Disclaimer: do not own Transformers.

Summary: G1, dark AU, oneshot. Sunstreaker's thoughts on the puzzle that is his ward, the stupidity of humans, the dichotomy of his comrades, and the illusion that is sanity.

Rating: T. Violence and morally questionable Autobots : (

Author note: Based off of Silvane's bunny, original here:

"Expansion on the Bee-treated-as-a-child idea. Before they were stranded on Earth, Bumblebee really wasn't treated like a sparkling. He was one of the many unnerving, almost alien, war-sparked bots who no one really interacted with or felt comfortable around. When he woke on earth however, and the 'bots met the Witwickys, Bee was assigned to interact and win the confidence of their new human allies, since he was such a good spy. Bee quickly determined the best way to win the human's affection and trust was to act like a kid slightly older then Spike, taking on the 'older brother' role. However, Bee found out something strange: He liked playing the part. For the first time, he had an excuse, and newly discovered desire, to do things like play catch, or have long pointless arguments, or play pranks, or skive off a shift to go see a movie. And if he kept up the role while Spike and Sparkplug were away, none of the bots found it odd, since he was still on the mission, even if his 'targets' were temporarily away. The longer Bee played the role, the more the rest of the bots tended to respond to him as though that was his real personality, which was what Bee was coming to want."

Somehow, the rest of the Autobots joined in on the fun, and then Sunstreaker came along and stole the show. -_- He does that a lot. Oh well.

Thanks, Silvane!


All Mad Here

Sunstreaker could always tell when Bumblebee had just finished an assignment.

The little Autobot would carry himself taller (a mean feat for a minibot) and would have a gleam in his optics, and would act smugly for the next couple of orns until someone like Sunstreaker knocked him back down in his place.

But rarely was Bumblebee so obvious about his little victories.

He was strolling along the corridor, whistling a merry little tune, the dents and scratches in his armour covered in splashes and streaks of purple and pink.

When he saw Sunstreaker at the other end of the hall, he broke into a grin and quickened his pace. The bigger mech frowned.

"You're disgusting," he said. "Look at you. The energon's already eating away at your paint job."

Perhaps if Bumblebee were human, he would have stuck his tongue out. Instead, he just continued his cheeky grin. He held his hand out, palm facing upward.

"Cough it up," he said.

"What?"

"Our bet. I won. Here's the evidence," Bumblebee said, and deposited a red optic at Sunstreaker's feet. "That'll be three cubes of high-grade, please and thank-you."

Sunstreaker scowled, but then looked past Bumblebee, towards the other side of the hall, and a look of worry spread over his face plate.

"By the way," he said quietly. "Spike's coming up behind you."

Bumblebee whirled around, hiding his energon-splattered hands behind him.

It's the last thing that makes Sunstreaker laugh inwardly.

Can have blood on your helm and blood on your face, just don't let the kid see 'em on your hands.

By the time Bumblebee realized that the only thing behind him was an empty corridor, Sunstreaker was already gone.

X x X

Sunstreaker would be the first person to say that the Autobots weren't good. At least, not in the humans' simplistic definition of good. But they were only small, in body and in mind, so for them, "lesser evil" translated to "good enough."

He remembered how this little play started, how the casting was done and how all the parts were handed out. It was shortly after they had awakened on this mudball of a planet.

"We've never interacted with a sentient species before, have we?" Bumblebee asked, looking up from his data pad. "I mean, up close like this."

Sunstreaker shook his head, not looking up from what humans would call his "sketchbook," though it was neither a book nor did it contain sketches. "The 'Cons usually got to them first," he said. "They'd always be too weak to do any damage but too smart to take invasion lying down. You know the drill—they retaliated, rebellions, all that sort of stuff, and took down the whole planet with them, too. At least the 'Cons actually seemed to learn this time around."

"What makes you say that?"

This time, Sunstreaker actually did look up from his artwork to look at his ward exasperatedly. "The humans haven't been wiped out yet, yes?"

"Yes."

"And this planet is still standing, yes?"

"Yes."

"Ergo," he said, rolling his optics. "They've learned their lesson." Turning his attention back to his art, he continued, "You don't pull out the big guns on uncertain ground, kid. This is a nice planet they got here; I bet the humans don't even know half the things we do about this place, like how the stuff that practically drops out of the sky here costs an arm, a leg, and an atom of your spark back at Cybertron. Places like these, you have to test it first; see how much it can take before breaking, or else there'd be nothing left over, and no point in us being here. Even the 'Cons know that."

