Huh… how to apologize? You have been such a wonderful group of readers and I've let you down with this story… It's true that I've been insanely busy most of these past few months, but that's no excuse to leave you hanging like I did.
Another truth is that I lost a lot of inspiration after the disappointment the second season of TFP turned to be. It was sad, very sad, to witness most of those wonderful characters treated with so much disrespect, not to mention all the promising subplots and character development thrown to the garbage can. Everybody has their own opinion on the matter, but in my case, seeing the series being filled with clichés and Mary/Gary-sueish bullslag almost managed to kill my enthusiasm for Prime.
But, BUT, at the end my love for these giant robots prevailed – also the fact that the second season ended, lol – and I found my inspiration again. No matter how badly the series was thrown to the Pit, it would be just as unfair to forget all the awesomeness that the show had at the beginning.
So I'm back to this fic, revitalized and as in love with it as I was when I first started writing it.
Please enjoy, and feel free to take a look at the previous chapters if you don't remember what the heck was this all about. I'm aware that it has been a while since I posted an update :oP
Many thanks to iratepirate for her help and support, not to mention the time she takes to revise my grammar.
That little spot that stings
"A little late for your doctor's appointment, aren't you liebling?"
Arcee frowned. It was very easy to forget that that presumptuous Decepticon was actually a physician.
"You're an insult to medical practice," she replied coldly.
"Why? Because medics save lives?" Knock Out laughed, his arrogant tone of voice doing nothing to ease Arcee's anxiety. "Oh, you heroic Autobots, always playing by the book… I wonder if you have the slightest idea of what life really means."
Arcee's frown increased, as impossible as she thought it would be. There was something in his voice, in his simple proximity, that made her feel angry. The nanomites attached to her circuits complied in unison, stubborn in reminding her that it wasn't precisely anger that ran through her fuel lines.
"Ah, I touched a sensitive spot, I presume," he continued. "Should I skip formalities, then, and proceed to the reason that brought you here? Perhaps I should spare you from admitting the obvious and simply state the fact that you couldn't stay away from me."
Arcee had to make a big effort to avoid clenching her fists, not to mention activating her blaster. She didn't know what unnerved her more, his simple presence or the fact that he didn't seem to be as disturbed as she was. Had she gotten the worst part of the virus?
"I'm not going to waste my time with your delusions, Decepticon. I trust that you are already aware of the virus that infected us after our encounter with the human mercenaries."
Knock Out snorted. "Be certain that I was aware of that long before you, femme. I am a scientist."
Arcee could have thought of a hundred ways to refute his last statement, but the less time she remained there, the better.
"How fortunate," she said, trying to rotate the balance of mockery to her favor. "Then I assume you have come up with a solution already, being a scientist as you claim to be."
It worked, at least momentarily. Knock Out's vain smirk vanished and left a dark grimace in its place. Good; one mad, evil Decepticon was something Arcee could deal with.
"I would have a cure indeed, had I had access to a sample of the other half of the virus," he hissed between gritted dental plates. "But you were such a bad date, Autobot. You forgot to leave your number, not to mention your head."
She definitely didn't like the way he emphasized the word 'head'. "You will have to forgive me for that, but you were in such a hurry to flee with your tailpipe between your legs after the humans scrapped you…"
His optics narrowed, making Arcee feel better. If at least the nanomites stopped humming inside her, then perhaps she could give the current situation a label of normality.
"Masks off, Autobot," he spat. "I take it you are desperate to find an antivirus."
"Not as much as you are, I can see." Arcee felt better every with every astro-second. His anger also meant his defeat. If he remained like the self-centered Decepticon he really was, everything would be fine.
Knock Out seemed taken aback, but he tried to recover his façade. "So, we have a common goal… Cooperating with Autobots is not precisely listed amongst my directives, but I guess this time I can make an exception. Release me from this cell. I too am, I'm sure you can tell, very interested in finding a cure."
"When exactly do you think I was created, Decepticon? You were brought here as a prisoner, and thus you will remain until Ratchet examines you."
"Ratchet?" he spat the name with contempt. "Do you mean that old model is still running? The virus must have also corroded your cerebral shells if you think I'm going to allow that antique to put his rusted hands on me!"
"It's not like you have a choice in the matter."
Knock Out growled, struggling with his handcuffs despite the fact that he almost certainly knew that his efforts would be useless.
