a quick safety-sitting with Red Alert and none other than Perceptor, where he'd no doubt be the victim of more death-glares and guilt-trips of past mistakes. . . Well, in Optimus' optics Jazz could handle a short briefing like this.

"'Right, it's obligatory that Prowler, 'Hide, the Hatchet, an' I are stayin' on Cybertron. . ." He scratched his helmet, "We'll keep'em Elites on their toes, make sure they don' go an' corrupt the natural order o' the universe."

The semi chuckled softly, opening the right side of his facemask, drank the last of his morning ration. He made certain that his servo covered and shadowed for his lower facial-plating, even though the scar across his lips was hidden by the left side of the mask.

"I appreciate it, Jazz. And I'm sorry that this whole ordeal couldn't be arranged different, so that you could have come with us, you and Prowl both. I know how much you love Earth, its inhabitants, and their many cultures."

"Nah, don't be," the smaller, dark Autobot waved him off, "There'll be other opportunities. 'Sides, it'd probably scar them governments to see two mechs like us go an' act all lovey-dovey, no?"

"Hmm," Optimus frowned softly, scratching at his audio, "I should probably have though about that before telling both Wheeljack and Sunstreaker to tack along. . ."

Jazz grinned widely, all evidence of his tiredness immediately gone.

"Hah! That's the slaggin' best idea ya've ever had!" he let himself fall back in his seat, kicking his pedals up on the various 'pads on the table, "The humans will be too distracted by Sunny trying to get som' to notice that they should be attempting to get our weapons!"

"That wasn't the true intentions of bringing them, and yet I can see you point," the larger mech hummed good-humouredly.

"Who else then? Who're ya bringin'on yer merry quest?"

Optimus handed over a list of names, rising from his seat, walked the short distance to his computer as Jazz made himself even more comfortable (if possible) and started reading.

As the screen booted on-line, hieroglyphs lightening up the former Prime's face, he replayed the former night's encounters in his processor. Despite his light hang-over from the high-grade he'd consumed at the Gala he'd experienced no severe physical discomforts when waking from recharge. But he off-lined his optics with a silent sigh, the nagging and constant ache in his processor from having argued as furiously with Ratchet as he had returned full-force. It always hurt to fight with friends. But Ratchet was one of his oldest friends. And he'd chewed him out big time. And for what?

Optimus stared purposefully into the screen, tracked down the emergency-ration shuttle, read the fuel statics, the distance-radar, read every single detail about its flight-schedule, its speed, its crew-members' health. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Not even an accidental scratch in the shuttle's plating had been detected.

Everything was alright!

Help was one the way to the Shadow Valleys!

Ratchet was wrong to worry!

. . . Wasn't he?

Optimus' frown deepened, a gnawing sensation of unease spread in his circuits. Now, when sobered, the former Prime could easily make sense of the CMO's guilt at getting over-energized in a sparkling, glowing, pulsing city whilst an isolated population of Cybertronian workers suffered from hunger under the very same sky, at the very same moment. And he remembered the Council, some of the Elites' distaste at having to share energon with the Shadow-mechs, Cronius' obvious hatred. . . The sense of unease grew stronger.

Optimus shook himself out of his trance-like state, walked to the table to grab his and Jazz' empty cubes, went to recycle them. As he watched them disappear down the recycle-shaft, into engulfing darkness, he remembered his friend's accusations. He slammed the hatch shut, walked back inside, ignored his smaller visitor's inquiring look. Ratchet was very wrong to accuse Starscream of being behind an imaginary act of betrayal.

Yes, admittedly the Seeker had quite the history of mutinous behaviour. But that had been under the reign of Megatron; and all the failed attempts at becoming the ruler of the chaotic faction had been made in desperation for control. Because only whilst being in control had Starscream ever had a fragile chance of getting the Decepticons back on track towards their true cause, their hope of achievement: equality.

