1. Though I Walk Through The Shadow by Starhorse
Most nights I can’t sleep. Most nights, I hook up to the recharge station, I lay on my bunk in my quarters, and I stare at the ceiling for as long as I can. That way I don’t see them. I don’t see the things that are behind my eyes, the things that are so far down in the blue of my optics that no one would know there’s a city eternally burning there, or dead bodies, or the charred remains of everyone I ever knew.
I guess a better way of putting it is to say I’m afraid to sleep. What I try to do is push myself to the point where I can just barely stay awake, and then I dive for the cover of unconsciousness and squeeze my optics shut on the way, hoping and praying I don’t see my city burning for the hundred thousandth time. And for the most part, it works. Except, I never quite make it without at least a glimpse.
At least, until tonight. I don’t know what to make of it, whether it’s good or bad, or why it keeps popping into my head, but there it is. There it is, over and over, just like my city, only it’s worse and better all at the same time, and it makes me feel so sad and so happy, and so very lucky.
Let me think…it was four days ago, or was it five? Yes. Five days ago, we rolled out to assault a newly discovered power station that the Decepticons were constructing. It was the first time in a long while that we were on the offensive, and it made me feel queasy and a little unreal, as if my head were detached from my shoulders. Before dawn even broke, we were on our way, and there was something about the bleakness of it, something about the smell of the black, sunless desert breezing by that made me shiver a little. Not to mention that everyone was just too quiet.
“Get off me, Bluestreak,” I heard Sunstreaker snarl. I came to just in time to realize I had almost clipped his rear quarter-panel, and that was bad. Better to clip Tracks than Sunstreaker, I always say. Tracks will moan and whine, but Sunstreaker…well, most ‘bots I know are just a little afraid of Sunstreaker. He’ll get you every time.
“Sorry,” I mumbled and moved over. I looked to the eastern horizon, which was sliding by at nearly a hundred miles an hour. We were skimming over the desert in a quiet, lightless formation, heading toward a valley just a few minutes away from our position, and I realized that I didn’t remember leaving base, nor did I recall the last hour of driving. I was getting that old feeling of dread again, the one that always paralyzes me if I let it, and I knew I better find some way to get rid of it. Slowly, I dropped back and looked for someone to talk to.
Hound rode at the edge of the right flank, and I sidled right up to him. “Better get back in line,” he said quietly, before I even had a chance to say hello.
“I almost hit Sunstreaker,” I told him without preamble.
“Oh,” he offered a sympathetic chuckle. “Yeah, that would have been bad. Better to hit Sideswipe than him. They’re always together, so if you have to swerve one way, swerve into the red one. ‘Cause Sunstreaker –“
“—will get you, yeah,” I finished. “I know. So will Sideswipe, though.”
“Mm,” mused Hound. “You have a point. Though Siders won’t get you for paint. Gotta piss him off worse than that. Still safer to go for him, I say. If you gotta hit someone, that is.” The green jeep lurched over a rock, then steadied himself out of a minor skid. His vehicle form wasn’t used to these speeds. “So,” he asked gently, “you hitting people for a reason this morning?”
“No,” I answered him, knowing full well he knew I was afraid.
“Just losing track of time again, hm?”
“Yeah,” I said, and edged a little closer.
We rode along like that for another few minutes, and I was just looking into the predawn dark, wishing I could keep driving on into it long after the rest of the Autobots stopped to fight, when Hound spoke up again. “Hey, Blue, don’t worry about spacing out this morning. And don’t worry about Sunstreaker, ‘cause he’ll take it out on the ‘Cons. You just worry about your job, because you’re awful good at it, and once you get to shooting, you can forget to be nervous. You always do.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “yeah, you’re right. Shooting’s always good.” It was. It always took my mind off of things. Still does.
“So go ahead back to formation.” Hound nudged over, pushing me away. “We’re almost there.”
