This was a bad idea.
Sunstreaker navigated around their couch, an end table, his brother, a game controller, and a chair. He clenched his hands to keep from wringing them, though the urge tugged at him.
“This is a bad idea,” he said aloud, or mumbled rather.
“Calm your hydraulics, bro. It’s gonna be fine,” Sideswipe said. His attention was focused on the screen where a quick flick of his finger sent one of the competing cars into a tailspin, immediately followed by a loud crash.
“No, it’s not, Sides,” Sunstreaker said. “We’re idiots. What do we know about dates or… talking… or normal mechs.” His ventilations sped up. “We don’t. That’s what.”
Sideswipe paused his game. “Sunny–”
“No.” Sunstreaker shook his helm, drawing in a ragged ventilation. “No. I changed my mind. I can’t do this.”
He really couldn’t. It was too much. It wasn’t what he signed up for.
Slag. There his hands went. Tangling together. Fragging nervous tic. Was weakness was what it was. Kind of slag that got you pounded on. He felt too safe if he thought it was okay to be this kind of shaky, useless slagger.
“Yes, you can.” Sideswipe leapt to his pedes and interrupted Sunstreaker before he could dive into their berthroom and slam the door. “It’s not like you’re doin’ it alone, dumbaft.”
Sunstreaker folded his arms and hunched his shoulders. “I’m going to frag this up for us,” he bit out, his spark squeezing and squeezing into the tiniest of balls. He pushed all of his uncertainty into a long pulse at their bond.
Sideswipe responded with a bright burst of reassurance. “No. You’re not.” He rested his hands on Sunstreaker’s shoulders, giving them a squeeze.
Sunstreaker nibbled on his bottom lip, denta instigating a harsher pressure that edged toward pain. “What’re we even trying to do, Sides? Seriously. We’re not cut out for normal stuff like this. Like… like…”
“Romance? Affection? Connection?” Sideswipe finished for him, his voice softening into that low register that always seemed to calm Sunstreaker’s spark. “Maybe it’s time we tried, huh? You ever thought about that?”
Sunstreaker couldn’t meet his brother’s gaze. He nibbled hard enough to taste energon. “I don’t want to ruin it.”
“You won’t.” Sideswipe’s hands slid inward, cupping Sunstreaker’s neck and the bottom of his face. “Just follow my lead. We’ll be fine!” He smiled, and it was so earnest, so optimistic, that Sunstreaker wanted to believe him.
He worked his intake and nodded. “Okay,” Sunstreaker said.
Follow Sideswipe’s lead. Keep his mouth shut. He could do that.
Their door beeped.
Sunstreaker outright panicked.
“Deep breaths, bro,” Sideswipe said, briefly pressing their forehelms together. “We got this.”
He pecked Sunstreaker on the cheek and then let go, striding confidently toward the door. Sunstreaker told himself not to snatch at Sideswipe like some kind of terrified sparkling.
He could do this. He was a frontliner, a fearsome warrior for the Autobots. Minibots trembled in his wake. Surely he could manage something as simple as… as a date.
Sideswipe keyed the door open.
Skyfire stood in the hallway, stooping a little to be seen. He had a smile on his face, he looked freshly waxed, and in one hand he was clutching a clump of wildflowers. Organic wildlowers. They looked very tiny in his hands, their long stems drooping sadly toward the floor.
What the frag?
Skyfire’s smile faltered. His mouth snapped shut.
Sunstreaker realized, too late, that he’d exclaimed that aloud. His faceplate burned. He thought maybe he should say something but he had no words. He floundered. Oh, he hadn’t meant it like that!
“Are those for us?” Sideswipe asked brightly, into the awkward silence. “Thanks!”
“The Autobots as a whole seem fond of human customs so I thought these would be appropriate,” Skyfire said, his ducked helm making him appear smaller. He glanced at Sunstreaker, but then his gaze returned to Sideswipe. “I won’t be offended if you choose to discard them instead.”
“No!” Sunstreaker all but shouted and lurched forward, snatching the bouquet from Sideswipe’s hands. Petals fluttered madly in his wake as he backed away from both his brother and the shuttle. “We’re keeping them.”
They were gifts. Skyfire had brought them purely to be nice, to offer them to Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, and he didn’t have to. At this point, he could have brought a bag of garbage and Sunstreaker wouldn’t have been offended.
Okay. That stretched it a little. Garbage would not have been acceptable. But flowers most certainly were.
Skyfire blinked. “Well, you are more than welcome to them then.”
Sideswipe whirled and stared at Sunstreaker as though he’d grown another head. And maybe he was right.
Sunstreaker felt out of sorts, and foolish. He spun on a heelstrut and went to his corner, where he kept his art supplies. He pulled out an old, solid-state energon cube for a vase and used a leftover bucket of paint water. It would work temporarily.
He busied himself with arranging the flowers just so, that way he wouldn’t have to look over his shoulder and see the look on Skyfire’s face. He was probably asking himself what madness he’d gotten himself into. He probably tried to imagine ten different ways he could excuse himself.
