[IDW] Foreplay

It started with meditation. Supposedly to help him relax. Drift brought in some kind of battery operated candle and a portable music player, a soft, wordless tune pouring from the speakers.

But the candles flickered far too much for Cyclonus’ comfort, and the music couldn’t seem to decide on an appealing scale.

A massage came next, but despite his best efforts (re: most painful, Drift apparently had the hands of a tank with the same amount of subtlety), it too went the way of failure. How could a mech who wielded blades so effectively have such inelegant hands? Then again, he did tend to wave his blades around as though they were giant knives and not swords.

Yes, there’s a difference.

“You know,” Drift said, finally, clapping his hands together. “Maybe what you don’t need is foreplay, but for me to just dive right in.”

Cyclonus blinked. “Beg pardon?”

Drift dropped to his knees and shuffled forward, his hands gently resting on Cyclonus’ upper thighs. “How about you just open for me and maybe I can relax you the old-fashioned way?” He grinned, with echoes of their captain in that self-assured grin, and Cyclonus had to admit, he was convinced by it.

Drift’s hands were very warm. Soothing, also, where they stroked a circular pattern ever closer to Cyclonus’ panels. It was a tease as much as it aroused him. Perhaps Drift had a point.

Enough foreplay. Perhaps barging straight into the main event would be more expeditious.

“I promise you won’t be disappointed,” Drift said with a pointed flick of his glossa over his lips. “Or I guess we could go back to meditation if that’s what you’d prefer….”

In Primus’ name, no.

Cyclonus triggered his panels to open. The main event it was.

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[G1] Perfection

It didn’t matter who was on the other side. It never mattered. Sunstreaker didn’t ask, didn’t care. This wasn’t about them. This was about himself, about the way he looked in the mirror, perfectly polished, perfectly shined.

This was about the reflection of himself, the gleam of lubricant glittering deep within his valve, the bright jut of his spike, gold inlays glittering along the length. It was the way he gripped himself, slow and methodical, or the way he teased his fingers around his rim and flirted with his ring of exterior nodes. Small, but effective.

His optics glowed in the mirror. He didn’t look down at his frame. Instead, he watched the mirror, tracking the motion of his fingers. He didn’t use toys. He didn’t need them. His hands were good enough, perfect enough, to suit his needs. He knew exactly how to touch himself, how to excite his nodes, how to drag out the pleasure.

His ventilations hitched. His faceplate colored with heat. He looked wanton as he gnawed on his bottom lip, but that was okay. Because it didn’t matter who was on the other side of the mirror. They were the lucky ones to see Sunstreaker like this, genuine and uninhibited.

They were lucky.

Sunstreaker groaned down deep, fingers tracing his rim again and again. He painted lubricant over his nodes, watched it glisten as it moistened his rim. His biolights glittered, the perfect color to accentuate. He made sure of that.

His spark fluttered. His hips moved, rocking slowly, so slowly, into the pleasure he painted over his own frame.

This was perfect. He was perfect.

Sunstreaker’s gaze lifted, catching his own optics in the mirror, dark with desire. His lower lip was swollen, imprints of his denta visible. His glossa wet his lips, making them glisten.

He found and pinched the cluster of tiny nodes at the caudal end of his valve. The smallest whimper escaped him. His hips rocked forward.

Perfect.

~Omake~

Sideswipe raised the fee with every subsequent session. And every time, he paid in full. He found some way to come up with the credits because this had to be witnessed. For what was art worth if it wasn’t seen?

Through the glass, Sunstreaker finally reached for his spike, backstrut arching as he fingered the tip of it.

Megatron’s engine revved.

Yes. Worth every credit, every time, he thought, and reached for his array, intending to copy Sunstreaker’s actions down to the last squeeeze.

[IDW] Quadrangles

Starscream should have known letting Blurr and Knock Out have the controls was the wrong choice. When those two got into it, there was little which could distract them. Not even the sight of their very attractive partners speared on the same double-ended toy.

“Are they ever going to stop arguing about it?” Rodimus demanded as a sharp gasp escaped his lips. His plating shivered, loosening to allow heat to escape from his substructure.

Starscream snuck a glance at their respective partners, who fumbled the control between them, gesturing angrily at the different buttons on it. “Probably by the time we’re done using this,” he said.

Rodimus chuckled and tightened his grip on Starscream’s shoulders, rolling his hips into a deeper thrust. Starscream shivered as the double-ended spike worked against his ceiling node, grinding hard on the sensitive nub.

They didn’t need the remote after all. The ridges and knobs and whorls on the spike were enough for both of them. Whatever other tricks this toy had buried in its circuitry, maybe they’d never know.

“We’re going to finish without them. Again,” Rodimus commented with another stolen glance.

“Their loss,” Starscream said. Only to twitch. That was a decidedly different sensation. “Do you feel that?”

Rodimus barked a laugh. “If you mean the spike then allow me to say ‘duh’.”

Starscream rolled his optics. “No, you brat. It’s hotter.”

He braced himself for the inevitable ‘of course I am,’ but for once, Rodimus surprised him. The baby Prime paused, concentrating, and then his optics brightened.

“I think you’re right.” He stared down between their bodies. “Huh. Now it’s getting cold.”

Indeed it was. Starscream looked at their respective partners curiously. Blurr had a firm grip of the remote, but Knock Out’s finger jabbed at the buttons on it in no particular order.

“Well, I guess we figured out what it does,” Rodimus said with a crooked grin.

“Too bad they’ll never stop arguing long enough to realize it.” Starscream chuckled.

Rodimus started moving again, jostling the end of the spike within Starscream. “Good thing we don’t need either of them to have fun, right?”

“You’re damn right about that.”

Let them argue until the end of the night. It wasn’t Starscream’s fault if they missed the show. And what a show it was.

[IDW] Glitter and Gold

Rodimus was ridiculous.

Starscream knew this going in. He knew that while the not-quite-a-Prime had his rare serious moments, and his moments of paralyzing doubt, and his moments of fierce sarcasm, he was, at his core, ridiculous. Especially if he thought being so would catch Starscream off-guard.

Starscream thought he knew all there was to know about the levels of ridiculousness Rodimus could reach.

Clearly, he was wrong.

“You don’t like it?” Rodimus asked, his lips pulled into a playful pout, though his Autobot-blue optics shone with a humor that was increasingly more common as of late.

Starscream honestly did not have words. Or at least, not the right ones.

He didn’t know where Rodimus had found it. He didn’t want to know.

No. Scratch that. He did want to know. For future reference.

The baby Prime had acquired some kind of fabric. Gauzy, lacy strips of gradiated maroon to black that wound about his frame, over and under, across and behind. It was brighter where it criss-crossed over red and orange armor in tantalizing bursts, and darker stripes valiantly framed Rodimus’ pelvic panel. The contrast of the dark lace and the brightness of Rodimus’ armor made it all the more appealing.

Starscream’s intake bobbed.

“No,” he managed, because like frag was he going to let Rodimus catch him in a moment of surprise or lust. That was not how the game was played. Especially since he’d been all but ambushed with the delectable sight.

Starscream tossed his head and squared his shoulders. “You look ridiculous,” he said, looking down the length of his nasal ridge at his flame-colored lover.

For a moment, Rodimus wobbled. There was, in his optics, a flash of doubt, creeping in at the edges, and in that moment, Starscream felt guilty. But as quickly as it arrived, it vanished, to be replaced with nothing short of confidence.

Rodimus tilted his head, and the overhead lights caught the glitter of his paint – recently waxed and polished, no doubt. Sunstreaker’s work, perhaps. Though he didn’t seem to deal in glitter.

Tracks then.

“I do?” Rodimus said with a long look down at himself. One finger toyed with a strap over his shoulder. “But it’s just so comfortable.” The strap popped free and snapped against his armor with a soft ping. “It feels good.”

“Well, it shouldn’t. It’s ridiculous,” Starscream said with a roll of his optics, firmly stopping his cooling fans from cycling into readiness. “We are not made for… for…”

Rodimus’ pout slid toward a smirk. “Looking this good?” he asked and cocked out a hip, making himself sparkle in the light.

“For wearing organic frippery,” Starscream retorted.

“Ah, I see.” Rodimus half-turned, enough that Starscream could see the straps and pretty lace stretched over his back as well, though it had been constructed to accommodate his spoiler. It framed his aft rather nicely as well, outlining the sharp curves of it.

Starscream’s fingers twitched.

“You know, you’d think it would get caught in my seams, but it doesn’t,” Rodimus murmured thoughtfully, and his hips performed a shimmy. A dangerous shimmy. It ought to be outlawed. He was often fond of performing said shimmy when he rode Starscream’s spike like there was no tomorrow.

Starscream’s vocalizer crackled. He rebooted it with the fierceness of offensive protocols snapping into readiness.

“And just how are you going to transform?” Starscream demanded.

Rodimus straightened and turned toward him, head tilted, lips sly. “I don’t need to. All the fun I plan on having is going to happen right here.” He pointed at the ground between them and had the audacity to wink.

“Fun,” Starscream repeated.

“Mm hmm.” Rodimus moved closer, with a slinky sway of his hips Starscream absolutely did not watch intently. “Still think I look ridiculous?”

Starscream’s glossa swept over his lips. “Yes.”

“Hah. Liar.”

Bare inches separated them now.

Rodimus lifted a hand and one finger dragged down a strap that cut in at an angle perilously close to his interfacing panel.

“Even when I do this?” he purred, the tip of his finger flicking the furthest edge of his panel seam.

Starscream’s thrusters sputtered against the floor.

He cycled his vocalizer. “You make for a compelling argument,” Starscream said, grasping for composure and finding it nowhere. It slipped through his fingers as smoothly as that lace would.

“Mmm. I’ll bet I do.” Rodimus smirked, so full of confidence that it burst from his seams. He preened, frame canted to the best possible angle, one that invited Starscream to touch.

He fumbled for a semblance of control, and found it in an inkling that fluttered through the back of his processor.

Starscream tilted his head, curving his lips. “And what if I were to go along with this ridiculous game of yours?” he asked as he let his gaze wander over Rodimus’ frame, already designing a harness to match the lace. “What do I get in return?”

Rodimus laughed, the rich sound genuine and pleased. “I’m sensing you already have something in mind.” His fingers drifted away from his panel, hips tilting to better show off the lace framing it.

Starscream worked his intake. He put on a mantle of calm and slowly circled his partner. He let his fingers brush over the back of Rodimus’ spoiler, the sensitive metal thrumming at his touch.

“A clip here, I think,” Starscream murmured as he dragged his fingertips along the length of the spoiler. “A little bit of rope there. Some cuffs to keep you contained. Enough to accentuate, I think.”

Rodimus shivered, his field filling the room, thick and heated. “Do I get an overload out of it?”

Starscream worked his way back to Rodimus’ front, drinking in the sight of all that lace again. The more he looked at it, the more it appealed to him.

He lifted his chin. “More than you can handle.”

Rodimus’ engine purred, the low rumble matching the quiet sound of his fans starting to whirr. “Deal.”

Starscream’s glossa swept over his lips. “Then I want you on your knees.” He circled Rodimus again, allowing his field to slip free, to clash and slide against Rodimus’, betraying his hunger. “I want you open and ready for me.” It was too easy to slide into that tone, one which usually left Rodimus panting for him.

A low sound rattled in Rodimus’ chassis. “And then?” His spoiler twitched upward.

“I want to touch you everywhere.” Starscream’s fingertips flirted over the base of Rodimus’ backstrut, just above his aft and the curve of a strap, before he continued around to face Rodimus again.

His spark pulsed a little faster, the mental image more than enough to overclock his interfacing drive. Rodimus always did make a pretty picture.

The same fingers which had caressed Rodimus’ backstrut now flirted over Rodimus’ lips. “And then I want you to indulge me.”

A full-frame shiver ruffled Rodimus’ armor. Plating lifted and flexed, giving tantalizing peeks at the cables beneath. These, too, had been polished until they gleamed. Someone had gone for the full treatment.

Starscream approved.

Rodimus licked his lips, the tip of his glossa catching Starscream’s fingers with damp warmth. “I think I can do that.”

Starscream dropped his hand, letting his fingers skim over the organic fabric. He felt the whirl of Rodimus’ spark humming behind his chestplate. “Then kneel.”

Rodimus’ engine purred. He lowered himself down, optics burning as he held Starscream’s gaze, each motion slow and seductive.

Starscream’s own temperature rose, his ventilations quickening. The lace shifted with Rodimus’ movements, sliding silkily over his armor, tantalizing where it embraced his interfacing array.

It took all Starscream had to turn away, to find his toy chest and click it open, digging through for the items he needed. Four sets of clamps, a set of cuffs, and several coils of thick, crimson rope, the perfect accompaniment to Rodimus’ paint and frippery. He felt Rodimus’ gaze on him, felt the pulse in his partner’s field with every item he withdrew, and a wash of heat coursed through Starscream’s array.

What a perfect surprise to come home to.

“Hands behind your back,” Starscream instructed as he returned to Rodimus with his bounty. “Spread your knees a little. Make sure you’re not going to fall over.”

