Big shout out to ZabuzasGirl who's waited ever so impatiently for this chapter! :D
Cliffjumper cleared his throat. "Um, hey Ratchet? I need to . . . talk to you."
The medic looked up from his work, surprised the mech had actually used his designated name. "Was there something you needed?"
Cliffjumper's fingers twitched as he cast a nervous glance across the room, duly noting that they were all far enough away that no one would hear him. They were talking quietly, Smokescreen back in the fold, but as Cliffjumper thought about how Starscream had snatched the Omega Keys away from them with red energon, he shook his head.
"Maybe now's not a good time . . ."
Ratchet reached out, stopping his retreat with an arch of his brows. "Cliffjumper, talk."
The red warrior sighed in frustration, passing a hand over his face as the medic waited for him to spill what was on his processor. Finally, he muttered, "Well, um . . . I need some advice about Nightstalker."
Ratchet shifted. "Yes?"
"Um . . ." He nervously scrubbed his hand over his face again, crossing his arms and looking anywhere but the medic's face. "Well, um . . . You know we interfaced for the first time a couple of days ago. Uh, Nightstalker felt bad that I uh, didn't get to overload, so I started wondering because she just wanted to give me a—Well, I mean, that doesn't really matter, but—! I mean, it took me minute, but I—we realized that Megatron had only, y'know . . . her valve . . . but her—she um—"
Ratchet slowly tired of his embarrassed stuttering. "Cliffjumper, spit it out. I'm sure whatever you tell me I've heard before."
A searing blush touched his features, and he hung his head. "Her aft," he finally mumbled.
At that, Ratchet blinked. He hadn't even THOUGHT about her aft. Beyond the spark, it was another way for her to overload. He nodded, trying to help ease Cliffjumper's nerves some. "Yes, of course. A mutual overload. What of it?"
Somehow Cliffjumper's face was becoming as red as his armor. "Well, um . . ." He cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck. After a moment in which he gathered his courage, he let it all out in one large, nervous tumble of words.
"So we decided to interface like that, and it was great, it really was, but then something changed—well, Nightstalker reacted differently from the first time, a lot differently. She—wanted me to call her—call her—"
His vocals hitched on the words, and Ratchet frowned, his medical side sensing where this was heading as all the dots lined up in his mind. "Call her what?"
"My play bot," he finally choked out. "She wanted me to call her—Well—! She wanted me to call her all sorts of bad things, to frag her until she was fucked so hard she couldn't breathe. She wanted me to smack her so hard I was afraid I was going to hurt her, she wanted me to bite her so hard I'd break her protoform, she wanted me to choke her, and she wanted me to overload on her face and call her my little glitch."
Cliffjumper dipped his helm again, staring at his peds. Ratchet blinked, feeling sick on the inside. "Did you do it?"
"Oh Primus—Of course I did!" His voice cracked as he strode a step or two away, shaking from the memory. "I—Ratchet, she was begging me so much, I could barely satisfy her, it was so different, it—it scared me. What—" and he turned back to the medic with hurt, wide optics, "Why did she want me to do that? That's not—It wasn't . . ."
Ratchet reached up to pinch his brow, feeling like a bag of bricks had suddenly crashed down on his processor. "Come with me to the back," he finally said to Cliffjumper. "We can talk in private there." Then, he looked up and called across the room, "Nightstalker! Come here!"
She had to give a hug to Bumblebee before she came up. Her orange optics looked between them both. "What's going on?"
Ratchet shook his head. "Just come here."
Both mech and femme followed him in silence, casting each other nervous glances as Ratchet brought them into a training room. The CMO whirled, looking hard at them both a second before he focused his attention on Nightstalker. "Nightstalker. Cliffjumper has been talking to me about recent sexual behaviors."
She blinked wide, a look of complete horror stealing over her features. However, she whipped around to Cliffjumper, crying out, "How could you? Cliffjumper, that was private! You can't just go talking about that to anyone!"
"Nah-ah-ah," Ratchet cut in, "he came to me because he is worried."
Her bubble of anger and self-consciousness busted as quickly as it had formed. "He . . . what?"
Cliffjumper shifted his feet uncertainly as Ratchet nodded. "Yes. In short, he says things got pretty violent and some words were shared that weren't very good for any confidence levels." He arched his brow. "Thus, I've . . . come to some conclusions about you, Nightstalker, that I thought that you both need to know."