"You think the 'Cons will do something like we're doing? It doesn't seem that hard."

Sunstreaker gave a mirthless laugh. "No. They can't seem to grasp that it's good to be nice to the natives. As it looks now, we're going to be living comfortably in the public eye while every way we turn, humans gratefully give us free energy. The 'Cons are going to be rusting in their base, stealing scraps."

"They'll probably behave themselves, though," Bumblebee said thoughtfully.

"They'd have to. It's this stupid planet," Sunstreaker said. "You twitch on this planet, something breaks. You shutter an optic, something breaks. You so much as look at it wrong, and the whole thing breaks. If the 'Cons want to keep it, they'll have to play nice."

"Well, that's good." Bumblebee said. "It's only polite. After all, we have guests." He lapsed into silence, and then said. "So…that means that the humans are safe for now, then?"

Sunstreaker once again looked at him with pure exasperation. "Don't tell me you're developing feelings for these squishies. What was practically the first thing Jazz taught you—"

"What? No, nothing like that," Bumblebee said, raising his hands complacently. "It's just that, it's good to know that my targets will still be there for a while."

"What do you mean, your targets?"

Bumblebee grinned at him. "I got assigned to, quote and unquote, 'win the confidence of our new hosts.'"

Sunstreaker's optics narrowed. "And what, exactly, does this entail?"

"The parent-and-cub pair we met today," he said. "That shouldn't be too hard. They already prefer us over the 'Cons."

"So why do you need to bother?"

"Because sooner or later, they're going to start listening to their instincts."

Sunstreaker rolled his optics. "I doubt it. They've only met us and they're already following us around like cyber-hounds."

"But cyber-hounds have teeth," Bumblebee said simply. "And I've been doing some research. These little guys have some nasty ones. We just have to make sure that they're aimed at the right target."

"Well, if you and Jazz and whoever else going to this little tea party believe that the squishies have the brain capacity to do that, then I'm not going to bother trying to change your minds."

Bumblebee went silent again, and then said, "The humans arrange themselves into family units here, did you know that? Kind of like carriers and cassettes."

"No, I didn't know that, and, you know what? I still don't care."

"I'm just thinking…that my cover is going to be a lot simpler, now. I could pretend to be a sub-adult. A youth slightly older than the cub we met today. Acting like…I think the term is 'older brother.'"

Even as his said this, Sunstreaker detected a gleam in his ward's optics. Bumblebee always delighted in the prospect of adopting yet another persona, savoured the anticipation of playing yet another role.

Well, he was a mini-bot programmed for spy work.

Sunstreaker just looked at him and said, "This means you're gonna be even more annoying for the next little while, aren't you?"

"Probably."

X x X

Sunstreaker, Jazz radioed. I need you to give something to Prowl for me.

Why radio me? Can't tell Prowl to get it?

The words 'Red Alert has reason to believe that Prowl's radio lines are being tapped' mean anything to you? His radio lines are off-limits until new firewalls are put in place.

Why can't you do it? Sunstreaker asked, scowling into his energon cube.

I'm…a lil' busy at the moment. Bumblebee captured a spy while on patrol.

And with that, Jazz turned on some music. It emanated from his office, all sharps and flats and screeches and croons, all to an upbeat rhythm and beat, floating upon joyous human voices whose earnestness far surpassed their talent. Jazz had rigged the thing so that the music played continuously; there was no pause between tracks.

And Sunstreaker knew that Jazz was working.

He abandoned his cube and headed towards Jazz's office. He passed by the rec room, where he spotted one of two of their regular visitors.

"I told you he'd like this band," the female yelled, trying to be heard over the din. The male probably yelled something back, but whatever it was, Sunstreaker didn't care to know.

And at his destination, where the music rose to deafening levels, Jazz sat at a desk, looking at the prisoner behind the glass.

Verbalization was useless. Voices lied all the time. If you wanted information, you had to extract it from their processors. Jazz was the best at what he did; second to none.

Jazz glanced at him—at least, Sunstreaker thought he did, it was always hard to tell, since Jazz hid his optics behind those visors—and then nodded at the innocent-looking data pad at the desk.