Rodimus’ optics glittered at him. “Yes, Star,” he said, vocals husky.

Oh, Primus.

A shiver coursed down Starscream’s backstrut. There was obedience in Rodimus’ tone, but lust and affection, too. All three combined took hold in Starscream’s spark and sent waves of need rattling through his frame.

Damn but if Rodimus didn’t know exactly how to get him.

Starscream knelt behind Rodimus, applying the cuffs first. They were delicate things, meant more to help Rodimus keep his hands where Starscream wanted them, than to restrain. Rodimus was strong enough to break them, which was the point.

They shared a great many kinks. But they understood one another’s discomforts as well.

“Open your panels, Rodimus.”

Plating flexed and flared as Rodimus obeyed without a word, a shiver dancing down his back armor. His spoiler twitched, cooling fans rattling to life.

From behind, Starscream could not see Rodimus’ spike, but he could see the shadow of Rodimus’ valve, and the sheen of lubricant within it. Rodimus’ cuffed hands could, with enough flexibility, caress that swelling rim. Something to remember for later.

Starscream leaned forward and pressed a kiss between the two halves of Rodimus’ spoiler. Rodimus’ ventilations hitched, his fingers twitching.

“Tease,” he murmured.

“Just setting the stage,” Starscream replied before he forced himself back on task, pulling the clips from his stack of accessories.

He attached them, two a piece, to the bottom of each half of Rodimus’ spoiler. They clamped into place with a low-level magnetic pulse, one sure to aggravate Rodimus’ sensors, like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Then came the smaller cords, which Starscream threaded through the loops on the top and bottom of the clip, and ran over the top edge of Rodimus’ spoiler.

He let those dangle while he pulled out the heavier ropes, wrapping them around and around Rodimus’ legs. He attached the dangling cord to a clip in the ropes, cinching it slowly until Rodimus’ spoiler dipped down at the limit of its flexibility. Rodimus’ backstrut arched, his frame leaning back, thrusting his chassis forward.

Highlighting, no doubt, every point of contact where the lace draped over his frame.

“I have to make sure you can’t move too much,” Starscream murmured as he checked his knots, and found them satisfactory. “We wouldn’t want to ruin any of that pretty lace, would we?”

Rodimus’ frame radiated heat. A single drop of lubricant splashed to the floor. Small zaps of charge escaped from his substructure, emerging where his plating had opened to release heat.

“No, we wouldn’t,” he said, his voice a tad shaky.

Primus, he was beautiful.

Starscream leaned close, his fingers dancing between Rodimus’ thighs. He couldn’t resist caressing Rodimus’ valve. Those blinking biolights called to his fingertips. That sheen of lubricant demanded a taste. The retracted hood and swollen anterior node begged for touch as did the smaller caudal node.

The straps here would become wet, Starscream observed. They ran to either side of Rodimus’ array, framing his valve as though summoning attention to it. Even now, the edges closest to Rodimus’ rim were becoming damp. Another dribble of lubricant dripped free.

Such a mess.

Starscream worked his intake, unable to help himself. He dragged his index finger along the slit of Rodimus’ valve, flirting with the growing wet. Rodimus shivered, hips dancing in place. His rim twitched when Starscream traced it.

His glossa swept over his lips again. He slid the tip of one finger into Rodimus’ valve, slowly, as though memorizing every inch.

Rodimus ex-vented a moan, shifting in his bonds. His spoiler twitched, trying to jerk up, but was stopped by the thin cable, and Rodimus moaned again.

“Is… is this what you had in mind?” Rodimus asked, his aft pushing toward Starscream’s hand. “Not that I’m complaining.”

Starscream laughed softly. “No. You’re simply that irrestible.” He reluctantly withdrew his finger from the welcome clamp of Rodimus’ valve and pushed himself to his feet.

He circled back to facing Rodimus, taking in the sight of the baby Prime on his knees, bound and presented to Starscream. His spike bobbed freely, already pearling at the tip with pre-fluid. More lubricant gathered beneath him, a few rivulets coursing down his thigh plating.

The lace decorated his chestplate as though enticing him toward the beautiful spark within. The dark straps hugged his frame in all the right places, highlighting seams that begged to be touched.

Starscream worked his intake. “You make a very pretty picture,” he said.

Rodimus’ optics went soft and heated. “Do I?”

“Mmm. This is a good color for you.” Starscream stepped closer, until he could feel the heat of Rodimus’ ex-vents against his legs.

He opened his panel, his spike pressurizing eagerly. It bobbed in the air, millimeters from Rodimus’ face. His was not as decorated as Rodimus’ – Starscream lacked the flames along the underside and the dual-coloring – but Starscream was proud of it nonetheless.

Rodimus never seemed bothered by its plain nature. If anything, he made a sound of hunger and leaned as far forward as the ropes would allow him. He ex-vented damply before he managed to catch the tip of Starscream’s spike with his lips. He couldn’t reach any more than the rounded head, but that didn’t stop him from laving it with kisses and licks.

Starscream shivered, his knees wobbling. Rodimus’ willing submission was always a surefire method to rile him. The lingerie only added to it.

He touched Rodimus’ head, playing with the decorative points, and sweeping over the curve of it.

“Beautiful,” Starscream murmured, and saw the telltale shiver that raced over Rodimus’ plating. His licking increased in earnest. “You are right. That lingerie makes it impossible for me to resist touching you. Though you are gorgeous enough as it is.”

Rodimus’ engine purred. He tried to lean forward further, making a frustrated noise as the cables drew him up short. Too far, and his spoiler protested.

Starscream’s spark fluttered. His array tightened, heat pooling in his groin, pulsing at the point behind his spike.

He inched a step closer to Rodimus, the first half of his spike sinking into Rodimus’ mouth. A wet brush against his lower leg plate announced Rodimus’ spike, the head of it rutting over Starscream’s armor, but able to gain no more stimulation than that.

Rodimus made beautifully frustrated sounds around Starscream’s spike, even as he licked and suckled at it. His lips were wet with oral lubricant, his face darkening with heat. His optics half-shuttered, his field pulsing so much pleasure it throbbed in tune with Starscream’s own.

Starscream cradled the back of Rodimus’ head with one hand, less to guide than to encourage. Every swipe of Rodimus’ glossa made him twitch. His spike swelled eagerly, though Rodimus’ efforts were more tease than satisfaction. The sight of Rodimus working so desperately to get at Starscream’s spike, however, was hot as the Pit.

Rodimus whined around Starscream’s spike and pulled back. “This isn’t fair,” he said as his spike poked and rubbed on Starscream’s leg.

Starscream’s spike bobbed, chilled where it missed the warmth of Rodimus’ mouth. This was unacceptable.

“Was it fair when you blindsided me with this accessory?” Starscream demanded. His hand, however, was gentle as it stroked over Rodimus’ head.

Rodimus’ lips pulled into a very attractive pout. “You like it though.”

“Mmm. That is true.” Starscream inched another step closer, allowing enough proximity that Rodimus’ spike could gain some friction against his leg.

It wouldn’t be enough to inspire overload. But the sight of it ramped up Starscream’s own arousal. A panting, desperate Prime on his knees? Eagerly obeying Starscream’s command? Looking so pretty wrapped in lace and rope?

How could Starscream be anything but aroused?

“But if you’re going to be a tease, then so can I,” Starscream said, taking his spike in hand.

He rubbed the tip of it over Rodimus’ lips, shivering as he painted the curve of them with his pre-fluid. The heat turned into electric fire as Rodimus licked his lips and tried to capture Starscream’s spike.

“So mean,” Rodimus breathed. He wriggled, spoiler twitching, field pushing at Starscream with need, want, have.

“Do you want it?” Starscream’s own vocals were strained, husky. It took all he had not to simply grab Rodimus’ head and sink into the wet heat offered to him.

Rodimus’ hips rolled. He ground against Starscream’s leg, leaving streaks of pre-fluid behind. The sound that emerged from his vocalizer barely counted as a word, one borne of hunger and need.

Starscream’s internals tightened. His spike throbbed and Starscream had to give it a squeeze, lest he end the game early. Rodimus was unfairly erotic.

“Don’t spill a drop,” Starscream ordered, or at least tried to. He wasn’t sure how firm he sounded given the static in his vocals and the hitch in his ventilations. “I’d hate to dirty all that pretty lace.”

Rodimus licked his lips, straining forward, just missing Starscream’s spike again. But only because Starscream had rubbed the tip against his cheek, shivering as the heated dermal metal slid smoothly against the sensitive crown.

“And if you do that, I’ll do whatever you want to that gorgeous spike you have down there,” Starscream purred, or tried to. His fingers trembled where they held Rodimus’ head. “Sound good?”

Rodimus ex-vented scorching heat. “Get in my damn mouth, Star.”

Starscream groaned. “Well, if you insist,” he drawled, and finally allowed himself to give in to temptation.

He guided his spike to Rodimus’ mouth, not that it was necessary given that Rodimus all but dove for it. He slid between Rodimus’ lips and pushed deep, a rattle starting in his backstrut as wet heat eclipsed his spike.

Starscream moaned. His knees trembled. Both hands cradled Rodimus’ head as he rolled his hips forward, gently pushing deeper and deeper into Rodimus’ mouth. Rodimus gave no sound of protest, his field plucking at Starscream’s, demanding more and deeper. His hips bucked, rubbing his spike all over Starscream’s leg.

Rodimus sucked at him as though there no sweeter treat. His glossa pushed and lapped at Starscream’s spike while Starscream rocked into his mouth. Each forward roll was slow, deliberate, but the pleasure that rose up within him was a tidal wave, an electric crawl of heat and ecstasy.

Starscream worked his intake, but couldn’t stop the soft noises of pleasure from escaping him. He panted air, shoulders hunching, sliding into Rodimus’ mouth, drinking in the sounds Rodimus made. The moans, the whimpers, the hums.

He watched Rodimus’ optics flicker, and half-shutter. He drank in the sight of lubricant trickling from the corners of Rodimus’ mouth, and the color in Rodimus’ faceplate, a soft pink flush that matched the furthest shade of the lingerie.

Words escaped him. Starscream thought to offer more praise and more compliments – because both were true – but all he could manage were inarticulate noises of encouragement. He breathed Rodimus’ name as the rattle started in the base of his backstrut, and the coil in his abdominal cavity bloomed into a wave of heat.

Overload took him almost by surprise, rolling over and through his array in steady pulses of ecstasy. Starscream loosed a choked noise as he pushed deep, nearly to the back of Rodimus’ intake, and spilled down Rodimus’ intake. He felt Rodimus flutter around him, drinking every pulse of transfluid, his frame humming with desire.

Starscream’s legs shook. His vision whited out, until he came back into his frame, panting heavily. He eased back, and Rodimus gently suckled at him as he withdrew. Tremors made Starscream unsteady on his feet, and his valve throbbed in sympathy. He knew if he opened his panel, he’d make a mess on the floor, just as Rodimus had.

Oh, Primus.

A step back and Starscream slipped from Rodimus’ mouth, until Rodimus caught him again, pressing little kisses to the head of Starscream’s spike. There was adoration in the act — desire, too.

Starscream’s spark hummed with affection. He gentled his hold on Rodimus’ head, turning it to a caress instead.

“Thank you,” he said.

Rodimus pressed a parting kiss to Starscream’s spike and leaned back. “My pleasure.” He licked his lips. “My turn?” he asked with a bright spike of his field.

Starscream bent at the waist, cradling Rodimus’ jaw with his hands and turning the not-a-Prime’s face toward his. He slanted their lips together in a kiss that tasted of his own release and Rodimus’ building desperation.

“Whatever you want, brightspark,” Starscream murmured as he brushed their lips together. “I missed you.”

Rodimus’ frame hummed as his field reached out, embracing Starscream where his arms could not. “Missed you more, Starshine.”

Everything was a competition. One Starscream didn’t care if he won or lost.

Starscream’s spark throbbed. He claimed Rodimus’ lips in another kiss, and then another after that, each one softer and sweeter than the one before it.

What a perfect surprise.
~

Bonus

Starscream sighed as he carefully slid a talon into Rodimus’ left hip seam and managed to hook the tip of it under the edge of the dark strap. He gave it a light tug, and cursed as it didn’t budge.

“This is why we don’t wear clothing,” he said as he peered into the depths of Rodimus’ joint, trying to figure out where the fabric had gotten caught.

Rodimus chuckled. “But you liked it.” There was not an ounce of apology in his tone or his field, the cheeky fragger. Buried deep within the confidence, however, Starscream heard the truth.

“Yes, I do,” Starscream replied, projecting warmth into his tone. “As I do most things you bring home to me.”

“And I look good,” Rodimus added with a shift of his knees and a roll of his hips, one that made his aft sway enticingly.

“That, too.” Starscream’s free hand swatted Rodimus’ aft gently, the ring of metal on metal barely audible over the sound of Rodimus’ fans spinning. “Stop wriggling. You’re working the strap deeper.”

Rodimus chuckled. “Yes, Star.” He obeyed, flattening back down to the berth, but keeping his thighs spread so Starscream could peer into his hip joint. His spoiler halves kept twitching, however.