So I went back to my place, not really feeling any better, but grateful at least that Hound took my mind off of things for a few minutes, anyway. Hound’s good like that. He never asks too many questions, and never pokes fun when I admit I don’t like my job. I don’t like doing what those ‘Cons did to my city. Sure, I like paying them back, but I can never get over the sight of those burned, twisted bodies, and I can never quite make myself like contributing to the immortal pile. I see it like that. I see this eternal death count piled high with the broken bodies of friends and of people who were once loved more than anything. I see that, and I just don’t like adding to it. I told Hound that once, and he didn’t laugh. I even told him why I felt that way; I told him about my city, and he didn’t take that lightly either. Hound’s good like that. He’s a good listener.
But I couldn’t think about Hound anymore, because I was in line again just beside Sunstreaker, who just seemed so deadly quiet. I looked sideways at the yellow Lamborghini and felt that awful, creeping dread again, as if I were riding right next to everything I dreaded instead of just toward it. But then I remembered he was on our side, and before I knew it, we were there, and the shooting was starting before I even heard the order to fire.
Despite my misgivings, the battle went surprisingly well. There were fewer ‘Cons there than intel had suspected, and even though Menasor formed up, we were able to harass him until he pretty much lost his cool. The other Decepticons had beat a fairly hasty retreat after realizing how badly outnumbered they were, and all that was left for us to do was to lay down demolitions and, of course, to finish up dealing with Menasor.
Which is why I had just started to relax when it happened. I had already let my guard down, and I hate that I did that. I hate that I was caught unaware again, and unprepared for what I saw. I hate seeing. I hate the pictures behind my eyes, and most of all I hate that more and more pictures keep adding themselves to the pile.
Almost everyone was watching. Swoop and Slag had Menasor worked into such a frenzy that it was really funny, and most of us were standing well to the side and cheering the show. The Dinobots were in no danger, and they were having fun, so we let ‘em at it. Problem was, nobody realized how close Menasor was getting to where Sunstreaker was stuck. In his rage, Menasor had dislodged part of the cliff, and the resulting avalanche had pinned Sunstreaker against the cliff face. Sideswipe was over there with his pile drivers, trying to dig his brother out without injuring him too much when Menasor suddenly took a bunch of reeling steps backward, and grabbed another chunk of the cliff.
Everybody saw it coming. Everybody just froze, ‘cause that was all we could do, being too far away to help. Trailbreaker screamed Sideswipe’s name in warning, and the red warrior looked up in time to see that the large chunk of mountain that Menasor had thrown at the Dinobots had missed its mark, and was heading instead for the brothers. He had a split second to leap clear, and my throat locked up and I nearly choked when I saw him brace himself instead. Brace and wince. Then the boulder slammed him into Sunstreaker.
We rushed over as fast as we could. The Dinobots made quick work of Menasor, and the whole battlefield went eerily quiet as we neared the two downed Autobots. I remember thinking I would be sick as Brawn pulled back the boulder and found Sideswipe crushed, and Sunstreaker pinned and battered, but conscious, thanks to Sideswipe taking up most of the boulder’s impact. I remember Sunstreaker’s face looking lifeless with shock, and slowly blinking only when Trailbreaker shouted his name about ten times. Trailbreaker always liked the twins. He was always nice to them, and for some reason they always took extra care of him in return, which is why it was so awful for me to watch Trailbreaker shout and shake Sunstreaker back from wherever his mind had gone.
As for Sideswipe, I just plain didn’t want to look. But look I did, (everyone always looks), and to our surprise, we found that Sideswipe was alive. Not that we had time to celebrate. He was mangled, and he had internal systems spilling out onto the valley floor that should never have seen the light of day, but he was at least functional. Barely. Good thing Ratchet was along, or he never would have made it back to base.