Optimus fell back into his large, comfortable couch across from the now staring Jazz, and a strong urge to defend the small Decepticon suddenly overwhelmed him. His mind refused to stop flashing memory-snap shots of an enraged, humiliated beauty in a dark alleyway, hurt and defensive as he yelled at the large semi about the unfairness of it all. . .

"Err, Optimus-?"

"Starscream is loyal to Iacon. Or he will be as long as the Council has pure intentions and conscience. Never forget that."

"Hey man," the visored 'bot held up both hand in a surrendering, calming gesture, "I have no problem with th' Screamer, even if he seems t' have one with me! . . . I can totally see how much he tries to do f' Iacon. Even if it ticks me off tha' he manages to get his armour more shiny than me!"

The red and blue mech smiled wryly at his friend, reaching over to grasp his arm in a warm, friendly grip.

"I know, Jazz, that you're the probably the last mech in the universe to hold a grudge against anyone. And forgive me if I made you upset," he sighed audibly this time, "- I didn't mean to imply that you're talking about Starscream behind his back."

"Eh, you're forgiven, 'Sir'," Jazz grinned, saluting playfully, throwing the name-list 'pad back into Optimus' lap, "Yer're a devil, ya know that? Ya're bringing both twins. They're gonna drive Screamer nuts!"

"That's why I though of bringing both Wheeljack and Bluestreak. . . They'll serve as perfect distraction for the 'Twin Terrors'."

"Hah! Ya're playin' matchmaker, too, now!" Jazz exclaimed, studying him with mock shock and outrage, "Though I think it's gonna get official with Sunny an' the 'Mad Scientist' soon, anyway."

"So many nicknames," the semi mused loudly, thinking it over, "We have the 'Twin Terrors', the 'Mad Scientist', the 'Holy Trinity'. . . Sometimes one could wonder if we don't have enough pastime-activities."

"Aww, come on, we always have getting' wasted once a weak and gossip-," he cut himself off quickly, clearly remembering the way Optimus had chastened him the night before for bringing that subject up, "- anyway, I read that ya're bringin' 'Percy?"

"Perceptor has expressed great interesting in returning to Earth with us. He knows a human scientist he wishes to visit." Optimus studied his friend's thoughtful expression, watched as the cheerfulness sobered.

"Uh huh," Jazz mumbled softly, chewing on his lip-plating with his dentals. "- I, ah, just kinda wanted t' talk t'him, right? He's been all weird 'n me lately; on Prowler, too."

He lifted a hand to his chest suddenly, obviously feeling Prowl through their bond, their connection, sensing something. All traces of a smile were gone now.

"Prowler's been upset f' a while. . . It's linked to 'Percy, I can tell, but-," he embraced his chest, his spark-chamber, as if to calm both himself and his beloved, "- he blocks our bond every time he senses Imma find out wha' bothers'im. . . An' he ain't willin' to talk 'bout it."

As Optimus watched his long-term friend, who had seen him in during his best and worst moments, seen him over-energized, seen him bleeding, seen him overload whilst lying horizontal. . . Jazz was a dear friend to him, Prowl certainly, too. Maybe even more so. He never really knew who he cherished the most of these two amazing mechs. It didn't matter who he loved the most, the both deserved happiness.

Jazz dimmed his visor, lips in a flat line, hand scratching carefully against his dark chest, obviously trying to reach Prowl over their connection.

The former Prime knew that even if he'd regret asking what he was about to ask, it had to be done, it had to be said. He just prayed it would work out in the end.

"Jazz?"

"Yeah?"

"Did you. . . Ever talk to Prowl about what happened between us?"

At Jazz uncomprehending gaze, the semi shifted uneasily in his seat, cleared his vocalisor.

"You know. . . All that time ago, before you even knew Prowl returned your feelings-"

"No."

"Sorry?" Optimus was mildly startled by the sheer panic in Jazz' face, no doubt about his optics widening behind their blue 'shield'.

