Title: This Is The Way You Left Me
Area of Effect: G1
Characters: Dead End, Stunticons, OC
Summary: Dead End almost finds true love
Disclaimer: I borrowed the idea of Dead End being an avid reader from Dragoness Eclectic. Not sure if she made it up or got it elsewhere, but that's where I first saw it. Standard disclaimer: This is fanfiction, written for pleasure, not profit. Title taken from Mika's song, 'Happy Ending'.
Author's Note: Written for Wayward's 'Not True Love' competition. Re-posted because my formatting didn't work the first time.
Waking up was an unpleasant surprise. A surprise because Dead End hadn't thought he would. Unpleasant because as soon as he was on-line, his processor filled with error reports from his diagnostic programs. Yet here he was, lying with the dark metal of the Nemesis stretching above him, definitely alive.
Footsteps sounded on the floor, clattering their way towards him. He remained as he was, content that whomever was coming would come whether he acknowledged them or not. He did feel a faint curiosity, though – he couldn't recall whose footsteps sounded the way these did. The noise was not the loud banging most warriors made, not as thumping as the Constructicons tended to be, yet spaced too far apart to be a Cassettecon or other, smaller bot.
Abruptly he received an answer as an unfamiliar face came into view. He shifted his head to take in the stranger. The robot was dull green and grey, with the red optic visor so popular among Decepticons. Rotor-blades told of a helicopter alt mode, and despite a fair amount of bulk on the back, thick arms and wide hips, his legs ended in quite slender ankles. A purple Decepticon insignia clashed on the green chest plate, and, most oddly, the human Red Cross symbols were visible on his upper arms. The stranger looked bored.
"A real medic?" Dead End questioned. "What is this army coming to?"
"Oh, good, you're conscious," The 'bot replied in a dull, but surprisingly high-pitched tone. "You can't walk yet, though. Well, you could force it, but the damage to your legs was extensive, and you'll break something if the repairs don't have more time to set. You probably don't care."
"Actually, I happen to like being in one piece. Not that it really matters. It's only a matter of time before something breaks me into pieces that cannot be put back together," Dead End informed him.
The other nodded.
"Excuse me, but you might wish to recalibrate your vocal output. You sound like this planet's females," Dead End suggestedmildly.
The medic's lips twitched. "I happen to be female."
"Oh," Dead End paused. He hadn't anticipated that. "I was told all surviving female Cybertronians were Autobots."
"Well, I guess I just blew my cover," she drawled unenthusiastically. "I am Flatline. Shockwave brought me out of stasis to help free up the Constructicons to do," she paused, apparently for dramatic tension, "more important work."
"Ah. I don't see the need myself. Our eventual doom will come, despite your efforts."
"Unfortunately not everyone feels the way you do, or I'd have more free time to read," Flatline shrugged, a movement which involved a fair amount of motion as her rotor blades twitched to avoid crashing into each other, and Dead End found his curiosity rising once more.
"You enjoy reading? Have you read any Earth literature?" He asked, trying not to sound excited.
"No. I arrived just in time to patch up you and your colleagues, and am only now finishing up," Flatline replied, her tone carefully neutral.
"I could recommend some titles, if you'd like," Dead End offered.
She paused. "All right. Since most of the library servers are destroyed or off-line, I've already read all of my own book files."
"You have Cybertronian works with you?" Dead End asked, not bothering hide his interest now.
"Some," Flatline shrugged again, rotor blades dodging each other nimbly. Being helpful above the call of duty for the first time, she added, "I can give you copies."
"Why, thank you," Dead End replied, feeling much better about being on-line. Death would still come, of course, but if he couldn't be out racing towards it, reading would take his mind off being stuck inside.
Between battles Flatline had a fair amount of free time. Megatron saw her status as temporary and did not bother to assign her to patrols. She did a lot of pre-emptive maintenance work around the Nemesis, things the Constructicons had been putting off to pursue their own interests. The work was usually trivial, and Dead End began to accompany her when he was off-duty, as she was very agreeable to discussing the book files she had copied for him, and the Earth works he had directed her to.
And on those boring monitor shifts during the planet's night (when the Autobots appeared to take no interest in late night diving expeditions), Flatline began coming to 'assist' him, and the dreary hours of existence seemed to go much faster when they spoke.
"But technically a 'hobbit' is not 'born of man'," Flatline argued.
"You must take into consideration the usage of 'man', particularly given the time period the author lived in," Dead End lectured. "Human languages shift across generations, sometimes quite dramatically. 'Man' is often used as a generic term, and could no doubt be applied to males of all species. Besides, in the movie the hobbit wasn't in that scene."
"The movie is someone's interpretation, and may not reflect the author's original intent," Flatline retorted.
"But it certainly was the woman's attack that finished him off," Dead End replied.
"That's true," Flatline agreed, gazing at one of the viewscreens showing Swindle gesturing frantically as Skywarp closed in on him. "In any case, I enjoyed the end. I dislike happy endings. They're too unrealistic."
