December 23rd has arrived, and as I promised, here you have my Deviant Christmas one-shot.
It was quite an adventure and an effort to have this ready today. When I promised to post it this date, I hadn't realized that I would be very busy because of the holidays, but I made a big effort and here you have it, a story that will focus on our favorite troubled Seeker and his trine, and how they related with the season's spirit.
If you read 'Deviant', please consider that this story takes place between chapters 29 and 30, right after Skywarp saved Thundercracker from the Combaticons and before TC challenged Starscream to a duel.
I'm in extreme gratitude with my beta reader iratepirate, who managed to revise this story with my deadline all over her. I'm sorry for the extra pressure, hun :oP
Okay, let's proceed with the story then. Make sure to have a cup of some hot, delicious beverage beside you and please enjoy.
Deviant before Christmas
Written by Taipan Kiryu
Thundercracker hadn't expected any kind of emotion coming from Soundwave when the Communicator contacted him the first time. He hadn't expected it when the second communication arrived either. In both cases, his lack of expectations was fulfilled.
He wished he could have mastered that kind of emotional emptiness. It would have helped him a lot now that he was extracting important access codes from Teletraan I, just a few days after Skywarp had saved him from the Combaticons and severed any remaining bonds of their friendship in the process.
He should really not think about that…
He had deactivated the security cameras and the movement sensors, and his radars could have pinpointed the location of any Autobot close to the Command Centre. But the risk of being caught was not his current concern. It was the unwelcome visitor aching inside his processor, guilt, that was torturing him.
Ever since the beginning of his undercover mission he had constantly reminded himself that he had to keep his emotions under control and locked inside the deepest place of his spark. He had been aware that he would be a constant victim of the disgust he felt every time he did something unworthy of an honourable warrior, but he had never, ever expected to deal with guilt.
Because that was what he was experiencing: guilt, remorse, shame at its worst… He was betraying the robots that had extended him a helping hand, the ones that had given him a second chance despite the rancor still hanging between them…
What did that make him, if not the lowest vermin?
His thoughts were momentarily dragged away from what was becoming his usual torture when he heard a noise. Thundercracker didn't have the best audio receptors, but he was sure he had heard something.
He disconnected himself from Teletraan I and closed the small panel on his wrist, trying to be as silent as his guilt would never manage to be. His radars hadn't detected any Autobot presence close by… could it be that they were malfunctioning?
He should have been afraid of getting caught, but in a way he wanted the whole charade to end. If the Autobots discovered him, they would incarcerate him, probably execute him. It would be the best for all.
Still, he approached the wide entrance that led to the Autobots' personal quarters carefully, cursing his almost nonexistent ability for stealth. At least he wanted to know who was behind the wall before the news about his double game became public.
Right when he was about to reach the door, he heard the sound again. He frowned, not finding anything recognizable in it, nothing of Cybertronian origin at least. But then his radars caught something else, something he hadn't even bothered to program them to detect. A small heat signal, coming from a nearby corridor…
Thundercracker risked taking a look outside and saw the small figure hunched some mechano meters away. A human, as he had thought; the female, as her long and golden head fiber indicated. Clearly she was not there to spy on him, so he started to step back as silently as he could.
A third sound made him stop. He wasn't an expert in humans by any means, but he had the feeling that the human was experiencing distress, the same human that hadn't been anything but kind to him since the very moment he was admitted into the Autobot base…
He hated himself, and later he would try uselessly to blame his guilt for his moment of weakness, but he left behind both the threshold of the door and his reservations and walked toward the female.
"Are you in need of assistance, human?"
She startled. Thundercracker was surprised; he hadn't been exactly subtle in approaching her and it wasn't like his size could go unnoticed by a being so small. It seemed that whatever was troubling the female had managed to distract her from her surroundings.
"Thundercracker…" she said, wiping the leaks from her optics with a fast movement. "What… what are you doing here so late?"
Thundercracker hated being asked about his activities, especially if they involved treason and if the one invading his privacy was a member of the human race, but he couldn't afford to dismiss the female. Besides, it had been he who had come to her.
"I don't recharge much," he said curtly. "I should ask you the same question. I understand that your kind needs a specific amount of recharge breems."
She rubbed her optics and bowed her head slightly, avoiding his gaze. "Ah, yes… That's true. I just couldn't sleep… but I'm fine. Thanks for asking."