“Anyway,” Sideswipe said loudly, and Sunstreaker heard his pedes snap against the floor as he turned back toward Skyfire. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Pistons hissed as Skyfire shifted his weight, probably to make himself smaller again. “I thought we might share energon atop the volcano.”
They were on high alert right now, after all, Sunstreaker thought despairingly. He’d wanted to leave the Ark so no one could see them and taunt them. But now they were forced to stay close. All off-Ark activities had been suspended. Even Jazz had pouted. Apparently, there was some concert he would miss.
“Sounds good,” Sideswipe chirped. Sunstreaker imagined he was offering one of those charming smiles of his.
People liked Sideswipe’s smiles.
“Sunny, are you coming?”
He didn’t turn. He thought he’d made an idiot and a fool of himself already. He fiddled with the flowers instead, pretending he could turn their bent petals and crushed leaves into something beautiful again. The fragrance seeped into his nasal sensors, too sweet, too cloying.
Even Sunstreaker wasn’t so stupid as to not recognize the gesture for what it was. What did Skyfire think they were? Soft mechs? Innocent ones?
Sunstreaker didn’t dare ask. He didn’t dare speak. He couldn’t trust himself not to frag this up further. Better he not go at all.
Sideswipe pulsed a query across the bond, and followed it up with encouragement.
I won’t go without you.
Oh, that was low. Sunstreaker didn’t want to frag this up. But if Sideswipe denied himself the chance because of Sunstreaker, he would never forgive himself.
Sunstreaker whirled around and stormed past them both, his shoulder clipping Sideswipe’s in the process. “Let’s go,” he huffed as his armor drew tight, clamping close to his protoform.
“Okay then,” Sideswipe said with a forced cheer, and followed Sunstreaker out.
He paused long enough in the hallway to make sure they were both following before Sunstreaker continued on. He was here. But he was going to keep his fragging mouth shut from now on.
“By the way, Skyfire, how are you today?” Sideswipe asked.
Small talk. Ugh.
“Fine, I suppose,” Skyfire said. He sounded confused. “I, uh, took the liberty of acquiring energon for all three of us already.”
Probably doesn’t want to be seen with us. Not that I can blame him, Sunstreaker muttered across their bond.
“Thank you, Skyfire,” Sideswipe said aloud, so bright he was a shining star in his own right. But that was Sideswipe. The special one. The smart one. The one who deserved. “That’ll save us on travel time.”
“The rec was on my way. It was no trouble.”
How in the Pit was Skyfire so nice? It was unreal. Anyone else in his position would have already called Sideswipe and Sunstreaker all kinds of rude names. Anyone else would have fragged off already. Mechs tended to want only one thing, not go through all this trouble as a prelude.
“Next time it’ll be our turn then,” Sideswipe said.
“Next time?” Skyfire repeated.
Sunstreaker’s spark sank toward his tank. He didn’t know how to interpret Skyfire’s tone. Skyfire didn’t sound excited, but he didn’t sound displeased either. He should turn and look at Skyfire, but not like he’d be able to read the shuttle’s expression. That was what Sideswipe was supposed to do.
“I mean, uh, if there is a next time,” Sideswipe said as he coughed his vents. “We wouldn’t want to assume or anything.”
“Experience does suggest that is a bad idea,” Skyfire replied, his tone very mild, but his words cut to the spark.
Sunstreaker cringed. His armor pressed so tight to his frame that his HUD sent alerts. Yes, that was all the reminder they needed. How much they were idiots. Mostly Sunstreaker, to be honest.
“Right.” Sideswipe dragged out the glyphs. He poked Sunstreaker along the bond as if prodding him to contribute. “So… um…”
Sunstreaker snarled internally. Keeping his mouth shut was the better course of action, though it seemed Sideswipe wasn’t doing that great either.
“It was a joke,” Skyfire said, and Sunstreaker almost labeled his tone gentle. “I only meant to tease.”
Sideswipe chuckled, but the slither of unease in their bond didn’t fade. “Oh, we know. It’s just we kinda still feel guilty and all.” Sunstreaker just knew his brother was rubbing the back of his neck. He always did that when he felt uncertain.
Thank Primus there was the exit. Sunstreaker didn’t bolt for it, but it was a near thing. Could this “date” be any more awkward?
It was pleasantly warm outside, a late afternoon in mid-fall, where the trees still carried some grasp of greenery, but turned to shades of red, orange, and yellow, too.
Sunstreaker stopped outside the bay doors, waiting for Skyfire and Sideswipe both, not that they were far behind. He turned to face them, folding his arms across his chestplate.
What had Skyfire said? He wanted to go to the top of the volcano?
“There aren’t any ramps or lifts,” he pointed out as his twin and Skyfire caught up with him.
Skyfire blinked. “Yes?”
“How are we going to get to the top?” Sunstreaker asked.
Skyfire shifted his weight. His wings twitched behind him. “I assumed I would offer a lift.”
