Thursday, March 21st, 2013 02:27 pm
Title: A Wing and a Prayer - Epilogue (Read or Download at AO3)
Pairing: Skyfire/Silverbolt

Summary: The problem with falling in love with an Aerialbot is that his brothers are pretty much part of the package. And the problem with falling in love with someone who has unfinished business from his past is that sometimes the unfinished business is Starscream...

A Wing and a Prayer
Epilogue


Silverbolt is falling, and he'd be lying if he said he wasn't afraid, but he knows Skyfire is right behind him as the planet below expands to fill his horizon. It's his first re-entry with his new alt-mode. He's still not sure he likes the sensation of flying through the vacuum - the cold and silence are disconcerting - but the heat that flares around him as he plunges deeper into atmosphere is quickly eradicating any lingering chill.

:You should have enough air for your control surfaces to bite on now,: Skyfire says, just as Silverbolt is thinking the same thing. :If we head for the supercontinent to the west, there'll be some good winds to work with.:

:I'm starting to rethink this whole plan,: Silverbolt says, carefully extending his flaps and testing them against the thin atmosphere. He feels a flicker of concern from Skyfire, and quickly continues, laughing, :I'm having visions of Fireflight ending up in the wrong galaxy.:

:He hasn't been properly lost for vorns,: Skyfire points out.

:Yes, but I'm half-convinced that's only because he's been lost everywhere on Earth, Cybertron, and assorted other planets already. If he's halfway between systems and sees something shiny...:

:Hmm. Good point. He was asking me about quasars the other day. I'd better increase the range on his homing beacon.:

They're at what used to be Silverbolt's maximum altitude now, but they still can't see the surface. This rocky planet is several times the size of Earth, with only one massive continent and one world-spanning ocean - with the result that the entire atmosphere is composed almost entirely of thick bands of cloud. From orbit, it could be mistaken for a small gas planet. Apparently, that's what makes it a good practice ground, although Silverbolt suspects that Skyfire also chose it for the benefit of making the whole experience less nerve-wracking for Silverbolt.

Time has done wonders for his fear of heights. He seldom feels more than a twinge, even on clear days - but it is still there, and sometimes rears its head when he's in unfamiliar circumstances. Skyfire knows that. He knew it even before they were bonded, but now he can respond with reassurance almost before Silverbolt has recognised the reaction in himself.

:How are you finding it?: Skyfire asks, as they settle into level flight.

:My ailerons feel odd,: Silverbolt replies, flexing them carefully. :Longer than I'm used to. It feels a little strange not having a cabin, as well.:

:You'll get used to it.:

:I know. What about you?:

Skyfire's new alt-mode is not so very different from his old one, just upgraded to the latest design. Silverbolt loves the new shape of his wings. Ribbons of cloud are streaming past the leading edges as Skyfire keeps pace with him, making Silverbolt want to run his fingers over them.

Skyfire laughs, picking up his sudden distraction, and edges a little closer so that his slipstream washes over Silverbolt's own wings. :I'm finding the shift in weight distribution makes banking harder work, but that's just practice.:

Silverbolt shivers and briefly entertains the thought of abandoning their flight plan entirely. He reluctantly pushes aside the temptation, focusing on the continent now rapidly approaching.

:Where's the plateau?:

:Three degrees south, and a couple of thousand kilometres off yet.:

They fly in silence for a few minutes.

:Am I doing the right thing?: Silverbolt asks quietly. He doesn't really need to. Skyfire is well aware of the conflict that's been going on in his spark, but he suddenly wants to put it into words. :It feels like we're abandoning Earth.:

:We aren't. And you are. Doing the right thing, I mean. I'm sure of it. The Quintessons are as much of a threat to humanity as to us. You and your brothers need to be able to cross space as easily as you can circle the globe, and we need to establish a wider perimeter. And Autobot City is safe enough under Hot Spot's command.:

They're all the same points Silverbolt has made in his own processor. He's grateful to hear them spoken aloud, though.

:I just can't help worrying... that the treaty is some sort of ruse.:

:You're in good company. I think Optimus and Rodimus are the only ones who truly believe it will work. I've never seen Prowl and Jazz agree so completely about anything, let alone with Ultra Magnus backing them up. But...: Skyfire hesitates, then carries on cautiously, :... whatever happened, in Vector Sigma's databanks - whatever it was that caused their sparks to be preserved and brought back with their memories intact - it's changed them. Maybe it's changed the Decepticons too.:

Silverbolt would nod, if he were in root mode. The return of those lost on Earth and Cybertron during Unicron's attack has sent shockwaves through all of Cybertronian society. It was never believed possible for sparks to be restored without undergoing the erasure of memory and experience that resulted in new, fullsparked mechs - like Silverbolt and his brothers. It's probably a very good thing that Ratchet and Wheeljack were among the first to come online; they've been able to set up diagnostics to identify the returned sparks before they awaken, reducing the likelihood of another Skywarp Incident.

It's also probably a very good thing - bizarre as it once would have been to think it - that Starscream found his own way back into existence before the rest of the Decepticons. Silverbolt still doesn't trust him, and he'll never like him, but Starscream, like the others, seems to have changed.

