“Doing all right up there?”
Blades rolls his optics and leans back in his chair, crossing his arms behind his helm. He almost props his feet up on the console but catches himself in time.
“You ask me that every time we do this, Hot Spot. I’m fine.”
Their leader chuckles, his deep bass rolling across the comm. “I know. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t feeling lonely or anything.”
“Never.” Blades glances at the console, all systems showing green and steady. How can he be lonely? His team mates are only a comm call away and he has this for a view?
Out the windscreen is Cybertron in all its glory, spiraling towers that gleam in the waning light-cycle. A secondary monitor shows his team working below, practicing maneuver gamma while Blades hovers in their shuttle above. He’s prepped for immediate evac per standard protocol.
It’s a maneuver they’ve performed over a dozen times. But this one’s special. This one’s the final trial run before the exam. Hot Spot expects they’ll ace it. They’re the Protectobots, Rescue Force Alpha-5, the best junior rescue team this side of Iacon.
The shuttle lurches.
Blades straightens, snapping upright in his chair. What in the world is that? He scans the console, something flashing a warning orange at him from the stabilizers.
“Blades?” Hot Spot’s voice pours into the comm.
His hands fly over the console, internally sending a ping to First Aid about potential issues. First Aid’s in the medbay, prepping to receive their fake-injured victims. He pings an acknowledgment back, adding that he’d felt the ship judder, too.
“Something’s wrong,” Blades replies, his spark pulsing faster.
Another tangible shudder races through the shuttle. It tilts every so slowly. Blades grabs the wheel, trying to stabilize it, his other hand flicking madly over the switches. Even so, his tanks lurch as he feels the shuttle dip, suddenly losing altitude. The nose tilts forward; Cybertron blurs through the windscreen.
“What is it?” Hot Spot demands.
“What’s going on?” Streetwise asks, sounding just as alarmed as Hot Spot.
Alarms flash. There’s a low, droning beep. The image through the windscreen swirls, splashes of color in a dizzy array before Blades’ optics. They’re going down and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. The ground rushes up to meet them, faster and faster, but that’s not right. His team is down there. His team is just below him.
He can’t let it crash. They’re down there!
He jerks out of recharge, throwing himself to the side, and that’s when he tumbles to the floor with an audible clatter. He almost bends a rotor in the process, a slice of pain zinging through his sensory net as his rotors complain at him.
Blades groans as he lies there, his optics snapping online. His spark races, his pump throbbing. It’s dark around him but if he focuses, he can hear the others recharging: Boulder’s low snuffle and Heatwave’s quiet rumble.
He’s not back on Cybertron. He’s not falling out of the sky.
He’s not alone.
Blades cycles a ventilation and drags his hand down his face. He’s shaking, he realizes. The dream had felt too real, as if he were there all over again.
He forces himself to sit up, rustling his rotors to shift them out of the way. A quick pat down and he is relieved to find that he hadn’t hurt himself. No dents, no damage, not even a bent tail rotor. Lucky.
He knows he needs to go back to recharge, but the echoes of his former teammates’ voices keep pinging back and forth inside his head.
Primus but he misses them.
“Blades?” A hand settles on his shoulder.
Blades startles, scrambling backward in surprise and nearly slamming into the wall. He looks up to see Heatwave gazing down at him, his hand still outstretched.
“Oh.” Blades ducks his head, embarrassed. “Sorry, Heatwave. I bet I woke you up, didn’t I?”
“You did.” Heatwave looks at him and Blades knows he’s probably giving away a lot more than he wants to. His field is all over the place. “Nightmares again?”
Blades shakes his head and the lie slips out a lot easier than the truth, “What nightmares? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just fell out the bed.” He chuckles. “Clumsy me.”
Heatwave’s optics narrow, but he grunts and backs away. “Fine. Whatever. Just go back to sleep, Blades. You have first patrol tomorrow.”
He watches Heatwave turn and climb back into his berth, between Boulder and Blades. Chase is on the furthest side, closest to the console. Or at least he would be if he wasn’t with the Chief right now.
“I remember.” Blades climbs back into his berth and lays back down, though the shiver in his rotors isn’t so easily dismissed. Sometimes, it is more comfortable to sleep as a helicopter except right now, he really doesn’t want to be a helicopter.
That was always supposed to be Groove.