"No. I haven't told'im," Jazz stated, also starting to feel uncomfortable about bringing that particular subject up, "An' I ain't gonna tell'im anytime soon, so. . . No."

"I'm. . . surprised, that's all," the semi admitted, making a pointed study of the floor of his living area, "One would think that a spark-bond and regular spark-merging would result in opening up all sorts of childhood, youth, and adult-experiences. . . and mistakes."

The smaller black and grey 'bot squirmed in his discomfort, licking his upper lip-plating, searching the room for something. . . probably an escape-way.

"Yeah, I guess. . . But, err, me 'n' Prowler agreed long 'go that there were things, stuff in life that we weren't proud 'f. An' so we promised not to, well, investigate hidden, all too intimate memories, if the other weren't up t' it. . . Or something."

". . . Mmm, that's alright, I think," Optimus mumbled, "I just thought that maybe it would help work things out between the three of you."

"How?" Jazz demanded suspiciously, but still not looking at the former Prime, "I didn't sleep with 'Percy, I slept with you!"

Ah, Silence!

Sweet, horrible, awkward silence. . . How I hate thee.

Optimus faked a human-like cough, got to his feet in a rush.

"Well, I just want to thank you for helping me out, Jazz. I always know I can count on you in stressing, demanding times."

"No prob," Jazz chirped, nearly stumbling over the table as he grabbed for the semi's offering farewell-servo, "The Jazz-man's always there in troubling times, right? Me, Prowler, an' the gang will keep Iacon up an' runnin' in your absence."

"I have no doubt in your potency," he winched at his own choice of words, quickly letting go of the smaller Autobot's 'hand', "- I mean, sorry, I-, frag!"

Jazz finally couldn't contain himself any longer, letting out a loud, spluttering snicker.

"Primus, I don' recall the last time things've been this awkward between me 'n' someone else," he collected his personal 'pads from the table, stuffed them into his subspace, "- This little trick of yours, makin' one loose his calm to this extreme, better not use it when wooin' a potential berth-partner, 'kay?"

"Okay," he huffed, feeling an embarrassed smile budding under his facemask, "- Are you and Prowl coming to see us off at the space bridge later?"

"'Course! Wouldn't wanna miss 't for anything in the world. OH, I almost forgot! Yeah, wait a minut'," Jazz exclaimed in excitement, pulling out a small disc from his subspace. "Here!"

"Uh," Optimus accepted it with a confused glint in his optics, ". . . Thanks?"

"Oh no, sorry, heeh, it's for Spike an' his family! I promised t' get'im some Cybertronian music, thought this'd be good," Optimus was flashed with the always charming trademark grin of his former TIC, Jazz obviously regaining his earlier easy-going composure, "- Primus, what am I sayin'? This ain't 'good', it's the best!"

"I'm certain it is. As expected from Jazz. . ."

"Yeah. Got quite the repetition goin' on on Earth now, too. . . By the time me 'n' Prowler are old an' rusted there won't be a singl' organism in the galaxy that haven't heard o' me!"

"Being ordinary isn't that bad, either," Optimus spoke softly, wistfully, mostly to himself. Jazz gazed at him in surprise, seeming to think something over.

". . . Hmm, when on Earth, will ya make sure to take som' time just for you? Just for doin' somethin' you wanna do, alone or with someone you feel like yourself with?"

"I'm going to stay on Earth for a whole week, Jazz. I certainly plan on spending some time having fun, as well as attending meetings."

"Good. . . I rather miss seein' you takin' on the basketball field!"

Optimus roared with laughter. Even as Jazz left, grin in place once more, he couldn't stop chuckling to himself.


Joors later Optimus was standing in the space bridge control room, trying to calm an overly excited Bluestreak down. The young gunner was speaking on and on about how 'utterly fantastic, amazing, surreal it was that they were gonna go see Bee, Hound and Mirage again, that those three probably would be there to greet them, because they were some of their best friends, and that it also was long time since he'd seen Spike, Carly and their son Daniel, and that Daniel probably, hopefully, remembered how they'd played hide and seek in the Ark once, and that Bee had cheated, because-' . . .

