Who are you? Who have you been?

Sometimes, when he looks at Inferno -Inferno with his ramrod straight posture, passionate gestures, cultured words, simple logic- those questions flicker through Waspinator's processor.

Inferno is big, imposing. The way he stands, stiff and straight, makes him seem even more impressive than he is. He takes no issue with getting in your face when he needs to. Your personal space is his personal space; he doesn't seem to understand that every one has a comfort zone.

For Waspinator, it's both blessing and curse. Sometimes, he wants -needs- some one close by. It isn't just the insect instinct in Waspinator's case; too often tossed to the wayside and starved for attention, he craves the contact. Other times, it's frightening, when Inferno is looming over him, growling about how useless and moronic he is.

Is this Inferno from before? Did he always tower over others, ease in to the space crafted to keep others away? He gets too close, but there's no telling Inferno to move; this is the way he is.

…Or is it?

He is all fire and passion and flowery language when he really gets off on a rant. Waspinator doesn't doubt that this is something Inferno has been all along; there are some things that just don't change. So who was Inferno, with these qualities?

Sometimes, Waspinator likes to imagine that Inferno the Maximal may have been an educator. He can picture Inferno standing tall amidst a gathering of students, banging a fist on the podium and ranting about history, the past, the Great War and the reason for all things. His would be an epic study of society, of Autobots and Decepticons and reasons for their hatred. History -and the future- cannot be understood, after all, if the people of the past are not understood.

Inferno is exceptional at explaining why things are and why they cannot be. The world is black and white with no shades of grey in between. Inferno knows this to be true.

He won't allow it not to be true.

Waspinator is also aware of the fact that Inferno is much more nurturing and caring than any one would believe. Megatron brushes it off as some odd ant compulsion - this need to organize them in to a family unit must simply be an ant-like way of thinking. Waspinator suspects it isn't true, because he himself is subject to some of the same compulsions -wasps are also social insects with similar colony structures- and he's never felt the need to fuss about the others and declare Megatron the Queen.

It is just Inferno, he thinks, who has a caring personality. Another reason to think he had a hand in studies and cultivating young minds in his past life. Teachers are meant to nurture the thoughts of others, after all, and Inferno tends to be very good at that.

This must have been how he was before, because Waspinator's been reformatted enough times to know that there are some things so intrinsically you that they can never change. Inferno the Predacon can't possibly be that different from Inferno the Maximal; though Waspinator doesn't recall ever meeting a Maximal quite like Inferno.

It's not like Waspinator spends much time with Maximals except when they are trying to shoot him, but still…

"Are you functional?"

Waspinator's vision flickers. He tries to speak, but all that comes out is a broken, static-laden buzz. Some one is growling at him -Inferno, of course- but he can't see very well through the haze clouding his optics.

Where are his wings? Why isn't his body following commands to move? He feels like lead; what happened?

Oh yeah.

The same thing that always happens.

"Get up!"

And he's jerked roughly from the ground, which shifts beneath his feet as he nearly pitches forward face first. Inferno's hands are clutching his upper arms, steadying him, but it doesn't seem to help. He can feel his knee joints threatening to buckle under his own weight; it must have been quite the ambush, but Waspinator doesn't really remember.

Inferno easily slings the limp body of his partner over his shoulder and heads for the base. Waspinator dangles there, unable to struggle against the rough treatment, even if he wanted to. He's grateful; usually no one bothers to retrieve him.

"You fought well." Inferno grunts out the comment as he marches toward the horizon, "How were we supposed to know that device would explode on impact?"

Oh. That's what happened.

Inferno is waiting for him when he emerges from the CR bath late in the day. Waiting, but not idle, of course. He has a data pad in his hand and is scrolling through the text on the screen, an impatient frown on his face.

"Ah." He sets the pad aside as Waspinator emerges, "The Queen has seen fit to reward us for our work today. We failed to retrieve the device, but the fact that it was destroyed pleased him and he has gifted us with some downtime." Inferno does not always enjoy free time; it is time he could use better serving the Queen. But sometimes…He does feel the need to socialize with his peers.

And Waspinator plays a mean game of cards.

Waspinator shakes his head a little, stretching and fluttering his wings. It feels good to be whole again, and he is glad to know he doesn't need to get back to work immediately.

"Come." Inferno beckons in a grand gesture, "Quickstrike is waiting and I doubt he will stay in one place much longer." And he smiles, pointy teeth glinting in the dim light, the display of emotion flickering quickly across his face, then gone again.

Waspinator follows, thinking again on who Inferno is.

In these rare moments, when Inferno smiles those genuinely content smiles -as opposed to the manic grin plastered on his face during battle- and takes the time to offer a kind word here and there -and they are real words. Inferno is nothing if not honest; he has never been able to lie- that Waspinator feels it in his spark: This is who Inferno really is.

And he knows.

It doesn't matter. Inferno will always be who he is; he will always care, even when it doesn't seem to be so. This is, after all, the Inferno from before; the Inferno who is still in there, somewhere, hidden under glitches and file corruptions and his reprogramming.

And Waspinator isn't scared; doesn't fear Inferno rising from his own ashes as the Maximal he really is.

Because he knows.

Inferno will still be stiff and stubborn and unyielding. He will still think everything through logically. He will still speak with authority and a certain fluidity that most do not. And he will still carry himself rigidly, with a certain mechanical grace that only he can manage.

And he will still care; still try to help. And maybe Waspinator -so tired of hurting- will go with him, to a new-old life where Inferno belongs.

And Inferno will be so different, yet so perfectly the same.

Because some things…

They just never change.