Hours later, and Sunstreaker was still sulking.
Sideswipe had hoped the battle would prove to be enough of a distraction. Frag, he could’ve used the distraction himself. But honestly, the Decepticon attack had been half-sparked at best. The poor slaggers looked exhausted, run down, and made of scrap.
Megatron was starving them down there.
Sideswipe could see the concern in Optimus’ optics. The pity. It hadn’t stopped him from beating Megatron until the warlord called for a retreat, already blaming Starscream for what was his own fault.
Maybe it would help Megatron see reason, Sideswipe had caught Optimus murmur to Ironhide as they all trudged back toward base. They were muddy and annoyed, but in good spirits otherwise. Especially since the battle had resulted in nothing more than minor damage and some mild bewilderment.
Minor damage except for Skyfire. Whom Starscream had seen, screeched at, and attacked as though personally offended Skyfire existed. Thank Primus for the Aerialbots, swooping in at Skyfire’s defense, and driving Starscream away.
Skyfire was still in the medbay getting patched.
Meanwhile, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were in the rec, sitting at the usual table, trying not to look as pathetic as they felt. Sunstreaker sulked, and continued to sulk, brooding over his cup of midgrade, while his armor sparkled and shone. He’d dragged Sideswipe into the washrack immediately after the battle because mud. Ugh.
He was so damn weird sometimes.
Sideswipe leaned back in his own chair, thoughts twirling. He had most of his attention on the door, watching for Skyfire, though he’d never admit how concerned he was. Starscream had been vicious, though from what Sideswipe had seen, the Aerialbots had prevented any damage beyond superficial.
Starscream had a mark on him now, as far as Sideswipe was concerned. It didn’t matter whatever twisted tangle of emotions existed in their past. Skyfire was theirs.
“Would you stop staring at the door?” Sunstreaker muttered crossly and kicked Sideswipe’s leg beneath the table. “You look like a lovesick idiot.”
Sideswipe rolled his optics. “No, I don’t.” He took a pointed sip of his energon and looked at his brother. “Besides, you’re the one obviously pouting. I’ve never seen Wheeljack scurry away from a table so fast. And he’s nice to everyone.”
“I am not!” Sunstreaker reared up, indignant.
Sideswipe’s optical ridges crawled upward. He took a noisy sip of his energon.
Sunstreaker’s bottom lip poked out, though not for long. “I’m not,” he repeated and sank back into the booth, shoulders hunching.
Their bond buzzed with disappointment. Blame, too. Sunstreaker thought he’d ruined it for the both of them, but honestly, Sideswipe was pretty sure it’d been ruined before Skyfire ever showed up at their door. They were who they were, and nothing could change that.
Also, babbling out the kinds of truths that made mechs run away was probably something they shouldn’t have done on a first date that wasn’t. Sunstreaker wasn’t only to blame. Sideswipe was just as culpable.
“You’re supposed to remind me,” Sunstreaker muttered with a slanted look at Sideswipe. “You should’ve stopped me.”
Sideswipe leaned in, bumping shoulders with his brother. “It’s not your fault,” he said as he hooked his chin on Sunstreaker’s shoulder and ex-vented a burst of air over Sunstreaker’s audial.
Sunstreaker shivered and cringed away from him, ticklish. “Still ruined it.”
“Mm. That’s debatable.” Sideswipe ex-vented again, chuckling when Sunstreaker squirmed away. He pushed himself back upright. “Look, we’ll apologize for being such losers, and just kind of leave it at that. Okay? We should be getting pretty good at apologizing by now.”
Sunstreaker snorted. “Speak for yourself.”
A large frame filled the door of the rec. Sideswipe’s gaze was drawn toward it, and his spark did an unfair pitter-patter beat as Skyfire came into view, his paint scratched and static mesh slapped over his armor in at least three different places. Shallower gashes – caused by Starscream’s talons were visible in his plating, not enough to require a bandages, but injuries nonetheless. They would scar, if Skyfire didn’t care for them properly.
Sideswipe liked scars.
Beside him, Sunstreaker went stiff and suddenly, there was nothing more interesting to him than the cube of energon he cupped with both hands. The empty cube even.
