And here it is, the last part of a story that was supposed to be a one-shot. But you know how it happens: you fall in love with a plot, and it's very difficult to write 'The end'.
But this is it. After surrendering to the idea of writing a sequel to 'My happy ending', I knew I had to give it a closure, and this is the result. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
Remember that this is an AU, and that you need to have read both 'My happy ending' and 'My wild 9.99 percent' to understand this story.
As always, I want to give a big dose of hugs to my dear friend iratepirate for revising my grammar despite her crazy schedule.
Our own private Gestalt
Written by Taipan Kiryu
Knock Out was greeted by the sight of his partner's back, as was the case every time the doctor returned from a solo mission. Anybody could have mistaken that kind of welcome for indifference, but Knock Out knew better. He had always known better, ever since Breakdown and familiarity had become the same thing. Actually, he couldn't remember a moment in which his partner had been a stranger, not even when he had first met him.
So Breakdown didn't turn around to greet him, nor did he say anything other than the regular growl of acknowledgement he reserved for those circumstances. Once again, Knock Out didn't care; he knew Breakdown was a mech of few words, and few stares for the matter. But there was more in that growl than anybody else could have detected; there was camaraderie, and complicity, and awkward affection.
"I'm back," Knock Out said unnecessarily, not really looking to start a conversation.
"Mm," Breakdown said, continuing with whatever he was doing on the workbench.
Knock Out looked at his partner one astro second longer than usual before continuing on his way to his work station.
One, two …
"So how did it go?"
Three… right on time. Knock Out smirked, satisfied by his accurate prediction. Breakdown could look indifferent, but he had never been able to fool him. Knock Out knew his assistant as well as he knew himself. If at some point he had ever considered that thought scary, it was now proving to be nothing but revealing.
"The usual," Knock Out replied, rummaging through his private cabinet. "Dirty Empties, useless equipment, a wreck of a facility… definitely not worth the fuel spent on travelling to that forsaken colony. Those have to be the two most useless solar cycles I have ever spent." Knock Out and honesty had never been in danger of becoming a couple, but he didn't enjoy telling that particular lie.
Breakdown turned around, right on schedule. It was always the same formula: Knock Out complained about something, Breakdown broke down his posture of indifference, Knock Out filled him in on the details, Breakdown listened to his every word…
"You didn't find any resistance, did you?"
Good ole Breakdown… It wasn't enough for him that Knock Out had returned safe from whatever mission he'd been on, he had to be completely sure. It had always been like that, but for the first time Knock Out realized that perhaps it had been happening for an eternity.
"If by resistance you mean rusted Empties threatening the smoothness of my wax job, then yes, Breakdown, you could say I found resistance…" Knock Out gave a little attention to his favorite can of wax before continuing. "There was an Autobot deserter, though. You could tell by the remains of his paintjob."
Breakdown grimaced disdainfully. "I trust you finished him off."
Knock out smirked. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that. I gave him exactly what he deserved."
Breakdown nodded and turned around. He had extinguished the sparks of many Autobots, but Knock Out had never seen the glee in his optics that many other Decepticons had when being lost in a killing spree. Breakdown did his job and did it well, effective and brutal in his destruction, but he was never scornful or sadistic with his enemies. Knock Out felt as if he had known Breakdown forever, but it was only in moment that he felt he was beginning to understand him. If what that Autobot deserter had said was true…
It was his first kill, go and ask him if you don't believe me. You, Dead End, you must remember, you knew him better than anyone… Breakdown was never the killing type… Neither was I…
His confusion had been as bad as his inner struggle after he had left that Autobot scraplet go, and just as painful. If the Autobot had killed the one called Dead End, as he had claimed, then Knock Out should have offlined him instead of repairing him. He didn't remember that name, he didn't know who he was, but he knew for certain that Dead End hadn't been good at holding grudges; he just wouldn't have been interested. The other two, however…
Knock Out frowned. Fantasies were made of that substance. Insanity too.
A discreet glance at his partner revealed that Breakdown hadn't noticed anything.