The mech and femme sent each other a nervous glance. Nightstalker looked back up at him, feeling like she was in trouble. "Which . . . is?"
Ratchet took a deep breath, steeling his emotions before saying, "Nightstalker, I believe you have a series of medical disorders: Stockholm Syndrome, Sadomasochism, and perhaps a touch of hyper sexuality."
They both blinked. Nightstalker opened her mouth, shut it, opened it again. She dragged in a breath before pushing it out slow. "So what's Stockholm Syndrome?"
Ratchet pensively put his servos on his hips. "June talked to me about it. Stockholm is a form of traumatic bonding. It could be any sort of strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other. The pattern of interfacing you had with Cliffjumper was similar to the kind of interface you would have with Megatron, wasn't it?"
Nightstalker bit her lip and dropped her helm, guiltily nodding.
Ratchet paused. He licked his lips. "Nightstalker, I know you think you hate Megatron, but . . . Consider this for me: what if he came and wanted you back?"
"Want me back?" Nightstalker cried out, practically lashing the words out. "I—I wouldn't let him! Ratchet, he RAPED me!"
Ratchet nodded, bearing the brunt of her fuming optics. "I know. But would you honestly not consider it if he wanted to back? To take you as his queen? If he apologized, asked you to come back to him, and promised you the things he used to, would you really not consider it?"
Nightstalker shook. She turned, pressing her hands to her lips in horror as she processed Ratchet's words, and she heard Cliffjumper's breath seize behind her.
"Nights . . . You wouldn't . . ."
Frustrated tears rose. She jutted her chin up, staring at the far wall. "I'm never going to be free of him, am I?"
Ratchet shook his head, grabbing her hand in his. "Don't talk like that, Nightstalker. These kinds of things don't heal overnight."
"Well I wish they did!" she shouted, ripping her hand away and crossing her arms over her chassis. Cliffjumper looked up at Ratchet.
"I . . . guess I can figure what sadomasochism is."
Ratchet nodded. "She takes sexual pleasure in the giving and receiving of pain."
"So what if I do?" Nightstalker snapped, wings perking aggressively and hands balling into fists. She backed a step away, orange optics cutting like fire. "There's nothing wrong with that!"
Ratchet's spark throbbed at the feral look rising in her optics. "Nightstalker . . . There's nothing wrong with it until you take it to the extreme."
She scowled, crossing her arms again and wings fanning madly as she muttered, "There was nothing extreme about that. It wasn't like we have any kind of bondage equipment in this Primus-forsaken Autobot base."
Cliffjumper shifted next to her, but Ratchet ignored her bitter words. "And hyper sexuality. In other words, you may be rather addicted to sex." He paused when she didn't respond to that. "How many times have you two interfaced?"
Cliffjumper looked away. Nightstalker stolidly kept her arms crossed and stared at the wall, ignoring him, so Ratchet was prompted to add, "Let me take a guess. Every night since the first interface?"
Nightstalker didn't move, but Cliffjumper nodded. "Sometimes I have troubles keeping up with her," he muttered quietly.
"So what?" Nightstalker said harshly. She glared at them both. "So Megatron's fucked me so much he literally fragged up both my processor and body? That's just great. I'm never going to be normal."
Her quick switch from anger to depression caused Ratchet to pause. "I think you may be bipolar too."
"Heap it on, heap it on," she hissed. "Anything else?"
Ratchet waved a hand, dismissing her anger. "No. But while we've been using the word bipolar frivolously, I really do think that's why your emotional output is so extreme. It's . . . not an official diagnosis, but with all the conjectures I've had the time to make, additionally Cliffjumper telling me about your sexual habits . . ." His optics softened in pain as he looked at her. "These kind of medical conditions usually fall hand in hand."
Everything seemed to drain from her. Her wings drooped, and she muttered, "So, what? There's no hope for me?"
Ratchet shook his head. "Don't talk like that. Of course there is. I can easily help with your manic-depressive tendencies with a medicated energon. Of your sexuality, you will have to have a great deal of control and drive to change, and Cliffjumper will have to help you."
The red Autobot blinked. "Me?"
Nightstalker nodded. "Like the first time," she whispered. Ratchet witnessed his throat bob, and he reached out and took her tiny servo in his.
"I'll make it right," he whispered back. His hand tightened on hers. "I promise. I won't let you down."