“Good night, Heatwave.”
Heatwave doesn’t answer, already curled up on his side with his arm tucked under his helm. They all tease him mercilessly for it, because Kade sleeps like that, too. The thought makes Blades smile a bit before he settles down and offlines his optics.
He tries to return to sleep, but that dream hovers on the edge of his thoughts. He can’t chase it away. And he shouldn’t either. He shouldn’t ever forget what he’s done. The mistakes he’s made. The family he’s lost.
It’s his fault. Blades has always known that and he’s carried the guilt with him. But that doesn’t make it any easier. If he’d been paying better attention, if he hadn’t been so confident, if he’d responded faster.
If, if, if.
If he’d been doing his job, they wouldn’t have died. He’d be with them now and so much would be different. He wouldn’t have onlined to silence, crumpled and damaged and alone and lucky to be alive, they’d said. He hadn’t felt so lucky back then. He doesn’t feel lucky now.
Blades’ ventilations hitch and he curls into himself. His field is out of control again. He has to be quiet. He can’t wake the others, especially not Heatwave, not again. He always gets so cranky.
He locks the memory down. He can’t view it again tonight. Heatwave is right. He has to be up early, and Dani doesn’t like to have to come down and fetch him when they have the morning shift. She says that if she has to drag herself out of bed in the morning then does he. And she’s not gentle when she wakes him up either.
Blades sighs and forces himself into manual recharge. It won’t be as restful, but at least it’ll keep him from dreaming.
It’s better than nothing. Maybe tomorrow will be better.
Spoiler alert, it’s not.
Blades wakes up sluggish and exhausted, feeling like someone made him run a marathon. Heatwave’s already up; Blades can hear him practicing against his wooden dummy outside. Boulder’s up, too, probably trying to cook breakfast for the Burnses again, no matter how many times they kick him out of the kitchen.
Chase is the only one here, snoring away on his berth after a whole night spent patrolling with the chief. Hopefully, there won’t be any emergencies requiring the whole team today. Not that Blades thinks anything happened last night. Chase and Chief probably spent the whole night talking.
“Wake up, partner! We got the whole day ahead of us!”
Dani’s cheerful voice breaks through Blades’ thoughts. Normally, he’d be glad to hear her in a chipper mood, but today, it’s just not enough to buoy his own.
“Roger. I’ll be up in a second,” Blades replies and hauls himself off his berth.
Every bit of him feels heavy. Even his rotors are limp. Forced recharge might not have been the better idea.
Blades drags himself out of their shared recharge room and into the open space of the bunker. He tosses a greeting to both Heatwave and Boulder, the former who grunts at him and the latter who waves his paint-splattered hand. The elevator chimes as Dani comes down from the Burns residence above, a smile on her lips and a touch of color to her cheeks.
“Is that make up?” Blades asks, shocked. He’s heard of this human thing before. It’s kind of like paint only it’s temporary. Dani professes to rarely wear it.
Dani gives him an innocent look. “I thought about trying something new. Why? Does it look bad?”
Honestly, Blades wouldn’t know if it looked good, much less bad. But it’s a lot less than what the other females on television wear. In fact, it’s barely noticeable.
“You look great, Dani!” Boulder says.
Heatwave makes some untranslatable noise and goes back to beating up the practice column. Anyway, who cares about his opinion?
“Thank you, Boulder,” Dani replies with a big grin. She looks back up at Blades and adjusts her harness. It’s nice to see her bright and alert. “You ready to go?”
His energy levels are fine, even if he feels like he’s sloughing through mud. No need to delay their patrol. Especially if he drifts and lets Dani take control for awhile.
“Sure,” Blades replies. “I’m ready to get this show on the road.” He’d picked that phrase up from the television, too. Humans have such interesting entertainment programming!
Dani gives him a long look but gestures toward their roof-lift. “After you.”
Up top, it takes him longer than usual to transform. A few error messages pop up, prompting him for an immediate need to defrag. He’ll have to add it to the queue for tonight. He aches from his head to his rotors and as he takes to the air, he feels like he’s flying through a fog.
It doesn’t help that it’s a dreary, gray day. Dark clouds on the horizon suggest an oncoming rain storm and the water around the island is white-capped and choppy. More than a few gusts of wind grab at him, trying to toss him into the currents.
