TITLE: Bombs Away
CHAPTER: Four | Understand
FANDOM: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye | IDW
RATING: R for some sexuality. The rating goes up in this chapter for some petting/touching.
SUMMARY: Tailgate and Fulcrum have a gift exchange. Fortress Maximus and Cyclonus watch.
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters are owned by the author, simply written for amusement and the fact that the Scavengers don't receive nearly enough attention as they ought to and it seemed like a good idea to pair up a bomb disposal unit with a bomb, especially when the words "cuddling with a bomb" was used by said bomb disposal unit.
NOTES: Sadly, FFnet gets a different version of this chapter than the other locations that I post to. After chapter three, the following chapter is dedicated to Tailgate and Fulcrum becoming intimate. Playing it safe at FFnet, I didn't include the explicit scene. It is available on Archive of Our Own should my readers choose to go there to read it. What I've done is taken any relative or important content from that chapter and placed it in the beginning of this one so everything still more or less makes sense.
"Do you mind if I go with you? I'm not really doing anything else," Tailgate asks.
There's a pause, then a shrug. "Sure. It's gonna be a little more boring than last time, though. Ambulon's doing the exam."
"I don't mind. I just..." Tailgate slides his hand into Fulcrum's. "I just want to be with you. That's all."
That's enough, it seems.
As they make it into the medbay, Ambulon immediately herds them away, though he does glance at Tailgate briefly.
"Sit here," the medic instructs Fulcrum to one of the berths.
With a sigh, the K-Con arranges himself accordingly, just letting Ambulon do as needed. Arms are tested for general flexibility, the increased brightness of his optics noted, and so on. Eventually, Ambulon pauses during his exam, peering down at Fulcrum.
"What?" Fulcrum raises an optical ridge. He follows the general line of sight down to himself.
At the time, Tailgate had not really thought anything of it. He still doesn't feel overly concerned, but there are scrapes along Fulcrum's hips. Paint was exchanged a bit, but they'd taken care of that for some level of discreetness.
But it's be pretty obvious for a medic to find.
"Tailgate," Ambulon calls out.
"I would suggest that the next time you get intimate with someone, at least check to see what their medical record is. Fulcrum is new to the ship," Ambulon suggests with a flatter tone than usual. "He doesn't have any viruses, but you wouldn't have known that unless you'd checked with one of us here. I advise more caution."
"We, uh! We didn't do anything- it's not what it looks like-" Fulcrum sputters out.
Tailgate narrows his visor slightly. "It's not...?" What's that even supposed to mean? Did he regret it after all?
Ambulon folds his arms. "Right. In any case, your growing health is satisfactory."
"Thanks. Excuse us." Tailgate reaches up for Fulcrum's wrist, gently tugging him away.
"Tailgate, I. Uh." Tailgate isn't stopping, listening to Fulcrum stumble over words as they walk out of the medbay. "Look, I just- can you stop?"
There's a brief glance over the hallway to make sure they're alone enough, then Tailgate looks up at Fulcrum. "Why were you making those excuses? I thought..."
"I'm sorry." Fulcrum's shoulders sink a little. "I just didn't think you'd want anyone to know you were... you know, with me?"
"I'm not embarrassed," Tailgate says firmly. "Are you?"
"No!" Fulcrum jerks his head back a little. "I'm really sorry. I'm not even part of the crew, I'm a Decepticon, and so ... I made the wrong assumption about how you'd probably feel. I really like you a lot. I mean that."
"It's okay." Tailgate exhales softly, reaching up and squeezing his hand. "I'm not mad. And I really don't care who knows. All right?"
"Yeah. I got it." Fulcrum offers a tiny smile.
Tailgate nods, a little more relaxed. "Good."
Around the corner from Tailgate and Fulcrum, Swerve has to cover his own mouth to keep from sputtering.
It's been a long time since Fulcrum has felt this close to anyone. Although he's still not fond of his situation on the Lost Light, he is grateful to have met Tailgate. That and getting involved with him, apparently. Call him sappy, but it makes him feel pretty warm in the spark. He still doesn't completely have Tailgate's courage in regards to not caring about what others think about their relationship, but that's only because he's quietly concerned for how Tailgate will be treated. Not necessarily himself.
Either way, he's agreed to try to not worry about it. Fulcrum has no shame in this, but he knows that if others find out, not everyone is going to feel the same way.
Well, it's not like everyone is going to spontaneously find out overnight anyway, Fulcrum assures himself.
After bidding a good night to Tailgate and returning to his cell, the beginning of his shift is a bit, uh, peculiar when he makes it to the bar. Fulcrum is used to getting various nasty looks from people, but eventually a lot of the crew just kind of started to ignore his presence. Not always, some went out of their way to bother him, but this is different. Everyone is staring at him in either a disgusted way or like he got a new gaudy paint job or something.
"Uh," Fulcrum gets out, feeling more confused than bothered. Awkwardly, he scoots himself close to the bar, peering towards Swerve. "Is there a reason everyone is giving me a look?"
"Well, it- eh-heh, maybe it's the chin? Yeah, it's gotta be the chin." Swerve forces a smile. "It is very impressive and all!"
"I'm just saying. It's an unforgettable chin and you should be proud."
"Swerve, I'm serious!"
"So you and your chinliness," Swerve starts, very clearly avoiding the subject, and shoves a tray into Fulcrum's hands, "should go make sure the tables are cleaned up, yeah?"
On one hand, he's supposed to be here helping Swerve out as the short Autobot directs. On the other hand, he clearly knows something is going on here. Not that he could see how! Ambulon isn't exactly known for gossip, so who else would know?
Fulcrum scowls and takes the tray. "Talk to you later," he promises.
It's little things. No one is outright hostile to the point of hitting him, but the looks and the harsh nudges he's given aren't exactly of the friendly sort. He gets friendly pushes and touches; Krok and his crew are like that. He knows the difference.
Something's up. Maybe it's his faction? Frag if he knows.
But he pauses when Trailbreaker swings his glass, engex spilling all over the front of his plating. Fulcrum peers down at himself, frowning.