He was unfairly cute, Starscream grumped internally. How was he supposed to stay dismissive and distant when Rodimus was this adorable? Was it any wonder the baby Prime had worked his way under Starscream’s plating?

“How did you even get this on?” Starscream grumbled, trying to distract himself from wayward thoughts of Rodimus’ shiny aft and delectable thighs. “Without tangling yourself in it, I mean.”

Rodimus folded his hands under his chin. “Drift helped.”

“I should have guessed.” Starscream’s finger slid back under the strap and dragged up, searching for the point of entanglement. “Was it his idea, too?”

“No. I thought of this all on my own.” Rodimus sounded proud of himself.

Adorable.

Starscream laughed dryly. “Well, you are the deprave one.”

“Hey!”

A smirk curved Starscream’s lips before his knuckle reached an obstruction. He leaned close enough to ex-vent over Rodimus’ armor as he caught the problem. The strap edge had gotten wedged between gears.

“Rotate your joint twenty-five degrees to the right, please,” Starscream said as he got a good grip on the strap.

Rodimus’ weight shifted as he drew up a knee and twisted a little, opening up the joint and easing the tight clamp of it. A light tug and the strap came free, though a little mangled where the gear teeth had bit into it. Oh, well. Perhaps a stronger fabric could be used for the next one.

Starscream patted the strap back into its proper place, where it was meant to frame Rodimus’ valve as though calling attention to the plump rim and the lubricant soaking the swollen protomesh. His biolights pulsed faintly.

Starscream’s mouth watered.

“Mmm.” Rodimus purred, the tension abandoning his frame as his joint moved smoothly. “That’s better.” He wriggled as though to get comfortable, and there was something erotic in the motion.

Starscream couldn’t help himself. His fingers smoothed out the strap one last time before they were drawn to the moist rim of Rodimus’ valve. He was still warm here, still wet and open.

It seemed such a shame to waste the need so visible.

Rodimus’ aft swayed. He shifted on the berth, knee pulling up again, offering better access to his valve. His spike slowly thickened, pushing into the berth.

Rodimus’ engine purred. “I’m getting the sense that there’s something down there you like.”

“I was thinking of showing my appreciation,” Starscream murmured. He dragged a finger down the center of Rodimus’ valve, stirring through lubricant, before he let the damp tip rest on Rodimus’ anterior node cluster.

Rodimus shivered. His hands kneaded at the berth, hips grinding his spike down into the plush surface.

“I have no problems with that.”

Starscream chuckled. “I didn’t figure you would.” He shifted, dropping down to his belly and curving his arms under Rodimus’ thighs. He in-vented and breathed in the scent of Rodimus’ arousal, the sweet tang of his lubricant.

Rodimus’ anterior and caudal nodes flickered. His valve visibly contracted. Rodimus let loose a small ventilation, his thighs trembling in Starscream’s hold. Lubricant trickled free, and Starscream longed to lap it up.

His thumbs stroked around the casing of Rodimus’ valve, between the strap of the lingerie and the plump protomesh of his rim.

Rodimus sighed a moan, aft swaying, pushing toward Starscream in silent entreaty. He was so beautiful. And for the next week, all Starscream’s to have.

He must make the most of it while he could.

Starscream licked his lips. “Thank you for the gift,” he murmured before he followed through with desire and licked up the dribble of lubricant.

Rodimus’ trembled in his arms, valve throbbing against Starscream’s lips. His field embraced Starscream, pulsing affection and adoration, which Starscream returned in kind.

What they had may have been unconventional, but it worked. It was perfect for them. And moments like this made it all worthwhile.

Every last one of them.

[TF] One Wish 04

Sunstreaker surfaced from the dark slowly, a low groan escaping his lips as his processor booted and grudgingly brought his sensory suite with him. Audials first, then optics. He felt oddly disconnected from his frame, but there wasn’t any pain.

His visual feed clarified from black to static to a dimly-lit room, one he didn’t recognize. He wasn’t at home. He wasn’t in the local medcenter which was surely too far a drive from the cafe anyway.

“Good morning, Sunshine.”

“Don’t call me that,” Sunstreaker croaked as he turned his head, finding Sideswipe sitting on a stool next to him, his face creased with worry. “Where am I?”

“Safe,” Sideswipe answered as he scooted closer, the chair scraping across the floor. “Don’t flip out, but we’re in the palace.”

“The what?” Sunstreaker struggled to sit up, only to hiss as his abdomen snarled a protest. His ventral armor felt really tender.

He groped with his right hand, felt temp plating and a wealth of static bandages. His frame reported recent injuries, but nothing current. He’d been repaired. Someone had fixed him.

“I said stay calm. Sheesh.” Sideswipe patted at his shoulder. “It was the closest thing to medical care we could get on short notice.”

“But Starscream–”

“–is dead.” Sideswiped cycled a ventilation, pressing his palms to his optics. “You, uh, kind of made sure of that.”

Sunstreaker worked his intake. “I… Sides.”

“Shh. It’s okay.” Sideswipe squeezed his hand, his tone earnest. “I promise. No one’s mad about that. No one around here’s gonna miss ’em. You just got to him before Ricochet did.”

Sunstreaker chewed on his bottom lip. “Ricochet?”

“Yeah. It’s a long story.” Sideswipe rolled his neck, easing the kinked cables. “Apparently, that’s not his name.”

“There seems to be a lot of that going around,” Sunstreaker muttered as his gaze wandered to the door. There was a shape on the other side of the glass as though it was being guarded. “Where’s Dent?”

“You mean Prowl,” Sideswipe said with another sigh. “He’s in surgery and yeah, Starscream wasn’t lying. Dent is Prowl, albeit a Prowl who’s undergone Empurata and something else. I can’t remember what they called it.”

Sunstreaker worked his intake and managed to get an elbow beneath himself to leverage his upper half up, despite the pain in his abdomen. “I want to see him.”

“You will, but not yet. He’s still in surgery. Come on, Sunny. Don’t ruin the medic’s hard work.” Sideswipe half-rose out of his chair, hands making aborted gestures to urge Sunstreaker back down. “I promise to explain as much as I can.”

Sunstreaker set his jaw but relented, laying back on the berth. “Tell me about Ricochet then.”

“Right.” Sideswipe rubbed a hand over his head and sat back on his stool. “Ricochet’s name is Jazz. He’s an Enforcer Specialist from Praxus, and he was here to find Prowl. Unofficially, I mean.”

Sunstreaker blinked. “Why unofficially?”

“When Prowl went dark, his superiors opted not to look for him. Politics or something, I dunno.” Sideswipe shrugged, his gaze wandering away. “Jazz skipped out and came looking on his own. They’re brothers.”

Come to think of it, Sunstreaker did remember Prowl mentioning he had a brother.

“Then why was Prowl here?”

“To investigate Starscream.” Sideswipe made a face and folded his arms over his chest. He leaned back in the chair.

“Why?”

Sideswipe’s foot started tapping out a nonsense beat. “Because mechs were going missing, and all traces led back here, to Uraya and to Starscream.” He slumped a little further, his field shrinking inward. “Turns out, they were right.”

Sunstreaker’s optics widened. “What?”

“He was taking mechs, mostly ones he thought no one would miss, and experimenting on them.”

Sunstreaker had no words. He stared at his brother. Sure, everyone knew to stay away from the Regent and Starscream could be creepy at times. But this? Was that why there were so many Empuras in the Wastes?

Sideswipe shrunk into himself further, guilt swallowing his field, his gaze wandering away. “I mean, it makes sense in retrospect. The kind of stuff I got for him, it was supplies, medical equipment, devices that I couldn’t tell you what they did.”

Oh, Primus. That made them accessories, didn’t it?

Sunstreaker looked at the door, the shadow he was now convinced was a guard keeping them in this room. “Are we under arrest?”

“Maybe. I dunno.” Sideswipe shrugged, looking very small as he cycled an audible ventilation. “Sunny–”

He shook his head. “I know. You don’t have to say it.” Sunstreaker slid the nearest arm closer to his brother and wriggled his fingers invitingly. “I’m sorry, too.”

Sideswipe tangled their fingers together, giving his hand a squeeze. “I hate arguing with you.”

“Then maybe you should stop being so stubborn.”

Sideswipe chuckled. “You’re one to talk.”

A knock on the door interrupted Sunstreaker’s response. He and Sideswipe both looked toward it as it slid open, two mechs easing inside. One of them was Ricochet, or at least Sunstreaker assumed him to be. The overall shape was familiar, the color scheme also similar. The largest adjustment was that his visor was now blue as opposed to purple.

The other mech Sunstreaker assumed was a medic. He was large and blocky, with medic crosses on his shoulders and a white and red paint scheme. The grey chevron on his forehead denoted a mech of high status.

“You’re awake. Good.” The medic strode across the floor without delay, his gaze skimming over the machine as he unsubbed a datapad.

Sunstreaker looked at him. “Who are you?”

“He’s the one who fixed you,” Sideswipe said with another squeeze to his hand. “Fixed me up, too.” His free hand patted his hip, where evidence of a static bandage gave proof to a previous injury.

The medic grunted as he marked something down on his datapad. “The name’s Ratchet. And if anyone asks, I’m not here.”

“Ratch is kind of doing me a favor,” Ricochet – Sunstreaker couldn’t think of him as Jazz yet – grinned. “I’m not s’posed ta be here either.”

“Damn fools in Iacon think they can write off a mech and bury it,” Ratchet muttered, his words angered but his touch gentle as he disconnected Sunny from the machine. “Not if I have anything to say about it.”

Jazz loosed a small laugh. “Yeah, I know, Ratch. I know.” He patted Ratchet on the shoulder, a brave action if Sunstreaker ever saw one, before he looked at Sunstreaker. “You okay?”

“I don’t know,” Sunstreaker answered honestly. His processor still felt muzzy. “Is Dent really Prowl?”

“His spark is.” Ratchet grunted, his field turning sour. “We’re working on making the rest of him match.”

“We?”

“He and his partner. You’ll meet ‘im later,” Jazz answered. “Prowl just came out of surgery, by the way. He won’t wake for a bit, but ya can see him if ya want.”

Sideswipe cycled his vocalizer to catch their attention. “We’re not under arrest?”

Jazz shook his head. “Don’t have any pull to arrest ya. Like I said, we’re not supposed ta be here. Besides, it’s not like ya did anything wrong.”

“You couldn’t have known what Starscream was doing with the supplies you acquired for him,” Ratchet said before he disconnected the last line and held out a hand. “You can stand if you want. Carefully.”

Sideswipe rose to his feet, keeping his grip on Sunstreaker’s other hand. He felt very shaky as he accepted the offer of Ratchet’s hand, and between the medic and Sideswipe, Sunstreaker was leveraged off the berth. His abdomen only ached a little, the ache of self-repair in action.

“Take it easy,” Ratchet said as he let go of Sunstreaker’s hand, leaving him to cling to Sideswipe as he balanced on his feet. “And no transforming.”

Sunstreaker inclined his head. “Yes, sir.”

“Don’t call me, sir either.” Ratchet flashed something like a smile, his denta like a Sharkticon’s.

“Ratch don’t take kindly to command,” Jazz said with a flash of his visor and a nudge with his elbow.

Ratchet cast him a dark look. “Isn’t there somewhere you should be right now?”

Jazz held up his hands, backing away. “Sure, sure.” The light behind his visor shifted to Sideswipe, lingering, before he took two long steps toward the door. “I leave them in your hands then. I’ll just go check on Wheeljack.”

“You do that.”

Jazz offered an uneasy smile and then he left, the door clicking shut behind him.

“Does he bother you?” Sideswipe asked.

Ratchet snorted. “Everything bothers me.” He peered at the weld on Sunstreaker’s abdomen before straightening. “I can take you to see Prowl if you want.”

Sunstreaker nodded. “I do.” He clutched Sideswipe’s hand, spark squirming with a mixture of anxiety and relief.

“Then follow me.”

They left the tiny recovery room. No one one else was in the narrow hallway, and Jazz had made himself scarce rather quickly. Of the guard on their door, Sunstreaker saw no signs.

There were other doors, all of them looked to be locked, their panels glowing a baleful red. They were labeled, some of the glyphs unfamiliar to Sunstreaker. He suspected he didn’t want to know, especially if Starscream was performing all kinds of weird scientific experiments in here.

“Why do you think Starscream did all this?” Sideswipe asked as they followed in the medic’s wake, Ratchet slowing himself down for Sunstreaker’s sake.

“He was studying Empurata,” Ratchet answered before Sunstreaker could formulate a guess. “Starscream used to be a scientist in Iacon. One of our top researchers.”

Sideswipe and Sunstreaker exchanged glances. “What happened?” Sunstreaker asked.

“He left.” Ratchet tossed a look over his shoulder. “There are plenty of rumors as to why, but if you ask me, it was because of Shockwave.”

The designation had an echo of familiarity to it, but Sunstreaker didn’t know why. He couldn’t think where he’d heard it before. It wasn’t like he’d ever been to Iacon and he’d definitely never set foot in Starscream’s palace.