It was an awful ride back. I was fine, and feeling relieved that I’d lived through another battle, and guilty that I was so relieved when Sideswipe was so near death, and it made me want to race ahead of the convoy to let off steam. But we had to drive slow enough not to kill Sideswipe outright by bouncing him around in Optimus’ trailer, and so I fishtailed around like an idiot, just trying to get my mind off of things. Again. Not that it helped. How could it help, when I was stuck with the plain fact that I was scared witless before every battle, while the twins roared in, fierce as a pair of hurricanes and flinging themselves into the very worst of it? And how could I hide from the fact that there was not a soul in the universe for whom I would take a fast-moving boulder, instead of getting the hell out of the way? How could Sideswipe have done that? It wasn’t something he thought about. It wasn’t like he had time to consider how much of his life he would have had left to live, or how much the boulder would hurt, or whether he deserved life more than Sunstreaker did. No, taking that boulder for Sunstreaker was something he had long ago decided. And not only had he decided to sacrifice himself, he had actually done it when the time came. Brace and wince. It had all come down to that, and in a split second.
That act was the act of a true Autobot. And you know what? I couldn’t do it. Not for a soul. For five days I’ve thought about it, and to be honest, wished real hard I could be that brave, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the stuff.
But that’s not what bothers me now. I can live with being kinda freaked out by war. That’s just any normal guy’s reaction, I think. Matter of fact, I think the twins are the ones who aren’t normal. Them and the Dinobots. Most everybody else would have jumped out of that boulder’s way.
No, that’s not what bothers me, and that’s not what keeps me from sleeping. It’s scarier than that, and it goes way deeper than I think anything has a right to go. All I know now is that there are worse things than seeing your whole city burned to rubble and slag. Much worse things.
Sunstreaker was stricken. For the whole ride back he sat in Prime’s trailer, staring in Sideswipe’s general direction, his mouth slightly open as though he had gasped in a breath, but never let it out. Or at least that’s how Ratchet described it. I know how he felt. I remember feeling that way the day I saw my friends’ faces staring blankly out of the soot. I remember breathing in without breathing out. That’s a good way to put it, and I should tell Ratchet so some day.
They worked all that day and night on Sideswipe, with Sunstreaker sitting nearby and staring. His legs had been broken, his left nearly twisted off at the knee, and his chestplate was all but caved in, but no one was able to work on him since they were all frantically trying to save his brother. Sunstreaker never seemed to notice that he was in any pain. They said he just sat and stared, and that his face never changed, and he never said a word, and they were just beginning to think something had fritzed inside his CPU when he finally spoke up. It was very early in the morning when they stabilized the red warrior enough for someone to take a look at Sunstreaker. Ratchet went over to assess his damage.
“You alright?” the medic asked, looking for lifesign. I guess he got none, so he started poking and prodding, even pushing his fingers into Sunstreaker’s shredded knee to see if the warrior was at all responsive, but Sunstreaker didn’t even flinch. “Sunny?” Ratchet tried again, and he told me later that he thought right then and there that we’d lost both the twins in one day.
“One won’t live without the other,” was his conclusion, and it gave me that first awful feeling that still bothers me now.
But it seemed Sunstreaker wasn’t quite ready for death, not with Sideswipe still hanging onto life, and Ratchet said he just reached out and touched the medic’s arm, ever so lightly, without taking his optics off of his brother. “He shouldn’t have done that. He can’t do that.”
“Well, he could and he did,” was Ratchet’s gruff reply. “And you better be thankful, too, because the way I saw it, that boulder was on its way to taking your head clean off at the shoulders. You’d have never had a chance, and he knew it.” It was Ratchet’s way of putting his patients to rights. He’d grouse and boss and scold, and he’d never allow for self-pity or any sort of defeatism.
But he couldn’t contend with the shock and guilt that hung all over Sunstreaker’s face at being the one left alive, and so the medic merely patched the warrior up, and sent him on his way. Or tried to. Sunstreaker wouldn’t leave, of course, and ensconced himself in a corner of the med bay where he could watch while the medics worked on Sideswipe through the long hours of the day. Several times they thought they’d lost him, or so Ratchet told me later, and he said that each time was worse, and that each time the monitors blinked to life once more, the medic’s hands would shake just a little harder.