"Whoops." Trailbreaker shrugs with a bit of a nasty grin. "You know me. Spills here and there."
There's a rare feeling of a temper rising in Fulcrum, but he knows better than to give much of a reaction. His grip on the tray is tight, close to bending or breaking it. He needs to let it go. Frag if he doesn't want to react or. Or something.
There's a hand to his elbow and he's gently tugged away. "C'mere," Skids mutters, shoving a rag into Fulcrum's hand.
"Skids." Fulcrum stares at him for a moment, then awkwardly wipes at himself. "What the hell is going on?"
"Well, let's just say that there's a tiny rumor going around about you and Tailgate."
So it is that. How, though? Who would spread that around?
"Swerve," Fulcrum grates out. "I'm gonna kill- I mean, uh. No, I wouldn't kill-kill him, but..." Ugh, that must have come out wrong. Most other Decepticons would make good on that kind of statement. Fulcrum shakes his head and just moves on to a more important question. "Do you know if Tailgate's okay?"
"I haven't actually seen him," Skids admits. "He hasn't been here, if that helps."
For a moment, he considers. Fulcrum is tempted to just leave right now and go find Tailgate anyway. To hell with his shift; he can get chewed out by Ultra Magnus if it means he can check on Tailgate.
"So I'm guessing the rumor's probably not too off its mark," Skids comments wryly.
"Not that it's anyone's business, but I. I like him," Fulcrum admits quietly.
"I know. I mean, I figured you wouldn't be working on a model of Cybertron for just anyone, after all. Not everyone here knows you that well, but I definitely know you wouldn't hurt or take advantage of him."
Fulcrum sputters. "Is that what everyone's thinking?"
"The big bad Decepticon comes along and takes advantage of poor, sweet naive Tailgate? Yeah, that's generally it." Skids shrugs, his half-smile never quite disappearing. "Look, don't let it weigh on you too much."
Well. This isn't the worst thing that Fulcrum's ever dealt with, but his mind is still focused on Tailgate. Has any of this reached him? Is he okay? Frankly, Fulcrum is used to being picked on, but it just enrages him to think that maybe Tailgate is suffering any of that potential treatment. With a small huff of air, the K-Con finally just puts down his tray. He'll go make sure.
So he thinks.
When he turns around, he doesn't get very far, as he's faced with Drift.
"You'd better come with me," the third-in-command advises.
"Skids, um." Fulcrum looks at the theoretician hopefully. "Thanks anyway? For the heads up."
"No problem," Skids assures. "Hang in there."
As Fulcrum is escorted out by Drift, the K-Classer sighs to himself.
This can't be good.
Tailgate slowly swings his legs from where he's seated. It's not the first time sitting here. Everything about the room feels like it just completely dwarfs him in every way imaginable: the desk, the size of the room itself, the chair he's even sitting in, the sign on the desk. Oh yes, Tailgate is more than a little familiar with sitting before the Duly Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord label.
He's just not sure what it's for this time.
So, Tailgate sits as patiently as he can, twiddling his thumbs together as he looks up at Ultra Magnus, who peers down at him with a stern gaze that somehow seems to be a deadly mix of concern and a hint of disappointment.
"Tailgate," Ultra Magnus begins, addressing him slowly and patiently.
"Sir?" Tailgate perks up a little.
"I'm not one who tries to pay much attention to rumors and gossip. However, I think it's also fairly obvious as to why you're here right now." Ultra Magnus folds his hands together. "I'm concerned about you and the Decepticon."
Tailgate tilts his head faintly. "Fulcrum? What about him, sir?"
"It's my understanding that you and he have had... relations."
Ah. That. Tailgate doesn't feel any particular shade of shame in him, but it is immediately awkward that Ultra Magnus not only knows about it, somehow, but also wants to talk about it. Of all people.
"We did," Tailgate admits freely.
Ultra Magnus somehow manages to frown more than usual. "I was under the impression that you thoroughly understood what it means for him to be a Decepticon. You're an Autobot now, Tailgate."
"Everyone calls Cyclonus a Decepticon," Tailgate points out quietly. Though a lot of people have said he'd better off staying away from him, he hasn't. He sticks by Cyclonus.
There's a pause, and with a hint of reluctance Ultra Magnus adds, "He's crew. The K-Con is not. He's serving a sentence. He is dangerous and you should not trust him. Not that I am fond of the idea of anyone taking companionship with each other on this ship - the last thing we need are more broken protocols - you could... Tailgate, you..." After trailing off, Ultra Magnus gives a vague hand gesture, as if that'll somehow fill in the words he is so desperately attempting to give.
This is clearly not an easy conversation for Ultra Magnus, discussing matters like emotion and relationships and such. The way he trails off, Ultra Magnus has an expression that implies discomfort at the topic, but he still wears his concern in his optics. The implication that he's worried for Tailgate.
And that Tailgate could do better.
"I like him." Tailgate puts his hands into his lap. "I like him a lot. He doesn't treat me like I don't know anything. He's kind, funny, and smart and... and I wish more people knew him like that, instead of just as a Decepticon. I remember what Rewind showed me, and I know what I chose. I'm not changing my mind about that, but I don't know how I feel about the Decepticons now."
"They're criminals. He scavenged from the dead, Tailgate. That is a broken law," Ultra Magnus points out. "And I'm sure he has several more behind him."
"You don't know that. He's good, and I like him. You... you don't have to like that." There's a tiny sensation of thrill budding in Tailgate's spark at the feeling of standing up for himself and for Fulcrum. He's casually defended Cyclonus, and he can undoubtedly do the same for the K-Con. Slowly, Tailgate stands up and looks up at Ultra Magnus, visor brightening. "This is what I'm gonna do. And I'd sure appreciate it if you didn't rearrange the schedule so I couldn't see him."
There's a lengthy pause. No, Ultra Magnus hadn't yet, but Tailgate quietly suspects that maybe the enforcer had considered it. He wants to avoid that as much as he can. It's still pretty clear that Ultra Magnus doesn't approve, and quite honestly Tailgate doesn't foresee him getting around to that anytime soon.