Ratchet drew to a halt in front of a long, low window, one that revealed the interior of a recovery room similar to the one where Sunstreaker had woken. Sunstreaker peered inside, but unless Prowl had gone through a significant change in order to go undercover, that was not Prowl.

“Who is that?” Sideswipe asked.

Ratchet sighed, resting a hand on the sill as he looked in on the mech, dark purple plating contrasting with white hands and a protoform-bare head. “Shockwave.”

Sunstreaker’s optics widened.

“Near as I can figure, Shockwave was one of the first to receive Empurata, though as to why the Senate thought he needed to be punished, he’s probably the only one who knows.” Ratchet’s voice took on that of a storyteller, his gaze fixed on the unmoving mech. “Worse, they also performed Shadowplay on him. Whoever did it was amateur, but thorough. I gather Starscream was trying to get him back to the way he was.”

“Why?” Sideswipe asked.

“They’re bonded.”

Sunstreaker startled, and he wasn’t the only one. “What?”

Ratchet cycled a ventilation. “Sparks are tricky things,” he said. “They took Shockwave’s emotions, his ability to feel, but he remembers Starscream. His spark remembers and still loves Starscream, but he couldn’t process what that meant.” He lowered his hand from the sill. “I can’t imagine what that was like.”

“I don’t get it.” Sideswipe rubbed his arms. “If you could fix Prowl, how come Starscream couldn’t fix Shockwave?”

“He was close to figuring it out,” Ratchet admitted. “Before now, I couldn’t have returned an Empurata victim back to who he was. But with Starscream’s research and my own put together… I can fix Prowl, and I think I can fix Shockwave, too.”

Sunstreaker’s hands clenched on the edge of the sill. “He won’t ever know you did,” he murmured.

“No, he won’t,” Ratchet said softly and stepped back from the window. “Come on. I’ll take you to Prowl. Enough staring at the unfortunate.”

Sunstreaker pushed away, falling into step beside Ratchet, but Sideswipe lingered. He frowned as he stared at Shockwave, his field unreadable.

“What did he do?” Sideswipe asked.

“Come again?”

“To get punished like that.” Sideswipe stepped away from the window, finally shifting his gaze to them. “What did Shockwave do?”

Ratchet shook his head. “I don’t know. None of us do.”

“Does it really matter? He probably didn’t deserve it,” Sunstreaker muttered. “Can we see Prowl now?” He felt jittery, anxious all over, and the delays didn’t help.

He still couldn’t believe that Prowl was here, that he hadn’t left because he wanted to.

Ratchet gave him a long look but nodded and gestured for Sunstreaker to follow. “He’s recovering, so I can’t let you stay for long.”

“However long I can get,” Sunstreaker said, his fingers twisting together. Excitement was replaced by anxiety.

What if Prowl didn’t want to see him?

“What about his memory?” Sideswipe asked as he caught up to them, his shoulder bumping Sunstreaker’s in a show of support.

“He never really forgot, truth be told,” Ratchet answered with an aggrieved sigh and a rub of his chevron. “Starscream was smart, but he didn’t know everything. Prowl’s battle computer was cutting edge, experimental tech. What Starscream didn’t know was that access to his memory core ran through it.”

Sunstreaker flattened his orbital ridge. “So…”

“So without it, he couldn’t read his memories.” Sideswipe thumbed his chin. “What does that mean now though? Will he remember what happened?”

Ratchet lowered his hand. “I honestly don’t know. This is new territory. My assumption is yes, though there may be some distortions.”

Some memory was better than none.

Ratchet stopped in front of another medical room with a viewing window. “Well, here he is. He should be online.”

“Thanks,” Sunstreaker said, though it was absent, his attention already caught by the window as he edged toward it and peered into the room.

Sunstreaker’s ventilations caught.

The paint was scraped and worn. The sensory plates were still missing, surely on the to-do list for the medics, but there was no doubt in Sunstreaker’s processor that Prowl was lying on the berth. His hands, his head, all were back as they should be.

Scratches and dings and dirt aside, he was the most handsome mech Sunstreaker had ever seen. His spark ached to look at him. His knees wobbled.

How long had it been? Months?

Sideswipe rested a hand on his shoulder. “Aren’t you going to go in?”

Sunstreaker worked his intake. “I don’t know if I can.” He gnawed on his bottom lip. “What if…?”

“Bro.” Sideswipe squeezed his shoulder, his field gently enclosing Sunstreaker. “You ain’t never gonna know if you don’t find out. But I’m telling you, he was just like Shockwave.”

Sunstreaker cycled his optics. “What?’

Sideswipe had his serious face on. “Prowl didn’t remember who he was, his own name. But isn’t it curious that he still found you?” His hand slid to Sunstreaker’s chestplate, right over his central seam. “The spark knows. And if his spark wanted you, ya can bet the rest of him does, too.”

Sunstreaker stared at his twin. Sideswipe hadn’t been the most supportive when Sunstreaker and Prowl first started seeing each other. In fact, he’d been a grumbling, stomping sibling for most of the time. He’d all but shouted ‘good riddance’ when Prowl first vanished.

He honestly didn’t have any words.

Sideswipe patted his seam again. “So you need to get your aft in there, bro. Don’t make yourself wait anymore.” His hand slid down and away, the other rising to give Sunstreaker’s back a push. “Go.”

He went, casting a final look back over his shoulder. Honestly, he wasn’t sure he recognized Sideswipe anymore, but he had to admit he liked the change.

Sunstreaker cycled a ventilation, braced himself, and opened the door. He eased inside, the quiet of the recovery room swallowing him up. There was a steady beeping, that of the machines monitoring Prowl’s condition. The room stank of cleaning supplies, of weld-sparks and med-grade coolant.

Sunstreaker inched toward the berth, the stool conveniently left beside it. Prowl’s optics were shuttered. What if he were sleeping?

Sunstreaker stalled. Maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe he should just go. Prowl needed his rest, to recover. He needed to heal.

He slid backward a step. His elbow hit something, a stand, it rattled noisily. Sunstreaker’s spark skipped a beat as he spun to catch whatever it was before it hit the ground. Great. Graceless as always.

“… Sunstreaker?”

He froze again. The static-laced sound of his name was Prowl, through and through. He’d recognize the echo of it anywhere.

Sunstreaker straightened and turned. Prowl’s optics had onlined with a dim glow, but they were directed at him.

“Yeah, it’s me,” he said. Nothing to it now. He inched back to the stool and carefully lowered himself into it. “How’re you feeling?”

“As though someone had taken my head and put it through a shredder,” Prowl admitted with a curve of his lips. His gaze drifted downward. “You were hurt?”

Sunstreaker instinctively reached for the static mesh on his abdomen. “It’s nothing. I’m told I’ll live.”

Prowl’s hand moved, reaching for him, fingers touching the bandage. “I always thought I was to protect you, not the other way around.”

“Pfft. And I told you, I can take care of myself. Besides, it seems like you’re the one getting yourself into trouble.”

Something flickered over Prowl’s face. “Yes. I made a mistake.” He cycled a ventilation, withdrawing his hand.

Sunstreaker caught it before he could convince himself not to, tangling their fingers together. Hands. Hands where pincers had been. He still couldn’t believe he hadn’t put the clues together.

“Starscream realized why I was here, and I hadn’t recognized that I was compromised.” Prowl’s gaze dropped to their hands, his thumb rubbing over the back of Sunstreaker’s hand. “I thought he would offline me. I prayed that he wouldn’t punish you as well.”

Sunstreaker’s spark warmed as he felt the first stirrings of Prowl’s field. It was weak, compared to the powerful force it had been before, a testament to his injured state.

“I’m not afraid of Starscream. I never was.” Sunstreaker leaned closer as Prowl’s optics brightened. “I’m sorry.”

Prowl tilted his head. “For what?”

Sunstreaker looked away. The wall, it was very fascinating. “I thought you left,” he admitted, shame coloring his field. “I looked, but I should have looked harder. I thought the worst of you and left you to suffer alone.” Guilt made his vents click. “I should have had faith in you.”

“I was not alone.” Prowl’s fingers squeezed his. “I remember, Sunstreaker, how you treated me kindly. When all others isolated me, you offered energon, and later, a place to stay, a home. You offered me friendship.”

Sunstreaker squirmed on the chair. “I don’t even know why I did that,” he muttered.

“Because you are not the monster you think you are.” The medberth creaked beneath Prowl as he shifted, the only warning Sunstreaker had before his free hand touched the underside of Sunstreaker’s chin, urging him to look at Prowl. “There’s a reason I love you.”

Sunstreaker’s optics widened. His vents caught in his intake with a wheeze. A tremble raced through him, from the tip of his head to the ends of his feet.

“You…. You…”

“I probably should have said it sooner,” Prowl admitted, his thumb stroking the curve of Sunstreaker’s jaw. “I thought to wait for the right time. I never could have imagined failing my mission first.”

“I…” Words failed Sunstreaker, as they always did. He knew what he wanted to say, but he didn’t want to blurt it out. He wanted it to mean something. “I… I missed you,” he choked out, words laced with static. “I missed you so much.”

“I know,” Prowl murmured and cupped Sunstreaker’s head, drawing him near until he could press their forehelms together.

Sunstreaker ex-vented softly, leaning into Prowl’s embrace. Tension eased out of his frame, out of his spark, leaving nothing but a gentle relief behind.

~

Sideswipe peered in through the window, feeling at once jittery and relieved. He remembered how sparkbroken his brother had been. How cold and closed off he’d become.

Now… now there was pure happiness in his optics. He leaned close to Prowl as if he couldn’t bear to be separated again.

“I never knew he could smile like that.”

Sideswipe slanted a look to the left, registering the black and white frame approaching him. Ricochet – Jazz his processor reminded him – had changed very little about his appearance, which made for a jarring disconnect to Sideswipe. He still resembled the mech Sideswipe had taken to berth, all except for his visor.

“I forgot Sunny could smile, too,” Sideswipe admitted as he watched the two mechs embrace, the armor on Sunstreaker’s back shuffling before it settled down smooth.

Jazz inched closer to him, his elbow bumping Sideswipe’s, though his field was restrained. “They’re lucky.”

Sideswipe made a noncommittal noise.

Jazz audibly cycled a ventilation. “I think we need to talk, Sides.”

He shrugged, staring intently through the window. “There’s nothing to talk about.” He kept his tone carefully neutral.

“Other than us.”

“What ‘us’?” Sideswipe shifted toward Jazz, but put a distance between them. “It was never serious, if I recall. It was fun. No expectations. No promises.”

Jazz’s visor flashed at him, energon blue. “Then why do ya sound hurt?”

Sideswipe ground his jaw then shook his head. “I don’t have time for this. I need to figure out how me and Sunny are going to make it now.”

Jazz’s hand on his arm was warm. Coaxing. “Sideswipe, please. Five minutes.”

His gaze slid back to his brother, who had gingerly climbed into the berth next to Prowl, snuggled up against Prowl’s side. Sideswipe tried and failed to fight the spike of jealousy that gnawed into his field. He was proud of Sunstreaker, but he admitted, if only to himself, that he wanted what Sunstreaker had.

He wanted it with the fire of a thousand suns.

“Fine,” Sideswipe bit out.

Jazz grinned and took his hand, tangling their fingers together. He tugged Sideswipe away from the window, down the hall, and to an unmarked door. Inside was what looked like a closet for data storage, hardly romantic. But it was small and private, what Sideswipe supposed mattered.

He pulled his hand free of Jazz’s and folded his arms. He wasn’t going to let himself be swayed by pretty words and a prettier smile. He’d lived in Uraya too long not to be suspicious of a good thing.

“Sides–”

“Look.” He spun toward Jazz, determined to get the first shot fired. “You were on a mission. I get it. You don’t owe me an apology or an explanation or to let me down gently. I get it.”

Jazz worked his jaw. “Apparently, you don’t. You seem ta be laboring under a serious misconception.” He inched closer, his field preceding him. “I meant what I said. What we had was nothin’ to do with my business here.”

Sideswipe looked away. He didn’t want that thin spark of hope. It was dangerous. It wasn’t meant for him.

“I don’t even know who you are,” Sideswipe gritted out.

“So we start over. We give it a real try this time.” Jazz’s field was gentle, coaxing, inviting. It held echoes of all the times they laughed. “Unless you don’t want that.”

Sideswipe hunched his shoulders. He didn’t know why he felt hurt.

“What’s the point?” he muttered. “You’re going back to Iacon, and I’m staying here to pick up the pieces of this mess.”

“You that attached to Uraya?”

He rubbed the heel of his palm against his optics. “Me ‘n Sunny, we’re barely moren’ gutter mechs. Where else we gonna go?”

“If you think Prowl ain’t gonna offer your brother the world now, you’re blind. There’s no way he’s leaving Sunstreaker unless Sunstreaker rejects him.”

Sideswipe made a face. “Ah. Charity. I always did love the bitter taste of it.” He sneered. “Uraya’s a damn sight better than becomin’ some dolled up berthtoy.”

Jazz sighed. “That’s not what we’re offering. It ain’t charity either. It’s a helping hand. You’re both smart, talented, all ya need is a way to get started.”