"Thanks," she murmured. "But . . . I don't know how you're going to do it."
"We'll figure it out as we go along."
Ratchet cleared his throat politely, reminding them that he was still there. Both mech and femme jumped before smiling sheepishly at each other with faint flushes. "It won't be easy," Ratchet told them, "but we can make this work."
Nightstalker nodded. Then, a shadow crossed her features. "Ratchet . . . Why am I like this? Why can't I be normal, and pretty, and strong like Arcee?"
Ratchet felt his spark slowly break. He took her free hand, covering it with his own as he looked her in the optics. "First of all, you ARE pretty. Beautiful even. Ask Cliffjumper. Ask Optimus. Ask me, or any other mech here. You ARE beautiful."
Cliffjumper leaned over, kissing the tip of her audio receptor, and Nightstalker's hands tightened. "Beautiful and mysterious like the night sky," he breathed softly.
Nightstalker's wings fanned, and she shivered. She still felt stifled and ugly, but Ratchet added, "If anything, I may suggest a change in colors."
Nightstalker looked up and blinked. "A change in my colors?"
Ratchet nodded. "Yes. Black may be a sultry color, but it seems to weigh you down."
She gaped at him a moment. Then, she snapped her mouth shut and dropped her optics. A moment, and she murmured, "I had my choice of colors. I picked black and orange because that was all that was left of Fli-Ni when the bomb took him away. Charred ground and fire."
Both mechs tightened their hands on her. "You can change the black, I don't care," Cliffjumper said, retracting his claim that he loved how the black complimented her curves. If it was something that held her down, he didn't want her to keep it, no matter how much he liked it.
Ratchet nodded firmly. "A change in colors would be good. A change in pace. And to finally let the memory of your brother rest in peace." He paused. "If I may be so bold, I think silver would be a stunning color on you."
Nightstalker blinked up at him, surprised. "That was my original color," she said softly. "Silver."
A rueful and gentle smile curved the medic's mouth. "Well then, I think we're on to something."
Nightstalker paused. She fluttered her wings. "So . . . A color change. I guess I can do that . . . But . . . Why AM I so messed up?"
"In truth? The attack on Kaon."
Her brow puckered a little. "That far back?"
Ratchet nodded. "Possibly even before then. The fact that you were experiencing a spark break and post traumatic stress disorder when Megatron first began to interface with you, it had to warp your thinking—after all, the overloads he gave you were the first thing that made you feel good after the loss of Nightflier and you clung to that, giving you a misguided conception of what interfacing was really supposed to be like."
Nightstalker nodded. That made sense. And every little thing that could have possibly been seen as nice—him staying some nights after he did her and holding her; the games of tag to blow off steam; the fact that she was the only one he seemed to talk to as a person. She had fallen for it all when he had just been using her the whole time.
"I also think your parents had a hand in this too."
Nightstalker blinked, looking up at him. "What?"
Ratchet nodded, squeezing her servo. "Yes. The lack of a proper father-figure all your life or even a mother-figure—you never had someone to tell you what was wrong and right. All you had to teach you was Airachnid and Megatron, Knockout—Decepticons that didn't understand the difference between right and wrong."
Nightstalker dipped her head. "Oh." With the revelations of everything today, her processor was starting to swim, and then, she got a ping in her communications:
*Hey, Nights! The kids are here!*
She smiled softly, biting her lip. "All right, we're coming back to the front." When Cliffjumper and Ratchet gave her a funny look, she said, "The kids are here."
Cliffjumper's grin grew; Ratchet's face just pinched.
Nightstalker just took the time to hug them both for their support before she headed back up to the front with them, finding them all embroiled deep in conversation about what had been going on the late days. Nightstalker's spark warmed at the very sight of little Raf.
"So . . . You guys could really be going home soon, huh?"
"Don't worry, Raf!" Miko said easily. "We'll come visit! Once we get our place set up, you can bunk with us! Right Bulk?"
It was then, as Nightstalker froze almost mid-motion that she realized what Raf was realizing—and Bulkhead. He looked away uneasily, unable to keep her gaze. "Uh, Miko . . ."
"You ARE taking me with you . . . right?"
"Aren't we all getting ahead of ourselves?" Ratchet cut in with the voice of reason. "Not only do we lack any actual method of reaching Cybertron, but Starscream now controls the sole means of our planet's restoration."