Blades settles into their usual pattern, which is a quick circuit around the island border before several crisscrossing paths over the island interior. They tend to fly closer to the ground, all the better to keep an eye out for potential trouble. Patrols are the best, in Blades’ opinion. They are predictable, except for the occasional emergency, and it’s quiet time.
He doesn’t like night patrols though. Those are creepy. Fog tends to roll in over Griffin Rock, obscuring everything. Moonlight makes for weird shadows. And strange animals make strange noises.
Blades tries not to look down either. Usually, he likes to look at Griffin Rock below him. Especially when it’s close enough that gravity’s not tugging too hard. But right now, the blur of green and gray and so many colors is making his tank lurch. It’s too much.
His avatar pops up on his internal screen. “Yes?”
Dani’s frowning at him, but it’s not her usual angry frown, but something else. This is her concerned frown. “Are you okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You’re not your usual chatty self.”
“Oh. That.” He gives her an awkward laugh and dances a little in the sky, just enough to shake it off. “Maybe I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well last night. Did you know that Boulder snores?”
Dani chuckles. “I didn’t know that, but I’m not surprised. I think you guys take on our habits too much. Graham snores, too.”
Blades manages another laugh. It’s a funny image to think about, but it’s hard to hold on to his amusement. The sluggishness is seeping into every nook and cranny and all he can see beneath him is the swirling colors, so much like the blur through the windscreen right before the crash….
“Did he just start?”
“Huh?” Blades blinks and looks at her again, her eyes flicking between him and the scenery below.
“Boulder.” Dani prompts and she’s getting that concerned look on her face again. “Did he just start snoring? Is that why you can’t sleep?”
Blades stares at her. She’s being unusually tenacious about the little things today. He doesn’t want to outright lie to her, but he doesn’t want to talk about the truth either.
“Um.” Blades casts around for an out. “Oh. Is that Mr. Pettypaws stuck in a tree again?”
He swoops down for a closer look, moving too fast even for his own comfort. It makes Dani squeak and grab onto the throttle with a bit more force than is necessary.
“Sorry.” His tone is sheepish as he draws them back up, the backwash from his rotors making the leaves swish below him. They are hovering over a residential section of Griffin Rock, several blocks away from Mrs. Neederlander’s house.
“That’s not even Mr. Pettypaws,” Dani scolds, easing her grip. “What is with you today?”
“Seeing things, I guess.” Blades reluctantly climbs a bit higher. This low, there’s danger of catching his landing skids on the power lines.
He’d done that once before and Mayor Luskey had not been amused, nor had the eastern half of Griffin Rock. Graham and Boulder had to come help him fix things and Dani had scolded him, too. That had not been a very good day.
“Hmm.” Dani’s eyes narrow at him and then she jerks him around, back toward the firehouse.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking you home. I think you’re sick and not telling me.”
“I’m not sick!” Panicking, Blades fights against her grip and all he accomplishes is a mid-air stall. He’s going nowhere. “We have to finish our patrol, Dani. It’s important.”
“Someone else can do it. Like Kade. Get his lazy self out of bed for once.”
“Awwwww.” Blades tries, once again, to return them to their route.
If Dani takes him back then Heatwave will look disappointed and the last thing Blades wants to do is disappoint Heatwave. Again. Because it seems like this is a constant thing and Heatwave doesn’t need the reminder that Blades wasn’t ever his first choice.
But Dani ignores him and instead taps her communicator. “Hey, Cody, is Dad up yet?”
“Not yet.” Cody’s friendly voice bubbles into Blade’s cockpit. “Why? Is there an emergency?”
“Everything’s great!” Blades is quick to say, but Dani overrides him with a calm, “Blades isn’t feeling well so I’m bringing him back. Tell Kade to get ready for me?”
“Oh, no.” Cody’s concern makes Blades want to shrink in on himself. He doesn’t want to make Cody worry either. “What’s wrong, Blades?”
“It’s nothing!” he says, a bit sharper this time. “Dani just worries too much. I’m fine.” Why does she have to be such a worry wart sometimes?
Dani gives him a frustrated look, exhaling loudly. “You’re not fine, Blades. You’re spacing out and you’re actually letting me steer you and–”
“Hold that thought, Dani,” Cody interjects and he’s serious-voice now. “I’ve got an Emergency Call coming in. It looks like that storm’s hit faster than Doc Greene thought it would. We’ve got two capsized boats off the east shore.”
