Blurr lurched awake with all the subtlety of a mid-air collision. His spark raced, his ventilations cycled rapidly, and every defensive protocol was screaming for him to get down, take cover, draw his weapon, prepare for war.
Except that the war was over, he was supposed to be safe, and that was all a lie.
And Blurr was… not in his tiny apartment over his bar.
He cycled his optics and looked around him. This was Starscream’s berth. He was in Starscream’s penthouse. He was in Starscream’s berth. He was…
Covered in bandages and nanite patches? What the frag! Blurr stared down at himself, appalled by the state of his frame. Well. That at least explained why he felt like he’d been run over by a triple-changer. There wasn’t a single part of him that didn’t ache. And he felt… lighter? Why did he feel lighter?
His boosters were gone.
Blurr twisted his torso sharply, ignoring a stab of pain, and tried to reach over his shoulders and behind himself. He couldn’t feel them. They just weren’t there. They’d been disengaged from his frame.
What the frag?
Someone had cleaned him, too. It had been half-sparked at best, as they’d left soot in the crannies of his frame and Blurr itched with the sensation of grit in his cables. He needed a shower. But he needed answers, too. He needed–
Blurr pinged his memory. Short-term was a little hazy. Maybe because of the way his processor ached. Short-term loss wasn’t uncommon after a sharp knock to the helm. And he’d been hit by – Blurr squinted – falling debris.
He started to remember.
Heat. Shouting. A moment of panic. And then a whump of something invisible. A blast wave. It knocked him back and out. He hit the side of his bar, or the stage. Something solid enough to rattle him.
There’d been an explosion.
Blurr swung his legs over the side of the berth – Starscream’s berth, his memory core continued to remind him – and gently slid to his pedes. Everything ached, and he couldn’t put his full weight on his right leg. His hip felt like fire, but the idea of just lying around in his berth and waiting for someone to attend to him was highly unappealing.
He paused a moment, dizziness making him sway. Once it passed, he attempted a step, and hissed air through his denta. His hip burned, and only force of effort made him take another step, and then a third. He pretended he was on the battlefield, and if he didn’t move, he wouldn’t live, and that thought carried him two more steps toward the door. A sharp, stabbing throb radiated through his right hip.
He wanted answers. He needed answers. He wasn’t sure if he approved that he’d woken in Starscream’s berth. Why wasn’t he in his own? Why wasn’t he in a medical center? What the frag?
He made it to the door. It opened with a touch, his touch. Starscream had programmed it to respond to his field? When? Why?
No. Don’t worry about that right now. Worry about answers.
Blurr limped out of the berthroom. His audials caught words. Voices. Conversation. He recognized both voices – Starscream and Jazz.
“–a meeting,” Jazz said, his voice edged with static. He sounded tired.
Starscream huffed a ventilation. From his viewpoint, Blurr could only see his back, and his twitching wings. “Yes. I’ll just get on out into the wasteland. Surely no one will see me do such a thing. Has he any idea how absurd that sounds?”
“Oh, he knows. Why do ya think he suggested it?”
Starscream scoffed. He half-turned and paced a step, giving Blurr a brief glimpse of Jazz before he was blocked again. “Fine then. They can continue to rot out there, while what’s left of Cybertron crumbles at Obsidian’s command.” His engine grumbled. “So much for Autobot sentimentality.”
“I didn’t say he said no. Just that he wants ta chat.” Something creaked, Jazz’s joints perhaps. “And I didn’t say it had to be out there.”
Starscream jerked and whipped toward Jazz, wings arching high. “Why are you playing word games with me?”
“Mech, I play games with everyone. Or don’t ya know that by now.” Jazz laughed, but it didn’t sound amused. “Ya want the meeting or not?”
“What kind of meeting?” Blurr asked.
Starscream whipped around, his optics wide. “You’re online,” he said, crossing the floor in three quick steps to seize Blurr by the shoulders. “You should be in a berth. You’re still healing!”
Blurr slapped away his hands and limped around Starscream, making a beeline for the couch in the middle of the room. “I don’t want to be in the berth. I want answers. What meeting?”
He heard, more than saw, Starscream follow after him.
“It doesn’t matter,” Starscream said with an exasperated air. “I’m beginning to suspect it’s not legitimate.”