Nightstalker squeezed over, whispering hello to Raf and giving the human a squeeze. Ah, she'd missed him. They'd have to play a round of games before she went nuts.
"As far as we know," Optimus said gravely. Nightstalker looked up.
"You think Starscream's rejoined the 'Cons?" Smokescreen suggested.
"He might have used the Omega Keys to buy back Megatron's favor," Arcee added, optics narrowing at the thought.
Ratchet just scoffed. "Without first trying to sell them to the highest bidder? It wouldn't surprise me if he had the nerve to contact us, and—!"
The computers beeped with a message at that exact moment, causing everyone to blink and look up at the computers. That was creepy.
"Whoa—now THAT'S weird!"
"Is it Starscream?"
Ratchet reached over, checking, and he shook his head. "No. It is Dreadwing." He turned, looking back at them, Nightstalker in particular. "And he wants to meet."
A hand clamped over Knockout's and he gasped in scared surprise, looking up to meet solid red optics.
"Everything . . . okay here?"
He let a small, disturbing little smile curl his mouth plates at the look on Knockout's face, and the red medic quickly stuttered, "J-Just checking cable integrity!" His optics were huge as he lied through his teeth, but Dreadwing let it go, having thwarted Knockout's plan to kill Megatron. In truth, the higher ranking Decepticon was not interested at all in Starscream's interrogation. He just had to keep his optics on Knockout as Soundwave had requested—and in good time too. If he hadn't shown up in the room when he had, his lord and master would have been—
"Is it any wonder that I've come to value loyalty above all else?"
Starscream gave a nervous chuckle, and Dreadwing just marched Knockout up to the computer where they watched the interrogation. "W-Well, we ARE Decepticons. I'm sure that even your beloved Dreadwing isn't perfect."
"No one is perfect, Starscream. But like his departed twin, Dreadwing understands honor!"
And then, a series of Starscream's memories flashed, quick and vibrant as he thought too loud, and Dreadwing stared on in a mixture of shock, horror, and then, white-hot anger at the truth. He watched as Skyquake was awakened, refused Starscream's orders, and then, as Starscream simply watched as his twin was murdered by—
Dreadwing carefully kept his expression deadened as he watched Bumblebee take down his brother. Bumblebee—Not Optimus. The young scout. It burned to know that his brother had been killed by one so young, but it was honorable death, fighting for Megatron's cause. As Bumblebee leapt from a cliff side to land on Skyquake and rip up his parts, Dreadwing begrudgingly allowed some respect for the scout—he had guts, and he had proved his mettle.
And then, Dreadwing stiffened. Dark energon? It spread through his brother's body like a plague, raising him from the dead and giving his corpse un-sentient life to walk again.
"I understand he perished that day," Megatron said.
Starscream gave a noncommittal noise. "Well, Skyquake is neither living nor dead, and continues to wander through some dimensional nether realm, in search of his . . ." and he gave a little laugh, "missing limb."
Megatron grunted. "It would be wise to keep that to yourself around the warship."
Something sick with hatred curdled in Dreadwing's chassis. The ache of his spark break intensified until he thought his spark would bleed out right where he stood. He would keep something like that from him—his own lord and master. No—No longer. He couldn't follow someone who allowed atrocities like that—
"Well," Starscream said on a slight chuckle, "I certainly do well with keeping secrets."
As he said that, past thoughts rose to the front of his mind. The image changed to Nightstalker, and it flickered to—Dreadwing's intakes seized.
It was an image of her. Dreadwing's clenched fists slacked at the sight of his lost love. For a second, the anger drained. Longing filled his chassis at the silver paint, her petite form, the blue optics, and the arch of her body when she would—
His mind shuttered and stalled. He stared in horror for half a click before Starscream got his thoughts back under control, and the picture of Ampere arched and crying out in overload faded. The glow of her spark faded. Starscream vainly tried to push the memory away, and Megatron turned to him with thinly veiled curiosity.
"If I'm not mistaken, that femme bears a striking resemblance to Nightstalker." Megatron hiked a brow, and Starscream chuckled nervously. "Ampere?"
Dreadwing's spark seized; it turned icy. Cold as steel. "An unfortunate accident," Starscream said ruefully, trying to laugh it off. The images flickered again, hazy and distorted as Starscream struggled to remember, but all Dreadwing could catch was brief glimpses of Ampere's blue optics, her sultry black protoform, the glow of her spark—his intakes shuddered, agonized warmth bunching in his chassis in remembrance of taking her as his own; his femme; taking her into his life, his spark, his love.
