10. Tape Cassettes
SEVERAL WEEKS LATER...
"I still don't know about this, 'Warp," Starscream was saying as Skywarp pulled him excitedly down the hall leading to the med bay.
"Oh, c'mon!" Skywarp laughed. "Don't you want to see what your twinsies look like now?"
"Did you really just say 'twinsies'?" said Starscream flatly.
"Yes," Skywarp linked his arm with Starscream's and teleported them both.
"Well, it's about time you two showed up," said Moonbeam, walking up and giving Skywarp a hug. She was the only one in the room besides Soundwave, who was waiting and watching silently.
"As you know, Soundwave has generously agreed to give you an ultrasound," Skywarp told Starscream. "Moonbeam, as your medic, is here too."
"It's really Soundwave with the talent," said Moonbeam. "I can't make ultrasound waves. I'm just here to supervise."
"But it was awfully nice of you to do it!" Skywarp told Soundwave.
"Oh, please, he's just doing it because they're Megatron's," Starscream whispered. "Soundwave has no concern at all for my well-being."
Moonbeam, ignoring this, walked up to Starscream and rubbed his cockpit, the lower part where the sparklings' bodies were growing. "Hmm...looks like you're starting to show a little, aren't you?"
"No...not much." Starscream blushed and looked down.
"You haven't noticed?" said Moonbeam sarcastically.
"Not at all, really," said Starscream, but this was a lie; he'd definitely noticed his sparklings starting to make their presence known over the past couple weeks. But the truth was, it made him feel kind of...well, it wasn't easy to describe the feeling. For one thing, he took pride in his looks, and he wasn't accustomed to his perfect frame suddenly changing the way it looked (although it would be changing much more later on, according to Moonbeam). Not only that, but for the first time you could actually SEE that there were two beings inside his body, and it made him feel a little self-conscious. Sometimes he felt like he was holding up a sign that said, "I Let Megatron Do This To Me."
"You're going to have two sparklings, Starscream," said Skywarp, placing both of his hands on top of the sparkling-bump. "Do you think they know me yet?"
"Get your hands off me, you freak of nature!" Starscream yelled, swatting Skywarp away. "Besides, they're not coming for another six months!"
"Well, more like five," said Moonbeam. "You're almost at sixteen weeks now."
"So?" said Starscream irritably.
"So, why don't we begin your ultrasound?" Moonbeam replied, gesturing towards the repair table. "Get up there and lay down on your back, please."
Starscream felt a twinge of nervousness as he climbed up on the repair table. Instead of laying down, he sat up and started swinging his legs. Right now he was feeling pretty awkward, especially with Soundwave standing there staring at him silently. "What's he going to do to me?"
"Well, it's a little hard to explain, but he's going to let you see a moving image of your sparklings using ultrasound," said Moonbeam. "Don't be so nervous. The sound waves are harmless and they won't hurt you or your sparklings. Now lay down."
Starscream was biting his lip as Skywarp gently pushed him down. "Are you SURE this won't hurt?"
"I'm sure," said Moonbeam shortly. "Soundwave, transform."
"Oh, no, he's not going to use that probe thing, is he?" Starscream asked nervously.
"Yes, he is, but you're not ready yet," Moonbeam told him. "Skywarp, do you have that gel...?"
"Right! I can get it for you, kissy-wissy." Skywarp went to Moonbeam's medical kit and handed Moonbeam a little container of gel.
"Thanks, sugar daddy," said Moonbeam, and she started to rub it onto the lower cockpit.
Starscream yelped in surprise. "What IS that stuff? It's freezing!"
"This will help transmit the ultrasounds from Soundwave to your sparklings," said Moonbeam, not stopping. "Have a little faith in me, okay Starscream? I'm your medic."
"Just relax," Skywarp added, squeezing Starscream's hand. "This is a good moment in your pregnancy."