“My hands never shake,” he growled at me, his face darkened with fury. It was late the second night, and Ratchet was taking a much-needed break. I was the only one around to talk to. “And I’ve worked on that rotten little sneak more times than half the other Autobots put together, so my hands should be able to work without my optics even watching. It’s just…” he looked down at his hands, which were trembling gently on the table, “…maybe I’ve gotten so used to working on those particular internals, it’d just seem wrong if this were the last time.” At that he frowned deeply, and I’ll admit that it surprised me that Ratchet should take Sideswipe’s injuries so personally. It bothered me, too. But before I could think about it too much, the medic furrowed his brow and said, “And then there’s that damnable Sunstreaker…” his optics narrowed as he paused, obviously rolling some thought around, “…that’s it. That’s it!” He slammed a fist down on the table and got up. “I can’t work with him in there! He goes!”
So Sunstreaker was unceremoniously ejected from med bay, because after all, the medics were there to work, and not to coddle anyone’s feelings. They couldn’t afford to, and I know that’s the truth, because I’ve seen some pretty grim situations get dumped into that bay, and there’s only one way to deal with those, and that’s squarely and efficiently. No time for thinking about who’s under the scalpel, or who’s watching, or whose brother might be slowly and ungracefully leaking his life away all over the table and floors. No, none of that nonsense. Someone else could pick Sunstreaker’s feelings up off the floor. For now, Ratchet had to concentrate.
Which is why we found Sunstreaker sitting on the floor just outside the med bay door, head cradled in one hand while he absently rubbed his temples with a thumb and forefinger. Gears and I were just coming around the corner when Gears nearly tripped over the yellow warrior.
“Ach!” Gears squawked and flailed, backing up to catch his balance. “Well, that’s just a wonderful place to sit yourself.” He glared down at Sunstreaker, obviously expecting a response, and when he got none, he gave me a look of longsuffering exasperation. I was hoping he’d just drop it, given the look on Sunstreaker’s face and all, but if you know Gears, then you know once he feels he’s been wronged, he just has to complain about it. “You know,” he spoke down his nose at the yellow Autobot, “it’s not like it would kill you to care that other people use this hallway, or that other people might get hurt coming ‘round the corner and finding you smack in their path.”
I shifted my feet, wishing I could think of a sensible way out of the situation, but I couldn’t think of anything to say to hush Gears up, and neither could I just leave him there to needle Sunstreaker. Primus knows how that would have ended up. I stared uncomfortably downward at the yellow Autobot, who sat in a miserable huddle with his knees drawn up and his head propped in his hands, as though it was too heavy for him to hold up. Slowly, methodically, he rubbed his temples, looking for all the world as if he were on his last reserves of energy. “Come on, Gears,” I mumbled, trying to take the shorter Autobot’s arm, but he wasn’t ready to be appeased.
Jerking his arm away from me, he took a step closer to Sunstreaker, and gave it his best shot at looming. “I am speaking to you,” he informed the yellow warrior, “and I think if you were decent you would give me a response.”
He got his response. Like a cat, Sunstreaker pounced and spun, slamming Gears to the wall so hard the bulkhead buckled inward, and Gears’ optics flew wide. I took several steps back, remembering very quickly why exactly I had always harbored a little bit of fear where Sunstreaker was concerned, but in case Gears had forgotten, Sunstreaker sure was reminding him now. Holding the little Autobot’s feet just off the floor, Sunstreaker slammed him against the wall three times in quick succession, just enough to rattle his head around and buzz his circuitry a bit, and then he leaned in and said in a low voice, “Get…away…from me.”
Sunstreaker let go and Gears’ legs went to rubber beneath him, and he sagged against the wall, jaw hanging for a split second before recovering enough of his motor skills to scurry away. I hurried after him, stepping lightly around Sunstreaker, who didn’t even seem aware that I was there, and that was just fine by me. I could hear footsteps approaching quickly behind us, and that was even better. Let whoever that is deal with Sunstreaker, I thought to myself, hoping it was Trailbreaker or Ironhide or at least just someone big.