The frown only deepens, and Tailgate's fingers curl into tiny fists. He doesn't budge.
He won't say sorry for what he has. He won't take it back.
Tailgate is happy and he needs to protect that feeling.
"This will be something we will need to follow up on," Ultra Magnus informs him, voice somehow a bit stiffer than usual. "For now, you are dismissed."
Once he's escorted himself out of Ultra Magnus's office, Tailgate suddenly releases a gust of air from his vents. Honestly, he hadn't realized it, but everything had felt strained; slowly now, he feels more relaxed. No, he doesn't have Magnus' approval. He doubts he ever will. But this is something of his own and he won't back down from it.
Tailgate considers. There is some concern about how Ultra Magnus had gotten around to that conclusion on his own. Tailgate figures from what he knows of Ultra Magnus that things like this aren't exactly his specialty and all. So how did he figure it out?
Not that he's worried too much. He meant what he said to Fulcrum. Tailgate is not embarrassed about this.
The disposal unit's visor flickers in surprise. He turns to his commlink. "Rewind? What's up?"
"Have you seen Chromedome?"
"Not recently? I was sort of caught up in Ultra Magnus's office." That's kind of worrying. Rewind doesn't know where Chromedome is?
"Scrap. We really need to find Fulcrum."
Tailgate steps a little further into the hallway. "I think he should be helping out Swerve right now. What happened?"
"Chromedome and I sort of- we had a- look, the details aren't important, but we really need to find Fulcrum. He wasn't real happy about you and him, and, well..."
"I'm starting to get the feeling everyone knows," Tailgate mumbles.
"You don't say."
"Does Chromedome know about the film night?"
There's a regretful noise. The lack of words from Rewind makes Tailgate worry. Would Chromedome really do something about it? Like, a bad thing? Nothing had happened, though! Panic rises in him.
"You said Swerve's bar, right?"
Tailgate exhales heavily. "Yeah."
"I'll meet you there. Look, I don't want to worry you, but Chromedome's been pretty protective lately and not a lot of people have a strong opinion on Fulcrum in the first place."
That? That Tailgate definitely knows. For all that Tailgate tries to not worry, as he runs down the hallway, he has a bad feeling in his tanks.
As soon as Tailgate had left his office, Ultra Magnus feels himself sink down in his chair, sighing.
There is usually a clear path for him. It's straightforward and he tries to follow accordingly to the guidelines and rules settled in for him and the others of the ship. No, not many are inclined to follow so completely. He understands that. It's always been like that to some degree anyway. It's one of the reasons why he's here.
But then there's this. He still isn't sure what to make of the Decepticon they have. No, not crew. A prisoner. Yet, somehow, he'd missed it. The Decepticon's gone and gotten close, too close to Tailgate. It's a ploy, Magnus wants to tell himself. Clearly it's a matter of deceit, using Tailgate for his own ends. That would be the expected action.
The reason he'd bothered to get himself involved at all is because he is worried, even if he tries to not express that too openly. He's worried about Tailgate and what will happen to him if he continues to interact with the K-Con in... that way.
Standing, Ultra Magnus leaves his office. This is the second time Tailgate has expressed himself as a Decepticon sympathizer, only now it's almost worse. Before he'd simply been misguided. Now it's personalized.
Magnus can't really handle personalized.
This should be brought to Rodimus' attention.
Ultra Magnus steps out of his office, immediately opening the door to his commanding officer's.
"Rodimus," he begins to address, "we have a problem."
"Whatever it is, it has to wait," Rodimus immediately shuts him down.
Quickly, Ultra Magnus sees why. Projecting from an open transmission is a holographic image of a Decepticon in the middle of Rodimus's office. This, he silently agrees, is probably more important than whether or not Tailgate ought to be having relations with a K-Classer
"I think we need a little chat about you kidnapping one of my crew," the Decepticon states over the transmission, red optics narrowing.
It had been a bit foreboding at first to end up in Drift's office, if only for how he'd been approached. Finding himself back in a familiar seat, he's reminded of how he'd been in here last time: Drift talking about Earth and teaching him how to use two little sticks as utensils. It's more humorous in that memory despite what he'd learned about Cybertron and how the Decepticons were being treated there, a fact that has still been weighing on his mind. He isn't sure if he's here for more talk about those chopsticks or something else.
"So I heard about you and Tailgate," Drift mentions.
Fulcrum snorts and thinks of Swerve. "Yeah, well, who hasn't?"
There's almost a warm smile on Drift's face, which is odd since most of them his cheerful expressions tend to be way over the top. "I think it's fantastic that you two are so close now."
"You do?" That's not something he'd been expecting. Fulcrum figures that Skids feels pretty indifferent and just about everyone else is probably judgmental about it, or so it seems like, but Drift approves? Well, that's something at least.
"I really do. I think it's a big first step for a lot of people to accept. I'm not unsympathetic to you." Drift shrugs a little. "People aren't going to trust you right away."
"Yeah, I... sorta figured that one out," Fulcrum grumbles.
"But gradually, you'll have some real friends at your side, starting with Tailgate. He's giving you the time of day. He trusts you, and you like him, don't you?"
The K-Con can't even say anything. He just nods a bit numbly.
"I know it's not easy at first." It's odd to think, and maybe Fulcrum is interpretting it too much, but Drift almost seems to be speaking from some level of experience. "And I won't lie, not everyone is going to trust you, even after a long time. But I think with what you have with Tailgate, it'll bring people around."
"Um." Fulcrum raises his optical ridges. He really didn't expect to be more or less cheered on by Drift. "Thanks, I think."
Drift offers something of a half-smile. "Don't worry about it. What I might worry about is how some others are going to think about this. I don't see Rodimus putting up much of a fuss about it, but then again, Ultra Magnus might react a bit strongly."
Fulcrum winces. Yeah, he could see that. Ultra Magnus scares the hell out of him.