Skyfire moved slowly, as though he ached, and he probably did. Ratchet gave out pain chips liberally, but sometimes, they couldn’t do anything for the dull throb of nanites swarming over an injury.
Skyfire made a beeline for the dispensary and drew himself a cube before he turned to survey the rec room. Sideswipe watched, without making it obvious he watched, and wondered if it was worth it to beckon Skyfire over. Maybe Skyfire didn’t want anything to do with them right now.
Wheeljack noticed Skyfire. His indicators lit up in bright colors as he waved a hand to summon the shuttle over.
Like called to like. Scientists could always babble to each other. Sideswipe fully expected Skyfire to take the invitation.
Instead, Skyfire shook his head. He offered a tired smile and actually gestured toward Sunstreaker and Sideswipe’s table in the corner. Sideswipe didn’t know who was more surprised: himself or Wheeljack.
“Oh, Primus. He’s going to come over here,” Sunstreaker said, his voice pained. He shrank into himself, as though by making his frame smaller, Skyfire might forget he existed.
“Well, he’s a nice mech,” Sideswipe said as Skyfire started heading their direction, though slowly and with a bit of a limp. “Maybe he wants to let us down gently.”
Escape filtered through their bond and Sideswipe shot Sunstreaker a glare. No, they weren’t going to get up and leave. They were warriors. If they could face down any of Megatron’s combiner teams, or deal with being tossed off a bucking Seeker mid-air, then they could certainly face the kind of gentle rejection mechs like Skyfire offered.
Sunstreaker wanted to argue. Sideswipe could see it on his face. But by then, it was too late. Skyfire was within talking distance of their booth, and if they left now, it would be obvious they were trying to avoid him.
“Hello,” Skyfire said, polite and genial. “May I join you?”
“If you want,” Sunstreaker said, trying to be casual, but only managing a few shades below aggressive. It sounded more like a challenge.
One Skyfire seemed to absorb in stride as he pulled out a chair, gave it a few pokes to see
if it would sustain his bulk, and then lowered himself carefully into it. “Thank you,” he said, setting his cube onto the table and shifting around to get comfortable. “You both came away unscathed?”
“For once,” Sideswipe said with a chuckle that he hoped was more confident than nervous.
Given Skyfire’s half-amused look, he wasn’t sure he succeeded.
“Ratchet was in a pleasant mood,” Skyfire said as he pulled a few packets from an arm compartment and sprinkled the contents into his cube.
Nutrient additives, Sideswipe realized, and made a face of disgust. He didn’t know which was worse: being forced to consume medical grade, or being forced to add nutrient packets to regular energon. Both were disgusting.
“He generally is, when the Autobots are largely uninjured,” Sideswipe replied. He leaned back in the booth, trying to effect an air of nonchalance.
Skyfire’s lips curved in that soft smile that made Sideswipe’s spark flutter. And apparently Sunstreaker’s, as he’d started to squirm again.
“I wager it’s also because he cares about you two,” Skyfire said, and took a delicate sip of his energon, only to make a face that barely disguised his disgust.
Somehow, that made him intensely adorable. He was so polite, so friendly, for someone so large and imposing. Sometimes, Sideswipe had trouble reconciling that in his head. It made him wonder what was lurking in Skyfire’s spark, if he was that gentle on the outside.
Sometimes, the nicest people were the real monsters.
“Why didn’t you sit with Wheeljack?” Sunstreaker blurted out, and again, there was that hint of outraged aggression, that few people could recognize for the insecurity that it was.
Sideswipe nearly facepalmed. He hissed at Sunstreaker instead. Primus’ sake! Have some tact! Not that, you know, Sunstreaker possessed any.
“Because I wanted to sit with you,” Skyfire replied.
Sip. Sip. His wings fluttered.
He was so fragging weird.
“Why?” Sunstreaker demanded, leaning forward now, his armor clamped tight, his fingers shaking.
Sideswipe rested a hand on his shoulder, but Sunstreaker shook him off. He didn’t need to be restrained, damn it.
All right then. Good to know.