If there was one thing Sideswipe had learned living on the edge of the Wastes it was this: if something sounded too good to be true, it probably was.

“Unless, of course, your objection to this is that you don’t want to be with me, in which case, fine. I can take rejection. I still want ya to come to Iacon with us though.”

Sideswipe stared at him. “No one is that generous.”

Jazz tilted his chin. “So says the mech whose brother took in an Empurata victim out of the kindness of his spark.”

“That’s Sunny. He’s special.”

“And you’re not?”

His spark ached. It sounded like the truth, ringing in his audials. No. No, he wasn’t. The special one was Sunstreaker. The shining star. The pure spirit.

That was not Sideswipe.

Jazz’s field stroked over his, a gentle caress that recalled the night he’d spent tracing odd patterns into Sideswipe’s back plating while they watched re-runs of an old comedy series. They hadn’t interfaced that evening for some reason, but Sideswipe hadn’t turned around and left either. He’d opted to stay.

“I don’t know what happened,” Jazz said, his voice oddly soft. “And I’m not asking you to tell me. But whatever it is, it’s a burden you’ve been carrying for a long time. One I want to help you bear.”

He inched closer, closer, and Sideswipe was hard-pressed to walk away. He wanted to lean in to what Jazz offered. He wanted to sink into the solace that seemed so welcoming.

“I can’t decide for you what we were, but for me, it meant something.” Jazz reached and Sideswipe was too weak not to reach back.

Sideswipe let himself be wrapped into Jazz’s arms, suddenly feeling small despite being almost a full head taller than the other mech. He pressed his forehead to Jazz’s shoulder, listening to the rhythmic vents.

“Let me be the one to look after you,” Jazz murmured, one hand gently stroking down Sideswipe’s spinal strut. “Let me be your shelter.”

Sideswipe chuckled, though it was full of static and nearer to a sob. “I didn’t know you were such a poet.”

“Ya must bring it out in me,” Jazz said, his voice warm with affection and humor. “Is it workin’?”

“I don’t know yet.” Sideswipe shuttered his optics, his thoughts awhirl. It was too hard to think, his processor drifting between too many points of concern. “I can’t think right now.”

Jazz hummed in his vocalizer, like the beginning of a song. “Then don’t. When was the last time ya recharged?”

He honestly couldn’t remember. He hadn’t recharged well since Dent vanished and Sunstreaker spent his free time out in the Wastes, looking for him. He thought he may have caught a few hours while waiting for Sunstreaker to come out of surgery, but Sideswipe wasn’t sure. Trying to tap into his short-term memory was like poking at sludge.

“Sides?”

He unshuttered his optics and straightened, the abrupt motion making him stagger a bit. Primus, his head was spinning.

“I don’t know,” Sideswipe admitted. He worked an arm free, pressing the heel of it to his forehead.

Jazz muttered something that might have been a curse as he eased out of the embrace and grabbed Sideswipe’s hand firmly. “Come on.”

“Why?” Sideswipe asked as Jazz pulled him with an unexpected strength toward the door. Then again, there was a lot he didn’t know about Jazz.

“You need to rest.”

Sideswipe rolled his optics. “I’m not the one who got shot in the fuel tank.”

“Sides, you gotta take care of yourself, too. Sunny’s fine, I promise. Ain’t nothin’ gonna happen to him.”

They emerged into the hallway and Jazz marched him two doors down, to a room that was clean and unoccupied. Sideswipe balked a little. He wasn’t sure he could recharge here, not knowing what Starscream had been doing in this place.

“Ain’t nothin’ gonna happen to you either,” Jazz added as he backed Sideswipe up to the berth and gave him a little push, until his aft landed on the pad. “I’m gonna sit right here the whole time.”

Sideswipe sighed and pulled himself onto the berth. Fatigue tugged at every cable and strut, but so did tension. He lay on the pad as stiff as a board. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so disconnected.

“You’re just going to watch me recharge?” Sideswipe asked.

“Well, no. I figured I could work on some paperwork or somethin’.” Jazz gave him a crooked grin, one that was pure Ricochet. “Ya can’t imagine how much I left behind when I came here.”

Sideswipe huffed a laugh. He scooted over on the berth, his spark hammering in his chassis. “And I’ll bet you haven’t recharged either.” He patted the berth in open invitation. “There’s room for two?”

Did he sound hopeful?

Primus, he did. He was a mess. He was also probably going to regret this when he woke later. But the memory of his jealousy, of Sunstreaker and Prowl scrunched together on that medberth, wouldn’t leave him alone.

“Ya sure?”

“Wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t.”

Jazz stared at him for a long moment before he accepted Sideswipe’s invitation, sliding into the berth beside him. It took some maneuvering until they found a comfortable position, one they often favored before, with Sideswipe curled around Jazz from behind. He could feel the soft purrs of Jazz’s engine against his chestplate.

The lights dimmed seconds later, some kind of remote control Sideswipe assumed. He cycled a ventilation and tried to relax into recharge, focusing on the pulse and ebb of Jazz’s field. It offered him a comfort he couldn’t have expected. He didn’t think he would relax enough to recharge, but Jazz’s frame in his arms was familiar and warm.

There was no difference between Jazz and Ricochet like this.

And that thought, combined with Jazz’s welcome field, was enough to lull Sideswipe into recharge.

~

Sunstreaker had lost count of all the times he’d woken from a pleasant dream only to be faced with an upsetting reality. The solace once found in his memories became tainted by the dread of onlining.

This time was no exception. He was drawn away from a dream of Prowl returning, having never wanting to leave in the first place. Sunstreaker expected to wake up in a cold, empty berth with the reminder that he was still abandoned.

Even the warmth felt like a lie, until the grouchy growl pierced the doubt like a blaster shot. Sunstreaker lurched awake with little subtlety as his short-term memory core dumped into his active queue and unmade the dream.

“Calm down, kid,” the grouchy voice snarled as Sunstreaker’s field spiked.

His optics snapped online, vents wheezing, as he jerked out of a warm and welcome embrace.

Bright lights. Antiseptic stench. Another field against his, one failing to soothe, the other painfully, achingly familiar.

Clarity drizzled into his processor. Something warm touched his cheek. Fingers. A hand.

Prowl’s hand.

“It wasn’t a dream,” Sunstreaker whispered, his vocalizer spitting static. His vision clarified into Prowl’s face, his soft blue optics, his gentle smile.

“No,” Prowl confirmed, his field nudging more firmly against Sunstreaker’s, grounding him. “I am here.”

Sunstreaker’s vents hitched. “How do I know I’m not dreaming now?”

“I could shock you if you want,” the grumpy growl commented.

Sunstreaker froze.

Prowl sighed, his gaze sliding past Sunstreaker’s shoulders. “Has anyone ever told you that you have an atrocious berthside manner?”

“Many times.” Ratchet – Sunstreaker recognized his voice now – said. “You get used to it.”

Prowl’s lips twitched, his attention returning to Sunstreaker. “If Ratchet’s less than pleasant temperament doesn’t convince you, I’m not sure anything will.”

Sunstreaker’s lips curved. “I don’t think I could have imagined him anyway.”

“I’m right here you know,” Ratchet grumped, moving into Sunstreaker’s peripheral vision. “And now that you’re with us, kid, I need you off that berth where you shouldn’t have been in the first place.”

Prowl stroked Sunstreaker’s cheek again before releasing him. “Your work remains immaculate, Ratchet. No harm was done.”

“You are both in a sorry state. I’ll be the judge of that,” Ratchet retorted as a scan washed over Sunstreaker, making his dermal plating itch.

Sunstreaker reluctantly slid off the berth, but remained beside it, within Prowl’s reach. It all still felt unreal, as though he was going to wake up cold and alone again. He sought out Prowl’s hand, tangling their fingers together.

“Well, you’re not wrong,” Ratchet finally said as he frowned over something on his datapad. “Neither of you are idiots.”

Sunstreaker squinted. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”

“Sadly, yes.” Prowl sighed. “He’s something of an acquired taste.”

Ratchet’s fingers flew over the datapad, foregoing a stylus. “I’ll remember that the next time your reckless brother calls me for a favor.”

“You would have come anyway.”

“Yeah, but don’t tell anyone.” Ratchet’s orbital ridge flattened. “Now as cute as the two of you cuddling is, we need some privacy, kid.”

Sunstreaker tightened his grip. “But–”

“I am not leaving, Sunstreaker. Do not worry.” Prowl’s field pulsed with affection. “I suspect Ratchet wishes to lecture me.”

“Among other things,” the medic huffed.

Because that didn’t sound ominous at all.

Prowl tugged, urging Sunstreaker down until he could press their foreheads together.

“We have much to discuss,” he murmured. “But know that I do not intend to leave you again.”

“You had better not.”

Prowl stroked his cheek before pulling him in for a sweet kiss. Their lips moved together, as chaste as could be, though it sent a zing straight to Sunstreaker’s spark. Warmth flooded his chassis.

“All right. Enough canoodling, you two. You do want your flats back at some point, yes?”

Sunstreaker reluctantly withdrew from Prowl’s embrace. It was hard to let go, to walk away, though Ratchet’s stare was insistent.

“Do not strain yourself,” Ratchet warned. “No transforming. No heavy lifting. No strenuous activity of any kind.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sunstreaker cast a longing glance at Prowl who gave him a reassuring smile and shooed him on.

“I’ll comm you when you can come back,” Ratchet added with an aggrieved sigh.

Sunstreaker didn’t expect the courtesy. He offered Ratchet a small smile. “Thank you,” he said and made himself scarce, closing the door quietly behind him.

He lingered in the hallway, peering through the window. Ratchet stowed his datapad and pulled up the stool on the other side of Prowl’s berth. They were talking, Sunstreaker could see, with Ratchet making large gestures with his hands. Prowl looked resigned.

Iacon business, Sunstreaker supposed.

He wondered what would happen next. Prowl didn’t live in Uraya and Sunstreaker didn’t belong in Iacon.

Sunstreaker sighed and forced himself away from the window. He needed to find Sideswipe.

They had a lot of talking to do.

~

Sideswipe woke to the soft whispers of conversation, one that wasn’t directed at him. He surfaced from recharge slowly, his frame trying to pull him back under. Jazz, however, was talking to someone and Sideswipe’s audials caught onto it.

“–soon as we can, but I ain’t promisin’ anythin’, sir.”

There was a pause, a whuff of irritation entering Jazz’s field, and then he said, “Yes, sir. I understand. Jazz, out.”

The irritation grew strength, until it whisked away, smoothed right out of Jazz’s field. His hand slid down to the one Sideswipe had rested on his hip.

“G’morning,” Jazz murmured.

“What was that about?”

Jazz sighed and wriggled about on the berth, turning so that he faced Sideswipe. “Higher ups getting twitchy in Iacon. Prime’s been riding their afts hard.”

Sideswipe’s spark clenched. “You have to go back?”

“Yeah. But not anytime soon.” Jazz’s lip curved as he wriggled closer, notching their frames together.

“Oh?”

“Prowl still needs surgery before he can get mobile. He can’t walk around properly without his flats.” Jazz nuzzled into Sideswipe’s intake, in-venting sharply. “Plus there’re dozens of victims here that are goin’ ta need help, not ta mention those hidin’ in the Wastes”

Sideswipe worked his intake. “And they’re letting you stay for that?”

Jazz shrugged, his lips brushing Sideswipe’s intake cables, prompting a shiver through his armor. “It’s complicated. Prowl’s kind of Prime’s favorite, and he wasn’t too happy to find out that the Senate had ignored the fact he missed the last seven check-ins. So he’s sending a team to help. Once Prowl’s back on his feet, he’s supposed to lead it.”

Desire dared trickle down his spinal strut. Sideswipe fought it off and leaned back so that he could meet Jazz’s gaze.

“What about you?”

The blue visor dimmed, disappointment flickering through Jazz’s field. “I did kind of leave without permission. Walked out on my job, too.” Jazz shifted back, putting some space between them, though their legs remained tangled. “I’ll figure something out. Might be a position will open up pretty soon, since Prime’s so mad and all.”

Sideswipe ignored the disappointment that thought to fizzle in his spark. “How much longer will you be here?”

“Until we fix what Starscream ruined, I guess.” Jazz shrugged, though it didn’t feel casual. “Until Prowl’s satisfied with what we’ve done. Ratchet will hafta go back sooner than that, but he’s leavin’ us his best apprentice and Wheeljack. That should be enough.”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know. It’s nothin’ that can be decided in this moment, Sideswipe.” A twinge of annoyance entered Jazz’s vocals before he sighed and sat up, sweeping a hand over his head. “I just… I don’t know the answers. I only know what I want.”

Sideswipe pushed himself upright as well, bracing his backstrut against the wall. “And that would be?” He drew his knees up, resting his arms over the top of them.

Jazz’s lower lip curved. He tilted his head. “I would’ve thought that were obvious by now.”

“Indulge me,” Sideswipe insisted, twisting his wrists in a display of invitation.

Jazz slipped off the berth but didn’t go far, leaning forward to brace his weight on the edge of it. “Do ya think I have something to prove, is that it?”