Sunstreaker spared a glance at the prisoner behind the glass, and then quietly agreed with Jazz's unspoken sentiment of "this is something we don't want outsiders to know about."

Is this one going to be missed? Sunstreaker radioed.

Blaster looked through all the human media; they don't know about this one, Jazz said. He leaned back in his chair, frowning. At least some things work in our favour.

Do you actually like this sorry excuse for music?Sunstreaker asked, picking up the data pad. Humans would probably rupture an eardrum or something, at this volume, but to Sunstreaker, it was just highly annoying.

Jazz had leaned back in his seat, into the shadows, and so Sunstreaker couldn't even make out Jazz's visor, but he knew that Jazz's gaze never left their prisoner.

The pause lasted for so long that Sunstreaker thought that Jazz wasn't going to answer. He turned to leave, but then the special ops commander said: When I'm not me.

What?

When I'm not me, Jazz repeated absently. I love music like this. All the beats, the rhythms, the sounds. And when I'm not me again, I'm goin' to go thank Spike and Carly, and I'll ask them to show me more songs I might like…but right now, I am me. So to answer your question: no, I don't. But it's useful.

Sunstreaker shook his head, left Jazz's office, and then headed down the hall towards the Prowl's office as the beats and the drums and the sound of humans trying to create something greater than themselves drowned out the screams.

X x X

It was just another day on the Ark. Bumblebee and his human friend were in the rec room. Sunstreaker was lounging at another desk, at the opposite end of the room. It didn't do for Bumblebee's cover, after all, if the humans realized that his best friend was the only mech that the humans felt wary around. They avoided Sunstreaker if they could, but to the rest of the mechs (but especially to those who were just as dangerous, if not more—like Prowl, Jazz, Optimus) they ran up to like cyber-hounds wagging their tails.

Fragging organics, he thought. Your survival instincts suck.

He nursed his energon cube and watched as Bumblebee pretended to be interested as the organic prattled on about some insignificant galaxy named after a dairy product.

Or maybe he wasn't pretending and was actually interested. It was hard to tell with Bumblebee, nowadays. Sometimes he was too effective a spy for his own good.

If they wanted to learn important stuff about human interaction, Sunstreaker thought, casting a tired look at Bumblebee's friend. They totally picked the wrong human.

Bumblebee's little friend was like that, a lot. More interested in the strangeness that was out there than the strangeness at home. More interested in stars than in the marvel that was some insane, backwater organic planet that somehow made it.

Maybe that was why the kid liked spending more time around the Ark than out there in the human world; why he thought he identified more with giant alien robots than with his fellow human beings.

If he only knew. There were so many little things, in these dark halls…

For instance, Sunstreaker wondered how he'd react if he was told that it was Sunstreaker who essentially raised Bumblebee.

"Wait," he remembered Sideswipe saying to Jazz. "You're saying that Prowl can't handle a mini-bot? As in, make-mechs-bleed-after-they've-been-bled-dry Prowl?"

"Bumblebee's no ordinary mini-bot," Jazz had said grimly. "Guess bein' war-sparked tends to leave a mark, at least for this lil' one. He doesn't know any other way of livin.'"

"Good excuse, Jazz," Sunstreaker had said. "Since no one else is willing to, I'll take the scraplet."

"You, Sunstreaker? But…"

"Got any other ideas?"

Despite popular opinion, Sunstreaker had occasional twinges to be kind, to think of something other than himself. He figured that was a glitch in his programming; a glitch in every mech's programming.

Aw, fraggit, Sunstreaker thought, leaning back at his chair and looking at Bumblebee and his friend with a critical optic. They didn't notice. At least, the human didn't; Sunstreaker knew that Bumblebee did, and just chose to ignore him. The squishies ain't all that bad. At least they're obedient little things.

They never went past the shadowy corridors, never asked what was behind that one room, never noticed when Bumblebee or some other 'bot panicked when they got too close.

He imagined the conversation they would have had if only the humans could rub two brain cells together.

"What's in that room?" they would have asked, pointing to the locked door at the end of the empty corridor.

"Jazz's office," he imagined himself saying. "You're not allowed in. They don't want to ruin your tiny little minds. I could draw you a picture, but it would require a lot of pink and purple. Jazz tends to leave the room a real mess afterwards."

