Author's Note: Credit for this entire chapter goes to IronRaven, who has been the Botosphere's Weapons Specialist and the voice of Sideswipe for a while now. :) He wrote this at my request since this story wouldn't be complete without Sideswipe's perspective but the twin and my muse are not on speaking terms. This chapter makes reference to the fic "Botosphere: You Are Not Forgotten" on his profile if you want to read more. :)
It was just a simple mission, my turn in the guard rotation. I listened to the fury of the wind, watching the whip of the rain. Water is such a filthy compound, and it is so common here, but the darkness of the clouds and the screaming gusts, the way the drops lashed against our hanger with the force of a more noble fluid, it reminded me of home. Cybertron could have storms with lightning in a thousand colors and beating mercury and burning sand, winds so strong even a powerhouse like Optimus had to retreat to shelter before them.
My memories are the most painful where there is joy in them. I can remember a storm. My brother and I, sitting in the observation bay of our first apartment. It was cheap, near the star port, but the windows were amazing, and it was ours. Watching the storm roll in, the entire building swayed minutely as steely clouds chased each other to the horizon, balls of lightning bounding and bouncing down the streets. There was a humming moan from the guy wires of the house aerial, quicksilver branching and twisting like coppervine across the clearsteel of the windows. It was beautiful.
At first I thought it was the memory of him. I didn't believe it. I almost didn't want to believe. But then... I was whole. For the first time in vorns. My processors raced, running diagnostics- I'd revive from recharging, feeling this way, like he was there with us, and already know it to be a lie. But it wasn't. It wasn't a lie. It was real.
And they were coming. They were chasing him. I could tell because the communications net went down before my diagnostics were done. The jamming, it roared in my reception organs, deafening loud and painfully strong, the safeties kicking in before the damage was permanent. But I could feel him. He could feel me. Vectoring, ranging through the bond.
"Brother.. Brother... coming... coming.. home... home! Prey follows! No chase - OURS!"
If I was human, I'd have wept, but we are a stronger race. I could feel his pain and hunger, streaming from him like dust and gas from a comet. He was unarmed, he'd barely escaped.
I was sending him to the beach. It was empty, he wouldn't hit anything. And we needed space, a place where we could have a taste of vengeance. I bolted through the door, barely aware it was there. My spark was blazing, every sensor and motor and myomer in my body taunt, exulting. The wind grabbed at me, tried to stop me - I roared back at it, challenging any to restrain me. They dared not, not the Primes, not Primus himself. This planet, this universe, none would bar me from this.
But all could watch. All should watch, and remember, for there would be no encore.
He sent me the names of our enemies. He'd watched them, analyzed them. Killed them a thousand times in his mind.
I saw him as he broke the clouds, a sprinting solar flare against the lumbering, mountainous shapes. We were one. I-we-me-us. He hit the water and made it hiss in fear from his superheated form, sheathing him in steam as he exploded from the surf. The salt burned at damaged circuits, the cracked lens of an optic flaring warnings of damage and imminent failure. But there would be enough time. I threw a blade to him, the cybertronium scything through the air at a rate of spin perfectly measured to smack into his palm, the inertia twisting him to face our foes. The rain and waves broke for us, the wind caressed as he selected his prey and wished me good game with Drudge. Unstoppable, we were a dance of bodies and blades, faster and more dangerous than even most combiners. It had been so long, but the bond was eternal.
The jamming died as we punished those who separated us. Experiment on us they had dared. We are not scientists, tinkerers. We are artists, and they were our soft, pliable, moldable medium. I could feel the pain of the Prime, the plea that we show quick mercy. How dare he? How dare you Optimus, you who have felt your clan die one by one until only a few remain and those are severed from you. You who are forced to look at those who our human allies would have called your brothers-in-law as if they were strangers. You can judge me for having my bond restored, whole and unshattered? Is it your jealousy at us being connected? Or jealousy at knowing that when ours is truly broken with a snuffed out spark, then other will not suffer. Is it a plea for your own oblivion, our leader?
It was rebellion that made me do it. To peel the face of my last foe in such a way. The way a Prime would kill a Prime. I exulted in how the pins tore and bolts popped, the crack of electrons and the the crunch of plates, the wide-opticked panic and the entire body going stiff. An insult to my clan is no less than one to yours, Prime. Dare you judge us?
