Burn Me Out - Chapter 12 - Lush_Specimen (2023)

Chapter Text

“Okay! Okay!” Thunderclash laughed as he struggled to extricate himself from the group hug. An errant elbow bumped his nose. “Ow!”

“Alright. That’s enough already,” Ratchet grumbled. Easily shoving off anyone whose name wasn’t Drift.

“Ow! Damn! Take it easy!” Firestar huffed as Ratchet pushed her away.

“Before that unexpected surprise,” Thunderclash caught Rodimus’ eye and grinned, “I believe we were in the middle of preparations to play the most important concert of our band’s entire history.”

Rodimus’ heart stopped in his chest.

Calamity of Love had played everywhere from local festivals to sold out stadiums around the world. They put on shows that were more spectacle than concert filled with pyrotechnics, glitter, wild costumes, and righteous music. Far from the dazzling lights of a world class venue, the Scavengers’ garage sat on the outskirts of a remote national park on the edge of the wilderness. Half the band were in their pajamas. Thunderclash had two black eyes, no shirt, still wore Ratchet’s borrowed rain coat. There were no lights, no makeup or costumes.

And yet, Thunderclash called this performance their most important of all time.

Rodimus still wasn’t sure if he wanted to explode from the excitement or break down and cry because it was so overwhelming. He practically vibrated, barely containing too many emotions. There’d be plenty of time to sort them out later. Right now, he just wanted to exist in the moment.

“Right you are!” Firestar agreed. She glared at everyone in the room one at a time. “Now, before we begin, does anyone else have any secret identities, long lost friendships, or other life-altering confessions to make?”

“Oh my gosh! Me! ME!!” Nautica jumped up, raising her hands like an excited grade schooler with the answer to the teacher’s question, giggling. “I have an important confession to make... Lotty, I love you!”

“Nautica!” Velocity gasped, exaggeratedly clasping her chest. “This is so sudden! I- I don’t believe it! After all this time... I must confess: I love you too!”

They both burst into laughter.

“They’ve been married for years.” Riptide loudly whispered to Ratchet and Drift before strolling over to his drum kit.

“Alright.” Thunderclash rolled his eyes. “If you two are quite finished-”

“Those two will never be finished.” Firestar shook her head as her band mates giggled uncontrollably.

“Can you at least get it together enough to play the song?” Thunderclash sighed.

“Pfft! Thunders, please! We’re always ready to play!” Nautica laughed. She checked her instrument’s strings and made one slight tuning adjustment.

“The real question is: are YOU ready?” Velocity asked as she grabbed her guitar.

“I- um-” Thunderclash chewed his bottom lip. He drew a deep breath, looked up at Rodimus, and smiled. Comfortable confidence replaced his usual fumbling for words. “Yeah. Yeah I really am.”

Rodimus had to grab on to the always solid Ratchet to steady himself. The medic rolled his eyes but didn’t shove him away.

Firestar grabbed her guitar.

The strings hummed through the amps. The sound sent and electric shock through Rodimus. His fingers tingled. His heart fluttered. Calamity of Love was preparing to play a song that Thunderclash-Eros wrote just for him. They haven’t even started playing yet and he felt like he was gonna die. His soul practically left his body. There was a good chance he may not survive the actual song.

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Firestar grinned, wild and fierce. “I hope you made your peace with Primus, Roddy, because we’re about to blow you away!”

“Bring it on!” Rodimus bounced.

Thunderclash laughed and grabbed the microphone. The initial jolt jarred the system, and the band groaned at the sudden howl of interference. Rodimus laughed, recalling the same thing happening at the very first Calamity of Love concert. Thunderclash offered a sheepish grin. Some things never change.

“Okay...” Thunderclash drew a deep breath. “One- Two-”

“Wait!” Drift yelled. Everyone turned to stare at him. “One more thing! I almost forgot.”

“OH MY GOD!! DRIFT!!” Rodimus shouted, throwing his hands in the air. “You are literally killing me right now!”

“Relax, Roddy. If I were literally killing you, you’d know.” Drift handed Thunderclash the small packet that he brought in with him. “Besides, you’ll thank me in a minute.”

“Thanks, Drift. Um? What is it?” Thunderclash accepted the package. Peering inside, he burst into laughter. “Ha ha! Oh my gosh! I love it!!”