Sideswipe stared at him. “Everything I know about you is a lie,” he said quietly.

“Not everything.” Jazz shook his head and cycled a ventilation. “Yeah, my name was a lie. Some of this, too.” He gestured to his paint, his frame. “But the personal stuff? All of that was true. I told ya stuff I shouldn’t have. I…” He paused and shook his head again. “Ya got under my platin’, Sides. I didn’t expect that.”

Sideswipe’s ventilations caught. The confession actually sounded genuine. Not like the act Sideswipe had come to know. Nothing like Ricochet but something else.

He scooted forward, to the edge of the berth, dangling his lower legs off the edge of it to either side of Jazz’s frame. He still kept his hands to himself.

“I like you,” Sideswipe said, though his gaze went past Jazz’s head, focusing on the far, empty wall. “I didn’t expect that either. I thought, maybe this time, I could have something for myself without worrying about leaving Sunny behind. I thought…” He trailed off, venting noisily. “I honestly don’t even know what I thought.”

Sideswipe pressed the heel of his palm to the space between his optics. His head ached, and he wasn’t sure why.

Jazz’s field nudged against his. “You can still have that. I said I wasn’t goin’ anywhere, Sides. I meant it.”

Sideswipe sighed. “Except back to Iacon.”

“And I seem ta remember invitin’ ya to join me.”

“And I told you why I didn’t like that idea,” Sideswipe snapped, sharper than he intended, his gaze whipping toward Jazz.

The other mech’s lips thinned. He folded his arms under his bumper and took a step back. “Then I dunno what ya want from me,” Jazz said, his field flattening.

“Nothing. I don’t want anything. I just…” Another frustrated ex-vent escaped him. He rubbed harder at his forehelm. “I don’t know what I want.”

“Then maybe you should figure that out.” Jazz took a sliding step backward, his door panels drifting downward. “Since your brother’s lookin’ for ya, now’s a good time to start.”

Sideswipe blinked. “What? Sunstreaker?”

“Yeah. My agent just contacted me, warned me he directed Sunstreaker this way. He should be here any moment now.”

Sideswipe hopped off the berth. “I have to go.” He hurried to the door, hoping to precede Jazz out of it.

He hadn’t told Sunstreaker about his relationship with Ricochet. He didn’t particularly want to talk about it right now. He had too many things to figure out.

“You’re in a hurry,” Jazz observed. “Still never told your brother, I see?” There was accusation in his voice. Hurt, too.

Sideswipe couldn’t deal with that right now. He scraped a hand over his head. “It’s complicated.”

“Simplify it,” Jazz said as the door opened and Sideswipe hurried through it.

“No. Not now,” Sideswipe said as he spun on a heel toward Jazz. “I just… I need a moment. Time. Something. I don’t know. I can’t even think.” There was too much going on for him to find the right words.

He needed distance. He needed space. He needed Sunstreaker to not see this at this very moment.

But even as he thought it, he already knew it was too late.

~

Sunstreaker rounded the corner to find Sideswipe and Jazz standing in the middle of the hall, very little distance between them, their expressions a mixed bag of complicated emotion. Sideswipe looked tense. Sunstreaker didn’t know Jazz well enough to guess.

“What’s going on?” Sunstreaker asked as he approached them, his gaze sliding from his brother to Jazz and back again. “Did I miss something?”

“Yeah. Somethin’.” Jazz’s visor shifted to Sideswipe, his head tilting, before he offered a parting wave and spun on his heelstrut. “Ya know how to find me when yer ready to talk, Sides.” He nodded at Sunstreaker. “Glad to see ya on yer feet, by the way,” he added, and then he was gone, turning the curve of the hall.

Sunstreaker cycled his optics. “You going to explain that?” he asked as he shifted his gaze to his brother.

Sideswipe sighed and buried his face behind his hands, rubbing the dermal metal. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin, bro,” he moaned into his hands before peering over his fingertips. “How’s Prowl?”

“Ratchet kicked me out. They’re talking business.” Sunstreaker folded his arms. “Which is what we need to do. After you tell me what’s going on with you and Jazz.”

“Nothing.” Sideswipe’s plating clamped down tight. His tone was every bit defensive.

Sunstreaker narrowed his optics. “I’m not stupid, Sides. You haven’t known Jazz very long for it to be something, which tells me it’s about Ricochet.” He tilted his head, thinking.

Sideswipe started going out a lot more after Ricochet showed up in Starscream’s entourage. They flirted an awful lot with each other. To be fair, Sideswipe flirted with anyone halfway handsome that came into the cafe, but now that Sunstreaker thought about it, there was an easy camaraderie with Ricochet.

Sunstreaker admitted to himself that sometimes he was self-absorbed and he was blind. He didn’t notice things he should have.

He worked his jaw, gritting his denta.

He should have noticed this.

“How long?” Sunstreaker asked.

Sideswipe shook his head, taking a step back. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said and started down the hall, back the way Sunstreaker came. “Come on. I know somewhere we can talk.”

“You’re dodging the question.” Sunstreaker moved to follow him, irritation growing in his spark. “Stop treating me like a sparkling, Sides.”

His brother’s hands clenched into a soft fist. “I’ll stop that once you stop acting like one,” Sideswipe hissed.

Sunstreaker drew up short, hurt replacing the irritation. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Sideswipe stopped, too, and sighed. He rubbed his forehead. “Nothing,” he muttered. “I’m sorry, Sunny. I haven’t gotten much recharge and we got a lot to figure out.”

“You meant that.” Sunstreaker worked his intake as he caught up to his brother, something raw and aching inside of him. “Sides… you… why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Because there’s nothing to say,” Sideswipe replied, sounding exhausted. “You’re my brother and I love you. That is all that matters.”

“Clearly it’s not.”

Sideswipe sighed, loudly, with a catch in his vents. “Sunny, it’s complicated. And it’s not you. It’s… other things, too.” He shook his head and spun back toward the door he and Jazz had been standing in front of. “I’m not going to talk about it in the hallway.” He jabbed at the pin pad, the door sliding open under his code.

He went inside. Sunstreaker balked, hovering in the doorway. But it looked empty, clean, no signs of a night of debauchery. He’d walked in on Sideswipe before. It left him wary.

“Get in here,” Sideswipe said as he hauled himself onto the edge of the berth. It sounded like less of a command and more of a tired request.

He really did sound exhausted. Was he always this fatigued or had Sunstreaker never noticed.

He entered, the door sliding shut behind him. “Sides–”

“Fine, I admit it,” his brother said, soft but cutting, his gaze everywhere but focused on Sunstreaker. “I’d been seeing Ricochet, fairly regular, not like my usual play. Course I didn’t know then that he was undercover Iacon else I might never have got started.”

Sunstreaker twisted his jaw. “And you couldn’t tell me because…?”

“Because I knew you didn’t like him.” Sideswipe ex-vented in a loud burst.

Sunstreaker folded his arms over his windshield, careful to avoid putting pressure on his wound. “So? You didn’t like Prowl and that didn’t stop me.”

“This is different.”

“How?”

“It just is!” Sideswipe snapped, his field flicking through the room like a physical blow. He ex-vented noisily and made a sharp gesture. “You’re you and I… I couldn’t afford the distraction.”

Sunstreaker ground his denta. He stared at his brother, at the way Sideswipe couldn’t meet his gaze, how he clamped his plating. He wondered if it was his fault. If this was a pain Sideswipe had always hidden from him.

He wondered why he didn’t notice and feared it was because he was just that much of a self-centered aft.

Sunstreaker worked his intake and crossed the floor, throwing his arms over Sideswipe’s shoulders before he could convince himself not to. Sideswipe stiffened in the embrace for a long moment, almost as though he were going to push Sunstreaker away, before he relaxed and rested his head on Sunstreaker’s shoulder.

“I don’t know the words,” Sunstreaker admitted, his spark feeling too large for his chassis. “I don’t even know if I’m saying what I mean to say or not, Sides, but you’re my brother, and I love you, and I’m sorry that I’ve been such a burden, but I promise that’s gonna change.”

“Sunny–”

He shook his head, cutting Sideswipe off. “You looked after me and you protected me and you probably did things I don’t even know about.” Sunstreaker tightened his embrace, briefly gnawing on his bottom lip. “And I’m grateful for that. But I want you to be happy now. I want you to think about you, okay? Even if that means Ricochet or Jazz or whatever he’s calling himself.”

Silence.

Sideswipe’s ventilations shuddered. His field wrapped around Sunstreaker, much like their current embrace.

“He asked me to come back to Iacon with him,” Sideswipe muttered, voice somewhat muffled. “I guess that means Prowl’s gonna ask you, too.”

Sunstreaker blinked. “What?” He drew back so he could look Sideswipe in the optic, more than a little confused.

Sideswipe sighed. “Well, it’s not like there’s anything for us here, Sunny.”

“I know that. I just…” Sunstreaker huffed a ventilation, trying to pinpoint why he wasn’t leaping at the opportunity presented. “We don’t belong there.”

“We don’t really belong anywhere, Sunny.” Sideswipe smiled, but it was crooked, a rare and genuine smile. “As it is, the only time I know I’m home is if it’s you and me.”

Sunstreaker cupped his brother’s head and pressed their foreheads together. “Then whatever we do, we do it together. We leave Uraya, we try Iacon. We’ve survived worse than a little shine and polish, right?”

Sideswipe lay his hands over Sunstreaker’s. “Right.” He squeezed Sunstreaker’s hands in agreement. “So it’s settled then. We’ll go with them?”

“Well, we can go to Iacon.” Sunstreaker let a little chuckle free. “Whether or not it means we’re with them is a different story.”

“Pfft.” Sideswipe drew back, releasing Sunstreaker’s hands, but only to rap his fingers over Sunstreaker’s chestplate. “Ya can’t fool me, bro. Ya ain’t leavin’ Prowl.”

Sunstreaker’s face heated. He folded his arms over his chestplate. “Oh yeah? What about you and Ricochet?”

“Jazz,” Sideswipe corrected, though it was absent. He rolled his shoulders in a shrug. “I don’t know yet.” He scratched his chin with a sideways grin. “Still trying to get over that whole bit where he lied to me.”

Sunstreaker gave his brother a rueful grin. “Well, he kinda had to, Sides. It’s not like he was tryin’ to hurt ya.”

“Yeah, well, the path to the Pit and all that.” Sideswipe rubbed at his forehelm. “Anyway, that’s my worry to have, not yours. Why don’t you go cuddle with Prowl some more?”

“Can’t. Medic’s got him.”

Sideswipe hopped off the berth, stretching his arms over his head. “Then I guess it’s time for you and me to see what kind of trouble we can get into around here.”

Sunstreaker snorted and followed him to the door. “It’ll be just like old times.”

~

Nothing more was said about moving to Iacon, not because they didn’t want to, but because Uraya and the Palace became a sudden flurry of activity. The relief team from Iacon arrived and swept in to take control. Ratchet was whisked back to the Prime’s side, leaving behind his apprentice, a capable friendly mech by the name of First Aid who didn’t so much as blink at Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, or hesitate when it came to the dozens of Empuras gathered up from around Uraya and pulled from the depths of Starscream’s laboratory.

It was a daunting task, one Sunstreaker did not envy. He’d hoped to hide in a quiet corner away from the noise and bustle, but somehow, he’d gotten roped into assisting. He and Sideswipe were familiar faces to the frightened and often barely coherent Empura population. They were the only ones capable of calming the frantic masses.

It was exhausting work. Sunstreaker felt strained, pushed to the reach of his limits, but he could no more leave those Empuras to suffer than he could have left Dent to starve in the streets. The pull wasn’t insistent, not as it had been with Dent, but Sunstreaker did pity them.

He, too, had been like them once. Abandoned. Left for dead. Left to starve. Believing that no one and nothing cared. Except Sunstreaker had always had Sideswipe. He’d always had his brother by his side.

Prowl and Jazz lingered.

Prowl gave orders from the berth; Jazz ensured they were carried out.

If Jazz and Sideswipe ever sat down to have a serious talk, Sunstreaker never saw it. By all accounts, it looked like Sideswipe was avoiding Jazz. The Iacon spy had a decent mask, but sometimes, Sunstreaker caught it cracking when he looked at Sideswipe. There was disappointment, sadness, but understanding beneath it all.

He’d let Sideswipe go if he had to.

Of course his brother would be a moron about this. But Sunstreaker knew better than to push. Sideswipe only dug in his heels if Sunstreaker tried to nudge him. It was best to let him come to a conclusion on his own.

Sunstreaker alternated his evenings between Prowl and Sideswipe, nights spent in quiet contemplation or conversation. Now that Prowl’s condition wasn’t critical, his repairs had slowed in order to treat the more urgent of Starscream’s victims. Prowl’s orders, apparently, not that the Prime had been happy to hear this. He wanted Prowl back as soon as possible.

Pah. Primes. Thought they could demand whatever they wanted and their minions would snap to obey. Sunstreaker said as much.

Prowl chuckled and stroked a hand down his spinal strut. “They are the singular leader of Cybertron. It is only to be expected.”

