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And After

Title: And After
Fandom: Transformers (2007/RotF)
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sideswipe, Jolt
Rating: C10
Summary: Coping with a loss far greater than any other.
Notes: For tf_rare_pairing. Reaction of Sideswipe to Prime's death in the forest and subsiquent miss treatment of his body (being dropped from the helicopter) back at the NEST base.

"Where have you been?"

Jolt didn't actually bother answering - an answer didn't matter. Right now, it wasn't about where he'd actually been, just that he hadn't been where he'd needed to be. There was no reason to interrupt Sideswipe and explain about checking out a suspicious half-abandoned airfield which had ended up being a situation requiring only local police, not Autobot intervention. Sideswipe wouldn't want to hear it.

Jolt didn't want to hear it either. Normally he'd have something to say, some joke or stupid comment, something... Something.

He had nothing. Only silence.

Never had he considered fighting without Optimus Prime, without the firm and kind leadership that had been the shining beacon of hope so many times in the past.

"Are you listening?" Sideswipe snapped, rising up over Jolt and had the situation been any different, Jolt might have been intimidated. But now, well, he couldn't even process that. He was just there, and Sideswipe was there, and...

"I'm listening," Jolt replied softly, uncharacteristically. He was surprised with himself, that he could be quiet without actually thinking about being quiet. He'd lost comrades before. He'd grieved. But never anything akin to what had just happened. Sideswipe had to feel the same way. So Jolt would listen...

Sideswipe ranted. And yet Jolt listened to every word, every pause and every lapse into Cybertronian and any of another dozen languages that they both knew and at least two that Jolt didn't but it didn't matter, the meaning was clear even if the terms weren't exact. Never, in their long history of at least knowing one another's name and rank, had Jolt felt much of an affinity with Sideswipe aside from that of a teammate. Sideswipe's personality was abraisive, and in a different way from Jolt's own. Jolt didn't even think he did empathy terribly well - yet for once, he felt it. He wanted to reach out...

And that's what he ended up doing - his hand on Sideswipe's arm, careful of the blade, mimicking what he'd seen countless humans doing, something that seemed almost lost amongst Cybertronians.

Sideswipe paused, optics focused on Jolt's hand for a long, strange period of time that felt far longer than it probably was.

"Decepticons," Jolt said quickly, the only word he could process. "The humans..." He reached for the right way to describe it, searching through several languages and even wondering if he could better convey how he felt using the useful human-language of binary. "The humans are human. They are coping, too."

And then he pulled away, already wishing he hadn't spoken, didn't have to listen to how Sideswipe was going to react. But there was nothing.

There was silence - dead silence between them again, and then Sideswipe moved quickly, closing any lingering distance. He spoke as quickly as he'd moved, but it wasn't anger or anything filled with malice.

"I once lost the entire rest of my team," Sideswipe said. "It felt like this. But it didn't. This... Somehow this is worse. It's worse to be alive only because of timing, not because of skill. Then, it was skill. I was damned good, and I thought only of myself, and I stayed online. Afterward, when I realized..."

He didn't bother continuing. Jolt reached out again, wondering if there even was anything to say. They'd barely even begun to be teammates - he didn't know how to suggest anything even remotely more intimate, like an actual conversation. After all, before this very moment, the most contact he'd had with Sideswipe had been the day he'd discovered paintballs. And that had, obviously, not been an entirely friendly encounter, though the paintball paint had come off easily and left absolutely no marks.

Neither one of them moved, deep silence surrounding them, as each of them thinking to themselves, processing, dwelling... After a dozen false-starts and half-motions, words almost said, Sideswipe finally pulled away and transformed, but not before gesturing that the space immediately beside him was free and that Jolt should be there, nearly touching but not, waiting for another set of instructions, if they were ever going to come.


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