Thunderclash shrugged off Ratchet’s oil cloth raincoat, tossed it to Drift, and pulled his gift out of the bag: a brand-new tie-dye T-shirt. Rodimus gasped upon seeing Eros’ distinct chest tattoo again. He knew it was there but the whole situation still hadn’t quite sunk in yet. Thunderclash is Eros. What a time to be alive!

“Ta da!” Thunderclash wriggled into the shirt and spread his arms wide revealing the design. The vibrant tie dye spiraled in variegated shades of blue and teal that matched his hair perfectly. The t-shirt's design featured the classic black silhouette of the sasquatch from the Patterson-Gimlin film, a large ape-like creature walking, swinging arms, head turned. However, there was one major difference: instead of the usual big feet, the figure strutted along huge stiletto heels. The slogan proudly played on sasquatch's name: “Feeling Sassy in Hyperborea National Park.”

“Holy fuck! That’s fantastic!” Firestar howled with laughter. Lotty and Nautica doubled over. Even Riptide snickered behind his drums. “Please tell me there’s more of those wherever you bought it!”

“Oh yeah. In every size and color.” Drift laughed. “I picked it from Cons4eva and Crankcase’s Trading Post. They’re old friends of mine. Last year a streaming service filmed a special about sasquatch sightings in this area. Cons4eva bought a ton of bigfoot themed souvenirs figuring tourists would eat that stuff up.”

“Aww. Then the pandemic ruined everyone’s travel plans.” Nautica sighed.

“We’ll just have to shop extra hard to help out Drift’s friends.” Velocity grinned. “I love cryptid stuff! I hope they have some fun mug designs too! And maybe a few magnets!”

“We should all get matching shirts to wear during our benefit concert for the park.” Riptide said.

“OH SHIT YEAH! Great idea, Ripper! Drift, do your friends have an online shop?” Firestar asked. Her eyes gleamed as she was already forming some kind of master plan.

Drift nodded.

“Rad! We’ll all wear the shirts and put a link to their shop on the bottom of the screen. With the Calamity of Love bump, they’ll be sold out by the time the show’s over!”

“That’s- that’s an incredible thing to do. I know their business has been really struggling. Crankcase will complain so much about having to pack all those t-shirts for shipping but it would really help them out. Thank you.”

“It’s perfect!” Thunderclash agreed. “Both the idea and the shirt. Thanks, Drift.”

“Glad you like it. I figured I owed you a new fun touristy shirt after ruining your last one. After all, Eros can’t perform in this bulky unflattering raincoat.” Despite his disparaging comments, Drift lovingly folded Ratchet’s coat and hugged tenderly it to his chest.

“Bulky?! Unflattering?!” Ratchet huffed. “I happen to think it’s sturdy and practical.”

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“Hmm? Sturdy? Practical? Always ready to provide safe shelter in a storm? Sounds like someone I know,” Drift purred, leaning on Ratchet.

“Well... when you put it that way...” Ratchet smiled. He wrapped his arms around Drift’s waist and pulled him close.

“Okay. Look. I’m glad everyone is having such a wonderful time. Having fun. Helping each other out. It’s great. Really. Awesome. Total lovefest. HOWEVER! If I don’t hear my song in like the next ten seconds, I may literally die.” Rodimus exclaimed.

Rodimus gave up struggling to contain himself. He was bouncing up and down. Somewhere in the back of his mind he could hear Optimus, his old fire captain, chiding him to hold still. To restrain his enthusiasm. But he found that he didn’t care. And even more surprising, he didn’t feel guilty about not caring. He was happy. He was excited. And for once he felt completely comfortable showing his emotions without apology or explanation. Although, if the band didn’t start playing soon, he might just explode.

“You are literally using that word wrong.” Nautica shook her head.

“I literally don’t care.”

“Roddy’s right! We have an important song to play. Without further ado, prepare yourself for Calamity of Love’s first official performance of “Burn Me Out”!” Firestar struck her guitar strings with her pick. The rhythmic growl reverberated in the amplifiers. “LET’S ROCK!!”

Riptide started thumping out a fast-paced beat on the drums. After a few seconds the guitars roared to life. Rodimus gasped. It was the same song that he and Drift heard them practicing when he tried to climb up the Scavenger’s scrap pile to get a sneak peek of their practice. As soon as he heard it, he practically flung himself off of Drift’s bike, knowing it would be his new favorite.

