Thirty Days in a Second
Twenty-four hundred and six seconds.
Twenty four hundred and seven seconds.
Twenty four hundred and eight seconds...
Arcee opened her eyes to the midnight sun shining in a brilliant blue sky. The snow around her sparkled. She swung her hand at a dead Scraplet lying nearby, and her fingers made it roll across the ice.
Back to normal time again. Back to the safety of an intact universe. Back to the war she spent her life fighting.
For her, this was a bittersweet victory. Everything went back to normal minus the person who made it happen. Arcee wiped at her optics. Her Spark ached with memories of red eyes and long fingers, yet she refused let her tears fall. Starscream wouldn't want that.
"Starscream..." She stood up, faced the sun and hung her head to honor his bravery. Her blue armor glistened with frost. "Thank you."
Sacrifice-something she never thought a Decepticon would do. Yet a span of time shorter than a Spark-beat changed everything.
"You're welcome." A voice crooned in her audio.
The pain froze in Arcee's chest. Her optics sprang open wide. She whirled and threw herself into a pair of waiting arms. "Starscream! Oh, scrap...I thought-"
Starscream caught her and covered her mouth with his own. They kissed that way for ages. He pulled back and grinned. That cocky, annoying and wonderful grin she never thought she would see again.
"So did I...for a nanosecond. Are you disappointed that I survived?"
"You aft! You dumbaft!" Arcee snarled. She kicked his legs out from under him and flipped him onto his back in the snow.
"I'll take that as a-oof! Was that really necessary, Arcee?"
Arcee rolled up a snowball and lobbed it point blank. She watched it explode between Starscream's optics.
"Yup. Very necessary."
He wiped his face. "What a strange way to show someone you're happy."
"You should see me on a bad day. I make everybody miserable." Arcee snorted, helping him up. She pulled her temper back and calmly asked, "What about the generator?"
"The void consumed it right after it sent the pulse." His optics gleamed like they did in the cave. "But don't you see? My generator worked. It worked!"
She grinned and clasped his hands. "Time travel."
"The best part is knowing nothing can affect the past. I can write all about my success without worrying about Megatron abusing it later. Unfortunately, it will be millennia before I can build a stable generator and attempt another experiment." His eyebrows went up, "Not that I'm in any hurry."
"Ratchet to Arcee. Do you copy?"
Their smiles faltered. Ratchet's familiar voice was a stark reminder of where in time they were.
Arcee touched her audio. "Copy."
"Thank the Allspark! Are you all right?" Ratchet's voice had a nervous quiver. "The ground bridge just overloaded! Did another bridge open near yours?"
"Yes, but I'm fine. Everything's fine, Ratchet." She squeezed Starscream's hand. "Everything's fine."
"Be on alert," Optimus joined the channel. "Sensors indicate Starscream is close to your location."
Arcee almost giggled. She decided not to spill the peas. Or was it beans? Earth vernacular was still new to her.
"I'll be able to bridge you back shortly. I have to recalibrate your coordinates into the computer." Ratchet said. He sounded utterly relieved.
"Yeah, about that?" She gazed into Starscream's eyes. "You might want to do a Scraplet cleanup. Some of them woke up. There isn't anything worth retrieving here now, but I'm not sure which Scraplets are dead and which are in stasis."
Bulkhead shrieked in the background. That time, Arcee did laugh. She came so close to never seeing their faces again, and they had no idea. To them, she never disappeared at all.
She remembered to stop her timer. Seven hundred and twenty hours, twelve minutes and fifty seven seconds.
"Acknowledged. Prepare to bridge home in five minutes."
"Thanks, Ratchet. Arcee, out." Arcee released her com button and took Starscream's other hand. "Back when I lost my grip...you said something. Did you-"
Starscream nodded his head. He glanced down at their interlocked fingers. His optics had the faintest glimmer of pain. "Now we go back to war."
"And when it's over?" She asked.
"If we're both still here..." He smirked and brought his hands together around hers. His eyes pierced her Spark with a promise from the depths of his own. "I'll be waiting."
She embraced him. He awkwardly returned it.
"Whatever happens, we can remember," Starscream sighed.
Arcee could not believe she felt mech fluid in the corners of her eyes. Then she decided tears weren't the worst thing in the world. She let them fall in silence. He brushed one away with his thumb.
"Kiss me goodbye?" She whispered.
He obliged. It was desperate and hungry, and for that moment time stood still once more.
Electrical discharges signaled an incoming ground bridge. The green portal silhouetted Arcee and Starscream while they held desperately to their goodbye kiss.
Starscream drew back. He released Arcee's hands without a word. She watched him turn and walk away.
Just before she entered the ground bridge, she looked back.
He was doing the same.
Arcee raised her hand in a wave.
Grinning, Starscream waggled his eyebrows. He transformed and lifted off in the time it took Arcee to roll her eyes at that last, asinine gesture.
You arrogant aft. Arcee thought, but she couldn't resist an amused smirk. You never know what the future holds. Sometimes, it falls apart...and sometimes, it changes you. Starscream, if everything works out right...you'll be part of it again. I'll wait as long as it takes.
Arcee faced the portal, admiring the yellow and white striations in its green swirl. She felt like a pond after someone threw in a stone. Her surface looked the same once the ripples died down, but underneath she was forever changed. The same thing happened to Starscream. She saw it in his eyes, and it gave her hope. No matter what happened, they could remember how their lives were altered in the glimmer of an optic.
Arcee composed her expression. Life would go back to normal once she returned to the Autobot base. She couldn't stall forever.
"Arcee?" Ratchet's voice came over her com signal. "Are you all right?"
"I'm just fine. Warping home now."
With a final sigh, she entered the portal and melded back into the present.