"How was that not a happy end?" Dead End asked.
"The hero, despite all his sacrifice and hardship, has far too many processor glitches to function normally amidst his people, and fails to fulfil the primary purpose of organic based life forms."
"Oh," Dead End said. "I considered it a 'happy ending' regardless."
"He left his kind and sailed off to live among a different species forever. That's like... being stranded on Earth, never to see a Cybertronian again, and the humans with you will never die. Forever," Flatline explained.
Dead End considered the idea. "That could quite possibly be a fate worse than death."
"I think so. At least when you die, the pain is over."
Dead End glanced at her from the corner of his optic band. "So... you're not into mercy killings, are you?"
Flatline stared at him for a moment. "I fix people. Pain is their problem."
"Fair enough," Dead End nodded.
Dead End looked up from his datapad after Motormaster's fist hit the wall beside his head. He was sitting with his legs over the edge of his recharge pad, and from his top 'bunk' was almost level with the taller transformer's head.
"Yes?" He asked.
"We were racing this afternoon! Where were you?" Motormaster leaned down to glare at him, the angry glow of his optics so close to Dead End's own that he had trouble seeing past his team leader.
"I was in the monitor room," Dead End replied, voice mild, but he shifted slightly, anxious at being crowded against the wall.
"But you weren't on monitor duty," Motormaster growled, his engine rumbling ominously. Dead End could make out the other Stunticons behind the imposing grey robot.
"That's correct," Dead End agreed. Silence filled the room, apart from the growl of engines running, but that was really more of a fact of life and didn't count.
"Making friends with that medic may be useful later," Motormaster finally spoke, "but to skip racing with us..."
"If you're looking for excuses to spend time together, we can help you," Wildrider interrupted, making a fist. Breakdown and Drag Strip snickered.
"Yeah, and the repair bay is a lot more private," Drag Strip teased.
"Look," Dead End barked, thoroughly annoyed, "we go racing all the time. What does it matter if I didn't participate today?"
"It's a race," Drag Strip said reverently.
"You have better odds of winning if I stay home," Dead End snapped. Drag Strip frowning, quickly calculating the odds for himself.
Motormaster straightened. "You didn't come today. I can live with that. What about tomorrow?"
"I could be dead tomorrow," Dead End said, rather automatically.
"Then you should have been racing today," Motormaster declared smugly.
"Motormaster wins!" Drag Strip broke off computing to shout.
Dead End scowled wordlessly.
"You don't skip racing unless I say so," Motormaster boomed.
"Or Megatron," piped Breakdown.
Motormaster shot him a dirty look. "That goes without saying," He growled.
Flatline adjusted her course to stay clear of the emergency helicopter bearing down on the hospital she had just passed.
[What is the traffic like near the bridge? Dead End asked her over the comm channel.
[Moving a bit slower than the speed limit, but it shouldn't delay you Flatline replied.
[Good. We'll make it for the movie Dead End confirmed.
[I'll do a circuit and home in on you once you signal that you are in position
[Acknowledged Dead End murmured, then began to weave through the sluggish, human-driven cars with enviable skill.
While the large screens in the Nemesis off-duty rooms normally sufficed for entertainment, watching something that did not involve violence, vehicles, humiliation, or all three, was asking for harassment. Learning that a human group would be screening 'Pride and Prejudice' in a park – with a sturdy roofed museum opposite – was a chance too good to pass up. Some quick shift-swapping and the two were hoping for a hassle-free evening that would, hopefully, clear up some questions about the 'classic'.
He turned into the museum's loading bay, picked his moment, and flew up onto the roof. Settling into a spot that hid his profile from casual view, he sent a signal for Flatline to home in on. The shook-shook of double rotor blades approached, then steadied above him, then cut as she transformed and hovered down to land beside him. Sitting on her knees, she had to lean forward to give her blades room. Dead End scooted up to be level with her. The humans below moved around and fussed, and finally the sun went down completely and the screen lit up as the movie began.
The actors wore strange clothes, and the dwellings ranged from extremely primitive to primitive with opulent décor, and the humans spoke of love, marriage, money and feelings.
"Love is a strange thing," Flatline mused as they watched the lead couple kiss in the sunrise. "Different for each couple. The word in this language has too many meanings to make it clear what the exact relationship is."
"I suppose someone thought that would simplify it," Dead End replied, turning to watch his companion rather than the boring human names now scrolling up the screen. "I thought the pacing was much too fast."
"A condensed version. The book made more sense, and I had enough trouble trying to process it even after doing research into human customs of the time period," Flatline snorted. She shifted slightly, turning towards him. "I think that taking one's time leads to better results. You can't rush repairing someone if you want them to function properly. You can't rush a love story without wondering what short-circuits were happening in the participant's processors."
Dead End laughed.
"You agree with me, though. In the book, Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy conversed at length, and had periods of contemplation before they agreed to break his prior engagement – earning an least one enemy – and marry outside their respective social classes."