As it turned it out, it was several someones big. The Dinobots, having been nearby, and having heard lot of slamming about, came thundering down the halls to investigate. I wasn’t there by then, of course, but I can only imagine that made things even worse. They sure wouldn’t be intimidated by anything Sunstreaker could do to them, but Sunstreaker’s mouth can be as cutting as any weapon he has on him, and the Dinobots can be so thin-skinned. In any case, I heard later that Optimus himself got called down to sort things out, and by the time all was said and done, the Dinobots were mollified, all except for Slag, and Sunstreaker was coaxed down into the Autobot lounge, where he took up a sullen vigil in the corner that provided the best view of the door. Nobody went near him.
A hell of a time to leave him alone, I recall thinking. Why couldn’t Gears have just let him stay huddled in peaceable misery outside of medbay instead of provoking him? Well, if you ask me, I’d say it’s pretty much the same reason that no one wanted to talk to him once he got to the lounge. You see, it’s that old rule about not getting too emotionally involved. I mean, sure, we all like each other, and most of us even owe our lives to each other, and because of the pressures we all face together, we have this really strong camaraderie. Heck, out on the battlefield, it’s like even the Dinobots are a part of us, and we can all stand around after a battle and grin and slap each others’ backs and feel as large as life. But Primus forbid that anyone gets too involved.
Oh, no. That, you see, is the cardinal rule. Yeah, I mean, you have friends, and you sure hate it when you see them go down in a battle, but there’s always that guard you keep up that holds everyone just a little bit at bay because, for Primus’ sake, what if you let someone get close to you and then you lost them?
We’ve all done that. I looked around the lounge that day, taking in the faces, thinking of the stories told and knowing that everyone in the room had someone they’d gotten real close to, only to eventually see them die. I looked at everyone’s faces, and I saw that slightly closed look that said, “I like you, and I’ll be buddies with you, and I’ll even be real sorry should you ever go down in flames, but by Primus, I’ll never love you. Because I just don’t have it in me anymore.” These Autobots, they had taken a square look at that kind of involvement, and they just weren’t having any more of it, plain and simple.
Except for one. Two really, if he lived. Big if.
And no one seemed to care. Well, they cared. I mean, Sideswipe had saved the lives of most of the ‘Bots in that room, and besides that, he was funny. He was damnably funny, in fact, and everyone liked him so much they even found themselves liking Sunstreaker by association. I mean, the two of them could be downright hysterical when they wanted to be. It was as if Sideswipe’s mere presence pulled Sunstreaker’s better side out of him, and between their constant battle to one-up each other, and Sideswipe’s absolute zest for anything fun, those two seemed to keep the ball of life rolling around the Ark. They were like a pair of those raptors I saw on Jurassic Park, quick and charismatic and nasty and comical all at once, and everyone absolutely loved ‘em.
Well, maybe not ‘loved.’ Applauded them, maybe, and enjoyed their antics, but not loved. Nobody loved anybody. Cardinal rule, remember?
Which is why nobody went out of their way to console Sunstreaker. Trailbreaker went over to try to cheer him up, and so did Ironhide, but ‘cheering’ someone up isn’t exactly the same as leveling with them, is it? And why is it that so many people try to inject cheer into someone who’s suffering, when everyone knows that when it’s their own turn to suffer, they don’t want cheer? That kind of cheer sucks, actually. That kind of cheer is just a way of lying and saying, “I’m alright, despite the fact that my twin is slowly dying down the hall, all because of me, and there isn’t slag I can do about it.” No, that kind of cheer is just for show, and the people trying to spread that kind of cheer are only doing it so they can feel better. I mean, as long as Sunstreaker looks like hell, we’re all reminded of the kind of pain we’ve been through, what with losing close friends and all, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.
So they tried to cheer him up, and once they felt they’d ‘done their best’, they turned tail and left him alone. I watched him out of the corner of my optic, thinking that someone ought to do the right thing and just go sit with him, if nothing else. Maybe if someone just sat there with him, and even if they didn’t say anything, at least he wouldn’t have had that awful, vacant look on his face, and maybe he wouldn’t have looked so utterly abandoned. I’d never seen Sunstreaker look so…bewildered. But did I mention that I have this tiny, very sensible fear of Sunstreaker, especially when Sideswipe’s not around? Yeah, I left him alone, too.