Blades turns to the east and is relieved when Dani doesn’t fight him. “See? We’re needed. I can’t go take a break now.”
“I’m calling the others, Dani. They’ll get in the Darby Ava and meet you over there,” Cody says through the comm. “Be careful, Blades. We don’t want you to get hurt either.”
Blades’ spark warms. Cody’s always so nice and caring. “I’ll be careful,” he says.
“Roger, Cody,” Dani agrees with a sigh. She pats the throttle and gives him a soft smile. “All right, partner. Let’s save those people. But don’t think this conversation is over.”
Blades’ tail rotors quiver.
The wind is kicking up to a fierce bellow by the time they arrive a mere five minutes later. Rain comes down in a steady patter against Blades’ windshield and his wipers struggle to keep up. Luckily, his instruments are working just fine, as are his sensors, but it’s hard to see the capsized boats through the sheet of wind and water. Little dots of orange indicate people in life vests.
“The Darby Ava‘s still five minutes out, if they can even make it through the storm,” Dani says as they circle the downed boats. “We’ll have to do what we can until then. Lower your tow line.”
Blades cringes. The wind’s going to make it impossible to be accurate. He worries the hook might hit someone in the head. That wouldn’t be good at all.
“Shouldn’t I lower you on it? In a harness?” he asks.
“It’s too dangerous,” Dani says. “Try to hook one of the boats, tip it back over. Then we at least have somewhere stable to put everybody.”
His engine whines, struggling against the buffeting blasts of wind, but he listens to Dani. Surely she has more experience with water rescues than he does.
It’s a challenge, one that makes him cringe and pray to Primus that he does this right. It takes two tries to hook his tow line on one boat’s rails and he has to heave with all his might to get it to right itself, spilling seawater over the sides. The exhaustion gets worse, between battling the winds and the waves and the rain. He keeps dipping and only Dani’s steady hand keeps him in the air.
The lights from the Darby Ava finally sweep into view, though it struggles against the high waves. If they aren’t careful, they’ll capsize, too.
“Be careful, Dad,” Dani says into her communicator. “From where I am, it looks very rough down there.”
“It’s not much prettier up here,” Blades reminds her, his voice thick with uncertainty. He suddenly wishes he’d listened to her and gone back to the firehouse.
“Both of you be careful,” Chief Burns replies, static filling the airwaves, probably thanks to the storm.
Blades circles everyone again and just as he’s orienting himself, a great gust of wind slams into him. Dani cries out in tandem with him as he’s thrown to the side, his dangling towline whipping through the air. It’s a struggle to right himself, his rotors spinning and spinning, the rain slapping against him and confusing his sensors.
“Wind that thing up, Blades!” Heatwave shouts into the comms. “You nearly took out Mr. Huffle’s mast!”
Blades goes cold. He can’t believe he forgot to retract his cable! He hurriedly flicks the switch, but another gust of wind barrels into him and he drops. His cable waves wildly and suddenly, Blades is drawn up short. He’s caught on something!
“I’m stuck!” He cries and no, no, he’s not panicking. But it’s a near thing.
Blades pulls against it, straining to break free of whatever’s caught him. Through the wind and rain, he can’t tell. One of the boats maybe?
“Help!” he babbles. “I’m stuck.”
The tow line creaks. He’s spinning in the air again. The wind up here is vicious. He can’t see through the rain. All he can hear is some kind of buzzing, buzzing and he’s so tired. He yanks again and again.
“Blades, stop! You’re going to break something!”
The tow line snaps at the worst possible moment and the momentum flings Blades into the air, spinning and spinning. Urgh. His tanks lurch. Dani’s hands are on the throttle, trying to regain control and it’s both painful and necessary. He feels her being tossed around inside the harness and thank Primus, for seatbelts.
By the time Blades manages to right himself, his spark is palpitating and he’s far from the rescue site and there’s so much noise he can’t make sense of it all. His tattered tow line hangs beneath him, the cable frayed. He cycles several ventilations, his internal screen covered in static.
Dani shouts at him and he reboots his internal screen. She looks frazzled, her face white behind the mask of her helmet. She’s gripping the throttle, too and he must have scared her. Guilt crashes down on Blades.