“They are only mechs,” Sunstreaker grumbled, though his engine purred at the light touches. It was maddening how easily Prowl could rouse him, and yet neither of them could do anything about the desire stirring their circuits.

An overload could fry the sensory flats they’d reattached to his frame. Something about a neural relapse? Sunstreaker wasn’t really listening. He got the gist of it. Overloads equaled bad news for healing.

Fine.

“They’re not deities or anything.”

“I would call that blasphemy save that it is the truth,” Prowl murmured, tilting his head to press against Sunstreaker’s. “Only, do not say as much aloud in Iacon. At least, not in the upper rings.”

Sunstreaker made a noise of disgust and buried his face in Prowl’s front, right under his headlights. Right here, he could listen to the steady purr of Prowl’s engine, reassuring himself that Prowl was alive and well.

He still did not know if he could live in Iacon, but the idea of leaving Prowl was not one he wanted to entertain.

“You know, there are art galleries in Iacon,” Prowl said, his fingers tracing a lingering path up Sunstreaker’s back as though exploring each and every spinal bolt. “Dozens of them. With the right sponsor, you could even open your own.”

Sunstreaker made a noise in his intake. “Those are for real artists.”

“Which you are.”

“Nnn.” He counted Prowl’s ventilations, bathed in the familiar warmth of Prowl’s energy field. “No one wants the gutter trash.”

Prowl’s hand slid up to his head. “They do.” He curved his hand around Sunstreaker’s helm vent, tilting his chin up to look into his optics. “Do you know that I sent one of your works back to an associate of mine in Iacon? It sold within moments.”

“It did?”

“Sunstreaker, it outsold every artist in the gallery that evening.” Prowl’s thumb stroked his cheek, his lips pulled into a soft smile. “Please do not ever call yourself gutter trash again. That is an insult deserved of no one.”

Sunstreaker’s spark did that flutter thing again. He pushed himself up on his elbows, giving him just the height bump he needed to press his lips to Prowl’s. They could never go any further than a few kisses, than a tangle of glossae, and the taste of Prowl on his lips. Any more than that and Sunstreaker would be tempted to take it further.

He pressed his forehead to Prowl’s, feeling the light buzz of the sensitive chevron against his dermal layer. “I want to go to Iacon,” Sunstreaker admitted.

He’d already decided weeks ago. Frag, he’d wanted to leave long before Prowl vanished. He’d burned for something more than Uraya. He’d burned for the chance to be something more.

“And I would like for you to come with me,” Prowl replied, stroking his cheek again. “You need only say the word.”

Sunstreaker smiled and settled back down, his lower half blanketing Prowl’s legs, his upper half encircling Prowl’s torso so that he might rest his head on Prowl’s chest. He felt better listening to the steady oscillations of Prowl’s spark. He thought to memorize the sound, so that he might never forget it again.

“Or truthfully, you need only convince your stubborn brother,” Prowl said with a soft chuckle.

Sunstreaker buried his face in Prowl’s bumper and laughed. “If you figure out the magic words to do that, let me know.”

Prowl rested an arm across his shoulders, his field pulsing affection. “Deal.”

~

“Sunny with Prowl tonight?”

Sideswipe would never admit to startling. But damn, Ricochet rarely walked this silently. He’d had a heavy tread, like a standard bodyguard. Jazz, however, managed not to make a sound.

He side-eyed the other mech. “Yes,” Sideswipe answered as he ticked another item off on the datapad.

Luckily for Prowl, Sideswipe liked numbers and inventory, otherwise he’d think this was a punishment. Taking stock was an important part of his business, however. And Sideswipe didn’t mind. It gave him something to do, something to focus on other than the question nagging at the back of his processor.

“Could I mebbe offer my company instead?” Jazz folded his arms under his bumper, leaning a shoulder against an edge of shelving.

Sideswipe cycled a ventilation. “I know I play it pretty casual in the berth, but I ain’t that easy.”

“Not what I meant, Sides.” Jazz’s visor glittered. “I was thinkin’ we could talk.”

“We can just as easily talk right here,” Sideswipe pointed out as he counted how many boxes of the lowest level pain chips they had in stock.

Starscream had a lot of them, as it turned out, not that Sideswipe was surprised. He remembered acquiring them for Starscream a couple years back, before Prowl showed up in Uraya. In fact, he remembered “acquiring” a lot of the supplies here. It still surprised him that he wasn’t facing legal action for this.

Jazz shifted his weight. “It’s not exactly private.”

“Yeah, well, it’s the best you’re gonna get right now.” Sideswipe made another notation and bent over slightly to better see the next row. “I have a lot of work to do, as you can see. Your brother is keeping me very busy.”

“I noticed. Sure don’t stop him from makin’ sure he got time to cuddle yours though.” Jazz snorted, but at least he didn’t sound bitter. Instead, there was a fondness to his tone. “They’re stupidly adorable, aren’t they?”

Sideswipe huffed a ventilation. “Don’t remind me.” He made a few more notations. “Though I guess it’s a good thing. Sunny deserves to be happy.”

“And you don’t?”

“That’s a stupid question.”

A hand appeared in his line of sight, covering his datapad. Sideswipe’s engine rumbled as he straightened to look over and down at Jazz.

He and Sunny were of a height. It was interesting to him, however, that while Prowl was slightly taller than the twins, Jazz was a full head shorter than his brother. In fact, they didn’t resemble much, except for their paint jobs.

“Orders came down,” Jazz said quietly, his visor holding Sideswipe’s gaze. “Soon as Prowl is mobile, we have to go back.”

Sideswipe went still. “You said you would stay until the work was done.”

Jazz sighed. “And apparently, someone’s stirring up slag in Kaon and it can’t wait. It’s out of our hands.”

Sideswipe made a noncommittal noise and tipped his datapad out from under Jazz’s hand. “That leaves, what, two weeks?” The last time he’d spoken with First Aid, he said Prowl’s self-repair had progressed enough that activating his new sensor flats could take place within a week.

“Less.” Jazz retracted his hand, folding it back under his bumper again.

Sideswipe shrugged, and pretended inventory was more fascinating, though it all swam in front of him. “Have a safe trip.”

Jazz ex-vented noisily. “So you’re going to stay here?” His engine rumbled. “Damn it, Sides. Why are ya bein’ so stubborn about this?”

He paused and bowed his head. He cycled a ventilation, fingers trembling around the stylus. “Because I refuse to put myself in a position where my safety and security relies on the trust I place in someone else ever again.”

“You think ya can’t trust me?”

“I don’t know!” Sideswipe snapped, twisting away from Jazz, holding his datapad as though it were a lifeline. “You think you can walk in here like some kind of guardian sent from Primus or some slag, like you’re rescuing us poor pieces of trash, and I should just be so grateful, I just follow after you like I don’t have any self-respect!”

The words rang in the air between them, as heavy as a physical attack. Silence fell in the aftermath, but Jazz neither retreated or stepped down. Instead, he gave Sideswipe a long, considering look.

Jazz’s visor dimmed. “What was his name?” he asked, and there something taut in his vocals, that hinted of self-control.

Sideswipe shook his head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does ta me. ‘Cause I’m not him, Sides.” Jazz’s field fluctuated, a confused tangle of emotions.

“No, you’re not.” Sideswipe worked his intake, his spark shrinking into a tight ball. “But I don’t know that you won’t become him. Or them. Or any of the other mechs that walked away from us.”

Jazz stared at him for a long moment before he unfolded his arms, opening his hands to show Sideswipe his open palms. “I can’t say anythin’ that would convince ya,” he said quietly. “I can’t make a promise I don’t know that I can keep. I can’t tell ya to trust me either. I can only ask for a chance. If ya don’t want to take it, that’s fine. I’ll walk away. I’ll leave ya be. But Sides… ya gotta start somewhere.”

He knew Jazz was right. That didn’t make it easier to agree, to hold out his own hands and take the leap.

He only wanted what was best. For himself. For Sunstreaker. For the both of them together. He wanted to see Sunstreaker smiling forever, he wanted to lay to recharge at night without worrying that another bad sales day could put them back into the Wastes with the Empura and the Empties. He wanted to have a steady income without skirting the threat of the law.

“Anyway, I’ve said my peace.” Jazz lowered his hands. “It’s up to you what ya wanna do about it. Just consider it, okay?”

Sideswipe didn’t answer. He cycled a ventilation, trying to calm the rapid flutters of his spark.

Jazz headed to the door, as silent as his arrival had been. He keyed it open, only to pause in the frame, his plating drawn tight. “I only want ya to be happy, Sides. It don’t even have to be with me.”

“What would I even do in Iacon?” Sideswipe asked, well aware that he sounded petulant.

Jazz offered him a small smile. “Anythin’ ya want.” He tapped his fingers on the door frame. “Comm me if ya change yer mind. Number’s the same as it’s always been.”

He stepped out and the door slid shut behind him.

Sideswipe ex-vented and leaned against the shelving behind him. He shuttered his optics, well aware that he was shaking.

Sunstreaker would tell him that he was being a stubborn idiot. Sunstreaker would be right. But Sunstreaker tended to look for the best in mechs. Sideswipe had learned to watch out for the worst.

~

Sideswipe woke to a relentless pinging on his comm suite. It was a message from Prowl, requesting his presence in the medbay.

He leapt out of his berth, instantly alert. Had something happened to Sunstreaker? That was his main concern.

Sideswipe didn’t bother with gathering energon. He gave himself a cursory glance in the mirror before he hurried out of the room and made a beeline for the main medbay where Prowl was receiving treatment. He all but burst into the room that was Prowl’s, to see that Sunstreaker was nowhere in sight and Prowl was standing, albeit wobbly. The nanite gel slathered across his panel hinges shone in stark contrast to his paint.

“Where’s Sunstreaker?” Sideswipe asked.

“I sent him to get real energon,” Prowl replied as he gingerly made his way to the window, tapping the controls for the panels to open. “I wasn’t going to make him suffer medical grade like me.” He tipped his head toward Sideswipe with a wry grin.

Sideswipe narrowed his optics. “Then why am I here?”

“Because my brother is many things, but good at relationships is not one of them,” Prowl replied, bracing his weight on the window sill with one hand. The other gestured behind him, toward his bedside table where a single datapad rested. “That is for you.”

Still suspicious, Sideswipe nevertheless crossed the floor and picked up the datapad. He powered it on with a flick of his thumb. Several documents were already queued up for review.

“You are a business mech, so you understand contracts, correct?” Prowl asked.

Sideswipe nodded absently as he read the titles of each of the documents. Certificate of Sparking. Certificate of Residence. Contract for Apartment Rental. Application for Introductory classes.

“What is this?”

Prowl’s gaze did not waver. “They are what my brother was trying and failing to explain to you. Please read them.”

Sideswipe smelled a trap, but he read the documents anyway. He drifted to a chair as he gave them his full focus, reading them backward and forward, down to the fine print, not that there was any. Every stamp was legit. Every carefully written phrase was written so that it could not be misinterpreted.

It was ridiculously generous.

They had purchased an apartment in Iacon for Sideswipe and Sunstreaker to call home. The lease had been put in their names alone and a full year’s rent had been paid. There was even a clause written into the contract that no repayment was expected for the rent. There were, to put it clearly, no strings attached. They had an expense account to provide for their various needs: energon, classes at local institutions if they wished, even start up funds if they wanted to set up a new business. All of it in Sideswipe and Sunstreaker’s names – their newly legitimate glyphs – and with the same clause.

Sideswipe’s jaw dropped. “This…?”

“It is what we are offering you,” Prowl said as he turned away from the window and laboriously made his way back to the berth. “It is a helping hand, not an obligation. It is an offer that requires nothing but your signature. If you wish to take this and never see us again, you are within your right to do so.”

Sideswipe shook his head slowly. “No one is this generous.”

“Well…” and here Prowl offered a gentle chuckle. “There is some selfishness involved. It allows us to be closer to you, to not have to worry so. But then, if you do not wish to see us, we are willing to keep contact to a minimum.”

Sideswipe’s fingers clenched around the datapad. “What if we say no? You’ll be out all of this credit.”

“In terms of spending it on you, yes. But it won’t be a waste.” Prowl lowered himself down to the berth, inching back into position. “There are others here, those whose lives Starscream had ruined, who would be willing to embrace this opportunity. It will be put to use.”

A shiver rippled down Sideswipe’s backstrut. He stared harder at the contract, tearing it to pieces with all that he’d learned in his years of doing business. It was legitimate. There were no risks, save trying to make it in Iacon in the first place.

“Sideswipe.”

He dragged his gaze to Prowl, who was giving him the most earnest look Sideswipe had ever seen.

“I adore your brother,” Prowl said gently. “And I understand why you protect him the way that you do. I understand your hesitation. I understand why you feel you cannot trust us. But please know this, I will do whatever I can to see you smile. Both of you.”

Sideswipe worked his intake. He bowed his head, the documents blurring before his optics. It was as though Prowl had heard every objection Sideswipe made, and found a solution to it, one he couldn’t despise without sounding like a sparkling.

The answers were all right there.

All he had to do was take it.

