Master called for him, and he hurried to answer, both because he’d been summoned and because Master’s voice invoked a yearning deep in his spark.
Dent’s not his name. He didn’t know what his name was, truth be told, but he couldn’t imagine that it was truly Dent.
There was a memory when he onlined in the gutter, dim and hazy though it was.
‘All the best names are taken.’
‘They call him Dent.’
It was all Dent knew, this echo of a voice unfamiliar, and when another leaker demanded to know who he was, ‘Dent’ was all he had to offer. It stuck.
Before the alley was a blur of memory, an ashy mass of cloudy, dissonant thoughts. There were impressions of emotions, terror and shame the strongest of them, and that enduring sensation that he was missing something vitally important. Dent did not know who he was, only what he’d become.
Lingering in the confusion was an imperative, a single impression that he had to return. To where? To whom? He didn’t know. It was part of that missing something, and clarity lost itself in the shadows.
He’d wandered then. He’d lurched through the alleys in a haze, stumbling over his own feet, his optical feed strangely narrow and his balance off.
Dent unfolded himself from beneath the berth, the aching stumps on his back catching on the lip of the berth. Jagged lances of pain flashed through his torso. Was he a flyer? Had he once soared in the sky? Were they wheel mounts?
Dent hissed a vent and buried it just as quickly, thoughts spinning and spinning, as he lurched to his feet. He shivered, armor drawing tight. His back hurt. His head hurt worse.
Dent dragged himself to the doorway just as Master–
He was Sunstreaker.
“There you are,” Sunstreaker said, a mixture of exasperation and amusement in his voice. His optics carried a soft, blue glow. Dent had tagged them as kindness.
Apologies sought to tumble from Dent’s lips. They caught in the static first, and fell out in a jumble of tangled words. Shameful. He’d been negligent. He’d let his duties slide.
“Never mind that,” Sunstreaker said, hand waving in dismissal. “I already told you to ignore Sideswipe. He’s just an aft. Come on.”
He reached, and Dent froze, lacking any other reaction, when Sunstreaker grabbed his wrist. Dent’s world exploded into color, warmth, and light. Fingers, delicate and skilled, wrapped around him. Unhesitant. They pulled. Tugged. Encouraged.
Master’s field was–
Sunstreaker’s field was so vibrant. So alive. He felt, not happy. Sunstreaker was never happy. But a tiny bit pleased, perhaps. Expectant. Excited even?
He’d saved Dent from the gutters. He’d opened his home. And yet, he was always sad.
He’d seen the heap of stumbling filth in the trough, and he’d reached out a hand, even then. When Dent had known nothing but to follow the draw on his spark, having no idea where it led, until it dumped him in the alley beside Sunstreaker’s home. Almost as if Primus was looking out for him.
Was he religious? Perhaps so.
Sunstreaker was kind.
Someone had abandoned his kindness.
Dent did not know that there were mechs capable of such frigidity. Such cruelty.
There was music. Sunstreaker had brought him to the entertainment room. The music floated around and into Dent’s audials, throbbing in his processor. He thought he knew this song. Not just because they’d moved to it last week, but further still. In the shadows and the ashes, Dent knew this song. The Dent who wasn’t Dent, but someone else, who had another name.
“Dance with me?” Sunstreaker asked, his fingers curled around Dent’s pincer as he stopped them in the middle of the floor. The cleared floor. He’d moved aside all the furniture, leaving more than enough room in the center.
Dent stared. His spark throbbed. Sunstreaker touched him. Held him. Without hesitation. He couldn’t stop staring at the fingers around his wrist, so gentle and warm.
And there was the yearning again, so thick that Dent thought he might choke on it, his intake seizing. His spark spun and ached. He longed.
Sunstreaker was beautiful. Who would dare cast him aside?
Sunstreaker chuckled and tapped Dent’s chestplate with his free hand. “Hey, you wanna dance or not?” he asked.
Sunstreaker could laugh. Dent had never heard his joy. Somehow, he knew Sunstreaker was capable. Logically, all mechs could laugh, though Dent didn’t imagine he’d ever done so himself. Yet, he knew Sunstreaker not only could, but that it was lovely. That he shone when he laughed.
Suddenly, Dent loathed the mech who had stolen Sunstreaker’s joy. He wanted to see Sunstreaker smile, shy and bright.
“I will dance,” he said, his vocalizer struggling to engage.
Sunstreaker deserved better than the Dent who wasn’t.
‘All the best names are taken.’
Sunstreaker’s fingers were still around his wrist, pressing just below the hideous scars that marked him as changed. As a monster. His fingers were little pinpoints of warmth. Dent’s substructure tingled.
His head ached.
“I’ll lead, okay,” Sunstreaker said softly. Almost timid. “Next time, it’ll be your turn.”
‘I will show you.’
‘Next time, you will lead.’
Master called him.
‘Dent’ was not his name. But somewhere in the shadows, it was familiar to who he’d been.
Master held his wrist still, scarred and ugly as it was. Master’s expression was gentle, holding nothing of the disgust of others. His field, too, was soft and pliant. A warm embrace.
Dent did not know his name. He did not know the emotion clawing at his spark and stealing his vents.
“You are kind,” he said instead.
Sunstreaker’s face flushed prettily. His optics wandered away briefly and Dent held a moment of panic. Had he offended? Had Master turned away from the monster after all?
But then Sunstreaker’s optics returned. “I’m really not,” he said as he guided Dent’s claw to his shoulder. “Hold me here. Remember?”
Memories were tricky things. Untruthful at best. Shadowy secrets at worst. Inaccessible to the best of his knowledge.
But this, Dent remembered. He took care not to scrape or scratch. Master was particular about his paint.
Someday, Dent would find the mech who had taught Master to dance, then left him alone with only the music and memories he couldn’t forget. Such cruelty.
Dent wondered if Master ever envied him. If Master wished for the ashy nothing which was Dent’s memories. If that was preferable to his own sadness.
“Thank you,” Sunstreaker murmured as he pulled Dent closer, the heat of their frames colliding and mingling. “For indulging me, I mean. You don’t have to, you know.”
Dent’s head ached.
But the yearning in his spark was far worse.
His claw rested on Sunstreaker’s shoulder. He wanted so badly to touch Sunstreaker with gentleness. To stroke his cheek. To hold him, one mech to another.
But he couldn’t.
He wasn’t Dent. He didn’t know who he was. Only shadows and anger and terror and torment.
He did not deserve this. This emotion, so raw and unfiltered, whatever it was.
“You are kind,” Dent repeated, and despaired Sunstreaker would ever know what he meant.
He wasn’t ‘Dent’.
But all the best names were taken.