“Why wouldn’t it be? Cybertron’s my planet, too,” Jazz retorted, his visor flashing. The light behind it shifted to Blurr. “You okay, boss?”
“I hurt,” Blurr said flatly, and dropped down to the couch. “What happened?”
“Obsidian happened,” Starscream said. He opted to stand, his arms folded over his chest turbines. “It was his first move.”
Blurr rubbed at his aching hip, trying not to wince. “My bar?”
Starscream’s gaze met the floor. “Total loss,” he said and rubbed at his faceplate. “There’s nothing left but rubble.”
Primus damn it. He should have never gotten involved with Starscream. He knew it. He just knew this would happen.
“Casualties?” Blurr demanded.
“Lots of injuries,” Jazz answered and scraped a hand over his helm. “Several casualties.” He audibly sighed. “Sorry, boss. One of them’s Skybyte.”
Blurr’s spark went cold. He cycled a ventilation, but it rattled in his frame. He worked his intake, his hands drawing into fists. He turned his helm toward Starscream, letting nothing of weakness show in his optics.
“Tell me you know where this fragger is,” he demanded.
Starscream lifted his chin. “I wish that I did.”
Blurr shot to his pedes, ignoring the flash-fire of pain that raced across his hip, down his leg, and into his ankle-strut. “You have a network of spies, and an entourage, and a gaggle of loyal followers, and you know nothing?”
Starscream frowned and narrowed his optics to thin slits of crimson. “In case you haven’t noticed, the number of genuine associates I have can be counted on one hand.” He made a gesture with his hand for emphasis, wriggling thin, claw-tipped fingers.
Blurr wobbled on his pedes, but held his ground. He would not do this while seated on his aft. Starscream took too many liberties already. “Then what’s our next move?”
Starscream tilted his helm. “Our?” He folded his arms over his chest again, closing himself off. “I am going to find him,” he said, baring his denta. “Obsidian won’t know what he’s unleashed. He will suffer for what he’s done.”
“And what am I supposed to do in the meantime?” Blurr demanded. He had not missed the fact that Starscream seemed content to leave him out of it. “That bar was everything I had. If anyone is going to take down Obsidian, it’ll be me.”
Starscream unfolded his arms and stalked across the floor toward Blurr. “You are going to find a new place to rebuild,” he said, one forefinger poking at Blurr’s chestplate. “You are going to rest, and recover, and put on a brave face. That is what you are going to do.”
Blurr once again batted Starscream’s hand away, his engine revving with fury. “So you’re going to sideline me,” he spat, his field rising up and batting against the reserved front Starscream put on. “You’re going to put me on a shelf like any other trophy.”
“That is not what I said,” Starscream snapped, his wings hiking upward.
Blurr leaned forward, ignoring the rising pain in his side. “Sure sounded like it to me.”
Starscream stared at him before he pinched his nasal ridge and turned away. “Blurr, I don’t have time for this,” he said, wings spasming. “I have to check on the injured, address the citizens, and somehow find Obsidian in all this mess. I can’t do that and worry about you, too.”
“This is what you call worry?” Blurr resisted the urge to stamp his pede. It was all he could do not to grab Starscream and shake some sense into him. But then, when had that done anyone any good? “I hate to see what you actually caring looks like.”
Someone coughed their vents. It was not Starscream.
Blurr blinked. Starscream went rigid. Both of them turned and found Jazz still seated in his chair, a look of unholy glee on his face.
“I guess this is the part where I leave, right?” he said as he hopped to his pedes, planting his hands his hips. “Being that this is a lover’s spat and has nothing to do with me now.”
“It is not a lover’s spat, as you so eloquently put it,” Starscream snapped, his field spiking with irritation. “It is a debate between associates.”
Jazz shrugged. “Potato. Po-ta-toe. I call it like I see it, mechs.” His visor flashed. “My statement stands. I got work to do and it seems like you two don’t need someone eavesdroppin’. So. Off I go.”
Starscream sighed audibly and flicked a hand of dismissal. “By all means, don’t wait for an invitation on my part.”
“Ya gonna be all right, boss?” Jazz asked.
Blurr rubbed at his faceplate, forcing himself not to show the pain spiking through his neural net. Perhaps he really had gotten off the berth too soon.
