WARNINGS: Gay Robots. Drift x Wing fluff. SPOILERS for MTMTE as well as the Drift mini-series. Rodimus saying retarded things.
Set after volume 4 of the ongoing More Than Meets The Eye comic. Frankly, not much is going to make sense without having read both of those stories, though.
Put to Rights
"Wakey wakey, Sweetspark. Mommy's made you cupcakes!"
Drift let out a long groan. Waking up to Rodimus' singsong goading never boded well for him. Usually he didn't mind. His captain had a fantastic sense of humor, and Drift was generally content to roll with the pranks, but damn it his processor hurt like all pit, and he was truly, truly afraid to open his optics to find out what was going on.
Not afraid because Rodimus was certainly feeling smug about something but afraid because he couldn't remember what was going on, where he was, what he had been doing, or why he'd gone offline. There was a lingering sense of sheer terror in his spark that made him tremble, instinctively, even as he reflexively suppressed the memory files from reopening. Gut instinct told him he didn't want to know.
More of this must have shown in his features than he intended because suddenly there were hands on him, Rodimus taking one of Drifts up in his own in a firm, reassuring grip, the other resting on one spaulder gently.
"Easy, buddy. You're safe." Rodimus said, all teasing gone from his voice. That tone alone told Drift volumes of how much had gone severely wrong. Drift struggled, forcing his optics to online. He cringed. In front of a searing bright backdrop was Rodimus, only inches away, looking more worn and haggard than Drift had ever seen him. But he was smiling.
"Where…" Drift's voice croaked out gravelly, wet and almost entirely unlike his own. He tried to sit up but Rodimus held him down.
"Easy." Rodimus repeated. "You've been entirely rebuilt. Again." He let out a strained chuckle. "You, my friend, have an unsettling knack for near-misses in the deactivation department."
Drift sagged back, shuttering his optics again. Figures.
"That's it," A stranger's voice said from nearby. "Just relax while your systems all re-boot. It's probably going to take a while." Drift wanted to sit up and follow the voice to its source, but Rodimus resolutely held him down. He relented to the advice and waited, listening to the hum of his own systems, oddly familiar but decidedly different from before. He scanned his own systems idly, watching as each booted up, grunting softly as his optical system pinged a slight mis-calibration. He'd thought Rodimus looked a little blurry. The stranger he still hadn't seen grunted as well, apparently monitoring Drift's progress just as closely.
"I'll get the optical relay straightened out once everything else boots." He assured. Drift nodded. Memories were starting to resurface, and he let them, wanting more to know what had happened to him, than the bliss of not knowing. The end of the war, the legends of the Knights of Cybertron, the Lost Light and Rodimus, Delphi…
Drift let out a strangled cry, jerking away from Rodimus' touch suddenly, horrified.
"A-aaah! D-don't touch me!" He choked. Panic flooded him. The Rust. Red Rust, and he'd be damned for an eternity in the pit before he allowed Rodimus to suffer the same fate as he. He rolled blindly, nearly toppling off the other side of the medical berth he'd been sprawled on, and suddenly, damn it all, but there were more hands on him, forcing him down. "No! The Plague! Don't touch!"
"Easy! EASY!" The stranger's voice held far more command suddenly, and a third set of hands caught his shoulders. "It's gone. Gone! Nobody here is at risk anymore!"
Despite his panic, the words did sink in, and Drift stilled. He onlined his optics again to stare up at the fuzzy image of the stranger who'd been addressing him, at last, and his spark skipped. The intricate, snowy white and clean armor of the mech standing over him was far too familiar.
"Are we in…?"
"New Crystal City?" Rodimus broke in, and Drift glanced back over to him as the other mech gave a little chuckle. "Yeah. Lucky us they still had your specs from last time they rebuilt you." Drift's spark seemed to shiver in dejection. He'd had no intention of ever coming back to this place. There were… far too many memories that he'd rather keep in deep storage. It was too late, however, all of it coming back fresh and clear, as if the centuries between this moment and that time never existed. It hurt far more than he expected.
"Oh. How…how did we find them?" He himself had deleted the coordinates to the hidden city from his own data banks the second he'd left the city.
"We found you, actually." The technician said, smiling wryly at Drift. "We picked up a distress call from the Lost Light and offered assistance. Took quite a while to set you all to rights. You were by far the worst off, though."
"We almost lost you," Rodimus said, and in the tone of that statement there was a fear that Drift had never noticed before. The grip on Drift's hand tightened slightly, and Drift squeezed back. It had been a while since there had been someone who would sincerely care if he'd died or not.
"Well," Drift said, voice still rocky, "Thank you." He was looking at Rodimus, and was surprised when his Captain suddenly straightened up, pulling away. Drift watched the other mech shoot the technician a meaningful look over the top of him, and frowned a little.
"Also," Rodimus said, optics now focused behind Drift, "You've had a visitor." Drift suddenly became aware of that third set of hands again, still resting feather-light on his shoulders, warming the new armor there. He craned his neck, twisting to try and look straight up at the figure standing directly above him, even as a shudder of fear spiked at the realization that someone had been right there, touching him and he had failed to notice. He cringed, dazzled by the painfully bright lights over head, and re-cycled his optics several times, trying to focus on the dark silhouette. He couldn't see much, but the outline made him shiver even as denial dashed the hope in his spark, and he blamed the resemblance on his blurry optics as the mech above him flashed a crooked smile.
"You're not the only one who's endured a total rebuild, Drift."
Drift went rigid. The voice was unmistakable, even after centuries. He made no effort to hide the shock and disbelief he felt at witnessing a ghost.