"Of course I agree with you," Dead End agreed. "They took their time, and had what appears to have been a very happy ending."
Flatline sighed, and a silence stretched between them. Flatline stared out over the park, and Dead End watched her. The movie, the relative quiet of the evening, and the lack of rude arguments resounding through metal corridors had left him feeling quite relaxed and yet, strangely on edge.
"If they had taken too long, though, perhaps nothing would have happened," Flatline said quietly, and Dead End could think of nothing to say, so he simply nodded.
"I'll see you back at the base," Flatline finally said, rising slowly from her awkward position. She waited a moment as Dead End also stood.
"See you there," he replied, then watched as she jumped up and transformed, blades spinning furiously to catch her, and then she was airborne and flying at safe, civilian speeds to avoid undue attention while in city limits. Dead End didn't move for a while, though. Instead he analysed some new ideas the movie and the conversation had given him.
It was around midday, and his next patrol started soon, but Dead End wasn't thinking of that as he made his way towards the repair bay. He stepped through the doors, which opened automatically, and stopped. The doors waited a moment, decided he was clear, and swooshed shut behind him. The second thing Flatline had done, after repairing Megatron's rather sorry troops, had been to rearrange the repair bay so that the equipment and layout suited her size and style of work.
She was adjusting one of the tables, which had been shoved back to its original position almost against the wall, where Hook liked to keep them so that the Constructicons had room to putter on personal projects when they weren't fixing people.
Flatline looked up, and gave him a weak smile. "Hello," she said.
"You're, uh, redecorating?" Dead End said, a feeling of foreboding sweeping through his systems.
Flatline shook her head. "Seems the Constructicons are finished whatever Megatron and Shockwave wanted them to do up on Cybertron. In an hour or so I'll be leaving for the Space Bridge. Have to take a shipment of Energon back, of course."
"Back to Cybertron," Dead End said dully. He felt like several of his internal components had suddenly been melted and then cooled back to solid.
"Yes," Flatline replied quietly. "Back to Cybertron. Back to the stasis chambers until the Decepticon Empire rises and I am needed again."
Dead End thought of several things then, and almost said some of them. 'None of them would change anything,' a small system process informed him. Nothing would change anything. And there was really no point in stopping it, because all roads led to pain, and death, and nothingness.
"Good bye," He finally spoke.
Flatline looked confused, and a little hurt. She opened her mouth, then closed it and looked away. Dead End shifted, and turned to leave.
"Good bye, Dead End," She mumbled as the doors closed behind him.
Dead End did not look up from his datapad when the doors to the Stunticons' barrack-style room opened. Four pairs of footsteps made their way inside, engines purring, idling and growling, but he ignored the abnormal silence of his brothers not speaking.
He did not look up, even after Motormaster's fist smashed into the existing dent beside his head.
"Where were you?" Motormaster boomed.
"I've been here since I got off duty," Dead End snapped.
"Flatline left," Motormaster said bluntly. "You weren't there."
"We were all assigned to be on patrol," Dead End shrugged, pretending to read.
"Our patrol routes were all around the Space Bridge area," Motormaster growled. "Soundwave called us all in to stand guard during the actual launch. You know, in case the Autobots came?"
"I'd already said 'good-bye'," Dead End hissed, wondering idly how much more pressure the datapad could withstand from his hand.
"I thought you and her.. you know," Wildrider made vague gestures with his hand.
"No, I told you before: She was just someone with whom I shared an interest," Dead End said coldly.
"Really?" Breakdown sounded disappointed.
Dead End glared at the datapad.
"Maybe he's glitching," Drag Strip mumbled to Wildrider.
"Maybe he's having a 'break down'," Wildrider returned, and the two began to snicker as Breakdown glared at them.
Abruptly Motormaster stepped back. "We're going racing," He declared.
Dead End still didn't look up.
"We'll see you there, Dead End," The larger bot said threateningly. He turned and stomped out.
"I'm going to win!" Drag Strip whooped and followed. The door closed, and there was silence again for a moment.
"I don't get it," Wildrider spoke next. "I mean, you can ramble all you want about 'shared interests', but you look even more depressed than you were the last time Starscream took over."
"I'm not depressed," Dead End sulked.
"Well, you should have seen her off. She kept looking off into the distance, and I think she was looking for you. It might be ages till you see her again!" His brother continued, unabashed.
"If I ever see her again," Dead End said, anger rising within him. His volume rose to match. "I could die at any time, her systems could suffer degradation in stasis, the universe could explode tomorrow! Get it yet? It's pointless! We're all going to die horribly, and there is no such thing as a happy ending!"
Wildrider and Breakdown stared at him.
"What about a happy middle?" Wildrider asked.
Dead End brought his gun out of subspace.
Surprisingly, he came on-line some hours later. The dark metal of the Nemesis repair bay high stretched above him, and the thump of Constructicon footsteps not far off reached his audios. He wondered, as he waited for one of them to notice his status, if the pain really did stop when you died...