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Play It Again

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“You know, I worry about you.” He said once. His tone was playful, nonchalant, but the octave was just the slightest bit too soft.

Skyfire missed it the first time, or perhaps didn’t want to notice. His faceplates burst into a smile, which unfolded into a laugh. “Oh do you now?”

He glanced up at his partner, wings docked in and arms crossed, the golden light lining his profile. His gaze was out the window, on the city. Towards the fading sun. Skyfire would never forget that one perfect image.

Starscream had a look in his optics that Skyfire couldn’t quite place, a fang digging lightly into his bottom lip. He’d play the memory over and over again later, much later, when all of this would be nothing but a bittersweet impression of something he once had, that he could barely believe had existed at all. He'd drag this moment out far past it’s prime, until he could all but see the lines of wear in it. Far longer than it was ever meant to linger. Far longer than it had ever been in person. And then he’d forget, and punish himself for dismissing what he was seeing.

But even then he wouldnt quite be able to place the emotion, or explain why it was there. What Starscream was thinking.

A million years of studying could not put context into what was inaccessible to him.

By the time Starscream returned his gaze, whatever was there was already gone, or at least suppressed into unreadability. “I do. You’re too nice.”

Skyfire laughed again, maybe a little too loudly.

“Oh shut up, I’m serious!”

It was dressed as a joke, but he was, Skyfire knew he was. He knew he had absolutely genuine and well-founded fears. And how unfair it was to dismiss them. Starscream was the politically tactical between the two of them, after all. He didn’t get by on luck and the good will of others; he’d never had the luxury of either of those things.

And yet the amusement stayed, barely touched by the sobering thoughts. Maybe it was just his tone, the words he’d chosen. Nice. Like pleasantries were the problem. Nice.

You won’t fight hard enough for what you want. You’re too soft. That’s what he meant. Or what he had assumed at the time. And Skyfire hadn’t wanted to grapple with that unfortunate truth, not now. Starscream and his unfortunate, unpleasant, unrepentant truths. Everyone thought him a liar, even then, but by Primus was he good at defining the precise actuality no one wanted to hear.

And his lover was not exempt.

So Skyfire didn’t kill the smile on his faceplates as he scrawled some notes into a data pad. “Well don’t keep me in suspense.”

Starscream let out an exasperated sigh. “Why I put up with you, I’ll never understand.”

And then the conversation ended. They still kept on talking, but the soul of that one singular, signficant moment died a sudden, quiet death. 

Skyfire still wasn't sure what Starscream had meant. What either of them were even getting at. He'd attacked it from every angle over and over, so many times the lifespan of the conversation itself. Still a mystery somehow. Something he just couldn't quite pin down. 

Just one of many fragile little conversations. Little moments shared between them. Innumerable.

Until they weren't. 

They'd thought nothing of them. They really thought they'd always have more. 

Maybe Skyfire would have savored them if he'd known he'd never have any again. 

Just one of many. What was so special about this one? Something, something...

Maybe Skyfire was just imagining it. Maybe all he wanted back was any one of these moments, but this was the one he fixated on.

And just maybe he didn't want an answer. Maybe he just wanted him back, so he could keep having new ones to guess at. A million questions unanswered for all eternity.

What he wouldn't give.

Skyfire unpaused the memory, and rewound it again. 

Starscream was not cruel. Not then. Never cruel. He was angry, ruthless sometimes. He had mood swings so fast he didn’t even seem to be aware of them. One nanoclick he was pleasant, the next furious, the next muddled and confused as though he couldn’t remember how he’d arrived there at all.

Never cruel.

He was never good at saying sorry, but he knew how to apologize then.

The bitterness, the resentment, the desperate need for retribution, it had already settled. Many were confused by that. He was a lot of things then that he was now, and many were confused by that too. Trying to decide what he saw in him, Skyfire supposed. Trying to decide why a betrayal would run so deep if he was already corrupted.

He was not corrupted, he was angry, and it was a righteous anger. It was a bitter, simmering, scarred up sort of anger, the kind that settles after eons of being raked with small, careless needles. Little scars. Nothing to hold against anyone. Nothing to hold against any one, so he didnt. He had an even temper, in that his temper was evenly doled towards everything and everyone that dared to hold him back.

He never once saw Skyfire as holding him back.

Not then.