“Isn’t it too soon for us to get inside you?” Sideswipe asked with a smirk.
Skyfire’s optics widened.
Sunstreaker growled and smacked his brother on the back of the helm. Even he knew that was tasteless and inappropriate.
Sideswipe scowled and rubbed his helm. “Ow.”
“If that is unappealing, I could always carry you,” Skyfire ventured. “Though I admit I am not as skilled as the Seekers in root-mode flight.”
Sunstreaker rolled his shoulders. “I have some dignity,” he sniffed.
“I… see,” Skyfire said.
Sideswipe pinched Sunstreaker in the side. He hissed and glared at his twin. It didn’t hurt, but it was embarrassing.
“The rear engines are unoccupied. Would that better suit?” Skyfire offered.
“It’ll do,” Sideswipe said with a sour look at Sunstreaker.
Sunstreaker bared his denta at his brother, his armor fluffing out away from his protoform. He was not going to be chastised like some kind of sparkling. It wasn’t his fault Skyfire forget they couldn’t fly, and it wasn’t his fault Sideswipe was being a jerk either.
Skyfire coughed a ventilation.
Both Sideswipe and Sunstreaker looked at him. He shifted his weight. He cycled his optics. His wings twitched.
It was almost as though he wanted to remind them he was standing right there.
They were on a date.
Skyfire cocked his helm. “Are you both sure you want this?” he asked, his lips twitching for some reason.
“Yes!” Sunstreaker blurted out, lurching forward. He could only imagine Skyfire storming away from them, his patience run out. He gave a panicked look to his brother. “Only…”
“What exactly this is we don’t know,” Sideswipe said, explaining what Sunstreaker couldn’t put into words.
“Or understand,” Sunstreaker added.
“It’s new,” Sideswipe sighed, and he moved closer to Sunstreaker, until their shoulders touched. It helped him stand a little straighter. “And we’ve fragged it up.”
Like I knew we would, Sunstreaker internally muttered.
Skyfire stared at them. “I apologize, but I was under the impression you two were… ah, how shall I say… popular?”
Sunstreaker looked at his brother who tilted his helm in encouragement. “Well, yeah if it’s a berth,” Sunstreaker answered.
Sideswipe grinned and his smugness radiated from him in waves until it infected Sunstreaker, too. Yeah, he didn’t get social nonsense. But he was damn good in the berth and proud of it. No one ever walked away unsatisfied.
Weak-kneed, comfortably sore, and exhausted, but never unsatisfied.
“We’re good at what we do,” Sideswipe boasted.
“Except the berth only goes so far…” Sunstreaker said, his pride quickly evaporating when he remembered how cold their berths got afterward. He could cuddle Sideswipe all he wanted, and he loved his brother more than life itself, but both of them admitted… something was missing.
They didn’t know what that something was.
Until Skyfire looked at them, and forgave them and suddenly, their sparks couldn’t stop aching.
“It’s not real,” Sideswipe supplied as Sunstreaker faltered on the rest and promptly forgot where he was going.
Skyfire cycled his optics. “Oh.”
Sunstreaker didn’t know how to interpret that. Was it a good sound? A bad one? Skyfire wasn’t running for the Ark like his aft were on fire, but he was keeping a safe distance.
“I mean everybody wants to frag us,” Sideswipe said, babbling now, like maybe he floundered, too.
“Fragging’s easy,” Sunstreaker said, because that much was true. Fragging was very easy. Knowing how to touch someone and make it hurt, meant you also knew how to make it feel very, very good.
“You don’t gotta like someone to frag them,” Sideswipe added.
Sunstreaker scowled. “Fragged Gears once even,” he muttered, and felt his face heat.
That had been the first and last time. Because not even several good overloads could keep the minibot from being an absolute waste of time and space and energon.
Sideswipe rubbed the back of his helm. “But fragging and dating aren’t the same. We’ve never dated anyone.”
“Don’t know how,” Sunstreaker said.
“I mean, we guess fragging’s all we’re good for,” Sideswipe said with a sigh. He spread his hands as though surrendering.
Sunstreaker’s shoulder slumped. He glanced at Skyfire, and had to swallow down the urge to throw himself into alt-mode and race toward the horizon.
Skyfire’s optics were wide, and Sunstreaker had no idea what expression on his face meant, it couldn’t be a good one.
If Skyfire was interested before, he surely wasn’t now. No one wanted to go on a date with the rusty Ark bicycle, even if there were two of them. Mechs that were good for fragging, weren’t good for courting.
Frag Ratchet for making them apologize.
“Well,” Sunstreaker said, ready to get the humiliation over with. “Aren’t you going to say something?”
Skyfire shifted his weight. His mouth opened.
The proximity alarm went off with a wild shriek, startling the shuttle into a jump that would’ve cleared a minibot.
Sunstreaker and Sideswipe’s offensive protocols went from zero to sixty in the space of a spark beat. A Decepticon attack was imminent. They didn’t have time to slowly cycle up.
They never got to hear whatever it was Skyfire was going to say.
Saved by the alarm.