swordage: rotf Soundwave (tf lovely)
[personal profile] swordage
Title: Rocks Fall, Et Cetera
Series: Transformers G1
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 2k
Notes: My greatest thanks to [personal profile] sharpest_asp for looking this over. Any remaining problems are entirely my own fault.
Warnings: Character death.
Summary: This is a story about quiet lonely grief. It is a story about Not The End Of The World But Still Really Fucking Horrible. It is a story about living. It's a story about Sideswipe.

***

"I'm sorry," Ratchet said. He sounded it. He sounded run-down and weary in a way he'd never let show before.

"Yeah," Sideswipe said softly, "alright. Can I just..."

"Of course." Ratchet touched him, just a hand to his shoulder but it was too much. Sideswipe flinched away. Ratchet seemed to understand though; he just nodded and left them in peace.

Sideswipe stared at the pieces that used to be his brother. He didn't move for a very long time.

***

Sideswipe wasn't so selfish as to say that peace had come at too high a price. Their peoples had been locked in a stalemate for far too long - something had to give. And he and Sunstreaker had always known they were playing tag with deactivation. It was just that there was a vast difference between knowing that and living that. It hurt. It hurt too much to hide.

When he'd stood there beside Sunstreaker, he'd thought. He'd thought about dying. He'd thought about that for a long time. And then he'd thought about living, and he was still thinking about that. Probably eventually he'd go back to thinking about dying, but for now he thought about living. So it kind of sucked slag when he'd walk into a room, not quite able to muster a disarming smile, and everyone around him would suddenly start thinking about death. He didn't want to think about death. He'd had enough thinking about death.

There were a lot of parties, impromptu celebrations of peace and being alive to meet it. Sideswipe only tried to go to one. He wanted to be reminded of the good parts of living, to be distracted for just a little while, but it crashed and burned the moment he got there.

That was about when he realized they were making themselves forget Sunstreaker in order to have their celebrations. He wasn't quite sure why he'd expected anything else.

So Sideswipe took the leave that Prowl offered him. He filled out all the forms - and that was a strange relief in itself, because Prowl didn't think about death around him, Prowl just gave him the forms and found some strange enjoyment in making him fix all his mistakes before letting him go. It was nice to make someone else even that little bit happier. But mostly Sideswipe made people sadder, including himself, so he started driving.

He hadn't meant to head towards the Decepticons' desert holdout. Truthfully, he hadn't meant to head anywhere, but when a pair of jets screamed just over his roof with empty space where their third should be, Sideswipe realized just how far he'd gone.

He screeched to a halt immediately. That had been a warning, and frankly he was surprised they'd given him that much. The jets circled wide, splitting off to flank him. They roared back in, pointed straight at each other, and it was hardly a surprise when they both transformed and shrieked to a halt with their weapons aimed.

"Get up," Thundercracker snapped. Sideswipe got up. He kept his limbs loose and in view. No threat, don't shoot.

"Decided to off yourself, little Autobot?" Starscream sneered. "Too bad. We don't feel like killing any Autobots today."

"Alright," Sideswipe said agreeably. He wasn't about to start arguing with them over technicalities and feelings - Starscream would probably change his mind and shoot him out of sheer annoyance.

They all waited awkwardly. Sideswipe thought maybe this should be funny, but he didn't really feel much like laughing.

"Well, get going, then," Thundercracker rumbled. One null ray gestured back at the kicked-up dust of Sideswipe's trail.

"Nah."

"What?" Starscream looked utterly baffled. Startled, even.

"Don't feel like it." Sideswipe rolled a shoulder, clicking a badly-aligned servo. The Decepticons shared a quick glance - and oh, that made Sideswipe's spark flare painfully, that one instant of eye contact that said so much. He looked away from both of them.

"What are you even doing here?" Thundercracker asked, but Sideswipe didn't really feel like talking anymore. He just shrugged again, not caring if they understood the human gesture. They kept their weapons on him for another minute, five, ten - it didn't matter. He wasn't going anywhere.

"You really do have a death wish," Starscream muttered. But then he lowered his null rays and a moment later Thundercracker did the same.

"Or I figured you didn't dare kill any more Autobots with the Decepticons too fractured to withstand the retaliation," Sideswipe said plainly. Starscream's glare was a dangerous thing, but Sideswipe didn't care. "If you could have, you would have killed me before you even landed."

Starscream snarled pure venom but Thundercracker was the one who said softly, "What does that mean, any more Autobots?"

Sideswipe did laugh then, a rough bark that had no humor in it. "You didn't even know? That figures. Yeah, your people got an Autobot. Feel free to brag about it, I guess, if no one is claiming the kill."

"Who?" Thundercracker was strangely intent, and Starscream looked away as if embarrassed. "Who was it?"

"No one important," Sideswipe said. His voice was a dead thing.

Thundercracker's hands clenched into fists for a moment, then loosened. He stepped forward, breaking the flanking formation. "Where were you going?"

Sideswipe hummed consideringly. "Nowhere."

"It doesn't get any more nowhere than this," Starscream spat, folding his arms.

"Huh," Sideswipe said. "Guess you're right." And he sat down right there in the middle of the desert and didn't feel like talking any more.

A long time later, hours or days maybe, the Decepticons left in an acrid burst of exhaust, and then he was alone.

***

A sand storm rolled through a few days later. Sideswipe stared up into the thick of it. It lashed into his joints, abraded the very color from his plating, and then moved on.

He thought maybe he was waiting for something, but he wasn't sure what.