Thundercracker nodded. It had been awkward, but he took that as his cue to leave the female alone with her issues. He had inquired about her welfare as any other Autobot would have done. That was what his traitor self was supposed to do, wasn't it?
He stopped, much to his dismay. He always could have pretended not to hear her, and yet there he was, stopping on his way towards his quarters, on his way away from her… He had never liked humans. Why was he doing this?
Things got worse when he turned around and acknowledged her again.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't mean to be a nuisance, but do you think you could do me a favour?"
The leaking of her optics had stopped, but her face was reddish. Were those the remains of human sadness? He didn't want to know. He and his comrades in arms had damaged this race of inferior, albeit innocent creatures, so much …
"A favour?" he asked, certain that his face had never looked so stupid.
"Yes. Can you come with me, please?"
Thundercracker didn't answer, but found himself following the human through the corridor. That was certainly the most awkward walk he had ever had, another to add to his increasing list of uncomfortable moments experienced since he had dared to enter the Ark with his doubts.
She yelped when he picked her up.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he said, somewhat offended as he gently cupped his hands beneath her.
"I know. You just took me by surprise, that's all."
Thundercracker didn't know why, but her smile gave him relief. "Your pace was slowing me down. Where do you want to go?"
The human – Carly, if Thundercracker remembered the denominations of the Autobots' human allies correctly – guided him to a storage room located very close to the entrance of the base. This time he didn't care about the security cameras. He was assisting one of the human youths; that would give him the perfect alibi for his espionage mission.
Once he had been a proud soldier… now he used an innocent human to cover his actions.
He couldn't avoid looking at the female, his systems scanning her following an order he hadn't made consciously. He was somewhat surprised when he spoke to her again.
"Are your optics malfunctioning?"
She looked at him with surprise, making him repent his words immediately. He certainly didn't want to know about the processes of her organic body, or to show any interest in her for that matter.
"No, no," she said, smiling weakly. "I was just crying."
"Yes… it's a human manifestation of sadness or happiness."
All right. That was when he should have stopped asking.
Only he didn't.
"And what was your reason?"
Slagging, slagging fool… He of all mechs should have known to shut his mouth. He had never been the best conversationalist, even less so with alien races, but there he was, small talking with a human female and serving as her method of transportation. Not exactly the kind of thing that would restore his damaged honour.
He felt even worse when the face of the female saddened again. "Do you know what day it is tomorrow, Thundercracker?"
As if he cared for human dates… "No."
"It's Christmas Eve. Do you know what it is?"
Another negative. He had done some research about human culture, as any other proper warrior would have done, but he had only focused on terrestrial military and political organization. Their recreational habits were something he definitely didn't care about.
"Christmas is a human holiday," Carly kept talking. "Its origins are religious, but most people have adopted it as the perfect excuse to spend time with their families and the people they love. It's a time for happiness, for bringing out the best of us and sharing it with others."
All that sounded too melodramatic for Thundercracker's taste, but at least he didn't find it completely ridiculous as any other Decepticon would have done. "Happiness? I may be not used to the emotional manifestations of your kind, but you didn't look happy when I found you."
A shadow fell over her face again, making Thundercracker regret his excess of communication once again. He had invaded the human's privacy, something that didn't have anything to do with him. He intended to keep it that way.
"We're here," she said when they approached a small storage room near the entrance of the Ark.
Thundercracker entered and placed her near a big pile of containers that were stacked against the wall. He thought that was the human's objective, because there wasn't anything else in the room.
He was about to leave when the human spoke to him again, approaching the containers as she did so.
"These are toys, clothes, blankets and other stuff my foundation collected over the last month. Tomorrow evening we will give them to different shelters for homeless people."
Thundercracker only raised a brow in response. He wasn't familiarized with the concept of charity. It had never worked that way on Cybertron.
"Bumblebee and Jazz were going to help me to classify this, but they are still recharging. I couldn't sleep so I decided to start a little earlier… Would you mind giving me a hand, Thundercracker?"
Of course he minded. He was a soldier, not some sort of… classifier. It had been humiliating enough to perform as such for Ratchet before. He would never repeat the experience for some human vermin—
Ah, slag himself!
It was official: he was insane. Or maybe he was feeling too much guilt… He preferred to think that he wouldn't have been able to recharge the rest of the night shift anyway, so it was better to do something that would keep his mind busy.
