[TIA] Papercut

Starscream ached.

To be fair, he’d only suffered a mild reset, a few dented panels, and some aches and pains. He’d been lucky to catch the edge of the blast radius, caught in the pressure wave and tossed against the side of a building.

Other members of his so-called task force were not so lucky.

Six dead so far. Starscream expected the number to rise as emergency crews continued to dig in the rubble while others frantically sprayed retardant foam over the worst of the blaze. No one wanted the fire to spread.

Anger roiled inside of Starscream like a bubbling smelting pit, but he kept it behind a mask, self-contained. He couldn’t let anyone see how furious he was. Instead, he barked orders, directed emergency responders, and lent a hand when one was needed.

He tried not to remember Maccadam’s and Blurr in the process. Thank Primus Blurr was back at the penthouse – safe. Thank rationale and reason that Blurr hadn’t insisted on accompanying Starscream to this meeting, because he would have arrived ahead of Starscream and been at ground zero.

For once, Starscream was grateful for the newsbots, always desperate for a sound bite or an image capture, who delayed him and made him late to this meeting.

How lucky. How convenient. How oddly coincidental.

It wasn’t like Obsidian to miss him twice. It had to be intentional at this point.

Static crackled in Starscream’s comms. He frowned and rebooted the communication suite for the third time. If this didn’t work, he’d have to see Flatline for a replacement. Or perhaps ask Wheeljack for assistance. They might have shorted out in the wake of the blast.

Starscream watched another mech get pulled from the rubble, frame dented and coated in energon, but bright colors indicating he still functioned. He was loaded into the back of a mech with a hauling alt-mode, and sped off toward the medical facilities. Starscream made a mental note to check with Flatline about whether or not he’d need any supplies. After Maccadam’s and now this, he had to be running low.

“Starscream!”

He startled, nearly leaping into the air, as the shout came across both his rebooted comms and carried through the air to his audials. Static striped his comms still, but he whirled in time to see Blurr speeding toward him.

In alt-mode, the fool!

Blurr screeched to a halt and transformed, his helm swinging before he caught sight of Starscream. Relief visibly flickered over his face before it was wiped away, and he stormed across the ground.

“Why haven’t you been answering your comms!” he demanded.

Starscream tapped his audial. “They’re damaged, I think. What are you doing here?” He moved to intercept Blurr before he could see too many of the grey frames laid across the ground.

“Obviously I came to make sure you were all right.” Blurr frowned, his gaze flicking past Starscream. And thank Primus for small favors, he lowered his voice. “This was Obsidian, wasn’t it?”

“That’s the prevailing theory, yes.” Starscream blinked in surprise as Blurr grabbed his hands and gave him a long, scanning look.

That was, well, that was both presumptuous and public of him. It was one thing for them to admit to a curious crowd that they were sharing a berth. It was another to appear as though they were lovers, even if that was the truth.

“You’re dented,” Blurr observed.

“Nothing serious,” Starscream said. “I was lucky. I only caught the pressure wave.”

“Obsidian didn’t want to kill ya.”

Starscream glanced past Blurr where Jazz approached at a much more leisurely pace. He looked casual, but Starscream knew that he was taking in details rapidly.

“There’s no way he intended to kill ya here,” Jazz added as he caught up to them, his attention briefly focused on Blurr holding Starscream’s hand, before his lips curled in a grin. “That would be too easy.”

Starscream squeezed Blurr’s hands, hoping he wouldn’t take offense, before he reclaimed his own. “He wanted to make a statement, would be my guess,” he replied smoothly.

“Yeah, well, he succeeded.” Jazz half-turned, tilting his helm toward the debris littered street behind him.

Spinning lights announced an approaching crowd, at the head of it marched Streamline and his gaggle of cameras.

Fantastic.

He had only a moment to brace himself – one where Jazz vanished and Blurr moved to stand beside Starscream – before the news crews attacked.

“Starscream!”

“Can you tell us what happened here?”

“You promised to keep the mecha of New Iacon safe!”

“Is this a failure to keep your promise?”

“Can you keep us safe?”

“Are the Decepticons to blame?”

“Was this a terrorist attack?”

“How many mechs died?”

Starscream twitched, and felt Blurr ex-vent noisily beside him. He made a small gesture with his right hand, hoping Blurr caught it, and held up his other hand.

“Gentlemechs,” Starscream said smoothly, planting a politician’s smile on his face, though thin it was. “One question at a time please. And have some respect. A tragedy occurred today.”

They calmed, but only in comparison to the noise that had assaulted him before.