They could never imagine the secrets of these dark halls. They could never imagine the stories that these garish orange walls would tell if they could have spoken. Their puny organic minds seemed unable to grasp the concept of "the grey area." People were good, or they were evil, and that was that.

They did that a lot, which amazed him. A single human understood the complexity of itself and itself alone, but everyone else was a two-dimensional thing with simple motivations. Love the Us because the Us are the incorruptible pure thingies of undiluted goodness but hate the Other because they are Different.

Fragger, even Autobots knew better than that, and they were at constant war with the Decepticons. Knew that Thundercracker was the only thing holding his trine together, knew that Shockwave would take a blast for his lord, knew that Soundwave loved his cassettes more than he loved himself, and that was rare in any person, let alone in a 'Con, but that didn't stop them from being the enemy.

The list of what humans would never understand about them was long enough to span from Earth to Cybertron. Their relationship with the 'Cons was probably at the top of that list.

X x X

Prowl was in his office, talking to the squishy in the wheelchair. It was a sight in and of itself; there the SIC was, a small smile on his face as the human told him of some inane form of entertainment. He was far too dignified to do something like rest his elbows on his desk, but he was leaning back in his chair, perfectly relaxed and pretending to give the human his rapt attention.

At least Sunstreaker thought he was pretending. It was hard to tell with Prowl, nowadays.

Humans might have likened it to watching a parent indulge a very young child, but Sunstreaker thought it was closer to watching said child playing nicely with a beloved toy.

Sunstreaker hovered around the entrance, irritated that he couldn't just go in there with the data pad.

Theatrics, theatrics. And their guest didn't even know that he ought to be appreciative.

As soon as Prowl saw Sunstreaker—or, more importantly, the data pad in his hands—his countenance changed. His relaxed air was gone, his frame stiffened, and his optics, for a moment too brief to be detected by human eyes, flashed red.

And then he did what he normally did when he could no longer entertain a guest.

"Prowl?" the human asked quietly. "Did your logic processors freeze up on you again? Come on, Prowl. You were making such good progress! We were only talking about 'As the Kitchen Sinks.'"

The fact that Prowl remained silent was answer enough for the human. Quickly, he exited the room, presumably to get Ratchet, completely missing Sunstreaker.

How did they ever become a dominant species on this planet? Sunstreaker thought for the thousandth time.

As soon as he was gone, Prowl straightened up, and Sunstreaker entered the room.

"Got a report from Jazz for you," he said.

"Jazz could not come himself?"

"He was busy. Music playing, you know the drill."

"I see." Prowl took the data pad, and gave Sunstreaker one of his piercing looks. "Did you read it?"

Sunstreaker looked at him incredulously. "Does it look like I want to be terminated?" But Prowl was already downloading info from the data pad directly into his processor—the safest place for highly classified information to be.

"There are easier ways, you know," Sunstreaker said after a pause. "You could have just asked him to leave."

Prowl shook his head. "It is not part of my character," he said. "Do remember, we supposedly trust the humans with all of our affairs. Asking him to leave would make him suspicious."

The data pad was almost empty as Prowl downloaded the memory, wiping it clean lest the information fall into the wrong hands, metal or otherwise.

"He'll be back with the Hatchet soon, oh logic-processor-plagued one," Sunstreaker said. "Ratchet will stall for as long as he can, but he'll have to come. And just how are you going to explain your miraculous recovery?"

Prowl waved at him dismissively. "I will think of something. I always do."

"Weren't you the one who drilled it into me about how crying saber-wolf would get me killed one day?"

"The audience has changed," Prowl said. He was still downloading the data. Runes were scrolling across his optics, too quick for even a Cybertronian to read. "He…always believes me," Prowl continued, more softly now. "I doubt his nature would allow him to be otherwise."

There was a strange quality in Prowl's tone as he mentioned the human. Perhaps it was because the information download was taking up more of his attention.

X x X

Shortly after waking, Sunstreaker realized that there must be something in this planet's energy that made rational mechs insane. Bumblebee wasn't the only one to adopt a persona to better get along with their hosts. Soon after they had established some shoddy form of normalcy for themselves, it seemed that everyone brought out a lighter and fluffier version of themselves.

In front of the humans, Jazz decided that he'd be the stylish, music-loving, older big brother.