They spent the next few breems working in silence, Breakdown cleaning and polishing some tools and Knock Out typing on his computer terminal. Knock Out loved speed and excitement, but he also enjoyed those moments of peace spent with his assistant. Breakdown's presence had become such a constant in his life that he couldn't imagine living otherwise. In his dictionary, loneliness meant not having Breakdown around.
"The Autobot I found was a flier," Knock Out said eventually, after his search in the ship's data base proved to be unsatisfactory.
"Mm?" Breakdown murmured, apparently too absorbed in his work.
"He had no wings anymore, but you could tell he was a flier."
"There were never many Autobot fliers," was Breakdown's response. Unlike other Decepticons, he wouldn't make a speech about how the Autobots were inferior because of their ground-based modes. He and Knock Out had always shared a love for the friction of their tires on the ground, the same way they had always made fun of the winged Decepticons' self-appointed superiority.
"Ah, the good times," Knock Out said, doing his best to sound relaxed, helped by the memory of their first Energon tracking missions together. "We certainly have had fun shooting those Autobot fliers down. Remember that squad in the Quadrant Epsilon?"
Knock Out's little antic worked beautifully, as his partner broke his stiff stance and began to laugh, a sound so scarce and yet so familiar.
The doctor smirked; he had always been very accurate when choosing the perfect time to attack, and he would make the best use of the momentum.
"Like that time, at that oil refinery… when you shot Starscream down by mistake. I guess his old color scheme could be rather confusing."
Time froze. Knock Out would have noticed it even if he hadn't been expecting it. He turned around to appreciate the exact moment in which everything halted. He could have sworn that he stopped hearing the soft hum of Breakdown's systems as his massive fingers lost grip on the laser scalpel he was cleaning. When the tool fell to the floor, Knock Out was almost sorry for having ambushed his partner like that.
Now, look at me. Yes, that's it… This is one time you know you have to look me right in the face. Breakdown's neck joints creaked with the movement, but it was his optics that surprised Knock Out the most. He had never, ever, seen that expression on his partner's facial plates. Once again, Knock Out didn't feel satisfaction. He had always associated his best friend with bravery and might, but now he looked like he was only interested in running away. Knock Out didn't know why, but he wouldn't have found it strange if Breakdown hid behind him.
"What... how did you…" Breakdown muttered.
So it was true what Fireflight had said. Once upon a time, Breakdown had shot down Starscream by mistake when fighting the Autobot and his team. Only that Knock Out had been there too… divided in three.
Knock Out shook his head, his thoughts still too confusing and frustrating.
"It's getting too enclosed in here, mein freund… Care to join me for a drink?"
Had he not been so troubled, Breakdown would have certainly asked about the use of the space bridge to go to have a simple drink. His silence, deep and heavy this time, only proved how shaken he was after being hit by the bomb, a few simple words that had shattered the secret he had kept for so many thousands of vorns. Knock Out knew that he should be grateful, even touched by the huge amount of suffering his partner had taken on his behalf, but the truth was that he was feeling angry and betrayed, and not precisely because the Autobot deserter had spoken the truth…
"Knock Out," Breakdown tried for the third time since they left the Nemesis.
Knock Out didn't respond, pretending to focus on the way ahead of them, unstable and definitely not made for rubber wheels. The dimensional portal they had just trespassed was still closing behind them.
"Did you… Back there, did you remember…?"
"Race you to the oil house!" Knock Out said, more happily than he had expected. He had always loved racing, but the sudden need for speed and joy he felt came from somewhere else, from that not-so-tiny-anymore part of him that he had so easily associated with insanity. Wildrider, the Autobot had called it.
Knock Out accelerated, thankful for his superior speed. Breakdown was left behind, but still he could feel his partner's uneasiness through the bond they had always shared; the same bond Knock Out had taken for granted and was now being forced to give a name.
"A race…? Now?" Breakdown's voice sounded surprised through the commlink. It wasn't about racing, but about timing and enthusiasm. Well, now Breakdown would have to get used to that spontaneous side of him… again.