"But I didn't ASK to be pregnant!" Starscream was starting to feel tears forming in his eyes again. "I'm not ready to have sparklings!"
"There's nothing to be scared of," Moonbeam told him. "You know what I always tell expectant patients? I tell them: Be strong for nine months, be brave for one day, and be loving for the rest of your life."
"I'm sorry," Starscream mumbled, taking off his thick square glasses and polishing them off with his fingers.
"Don't be; your mood swings are completely normal," said Moonbeam airily. "Well, looks like we're ready. Soundwave?"
Starscream squeezed Skywarp's hand even tighter and clenched his teeth as Soundwave extended his long gray probe. For a minute he thought they were going to stick it inside of him, but Moonbeam grabbed it in her small black hand and moved it around, almost like she was trying to give him a massage. But it felt awkward, having his cockpit covered in chilly gel and a medic he'd never gotten along with using Soundwave to basically probe him. So he was hoping this procedure would all be over soon...but then he heard Skywarp cry out, "Starscream, look!"
"Wha...?" Starscream followed Skywarp's finger, which was pointing at Soundwave's screen.
"It's the sparklings," Skywarp said a little tearfully. "Oh wow, I think one has wings!"
"It does?" Starscream gasped in surprise when he saw his sparklings for the first time. Most of Soundwave's screen was gray or black and the image was fuzzy. But just where his brother was pointing, he could see two illuminated little figures, both around the same size, curled up right next to each other, almost like they were cuddling together to stay warm. And sure enough, Starscream could see little wing nubs on one of them.
"They...they look like real sparklings already," said Starscream.
"At sixteen weeks? Yeah, they look a lot more developed than you might think." Moonbeam nodded. "Still not quite ready, of course, but on their way."
"I hear some twins are born holding hands," Skywarp said gently. "Wouldn't that be adorable? Oh, Starscream, that one has his thumb in his mouth!"
Starscream felt himself smiling through his tears, looking at the other twin, sucking on his tiny thumb. "You're right, Skywarp."
"Don't be ashamed if you cry." Moonbeam smirked, leaning on the repair table. "So many of my patients cry at this time."
"Well, they're actually really cute." Starscream wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to hide his crying anyway. Slaggit, he'd need to think of a new excuse until he felt like wearing his contacts again, but usually he was just too tired to put them in when he woke up each morning. "But they're moving. Why can't I feel them moving?"
"They're not quite big enough that you'll feel it yet," said Moonbeam. "Since this is your first pregnancy it will be a little bit later. Maybe around twenty weeks. But they've actually been moving ever since, like, seven or eight weeks when they still looked like little blobs."
"Just wait until you can hold them, Starscream," said Skywarp. "Wait until you bring two Decepticons into this world...I wonder if that one will still be sucking his thumb?"
"I hope not," Starscream told him. "That would be painful, don't you think?"
"On the other hand, though, you should be able to feel their sparks beating soon," said Moonbeam. "If you haven't already. Have you?"
"How do I know it?" Starscream asked.
"It kind of feels like your spark skipping a beat, or like when you press your hand against someone else's chestplate," Moonbeam replied.
"I think I have felt that before," said Starscream. "Just a little sort of thumping every so often, if I sit really, really still."
Starscream could hardly see because his glasses were smudged with tears, but when he saw the winged sparkling actually do a flip around, that was when he started bawling.
"Well, that one's acrobatic," said Moonbeam. "Seekerlings are."
"Primus is so wonderful," said Skywarp. Tears were leaking out of his eyes too.
"I'm sorry," Starscream repeated. "I'm a mess."
"Here, let me rinse off your glasses for you," said Skywarp.
"No, I want to be able to see!" Starscream insisted. "Oh, I hope Soundwave has just recorded the sonogram and not me crying like a sparkling."
"Well, he can make a tape cassette for you, so you can watch it on any screen later," said Moonbeam. "But we have to do some talking. Have you gotten an eyeful?"
