He didn’t know what set them off this time. Sometimes, it could be something as innocuous as a comment muttered subvocally. Other times, it could be that Skywarp deliberately disobeyed in order to rile Starscream. Thundercracker supposed the why didn’t matter so much as what came after.
He folded his arms and frowned, watching his trinemates throw themselves at each other, rapidly shifting from alt-mode to root-mode in mid-air, never quite doing enough damage to force the other to land, but enough that both would be seeing themselves to the medbay, and Hook’s tender care, later.
He should stop them. He knew he should. But every time he did, it seemed he only succeeded in pushing the problem down deeper, where it festered and festered until it fed into the chaos all over again.
It wasn’t Skywarp’s fault. It wasn’t Starscream’s either. The blame, if you asked Thundercracker, lay solely at Megatron’s feet. Who, sooner rather than later, would probably snarl a demand into their comms for his elite trine to get their act together before he did it for them.
Thundercracker sighed, and forced himself into the sky, ignoring the ache in his spark. There was once a time they’d flown together, as one unit, one mind. Now there was this rift, this distance, and it ached as physically as a blow.
But this was Thundercracker’s role to play now. He was the one who had to shift to root-mode, push through the air, build up charge, and bolt between them, scattering the two in opposing directions. He set off a minor sonic wave as he did so, disorienting them long enough for him to circle back around and put himself firmly between their dinged and scratched frames.
He didn’t say anything. He never had to. The bite in his field was enough.
Skywarp didn’t apologize. Neither did Starscream. But they all three limped back to their shared room in a tortured silence. Tomorrow, it would be like it never happened.
But no one ever forgot.