"What... might make it easier is, if you wanted, is to think about where you stand now. I'm not saying you should, but if you wanted people to accept you more and maybe get Magnus to back off a little is to consider joining the-"
"Don't you dare suggest that." Fulcrum sighs and rubs his forehead. "I'm not joining the Autobots. I'm still a Decepticon, Drift. I... appreciate the thought, I think, but I'm not gonna do something like that just because it might be easier for Tailgate and me."
"I understand." Drift lifts up his hands. "And I'm not saying you should. It was just a suggestion. Maybe, then, we should do this: maybe go for an evaluation from our therapist? At least to have an official report to satisfy some people."
The head doctor? Sure, Rung is nice enough, but Fulcrum isn't thrilled with any of these ideas. What surprises him is how much Drift is involving himself! What's it matter to him, anyway? Fulcrum frowns for a moment, then peers at Drift. "Why are you so invested in us, anyway?"
"Well, you see..." Drift trails off and sighs, looking very serious. Slowly, he holds up his two index fingers. "There's this very convincing theory from Japan. It's known as the Red String of Fate Theory."
Fulcrum already doesn't like where this is going.
"I think this really applies to you and Tailgate! You see, it's said that at birth-" Drift pauses, then frowns as he looks down to his commlink. "Ah. I'm sorry, Fulcrum. Rodimus is calling for me. Look, if you don't mind, I'd still like to ask Rung to at least talk to you."
It's a far more preferable idea than being forced into becoming an Autobot just to please people. If he has to go through some sort of evaluation, fine. Fulcrum gives an annoyed sigh and shrugs. "Fine. Does he mind meeting me by the bar? I need to finish up some chores that way."
"I'll send the message." Drift stands and places his hand to Fulcrum's shoulder. "I didn't mean to offend you before. I just wish this was easier on you. I really do. You're stuck in a bad situation, but you managed to find some happiness out of it anyway. I think that's impressive. I can't say many could make the best of their situation as you have."
That's warming to hear and unexpected. Drift's switch from his wide-eyed pointless theories to some actual comforting words is strange, but he's grateful nonetheless. Finally, Fulcrum gives a hesitant smile and nods once. "Thanks, Drift."
"No problem. I have to head out, so you'd better get back to the bar."
Both of them step out of the office, but Fulcrum pauses to watch Drift head down the hallway in the direction of Rodimus's office. In the opposite direction, Fulcrum starts off back towards the bar.
It's less the idea of helping Swerve finish up with the chores than it is to confront the damned bot. It infuriates him what was caused. Doesn't anyone know how to keep their slagging mouths shut? Apparently not! Really, he just hopes that Tailgate is okay. It's nice to have Drift's approval and all, but he already knows that not everyone is going to agree with him.
He manages to make his way down the hall without really bumping into anyone or getting too many looks. He keeps his head down as he shuffles along, rounding a corner, then pausing.
Oh. He isn't even at the bar yet, and Rung is right there.
"That, uh. That was fast," Fulcrum points out. "Um. Hi."
"I figured that it was easier to wait for you here. So that maybe we can talk on the way." The smile that Rung wears is patient. Not worn or forced or anything.
It's kind of strange, but Fulcrum had interacted with him before, since Rung helped him paint the model he made for Tailgate. At the very least, Fulcrum has a good enough opinion of the therapist. He hadn't forced any kind of session. It was quiet, he put on some peaceful music, and they worked more or less in silence. It was... pleasant.
As opposed to Cyclonus, who was stern and had no problem pointing out the inaccuracies in Fulcrum's model. Yikes. Not cruel, but definitely cold. Helpful, at least.
"Sure? Okay." Fulcrum sighs, letting his shoulders sink.
Rung's impressive brows knit together in some form of concern. "I know that you've probably been under so much scrutiny being on this ship. I'm only grateful that you've had patience being here. In their own way, though, everyone is worried about Tailgate. While Decepticons alone have their reputation, so do the K-Class on their own."
"Yeah. I know," Fulcrum mutters tiredly.
"That's not to excuse anyone's actions." A gentle hand goes to Fulcrum's shoulder. "But I at least feel that it's important that you understand it."
"Understand why everyone's a jerk?" Seriously?
Rung shakes his head. "Is that so unusual? In order to come to any compromise, shouldn't we try to reach out and understand both sides? I think in your position, you would understand that extremely well."
That causes Fulcrum to go silent, pondering the words. His mind doesn't really want to see anything beyond these Autobots are kind of huge jerks and a pain in the aft for the most part, but he gets it. It's not so black and white like that. He knows it too intimately.
In the process of everything, Fulcrum guesses that it'd been easy to forget and become embittered towards everyone. He doesn't forgive the behavior, but it's like Rung says.
It's worth understanding, at least. People lash out, trying to either protect themselves or those they care about. That's just a fact of life.
"Guess I do," Fulcrum admits quietly.
"You've been under a lot of pressure from a lot of Autobots that don't trust you, that may not for quite sometime. I can't imagine how that feels, and you're validated to be angry and frustrated."
As they walk, Fulcrum gestures vaguely, as if he isn't sure how to properly word how he feels yet. Then, he gives a weary sound before he says, "I just want Tailgate to be happy."
"And you're very kind to want that." Rung offers a reassuring smile. "We'll talk a little more in depth when we have more privacy. If you're open to it."
"I get a choice?" Fulcrum asks wryly.
"As little or as much as you're willing to speak to me."
It actually sounds kind of nice. Rung is very kind; Fulcrum already has that impression.
It wouldn't be so bad to talk.
As they round a corner of the hallway in order to get to Swerve's bar, Fulcrum stops behind Rung abruptly, the pair of them blocked off. He doesn't really know one of the Autobots in their way, but it's hard to forget the other one.
"I need to talk to the Decepticon," Chromedome says with a narrowed gaze in his visor.
The negotations aren't going well.
Though it's probably not so much as attempting to meet a consensus as it is Krok refraining best he can from just shooting the damned ship, taking his K-Con back, and getting back on track. It's completely unwise and not tactfully sound in the least, but it's incredibly tempting. After all this time of chasing the Lost Light, the fury that Krok feels in his spark hasn't died down.