“Starscream’s nothing I can’t handle,” Blurr said. “I don’t need a nanny-bot.”
“Suit yourself.” Jazz shrugged again, though there was nothing nonchalant in the action. “Ya know how to reach me if anything changes.” He spun on a heelstrut and navigated around his chair, aiming for the door. “Catch ya later, Starscream.”
“If there is any justice in the world, it will be a long time from now,” Starscream muttered.
Jazz’s laughter followed him out, until the door closed and locked behind him. Silence fell, Blurr turning back toward Starscream. There was a screaming pain in his hip, but he refused to acknowledge it.
Starscream sighed audibly. “There, now that he is gone, perhaps we can have a rational conversation about this.” He turned to face Blurr, his expression a mask of emotion. “Though I would prefer it if we could do so while you are resting.”
He started forward, and drew to a halt when Blurr held up a hand.
“No,” he said, and cycled a ventilation. He shook his helm slowly. “Right now, Starscream, I don’t want to hear it.” He turned away from the Seeker, not sure where he wanted to go, only knowing it was away. “You said it yourself that you had work to do. So go do it.”
“And where are you going?” Starscream demanded, petulant.
Blurr headed for the same door Jazz had used, ignoring the twinge in his hip, and the jagged slices of pain that raced down his leg.
“You’re still injured,” Starscream called after him.
“I’ve had worse,” Blurr shot back, slamming his palm against the panel. To his surprise, the door snapped open.
Starscream had keyed his bio-signature into the lock. Blurr blinked, and then shook his helm. No. He didn’t want to think about that now. He just wanted out.
He hurried through the door. If Starscream said something else to him, he didn’t hear it, because the door slid shut behind him. He heard it click and lock, not that Starscream couldn’t open it back up.
Blurr looked around him, torn on which way to go. He couldn’t go back to Maccadams. He couldn’t go back home. It didn’t exist anymore. There was nothing and nowhere for him to go.
He was marked now. Everyone associated him with Starscream. Who would harbor him? Who would offer him a place to stay?
Blurr scoffed aloud. That credit-grubbing thief? Sure, if Blurr promised to sign over half his spark or something equally sinister.
Blurr didn’t know where Jazz made his berth. He didn’t know where Jazz was right now. In fact, Blurr didn’t know much of anything at all. He didn’t know who all was injured. He didn’t know how his usual patrons had fared.
He was pretty damned useless, wasn’t he?
Blurr’s engine raced. His hands formed fists, shaking at his sides. He started walking, or limping more like, because he didn’t know what else to do.
Starscream occupied the penthouse, because of course he did. So Blurr limped into the lift and randomly pressed a button for one of the lower levels. The panel beeped obnoxiously at him.
Growling, Blurr slammed another button. Denied. A third. Denied. A fourth– the panel chimed an affirmative and the doors slid shut. The lift rattled as it started to move.
The ground floor. He could leave. He could walk away from the tower, but where would he go? Out to wander the streets with a bum hip and a rapidly declining level of energon? Out where others had not fared as well in the bombing? Out where he could be easily snatched?
Blurr was not weak. He was not afraid. But he was not stupid either.
The lift donged and deposited him on the first floor. Blurr cycled a ventilation and limped out. He wasn’t going to leave. A sense of self-preservation ensured that. But while the first floor was a disorganized mess, someone had dragged a few benches into one of the corners, arranging them around a low table.
It would do. At this point, Blurr would sit on a boulder. His hip was sending jagged lines of pain up and down his leg. He couldn’t run away from a sparkling at this rate.
The last few steps and Blurr all but dragged his leg behind him. He dropped onto the bench with a sigh of relief, ventilations cycling air faster than was healthy. He groaned and leaned his helm back, offlining his optics.
What a mess. And that was putting it kindly.
He held onto his anger. He clutched it close as the only thing giving him fuel, the only thing keeping him from spiraling. But it slipped through his fingers as though it were made of shadows, like the last pulses of victory before the war struck and took all value out of the races.
Blurr worked his intake. He focused on the pain. It didn’t help.
The war was over. They were supposed to be safe. The war was over, and yet his bar lay in ruins, Skybyte was dead, and safety was an illusion. Just like peace.
His spark squeezed tight. He was in so far over his helm it was not funny. There was nothing hilarious about this. What was he thinking getting involved with Starscream? Why did he think he could hold control over the situation.