He had no idea it was all for him. If he weren’t listening so intently, he might have wept.

Thunderclash grinned, bobbing his head in time with the music, waiting for the right moment to start singing. He stole one last glance at Rodimus before he leaned into the microphone.

Rodimus forgot how to breathe.

Anything is better than an emptiness and hopelessness
Suffering is where I see the truth in you
You're the awesomeness that makes sense of this, I can't resist
In the flames, I feel a part of you

It's the only way to reach through
It's a path to the divine
It's the only place I go to
When dark and light collide

The pace of the music slowed for a split second, like a rollercoaster cresting the top of a hill before the big plunge. Rodimus’ heart raced as Calamity of Love launched into the first refrain.

So burn me out
Use me 'til there's nothing
My heartbeat down
Kill me from inside
Burn me out, I need to feel alive
It's never enough, never enough

Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Burn me out, come burn me out

Nothing eats away like the cold regret you can't forget
Isolation only makes the hurt worse
It's the only way to reach through
It's a path to the divine
It's the only place I go to
When dark and light collide

So burn me out
Use me 'til there's nothing
My heartbeat down
Kill me from inside
Burn me out, I need to feel alive
It's never enough, never enough

Normally Rodimus danced and sang along at a Calamity of Love concert. Right now, he couldn’t even move. He was completely rapt in wonder, clinging to every beat of the drums, feeling every strum of the guitars, hanging on every incredible word that Thunderclash sang. All for him.

Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Burn me out, come burn me out
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Burn me out, come burn me out

It's the only way to get through
To where I know myself

When Thunderclash belted out those words into the microphone, Rodimus felt them resound through his very soul.

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So burn me out
Use me 'til there's nothing
My heartbeat down
Kill me from inside
Burn me out, I need to feel alive
It's never enough, never enough

Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Burn me out, come burn me out
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Take what you want from me
Burn me out, come burn me out

Come burn me out
Come burn me out
Come burn me out

Rodimus stood there, dumbstruck as the final notes of the song faded. He heard distant applause, vaguely aware of Drift and Ratchet clapping somewhere across the universe. Logically he knew they were right next to him, but it sounded like they were a million miles away.

His heart pounded in his chest, still keeping beat with the song. He met Thunderclash’s eyes.

“Well?” Thunderclash asked. His face flushed, bright pink contrasting with the dark bruises under his eyes. He shyly ran his fingers through his hair, tucking a stray teal lock behind his ear. “What did you think?”

Rodimus chased all the wild emotions racing around inside of him as they spun off in disparate directions. He wanted desperately to catch one, name it, put it into words, but they effortlessly slipped through his grasp. The song was so beyond awesome. Thunderclash wrote it for him and it was perfect. From the strong beat to the upbeat tempo to the abundance of fire related imagery. Sometimes it made sense, sometimes it didn’t, but it was strong and persistent. It embodied his very being. He loved it. He loved every word and every note.

The rest of the band stared at him, waiting in anticipatory silence.

Rodimus breathlessly uttered the first word that came into his mind, “AGAIN!”

“Yeah?” Thunderclash asked. A delighted lop-sided grin grew across his face. His eyes brightened. “Really?”

“Yeah! Really!” Rodimus nodded.

“Awesome!” Thunderclash smiled even broader, like he understood everything that Rodimus wanted to say. He didn’t ask Rodimus to slow down. He didn’t ask him to organize his thoughts or offer more of an explanation. He simply knew that if Rodimus wanted to hear it again, then he absolutely loved it. Somehow that understanding unleashed the flood of words held back by of dam of insecurity in Rodimus’ mind.

“YEAH! AGAIN! And again! And again! I want to hear that song over and over. I want to live inside of it. It makes me feel strong and confident and reckless. Like I can do anything. It makes me want to drive fast and jump off the top of a mountain-”

“Maybe let’s hold off on that last bit.” Ratchet interrupted.

Drift snickered.

Firestar laughed out loud.