For four days he sat like that, neither shutting down nor recharging, and I suspected that if Sideswipe didn’t walk through that door soon, Sunstreaker would just let his charge drain right away. Ratchet was right. I saw it in his optics. Maybe it was some kind of physiological bond or something, and maybe it was more than that, but it was clear to me that one twin would simply not outlive the other.
But then on the fifth day, Sideswipe made his grinning entrance, and all that awful tension disappeared in a snap. Cheers went up as everyone caught sight of him, and suddenly there was a lot of hooping and hollering and all that back-slapping and shoulder-grabbing that comes at those times. Everyone laughed and called him ‘pancake’ and ‘grease spot’, and accused him of being slower than a rock, and in return, Sideswipe flashed his foxlike grin and winced a little every time someone gave him a hearty clap on the shoulder, as he was obviously still recovering.
Which of course meant that nobody was looking at Sunstreaker. Nobody but me, that is, and so I was the only one that saw the look in his optics that made me feel so awfully bad and good and lucky all at once. It floored me, and when I saw his expression I felt this kind of sick confusion crawl all over me until suddenly it all clicked, and I understood. You see, Sunstreaker, when he first saw Sideswipe walk through that door, looked disappointed.
I was stunned. So stunned, in fact, that I forgot to join in all the cheering, and could only watch Sunstreaker as he leaped up from his seat to hurry across the room. Of course by then he wore a look of incredible relief, and it wasn’t fake, either. He strode through the crowd, scattering the other Autobots like leaves before a wind, and he grabbed a still-grinning Sideswipe by the shoulders and shook him just like he’d shaken Gears, angrily, but far more gently. “You stupid idiot.” The tall yellow warrior accented each word with a shake, and Sideswipe winced, but took it gamely. Then without warning Sunstreaker leaned close, took his brother’s head in his hands, and pressed his forehead to Sideswipe’s just for a moment. And he let out a long sigh.
So things are back to normal. I hate to think of the day when we finally lose someone for good, but until then all us Autobots are pretty happily set in our roles as part of the dynamic that makes up our Earth unit. You know what I mean. If we lost Prowl, who would even begin to know how to organize us like he does? If we lost Ironhide, we’d never again hear the sound of that soft, musical drawl. And if we lost Sideswipe, well, we’d lose so much of the comedy around here, and along with losing Sideswipe, we’d lose Sunstreaker, and then who’d be around to be nasty? Most ‘Bots won’t admit it, but along with being secretly just a slight bit afraid of old Sunny’s mean nature, we’re all pretty damn well grateful for it when we’re out on the battlefield. So I guess it’s pretty safe to say that on the day we lose someone for good, there will be this wide, dark, unfillable hole in our dynamic, and no one will ever be able to cover it over.
So I’m thinking I’m maybe not so dumb for doing like everyone else does and keeping all that close emotional tie stuff at bay. I don’t want to get too close. Not after seeing what I saw today on Sunstreaker’s face, and knowing that he hasn’t yet been through what I’ve been through. It really puts a new dimension to Sunny, knowing that a part of him wanted Sideswipe to just go ahead and die, and it makes me almost understand why he’s so mean.