“It is too soon to tell what exactly happened here,” Starscream continued once he was sure he had their attention. “Early reports seem to indicate that this is another attack from the terrorist seeking to bring us down. Exact casualty numbers are uncertain at this time as rescue efforts are still underway.”

One mech thrust himself forward, working his way free of the crowd. “What do you have to say to the mechs who believe you are failing to protect them?” he demanded, shoving a vid-recorder as close to Starscream’s face as he could manage.

“I would remind them that division will only help the terrorist right now. The team gathered here today was intended to hunt down the perpetrator and bring him to justice. Clearly, he did not like the idea of this. But do not worry. I am determined. I will take up this challenge personally, if I must,” Starscream answered, or evaded rather.

He couldn’t promise that the citizens would be safe. Because he couldn’t fragging find Obsidian. And if he couldn’t find Obsidian, he couldn’t very well stop him, now could he?

Going to the Autobots hadn’t been enough apparently. He was grossly understaffed, and even more so now that half of his strongest supporters had been caught in the blast.

Frag it all.

“Will you assemble another task force?”

Starscream barely kept from cringing as lights flashed in front of his optics, multiple photos being taken at once. He suspected Blurr’s proximity was partly to blame. He was close enough that Starscream could feel the heat of his frame, his field nudging against Starscream’s own.

“Yes, of course,” Starscream said. “If there are any volunteers who do not fear this terrorist, I would gladly accept their assistance. Cybertron belongs to all those who wish to peacefully reside here. It is up to all of us to work together to keep our home safe.”

“And I’ll be the first volunteer,” Blurr said with a bright smile.

Starscream’s optics widened before he could stop himself. It took all his self-control not to whirl on Blurr and hiss at him. What did he think he was doing? Did he want to make a bigger target of himself than he already was?

“Even though it is clear that is a dangerous decision?” one of the newsbots pressed, the look of glee on his face enough that Starscream wanted to smack it off.

Blurr lifted his chin, and subtly laced his fingers with Starscream’s, though of course the newsbots had to notice. “I trust that Starscream means to take down this terrorist, and I have faith that working together will carry us through. So yes. I am willing to put my spark on the line to ensure that Cybertron is safe for everyone.”

“Blurr is dedicated to the people of Cybertron, just as I am,” Starscream was quick to insert before another question could be shouted at him. “Now if you gentlemechs will excuse us, we have a great deal of work to do if we are to catch this terrorist before any further harm can be done.”

Starscream firmly turned, squeezing Blurr’s hand to encourage Blurr to come with him, and moved toward the clean up and rescue crews. “If they ask anything else, ignore them,” he said subvocally.

Blurr leaned in close enough to bump shoulders. “You know, I used to be in the spotlight all the time. I do know how to handle the press.”

“Does that include making bold statements we haven’t discussed?” Starscream demanded. He glanced over his shoulder, but the press still watched them avidly. He cycled a ventilation. “Never mind, we’ll talk about this later.”

“Sure.” Blurr squeezed his hand and let it go. “But if you think that means you’re sending me back to our penthouse, you’re mistaken. I’m going to stay and help.”

“Far be it from me to stop you,” Starscream replied with a sigh. He rubbed at his forehelm, feeling an ache coming on. “Just… be careful. We don’t know what incendiary device was used, or if Obsidian’s followers are lurking about.”

“I was a Wrecker, Starscream. I think I can take care of myself.” He winked an optic. “But I’m touched by your concern, sweetspark.”

Before Starscream could summon up a worthwhile retort, Blurr turned and jogged toward the rescue workers, making a beeline toward Scoop, who had taken it upon himself to oversee the recovery operation. Starscream still did not trust the mech, but as long as he was assisting Cybertron, he wouldn’t kick up too much of a fuss.

He had no idea where Jazz had gone. He suspected the former Autobot would contact him later, if need be.

For now, there was work to be done. So Starscream cycled a ventilation, and dove back into the fray.

~

They worked well into the night, staying until the last of the embers cooled and all the surviving mechs were either tucked into their homes, or safe in Flatline’s care. He had one mech in critical condition, but the rest were expected to survive.

That brought the final death count to seven.

Seven mechs who had trusted Starscream and paid the price. Four of his inner circle, two NAILs and a former Autobot. It was a former Decepticon who was in critical condition. Flatline was optimistic; Starscream didn’t know if he dare be the same.

He returned with Blurr back to their penthouse, and they did little more than share a cube of energon between them before they crawled into the berth for recharge. Together. And wasn’t that something that still stalled Starscream’s processor? The two of them, sharing a berth, and without interfacing involved.