And I immediately regretted it. It is our right to kill this one. This one who had pulled the fingerplates from my brother's hands and laughed. This one who had splashed him with hydrocarbon tar and lit it on fire. This Decepticon deserved this and more. I regretted that I could only kill him one time. I had judged and shamed our Prime, and seeing it in his optics, felt the blaze of the my rage lessen.
My brother stood with me for the first time in ages. Battered, injured, hungry, unprepared for the cold wetness of this world, for the light and the gravity. But he was standing, he lived, he existed. Barely. I could feel him starting to pass into stasis before he did, I caught him before he hit the waves.
I left our blades in the brine. He will always be more important. I lifted my brother in my arms, feeling the energon leaving him. I didn't bother to change my form as I ran. Ran, ran, ran like I hadn't since we saw those two shuttles, those never to be sufficiently cursed shuttles that separated us. I didn't care what I stepped on, what I kicked over.
The hangar door opened before us - I don't know if I sent the signal or someone else or if there was a human still there. It wouldn't have mattered, I would have gone through it. I took a step toward the medical bay, and stopped.
He could not waken there. Flatline was a medic. The smells of hot metal and circuits, coolants and solvents, combined with the tools... No. My brother would panic. I feared I would lose him if it was where he woke.
Ratchet could deal with it. They could all deal with it. The safest place in the hangar was the recharging room. My berth, the bunk in the corner.
Memories plucked at my mind, pushing through the bond. He had to know. This was the safe bunk. We were safe here, it was okay to recharge. None could get behind him. That is why I'd taken it. I'd been willing to fight Jolt for it- he'd already claimed it. I argued with him, shoved him, he swung, I dodged, and the blades and whips came out. Ratchet and Ironhide pulled us apart. Jolt is no bigger than I am, and he thrashed and kicked as our medic held him with his feet off the ground. I behaved no better as the black arms of Ironhide hoisted me.
Optimus hadn't demanded answers. He didn't press his mind at mine, he didn't even think query to me. He looked into my optics, and said it was my bunk. He didn't even command Jolt or I to apologize to each other.
When I first tried to recharge, I tried to fight it. I didn't want to slip into the unconscious state. Memories roamed there, grabbing me, pulling me under, holding me down and forcing me to see and smell and feel my past, my fears, my doubts. When I came out recharge, I saw Jolt, sitting there, watching me. I snarled at him, thought hate and rage and challenge at him for seeing me recharging on my side. No mech recharged like that, it wasn't natural. It was shameful.
And Jolt apologized for the day before.
Ratchet showed me his memories of my recharging, my memories making me twitch in recharge, vocal processor glitching. The staticy moans, the frequency bounding sobs, barely understood words. My fists clenching on air, feet kicking. Crying out for my brother, or pleading for mercy for us, for the pain to stop. Backed against the wall, into a corner.
They knew. They'd know, of course they'd know. They'd know that Sideswipe is a coward afraid to recharge, that Sides is an unstable malfunction, glitched beyond safety. Yeah, I'd needed that bunk so no one could get behind me. He gave me pity and tried to share understanding. So did the Prime.
I sent these memories and more to my brother, between bouts of pleading with him to stay with me and threats against Primus if he took my brother from me, as I laid him on my bunk. My fingers found the latches, bent and corroded. I pulled, breaking the latches and my own Spark, to bare his. I released the plates on my chest, my fingers finding the right tubing in my energon circulation system. I pulled hard, my thumb over the end, even the lost energon dripping into his chest. Sensors screamed in pain as I manually overrode his, even though in medical stasis he couldn't feel it as I patched us together. Joining us physically.
My Spark bobbled in counterpart to the surge of his as energon rushed into his body, and mine took his, the energon he'd been hoarding and reusing for so long it was nearly toxic. My knees buckled and I fell to them. It took all my will to turn, to sit beside my bunk facing the door as I slipped into stasis.
After time unknowable, I could feel him, out of stasis and alive but not completely out of recharge, one spark, one body. I tried to share his pain, but he wouldn't let me. I sent reassurance and faith and hope and completeness across the bond. He tried to hide shame and fear and savaged pride. I shared with him the memories of my own. Of how I was convinced they were afraid of me. When they started to load their weapons before recharging, I thought it was because they believed me unsafe, as dangerous as a 'Con. Even Ironhide - once a mech we admired and cheered for in the arena who had become our mentor, our friend - he armed himself to recharge with me in the room. And the humans were forbidden from our quarters. What did they think I'd do to them? Especially the stupid twins - they postured and posed and talked each other into false bravery, making sure I could see. They were putting on a show for my benefit, I was to be scared of them because they were scared of me, they doubted me. No, they had no doubt, not a doubt that sooner or later I'd kill them as they recharged. They thought I was so glitched that I didn't know friend from foe.