“It just makes me feel... good.” Rodimus breathed. Calamity of Love never failed to evoke intense emotions in him. But this song, his song, hit him like no other. Thunderclash said he wanted to write a song to let Rodimus know how awesome he is and he knocked it out of the park. It made him feel everything. It wasn’t a love song or a fight song, it was his song. A song to make him feel like always wished he could: incredible!

Velocity and Nautica squealed. Firestar pumped her fist in the air. Riptide twirled his drumsticks.

“Excellent. That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do!” Thunderclash smiled. “Roddy, you are so amazing. I wanted to write a song that helps you feel it.”

The flickering fluorescent lightbulbs dangling from the garage ceiling sparkled on the ametrine pendant proudly hanging around his neck. Rodimus first gave him the necklace after Calamity of Love played their first show. Eros inspired him. Rodimus never would have dreamed in a million years that he inspired Eros.

Or that all this time the adorable park ranger he’d slowly been falling for was in fact the very same person that he instantly had a crush on.

The ametrine shone violet and gold. Two complimentary gems in the same stone.

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They inspired each other.

“Thank you. It truly does. Seriously though, will you play it again? Please?” Rodimus asked.

“Dude. You don’t even have to ask!” Riptide grinned.

“Totally! Let me tell you a little secret about artists, Roddy-” Velocity began.

“Compliment their work, tell them it’s awesome, and they’ll love you forever!” Nautica finished. “Knowing that our music means so much to you, means so very much to us!”

“Hell yeah it does! Especially to ol’ Thunders there!” Firestar exclaimed, grabbing Thunderclash’s shoulder and playfully jostling him around. “We’ve never been a band to turn down the request for an encore. If you want your song again, we’re all too happy to oblige!”

“Wanna sing with us this time?” Thunderclash shyly extended his hand to Rodimus.

Rodimus stared at Thunderclash’s hand.

How many times did this exact scenario play out in his dreams? He’d be in the front row of a Calamity of Love concert, singing and dancing his heart out. Eros would pull him up on stage and ask Rodimus to sing with him. But this wasn’t a dream. And Eros wasn’t some untouchable figment of his imagination. He was a very real person. Someone he already knew and liked. And more importantly, someone that knew Rodimus and liked him with no reservations or conditions.

Rodimus shook himself. This wasn’t like his dreams at all. It was a million times better.

“I mean- I’ve sung enough karaoke with you at Swerve’s to know you pick up lyrics really fast.” Thunderclash chewed his lip, his confidence wavering a bit at Rodimus’ silence. “Only- only if you want to, of course. Um- What do you say?”

A smile of genuine happiness slowly drew across Rodimus’ face. He lifted his gaze from Thunderclash’s offered hand to meet his eyes. Past the dark bruises, they shone bright with hope.

“Hell YES!” Rodimus grasped Thunderclash’s hand and squeezed it tightly.

“Awesome!” Thunderclash grinned, at once elated and relieved. “You know, I’ve always dreamed about asking you to sing with me. I really hoped you’d say “yes”.”

Thunderclash pulled him close, but didn’t let go of his hand. He smiled his stupid lopsided grin and Rodimus laughed out loud. He was still riding the high of hearing the song for the first time. He had no idea where this wild rollercoaster ride might go next, but he was looking forward to finding out.

“Alright, Calamity of Love! Time to do what we do best!” Firestar struck a chord on her guitar. The growl reverberated through the Scavengers garage and directly into Rodimus’ heart.

“ROCK YOUR WORLD!” They all shouted at once, just like at all of their concerts.

They all dove right back into the song. Rodimus bobbed his along with the music with Thunderclash, waiting for the cue to start singing. He breathed deeply and met Thunderclash’s eyes.

The look of pure happiness that met him nearly took all his breath away. He grinned.

Rodimus and Thunderclash leaned in to the same microphone at the perfect moment and belted out his song. Together.

Here in a tiny garage on the edge of the nowhere, far from everything he ever thought he wanted, Rodimus finally felt like he belonged.

He found his song. His family. Himself.

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Their voices joined with the instruments, breaking through the four walls and echoing through the wilderness.

As the sun slowly set over the high mountain ridges, the day’s last light glowed softly on two trucks parked outside. Vitale sparkled with metal flake rainbow glitter while the Rod Pod's hand painted flames burned brightly. As the music mingled with the gathering shadows, the trucks seemed to cozily lean into each other, so close they were practically holding hands.


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