When minutes turned into hours he had almost managed to forget how uncomfortable, humiliated and whatever else he should have been feeling. The truth was that he felt relaxed, as peaceful as he could be considering he was helping a human to carry out some useless charity work. It helped a lot that she barely talked, only to indicate to the different kind of objects they were classifying. The purring of the base's generators and the low sound the human typing things on her datapad contributed to the peculiar aura of tranquility. Thundercracker could have almost said he was feeling comfortable.
"My parents died five years ago. Their plane crashed on Christmas Eve. They were on their way back home."
Thundercracker's hand froze on the pile of human garments he was classifying. He turned to look at her questioningly.
"That's why you found me crying back there… I'm sorry you had to witness that. I always get sentimental during the holidays… "
"Your apologies are unnecessary," he said, resuming his work. He wasn't really interested in the human's problems, although he couldn't have denied that he related to them somehow.
"I understand you suffered a similar loss recently…"
"You want to stop right there," he said bluntly, interrupting her. He really hated how suddenly his past had become public knowledge. He was aware that that female knew about losses, but his privacy was not to be discussed, even less pitied.
She made a face that looked like an apology and returned to her data pad. Thundercracker hated himself for lowering his defenses so much. There was no way that a human being was going to get to him…
"There will be a party tomorrow night right here at the Ark," she spoke again, this time keeping her organic optics away from him. "Spike and I told the Autobots about Christmas the year they arrived on Earth, and they have been celebrating it ever since. As you know, most of the Autobots are currently in Cybertron right now, but still it will be fun. Would you like to join us, Thundercracker?"
"No," he said more as a reflex than as an answer.
She removed her gaze from the datapad she had in her hands to stare at him. "Are you sure? I know for sure that you are more than invited. Sunstreaker said—"
"You said that your creators' life force was extinguished on that date," he said, not even having heard what she had said. "Why would you want to celebrate it?"
Carly looked at him as if the answer was obvious. "I already told you. It's Christmas Eve… Tragedy hit me that day indeed, but it's also my favorite day of the year. I had plenty of happy Christmas Eves before that, and I intend to have more. It's like I told you, a time to share the best of yourself with others. More than partying and giving and receiving gifts, it's about spending some nice time with the people you love… I may have lost my family, but in a way Spike, Sparkplug and the Autobots have become my family. How could I not celebrate Christmas?"
Thundercracker didn't realize that he was looking at her intensely. He knew about family units and spending time with them. He also knew about happiness, but all that belonged to his past. He had associated those kinds of feelings with his first vorns of life. Childhood, as humans liked to call that period. He couldn't even remember the last time he had felt completely happy. His smiles had been so scarce since then, and he had only himself to blame for that.
"Are you sure you don't want to go the party? Wheeljack is going to build a Transformer-sized piñata."
Thundercracker shook his head, suddenly feeling the need to flee.
"The first shift of the solar cycle is about to start. Your friends will help you to finish this," he said as he headed towards the door, certain that his claustrophobia had nothing to do with his Seeker condition.
He heard the human saying something behind him, but the sound of his transformation cog going into motion prevented him from understanding her. Unfortunately, it wasn't loud enough to silence his guilt.
All he knew was that he was in desperate need of the skies.
His voice had come out hoarser, calmer than he had intended. It couldn't be because he actually felt sorry for the wreck of a mech that was spread over the recharge berth before him. It couldn't be because he felt somehow obliged to look after his stupid wingmate now that Thundercracker was away either …
Was that little thing pinging inside of him what others called conscience? Starscream would have sneered if he would have at least acknowledged the uncomfortable presence as such. As far as he was concerned, a conscience was something that weak idiots like Thundercracker had, not him.
"Get the frag up!" he said again, this time louder and kicking the berth at the same time. He managed to shake it enough to return some sort of awareness to the disgrace of a mech that called himself a Decepticon. Really, Starscream was easily associated with desperation and immaturity, but everybody would have been very surprised if they knew just how tolerant he could be. Once again, the slagging voice within his mind reminded him that he could consider that tolerance as some sort of conscience, but he had no problems in disregarding it.
Skywarp's optics blinked in confusion and drunkenness, casting a blank gaze at his Air Commander.
"T-TC?" he mumbled weakly.
Starscream almost retched in disgust. He was very quickly getting tired of Skywarp's pathetic behaviour. Ever since Thundercracker had defected to the Autobots, the black Seeker seemed to be in constant search of new ways to degrade himself. Starscream had to admit that he had succeeded splendidly so far.