"You better save your energy," Arcee said, trying to ignore the fact that seeing him suffering, even if slightly, was a disturbing sight. "You are going to need it."
"Oh, that should be the last of your worries, Autobot. I have plenty of energy to spare!" Knock Out struggled a little more before falling to his knees. His head was bowed, making Arcee wonder if he was in any kind of pain. She turned her head aside, once again finding the idea upsetting.
"What is it?"
Arcee looked at him again.
"What is it that you carry?" he spoke again, his voice suddenly so calm and sinister. "I know that my part of the virus is merely the vessel of yours."
"Nanomites." She didn't know why she had replied. If anything, he deserved only her indifference. "Ratchet hasn't deciphered their complete composition, though."
"What did I tell you about that old model, schöne Frau?" he said, moving to stand up but remaining on one knee. "He can run all the tests he wants, and yet he won't be able to decipher anything. We both know that."
His eyes pierced her more than focused on her when he raised his head. "We both know what we felt, back there on that filthy ground where you set your trap. Was it the proximity of my saw that made you tremble, my dear Autobot, or was it something else?"
Arcee's optics widened. Anger returned, an enemy she had been foolish enough to believe beaten. No, it hadn't been the sharp saw rotating so close to her face, it hadn't been the proximity of termination, it hadn't even been the knowledge that there was a potentially deadly virus within her…
"Is it my, allow me to quote you, delusion that is currently increasing the temperature of your energy core?"
It was true. Arcee's inner temperature was higher than warm. Pleasant, but annoying, just as everything regarding that Decepticon was turning out to be.
"We were infected by two halves of the same virus," she stated curtly. "It's only natural that they react when they detect each other's proximity."
"To the point of actually making me stop in the middle of an easy decapitation?" the doctor elevated his voice. "Wake up from your recharge cycle, femme! Whatever that virus did to us, it was not exactly accentuating our hatred for each other."
She found his words disturbing. Arcee didn't hate Knock Out. She didn't even know him, as much as his twisted actions spoke for themselves. 'Cons were cruel, and if what she had heard about him was true, that tidy and good looking mad doctor was one of the worst of his kind. But she didn't hate him. Not now.
"Ratchet will find an antivirus," she said, trying to convince herself more than Knock Out. "You can be grateful that Optimus Prime is willing to let you benefit from the cure, even though you don't deserve it."
The virus must have disrupted her perception, because for a moment she could have sworn he looked hurt. But a hallucination was exactly what it was, because next thing Arcee saw was his usual cocky expression splattered over his face.
"So the magnanimous Optimus Prime will share a piece of his generosity with me? And I had thought that this wouldn't be a lucky day after all…"
The air vent on her shoulder expelled a small gust, signaling that Arcee had had enough of that conversation. "If you are done with your ranting, you'd do well in keeping your vocalizer shut and not giving us any trouble. As I said, Ratchet will examine you soon and all this will be over."
She turned around, her heels clicking painfully on the floor as she tried to reach the exit. For a moment, she thought she would collapse again. She was very aware that she was leaving something very important behind.
A yell, an order, or had it been a plea? All that Arcee knew was that she recognized the need in Knock Out's voice because it was the same one she was feeling. Distance hurt; it would hurt more now that they both knew what they felt. Yes, they both knew what they had felt, back on that filthy ground…
When she looked over her shoulder she saw him still on one knee, his head bowed again. Arcee didn't have to focus her optical sensors to realize that he was trembling.
"…closer…" she was sure she heard him whisper.
"Are you in need of assistance? Did you sustain serious damage during the battle?" she asked.
Knock Out raised his head and looked at her. "Come closer."
She didn't do it because he had said so. She did it because it was the only way to ease the pain. A moth and a flame… Which was her role? She didn't dare to find out.
"You came here only to be closer to me," he said, standing on his two feet. "You needed it. Don't dare to deny it, Autobot."
Arcee hesitated. "The virus…"
"Was created as one, and as such is meant to remain. Do you understand why neither your old doctor nor your oh-so-righteous leader will be able to do anything to help us? Or tell me, were you so honest with them that you told them exactly what happened right before they captured me?"
Arcee hadn't noticed, but she was standing right outside the cell again, the nanomites inside her harmonizing with Knock Out more intensely than before.