***

Thundercracker landed next to him, neatly sitting beside him without having to move a step. He startled Sideswipe out of something a little like a doze, seeming to come out of nowhere. Sideswipe briefly entertained the notion of a heat mirage just to amuse himself.

"Here," Thundercracker said shortly, shoving a cube at him. It had barely more than a few sips of energon inside, but that was a few sips more than Sideswipe had in his tanks and probably more than Thundercracker could spare. Sideswipe drank it, then idly spun the cube on a fingertip.

"Thanks," he said, and it didn't matter that it was his first word in days.

"Whatever." Thundercracker didn't look at him.

They stared out at the horizon. Dry shrubs rattled in the slightest hint of a breeze. It was strangely comfortable.

Sideswipe stood, sand pouring off his half-buried legs, and gave himself a shake. "We should do this again sometime," he said.

"What, sit in a desert and watch you mope?" Thundercracker made a half-hearted attempt at a glare, aimed somewhere around Sideswipe's ankles. That was no good.

"Sure, if you want. I was figuring maybe something a little more interesting. We could spar, maybe." That earned him a scornful look. Better. "Invite Starscream too, yeah? It'd be boring one-on-one."

"I would hate to disappoint you," Thundercracker said. He was practically dripping with sarcasm. Sideswipe nudged his hip with a foot. "What? Don't do that."

Sideswipe ignored that bit. "Hey. Seriously."

"He's a little busy," Thundercracker snapped.

Sideswipe nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I bet he is, especially if he's trying to take control solo. It would go a lot smoother if got one of the others to back him, you know?"

Thundercracker stared at him, practically thrumming with impatience. Sideswipe shrugged. It hurt to move that shoulder now, but it was a good kind of hurt. A sitting-still kind of hurt, not a tearing-shrieking kind of hurt. "Just saying. Anyway. I'm going now."

"About time," Thundercracker said, but he didn't get up. Sideswipe nudged him again. "What?"

"You're thick as bolts today," Sideswipe sighed. "I thought the Elite Trine would be smarter than this."

"Shut up," Thundercracker hissed, but he stood up. He was a good head and shoulders over Sideswipe but that was alright, Sideswipe punched his shoulder anyway.

"Nothing out here worth seeing once I'm gone," Sideswipe said plainly. "You go back too."

"Whatever," Thundercracker hissed, but at least there was some emotion in it this time. He touched the place where Sideswipe had punched. "Get going, then. Good riddance."

"See you around," Sideswipe said, and when he tore off at top speed through the sagebrush a jet roared overhead with a thunderous boom.

***

"Sideswipe," was all Prowl said, but what mattered was the way he said it. Sideswipe found a smile for him somewhere - not a big one, not a very happy one, just a little tired one. That was okay. Prowl gave him one back, a bit unsure and a lot relieved, and that helped.

"Hey," Sideswipe said. "What's a fella got to do around here to get a drink?"

"I believe walking to the rec room and dispensing a cube would suffice," Prowl said primly. Sideswipe liked that. Prowl never did treat him like a fragile crystal. Prowl trusted him not to break.

"Yeah, alright," Sideswipe said, catching Prowl's arm and dragging him along. "You're due for a cube yourself, right?"

"Perhaps," Prowl hedged, and both of them ignored the looks and whispers as they passed by their comrades in the halls. "I could be convinced to sit for a bit, at any rate."

"Excellent," Sideswipe said. He hesitated probably a little too long before saying quietly, "I could use some company right now."

Prowl just nodded - and when Sideswipe needed to walk a little closer just to have the warmth of a friend next to him, Prowl didn't mind that at all.

***

"I'm going to Cancun," Sideswipe told Ratchet, flopping across a berth to stare at whatever Ratchet was staring at.

"Mm-hm," Ratchet said, squinting into Huffer's knee mechanism.

"I'm going to Anchorage," Sideswipe told Bumblebee in the rec room over a couple of cubes. "I hear the weather's nice this time of year."

"It's March," Bumblebee said dubiously.

"I'm going to Detroit," Sideswipe told Ironhide as they cleaned their weapons. Neither of them had to look at their hands. "I wanna help design a new model line."

"Atta boy," Ironhide said approvingly.

"I'm going out," Sideswipe told Prowl at the Ark's slanted entrance. "I'll be back tomorrow. Don't wait up."

"I won't," Prowl said, and he smiled because Sideswipe still couldn't. "Be good."

"You wish." Sideswipe reached out and touched his shoulder awkwardly - not quite a slap, not quite anything else. "See you."

He drove off at something well beyond the speed limit but well below his own limits, and Prowl chirped sirens at him in warning. Sideswipe smiled then, where no one could see, and drove faster to race the wind.

The desert was still a desert. He spun in circles, sent up tall columns of dust, danced mindless patterns between the brush - and when a pair of jets came roaring in, he lined up with their trajectory and punched it.

They raced until there wasn't anything to run from any more. When the Decepticons finally touched dirt, Sideswipe threw a cube or two at their heads and collapsed to bake in the sun. They drank in huge hungry gulps. Eventually, they sat beside him, one at each flank.

"He liked to play," Thundercracker said. It wasn't the beginning of a story, just a factual statement. Sideswipe hummed thoughtfully.

"He never had the sense to be frightened," Starscream said, and if he sounded bitter that was alright too.

"He didn't like much," Sideswipe said softly, "but he liked it when it was just the two of us."

The sun set in a deep crimson puddle on the horizon. Sideswipe watched it go and thought about being there when it rose again, or maybe racing to meet it with the shuddering roar of engines easily outpacing him.

He thought about living.

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