"Bluestreak," Optimus interrupted softly, smiling as the young Autobot literally had to bite down on his bottom lip to keep himself from speaking, "I'm really excited, too. But you're not going to see Prowl for a week, and I think he wishes to say 'good-bye' properly. Why don't you say your farewells to him now?"

He gently pointed the younger in the direction of his former SIC, watched with a bemused smile as the usually professional and stoic police-car's feature's melted into a soft smile. The young, grey Datsun was chatting excitedly again, though he couldn't hear anything, the overall natter and exchanges of 'take care's between the Autobots and Decepticons who were to stay, and those who were to travel back to the United States of America.

He could see his mouth-piece moving, though. Constantly.

Prowl just listened, smiled, added a little input when necessary.

Prowl, your patience truly is beyond this galaxy. And, Primus, it's great to see you smile.

The semi watched Perceptor share a short word with Tracks, who was to remain on Earth, and then return to packing a few objects that looked like experiments into his subspace, Wheeljack standing at his side sharing short glances with the yellow Lamborghini-twin across the small room.

Both twins seemed very relaxed about returning to Earth, but Optimus knew that they cool demeanours only were for show. The way they both kept glancing to the space bridge, as if checking it for activity, if it had been turned on yet, proved the truck-transformer's theory.

Shockwave and Soundwave had arrived as some of the firsts, greeting the former Prime with acknowledging nods of their heads, which Optimus returned. He hadn't really had the change to fully have a conversation with either of them outside of the Council, about none-politic matters. But rumours had it that Shockwave was quite the talker once you got past his shell. Soundwave on the other hand seemed quite unapproachable. . . But one never knew until one had tried, Optimus decided, promising himself that he would try and get to know both of them.

Starscream arrived with his Trine, chatting, bickering, snickering all the way down the hall to the room, warning the already full room of their arrival. Optimus tried to catch a quick, yet subtle, glimpse of the red Seeker as he entered, tried to catch his optics, but the jet was too occupied with lecturing the others about running the Council in his and the other Decepticon Leaders' absence. Not that Skywarp didn't notice Optimus looking, and so he immediately began pointing in his direction, encouraging his older Trine-mate to 'go bother his boyfriend instead, because he slaggin' knew how to keep a town from blowing up in just an Orn's time'.

Optimus decided to immerse himself in something else then.

Kup and Rodimus were the last to arrive, the red and orange Prime looked unhappy when he felt all the present 'bots turn and look at them as the door slid shot behind them, and so he turned to face the tall, dark-green veteran, scowl making his young face look too old, too burdened.

"I knew we'd be late when I saw the time you woke me out of recharge, Kup! You should have roused me earlier so that I could attend to my duties properly."

"I realize you told me to wake you up in good time, Prime, but with all the high-grade you'd had last night I figured you'd need more slee-"

"I'm the Prime, right?" as Kup nodded, chastened and hurt, the Prime continued, "- yes, I am. Not a sparkling for you to coddle. But the Prime. Everyday there're things to do, 'bots to meet, others' need to be attended to. . . I can allow myself small luxuries like sleeping in any longer now if I'm ever to be respected as the Leader of the Autobots, Bearer of the Matrix."

"I know, I-," Kup sighed, looking tired and old as well, and he took a few steps into the room, walking away from his protégée slowly, "I'll just go and explain myself to Optimus, if I may Prime?"

Rodimus lost his scowl and nodded, arms hugging his chest uncertainly for a moment until he realized what he was doing and crossed them instead, stared at the monitors controlling the bridge.

Optimus met Kup halfway, smiling softly at his old comrade. Kup shrugged softly, looking like he'd taken quite the verbally dashes that day.

