"Are you sure this the way you want to spend every single afternoon, Skyblast?"
"Yeah. I'm positive. Never been more sure in my entire life, Spitfire."
"Don't call me that!"
The small charade that was heard was being said between two bots that stood poised near the entrance of a small makeshift bar. One was a femme who bore a striking scarlet color scheme that all but made her stand out among the mass of individuals that were occupying the small dimly lit gathering place. Her companion bore the same features as her but his slightly more robust build was a deep navy blue and such a choice of paneling granted him numerous capabilities, especially in places such as the one he was in now.
The femme was leaning against the frame of the door, her arms crossed over her chassis in disappointment; her companion, however, was slouched into a chair that he had pulled out from a table behind him and he was playing with a small High Grade cube between his surprisingly steady servos, a nonchalant look on his face.
Optic ridges furrowing, the femme reached forward and plucked the drink from her companion's servos, ignoring his indignant complaints.
"Five cubes is enough, Skyblast." Her voice was stern but layered with a slight tone of despair and exasperation. It was her third time these two solar cycles catching him in here and despite the fact that he always promised to stay clear of the alcoholic imbibes, she always managed to find him here again, collecting credits on a tab that proved to be much more than what he could afford.
Skyblast let out a small groan and pinched the bridge of his noseplate. "Damn it, Backfire. Can't a mech enjoy a single drink around here?" He positioned himself correctly on the chair and lay his helm on his folded arms upon the table, his optics closing. Backfire bit her lip as the urge to curse invaded her but she managed to calm herself down and say, "If only it were a single drink, Skyblast. But I'm trying to do my best to keep this family unit together. Rethelia spends all her time at Maccadams and comes home exhausted from all her work; she's got many things to worry about and the last thing I want is for her to worry about seeing her oldest creation drinking himself into recharge in this Pit-spawned place."
Silence met her words and for a moment she thought he had fallen into recharge, for his turned back was rising and falling in a steady rhythm that made her think so. However when she made her way towards the empty seat in front of him and slid into it quietly, she noticed that her brother wasn't asleep. He was awake but his optics were staring off into the distance, as if he were pondering deeply about something important.
Backfire's optic ridges furrowed and she reached across the table and placed a servo on her brother's arm, squeezing it gently. "Skyblast?"
Her brother didn't look up at her when he responded but Backfire could tell by the tone he used how he was feeling deep inside. "You're so naive, Spitfire. You know that right?" There was a lingering wisp of regret in his voice, as if he were pitying her for her lack of insight on the situation at hand.
The femme bit her lip, feeling the familiar sting in the back of her optics. "That's not fair."
Her brother smiled sadly, "Yes it is." He glanced up at her, his blue optics full of unimaginable grief. "At least you don't get the urge to drown yourself in High Grade; I kinda envy that from you."
Backfire and Skyblast stared into each other's optics, lost in the deep blue of the other's depths. Despite the fact that the bar was busy with activity, the two twins were locked in their own conversation, completely oblivious to it all. After a couple kliks of the staredown, Backfire finally broke it by lowering her gaze at the cube she held in her hands, the one which she had snatched from Skyblast not too long ago, the High Grade still glowing it's bright pink hue. Disgust welled up inside of her and she closed her optics, scooting it away from herself with a sweep of her servo.
"You can't beat yourself up about it, Skyblast." She looked at her brother, her face twisted into a painful grimace. "It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anybody's fault; Jetfire chose to leave. We can't blame ourselves for his choice."
The table shook suddenly as her brother slammed a closed fist onto the surface, his face suddenly alert and optics brimming with surmountable fury. "Who says I'm blaming myself, Backfire?" His voice was dripping with acid now, a complete contradiction to the way he acted beforehand. "I blame him for everything that's happened to us. Rethelia doesn't take her daily dosages of Energon anymore; she says it's because she already takes them when she's at work but I know better. It's because she can't afford it. She can't afford to take care of us anymore and she's the one suffering because of it."
Backfire winced at the harshness in his tone. "What do you expect us to do, Skyblast? We're only younglings. How can we help her?" She paused and then said firmly, "Perhaps we can start by not piling up on debts, especially ones involving cubes of High Grade." She gestured towards the half empty cube of high grade sitting haphazardly on their table, no humor evident in her demeanor.
Her brother scoffed, "I guess that's a start." He gazed at the cube with a sense of longing and Backfire reluctantly scooted it towards him, knowing he wouldn't let it slide past her unless she did.