"I can't even quite remember how it happened," Starscream was muttering. "All I can remember is a very large amount of high grade, some pathetic story of hers about helms, and then she was all over me like some desperate little glitch and I was . . ." and Starscream gave another rueful laugh. "Well, as the humans so naturally coined it, I was too hammered to stop her or care."
Megatron arched a brow, looking down at the seeker in a different light. "After all her years of looking for her father, and you never thought to tell her that it was you?"
Starscream waved a hand. "Oh, PLEASE. I didn't want anything to do with them! I cut the bond as soon as possible and she lost me when the war started. I didn't even know I had sparked her until later when she came back all pathetic and desperate saying that she had my daughter with her." Starscream's face wrinkled. "And, she did. With my helm and heels and everything." He snorted. "She even acts like me. Cowards one and all, though I have to admit, I'm doing much better in that retrospect than she ever has."
Dreadwing was frozen. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. His processor shuddered as he processed it—
Starscream was Nightstalker's father. The mech that had adulterated Ampere.
He was just about to turn on his heel, having heard enough, when Starscream decided to add, "And just to add insult to injury, Nightstalker doesn't know I'm her father, and she doesn't even realize that she's been trying to kill me all her life!"
Dreadwing froze. His wings twitched.
Megatron stared at Starscream a moment, and then, he laughed, long and harsh. "Her entire life she slaved over who had killed her brother! And now you stand here, telling me that it was you? She had you within her grips all her life and never knew?"
Starscream grinned, sensing that his acceptance to the Decepticons was gold. "The irony kills me!"
He turned a left. He couldn't take listening to this blasphemy—not a click longer. His emotions battered in his chassis like a whirlwind of storms, black and clashing as lightning lanced through his spark and thunderous clouds swarmed over him. The pressure on his spark increased until he thought he would be crushed under the despair and rage.
Primus, the RAGE. It came alive inside him like a feral beast, ripping and tearing him apart from the inside out until he was consumed with it. His peds moved of their own accord, taking him to the top of the ship, into the thunderstorm, into the rain that washed over him like a libation, pouring over his wounds and cleansing him of the lies he had lived all his life serving under Megatron.
Decepticons—masters of deception. To each other . . . and to their own sparks.
An emptiness so real spread, locking down on Dreadwing's limbs until he felt like he was shouldering the entire universe. The nothingness thrust into his soul dragged him down into darkness as he stood in the whipping winds and lashing rain, lightning cracking like a whip and thunder rumbling as death's toll. Suffocating fear. All alone. Heart untold. Broken down. Uncovered eyes; the truth burned in his soul.
With an Earth-shattering roar, Dreadwing unleashed his rage and despair.
"Drop your weapons!"
"Hands where we can see them!"
Nightstalker crept behind the bots, flattening her wings on her back so she was harder to be spotted, and she used Bulkhead as a shield. She peeked between their legs to try and find Dreadwing, but the fog was thick. All she could hear was his voice as he said:
"I am not here to fight, but to give you this."
This? What was it? She couldn't see from her vantage point, only could see something glitter slightly gold on the ground.
"The Forge of Solus Prime," Arcee said tensely.
"Could be rigged to blow," the ever suspicious Bulkhead muttered.
She heard Optimus's battle mask slide back. "Dreadwing, what do you ask in return?"
Nightstalker crept a little closer, unseen and unknown behind the Autobots' backs to see Dreadwing standing stolidly, the Forge between them. "Only that . . . you use it wisely."
Now THAT sounded suspicious. What was he getting at?
"And?" Arcee prompted. "The Omega Keys?"
"In Megatron's possession," Dreadwing rattled off freely. "Under heavy guard."
After a moment's more of hesitation, it was Optimus that transformed his cannons back to his servos. "Why?"
"A shadow of disgrace has been cast across the Decepticons," Dreadwing stated. Nightstalker's brows pinched. What? Dreadwing's helm fell. "It is a cause I no longer wish to be part of."
When Optimus walked forward, the Autobots immediately parted for his broad shoulders, and Nightstalker shuffled behind Bulkhead who was proving to be a useful shield. "Then I appeal to you again," Optimus said. "Join us and help end this conflict once and for all."