"Yeah, I didn't wake him up," Kup just said, humourless smirk on his lips. Then he lowered his volume, "I don't know what Cronius told him last night, but he's upset and afraid, disguises it with rage."

"A visit to Earth will probably do him good," Optimus offered, patting the veteran's arm, noticing Track and other 'bots gesturing at the group of travellers to prepare for the

"I wonder. . ." Kup spoke softly, but then his sixth 'Rodimus'-sense kicked in as he felt him approach from behind, and he turned around, waiting. The young Prime and his mentor just looked at each other, Rodimus seeming unsure and lost, his guilt and shame warming his facial plating. Kup just shook his head gently, smiled as if to say 'we're okay!'. It wasn't enough for Rodimus, though. There, hidden behind larger 'bots, the Prime gave Kup his silent apology by simply pressing a little closer, pressing his smaller chest to the larger's arm.

The semi heard the green Autobot's soft sigh, smiled to himself as he just knew that the veteran was fighting an intense battle against his urges to hug his Prime, hold him closer, protect him.

"Ready, everyone?" Tracks called, and grinned at the several affirmatives he received (including one actual 'Affirmative' from Soundwave. . .) "Awesome. In a minute's time you'll be off, the bridge is just downloading the right location, warming up for the main course!"

Optimus nodded at Tracks, then at Prowl, Jazz, and Ironhide, all standing by Track's side, smiling softly at him. Ratchet hadn't shown up. And it hurt.

Ironhide had explained that the CMO had claimed to be severely hung-over after his blunder last night. And while it wasn't unbelievable, taking how much he'd approximately consumed, it still. . . The semi sensed another reason for his absence. And that sense told him that he was it, the reason. The unease in his circuits flared to life, once more. Burned him.

Be safe, Ratchet. I'll see you soon. And I'll give my everything to make things right for the 'bots suffering, wherever they might be on Cybertron. Because no one deserves to suffer, no one deserves to live without freedom.

"You know," Tracks commented from the monitor, turning around, 'hand' on his hip, winking at a snickering Bluestreak, "Right there ,on the other side of the space bridge, are all the leaders of Earth's nations, probably a billion different news-stations reporters and their cameras, red dot shinin'. . ."

"Your point?" Sideswipe drawled, puffing up his chest, trying to appear as large as the other flashy sports-car.

"My point is that," his teasing, blue optics glided over the ensemble, a smirk growing faintly on his lip-plating, "- hmm, maybe you should've, I dunno, dressed a little up for this?"

". . . . . . ."

"Got your bugs ready, Optimus?"

"'Jack!" the semi protested, but failed to sound overly outraged as a smile broke out on his face.

"Primus," Skywarp smiled as he was dragged away from the bridge's entrance by the older, black and blue Seeker, "Earth ain't ready for you guys. . ."

"Ya still need to tell me yer secret, Starshine!" Jazz called over the crowd as the bridge was slowly activated with a loud hum of electricity, "How d'ya get yer armour that shiny?"

"I told you, Jazz," came the screechy retort, "Dead. Baby. Bunnies!"

"I don't wanna know," Prowl stated, tightening his grip on his bond-mate's servo.

Perceptor bit his bottom lip hard, and was the first to walk away into the buzzing, roaring bridge of thunder. Then he was gone. Optimus took one last glimpse out the window, took in the sight of the living and thriving Iacon. He prayed it would look the same when he returned.

Be safe.

He walked determinately into the port of the bridge, into stars and noise, collisions and impossible speed. White. It was so white.


Meanwhile, in a faraway quarter, a tired CMO stumbled out of his berth, emptied his protesting energon-tank all over the already messy floor.

Never again, he told himself, grimacing, never again will I put my lips to a cube of high-grade.

Ratchet check his internal clock, cursed, nearly teared up. He'd only managed to shut himself down for a few Kliks this time, no longer.