“What Sunstreaker here means is that we’re aware we did not make a very good first impression,” Sideswipe said, trying to ease the tension, though it occurred to him, there wasn’t any.
At least, not from Skyfire at any rate. Meanwhile, Sunstreaker looked as if he was going to rattle right out of his armor, and that anxiety was spilling over into Sideswipe, too.
“Or a second impression,” Sideswipe amended, and then laughed self-deprecatingly. “Or, I suppose, a third, too.”
Sunstreaker rolled his optics. “We don’t have good impressions,” he said with a snort. “Only bad ones. As you’ve found out. So go on. Say it.”
Skyfire tilted his head, looking genuinely puzzled. “Say what?”
“What you came to say obviously,” Sunstreaker snapped, heedless of Sideswipe’s urgent hisses in his direction. “You don’t have to pretend and make small talk. Just get it over with and dump us already.”
Skyfire’s orbital ridges drifted upward. “Dump you?”
Sideswipe resisted the urge to clap a hand over his brother’s mouth. Yes, okay, the tension was making him itchy and ansty on the inside, too. But that was not the way to go about bringing it to an end.
“Earth term,” Sideswipe clarified hastily, kicking Sunstreaker under the table loud enough for the clang to echo and Sunstreaker to glare at him. He’d probably left a scuff. “For rejection.”
“Rejection,” Skyfire repeated and set his cube down the table, folding his hands in front of it. “I believe there has been something of a misunderstanding. I came here to apologize about our date going nowhere, not reject you.”
Sideswipe stared. His engine stalled. Beside him, Sunstreaker made a choked noise.
“Apologize,” Sideswipe echoed, his voice embarrassingly faint.
Skyfire inclined his head. “Yes. I extended the invitation and though the battle was not my fault, I still wanted to offer my apologies. I’d also like to try again when we have an opportunity. That is, if you are still interested.”
Sideswipe’s mouth moved, but his vocalizer did not seem to produce sound.
“Are you serious?” Sunstreaker blurted out, again lurching forward, but the edge of the table clanged against his chestplate.
Skyfire’s smile broadened, but there was no mockery in it. “Yes. Honestly, as far as first dates go, that was hardly the worst.” He reached for his energon once more, giving it a serene sip, the serenity ruined by the disgusted face he immediately made after.
Sunstreaker’s gaze slid to Sideswipe’s, and he looked utterly lost. Sideswipe wondered if the same expression showed on his face, because once again, Skyfire’s behavior bucked the trend. It just didn’t make sense.
“So…” Sideswipe trailed off, unsure what he was going to say or ask, only knowing he needed to do something before he and Sunstreaker came off as complete idiots. “What’s next then?”
Skyfire’s field became palpable then, a warm and friendly thing that nudged against Sideswipe’s like the occasional lost insect in the Ark. “Next you tell me whether or not you’d like another date.”
“We do!” Sunstreaker blurted out, and then his face flushed a horrible shade of pink. “I mean…” He growled and coughed into his hand. “Yes. We would.”
He didn’t fool anyone. Least of all Skyfire.
“Good.” Skyfire all but purred on them, and Primus did it tingle all the way down. Sideswipe felt his own face flush. “Then I suggest this rule. We make no assumptions about one another. We have a question, we ask it, but no longer do we assume. At least, not on purpose. Yes?”
Assumptions, after all, had brought them nothing but trouble.
Sunstreaker nodded. Though he nudged Sideswipe across the bond as if to demand he make a note of reminding Sunny from time to time.
“Yeah.” Sideswipe said. “Sounds good.”
Sunstreaker’s foot nudged his beneath the table. His pulse across the bond was almost youthful in its giddiness.
Skyfire smiled and forced down the rest of his doctored midgrade, though this time he took it like a shuttle without so much as a grimace. “Primus, that is foul,” he said. His nasal ridge twitched.
For some reason, one Sideswipe couldn’t give a name to, he found that ridiculously funny. He laughed, and heard Sunstreaker chuckling, too.
It was all so…
… normal, Sideswipe decided. Normal was the best word he could find here. Sitting together, talking, laughing as they refueled.
It was perhaps the most normal he could remember feeling. And it had all begun out of a single, angry misunderstanding.