Without any consideration for the over-energized circuits of his wingmate, Starscream grabbed him brusquely by the tip of one wing. "The component. Where is it?"
Skywarp's optics kept blinking erratically. "C-component…? Eh… stop it, it hurts…"
Starscream tightened his grip on Skywarp's wing, knowing perfectly well how much it hurt. He complained very frequently about his moronic wingmates, but this time the black Seeker's idiocy was reaching his limits very quickly.
"The component Megatron ordered you to steal one cycle ago. Where. Is. It?"
Awareness returned to Skywarp, shaking hands with his panic. "T-the component? Ah, it's curious that you mention it… It's a very interesting story, actually, it kinda… Aaargh, that hurts, you fragger!"
Starscream not only practically crushed the wingtip, but dragged his wingmate out of the recharge berth and pushed him towards the wall. Still too over-energized to keep his balance, Skywarp hit the hard metallic surface face first, tearing down a cabinet full of junk in the process.
"I'll tell you where it is," Starscream went on as his wingmate fell to the floor. "In the same place it was yesterday and all the cycles before, which applies exactly to you too. For how long have you been drowning yourself in high grade, you idiot?"
Skywarp cringed when Starscream kicked him in the midsection. Starscream had hoped that his wingmate at least would have attempted to defend himself, but when a weakened whine was his response instead of a kick or an insult, Starscream knew that he was facing a lost cause, not to mention a dead weight.
"Get your aft up and retrieve that component immediately. I want it secured in the Constructicons laboratory by tonight. Is that understood?"
Skywarp shivered and attempted to get to his knees. "B-but Screamer… I'm too over-energized…"
"The human facility has minimal security; even a defective drone could fulfill the mission. Do you think you will be able to retrieve the component or do I have to call Megatron to Cybertron and tell him that it would be better send a bulkhead in your place?"
"Nnno, no…" Skywarp mumbled as he finally succeeded in getting to his knees. "I'll do it… Just… just gimme a couple of breems to recover…"
"Tonight, Skywarp," Starscream said as he headed towards the exit. "If that component is not in Scrapper's hands by tonight, don't you dare come back."
When the door hissed shut behind him, Starscream wished that he could have at least slammed it.
The water crashed violently against the rocks, leaving a wall of white foam that started to slide down immediately, demonstrating the ephemeral nature of the ocean's fury. Thundercracker knew that such sight could have been considered beautiful, but not for his kind. The Decepticons were conquerors, they did not appreciate the esthetic peculiarities of the worlds they intended to rule. And he was a Decepticon. He had to be.
Getting away from the Autobot Headquarters had felt like the natural thing to do, but after that he hadn't spent the following hours flying until he ran out of fuel as he had intended to do. He was sitting on the shore instead, his gaze fixed on the furious ocean beyond, the same ocean he had seen every cycle since he had been reactivated on Earth and the same ocean that kept the remains of his creator.
He had been sitting there for more than twelve terrestrial hours now, too conflicted and ashamed to do anything else. And too dangerously close to Decepticon territory as well.
It was Christmas Eve, or at least it was going to be in some breems. The horizon had turned pink, the prequel before the skies were taken over by the majestic black. Thundercracker wasn't one to appreciate terrestrial nature, but if there was something he found beautiful it was precisely that, the skies at night. It was the only chance he had to imagine he was still on Cybertron, that he had never abandoned his home to come to attack a planet that had all the right to exist in peace.
He was about to lie down when his commlink crackled to life, almost awkwardly, breaking the bizarre serenity of the moment. Thundercracker frowned in surprise. It was the same frequency that had targeted him just a few cycles ago.
Before he had the chance to say something, the voice of his former wingmate could be heard.
"Ssscreamer, I got the component… The humans shot me a little… Have the launching tower ready, 'kay…?"
More than hurt, Skywarp's voice indicated that he was over-energized to the core. Thundercracker stood up, trying to locate the position of the Seeker on his radars. The very familiar energy signature blinked to attention immediately, not very far away from there.
Thundercracker got his battle computer ready. He wasn't that close to the Nemesis, but he could always expect another ambush.
"Screamer… hehehehe, I think I don't remember where the base is…"
Could it be that Skywarp really thought that he was comming Starscream?