Starscream nodded. "I wish I could look at them forever, but that's not very realistic."
"Thank you, Soundwave," said Moonbeam. Soundwave transformed again and (since he'd been recording) gave the tape to Moonbeam. She held it until Skywarp and Starscream had finished cleaning off the gel, and then she handed the tape to Starscream, who held it close.
"I'll keep this tape until the end of time," he said, sitting up on the repair table. Skywarp smiled tearfully and hopped up next to him.
"How are you doing, Starscream?" Moonbeam asked. "Feeling better?"
"Yeah, a little." Starscream shrugged and gave her a small smile.
And it was true. As the first trimester drew to a close, Starscream's state of being had improved. Sure, his head and wings hurt more than ever, it still wasn't comfortable to sleep, and he had some pretty freaky mood swings, but things weren't quite as bad as before. Now his systems were no longer rejecting fuel, and he had been feeling more energetic, not to mention excited about the twins' arrival.
"If you're feeling better, it means the sparklings are bonding with you," Moonbeam explained. "For the first few months, you aren't used to another life, another being, inside your spark, but once that small glimmer of life starts to grow into a sparkling, it forms a closer bond with you than anyone else could hope to have. Think about it, Starscream. You have two other lives inside of you."
Skywarp squeezed Starscream's hand again and gave Moonbeam a little smooch. "Oh, kissy-wissy, that's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard."
"I should hope so." Moonbeam giggled. "I remember reading it out of my textbook when I took that pediatrics class back in med school."
While Moonbeam and Skywarp were kissing and hugging, Starscream just sat quiet and tried to listen to the twins' sparks as he stared down at his souvenir tape. Sure, he knew he'd been pregnant for the past three and a half months, but this was the first time it had seemed real, the first time that the full magnitude of it landed on his shoulders. It was the first time when he had felt something beyond sickness and fatigue, the first time he had felt and seen something actually good, something that was a miracle, something he would treasure forever.
Thundercracker was sitting all alone in the Seekers' room, sulking on his bed. On the outside, he appeared to be brooding and angered, and he was, but on the inside, that wasn't the only emotion he had to deal with.
Of course, he was jealous of Skywarp, who got to have Moonbeam all to his own, even though Thundercracker honestly believed Moonbeam was better off as his mate. There was a reason, though, why she wasn't. Skywarp found her first. As much as he wanted to spike that cute femme and spike her good, Thundercracker's primary loyalty to the Trine did not permit him to do so. That was the Mech Code.
What did that mean, though? Right now Thundercracker hated Skywarp. Just looking at the purple jet made Thundercracker almost insane with jealousy and rage…but a small part of him, a part of him he was trying desperately to suppress, wanted his brother back.
Overwhelmed by misery, Thundercracker got up off of the bed and made his way over to a little box they kept in the corner with the words “Command Trine” scribbled on the side in Skywarp’s messy handwriting. As Thundercracker sat down, took off the lid, and started going through the contents, he could feel his eyes beginning to burn with tears.
In that box were a lot of tangible memories that Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker had saved up over the years. Favorite toys from when they were sparklings; Starscream’s old science projects; prizes and keepsakes; basically everything they had collected over the years and had been too nostalgic or lazy to just throw out.
Thundercracker dug around a little and picked out one of their yearbooks from Seeker School. It dated back a few million years now, but sometimes it felt like yesterday. Turning through the pages, Thundercracker looked at their photos—that was the year they’d won the “Best Friends” award. There were old photos of Starscream posing with the Science Club (his favorite extracurricular activity), and there was one photo of the three of them each wearing medals around their necks, from when they’d all three competed in a school-organized dogfight and destroyed the other team.
As he pulled the yearbook closer to get a better look at the pictures, Thundercracker was shocked to discover that an old tape cassette had fallen out from between the yearbook’s yellowed pages.
"Oh, dear Primus," Thundercracker whispered, his voice shaking as he picked up the little tape. "It's All My Sparklings."