"I did an interesting search in the Nemesis' data banks," Knock Out said as he attacked the road, for once not caring much about the possible damage to his finish. "Gestalt technology… I never gave it any importance, just like the thousands of other failed experiments that occurred before I was assembled. You happened to be online when Gestalts existed, didn't you, Breakdown?"
Usually, Breakdown would have pleased Knock Out with a rare laugh, as he did every time the doctor mentioned anything about his friend's old age. But this time, the only thing Knock Out could feel was increasing anxiety. He didn't feel proud of cornering his partner like that, but the veils had started to fall and he couldn't afford to stop now.
Breakdown didn't answer, of course. What could he say? That he had indeed been online when Gestalts existed, that he had been part of one and, oh surprise, that Knock Out had been as well, only that his name wasn't Knock Out back then, and he hadn't been one robot either, but three.
"It's very interesting what you find in the main data base, but what you don't find is even more interesting," Knock Out continued when the silence lingered too long. "Everybody has heard about Gestalts, about how they turned out to be useless in battle due to their lack of speed and coordination… but still, I was surprised to discover that some information had been mysteriously erased from the data banks. You wouldn't know what happened to such information, would you mein freund?"
The sound of Breakdown's tires braking was so screechy that it disturbed Knock Out's audio receptors. He braked as well, transforming to his bipedal mode and turning around to confront the one robot that, more than ever, meant the universe to him.
"I… suppose we need to talk," Breakdown managed to say despite his awkwardness. He was ashamed too, which was something Knock Out had never seen before; at least in this lifetime, because he was certain he had witnessed that expression on his partner's face before.
"Save it for the high grade," Knock Out said. "We have reached our destination."
The wrecked building stood right before them, looking more like a junkyard than an oil house. Breakdown blinked at it, perhaps noticing it for the first time. At some point he had to wonder why they had travelled half the galaxy to have a drink in a rotten oil house located in some lost neutral zone.
"Now, a favour," Knock Out said, with a tone that left no doubt that he was going to say something extremely important. "Whatever you see inside, be a doll and keep your weapons subspaced."
Breakdown frowned. He seemed to have reached the peak of his confusion.
Knock Out gave him his most reassuring glance. "Things don't make any sense now, but hopefully they will by the end of the cycle. Just trust me on this one, Breakdown, as you always did."
For some reason, Knock Out knew that Breakdown had understood exactly what always had meant.
The first thing Fireflight saw was the hammer, massive and deadly as he had heard it was.
Then came the flight of sparks. Mechano inches from his face, but not meant for him; the thick arm of his attacker shaken by the mild, but accurate, electric shock, not intended to hurt, but to stop.
It worked. It shouldn't have, but it worked. The Decepticons' deadliest soldier shouldn't have been stopped by an attack of that kind, but that's exactly what happened. It seemed that Breakdown continued to be a follower, always obeying his teammates without questioning them.
"I told you to keep your weapons subspaced!" Knock Out yelled, his hold tight on his Energon prod. "We are not to fight this Autobot, not today!"
Fireflight allowed himself a sad smile. Slingshot and Air Raid would have been satisfied causing that kind of reaction in one of their sworn enemies – so too would have Skydive, even if he would never have admitted it to himself. Fireflight hadn't seen Breakdown since doomsday, but he had heard about his reputation. And even with that, he was sure that Breakdown had tried to attack him not because he was an Autobot, but because he had recognized him too.
Fireflight waved to the newcomers, as if the most powerful hammer in the galaxy hadn't been close to smashing him to junk. He hadn't reacted out of bravery, but by the absolute, insane certainty that Knock Out wouldn't have allowed Breakdown to kill him. Drag Strip would have loved to see an old enemy shattered to bits, but Wildrider was very interested in having that conversation, and Dead End had to be at least a little curious – or too lazy to move an arm to kill someone that hadn't attacked him first. Fireflight knew practically nothing about the bizarre mix of sparks that Knock Out was, but he still knew that, in any Gestalt, two would always defeat one, especially if the Gestalt was lacking its head.