“I’m okay,” Blades says with a soft vent. “I’m okay.”
“Dani, take Blades back to the Firehouse.” The chief’s voice crackles through the communication system and Blades droops.
“I’m okay,” Blades is quick to say. “I’m fine. I promise. I can still help.”
“No,” Heatwave takes over, and he sounds mad. Mad and frustrated. Blades droops a bit further. “Get out of the air before you fall out. Understand me?”
Blades’ spark shrinks inward. “Yes, Heatwave.”
Dani taps her comm. “Copy that, Dad. Are you sure?”
“We’ve got this under control,” the Chief answers and he, at least, doesn’t sound as angry as Heatwave does. “It’s worse for you up there than it is for us down here.”
“You’ve got that right. All right, Dad. Be careful.”
Blades turns back toward home, a sense of failure hanging over him thicker and darker than the rainstorm pounding at him. He lets Dani take the lead because the exhaustion keeps clawing at him and he’s finding it harder to stay in the air. His processor isn’t firing on all cylinders.
“It’s okay, partner,” Dani says at one point, her voice softer than he remembers it ever being. She pats his console. “We’ll get that tow line fixed.”
Blades looks away from her. “I’m sorry.”
“You going to tell me what’s wrong now?”
Blades sighs. He doesn’t answer her. They both need to focus on flying right now and he’s already not looking forward to the chastising he’s going to get both from the Chief and Heatwave.
Luckily, Dani doesn’t push it. She just gives him a long look, presses her lips together, and concentrates on returning to the firehouse. Behind them, the storm looks dark and menacing and the rest of the team are bright spots in that gray.
Back at home, Blades transforms to root mode and examines his torn cable mournfully. The whole thing will have to be restrung. Or maybe he can get Doc to replace it with something better, some kind of unbreakable metal.
Dani goes upstairs to shower and change, leaving Blades in the silence of the bunker. He tries to watch television, but he can’t concentrate on it. Not even a rerun of Cupcake Wars is enough to keep his attention.
All he can think about is that moment of endless spinning, trapped by whatever had caught his line, no escape, only the inevitable crash into the churning ocean.
Blades shivers and draws up his legs, wrapping his arms around them. His rotors tremble.
Dani comes back downstairs but instead of trying to coax him into another discussion, she just sits next to him. She even watches the television though Blades knows she has zero interest in Cupcake Wars. It’s nice. It’s almost enough to chase away the dread settling in his tanks.
Maybe thirty minutes later the rest of the team comes back, dripping and smelling of seawater. Boulder has kelp stuck in his gears and Chase remarks that they could all use some water rescue training and Heatwave seems to zero in on Blades as though he’s broadcasting a homing beacon. He plants himself between Blades and the television and crosses his arms.
Dani quietly excuses herself and while it’s the polite thing to do, Blades is suddenly aware of how alone he is.
Blades gives him a meek look. “Was anyone hurt?”
“Thankfully, no. But that doesn’t make it all right, Blades. Your head wasn’t in the game today. You weren’t focused.”
He ducks his head. “I know. I’m sorry. I promise. It won’t happen again.”
“It had better not,” Heatwave states, his engine close to a growl. “If there’s something wrong, you need to tell us, otherwise we’re compromised. Do you understand?”
It’s not possible to get any smaller, but Blades tries. “I do. I’m sorry.”
Heatwave gives him one of those long stares again, and he looks like he’s going to say something else, but the chief calls for him. So instead he sighs, mutters something about talking more later, and then he leaves. It’s suddenly quiet in the bunker because everyone’s gone to go do something important and here Blades is, still on the couch, pretending to watch TV. He doesn’t even know what’s on right now.
The couch dips.
“You know, he’s just upset that you could have gotten hurt,” Dani points out. “He’s worried about you. And I am, too.” Her hand rests on his arm, a soft and warm weight. “What’s going on, Blades?”
He sighs and scrubs at his face. The truth is eating him up, inside and out, and maybe it’s better he just gets it out into the open? That way he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore and everyone can get their reactions out of the way and they’ll realize how much of a hero Blades is not.
“Sigma-17 isn’t my original team,” Blades says and he cringes, staring dully at the ground. “I was first assigned to Rescue Force Alpha-5. I’ve been dreaming about them a lot lately, you know, that’s why I couldn’t sleep. My team, they were my family.”