Dreadwing blinked. "Betraying my kind . . . is not the same as accepting yours."
As he turned, they could catch a glimpse of his face wrought with sorrow. His shoulders slumped before he paused and forcefully lifted his head to the distance. "I need you to pass on a message to the one called Nightstalker."
Her spark jumped. "I'm right here!" she burst. She jumped into sight around Bulkhead and Bumblebee, intending on running up to him, but Bulkhead grabbed her arm quickly, exclaiming, "Nights, no!"
She swatted at his hand. "Let GO." To her astonishment, he did so. Coming up to Dreadwing, she stepped over the Forge and stopped, looking up at him. "What is it?"
He blinked down at her, passion embroiled in his optics like misfortune smeared black. "You have demanded answers to your past," he stated without inflection. His servos fisted, and Nightstalker's spark fluttered a panicked beat. This was it. He knew. She could see it in his optics. He knew what had happened.
"What happened?" she asked breathlessly. Her optics looked up to his with a kind of desperate hope. "Do you know who my father is? Who killed Fli-Ni?"
His body seized up like he had been attacked. His optics darkened. "Bloody, lecherous villain!" he growled. His scowl deepened. "Is it not painfully obvious what wretch would stoop so low? Starscream, you fool! It was always Starscream!"
Nightstalker flinched and recoiled back as if she had been struck by his words. Her optics popped, orange staring blankly at the giant seeker's chest. No. That was too easy. She—She had had him within arm's reach her whole life, one quick swing of terminating him all her life, and she had squandered it without even KNOWING IT!?
"And your father," Dreadwing said darkly. Nightstalker's head snapped up with pained hope. Dreadwing's optics flashed. "Your father is Starscream."
She blinked. A sickening feeling spread over her circuits, and finally, when the shock allowed her to breathe in an in cycle, she shook her head. "No," she finally said. She gave a weak laugh, shaking her head at the cruel irony of all of it, denying, "No, he's not my father. H-He isn't my father, don't even JOKE about scrap like that, you glitch!" Filled with sudden anger, Nightstalker shook, orange optics glaring back at Dreadwing with just as much hatred as he did her.
"I only speak the truth, from Starscream's lips himself!" Dreadwing snapped back.
"If he was my father he would have TOLD me that!" Nightstalker snarled, shaking she was so horrified and angry. "He would have SAID something to me! He was right there all my life, and—"
"You were a mistake!" Dreadwing growled, taking an intimidating step forwards. Every Autobot behind her shifted aggressively. Dreadwing glared down at her. "You were nothing but a mistake spawned from too much high grade, a glitch, and a coward!"
"If she was a glitch then why did you bond with her!" Nightstalker snapped, hurt tears beading in her optics. Her spark pulsed with anger and pain. "If she was such a glitch, why would you bond with her and have Fli-Ni?"
"Because I LOVED her!" Dreadwing shouted. His servos grabbed her by both shoulders, and the Autobots yelled out warnings, but both seekers ignored them, consumed in their own conflict. Dreadwing shook her, repeating, "I LOVED her! I loved her from the darkest pits of my spark, and she betrayed me! She disowned me, changed Nightflier's helm, and wanted nothing to do with me! So I cut the bond! I would not stay with a femme who would despise who I am!"
"Because she was trying to protect Fli-Ni!" Nightstalker cried back. She gave a helpless motion. "She didn't want to be a target!" She heard Knockout's bitter words in the back of her processor and repeated them to Dreadwing. "People take advantage of bonds like that, you know!"
"She should have been faithful!" Dreadwing growled. He shoved her away, stalking a few steps away. "I would have protected her, but she didn't trust me! She dishonored me! And then—" and he gave an indefinite gesture, "You! That adulterous glitch bonded with STARSCREAM of all pathetic mechs and had you!"
"Starscream is not my father!" Nightstalker denied again angrily.
"He is!" Dreadwing barked. He whirled on her again, blazing red optics cutting. "Have you even LOOKED at the shape of your helm? Where do you think your sociopathic tendencies come from? Why do you think you're such a coward? It's in your energon!"
Nightstalker flinched back at the cruel words, shaking and fluttering her wings as she tried to come to grips with the facts. Dreadwing frowned again, mouth slanting fiercely downward. "Ampere and Starscream were drunk. You weren't even meant to be conceived. A mistake."