That's his crew the Autobots have captured. And their captain is a stubborn and obnoxious idiot. Rodimus, a name that he's not terribly familiar with, but he looks a lot like the Autobot Hot Rod. Either way...
"I don't listen to the demands of a Decepticon."
That kind of behavior just irritates him.
"Then you're making an enormous mistake," Krok states gruffly. "You have no grounds to keep one of my crew. The war's over and we never even returned fire. You attacked us."
The other Autobot, one that Krok definitely recognizes as Ultra Magnus, steps in. "You were stealing Autobot property."
Behind Krok, Crankcase snorts and says, "If you wanted it so bad, the Autobots shouldn't have left it behind in the first place."
"Thank you, Crankcase," Krok mutters. "At any rate, the supposed theft wasn't done maliciously. The parts were needed and no one claimed what was left over. We took the parts."
"And the K-Con is being held accountable for his crime, as should the rest of you."
"It's good to know that Autobot politics have determined survival breaks their law," Krok muses coldly.
Ultra Magnus narrows his optics. "I knew several good Autobots that served and died on that ship."
"And there were several decent soldiers that were killed because of it. What's your point?"
"Rodimus, what's- oh."
Joining Rodimus and Ultra Magnus is a third Autobot. One that looks suspiciously familiar. Krok isn't sure what it is. Maybe it's the helm finials, but he gets the feeling he should know who that is.
"I take it this is Fulcrum's commanding officer?" the white mech asks, addressing mainly Rodimus. It gives Krok pause; at least this Autobot is actually using his technician's name instead of his frametype.
"Krok," the tactician offers.
"Drift," is returned. "Fulcrum hasn't been harmed."
That's the first bit of good news that Krok has heard, although it's taken with a grain of rust. There's no reason why they wouldn't just lie to him just to placate him, after all. Still, it's not like Rodimus or Ultra Magnus have offered anything short of no, no, and no we aren't returning the K-Con, so there.
Still, he tries to be civil.
"Thank you," Krok says as sincerely as he can.
Drift smiles a little.
"Krok," Crankcase calls out, almost in a hurry. "There's a problem."
"What now?" Krok sighs.
"There's another transmission coming in, there's a whole fleet of-"
Whatever else Crankcase has to say is forgotten. Krok is busy looking over the readings. No, he's right, this is getting bad fast. There's an entire fleet of ships, neither Decepticon nor Autobot, approaching. While he doesn't recognize it, Krok knows immediately this can't be good.
"The transmission is coming in on our side, too," someone on the Lost Light calls out. "Rodimus?"
"Go ahead, Blaster."
Krok looks at Crankcase, then grimly nods.
This is quickly becoming a threeway issue.
It happens too quickly for him to immediately know what's happening. The other Autobot - Strafe, apparently, by how Rung somehow manages to sound polite even as he demands sternly to know what's going on - is holding the therapist back while Fulcrum is stumbling after Chromedome, getting dragged off by both arms. Strafe doesn't answer, but Chromedome is giving Fulcrum a brief look.
There have been several times that he's received annoyed glares or angered glances. Fulcrum's no stranger to that. But the amount of sheer fury and hatred in Chromedome's visor makes Fulcrum physically flinch back in surprise.
"I'm investigating an issue," Chromedome simply says to Rung as he pulls the K-Con down the hall, away from the bar.
"What issue?! Let go!" Fulcrum tries to pull, but frankly his frame is an enormous disadvantage. He's thin, he isn't armored, and he sure as hell doesn't have the strength to get away from the Autobot's tight hold on his wrists. He glances over his shoulder, giving Rung a brief panicked look with wide optics, though he knows there's not much Rung can do other than try to talk Strafe into letting him go.
Then he sees him. Some feet behind Strafe.
"Swerve!" It's a long shot, but Fulcrum is trying. He's still angry with the short, talkative Autobot for all the trouble, but he's desperate. Between Fulcrum and Rung, it's like they're a duo of failures in the line of anything physical.
Swerve gives him one look, then books it down the hallway, far away from the confrontation.
What the hell? And Fulcrum's the coward? Anger and helplessness bubbles up inside of him as he's taken away. He isn't sure where they're going, but he definitely knows that this can't be good with the way Chromedome is acting.
Gradually, he starts to realize where they're going.
The room that they used to the movie night, where Rewind was playing his film for their humble gathering.
The door is thrown open before Chromedome yanks him inside. Practically tripping over himself, Fulcrum's lack of grace lands him face down onto the floor. He hears the door shut closed as he pushes himself up by his hands, only to feel Chromedome shove him back down. There's a pointless kick from Fulcrum as he feels his arms wrench behind his back, his wrists thin enough to be pinned with just one hand from the Autobot.
Fulcrum gives a small growl, trying to throw off Chromedome. With his forgettable weight, though, it's not a possibility. "What the hell do you want?"
"I don't know what you want or what you're after. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm not about to put any trust in whatever you have to say."
After? After what? Fulcrum tries to move his head in order to see Chromedome, but it doesn't work, not with the way he's been pinned down with his face almost to the floor. Is this about Tailgate? He isn't so sure how close Chromedome and Tailgate are, but.
But he does know that Rewind and Chromedome are very close.
"I'm not after anything or anyone."
Chromedome leans down and although Fulcrum can't see it, he practically feels the glare pierce through him. "I'm not about to believe a Decepticon, especially K-Class."
"I didn't do anything, I didn't hurt Rewind!"
"Yet." Fulcrum tenses up as he hears something slide out. "I could ask you a dozen questions and never really know if you're telling the truth. But this is a sure way to know what you're up to."
The sentence is immediately cut off after Fulcrum says his name. His optics widen as what feels like several needles slide into the back of his neck, piercing through his plating carefully. Fulcrum opens his mouth, letting out a choked sound at the uncomfortable pinching sensation.
He realizes very quickly what's about to happen.
"Don't," is the only thing Fulcrum manages to plead out before Chromedome does.