The others tried to talk to me, to tell me I'd done nothing wrong, but they never all turned their back to me. It haunted me. I was never so alone, and it got worse every time they forgave me, they pitied me, they shared mercy and caring and sorrow with me.
On Cybertron, a tiny number of criminals were found to be so intractable that they received therapeutic reprogramming by order of the magistrates. Law and tradition required the same words to the mech who would soon not be himself any more: "We find you guilty of these actions and without a sense of guilt of your own. We sentence you to personality modification and requisite physical alteration. But we forgive you, may Primus have mercy on all our Sparks." The pity of my fellow Autobots on Earth felt no different. I was the walking damned, broken beyond repair.
Then Iron Will confronted me. I'd injured him. It had been my foot that started the damage, I kicked Skids out of my way so I could shoot down a 'Con. So great was my thirst for energon. And I couldn't lie - I wanted to hit Skids and Mudflap. They had each other, they were whole; they were a one and I was a half. They could anger me so fast, it just took a few moments and I'd make sure that no one else could see and I'd hit one of them. And they never said a thing to anyone. I knew I was wrong. That it wasn't a warrior's way, that I was glitching. I was a danger to everyone around me. And this tiny, weak, crushable human was forgiving me. But he also shared understanding, amity.
Slowly my brother shared memories, but he would not open our bond. He spoke of pain. Pain. Aloneness and more pain. Fear. My Spark, once soaring, now dived again. I ached. I was guilty of leaving him. I'd been safe, I should have been looking for my brother. But we were oath-sworn in the oldest of ways, pledging energon and blade to the Autobots. To vengeance. I'd been on the edge of the war, maybe the only front left that mattered was on this frontier world where the Prime chose to make his last stand. Where a Prime was found. And all the while my brother was tormented and tortured.
I was only partially aware of Ratchet arriving, talking with Ironhide. The black mech laid our swords on what would be my bunk. I knew this without asking Jolt. I knew he knew this as well. Normally I would have pummeled anyone for touching my swords, my art, the faces of all those who were lost in the eons of conflict. They bore no salt on them, but he had water on his plates. A part of my processor knew he must have rinsed them and dried them. Ironhide with his loathing of rust, of the vanity of appearance as great as my own that he hid behind brusqueness. He'd examine himself in a mirror after missions, fearing corrosion. I didn't. When I looked in them, I had to look away.
I turned on my knees, looking at my brother. He had slagged spots where he'd been burned, pitted where acid had been used. Scratches like he'd been dragged, others like he'd been chewed on. Exposed struts were cracked, bent. Corrosion dotted his skin, making his finish patchy and ill looking. Ratchet leaning over of the connections that bound us together, I took my brother's hand, my cheekplate against a knee with a ragged weld.
Ratchet muttered that I should have gone to the medical bay. I didn't share my logic path with him - perhaps some day. The healer's profanity came in many forms, including a thundering invocation of Unicron. It would take days of work just to stabilize us- he called me many kinds of fool for performing club-servoed surgery on myself like this, and wished us both a lovely case of cosmic rust, then he stood.
I could strain my audio sensors to hear him as he whispered to Ironhide, "I can't even move them now without breaking the energon flow..." Ratchet shook his head, glancing at us. "Sunny's spark should have been extinguished. From what I could detect, his golden aft must have hit with almost no energon left. I don't even dare to operate again until he's got enough energon in him to keep him stable while I work. Sideswipe wasn't going to be leaving his side anyway, and he has enough in his frame to spare a little, but I can't let Sunny drain Sides' own supply for long. Morning at the latest. Prime's meditating now, trying to figure out how soon he can draw more energon from the Matrix. In the meantime, though, he has approved me tapping our emergency reserves, and calling for donors."
I sent it through the bond. My brother stirred, listened.