No recharge tonight, neither. He hadn't recharged in the longest time, in Orns. And some logical, still somewhat well-functioning part of his mind told him that he wouldn't recharge anytime soon. Not as things were now.

Primus. . .

Prime's shocked, hurt face last night. Ratchet hadn't truly meant to cause other's pain, that wasn't really his job in the society. . . But in his desperation he had just had to try opening the other's optics to the horrors of his situation, their situation. He had wanted to make his friend understand that he, Ratchet, was in severe need of something more than one measly ship-loading of energon to the dying Cybertronians.

Given that getting over-energized before starting his rant hadn't been his best strategy yet. He vaguely remembered bringing the red flying 'Con into it, only managing to upset Optimus even more.

His face had been. . .

Never again will I touch that poisonous stuff!

He checked his internal clock again, sighed. They'd taken off now, no doubt, his former Commander and the others. Ratchet understood with himself that he had to make a quick decision now. He didn't have a lot of time left. No doubt Ironhide would swing by again in a matter of Kliks, check up on him and/or berate him for not showing up and wishing Optimus and the others a safe trip. They called him selfish, told him that he was too proud, his processor too high-wrung . . . but what did they know?

No doubt they'd never tried forcing a recharge-program onto their own systems because their circuits were too distressed, too conflicted to calm themselves. Because every night a medic went to his chambers, sat down to relax, his of her processor reminded him or her that there still were someone out there in need of help, or repairs, of salvation.

Ratchet hid his face in his knees with an agonized groan.

Flaiz. His Shadow Valley comrades. They were suffering, their small creations dying. And the High Council had actually been sitting on their afts discussing whether or not to get involved!

And everybody expected Ratchet to go into a calm, worry-free recharge every night?

They were all unconsciously torturing him. They forced him against his own programming as a medical operator.

Ratchet groaned, clawed at his aching head, stared around at the mess he called his quarters. Medical equipment everywhere, empty cubes of high-grade on the floor, messy, broken trinkets from Earth he'd thrown around in his frustration, when he couldn't take his anger out on others.

It hurt, it hurt.

And forcing his systems into emergency shut-down to finally rest and escape his misery by over-consuming energon and high-grades hadn't worked. Every single instinct still ordered him, urged him to help, travel out, help them. And he couldn't ignore those voices no longer.

He stumbled over to his table, grabbed a small repair-kit, some more rations of energon, a few other necessities, packed it. He caught a look of himself in the broken mirror on the opposite wall, the cracked reflection stared back at him in shock, disorientation, yet determination.

I'm going, I'm going.

I'm coming to you, now, I'm coming. I won't stop 'til I've reached you, made things right again.

I promise, I promise. . .

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~ ~ ~ TBC ~ ~ ~

Soooooo littleeeee progreeeessssss 8'D *le sob*

Anyhoo: Oh dear, Ratchet's off. . . And probably off to get himself into trouble. And meanwhile OP and his merry men are heading off to Earth, where I'm sure a lot of stuff will happen (What the H~? I'm the author! I should know that!) . . . . . The actual, original plot is slowly blending in with the current storyline, I promise!

*ahem* Yeah, about the sudden shifts in POV – I figured it'd be weird if OP, mah main maaan, was to stand and observe/analyze all that vulnerability and awkwardness that was the exchange between Skyfire and Screamer. Same goes for that last Ratchet-angsts-and-plots-'scene' of mine. . . But most of this story will be seen through Optimus' eyes.

Ummm, and I dunno how ya guys feel about the lack of femme-'bots thus far? I won't mind writing them at all - the only reason that I haven't included any of the known 'female'-characters yet is that I am absolutely clueless as to how they should be written! Elita, Chromia, Arcee . . . Yeah, I remember the names, but beyond that they're complete strangers to me. Feel free to PM me or something about their personalities, looks, etc. if you think I should integrate them in the plot (what plot, damnation?) And I'll give it a go ;D

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Please, reviews? Remember what I said to y'all about the fire? XD

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