Prowl somehow adopted the notion that he was so logical that any form of stupidity on earth would break him.

The first time had been a pure accident, but Wheeljack took the opportunity to establish himself as the fun-loving, clumsy engineer.

And Bumblebee…well, needless to say, Bumblebee really seemed to like his new cover.

And, even more annoying than Bumblebee's childish personality, Sideswipe decided that he was the fun-loving prankster, and that he and Sunstreaker were spark-split twins. Sunstreaker had rolled his optics at that. Firstly, he'd never have a "brother," or whatever, like Sideswipe. Even he had standards. Secondly, the only thing that spark-splitting made was a controller and a drone; one consciousness in two bodies. You couldn't make two different people from one spark—it was impossible.

But the humans didn't need to know that now, did they?

However, this little proclamation had prevented Sunstreaker from killing him. By the time he realized what persona Sideswipe had adopted, all the Autobots had been reporting it as The Truth. All he could do was to glare and to radio threats as Sideswipe, in front of a handful of humans, had draped his arm around him and proclaimed that "I'm the better-looking twin."

He knew that Sideswipe did it to just annoy him.

But the humans lapped it up, anyway.

They believed that Prowl and Bluestreak were brothers, that Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were twins, that Bumblebee was the little brother of the Autobots, that Optimus and Elita-1 were lovers, that Blaster and company were like a small family…

That the Autobots were good and the Decepticons were evil.

They were so simple-minded that they tried to humanize everything, trying to make everything else fit their norms.

Friendship, family, brotherhood, good, evil…It all meant something to humans, and the Autobots did have rough equivalents, but for the most part, those words were just as alien as the humans were.

X x X

The great part about the Ark was that there was never a boring moment. As soon as Sunstreaker left Prowl's office, there was a mini-explosion from the science labs further down the hall that could be heard even over Jazz's blaring music.

Sunstreaker knew that Wheeljack would give a sheepish, "I didn't know that would happen," and if Ratchet had an audience within earshot, he'd give an enraged howl. The humans, if they figured out that the explosion did indeed come from Wheeljack's lab (yet again), would laugh, because as they all knew, Wheeljack was the undisputed champion of Boom and Oops.

Sunstreaker once again marveled at the simplicity of humans. They accepted that Jazz was very savvy in human culture and never asked why; they accepted that Prowl's logic processors froze even though such a sensitive system would be highly detrimental in anyone, let alone in an SIC; they accepted that Wheeljack had the astounding ability to make even the most unexplode-able thing blow up just by being near it. Scrap that, just by thinking about it.

They never realized that the Autobots all got to where they were by being very, very good at their jobs; second to none.

Sunstreaker got to the lab even before Ratchet did. He glared at the form, who was going "Owie. I hurt," even though there was no audience…well, no audience who would appreciate the act. Sunstreaker growled, and then helped up a soot-covered Wheeljack.

"You know, I'm probably going to regret asking this," he said. "But why in the great fires of the Pit do you keep doing this to yourself? What are you, a masochist, or something?"

The sheepishness was gone the instant Wheeljack realized who his audience was. "Saw Chip going out, looking really concerned," he said casually, brushing himself off. All he did was rearrange the dirt a little. "Knew he went to go and talk to Prowl, so I put two and two together and came up with: 'redirect' Ratchet's attention before he'd have to go to Prowl's so-called 'aid.'"

"So that's your reason today," Sunstreaker scoffed. "But what about yesterday? Yesterday all you were doing was talking to a bunch of organics."

Wheeljack shrugged. "It makes them laugh."

Sunstreaker just stared at him. There was a chance that Wheeljack wasn't being serious—but it was usually easier to tell with someone like Wheeljack. "That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard, and we are currently living on a ridiculous planet," he said finally. "Sometimes I think I'm the only sane mech still standing."

Another shrug. "Well," Wheeljack said. "Sanity is relative."

"You know that Ratchet is probably going to rip out your parts for causing all this damage, right?"

Wheeljack scoffed. "Please. Ratchet saves that for the 'Cons. And besides," he added, and now there was a glint in his optics that the humans would never see. "I can take care of myself."

X x X

The day had gone on for too long. Sunstreaker could handle his comrades a little at a time, but today they were proving to be too much, and to make matters worse, they had brought their secondary personalities with them.