"Nothing happened," she reassured herself. She had to show the fragging virus that controlling her emotions was still out of its reach.
"Oh, really? I'll tell you what happened. For the first time in my life I willingly stopped what was meant to be a majestic dissection."
Arcee frowned. Was that all she was to him? A corpse to be cut into pieces?
"Oh yes, your features are lovely indeed," he said, getting so close to the energy bars that his face plates turned as purple as Energon. "How beautiful you would look on my dissection table…"
"You are sick," she spat with honest disgust.
His optics narrowed. "And yet some breems ago all you could think about was kissing me. Or tell me, my dear femme, was it something else that you wanted? Did you want me to go beyond a simple kiss?"
Arcee's hands trembled. Fortunately he was starting too intensely at her optics to notice. "The simple idea of your proximity repulses me."
"And then again, there's nothing but a few mechano-inches between us," he said, smirking. "And a set of Energon bars too, of course… Why don't you disconnect them, Arcee?"
His voice was silk; soft, deadly silk floating so easily between mockery and seduction. She had no doubt that the sinister monster would love to have her on his dissection table.
"You seem to forget that you are talking to a sentient being, Decepticon," she said with the most composed voice she could achieve. "If you wish to address a simple virus, I'm afraid you're wasting your vocalizer on deaf ears."
"Am I?" he hissed. "What do you say if we run a little test of our own?"
Before she could do anything other than frown, he got so close to the bars that she was sure his face plates would burn.
"Touch me," he said in low voice.
If Arcee thought she was making any progress in controlling the situation, she was completely wrong. Two words were enough to take her by surprise, her spark pulsating as hard as it had done when he had said her name.
"Touch me," he insisted. "See what your part of the virus has to say about my repulsing proximity."
When she was out of words she knew that the battle was lost. The accursed virus inside her advanced its intrusion, looming over her neural net, strong as an emotion.
"Ah, not such a deaf virus now, is it? Why don't you sneak your little, delicate hand between these bars, Autobot, and, as I like to say, knock yourself out? Or better yet, why don't you open the cell? I promise I'll touch you back…"
Knock Out flinched, his head instinctively retreating when the canon of Arcee's blaster poked the spot right between his optics. It was good that honor and duty, the best part of her, was also still the strongest part of her.
"Is this touch good enough for you, Decepticon? Or do you prefer the warm caress of a plasma beam?"
He stepped back, his face showing his surprise. "You… you stupid femme! Do you think I find this amusing? There is a virus of unknown nature working its way inside of me!"
Arcee snorted. "What a coincidence. I happen to have the same problem, and yet my priority is not engaging my enemy in a sick game."
"Oh, but you are part of the game, Autobot! How else should I interpret your presence here? You need me close as much as I, Unicron damns me, need you!" he spat, struggling so much with his handcuffs that for a moment Arcee was sure he would break them. "I don't know what this slagging virus does, but I know for certain that dividing it in two will do nothing but shut us off. The composition of the virus changes by the minute, and I'm sure the extension of its damage does too."
That was true. Ratchet had said that the nanomites had mutated. Whatever Knock Out had inside him must have gone through a similar process.
"Do you see why your joke of a doctor won't be able to do anything to find a cure?" he continued, almost roaring. "The invading agent will do everything but remain motionless. I don't think I have to make clear the fact that it's making its way beyond our simple main circuitry. Now tell me, femme, what do you think it will take for it to reach our sparks?"
Arcee returned her blaster to subspace. "More than it will take for me to blast you in the face if you continue with your rambling. I have no issue with sending you to meet your maker, you have my word on it. As far as I know, Ratchet can extract a sample from your fuel lines whether they are running or not."
He opened his mouth in amazement, making Arcee feel a strange mixture of satisfaction and guilt. Could it be that he had been pretending too, that his apparent self-security had been nothing but a farce?
She guessed she would never know, as the door of the brig opened and Bulkhead came in. He looked both surprised and displeased to find Arcee there.
"It's time," he said, rather coldly.
Arcee decided to play it safe and simply nod. What else could she have done, or said, when her own blasted processor was becoming her worst enemy?
To be continued.
Once again, I apologize for leaving you guys waiting for so long. Would it help if I tell you that I have the next two chapters already written? Well, I do have them, and I plan to post them soon.
Please review if you liked.