Her brother took a few gulps of the liquid, some of it trickling down the edge of his mouth, until the cube was completely drained of the precious liquid. Skyblast let out a satisfied sigh and he crushed the cube in his servo, setting it down on the pile of empty cubes lying near his chair on the floor. "That's the last of it."
Backfire frowned, "It better be." She reached into her subspace and pulled out a handful of credits, setting it down on the table. "This is the last of my emergency stash."
Skyblast raised an optic ridge, "Emergency stash?"
"I started collecting it once this little habit of yours sprung up. You know how Jetfire used to send us enough credits to keep us on our pedes? I saved all of my shares because I knew someday you were going to need it." Her optics clouded, "And also because I knew that he would eventually stop sending us pilferage." Her servos curled into fists, the sharp credits digging into the alloy of her palms.
It was true. A few megacycles ago, the amount of funds that Jetfire had sent them had begun to steadily decrease. Rethelia managed to keep it a secret by giving Backfire and Skyblast their usual shares but it resulted in a drastic reduction of her own funds. Energon was cheaper and cheaper every solar cycle and eventually it got to the point where Rethelia had to ask her employer to pay her in Energon rations.
Backfire hated the taste of the Energon at Maccadams but she hated refusing it even more so she drank it out of sheer necessity, never letting her true feelings show. She hated to admit it but Skyblast was wrong about one thing; despite what others thought, Backfire was also in pain. She wanted nothing more than to just drink to her Spark's content at the bar, letting her worries slide off her shoulders and free her vitals from the clenching paroxysms.
But she couldn't allow herself to do that.
If she did...Primus knows what would happen to Rethelia and Skyblast. Perhaps her mech creator had left thinking that they would be able to handle themselves in his absence but he couldn't have been more wrong. They needed him, economically but emotionally as well. Rethelia had lost a bondmate and Backfire and Skyblast had lost one of their creators. It was a position not so easily filled and one that was not so easily vacated.
She could recall the day that he had left, it have been a bright solar cycle and the planet star was rising calmly into the sky, illuminating the dreary landscape of the Stanix Regions in a homey glow.
Rethelia had overslept and so she wasn't awake to hear the small bustling on the first floor of their compartment. But Backfire was and apparently, so was Skyblast.
Backfire had snuck down the stairs quietly, making sure not to disturb whoever was making the noise downstairs. She could hear someone murmuring softly and she felt scared, fearing that a thief had chosen their compartment as his raiding place. Once she peeked around the corner and saw into the living room, she realized that it wasn't a thief.
It was Jetfire and he was kneeling down on one knee, his back turned to her. A large case was situated beside him and he had one servo planted firmly atop of it.
"I need you to take care of your sister," Jetfire whispered, his voice strained. He was talking to someone but Backfire couldn't see who; however, once that individual spoke, she realized right away that is was her brother.
Skyblast's voice was quivering, not with anger but a mixture of sadness and fear. "You don't have to go." He paused, sniffling. "You can stay here with us. With Rethelia, Backfire. With me."
Jetfire let out a sigh, obviously tired from having to explain his situation to the youngling. "Skyblast. I won't get another chance like this again; I have to go. It's been my lifelong dream to teach at the Academy, you've known that for a while now." He smiled, "I've always told you that we've got to follow our dreams, no matter what happens. The things that matter most are always worth making sacrifices for." The Seeker rose to his pedes and Backfire hunched down to hide herself from view, her breath catching in her throat. Skyblast stood in place, staring up at their mech creator with a look of longing that made even Backfire's vitals clench with pain.
Jetfire lifted the case by it's handle and placed his free servo on top of Skyblast's helm. "I'm counting on you, Skyblast. Don't let me down." With that, the mech turned around and left, exiting through the door and closing it swiftly without even a backward glance. The sound of the door slamming shut made her flinch for a moment but then Backfire's optics widened. Was he...gone?
"Damn you." Backfire riveted her gaze towards her brother, who was quivering in his pedes, tears streaming down his faceplates. His dental plates were visibly clenched and his closed fists were shaking as they hung by his sides. Skyblast glared at the closed door and taking a deep breath, he suddenly yelled, "You're just running away!" He ran towards the door and pulled it open, standing in the doorway and yelling at the mech who surely was in the vicinity of the compartment.
"You're a coward, Jetfire! You're just running the Pit away!"
Backfire flinched at the acid in her brother's voice and she began to feel hot tears begin to build up behind her optics; she closed her optics and clung to the wall, the feelings of fear overwhelming her more than anything else. She didn't quite understand everything that was going on but she knew enough to know that things had taken a turn for the worst. It was evident in the way that her brother yelled at their departing mech creator but it was most evident in the way that he fell to his knees and sobbed into his servos uncontrollably.