I didn't want him to suffer at our allies as I had. In time I understood that they loaded their weapons not against me, but to stand with me. They didn't fear me, they feared for me. Some because they did care for us, some because there were so few of us left that they couldn't not care. It took long for the fact of logic to become truth of Spark. There weren't enough of us left, not enough Cybertronians, and of those of us who remained, most stood with hands raised against us.
We listened to Ironhide pledge his energon to us, his lifecurrent. There was the brushes of thought from the others across the communications network. Arcee volunteering too and demanding to know why there were three units of energon in the medical bay that hadn't been five days ago. Optimus' gentle rebuke to Ratchet for draining his own energon like that. The other twins, shouting audibly from the hanger, asking where to stick the pump, and Jolt offering to show them with almost human humor.
If I'd been human, I'd have wept at my past lack of faith in them and for relief that my brother was with us. But we are of a stiffer mettle. I reshared the traffic, the thought-feelings, the faith and the resolve with him across the bond. Even if he wasn't listening, I would show him that we are not alone. He will not expire.
Ironhide sat on his bunk, unmoving until Iron Will entered the recharging barracks. He clanked a little when he walked, the armor and equipment harness giving him a reassuring and natural mix of curve and rigid angle. He was fully armed, a grenade launcher slung while he carried one of the humans' belt fed weapons in his hands. The night vision device mounted to his helmet was lifted; down, they looked like proper optics, but the armoured lenses he wore over his biological optics mimicked a visor-type optic under the shadowing browridge of his helmet. Even the joints of his gloves were hardened, like ours. Ironhide leaned down to give him a hand up. They sat facing the door.
They were guarding us.
My brother thought query to me, about this strangest of Autobots. I explained, and passed on his bravery, his trust, the elemental fire-given-form of his femme, the P.O.W. image that Iron Will had gifted to me. The alien image that I wore for my brother, and the brand Iron Will wore with us. The knowledge that Will was not alone in his allegiance. The human Prime that defied belief and his bond with the true Prime we'd chosen long ago. The knowledge that these weak, short lived, squishy little biologicals were part of our team now, becoming part of us. That there was hope. That this could be a new home. And that someday we would have no more enemies to kill, and we could be artists again. That we could be as we were when we were young.
And maybe we could be innocent again.
Then my brother opened the bond completely. I fell into him, drawing him to me, merging our existences completely.
Silver and gold, we met in our shared existence. We held each other's shoulders, looking into the familiar face before us. The one we had started to forget. The one we shared.
Reflected in my twin's mind, I saw the plates of my face were long and drawn and tarnished in this dreamspace. "I'm sorry, Sunny. I thought you were right behind us. I never should have left you."
Sunstreaker frowned. "You didn't leave me. I stayed behind to give you time to escape."
But there was no lying here, as deep as we were in the bond. Though he tried to hide it from me, I saw and knew. For the first few planetary rotations, that hadn't been true, Sunny had been angry with me. But there was nothing that my shuttle could have done - the second one had a bad contragravity generator. They'd been a quarter of the way to breaking atmo when it failed. With a local gravity nearly
twenty percent higher than Cybertron's, it had still taken a long time to find that plate and strut breaking crunch at the surface of the planet. It hadn't been planned, but it was no one's fault. Sunny had been the only survivor, and only then because he was one of Flatline's precious experiments and received medical treatment. Still, he told the lie that he would tell everyone else like a shield to protect me. "It went according to plan; you aren't as tough as me, had to let my little brother escape."
The forced bravado in one set of optics looked into the aching sadness of the other, and we both started to laugh, a sound of joy rather than humor. We were one again, we were whole, even if we had scars of body and spark that we would never be able to hide from each other. From the rest of the universe, absolutely. But never from each other.
Around us, the nearly forgotten home of our sparklinghood, the workshop studio of our parent-creator flickered. The resolution was poor, it was painful place for us to remember. Home. Peace. Being loved. Not having to battle to survive. Where we could paint and sculpt and tailor sensations and weave dreams that were pure. It had all been destroyed; we could never go home. Our kin and friends lost forever alongside so many others.
There was a clang as a palm lightly smacked a face, breaking the silence like hammer on anvil. "You fragger! Don't do that again! I was afraid... I was... you were... alone." That last word was a nearly spark-broken sob.
We pulled each other tight, locking joints as we both held our twin. "I didn't think you'd made it either. Afthatch! You aren't leaving my sight again. I can't do it again."