He manages a small smile, thinking about his old team. They’d nicknamed themselves the Protectobots because Hot Spot was determined to protect everyone. It was in their sparks. They enjoyed it, when so many of their compatriots grumbled about their assignments.
“Hot Spot, our leader, was fire rescue like Heatwave,” Blades continues and it’s easier to talk about them like this. To think of the happier times. “No one was nicer than him. I don’t think he ever got mad. About anything. And Streetwise was the smartest of all of us. He knew all this useless trivia. First Aid could fix anything. He’d actually studied under Ratchet, the Ratchet. And Groove, he was always calm. He never freaked out over anything.”
Blades slants Dani a look and then tilts his head toward his rotors. “Groove was a helicopter. I was actually a motorcycle.”
“No wonder you didn’t want to be one at first.”
Blades nods. Part of him still wants to trade in his rotors for wheels. But, also, being a helicopter makes him feel like he’s paying tribute to Groove. It leaves him feeling torn. He’s not sure he’ll ever be comfortable as a helicopter. It’s one of the reasons he’s thankful, quietly and to himself, to have a partner who is also a pilot.
Dani’s hand stays on his arm and now she’s rubbing his dermal plate with a gentleness she doesn’t often display. “What happened to them?”
Blades hunches and looks away from her. “They died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s my fault, too,” Blades blurts out, all in a rush. His hands clench on his knees. “I was piloting the Alpha. I was supposed to pay attention and I didn’t notice that there was a problem with one of the engines until it was too late. And then, I couldn’t stop the ship from crashing, I couldn’t steer it away from crushing them, I couldn’t land safely enough to keep First Aid from being smashed. I couldn’t do anything.”
The last approaches a wail and Blades bites back a sob as he buries his face in his knees because he can’t face Dani. Not like this. He’s ashamed of himself, of his failure. He’s the only one who survived that crash and he’s the one to blame and it’s not fair. None of it is.
If not for Heatwave, he might not have ever gotten on another rescue team. He owes Heatwave so much and how does he repay him? By messing up all the time!
The couch springs squeak as Dani shifts and then he feels her hand on his, her fingers wrapping around one of his.
“I know you, Blades. I’m sure you did everything you could. Didn’t they tell you it wasn’t your fault?”
Blades ex-vents slowly.
It depends on who he asked, he remembers. Some of their supervisors had glared at him. One would have kicked him out of the Rescue Corp immediately. He had the transfer request drawn up and everything. But others were nicer about it. The engineers said that there was a defect in one of the shuttle’s engines, that it would have gone down no matter what. It still sounds like an excuse.
“No one could agree,” he finally answers. “I told them all it was my fault though. Because it was. I’m a rescuer. I should have done something.”
“Are you an engineer?”
Blades scoffs. “No. I barely understand any of that stuff Boulder talks about all the time. And I’m not even sure Graham’s speaking English when he talks about it.”
“Then you’re a mechanic.”
Blades looks at her and she’s giving him that stern look, the one she gets when she wants him to understand something he’s not getting. Or when she’s trying to reassure him. Like the time with the forest fire and the ash cloud and Blades was frightened because he couldn’t see anything and the ash was stalling his rotors.
“You know that I’m not,” he says.
“Yes, but I don’t know that you know that.” She lifts her eyebrows at him.
Blades blinks. “What do you mean?”
“I wasn’t there so I can only guess,” Dani says and she shifts so she can look him in the eye. “But I’m willing to bet that you didn’t know anything was wrong with the shuttle until the alarms went off. And whatever was wrong, wasn’t something you could fix and you weren’t fully trained to handle it either.”
Blades stares at her, some of the tight grip around his spark easing.
“And,” she continues, her words more urgent this time as though she’s eager to make him understand, “even if you weren’t paying one-hundred percent attention, I doubt that would have made a difference. You still couldn’t have fixed the shuttle or stopped it from crashing all by yourself. Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you didn’t react fast enough, but it’s not your fault, Blades. You didn’t kill them. And do you know how I know that?”
He shakes his head, his spark feeling warm and swollen and fit to burst with emotion. He’s never heard Dani so earnest before and it’s getting through to him. He’s realizing, all over again, why Optimus Prime wants them here.