He was a fool. A Primus-damned fool. An idiot who lost everything, and became the trophy he’d vowed he wouldn’t allow. He was a pretty thing. A smiling face to hang on Starscream’s arms and wave to the cameras. Side-lined and made useless. Like his bum leg and worse hip.
He had nothing left. Nothing and nowhere to go.
Blurr pressed his palms to his optics and leaned back, cycling ventilation after ventilation. His fans hiccuped.
Primus, but he was a mess.
Something clattered in the darkness.
Blurr leapt to his pedes and whirled around, only for his hip to protest the abrupt motion and buckle beneath him. He yelped and flailed, though there was nothing to grab, nothing to keep him from tumbling to the floor like a clumsy oaf.
Nothing but the bright red arms of a Seeker who was suddenly there, plucking Blurr from his fall as though he’d been in mid-air.
Blurr’s spark pumped from the rush. He looked up into Starscream’s face, empty of expression, and didn’t know whether he wanted to rage or weep. He certainly didn’t feel like expressing gratitude. So he didn’t.
“I told you,” Starscream said quietly as he guided Blurr back to the bench so that he could sit. “You’re still healing. You need to rest.”
“Don’t touch me.” Blurr smacked his hand away, leaning as far from Starscream as he could manage. “This is your fault.”
“Obsidian is the one who blew up your bar,” Starscream said as he sat next to Blurr, within reach, but not so close that they touched.
Blurr glared at him. “To get to you.”
Starscream inclined his helm. “Yes, that is true.” He sighed a ventilation and rubbed two fingers over his forehelm. “For what it is worth, I am sorry.”
“I don’t want your apologies,” Blurr snapped, the anger roiling in him like a dark mass, something that choked his spark. “I want answers. I want to find this fragger and end him. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines like a pretty pet!”
Starscream’s wings flicked. “You are not a pet, or a trophy for that matter. You are a valuable partner in this endeavor. I only meant that you are recovering and are in no condition to face against Obsidian and his ilk. I want you to be–” He cut himself off, shook his helm, and dropped his hand. “You will have an important part to play. I promise.”
Blurr’s optics narrowed. What was Starscream going to say before he stopped? Could he trust Starscream’s intentions here? Or were they empty platitudes to keep him mollified?
He didn’t know. And it bothered him that he didn’t.
“That’s all well and good, but I’m still out of a job, out of a home, and out of any way to be of use to you now.” Blurr snorted and folded his arms over his chassis, clinging to the anger if only to distract himself from the fierce throb in his leg.
Starscream shifted toward him. “You can stay here,” he said, and gestured around him. “I mean, in the penthouse, with me. It’ll be more convenient at any rate.”
Blurr stared at him. “Live here,” he repeated flatly. “With you.”
Starscream shrugged, the gesture anything but nonchalant. “I have the space and it would make working together more convenient.” He gave Blurr a sidelong look. “It’s not as though we haven’t been sharing a berth already.”
“This and that are two different things,” Blurr said, jabbing a finger toward Starscream.
Starscream waved a hand of dismissal. “Either way, it’s all business.” He peered at Blurr before he rose to his pedes and offered Blurr a hand. “Come on. You need a cube of energon, a pain patch, and to get back in the berth.”
Blurr set his jaw. He wanted to decline on principle alone. But frag it all, Starscream was right. He was in no condition to leave, and the pain was only getting worse.
Blurr sighed and accepted Starscream’s hand, which resulted in Starscream hooking an arm around his waist, taking the majority of his weight.
“I want my boosters back,” Blurr said as Starscream helped him limp back toward the berth.
“You can when you are fully repaired,” Starscream replied, a note of irritation in his vocals. “While you are healing, however, your frame can’t take the strain. And this is coming from Flatline, not me.”
The lift dinged as it arrived, and Starscream got them inside, pressing the button for the penthouse without pause. Blurr wanted to ask about the other floors, but filed it away for later. Starscream cooperated for now. Blurr didn’t want to jinx it.
“They were damaged,” Starscream added in a softer tone as the lift started to rise. “You needed a medic more than I needed to try and retrieve them.”
Blurr set his jaw. He didn’t want to think about the explosion, or the damage to his frame, or the sparks that had been lost. All it did was remind him of what had been taken.