Not that he really wanted Siders to die, see. No, I think it’s just that Sunny’s real tired of waiting for the day that he has to face his brother’s death, and for five long days, he thought to himself that the wait might have been over. Oh, sure, Sideswipe’s death would have hurt like hell, just like I hurt after seeing my city bombed and burned to rubble. I mean, I wanted to die, just like Sunstreaker was slowly dying as he sat there in the lounge and let his charge gradually bleed away. But somehow, I almost have the feeling that the pain of loss isn’t near as bad as the constant torment of loving someone who’s still alive, and knowing that you might lose them at any time. I don’t mean to sound gushy, and I know if the brothers ever heard me talk about them like this, they’d probably both pound me into a pile of whimpering parts and pieces. But the sheer fact of it is that their love – their absolute devotion – to one another runs deeper and more deadly than any kind of affection I have seen between two beings before in my life. They would die for one another. Listen, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how they’d die for this or that person, but when it comes down to it, how many of us mean it? I mean, it’s death, people. Listen to what I’m saying to you. It’s a great, big, pain-inducing boulder, hurtling with a quickness at your precious, all-in-one-piece body, and you find yourself faced with the decision between your brain’s natural instinct to fling your chassis the hell out of death’s way, or your resolution to brace and wince, and take death’s full-on frontal assault just so some other poor sap can live. Are you frigging kidding me? No way, come heaven or hell, could I choose the big boulder of death, not in a split second like that. I mean, maybe if I had a real good reason, like the salvation of the universe or something, as well as a few years to plan, to get my life in order, and to practice squeezing my optics shut real tight and holding real still. I’d have to practice that bracing and wincing part. But not in a split second. Not like that.
Because, you see, it’s not about bravery. We’re all brave. I mean, bravery’s just doing what you have to in spite of being terrified to do it, so I guess every Autobot I know qualifies as being brave, right? But what Sideswipe did for Sunstreaker was something beyond bravery; it was an act of pure, unselfish love. And that terrifies me. It terrifies me because I’m afraid to ever love someone like that, and it terrifies me on their behalf, because I’m afraid of the day one of them loses the other. But maybe that, in and of itself, is the true definition of bravery. Maybe it’s not as big a deal to throw our lives on the line for the Autobot Cause as it is for Sideswipe and Sunstreaker to risk a closeness that none of the rest of us will risk. Maybe real bravery is in loving another soul more than your own life, and letting that soul in closer than your own skin, even when you might lose them to the next battle, the next skirmish, the next day. And maybe that’s the true test put to all of us. Because in the end it all comes down to who you’ve loved in life. Because that is life.
So you see, I can’t sleep tonight either. I can hear them down the hall. The twins, that is. I can’t really make out what they’re saying, but I can tell by the rise and fall of their voices that they’re bickering about something, even though Windcharger has yelled twice for them to shut up. I hope they don’t. I’d really just like to lay here and listen to them, and know that there are at least two Autobots who aren’t afraid of living their lives, despite the shadow of death that hangs over us all every day. In fact, they may be the only two of us who remember what it’s like to be really, honestly alive, while the rest of us cower beneath Death’s shade, preferring this half-life of never letting anyone get close to us rather than risk a leap into the wild, messy, unpredictable blaze of life. Some say cynicism is practical, but I’m beginning to have the idea that it’s just plain cowardice. We’re all cowards with one foot firmly planted in the grave, already braced for a death that may not come for years and years. We’re not living. Not a one of us.
Except for the brothers. Sideswipe’s cackling now about something, and there’s Windcharger, yelling and getting madder, and I just wish he’d shut up so I could hear that laugh. It drives the images away. When he laughs like that, I can’t see that awful picture I have in my mind of him bracing and wincing, and I can’t see the disappointment on Sunstreaker’s face. It washes the bad away, listening to them down the hall, alive. It makes me feel that tired kind of good that comes when you wake up from long surgery, and the pain is gone, and you’re so pleasantly exhausted. And I feel lucky, though it’s a different kind of lucky than I’ve felt up until now. I feel as though my optics have finally lit up, and I am able, for the first time, to see that we’ve all been clinging to Death in hopes of avoiding any ugly surprises, and though I’m ashamed of myself and everyone else, there is a kind of comfort in knowing exactly who and where I am. I guess I feel lucky to see this now, instead of in those final moments before I die, when I realize that everything worth living for was exactly what I tried so hard to shove away from me. No, I understand now. Maybe I’m not brave enough to get as close to someone as those two maniacs down the hall are to each other. But at least I recognize where I’m trapped by my own fear, and I can at least begin to make plans for finding my way out of the dark.
Again, Sideswipe lets out a loud, diabolical laugh down the hall, and I feel a surge of something I thought I’d long ago forgotten how to feel. Smiling and letting out a long sigh, I close my optics and settle in for the night, as I feel the first quiet touch of hope.