Thundercracker transformed and headed toward the dot on his radar. He disguised his energy signature, although he was sure that Skywarp was so drunk that he wouldn't notice his proximity. Thundercracker was more concerned about the latent ambush. He had been tricked by Skywarp before, only to get shot down and almost dismembered by the Combaticons… Ratchet had done a splendid job with his wing, but the slagging joint still ached.
He didn't need his radar anymore when he spotted a shape in the distance, flying erratically. That was strange. Skywarp was a very good flier, even when his systems were swimming in high grade. He must have drunk excessively to be in such state…
Thundercracker got closer, certain that Skywarp wouldn't notice him. In a way he wanted to break the silence, to tell Skywarp that it all had been a charade… that he hadn't been able to tell him anything because he was having doubts about the Autobots, that he had been keeping silent, even to himself, the uncomfortable, inner desire of joining them…
Skywarp chose that moment to lose altitude and then started to spiral down. Frag, he had to be extremely over-energized indeed…
Thundercracker didn't think anymore about hidden Decepticons waiting to ambush him. He flew towards Skywarp at top speed, not caring about anything else. Despite whatever had happened between them recently, that robot had been beside him for practically all his life, guarding his back and making his life a little less miserable with his simple but sincere personality. He was his friend. His brother.
Thundercracker knew the maneuver; he could even call himself an expert. He positioned himself beneath Skywarp's undercarriage, just as he had done many times before when Skywarp had been on the edge of crashing after being shot. Only that this time there were no enemies close, and certainly no allies either. It was only the two of them, isolated from the world but especially from themselves.
When the speed of the descent considerably decreased, Thundercracker transformed to his bipedal mode and embraced Skywarp, slowing him down for good and taking him to the ground.
They landed on a big extension of brown sand. Thundercracker manually activated the transformation sequence of his ex wingmate and lay him down gently, being careful to make sure that his head rested on a small dune. It wouldn't kill him to have some extra comfort, although his levels of high grade probably would.
The scanning process also showed that Skywarp had been damaged, a lucky shot having severed one of his main fuel lines. Thundercracker also noticed the metallic device secured on the black Seeker's cockpit, probably the objective of his turbulent mission.
Thundercracker frowned, directing his attention from his ex wingmate's frame to his face. He wondered if Skywarp would insult him, or try to attack him. He had told him some very harsh things when he had saved him from the Combaticons.
But Skywarp was as lost to reality as he was to himself. His optics blinked erratically, and his gaze was fixed somewhere beyond Thundercracker.
"TC, you fragger…" he spoke again, pain clearly revealed on his features, and not precisely of the physical kind.
Thundercracker grimaced, disgusted in himself. He had embarked on his identity odyssey without really thinking about the damage he could inflict on the one Decepticon that had ever given a damn about him. He was beyond forgiveness.
Skywarp had a spasm, expelling some high grade from his mouth. Purging his fuel tanks would have been good for his over-energized systems, but Thundercracker was more worried about the damaged fuel line, which was losing vital fluid fast. He removed Skywarp's shoulder panel and started to work on the wound with a welder he always carried for emergencies like that one. His fingers immediately became moist with Skywarp's blood, a painful reminder of the real damage he had inflicted on his friend.
"A-agh…" Skywarp complained. "It fraggin' hurts…"
Yeah, and it will hurt more if you don't stop squirming.
"I fraggin' hate you, TC…"
Thundercracker stopped welding and stared at Skywarp's face. The glassy optics of the black Seeker were still blinking erratically, and his gaze continued to seem lost. Skywarp was not aware of his presence, but still he kept mumbling.
"I fraggin' loved you, ya know? You were my brother… And you betrayed me… frag-ger…"
Skywarp couldn't continue, a new spasm making him choke. Thundercracker lifted his friend's head carefully, putting one comforting hand on his chest.
"Easy, 'Warp… You'll be alright."
Thundercracker had seen Skywarp wounded thousands of times, but he didn't recall experiencing so much anguish as he was currently feeling. Skywarp was more than wounded; he had received a fatal blow, and inflicted by his best friend himself. Thundercracker had been very busy being sorry for himself that he had forgotten how damaged Skywarp would end up after his supposed defection.
The words of the human female came into his mind, perfectly recorded in his memory banks as all the things that were meant to torture him stubbornly stayed. That Christmas thing… Carly had talked about sharing with others, about love, about family units… Thundercracker had thought that his family had been destroyed the accursed day in which he had left his father for a cause he never fully embraced, but he was just discovering that he had had a family all this time. Skywarp had been there for him. He was his family.