“Because you never give up, Blades.” She squeezes his finger. “Even when you’re afraid, you keep trying. You might panic. You might mess up a little, but when we need you, you’re there. We can count on you. And that’s what matters.”
Blades blinks at her for several seconds until he leaps to his feet and sweeps her up in a hug. “Thank you, Dani!” he says, despite her squeaking in surprise. “I really needed to hear that.”
“You should have heard it from me, too.”
Blades startles and almost squishes Dani as he whirls around to see Heatwave standing behind the couch, practically fidgeting. He rubs the back of his helm, a touch of embarrassment in his field.
“I forget sometimes,” Heatwave continues, shuffling his feet, “that you weren’t always ours because we’ve never seen you as anyone different.”
Blades lowers Dani back to the ground, his faceplate heating.
“What happened back then, I never held that against you,” Heatwave adds and his optics are everywhere but on Blades, as though he’s embarrassed. “If I had, I would have rejected your application no matter what high command told me to do. But I always knew it wasn’t your fault.”
Blades’ optics widen. “Really?”
Heatwave nods and his gaze drags back toward Blades. “A Rescue Team has to depend on each other and trust one other. That kind of bond can’t be forced. So if I thought I couldn’t do either of those two things, you wouldn’t have stayed on my team.”
Blades’ spark throbs with warmth.
Dani’s knuckles rap against the side of his leg. “See, partner? That’s what I was trying to tell you.”
Blades taps his fingers together. “But today–”
“Will not be repeated,” Heatwave says, trying to sound stern, but there’s something so very relieved in his tone that Blades almost giggles. “I mean it, Blades. If you’re upset about something, tell me. We’re a team, remember?”
“All of us,” Dani adds. She grins up at him and winks. “All of my family and yours, we’re one huge family.”
Family. Blades likes the sound of that.
It doesn’t mean he’s going to forget about the Protectobots, about his first team. But he’s pretty sure there’s room in his spark for his new team, too.
So Blades leaps over the back of the couch and hugs Heatwave who catches him with a startled sound and gripes about attacks of affection. But his field is loose and relieved and he rubs his hand over Blades’ helm in a way Blades has often caught Kade comforting Cody. Like human, like Rescue Bot.
Blades throws gratitude over his shoulder and goes to find the others. He locates Chase first, cooped up in their command center and updating the Sigma’s work logs. Blades doesn’t give him any warning before swooping Chase into a tight embrace.
Chase gives a grunt of surprise, but he pats Blades on the arm. “You’re… welcome?”
Blades lets him go. His befuddlement is so cute. “You didn’t let me say thank you first.”
“I assumed that was what the embrace was meant to indicate.”
Blades giggles. “You assume correctly.”
Chase finally looks away from the console and tilts his head. “You are uninjured, I hope?”
“Except my towline,” Blades chirps. “But that can be fixed. Have you seen Boulder?”
“Last I saw, he was heading for the backyard.”
“Thanks!” Blades’ rotors jiggle as he bounces for the doorway, only to pause when he hears Chase call his name. The blue mech manages a small smile, which is a reward in unto itself.
“I am relieved you are well,” Chase says. “Please don’t scare us like that again.”
Blades beams and excuses himself, Chase’s concern like a warmth against his plating. Like flying on a sunny day with no breeze and a view that goes for miles.
Boulder is exactly where Chase said he would be, in the backyard. He’s perched on one of the benches by the training track, head tilted back to enjoy the heavy rain. Blades likes it, too, so long as he doesn’t have to fly in it.
Boulder can’t see him so Blades takes the opportunity to hop into his lap and throw his arms over Boulder’s shoulders. Which is a feat considering he has to flick his rotors out of the way at the last moment.
Boulder releases a little ‘oof’ but returns the hug anyway. His field is warm and fuzzy and content and Blades indulges in it, the comfort enough to chase away the last lingering traces of his earlier distress. Boulder always knows the right things to say and do to make Blades feel better.
“I don’t know what that was for, but thank you,” Boulder says, blinking with confusion. He smiles though and continues with, “I hope that means you’re feeling better.”
“I am now,” Blades replies. “I have a pretty good team.”
“Yeah?” Boulder says and he smiles, resting his hand over Blades’ and giving it a comforting squeeze. “Well, we have a pretty good helicopter, too.”