Nightstalker set her jaw and jutted her chin up. "Is that right? I think it's your fault!" Dreadwing narrowed his optics. "You blame Mom for committing adultery, but YOU were the one who broke the bond! It wasn't adultery if she wasn't bonded to you!"
She didn't even have time to react. His servo clocked her beneath the chin, and she sprawled out across the ground. There was an angry shout, and Nightstalker jumped to her peds and glared at Cliffjumper when he bolted forward. "Keep out of this!" she snapped at him. He skidded to a halt, optics wide and bewildered. Nightstalker wiped the trickle of energon from her mouth. "This is between me and him!"
Nightstalker whirled, but she bit back her anger at Dreadwing. Sure, she was pissed off, but he was the last of her family. Her step-father. After Knockout betrayed and locked her out of his spark . . . Dreadwing was her last chance of a true family. She took a deep breath, steeling her will.
"Look," she finally said. "People make mistakes." Dreadwing scowled, turning away from her and looking far into the distance. Nightstalker walked forward and grabbed the very servo that had just struck her. His head snapped to her. "I—I don't care. I just—You're all the family I have left! And I—I don't want to lose you, no matter what issues we have."
Dreadwing shook his head, but she was surprised when took her hand more firmly, the plating of his wrist parting to expose a link cable.
Her throat jumped. It was like a download. What in the world did he want with that? Nervously, Nightstalker allowed the connection, but Dreadwing refused to look at her. Finally, she whispered as a rather large file began to transfer, "What is this?"
His jaw ticked. "Consider it a gift," he muttered.
Nightstalker shook her head. "No. Don't just leave me with a file. Stay here. With me. Don't go back to the Decepticons if there's nothing left!"
Dreadwing stolidly kept his silence, dark storm clouds gathering beneath his complexion. "Dreadwing? Come on, don't be like that. I'm trying to make things right for once!" Dreadwing just tensed up, shook his head, and pulled his hand away from hers when the file finished downloading.
"You look just like your mother," he said quietly.
"Become one of the Autobots! We can work things out, I promise—"
Something in Dreadwing snapped. He whirled on her shouting down with cruel optics, "I cannot live with the ghost of your mother haunting my every step!" Nightstalker felt the breath stolen from her, and she staggered back, the broken words hitting right in her spark. Dreadwing looked away again, a shaking servo reaching up to press at his chest, his spark. "By the Pit, you look just like her," he rasped. He shook his head. "And when you talk like that . . ." Both hands reached up to grip at his helm before he pushed away his despair and the anger came back. He glared back at her. "I cannot live knowing all that I do. My spark pains at the very sight of you! You, the offspring of the one I love, a glitch from the mech that has ruined me."
Dreadwing shook, and his servos clenched tightly. He glared momentarily over her head at Bumblebee, but pinned his optics back on her. "It was by Starscream's folly that my brother Skyquake died. He stood by and watched! And then, he desecrates his remains by raising him from the dead! He adulterates my spark mate, has a child I detest the sight of, steals my rank among the Decepticons, and kills my only son!"
Dreadwing's bellowing voice tapered off, and he shook with rage and despair. Just when Nightstalker thought he was going to snap again, his shoulders slumped in defeat. "Starscream has ruined me. He has consumed my spark from the inside out. I suffer spark break from my brother, my mate, my son. I cannot live with it. Not any longer . . ."
Nightstalker's neck tightened. "No!" she cried, jumping forward. She snagged his hand again. "You can't go! You're all I have left!"
"You are not mine!" he bellowed back. Nightstalker recoiled, staggering back again at his cold cruelty. He scowled, turning away again. "I have lived in my misery long enough. I will go back. And I with either kill Starscream or die trying."
Nightstalker watched in horror as Dreadwing turned and walked away, but his shoulders were slumped. No. He had given up before he had even tried. He merely wanted to die and go to the Well of All Sparks with his brother. Killing Starscream would only be icing on the cake. He was walking away to die.
And there wasn't anything she could do. Nightstalker ran forward, screaming after him, but he jumped from the cliff and took off, flying away for good. The last image of him she would ever see. She stood shock still as the last glimmer of his thrusters faded from sight. The silence pounded. Her spark bled. Then, with a scream, Nightstalker lost it, kicking the Forge, scratching at her paint, and screaming her throat raw of all the injustice her life had led. With a defeated cry, Nightstalker fell to her knees and clutched at her helm, rocking and shaking with tears.