"Long time no see," he said to Breakdown. "You've put on some muscles since the last time we met."
The big Decepticon's optics were literally on fire as he turned to his partner and shot him an accusatory glare. "What's the meaning of this? What is he doing here?" Still, Breakdown didn't try to attack Fireflight again.
"Starting with the fact that he's alive, you mean?" Knock Out said calmly as he folded his Energon prod. There it was, Dead End's elegant serenity; it felt odd, but nice, to see it again. "Would you mind sitting down, mein freund? I asked you here to have a drink, remember? And correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't involve killing our companion."
"Not today," Fireflight muttered to himself. He thought he saw smoke coming from Breakdown's processor when the brutal Decepticon turned around to stare at him again. Fireflight returned the glare, if only to see if Breakdown continued to cower when any pair of optics focused on him. He was slightly surprised to see that Breakdown didn't look down. Slightly, because many things had changed since life had came into a halt. He too had stopped being himself a long time ago. Even his teammates would have had a hard time recognizing him.
"You are dead," Breakdown growled to him. "I saw you dying."
"I saw them dying, and yet here they are, alive and kickin'," Fireflight said, pointing towards Knock Out, who had sat comfortably on the chair beside him.
Breakdown hit the table, making a dent in the middle that was in the perfect shape of his fist. "What did you tell him?" the blue giant roared, every moment more furious. "You idiotic Aerialbot, you've ruined everything!"
It only took one single touch of Knock Out's hand to calm his partner down, at least to stop him from destroying the place. "Relax. He only told me the basics. I'm hoping that by the third or fourth cube of high grade today, I'll know a little more than that," Knock Out said, waving to the very scared bartender.
Despite the effect that Knock Out seemed to have on him, Breakdown looked far from being relaxed. "But… but… do you at least know who he is?"
"Fireflight, Aerialbot and daydreamer, created by Autobot technology and given life by the Matrix of leadership," Knock Out recited as he kept signaling his order to the bartender. "Oh, he's also the one who put a plasma bolt through my energy core, or at least that's what he said."
"Dead End's energy core," Fireflight corrected. Eons had passed since doomsday, but he still wasn't proud of that; his first, and only, kill.
Breakdown didn't sit, but collapsed on the chair across from him, almost breaking it. Despite the painful memories biting with every pulse of Fireflight's spark, he couldn't avoid finding the situation amusing, if not ridiculous. Never in his life had he imagined that he would end up in an oil house with four of his worst enemies, three of them who happened to be dead. Maybe he was dead too, offlined on doomsday as the rest of his team, and condemned to having a drink with the Stunticons for eternity in his own personal hell. He wouldn't have been surprised if Motormaster had broken through the door just to complete the picture.
Knock Out put a reassuring arm on Breakdown's hand, a gesture born more from Dead End than anyone else, although Fireflight recognized Wildrider in the affectionate squeeze of the fingers. It was hard to believe that nobody else had managed to put two and two together; it was quite obvious that Dead End, Wildrider and Drag Strip lived in that spark. But then again, most of the Cybertronians that had fought beside and against the Stunticons were dead, and hadn't known them as deeply as their sworn enemies had. Fireflight wondered if somebody still remembered him and his team.
"All right, now that we're done with first impressions, we can proceed to the reason that brought us here," Knock Out said.
Breakdown fixed a hurt gaze on his partner. "You staged this?"
"I asked Fireflight to come, yes. Apologies for dragging you here without telling you anything, but I didn't think it would have been proper to invite our guest to the Nemesis."
The familiarity with which Knock Out had said his name was disturbing. After all that had happened between both Combiner teams, Fireflight wouldn't have expected anything less than hate, but with Knock Out's memories gone, even his instinct hadn't been able to defeat his curiosity. In a way, Fireflight envied him.
"We don't need him!" Breakdown yelled, once again on the edge of honouring his name. "If you had suspicions about who you are, you could have come directly to me! This is our enemy! Do you at least know what he did?"