Thundercracker ran out of his room, tape cassette in hand, almost smacking into Starscream, who was emerging from the med bay, Skywarp, Moonbeam and Soundwave following close behind.
"Whoa, watch it, buddy," said Starscream. "What's the hurry?"
"Look what I found!" Thundercracker shoved the tape cassette at Starscream. "I found ‘All My Sparklings’!"
"You mean the...the skit?" Starscream gently took the tape cassette from Thundercracker's hands and held it in his own. "I thought we'd lost this old thing! Skywarp, c'mere!"
"No, don't!" Thundercracker yelped, but it was too late.
"What's going on?" Skywarp asked, walking over to them, holding Moonbeam's hand.
"Thundercracker found the tape cassette of that little skit we starred in," Starscream said excitedly.
"Do you mean ‘All My Sparklings’?" Skywarp looked happy. "Wow! We’ve got to watch it!”
"What's 'All My Sparklings'?" Moonbeam asked.
"Back in Seeker School, my brothers and I were in this comedy sketch called ‘All My Sparklings’," Skywarp explained. "Thundercracker and I were the parents, and Starscream was our whiny, angsty teenage daughter. In the next scene, where he gets dumped, I take on another role as his ex-boyfriend."
"That sounds hilarious, sugar daddy," said Moonbeam. "C'mon, let's watch."
When the four Seekers got to the main monitor room, Skywarp put the tape into the TV and they sat down to watch the show.
The first scene took place in a living room, where Skywarp and Thundercracker were sitting on the floor in front of a fake TV, pretending to watch it. They did so for a few seconds, and then Starscream entered.
To the audience's amusement, Starscream was dressed as a young femme; for the sake of theater, he was even wearing a bucket of makeup, and he had been temporarily painted with the same approximate color scheme as Autobot Arcee.
"Hold it right there, young lady!" Thundercracker boomed from the other side of the stage. "Before you go ANYWHERE, you remove some of that makeup and wash off that gallon of perfume!"
"But all the other femmes at school wear makeup!" Starscream whined. "You're just a pair of old farts!"
"That's no way to talk to your parents!" said Skywarp. "No leaving the house for a month!"
"I hate this family!" Starscream cried, putting his hands over his face and pretending to burst into tears. "I wish I was never born!"
With that, Starscream ran off of the stage, sobbing hysterically (or pretending to). The curtains shut and the tape cut off, then started again some time later. Thundercracker was standing alone onstage.
"After poor femme Starscream's punishment was over," he was saying, "she went out to see her boyfriend again. Unfortunately, there was a bit of turbulence."
Thundercracker left the stage, then, and Skywarp and Starscream entered.
"I have something important to say to you, sweet-spark," Skywarp said in mock seriousness, placing one hand on Starscream's shoulder.
"Yes, I will marry you!" Starscream squealed.
"No, not that," Skywarp said, shaking his head. "It's just...I think maybe we should go our separate ways."
"You're breaking up with me?!" Starscream shrieked dramatically, putting one hand over his mouth in fake surprise. "I can't believe it! Oh, you jerk!"
"Wait, baby, don't go!" said Skywarp.
"I never want to see you again!" Starscream fake-sobbed, bolting offstage. Skywarp left too, and then Thundercracker returned.
"Femme Starscream was upset because her boyfriend left her," said Thundercracker. "However, he was happy to be relieved of her constant whining. The end."
"And that was ‘All My Sparklings’!" Skywarp and Starscream chimed, darting onstage again. All three of them bowed, and the tape ended.
Thundercracker was laughing his head off, and Skywarp was snuggling Moonbeam. Before, the breakup scene had always made Starscream laugh too, but as he watched Skywarp and Moonbeam cuddling on the other side of the couch, he couldn't help the nagging feeling that someday, somehow, Skywarp would suddenly find himself in the exact same situation as Femme Starscream.