“Fine,” he said And left it at that.
They spent the rest of the rise in silence, until the lift deposited them at the top. Starscream half-walked, half-carried Blurr back into his hab-suite, where he ignored both the main room and the refueling room in favor of taking Blurr straight back to the berth.
He was surprisingly gentle as he eased Blurr onto the padded surface. Blurr laid back with a relieved sigh, shifting his weight to take the pressure off his hip. A dull throb set in, his frame sending off waves of heat.
“Here.” Starscream handed over a cube, and when Blurr took it, reached for Blurr’s other hand, tapping two fingers over his wrist port. “Open?”
Blurr hesitated as he braced himself upright with one elbow. Allow Starscream access to his systems?
Starscream arched an orbital ridge. “What do you think I’m going to do through a medical port, Blurr?”
“Pardon me for being cautious.” Blurr seethed as his panel snapped back, allowing Starscream access.
He focused on consuming the energon, and was relieved when Starscream didn’t connect to him personally. Instead, he slotted a pain chip into Blurr’s port reader, and patted Blurr’s wrist.
“That should get started immediately,” Starscream said.
Blurr triggered the panel to close. “Thanks,” he muttered as indeed it began to work, taking away the harshest pangs of agony and dulling them. He sipped at the cube, careful to conceal his grimace.
Medical grade was the absolute worst. He missed his usual energon, sweet and savory, with extra bursts for the busy, racing frame.
Starscream sat on the edge of the berth, his wings twitching behind him. “I am sorry, you know,” he said. “I know that Maccadams was more than just a bar.”
Blurr looked at him from over the rim of the cube. That was almost… honest. For Starscream.
“Yeah, well, I guess it’s not really your fault,” he said.
“Thanks,” Starscream drawled with a roll of his optics. He tilted his helm. “Besides, you can look at this way. Now you can finally replace that countertop with the stain, right?”
Blurr snorted a laugh. “Right.” He finished off the energon and flicked away the cube. “If I ever get to rebuild.”
Blurr gave him a sideways glance. “You sound awfully sure of that.”
“Because I know it will happen.” Starscream rolled his shoulders and slid off the berth. “You rebuilt once. You’ll rebuild again. That’s the thing about you Autobots. You’re damn tenacious.”
Blurr shifted to lay on the berth again, feeling as though gravity tugged him downward. Fatigue returned. “I’m not an Autobot.”
Starscream snorted. “Yes, you are.” He waved a dismissing hand. “Get some rest. A couple more days aberth and you should be back on your own two pedes.” He turned and headed toward the door. “Ping my comm if you need something.”
“Are you volunteering to wait on me?” Blurr arched an orbital ridge.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
Blurr rolled his optics and shifted to get comfortable. The pain had lessened, but his spark continued to quiver. Little tremors ran through his frame, over his armor.
His hands were shaking, he realized.
He didn’t want to be alone right now. He didn’t want to be left here in this room, in the dark and silence, unable to defend himself. He couldn’t fight; he didn’t have his blasters. He couldn’t run, not with a bum leg and no boosters.
He couldn’t do much at all.
The door panel beeped as Starscream put in his code.
The Seeker paused in the frame, one hand on the panel. He didn’t say anything, but he did half-turn to look at Blurr.
He would probably hate himself for this in the morning.
“Stay,” Blurr said as he slowly turned on his side, facing the wall. There was enough room left on the berth for a second frame.
After a second’s hesitation, he added, “please,” though it galled him to do so.
The door slid shut with a locking beep. Starscream’s pedesteps returned, but his field preceded him, tentative and offering. Blurr expected to be taunted for his weakness, but all Starscream did was climb onto the berth behind Blurr. He did not lay down, but he sat with his back against the wall at the head of the berth, his right hip and leg pressed against Blurr’s back.
“I’m still mad at you,” Blurr muttered as he offlined his optics and tried to focus on his ventilations. Not that it was necessary. The pain patch must have had a soporific in it, too. Drowsiness dragged him toward recharge.
“I know,” Starscream replied before Blurr felt the first gentle, and tentative touch to his crest.
It was soothing, enough so that it lulled Blurr right into recharge. He thought distantly that his audials picked up Starscream saying something else, but that thought was whisked away with sleep.