He didn’t want to spoil the moment by addressing Blurr’s ridiculous act out there for the news crews. But he made a mental note of it. Because come the morning, Starscream had the feeling neither of them were going to be happy.

And he was right.

“You do realize I can take care of myself,” Blurr said, for the umpteenth time, as he paced around Starscream, gesturing broadly with one cube of mid-grade. “Besides, what you’re failing to acknowledge is that politically, that was a good move.”

Starscream pinched his nasal ridge. “I’m not saying it wasn’t, I’m just saying that I don’t think you thought it through. You already have a target on your back. Are you trying to make yourself Obsidian’s number one enemy?”

“I don’t have to try. I’m on his hit list whether I volunteered or not.” Blurr shrugged, in that dismissive way he did which never failed to infuriate Starscream.

Starscream worked his intake. He cycled several ventilations.

“So why don’t you stop telling me all the things you think I’m doing wrong, and start talking about our next move,” Blurr continued, circling around the couch to get closer to Starscream. “Obsidian’s not going to stop until we stop him. We need to catch him before he hurts someone else.”

Starscream lowered his hand. “I am aware of that. But now that I’m officially understaffed and out of options, there’s only one thing left to do.”

“And what’s that?”

Starscream rolled his shoulders, his wings pressing tight to his backplate. This was, and had always been, his last resort. But if the Autobots’ best weren’t giving him results, then he needed to swallow his pride.

“I’m going to talk to Soundwave.”

Blurr’s optics widened, and he choked on his next sip of energon. He coughed air through his vents, his optics bright.

“Are you crazy?” he demanded as he wiped energon splatter from his lips. “You’re going to invite the mech most loyal to Megatron back into this city?”

Starscream folded his arms over his cockpit. “If I must, yes. Right now, Obsidian’s a greater threat.”

“No. Absolutely not.” Blurr shook his helm, and set his cube of energon on the central table. “Starscream, you cannot seriously consider this. Soundwave’s worst than dangerous. You invite him back here, and we won’t even need Obsidian to oust you. Why would you even think this is a good idea?”

“Because of you!” Starscream snapped, and his wings went taut, his spark spiraling a frenetic pulse within his chamber.

Blurr reared back, his orbital ridges drawing down. “That doesn’t make sense. What did I do?”

Starscream started to pace. He had to do something for the restless charge coiling inside of him. “You went and volunteered for that damn task force knowing Obsidian’s going to aim for it again,” he snapped, and he couldn’t bring himself to look at Blurr. “I don’t have time to wait for Mirage and Rattrap to find him anymore. He has to be stopped. Now.”

“How many times do I have to tell you?” Blurr near-snarled, his armor ruffling up as he stalked forward. “I don’t need you to protect me.”

Starscream jabbed a finger toward Blurr’s chestplate. “I don’t care how fast you think you are,” he said in a low, careful tone. “You can’t outrun a bomb.”

Blurr snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “Then clearly you haven’t been paying attention. I have before.”

“You didn’t last time,” Starscream snapped, and his wings went high and rigid, vibrating in place.

Because that was also what he needed right now, a reminder. Memories of watching Maccadam’s go up in flames. Of the warning in his audials as he turned to see his world shattering around him, and Blurr swallowed by a fireball.

“That took me by surprise. It won’t happen again,” Blurr said.

Starscream shook his helm. “Maybe, maybe not. I refuse to take any chances.”

“So you’re really going to ask Soundwave for help.”

“I will do whatever I think is necessary to ensure the safety of Cybertron,” Starscream said tightly. “I’m not asking you to agree with me.”

Blurr’s shoulders hunched. “Clearly.”

Starscream refused to feel guilty. “I’m going to stop by the medical center first and have Flatline repair my comms. If anyone comes looking for me, I am attending business elsewhere.”

“Sure. No problem. I’ll be your message bot,” Blurr said, his tone implying that it actually was a problem. “Anything else I can do for you, boss?”

Starscream dropped his arms and cycled a ventilation. He didn’t mind if Blurr was angry with him, so long as Blurr was alive.

He moved past Blurr, keeping his field contained so he didn’t have to sense the fury in Blurr’s. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Starscream said.

“I’ll try not to hold my vents.”

Starscream winced, but didn’t dignify that with an answer. He opted to exit through the balcony rather than the front entrance, in case the press waited on the ground floor, demanding more answers he didn’t have.

He had Decepticons to find.

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