The memories bubble up, the surface ones. Being angry about Swerve, talking to Drift, worrying about Tailgate. It stretches from Tailgate, branches out, because it'd been the first good thing to happen to Fulcrum since he'd been forced onto this ship. There's a lot concerning him, how their friendship started, grew, and formed into whatever the scrap it is you'd describe their relationship now. Just a certain sense of closeness. But there's the nagging feeling of being watched, because Chromedome is forcing him to remember as he sorts through the thoughts, feelings, and memories, unsatisfied with whatever it is he's looking for. Validation for his paranoia that Fulcrum would harm anyone? Harm Rewind? He doesn't know.
It becomes more invasive. Fulcrum gives a pleading noise, unable to budge under Chromedome's weight. Briefly, there's the memory of being intimate with Tailgate; he remembers how it felt, how hot and warm and comfortable it was, how happy Fulcrum had felt, and it seems to startle Chromedome before he continues deeper than that.
"Stop," Fulcrum grates out.
The search continues, every invasive step that Chromedome takes. The memories race by and Fulcrum feels the discomfort of the Autobot's forced presence as they're explored. When he cut himself off from Krok and the others on the Marching Riot, the examination Tailgate had done, and his following imprisonment. That's observed, picked apart, and yet it doesn't seem to satisfy him.
What is he looking for?
The push is too much and there's a rush as he flicks through past thoughts and experiences. Leaping towards the D.J.D. in an attempt to save some decent people, meeting Misfire and the others, forced to jump from the aircraft down to Clemency as part of the K-Class unit, back further to the Traitor's Wheel and how spikes dug into his feet and hands and how the wheel would turn and slowly pull him apart-
The needles suddenly pull out from the back of Fulcrum's neck, the grip on his wrists slackened. For a moment, all Fulcrum does is vent air in and out quickly, too quickly, his mind reeling from the series of forced reminders.
"I..." Chromedome trails off, tone uncertain.
Not that it means anything.
Anger and fear bubble up inside of him and the technician wrenches his arms away, swinging his elbow back sharply and catching Chromedome in the visor, cracking the edge. The Autobot gives a surprised, pained noise, jerking back. It's enough where Fulcrum can squirm around onto his back, giving a sharp kick to Chromedome's abdomen.
"Get off!" To his shame, it sounds more screechy and panic-filled than Fulcrum cares for, but he succeeds in forcing him off. Fulcrum scrambles to his feet and manages to make it to the door.
"Great, another organic," Rodimus grumbles out.
"Rodimus, the proper name of the-" Ultra Magnus starts, setting out to specify the species contacting them.
Krok interrupts over the frequency, annoyed, "I don't really care who they are. What do you want?"
There's a shrug from Rodimus, indicating that he actually agrees with the Decepticon's sentiment. That earns a scowl from Ultra Magnus.
There's a hologram of the alien contacting them; it's tall, and the coloration is hard to determine over the frequency. The back of the creature's head slopes back into an epoccipital of sorts. Three beady eyes blink away, not in synch with each other as they gaze at the Cybertronians. There are at least two other factors that cause the alien to stand out besides its apparent height: the drooling mandibles on its face and the enormous shoulder blades on its back.
"Cybertronians," the alien greets flatly. "We are not here to negotiate or warn. We are here to announce."
"To Autobot or Decepticon?" Ultra Magnus asks.
"It does not matter. The Umbran fleet will greet both your ships shortly."
The transmission from the organic cuts out. It earns even a wary look from Krok.
Abruptly, the entirety of the Lost Light shakes from a very apparent explosion outside of the ship. Rodimus shoots a furious look at the flickering hologram of the Decepticon. "Did you just attack us?!"
"No!," Krok snaps, then looks aside, as if addressing one of his own personal crewmembers. "There's an entire fleet of them. Like the organic said."
"Frag this," Rodimus grumbles. "Blaster, tell everyone to get ready for a fight. I don't care if you need to get Siren on the intercom!"
"Are you sure that's wise?" Ultra Magnus glances at the hologram. "What about the Decepticons?"
"Right now, we just got shot by a bunch of fleshlings. I'm not putting up with that," Rodimus snaps. "If you shoot us, you're going down too, 'Con."
"Likewise," Krok promises in a narrowed gaze before cutting out his own transmission.
"So what exactly happened?" Tailgate asks as they hurry down the hallway. "I don't mean to pry, but if it has to do with Fulcrum..."
"It does and it doesn't." Rewind lowers his helm slightly. "We fought about it. He already knew about the film I shared. He didn't like that to begin with, but apparently it had to do with when I helped Fulcrum out with the model. After hearing that shortly after the news about you and Fulcrum came around, we argued and he stormed out. As soon as he did that, I knew something was going to happen. I just don't know what."
They don't go much further. Around the corner, Swerve suddenly peeks out from behind it, waving for them. "Tailgate! Rewind!"
Oh, that seems lucky. Fulcrum's scheduled to be helping Swerve, so naturally he ought to know where he is. Quickly, Tailgate hurries over, his visor brightening hopefully.
"Crum needs your help." Swerve glances nervously down the hall. "And Rung."
"What does Rung-" Rewind starts.
But Tailgate doesn't wait, he doesn't feel like he can. Though he is rarely one for confrontations, he can't help but feel impulse run through him as he sprints down the hallway. Not far off, he sees Strafe holding Rung by the shoulders. As Tailgate approaches, their optics meet, and there's no hesitation at all in the disposal unit; he just looks at Strafe as he runs forward, not stopping, not turning away. Frankly, with anger and worry running through him, Tailgate feels like he'd probably bulldoze right over Strafe is he keeps standing in his way.
Nervously, Strafe looks from Rung to Tailgate, then releases the therapist suddenly, taking a step back.
Tailgate stops in front of both of them, peering up at Strafe. "Where is he?"
It's silent for a moment, Strafe's mouth opening and closing.
Nothing needs to be said. Tailgate can hear the shout down the hallway, and it's Fulcrum's voice: "Get off!"
"Fulcrum!" Visor flashing in panic, Tailgate runs by the others, heading further down the hallway.
Bursting out from one of the rooms, Fulcrum stumbles into the hall, his yellow optics wide and fearful. He looks up slowly, seeing Tailgate, frozen in his stance. As soon as the disposal unit gets close enough, Tailgate finds his arms full of the Decepticon clutching him.