And not only him…
"Starscream," he said, activating his commlink. It was risky doing it being so close to the Nemesis, but he had faith that his trine's secret frequency remained unmonitored.
He didn't have to wait for long. "Are you insane or just an idiot? I told you never to comm me unless it was urgent!"
"Well, it is urgent."
"What happened this time? Did the Autobots alter your Energon again?"
Thundercracker was sure that Starscream was sneering. "No, but I could use that solution you gave me to relieve my circuits. I have Skywarp here, so over-energized that I'm amazed that he managed to take off in the first place."
There was a screechy curse word that hurt Thundercracker's audio receptors. "What did you tell him?"
"Relax. He's not even aware I'm here with him."
"Keep it that way. Transmit your location and pray to whatever Primus the Autobots believe in that Skywarp hasn't recognized you. If he realizes what's happening the entire mission will be jeopardized!"
Thundercracker wasn't really worried about his so called mission; it was actually the last thing on his processor. He spent the next few minutes patching up Skywarp's fuel line as best as he could. When he finished, he couldn't have said that he had done a great job, but at least the black Seeker had stopped losing vital fluid.
The timing turned out to be perfect, as the sound of a very familiar engine announced. Starscream transformed and landed without any greetings and walked directly to his fallen wingmate.
"What the slag happened here?" he said, pushing Thundercracker out of his way.
"It's nice to see you too, Starscream."
Starscream got to one knee and examined the motionless frame on the sand. "Well?"
"Punctured main fuel line," Thundercracker said, kneeling on the other side of Skywarp, "but I managed to patch it up temporarily. Did you bring that solution or not? I'm really surprised how Skywarp remains alive after drinking so much high grade."
"I'm not. He spends a lot of time like this lately," Starscream said as he grabbed Skywarp by the shoulders. "Help me roll him over."
They rolled him to his side. More than on the edge of a high grade congestion, Skywarp looked as if he were recharging. "You are a little too far away from your new home, are you not?" Starscream said as he connected a tube to Skywarp's neck. "What the slag are you doing here? If any other Decepticon had detected you, you would be junk by now."
"I was not looking for you, that's for sure." As expected, his response didn't satisfy Starscream, so he went on. "I just needed to fly, alright? I was about to return to the Ark when I received Skywarp's comm. He thought I was you."
"Now that's something I'm going to have to punish this idiot for when he wakes up…"
"If he wakes up, you may want to add. What the slag were you thinking when you sent Skywarp on a mission in this state? He could have died!"
Starscream started to pump a pink liquid through the tube before fixing a very harsh glare on Thundercracker. "He had his orders. If he was stupid enough to get himself so slagged up then that was his decision. If he had died during the mission, so be it. The Decepticons are in no need of useless whiners like him."
Thundercracker could have said something about useless, long time whiners, but he decided against it. Starscream appeared to be as rude and uncaring as always, but the way he was attending to Skywarp said otherwise. How many times had they lived that same situation, with only the roles exchanged? One wingmate lying prostrate between the other two, his life at stake, his wingmates refusing to abandon him…
Was that what the human female had been talking about? Was that sharing? Was that a family? Was that what Christmas was all about?
"Do you know what day it is today, Starscream?"
"It's Christmas Eve. Does that ring any bells?"
Starscream looked at him as if he were insane. "I'm starting to believe that the Autobots have corrupted you with something more than adulterated high grade."
All of a sudden, Thundercracker understood the reason why he had stayed with the Decepticons for all those thousands of vorns even though he didn't believe in the cause anymore. He had always considered himself a loner, but having had a creator, a father, had created needs in him that now he was being forced to admit. He couldn't survive on his own. He had always needed a place to belong, a family… and that family was his trine.
Or at least it had been.
"I'm getting tired of this game, Starscream."
The Air Commander snorted. "Well, you can blame Megatron for that. All I wanted was to give you a lesson but he—"
"No, I mean I'm really getting tired. See a way to make it end. What I'm doing… it's just not honourable."
"It's killing you, isn't it?" Starscream said, smirking and leaning closer to Thundercracker. "The fact that you are betraying the Autobots, the same Autobots that have been so kind to you… It's destroying you from the inside."
Thundercracker scowled, feeling the urgent need to punch his former trine leader till deactivation.