"Wing?" The name croaked out of his vocalizer without permission. Drift tried not to think on how pathetic it sounded. The mech smiled, stepping around to stand beside Rodimus, where Drift could better see him.
"That's me." He said mildly. Drift shook his head, awed.
"You died." He pointed out flatly, disbelieving.
"Not quite." Wing said, scratching at one side of the crest of his helm. "Almost. Pretty much. Took them a while to notice I hadn't. It took significantly longer for the medics to figure out how to revive me. I was little more than a ghost locked in my own shell for a very, very long time." Though he smiled, Drift could tell that it was a memory that was far from pleasant. He felt his spark twist painfully into a guilt-shaped ache.
"I'm sorry." He said. Sorry for a great number of things. Wing's near-death experience, sorry for leaving, sorry for so easily accepting his death…
Wing only smiled the easy smile he was so good at and shrugged.
"It's good to have you back, Drift." He said. Beside him, Rodimus was inching away quietly, though his optics were fixed on Drift's face.
No, he doesn't know. Drift thought to his friend. Rodimus knew. Too smart for his own good as he was, he'd figured it out the first time Wing's name had come up in conversation. Drift had not lied, sure that there was no reason to hide the truth, at the time.
It had only been after Wing's messy death that Drift had realized how deeply he loved the knight. He had hoped that time would heal the pain of forever unrequited love, but it hadn't. It had been his darkest secret; his only secret. He'd carried it in his spark all this time trusting that he would never have to approach the 'what if's' because there was no point in dwelling on a love separated by death.
Wing also seemed to notice Rodimus' retreat.
"Rodimus?" He asked, tilting his helm curiously. Drift realized the technician had left as well. Rodimus turned and shot Drift a sad looking smile. Drift suddenly missed the bravado, not wanting to accept what that tinge of sadness might mean.
"You guys need to catch up." He threw a sloppy salute over to Drift. "I'm gonna go recruit-hunting." And then he left, leaving Drift alone with his past. Wing was staring after the other mech, looking somewhat dumbfounded. Drift struggled up into a sitting position with a long sigh.
"He's like that," He explained lamely, attempting a shrug. Wing turned back to Drift and shot him a dazzling smile.
"Oh, I know. We've had a long time to get to know one another while waiting for your recovery." Wing paused, his smile softening. "He's told me much about you." Drift cringed, wondering how much exactly that meant. "He seems to think you've been trying too hard… but from what I've seen, and what I learned… I'm delighted by who you've become, Drift."
Drift lowered his head against the words.
"Rodimus obviously gave you the censored version of the story, then." He murmured. "That, or he's dumber than I thought. There's a big difference between acting and being one's self. I figured he'd know the difference as well as you would."
"You seem to still be carrying a burden, Drift." Wing said, nodding. Yes. He had gathered that. But more of Drift's so-called act had stuck than the former Decepticon realized.
"You." Drift all but whispered.
"What?" Wing was shocked that it had been said so bluntly, even if he had suspected. Rodimus hadn't been quite as subtle as he thought he was.
"You. I've been carrying you…all this time…" Drift's voice was getting quieter and quieter, his face dropping ever lower until his chin was nearly against his chest plates, hiding his optics from Wing. Wing lifted his hands back to Drift's shoulders, cupping the joints gently in either hand. Drift flinched as if the touch stung.
For a very long time, Drift didn't answer, merely curled in tighter. Wing leaned in, winding his arms loosely around Drift, and nudged the top of his helm with his chin. Drift shivered, his plating rattling faintly against Wing's, and let out a long, gusty ex-vent.
"There's… a lot of things I wish I had done differently." Drift admitted softly. He sank into the embrace, shamed but unable to stop himself. He could hear the gentle whirr of Wing's systems, and felt himself sinking into his past with the familiar sound.
"And yet," Wing's arms tightened around him. "You are blessed yet again with a second chance." With those words, Drift felt his own arms fly up, tightening around Wing's waist, clinging.
"I got you killed," Drift said. He could feel himself breaking, his resolve leaking out of him with the same sloppy wet pain that had melted his joints under the throes of the Rust. Dissolving from the inside out: crying the rot away only for more to fill in, his strongest parts the first to crumble. The plague had felt, Drift mused, very much like being in love. Wing's soft laugh, gentle and tinkling like the first falling leaves of autumn, broke Drift away from his spiraling thoughts.
"Almost," He corrected lightly.
"Close enough!" Drift groused, pulling back to glare, or attempt to glare, at Wing. The golden glow of the Jet's optics was soft, warm in a way Drift had never seen before as Wing regarded him quietly.
"I never blamed you, you know." Wing said after a moment of silence. Drift let out a snorting sound. "But, if it's what you need to hear, I forgive you anyway."
"It's not forgiveness I need from you," Drift muttered. Wing let out a noncommittal hum, pulling Drift in against him once more, his embrace a little firmer this time. Drift felt the hard shell of his frustration melt away again, leaving him bare. Wing leaned in, and he felt the jet's chin resting on his shoulder. More than once, Drift mused, he'd wished for exactly this. More than once he'd come a hair's breadth from death. He was on a mission, or had been, before his latest disaster. He could admit to himself now that this is what he'd been chasing, regardless of what he'd told Rodimus and the others on the Lost Light. He didn't think he'd be continuing with them on their quest.
The decision, along with the words he'd been holding in for so long, came tumbling out of Drift's processor without warning or permission, but with the type of assertion he hadn't experienced in a very long time. In that moment, in Wing's arms and his mind made up, he felt more like himself than he had…possibly ever.
"Wing, I love you."