It's hard to put a servo on what exactly that change entails. The returned Autobots are just as Silverbolt remembers them, right down to Ratchet's temper and Prowl's nearly-inaudible sigh when Optimus ignores the safer path - but they have... he doesn't know how else to describe it... a purpose. They are all very clear about that. War between Cybertronians must never happen again. They have bigger concerns: the Quintessons, and, Silverbolt thinks, something else that they won't talk about. Something big, and very far away, at least for now. Something like Unicron, inexorably approaching - but this time, they will not be caught unawares.

He might write it off as paranoia or trauma, if it weren't that Megatron has accepted the Primes' peace treaty without protest, and thus far has stuck to the terms. If it weren't that Galvatron - and they still don't know exactly what's going on there, if Galvatron is a copy of Megatron or vice-versa (and neither Megatron nor Galvatron seems likely to enlighten them) - has agreed to share power. If it weren't that Starscream has returned to Megatron's side, and Megatron has not taken vengeance for his final betrayal, and Starscream has not made any serious move against him. If it weren't that Optimus has refused to take back the Matrix, and Rodimus has not protested, and everyone, even the Decepticons, seems to accept that this is how it should be.

It's as though some sharp edges have been rounded off - as though all those who died once have gained a new perspective. Silverbolt gathers (via Air Raid, who got it via Octane, who got it via Thundercracker) that this does not stop Decepticon briefings from being very... lively... since Starscream has certainly not learned any sort of vocal restraint, and Galvatron seems to enjoy baiting both him and Megatron - but at least as far as he knows, no-one has shot anyone else. At least, not on purpose.

Everything has changed again. His new wings ache a little from the difference in stress lines. He's been working with Skyfire, Sky Lynx, and Red Alert to map out new patrol points for his team and the rest of the Autobot air force. They have more sky to protect now, the great void between worlds, and Silverbolt has half a hundred flyers under his command. If the treaty holds - if the Decepticons can be trusted - they'll soon have even more wings, as the Seekers he once fought take their share of the burden.

Everything has changed, but Skyfire is still by his side, and Silverbolt can feel though the bond that his thoughts have taken much the same path. Everything has changed, but his brothers are almost certainly getting into trouble in their extended downtime right at this moment. Everything has changed, but they still have everything to fight for.

:You should try your lightning out,: Skyfire says suddenly, apropos of nothing.

:Huh? Oh, I suppose so.: Silverbolt reaches for the familiar current. The subroutines are a little different, but the crackle of electricity over his plating is the same. He focuses and sends a bolt spearing downward. :Looks good to--:

The lightning splits and multiplies, dancing from cloud to cloud and in all directions, lashing and sparking and spreading. It's like being inside that enormous plasma globe Slingshot bought him as a joke. Tendrils of blinding white fire whip like spidersilk above and below them. Silverbolt jerks in the air, startled, but Skyfire isn't worried - Skyfire, damn him, is laughing.

:You could have warned me!:

:Sorry.: Skyfire does not sound, or feel, particularly sorry. :Do you like it?:

:I--: Silverbolt realises that for all its ferocity, the lightning is not attempting to ground itself in either of them. He has no idea why, but he's sure Skyfire does. :It's beautiful. What's causing it?:

:The composition of the atmosphere on this world. Sometimes, if a storm starts, the whole planet lights up - from space, it looks like exposed circuitry.:

:That's amazing.: Silverbolt's sensors tell him that they're approaching the plateau where they will land, check their systems, and rest before returning to Cybertron. The lightning is fading out around them. He's tempted to start it up again. :Ready to start the descent?:

:Lead the way.:

They begin to circle, and Silverbolt checks his chronometer. He's allowed ample time for this first part of the exercise; they're well ahead of schedule. Which means they'll be in no hurry to leave the surface. And their time on the planet is technically downtime. Which means he could get his hands on Skyfire's wings...

:You are very distracting,: Skyfire says, and Silverbolt knows it's partly in response to what he's catching through the bond, but partly because he is watching Silverbolt fly ahead of him, and his own thoughts about wings are in very much the same vein. :This alt-mode suits you. You look... you're so beautiful.:

Silverbolt knows he'd say the same if his alt-mode were a box on wheels - that their perception of each other goes much further now than surface appearance - but he also feels the wash of admiration and desire along the bond, and shivers.

Everything changes, again and again, but there is a rhythm to it that provides continuity. Silverbolt is still afraid of heights sometimes, but he is no longer afraid of falling. And neither, he knows with certainty, is Skyfire.

-- end 'A Wing and a Prayer' --

Final Note: Well. This story is somewhere around 180,000 words long - novel-length - and has taken five years to write. And now it's finished. I am slightly bemused that, of all the WIPs I've started over the years, the one about giant robot romance is the one I've managed to push through and finish - but I'm not sorry. :) I hope you've enjoyed it, and I hope I've convinced some of you that these two are an OTP, because they are now permanent residents of my brain and I love them dearly.

If you'd like to read more of my writing, I'm now concentrating exclusively on original fiction, which you can find via my Dreamwidth journal, [personal profile] brightwanderer (and eventually via website and downloadable e-books). I write fantasy and sci-fi, adventures with romance, and, naturally, I have a tendency towards slash. Check out 'The Calm Before' for an introduction to my world!

Thank you so much for reading.