Starscream reached out and grabbed his arm, squeezing painfully. "Do I have any reason to be worried, Thundercracker? I mean, any real reason. I swear it, if you betray me…"
Thundercracker shook his arm and got rid of Starscream's grip. "It was you who dragged me into this situation, you sparkless psychotic. I should destroy you!"
"Try!" Starscream cried, raising his arm and pointing his null rays right at Thundercracker's face. "Just try, traitor!"
They both looked downwards, where Skywarp was starting to give life signals again.
"Why… why did you…" the black Seeker mumbled before almost choking again. However, his over-energized systems had begun to stabilize.
Thundercracker placed a hand on Skywarp's forehead, completely ignoring the tip of the cannon grazing his face. "Take good care of him, Starscream."
Starscream kept his threatening stance for some moments before lowering his weapon. "And why would I do that?"
"Because you care about him, the same way you care about me too."
Thundercracker wouldn't have been surprised if Starscream had burst into laughter in response, but it didn't happen. Maybe, just maybe, there was a part in Starscream's sick processor that understood that the unique bond they had shared as a trine for all those vorns had made them a family.
"I'll see to end all this soon," Starscream said as Thundercracker placed an arm beneath Skywarp and started to lift him up. "But know that it won't be pleasant."
"I'm aware of that."
Starscream helped Thundercracker to get Skywarp to his feet, putting one of the lax arms of the black Seeker over his shoulder.
"Can you carry him all the way back to the Nemesis?" Thundercracker asked him.
"What choice do I have?"
Thundercracker couldn't help smiling. "You should really research what Christmas is, Starscream."
Starscream didn't reply and Thundercracker stepped back. He was about to transform when the screechy voice targeted him again.
"I seem to recall that Soundwave ordered you to get some access codes from Teletraan I. Do you have them?"
Thundercracker turned around. "No, I don't," he lied impudently, knowing perfectly well that Starscream was aware of that.
Starscream shook his head in disapproval, but he kept to himself whatever he really wanted to say. "Just get the slag out of my sight."
"I'll be happy to."
A fragging Autobot, that was who Starscream was dealing with. And not even one in disguise; Thundercracker had been eager to express just how righteous, how… moral he was ever since they were cadets at the Military Academy.
Starscream had no doubts that Thundercracker was having second, third and fourth doubts about his loyalties. But who could blame him? He was an Autobot. And Autobots stayed with their kind. Starscream hated himself for allowing the virus to spread so much through his own trine. Perhaps it was already too late. Perhaps he should have killed the dysfunctional element when he had had the chance…
Or perhaps it was not too late yet.
Skywarp growled something and moved, almost falling from the recharge berth. Hopefully he would; it would serve him right. The floor would be a better place for that moronic glitch.
A duel… Starscream smirked as he tasted the word. A duel, he and Thundercracker fighting to the death, the kind of spectacle that Megatron would appreciate before he took over Iacon, the kind that would put an end to Thundercracker's mission… probably to his life too. If the fool wasn't willing to play along in Starscream's game, then he had no future whatsoever. In a way it was a shame; he could have been the perfect Second in Command once Starscream became leader of the Decepticons…
Starscream was about to leave Skywarp's quarters, but he stopped and turned to look over his shoulder.
"What?" he spat harshly, but not harsh enough as to abandon his teammate as he had planned.
"It's Christmas Eve… ya know?"
That word again. Thundercracker had mentioned it too. Starscream headed towards his wingmate again.
"Remember last year, when I shot down that giant tree in that human city-state?" Skywarp kept babbling. "It was a Christmas tree… ho ho ho…"
Starscream put a hand on Skywarp's chest and pushed him back when he tried to get up. "Recharge, you fool. You still have a lot of high grade to process."
Skywarp frowned and tried to get rid of Starscream's hand. "I was t-toasting back then! Christmas Eve… you toast, you get yourself wasted… that's what humans do. Will you toast with me?"
"We are not slagging humans."
Skywarp seemed to ponder Starscream's words before getting gloomy again. Primus, Starscream was beginning to get very tired of his pathetic depression…
"I think I saw TC…"
And precisely because of that name. "You were hallucinating," Starscream said with a scowl. "Recharge now."
"The other day… I told him to frag off… Like for good, ya know? I told him… that he was dead to me."
Was that thing conscience? Starscream found himself wondering about it for the second time in less than a cycle. Was that the reason why he wasn't pummeling his wingmate to junk as a decent Air Commander should have done?