He used to be able to tell, with each of them, where the line was between the real Autobots and the humans' Autobots. Now the line was growing thinner and thinner, and Sunstreaker never liked not knowing where his comrades stood...

It was late in the orn when Sunstreaker finally snapped. The humans had gone home, so most of his comrades were back to being as normal as they could ever be, but Bumblebee had been all happy and cheery and bubbly, and the thing was, there was absolutely no-fragging-anyone to pretend to.

Some days, Sunstreaker could just ignore him. Some days, he'd actually be amused that Bumblebee was so deep into his cover that he kept up the charade even when his targets were away.

But today, it was all just too much.

"Quit it," he said.

"Quit what?" Bumblebee asked, his blue optics wide and baffled. It almost looked natural on him. Luckily, Sunstreaker had the advantage of raising this little terror to know better, and that innocent expression he tried to pull only served to annoy him more.

"Your targets aren't here. There's no one to pretend to. So stop it, it's getting fragging annoying."

"Oh. I didn't realize I was doing it…"

"Well, you were. So stop."

"…Sorry."

"Sorry, nothing," Sunstreaker snapped. "What's gotten into you, lately?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean," Sunstreaker said, his optics narrowing. "Your cover. It's eating away at you. You've been at this for who knows how long. I don't know why anyone else hasn't said anything, so maybe they think that you're really into your 'mission,' or something, but the thing is that even when the human is away, you act differently. What is with you? Does it really take a Decepticon attack to get you to act normal again? And it's not just you, either," Sunstreaker added. "Am I really the only sane mech left, here? The only one who doesn't pretend to be someone else?"

Bumblebee tried to hold his gaze, but then looked away, and his optics looked almost downcast. "I think…I like it, Sunstreaker."

"What?"

"Pretending," Bumblebee said quietly. "Being someone else, someone not me…it feels good, for a while." Then Bumblebee rose his head to look at him again, and in the coldness of his optics, Sunstreaker knew that the original Bumblebee was back. "You come to a new planet," Bumblebee continued. "Where no one knows you, and you can be anything or anyone, and they'll believe you, because that's what they do, they'll always believe you because you've made yourself one of them. It was a mission, at first, but then it became….nice, I guess is the word. And it is nice, Sunstreaker. I like playing this part. I actually want to do things like play catch, or have long pointless arguments, or skive off a shift to go see a movie…"He trailed off again, and then concluded with:

"Out there, it isn't safe. Out there, I have to be me, even if 'me' is sometimes the last person I want to be, even though, at the end of the day, I know I've gone so far down I can't be anyone else. But I can pretend. Out there, it isn't safe," he repeated. "But I can pretend that in here, with them, it is."

Bumblebee sat there, looking at his hands, while Sunstreaker just looked at him in shock.

"Bumblebee," Sunstreaker said, as softly as someone like him was able. "You know this isn't going to last. You can't change who you are."

"I can pretend. No crime in liking to pretend."

"Sooner or later, something's gonna slip," Sunstreaker said, and an edge was back in his voice. "Someone's gonna mess up. One of these days, the 'Cons are going to pull something stupid and then we're gonna have to stop pulling punches. One of these days, they're going to wander into a dark room and wonder why certain things are there. And once that day comes, you'll have no use for them anymore. He's a target, Bumblebee. Isn't that the first thing Jazz taught you? Don't get close."

Sunstreaker let the silence linger a while, hoping that his words got through Bumblebee's dense helm.

"And I don't understand what you see in him," Sunstreaker continued. "What you see in all of them. They're a primitive species—"

"They're a young species."

"They're so blind—"

"Too trusting."

"And too stupid."

"Do you think that I can't see that?" Bumblebee asked. "I know that. I know all of that. Sometimes it makes me ashamed to play my role because they're just so easy to fool. But…but I still want to keep him." His voice was small, and had the childish selfishness of his older-brother persona but underlain with the dark determination of his special ops core. And in that instant, Sunstreaker didn't know if this was his Bumblebee or the human's Bumblebee, or, for that matter, if there was a difference anymore, because one was as real as the other.

In the silence that ensued, Sunstreaker decided that Bumblebee must be going mad. How could one live like that, juggling those two parts? And it wasn't just Bumblebee, either.

Maybe they were all just really big hams and loved being on the largest stage on Earth. Maybe they just wanted to outdo one another, figuring out who can best play their part.