Tailgate hugs him tightly. "Fulcrum?"
Not a word is spoken. The K-Con just shakes his head silently, venting in and out far too quickly than normal.
"Easy." Tailgate pats his back gently. "I got you."
Over Fulcrum's shoulder, Tailgate can see Chromedome standing in the doorway. The upper right of his visor is cracked and his expression is strange, full of confusion and remorse. Yet, the only thing Tailgate can feel is betrayal and utter anger. Gently as he can, Tailgate untangles himself from Fulcrum and goes to stand between the Decepticon and the mnemosurgeon.
"What'd you do?" Tailgate demands.
Chromedome tilts his head up, glancing over Tailgate and Fulcrum. A reluctant gaze is given down the hallway, towards Rewind.
He doesn't say anything.
Before Tailgate can even think of trying to confront him further, there's an abrupt rumble throughout the entire ship. It's enough to cause a shake under his feet, knocking him over with a surprised yelp. Fulcrum somehow manages to keep his balance, immediately grabbing for Tailgate's arm to help him back up.
"Uh," Tailgate can hear Swerve. "What was that?"
There's a collective of puzzled glances for the most part, though it looks like Fulcrum and Chromedome are both keen to not look at anyone. Yet, Tailgate can feel Fulcrum clutch his hand like a lifeline, a small tremble running up the limb.
All he can wonder is what did Chromedome do?
"Autobots! Ready battle stations! We're being attacked!" comes Siren's powerful voice over the intercom.
"Oh, you've gotta be kidding me," Fulcrum mutters, his voice just barely above a whisper.
Another tremor passes through the ship, nearly throwing Tailgate off of his feet again, but he manages to stay grounded this time. The explosion sounds close, too close.
"That couldn't have been far off," Rewind comments, voice soft.
Fulcrum shakes his head for a moment, exhaling sharply. He grits his teeth, then releases Tailgate's hand finally as he turns and heads for the nearest terminal. "I'll try to make sense of the damages. If you guys have something you need to do, then you'd better go do it."
"I could-" Chromedome starts, as if offering assistance of some kind.
"Stay away from me," Fulcrum cuts him off, voice acidic as he gives a foul look to the much taller mech. The tone's viciousness dies as he repeats in a much quieter voice, his stance looking weaker: "...Just stay away from me."
When Chromedome lifts a hand, Tailgate immediately steps up to Fulcrum's side, giving the surgeon a look before turning his attention to the Decepticon. Silently, Chromedome takes a step back. "How does it look?" Tailgate asks.
"Bad." Fulcrum frowns a little as he types away at the terminal. "The lower levels of the ship were hit hard. It looks like... the brig. There's a gaping hole there. I guarantee you that there are gonna be more like that if this keeps up."
"Hey, well, you dodged a bullet. Hooray?" Swerve offers.
There's a pause as Fulcrum looks at Swerve, as if he can't make up his mind on how to properly address him. Then he shakes his head. "The rest of the Decepticons from the previous battle you guys had with them are still down there. And Fortress Maximus." The K-Con turns away from the terminal. "If the damages keep up like this, the brig is going to come ripping right off of the rest of the ship. It has two places it can go: the planet below us, or out drifting into space. Not good odds either way."
"I'll start calling Ultra Magnus. He has the codes for the brig," Rung offers.
"That's great, but I'm not going to wait for him." Fulcrum turns away. "I need to get at least Fortress Maximus out from there."
Tailgate reaches up, taking Fulcrum's hand. It's about the only thing he feels like he can do in order to show how protective he feels. "I'm going with you."
"Tailgate..." Fulcrum glances down, then nods. "I. I could use the help."
"I don't know that Fort Max will listen to you right away, even in a disaster like this. I'll do what I can to help," Rung informs the both of them. "I'll still try to get Ultra Magnus to help."
"We'd better hurry, anyway," Fulcrum informs them. "But I appreciate it, Rung."
"I'll try to send help your way," Rewind announces. "Get going."
Chromedome watches the three of them leave. Rung, Tailgate, and Fulcrum.
His mind is still reeling.
"Chromedome," Rewind addresses him, trying to get his attention.
What can he say? Numbly, Chromedome looks down at his own hand.
There's little else that comforts him right now more than holding onto Tailgate's hand. Maybe it's shock, maybe it's because the situation doesn't allow for him to even address what happened as of yet, but he feels almost disconnected from everything as they go. He's just glad to have the smaller mech with him, and he holds on tightly.
He can't even think about what Chromedome did. He can't deal with that right now.
Fulcrum glances towards the therapist. "So, are you okay?"
"Strafe didn't harm me," Rung replies. "Are you?"
Fulcrum looks back down the hall as they try to hurry towards the brig.
"I'm sorry. Now's probably a bad time to ask that."
"I'll be okay," Fulcrum mumbles, mostly to try to reassure himself.
"Fulcrum, what did he do?" Tailgate looks up.
"I." The K-Con shakes his head quickly. "I can't. Not right now. I'll be okay. We need to focus right now."
There's a small huff from Tailgate, but there's no argument. "Later?"
"Later," Fulcrum promises.
As they reach the entrance of the brig, Fulcrum does not hesitate. He doesn't particularly care about the other Decepticons; he doesn't know them and he doesn't owe anything to them. Still, it'd probably be the right thing to try to help. His main intent is to assist Fortress Maximus.
No, they don't really get along, but there's a level of something there between them that he hasn't quite grasped yet. It's important to him, even if he doesn't really get Maximus yet.
Once they reach the actual brig, Fulcrum stumbles to a stop, flinging out his arm to catch Rung from going further. Tailgate squeezes his hand and stares at the big hole in the ship.
"Wow," Tailgate murmurs. "That ... used to be your cell."
"Sure was," Fulcrum agrees, voice squeaking. Nice to know his trend of barely avoiding death is continuing so steadily. Where his cell used to be is the biggest tear in the brig, with the rest of it extending out. Really, the brig is barely clutching onto the rest of the Lost Light from the damages. It also means that in order to do anything useful, Fulcrum has to jump over a chasm to get to the cell in question.