Slag Skywarp, slag himself and especially slag Thundercracker for creating such havoc within him. He had never, ever, risked so much for anyone else in his life. That slagging Autobot filth…
Skywarp had another energy spasm and seemed to slump into the berth. Starscream could see the suffering clear in his optics.
"Just… jus' don't go, TC…"
Infinitely disgusted, Starscream raised his arm, ready to punch his wingmate into stasis lock. He growled in frustration and ended up turning around and hitting the terminal of Skywarp's computer instead, the hit igniting the screen.
The monitor displayed the signal of a human broadcast. Some humans were gathered around a similar tree to the one Skywarp had blown to pieces the year before, only that this one was much smaller. They had glasses in their hands, certainly filled with their high grade fuel.
"Here's to our friends. May tomorrow bring you peace and joy. Merry Christmas!"
Starscream looked at the screen for what he could only acknowledge as an undefined amount of astro seconds. Then he turned it off, infinitely disgusted by all the displays of weakness he had witnessed that day.
Still, he stayed beside Skywarp for the rest of the night.
It was after midnight when Thundercracker returned to the Ark. He was already thinking about believable excuses to justify his almost-one-solar-cycle long absence, when he heard the gibberish coming from the Command Centre. Voices and laughs, the click of Energon cubes, even music – terrestrial music.
But it was the gamut of alien smells that arrived gently at his olfactory receptors that made him stop. His data banks processed the information quickly; oranges, sugar, grapes, other kinds of vegetal forms of life that his data ignored… a foreign, but not disagreeable mixture.
He looked downwards and saw the human female sitting in a small fracture on the wall.
"How long have you been there?" he asked, trying to sound cold but failing completely.
She grinned. "Just a few minutes. I had the feeling you would return at midnight."
The little glitchmouse…
"We're about to serve dinner and open the presents," she said, jumping agilely from the fracture. "Why don't you join us? Wheeljack fixed a special brew of Energon for the occasion, and I know I saw at least three gifts with your name on them."
"Gifts? I don't receive gifts… or give them for that matter."
"It's never too late to start, Thundercracker. Besides, you gave me the most beautiful gift last night. Thanks to your help, the things for the homeless shelters were ready just in time."
Carly hadn't questioned him about his whereabouts. Perhaps the other Autobots would also respect his privacy… now that would be the perfect gift.
"You just don't give up, do you?" he said eventually.
"Not when it regards the people I care about."
Was he a Decepticon, really? If he was, he should be laughing at her, ridiculing her melodramatic feelings.
He didn't say anything, but got to one knee. Carly went to him immediately, the gesture so natural and full of trust that it surprised him.
She must have noticed his amazement because she looked at him as she was getting comfortable on his hands. "I know that you would never hurt me."
He couldn't help but smile. Yeah, maybe he was still a Decepticon, one very conflicted, deviant Decepticon, and maybe the relationship with his trine was about to reach a tragic outcome, but for that night, he would enjoy. Enjoy himself, enjoy that human, enjoy the Autobots, enjoy Christmas.
After all, that's what having a family was all about.
If you read 'Deviant' till the end, and you are currently reading 'Once a Decepticon…', you may have noticed that this one-shot already explores the complex relationship between Thundercracker and Starscream as we will see it in the latter. Wingmates, enemies, friends… who could tell?
Now allow me to remind you about some Deviant details, in case you had forgotten them.
The remains of Thundercracker's creator, Cranker, rested at some cave at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, not very far away from the Decepticon Headquarters.
You may also remember that, after Mirage adulterated Thundercracker's Energon following the twins' instructions, TC met with Starscream, who gave him a mysterious pink solution to help him with his hangover.
We also had a first peek at what would become the duel between TC and Starscream, a duel that is far from being over, by the way.
As you noticed, I took some liberties with Carly. I adopted the idea that she's an orphan because it works for at least 3 fics I'm currently writing.
Well, that was it. I hope you enjoyed the story. I want to thank all of you for the support and encouragement you have given me not only during my time writing this TC trilogy, but during my entire fanfiction experience. I've had such a wonderful time sharing my stories with you, and you can be sure that I'll keep doing it for a long, long time ahead. I have a notebook full of bunnies and a heart full of Transformers love to sustain that.
As for tomorrow and the days to come, I wish you the best of the best! Merry Christmas to you all! Please leave me a review and let me know if you liked the story :o)