Maybe they found a thrill in the dichotomy, figuring out how much they could stretch both the light and dark parts of their sparks before tearing them.

Maybe it was that they were so twisted and messed up that the kindness in them—if there was any to begin with—had to go somewhere. Jazz had Prowl; Prowl had Bluestreak; Inferno had Red Alert; Mirage had Cliffjumper and all of them, in some twisted way, had Optimus Prime,and Optimus had them, so whatever was left over might as well go to a bunch of weak organics that weren't good for anything and could never hurt anyone that mattered, not to mention (and perhaps this was the most important thing) had the blind loyalty of cyber-hounds.

But whatever the reason, all his comrades, it seemed, couldn't live without those two sides.

They kept changing and changing back again. Changing, for instance, from older brother to merciless assassin, from mellow music lover to professional interrogator, from socially awkward friend to coldly logical SIC, from annoying prankster to sadistic killer, from grouchy medic to bitter angel of death, from loveable, clumsy engineer to a brilliant, efficient scientist who made things and people explode only when he wanted to…

From benevolent father figure to…to something he couldn't even begin to describe.

Each and every one of them, changing from this to that and that to this with as little as an optic shutter, and no one thought that it was strange.

And in that dark room, in that silence, Sunstreaker decided that everyone was going mad.

X x X

"Have you seen Bumblebee around?" a voice asked. Sunstreaker stopped in his tracks, and looked down. The thing was a not a metre away from his foot. He glared icily at the human, who in turn returned a gaze that would make a newly-sparked cyber-hound proud.

Evolution, Sunstreaker decided, was a real pain in the aft for making it so that young, stupid humans could pull off those wide, trusting eyes, making sure that they'd get what they want.

Not that that worked on Sunstreaker, but still, that look was so sugary it was sickening.

Sunstreaker felt something snap inside of him, just a little, as if this human's query was the last straw—or close enough to it, anyway.

Bumblebee's new persona was getting annoying and everyone was acting crazy and the humans were still like a bunch of lobotomized cyber-hounds, and it—all of this—annoyed him so much that he thought about ending this little tea party. He thought about ripping away the masks and showing the kid what they—the Autobots—really are in the dark, just to see if he'd run out of the base with his tail between his legs, crying and begging to be let go when an energon-covered Bumblebee tried to stop him…

And then maybe all the crazy would stop.

All he'd have to do was to plaster on a grin and say, "You know what? I think Bumblebee's in his room. The door locks automatically, so here's the code, don't bother knocking, no one else ever does…"

But Bumblebee could probably talk himself out of that one. The kid would believe anything Bumblebee said, even if he was covered in the blood of his enemy, and then Sunstreaker would have to keep one optic open while he recharged until either he or Bumblebee were offlined first.

So then, he could direct him towards Jazz's "office," or Ratchet's "supply room," or Red Alert's "security centre," or…

Oh, endless possibilities in these dark halls. He knew how this story would end: "And so Bumblebee continued to wash away the evidence, thinking about how he'd better hurry up before his friend arrived, when the screaming started…"

But he instead, he scowl deepened, and his optics narrowed in disgust. "How should I know?" he snapped. "I ain't his baby-sitter. Go to the rec room. Knowing that slacker, he'll go there eventually." He turned away, and the human shrugged, and started heading towards said room. "And stay out of the halls," he added, not turning back. "You'll get squished. Primus, you organics have no survival programming. It's a wonder how you naked monkeys made it…"

Sunstreaker turned a corner, and radioed Bumblebee. The kid's looking for you, he said. Better get your aft here before he starts asking pesky questions.

There was a shocked pause, and then Bumblebee said, Thanks.

Thanks, nothing. You owe me.

Then Sunstreaker cut the connection.

Bumblebee's little friend was too young, too trusting, and too stupid. He was too much of many things, but Bumblebee still wanted to keep him, and despite popular opinion, Sunstreaker had occasional urges to be kind, to think of something other than himself.

Of course, that just meant that maybe Bumblebee wouldn't be so lucky the next time around.

Bumblebee was his ward and his friend, but this second personality of his was getting annoying, and the madness was catching, and he was the only sane mech left, and everyone was acting crazy, and the humans were still like cyber-hounds, and this little tea party was getting really tiresome…