Pit, this is going to suck.
The other cells are either destroyed or have ripped off already. Chances are, Fulcrum supposes, that they're offlined. No use wasting time on the dead, he tells himself distantly; he's left to focus on Fortress Maximus.
"Fortress Maximus," Rung calls out. "We're going to try to get you out. Please let Fulcrum help."
"You brought the Decepticon to help," Maximus reponds, not at all hiding the anger there.
"Look, I don't know when or if Ultra Magnus is going to make it down here!" Fulcrum snaps impatiently. "I'm going to try to find a way to help you get out of the cell, but I don't have time right now to try to win your trust or anything. Just deal with it, all right?!"
There's a brief pause, then the warden snorts. Not really a word of agreement, but it's something.
Fulcrum gives himself a moment, then gives a vent of air. "Tailgate, you don't have to come with me to-"
"Yes I do." Tailgate gently tugs on his hand. "I'm not leaving you behind, okay?"
"Um." It shouldn't surprise him, but relief washes over the Decepticon. That's something, he thinks, that he needed to hear. "Thanks. All right, let's get ready to jump."
Both of them take a few steps back before they look at each again. Then, they both run, leaping over the chasm in the brig, landing on the other side. The floor under them wobbles from the impact and additional weight. Fulcrum's optics widen and he tugs Tailgate close.
"I'm okay," Tailgate assures him. "Really."
"All right." Fulcrum reluctantly releases his hand, looking up towards Fortress Maximus. In return, two piercing optics peer down at him.
"So what're you going to do?" Tailgate asks. "You don't know the codes."
Fulcrum shakes his head. "I don't, but I think I can rework the wiring enough that I can force the cell open."
"You can do that?" Tailgate's visor widens.
"Probably? I haven't tried, but I think it's possible. Just keep an eye on the cell here for me while I work. Maybe keep checking on updates of the ship?"
There's a nod from Tailgate. "I can do that."
"Good. I'll, um. I'll get to work." Slowly, Fulcrum kneels down, looking at the plating of the ship along the bottom of the cell, then at the side. It takes some prying, but he's able to peel off the metal, exposing the wiring.
It doesn't look that much more complicated than any cell he's seen. He can work with this.
Fulcrum reaches in, venting steadily, trying to ignore everything else. Trying to ignore that there's a battle outside the ship, what Chromedome did, and the fact that this piece of the ship he's on right now is ready to tear off from the rest of the Lost Light at any second. Death is just outside and he's trying hard to ignore it because he wants to live.
Not just for himself, but he knows.
He thinks of Tailgate.
There's a hiss as wiring shocks him slightly, but he works through it as he rearranges the settings. With a twist of cables, the cell door opens.
There are heavy steps from Fortress Maximus as he steps out, wrists bound up in cuffs. He stares down at Fulcrum.
"Fort Max!" Rung calls out to the warden. "Now!"
The command from the therapist is enough to draw out Fortress Maximus's attention. His head turns, then he just growls out, "...Yeah." The enormous Autobot takes a step back before he leaps over the gaping hole in the ship, landing not far from Rung.
"Fulcrum! It's coming apart!" Tailgate warns frantically. "It-"
Not another word is spoken as what's left of the brig starts to tear off more. There's a startled yelp from the disposal unit and a distressed squeak from Fulcrum as they both tumble. Not all of it has completely come off, but as they roll, Fulcrum's fingers are trying to find something to hold onto, but as he hits the edge, he knows he's going to fall and oh Primus spare his spark he's going to die.
Tailgate's hand snatches his wrist, the smaller mech managing to barely hold onto the remains of the cell. The struggle with Fulcrum's weight is obviously there, as the disposal unit was never constructed for this, Fulcrum expects. There's a tremble in Tailgate's body as he tries to pull the K-Con up.
"Tailgate! Fulcrum!" Rung shouts to both of them frantically, the large warden cursing nearby as he struggles with his bonds.
The therapist is frail, and Fortress Maximus's hands are still cuffed. There's not much that they can do. And there's no way that Tailgate can pull Fulcrum up.
At this rate, they'll both go.
Fulcrum feels his throat constrict and his tanks churn. He doesn't want this decision, but he won't make Tailgate go with him.
"You have to let go," Fulcrum tells him.
"What?" Tailgate stares down, baffled. "No!"
"No! I've got you!"
There's a desperate feeling spreading through Fulcrum. They won't make it. They can't possibly make it!
Shockingly, a jet suddenly flies through the gap in the ship. There's a jerk of Fulcrum's head, because he recognizes it, watching the transformation as the Cybertronian lands in front of them.
"Hang on, pinhead!" Reaching down, Misfire grabs onto both of them by the wrists.
"Misfire," Fulcrum sputters out. "When did-?"
"Oh, you know." There's a small grunt as Misfire tries to pull them up. "Krok was havin' a talk with the Autobots' captain and then this whole mess started and Crankcase spotted you through the hole here and Krok said to go get you and wow can I talk about this later I'm trying to save you and this little guy!"
He's still baffled to see the jet, but hell if he doesn't have great timing. Fulcrum shudders with some relief, but at the same time, he realizes that by himself Misfire can't carry two.
Fulcrum bites his lower lip, hearing metal creak.
There's additional weight suddenly on the cell's floor with a loud and heavy clang, implying a large mech has hopped over. Was it Fortress Maximus? He looks up, optics widening as he watches Ultra Magnus pick him up with no effort, leaving Misfire to yank Tailgate back up onto the floor.
He isn't sure what to say. "Thanks?" Fulcrum vents out. "Thank you."
Ultra Magnus says nothing.
The rescue is only brief. There's a louder creak. Ultra Magnus scowls and whirls around to face the three mechs. Without a single word, the enforcer is shoving all three of them - Misfire, Fulcrum, and Tailgate - against the wall of the cell. "Brace yourselves!" the Lost Light's second-in-command orders.
Finally, the piece of the ship tears off, with all four of them still on it.
And they plunge towards the planet below.