The femme shook her helm, dislodging the cobwebs of her past that were clinging greedily to her processor. Her brother was staring at her again, his optics narrowed in confusion.
"You spaced out there for a second, are you alright?"
Backfire nodded rapidly, "Yeah, sorry about that."
Skyblast didn't look convinced. "You were thinking about him, weren't you?" There was an accusing tone to his words and Backfire dreaded the start of yet another heated argument. Trying her best to avoid such a scenario, Backfire replied, "Yes. I was thinking about the day he left." She quickly added, "It is the anniversary of his departure, after all. It's hard to quell those memories, Skyblast, you know that. After all, isn't that the reason you came here in the first place?"
Silence met her words and Backfire knew that she had just hit a sore spot. If there was a small chance of an argument before, there certainly was a chance now. She braced herself for his outburst, making sure to conjure up a few fiery comebacks to back herself up but her brother didn't react to her inflammatory comment. He simply dipped his helm and broke off all eye contact with her.
"You're right." He said simply, his voice soft. A small chuckle escaped him and when he glanced up at her, she could tell he was doing his best to hold back tears. "You're not the subtle type anymore, are you, sis?"
Backfire blinked, "I guess not. Subtleness really doesn't suit me." She paused, "And it really shouldn't suit you either, Skyblast."
The mech shrugged, "Perhaps. But it does make these conversations all the more entertaining, don't you agree?"
Backfire sighed heavily, "Entertaining? That's debatable. I think the word you're looking for is interesting."
Skyblast scoffed, "Different words, same concept." He waved one servo in the air, brushing off her most recent comment lightly.
A small blossom of warmth erupted in Backfire's Spark upon seeing her brother's usual sarcastic nature reemerge. It had been a while since they had talked like this and it felt nice to be able to be open about their related past. The only offset was the place they chose for their reunion place.
Backfire knew it was only a matter of time until they were dismissed from here. They were relatively young, after all, and everyone in the vicinity easily outmatched them in age by at least a decavorn. Besides that, Rethelia would be coming home soon and Backfire wanted to clean the compartment up before she did. Sighing once more, she rose to her pedes, the chair's legs scraping the floor noisily as she rose.
"Come on, Skyblast. Let's get going."
Her brother sighed, seemingly exhausted. "Fine. I could do with a recharge."
Backfire shook her helm, "Oh no." She walked over to him and helped him to his pedes, supporting him on his right side tentatively. "You're gonna help me clean up the compartment a bit when we get back; Rethelia told the both of us to do that before we left."
Her brother let out a chuckle and when he turned to stare at her, Backfire could see a faint glimmer of affection lingering in his optic's depths. "You never change, Backfire. Always with the snippy order-giving."
Backfire hesitated then she returned her brother's smile, her arm wrapping affectionately around his midsection. "And I never will, Skyblast. Someone's got to keep you in line." She began to lead him out of the bar, careful not to arouse any noisy or silent bystanders in the process.
Her brother raised an optic ridge in amusement, "And you think you're qualified to be that someone?"
"Oh, yeah. Definitely."
Skyblast paused just outside of the bar, his noseplate scrunched up playfully as he pondered the recent verdict. After a while, he let out what seemed to be a chuckle and a sigh. "I think I can live with that."
Backfire grinned, "Good. But that was a long pause, Skyblast."
"But I'd like to add something to that mix, Spitfire, for old times sakes." He smiled, a serious genuine smile. "We'll take care of each other, sis. No matter what, we've got each other's backs. We're in everything together. I promise you that."
The femme could feel her lower lip tremble from emotion but she lowered her helm to avoid having her brother see her cry. Skyblast frowned, obviously confused. "Backfire?"
With her frame trembling, Backfire pushed her brother aside, suddenly feeling too choked up to give a proper answer. "You stupid air-head." She wiped her optics with the back of her servo and said, "You always have to end our talks with sentimental scrap."
Skyblast scoffed, "It's part of my charm," He joked, then he got serious again. "Seriously, though, Backfire. I meant what I said." He placed an arm over her shoulders, "I'm with you to the end."
Backfire smiled, "I know, Skyblast. I know..."
With that, the two siblings sauntered on back home, making sure to keep their pace at an acceptable rate because Rethelia was bound to arrive pretty soon. They joked along the way and made the rushed endeavor end in a playful race but the words of their conversation never left their thoughts. It echoed on in their processors like a never ending echo, promising a future less bleak than the one previously thought out for themselves a few megacycles back.
There were many things they didn't have.
However, the things they did have were the things that mattered most.