Fireflight snorted. "What I did?" He stood up from his chair and pointed a recently repaired finger toward Breakdown's face. "I almost got terminated after your brutish leader shot me down, and I was forced to see my team being slaughtered by yours, that's what I did! What? Were you on a bed of roses when you blew Skydive to pieces right in front of me?"
A powerful hand closed around his wrist. "You killed Dead End." Breakdown didn't shout, his voice actually lowered, but for some reason it sounded sharper than any threat.
"I had to kill him. It was him or Air Raid." Fireflight was very aware that his voice had sounded dark too, but it couldn't be otherwise. It didn't matter how much he had allowed insanity to dominate him, he would always remember doomsday.
"We can spend the rest of the cycle discussing who killed who," Knock Out said, putting his hands on his companions' arms and managing to separate them, "or we can sit down and have a civilized talk."
Fireflight felt the need to tell Knock Out just where he could insert his civilized talk, but he found himself dropping on the chair instead. "I came here only because you saved my life, but this is as much as you will get from me. What your friend said is true. We are enemies. Our teams were built to fight each other."
"We were built to own the roads," Breakdown corrected him. "You were nothing but a bunch of airplanes made from junk."
Fireflight could have said something very offensive about the Stunticons' terrestrial origins, but he had shared with Silverbolt an affection for the planet of blue skies they had been appointed to guard, something that his other three teammates had never completely understood.
"I see that filling yourself with steroids also made your mouth quite a lot bigger, Breakdown. You have some struts to complain, when it was I who lost everything, not you!"
Breakdown slammed the table again, bending one of the metal legs. "My team died right before my eyes!"
This time, Fireflight replied in the same way, also managing to damage his side of the table. "Did it?" he said, pointing toward Knock Out again. "Okay, is it a body count that you're looking for? Fine with me! Let's see, four of my teammates terminated, only one of yours… and not precisely the one you liked the most. It doesn't take a lot to realize who won the war between the Aerialbots and the Stunticons, now does it?"
"Motormaster," Knock Out said, this time ignoring the outburst. "Point number one on my agenda… Who was Motormaster?"
Breakdown looked as if he had been hit, and for a moment he seemed the same size he used to be, making Fireflight wonder if the chair was engulfing him.
"He was your team leader," the Aerialbot replied when he saw that Breakdown wouldn't be able to speak. "Head and frame of Menasor, your combined form. The most brutal Decepticon I've ever met, although that shouldn't be fresh news to you. He spent more time beating all of you around than making war on my team."
Breakdown leaned toward him, but kept his fists out of the movement. "You don't know slag about what you're saying. Just because your leader was a failure at controlling his team, doesn't mean that mine was too."
Fireflight snorted. "Yeah? I seem to recall one time where he ripped your arm off only because you failed to follow a simple order."
"Perhaps if your leader had ripped off your arms more often, your teammates would still be alive," Breakdown hissed with a level of malice that would never have shined in the young Breakdown's optics.
Nobody, not even Fireflight himself, noticed when the gun appeared. It was there, pointing toward Breakdown's face even before he had finished speaking.
"Careful," Knock Out said in a low voice. "You blew up my energy core once. Don't make me extend you the same courtesy."
Fireflight felt the heat of Knock Out's blaster under the table, so close to his midsection that it would blow up much more than just his energy core. He wasn't afraid, though; perhaps it was fair if the score was settled. He shouldn't have survived his team, anyway.
"You're not Dead End right now, though," he felt obliged to say, recognizing the glee in the optics of one Stunticon that wouldn't spare him. For a moment it was only Drag Strip there, eagerly willing to pull the trigger. Fireflight couldn't help but pity Knock Out; if the three mechs inhabiting him continued to struggle, they would end up consuming whatever he had left of his sanity.
Insanity, though, brought salvation again. A smile, not a smirk, formed on the handsome plates of the Decepticon doctor. "I'm unique," Wildrider muttered within that voice, the lack of his Texan accent not enough to hide his presence.