"I'm sorry. I picked the worst time to tell you all that I did."
Nightstalker gave a slight shrug, cuddled into Ratchet's chassis. Her place of comfort. Still her father. Always. "I needed to know."
"There could have been a more prudent time."
Cliffjumper squeezed the hand he held. "He's right, you know."
Bumblebee looked up, hands holding her peds in his crisscrossed lap. *Are you sure you're okay? I don't care who your father was, Nights. I'll love you no matter what*
Nightstalker gave a pained smile down at him, and she rubbed her toes affectionately into his palm. "Thanks. It's just . . . a lot to take in. It hurts."
Ratchet's hand reached up to knead the sweet spot between her wings. "That's why we're here, Nightstalker."
At first, Ratchet hadn't wanted all of them around her at once, but Nightstalker told him that she wanted all three of them. It made her feel better, feel . . . less alone. Each heavy hammer of the Forge of Solus Prime crashed through the room as Optimus worked at a steady and diligent pace. Bulkhead, Arcee, and Smokescreen killed the time by talking to each other.
Nightstalker gave a little sigh, turning her face into Ratchet's chassis and linking her fingers with Cliffjumper's. "This is nice."
A noncommittal rumble from Ratchet. "Do you still want to kill your brother's killer?"
She paused. She felt Cliffjumper's thumbs stroke over the back of her hand. "I don't know."
It was the first time she had ever wondered about getting revenge for Fli-Ni. She had known all her life, and known she wanted revenge, but now . . . ? Yes, it was Starscream. But Starscream was also her father. Sure, she despised that he had never told her he was her father, but . . . That was just it. He was her FATHER. She felt like she had to love him by default. He had given her life. She wanted to be loved by him. Then again, after he had killed Fli-Ni and all but disowned her, it was clear he didn't care about her. She was just setting herself up for pain hoping so hopelessly for him to change. She stifled a bitter laugh. She really WAS a masochist.
She ought to kill him. He had done so many terrible things. He had even almost killed Cliffjumper, just for the hell of killing him. Her thumb stroked Cliffjumper's hand. He killed her brother. Probably on purpose. She shouldn't give him another chance—he didn't give Fli-Ni the second chance. But she couldn't find it in her to hate him now, even after all she knew. She felt weak because of the fact.
Maybe I'll get my revenge when Starscream tells me he hates everything about me. When I go to him, ask him to be my father and love me, and he'll refuse, so maybe then I'll find all that anger that I'm supposed to have. I don't know where it all went. Maybe Megatron raped it out of me. Optimus will be certainly glad that I don't want to get revenge.
She looked up at the mysterious Prime. His entire body strained and surged with power every time he swung the Forge, slowly transforming the ground bridge into a space bridge. She wasn't mad at him for not telling her. In fact, it had probably been for the best anyways. He had always seemed to know what was best for her.
She hesitated to open the file Dreadwing had downloaded into her. A gift. She didn't know what to think of his gift. She was almost . . . afraid of what would be in there.
And, thus it was that with a couple more swings, Optimus had finished his work on the ground bridge—the space bridge. Their means of getting to Cybertron, their element of surprise. Megatron had figured out what the Omega Keys were—a massive surge of energy in space through the Decepticon space bridge alerted them that the 'Cons had jumped to Cybertron. And so they would follow with the element of surprise since the Decepticons didn't realize they had the means to advance to Cybertron. From across the base, Nightstalker could hear Cliffjumper hollering with good-natured—yet, kinda missing out—fun.
"Aw, c'mon! I don't get a fancy relic to use?"
Nightstalker heard Optimus rumble the reasoning behind it. Cliffjumper just snorted and laughed.
"I think you just like my fists a little too much, eh? Not to mention these triple cylinder ion cannons are pure sex! Like I need a relic to help me trash some 'Cons!"
She rolled her optics. Typical Cliffjumper. She worried for the Autobots, but trusted them as they bridged out—a squeezing hug from Bumblebee, a swiped kiss from Cliffjumper. Then, in a bright flash of light, they were gone.
Nightstalker settled leaning against Ratchet's peds to wait and see what would happen.
Btw, I have work on season 3 to do as I don't know what the episodes will be, and I also need to work out some personal kinks with it... So updates are going to stall for a bit after the next chapter.