Fireflight lowered his weapon, certain that Knock Out would do the same. The soft click under the table proved his prediction. Then he found Breakdown's optics again, surprisingly free of his previous fury.
"I didn't enjoy killing Skydive," the big Decepticon stated curtly.
And it was true, Fireflight knew. So many things had happened between the Aerialbots and the Stunticons, so much so that all of them had ended up knowing their enemies as well as they had known their own teammates.
"We were built to fight each other. It was only logical that we destroyed each other," he heard himself saying. He had known that as well, as he was sure his teammates had realized since the very moment the Autobots built them and programmed them to fight a war that wasn't theirs. Like the Stunticons, they had also been hostages, innocent sheep sacrificed for a millenary hatred they had never quite understood, even less felt.
When the silence – and lack of violence – stretched, the bartender gathered the courage needed to put three big cubes before his problematic customers. After that, he retreated to his corner immediately.
Pinkish rivulets licked the crystal receptacle when Knock Out grabbed his cube. "May I propose a toast, herren?"
Both Fireflight and Breakdown seemed too appalled to do anything, even less toasting, but still they seized their respective drinks.
To my fallen teammates, Fireflight thought, as ironic as that sounded considering his current company. Will you haunt me for eternity for this, Slingshot?
He was surprised when his thoughts were mirrored. "To the Aerialbots," Knock Out said, as serious as Fireflight had ever seen him, in this life or the past one, "the best enemies a Gestalt team could have."
This time, Fireflight wasn't sure who had spoken through that sophisticated voice. Maybe it had finally been Knock Out, the perfect merge of three perfect enemies.
Three cubes clicked in harmony.
"So we're letting him go?" Breakdown asked as they watched the Autobot flier heading towards the darkness of space. Knock Out knew that, despite his initial reaction, Breakdown was not in the mood to harm that Autobot anymore.
"Yes, for now. We will have plenty of time to hunt him down later."
Breakdown turned to stare at him. "That time when I shot Starscream down by mistake… Did you really remember that?"
Knock Out shook his head slightly. "No. Fireflight told me."
Breakdown seemed disappointed, even though he must have known that, with Drag Strip, Dead End and Wildrider's memory banks destroyed, there was no way that Knock Out could actually remember anything of his past three lives.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Knock Out said, still looking above him, even though Fireflight had already disappeared from their sight.
"Would you have believed me?"
Only the trace of steam in the starry sky proved that on that night, two Decepticons – no, two Stunticons – had shared something more than just high grade with their only sworn enemy left alive.
"Yes, I would have believed you." I would believe anything you tell me, Breakdown… Wasn't it always that way?
The big Decepticon smiled that beautiful smile of his. How could Knock Out have been so blind? In that smile, in the way those sincere optics looked at him, their history together had always been an open file.
"Then I guess… I guess we have many blank spaces to fill."
"And we have the rest of our lives to do so, yes," Knock Out said as he transformed. "Care for a little racing, mein freund?"
Breakdown didn't hesitate, neither did his transformation cog. The alien terrain was hostile toward rubber wheels, but no road had ever been able to stop the Stunticons from owning it.
"So," Knock Out said through the commlink as he started to gain distance from his partner. "Tell me more about Motormaster. Did he really beat us around all the time?"
"Not all the time. He had to recharge at some point."
Knock Out laughed. He was aware that things wouldn't be easy for him from now on, not when he had three ghosts living inside him, each one of them a part of his so called individuality. But as he allowed Breakdown to catch up with him, he knew that everything was going to be all right; it couldn't be otherwise when his other half was around.
Then he allowed himself to be caressed by the proximity of his partner, acknowledging the warmth he had known since the very first moment of his creation; not in this lifetime, but in the other one, when he had come to life only to feel that he wasn't one, but five, that he was part of a common conscience and a common being, a Gestalt…
It was good to be home.
Well, we're done now. I hope you enjoyed the ending. This time I aimed for something different than tears, honestly. I was told that some readers cried with the previous two stories, but I hope this time I managed to make you smile too.
Please review if you liked :o)