~

Sunstreaker walked into Prowl’s recovery room, a small assortment of energon treats tucked into his subspace. He hoped to convince Prowl to eat a few of them.

He paused, however, when he saw that Prowl was not alone. Why was Sideswipe here? Why did he look upset?

“What’s going on?” Sunstreaker asked. He hurried to Sideswipe’s side, laying a hand against his backplate. “Sides?”

His twin wordlessly handed the datapad to him. Sunstreaker frowned, but accepted it. He didn’t understand any of the legal jargon, but the titles and summaries were clear enough. It was… it was an offer. An opportunity. It was a real chance for a future.

“This is… Prowl?” Sunstreaker’s gaze snapped up to his lover. His hand shook on Sideswipe’s back. “You didn’t have to do this.”

“I know. I wanted to,” Prowl replied, his voice so warm. He smiled, ever so gently. “Consider it a gift.”

Sunstreaker made a noncommittal sound, and knelt next to Sideswipe, forcing Sideswipe to look at him. “Sides, is this okay?”

“It is.” Sideswipe clasped his hands together, leaning forward on his elbows. “It’s all we could have wanted. It’s a better life. Or a chance at one, at any rate.”

“A chance is all you need. I have every confidence that you will be successful,” Prowl commented.

Sideswipe cycled a ventilation and reached for Sunstreaker’s free hand. “This is what you want, isn’t it?”

“Not if you don’t.” Sunstreaker squeezed his fingers. He didn’t want Sideswipe to make the choice based on Sunstreaker’s wants. “I’m not going anywhere without you.”

Sideswipe’s lip curved, a half-smile. “We’d be happier there, you think?”

Sunstreaker’s face heated. He forced himself not to look at Prowl. “I do,” he said.

“Then we’ll do it,” Sideswipe said as he took the datapad from Sunstreaker. His fingers tapped something on the screen before he handed it back.

Sunstreaker glanced down at the datapad and saw that Sideswipe had inputted his glyphs. He’d signed all of them. Sunstreaker’s optics widened.

“You’re sure?”

Sideswipe’s free hand curled around Sunstreaker’s head, pulling him in to press their foreheads together. “I’m sure.”

Joy burst in Sunstreaker’s spark. It was hard to attach his own glyph because his fingers were shaking. But he did and it was done and there it was, the choice made.

Sideswipe pressed a kiss to Sunstreaker’s forehead and then stood up. “Thank you, Prowl,” he said. “I need to go make some arrangements before we can leave.”

Prowl inclined his head. “I understand. And you are welcome.”

Sunstreaker stood as Sideswipe patted him on the shoulder and then left. Sunstreaker hoped he meant to find Jazz and tell him the good news. The tension between those two was enough to make everyone walk around on tiptoes.

“I was beginning to worry his stubborn self would make him stay here,” Sunstreaker said as he approached the berth, handing the datapad to Prowl, who took it.

“Yes, well, Jazz went about the wrong way explaining to him.” Prowl’s lips curved in a wry grin as he reached for Sunstreaker’s hand. “My brother is smart, but sometimes, if it does not involve a mission, he falters.”

Sunstreaker drew Prowl’s hand toward his mouth, pressing a kiss across the knuckles. “Good thing he has you to look after him then.”

Prowl chuckled. “That’s what elder brothers are for.”

“And younger ones are for breaking the rules, right?” Sunstreaker asked as he dug into his subspace and produced the small bundle of energon treats. He held them up for inspection.

Prowl’s ventilations hitched. “Those are my favorite.”

“I know.” Sunstreaker felt smug. “Want one?”

“Do you wish for me to beg?”

Sunstreaker laughed. “Not yet. Save it for when you’re repaired.” He pulled one free of the package and held it up to Prowl’s lips, letting his smile fade to go serious for a second. “Thank you, Prowl.”

“For you, anything,” Prowl murmured and took the goodie from Sunstreaker’s fingers, his lips brushing the tips of them.

Sunstreaker’s spark fluttered. Better that he knew Prowl meant it.

He hoped Sideswipe understood it, too.

~

He wandered the entirety of Starscream’s palace looking for Jazz, even walking by Shockwave’s recovery room again. Looking in on the purple – now green and white – mech always gave Sideswipe the chills so he hurried on, asking every mech he passed. Pinging Jazz’s comm sent him straight to a messaging system.

Perhaps he was busy, perhaps not.

It was an hour before Sideswipe found Jazz in the dispensary, tucked at a table in the back corner, his back to the wall and allowing himself a full view of the room. He had a cube of midgrade in one hand and a small stack of datapads on the table in front of him. He looked up as Sideswipe entered the room, the glint to his visor cautious.

“Sideswipe,” he greeted and gestured with his cube. “Care to join me?”

“You weren’t answering your comms,” Sideswipe said by way of greeting as he slid into the booth next to the Iacon spy, leaving Jazz only one escape route.

Jazz ducked his head. “Sorry.” His free hand tapped the stack of datapads. “I was told to finish my paperwork upon pain of punishment. My brother can be an awful taskmaster.”

“Among other things,” Sideswipe said. He folded his arms, leaning against the table. He watched Jazz from his peripheral vision. “You should have told me about the apartment.”

Jazz’s attention turned to his cube. “I assumed ya would think it another attempt to make you a berthtoy.”

“Not the way Prowl explained it.”

“Prowl has always been better with words,” Jazz replied, a touch of bitterness to the comment before he lowered the cube. “I guess that means ya made your decision?”

“I did.” Sideswipe looked him in the visor. “Sunny sealed it for me, but yeah, I put my glyph to the contract.”

Jazz’s field spiked, but his reply was cautious. “Ya did? Ya weren’t offended?”

“I was never offended.” Sideswipe shifted closer, so that their thighs touched. “I told you, it was about trust. And that contract is enough.”

Jazz’s shoulders sagged. Relief made his plating unclamp. “I’m glad you think so.” His thigh nudged Sideswipe’s, his field reaching out as well. “What does that mean for you and me?”

Sideswipe leaned in, pressing their shoulders together. “It means that you have the chance to woo me, if you want.”

“Woo?” Jazz loosed a little laugh. “I think I can do that.”

“Good. Cause I’m looking forward to being swept off my feet,” Sideswipe replied, indulging in returning the press of Jazz’s field.

Jazz gave him a sidelong glance. “Well, I’m not sure I can pick ya up, but I’ll do my best.”

Sideswipe chuckled and shifted his weight so that he could rest his head on Jazz’s shoulders. “Good enough for me,” he murmured. “Mind if I keep you company while you work.”

“I insist,” Jazz said, reaching beneath the table to pat his thigh. He picked his datapad up and flicked it on, making a show of going back to work before he added, “I’m glad yer comin’ back with us, Sides.”

He offlined his optics, listened to the sound of Jazz’s ventilations, his sparkbeat. It was the same as Ricochet’s.

A smile curved his lips. “Me, too.”

~

The transport was the largest sentient vehicle Sunstreaker had ever seen. Prowl had introduced the shuttle as Silverbolt and Sunstreaker was embarrassed to admit that he gaped as the massive mech bent down to offer Sunstreaker a hand to shake. His hand had been thrice the size of Sunstreaker’s.

He was kind, however, and offered Sunstreaker a smile and a reassurance that they would arrive in Iacon safely, without so much as a bump in the flight.

It wasn’t the flight that bothered Sunstreaker. He was still uneasy about leaving Uraya and going to a city he’d never been, and only ever dreamed about. He worried about failing, about facing the ridicule of mechs who considered themselves his betters. He worried about meeting the Prime.

He didn’t worry at all about Prowl, who while not back to one-hundred percent, looked a damn sight better. He gleamed in the midday sun, his white plating as polished as Sunstreaker could get it. His sensory flats hung from his upper back, sleek and new.

Sunstreaker wondered if he should feel something as he prepared to leave Uraya behind. He wasn’t attached to the city, and he and Sides had packed everything important from their cafe and apartment, thus the reason for needing a shuttle transport. The only item of value in Uraya was his twin, and Sideswipe was going, too.

He thought he should feel regret, maybe a tint of sadness, but honestly, Sunstreaker didn’t. He found he was glad to leave Uraya behind. He was even, dare he admit, excited.

Sideswipe still grumbled, ever the pessimist. He just needed time.

Sunstreaker, however, tired of waiting. He was ready to leave it all behind.

“Everything’s loaded,” Prowl said as he came up beside Sunstreaker, placing a gentle, if chaste, touch to the base of Sunstreaker’s backstrut. “You need a moment or…?”

Sunstreaker shook his head, leaning into Prowl’s embrace. “Nope. I’m good to go.”

“Then shall we?” Prowl’s free hand gestured to Silverbolt’s ramp.

Sunstreaker nodded and cycled a ventilation. He could do this. He was going to do this.

Iacon, here they come.

[TF] One Wish 03

Good things, it seemed, were not meant to last.

Sideswipe didn’t bother to knock or announce himself ahead of time. Instead he burst into Sunstreaker’s studio with all the grace of a rampaging bulldozer, his field a frenetic swirl that battered at Sunstreaker and stole his concentration.

He startled, sweeping a broad stripe of bright crimson in the middle of his painting where it did not belong. The thick paint immediately started to drip, smearing the image beneath it.

“What the frag!” Sunstreaker shoved his palette and brush down, whipping toward his brother. “You ruined it! What the slag is your–”

Sideswipe shoved a flimsy at him, right under his nasal ridge. “This,” Sideswipe hissed, rattling the flimsy. “He has to go!”

Sunstreaker snatched it from him, frown growing. “What are you talking about?” he demanded even as his gaze turned to the flimsy, skimming it quickly.

… Oh.

Dread plummeted into his tanks.

It was a statement from the Regent. Starscream had put a new law into effect. Anyone caught assisting or concealing an Empurata mech was to be arrested immediately and the Empura to be taken into custody. It did not say what the punishment would be for those arrested.

Normally, declarations such as these listed minimal fines. That there was nothing here was worrisome. It suggested a punishment worse than fines, worse than imprisonment.

“When did you get this?” Sunstreaker asked.

“Just now.” Sideswipe’s engine rumbled, his field still spiking with concern. “Starscream’s goons were handing them out. Gave me a whole stack to give to my customers.”

Sunstreaker shook his head, the flimsy rattling in his grip. “The Regent’s never cared about the Empuras before. That’s why they’re tossed down here. Cause no one cares. Why would he bother now?”

“I don’t know.” Sideswipe folded his arms. “And I don’t care. All I know is that your pet has to go. I’m not going to prison for him.”

Sunstreaker’s gaze moved to the doorway. Sideswipe was a bit too loud and if any of their customers noticed…

He pushed past Sideswipe to the small door that connected his studio to the apartment. “We can’t talk about this here.”

“Well, we’re going to.” Sideswipe grabbed his arm, his grip firm, but not enough to dent.

Sunstreaker half-whirled toward him as Sideswipe’s field collided with his. There was anger, concern… and beneath it all, fear. Was Sideswipe truly afraid of the Regent? Of what he could do?

Sunstreaker tugged on his arm. “Let me go.”

“No.” Sideswipe flexed his fingers, his optics burning at Sunstreaker. “Look, it was fun while it lasted. I get it, I honestly do. And I was fine with it while it was just a phase, a coping mechanism or something. Now, he’s just dangerous.”

Sunstreaker’s engine revved. “He’s not the one who’s dangerous!” he hissed, his spark throbbing in his chestplate. “I’m not going to just throw him out there. He’ll die.”

“He survived well enough before. He can do it again.” Sideswipe stepped closer, his voice quieting but no less urgent. “I will not let that Empura be what gets us killed.”

“And I’m not going to toss him out!” Sunstreaker shoved on Sideswipe’s chestplate, forcing him to let go. “I’m not afraid of the Regent!”

Sideswipe’s optics flashed. “Well, you should be. You have no idea how dangerous he is!” His field swept through the room, battering against Sunstreaker’s like a physical blow.

“I don’t care,” Sunstreaker hissed, denta gritting so hard he tasted sparks on his glossa. “I’m not making him leave.”

“Primus-be-damned, Sunstreaker!” Sideswipe snarled, his voice getting loud, too loud.

It drew the attention of some of their customers, who peered into Sunstreaker’s studio with gleeful expressions.

Sunstreaker and Sideswipe having a row wasn’t at all unusual. They tended to argue about the stupid things. But this topic alone was enough to get them unwanted attention.

Sunstreaker narrowed his optics, shifting so that his back was to the door, though it left his armor itching. “If you make him leave, then I will, too,” he said, his voice cold and low, only audible to Sideswipe.

“You can’t be serious.”

Sunstreaker lifted his head. “Oh, yeah? Watch me.”

He spun on a heel, stalking toward the door. The customers scattered once they saw him coming. Frequent visitors learned their lessons. Never get between the twins when they were disagreeing.

“Sunny, stop!”

Sideswipe grabbed his arm, yanking him back. Sunstreaker’s engine raced. He didn’t hesitate. He spun into the pull, using his momentum to his advantage, his free hand balled into a fist. He punched Sideswipe, his brother too unprepared to dodge in time, the fist slamming into Sideswipe’s right cheek.

Sideswipe howled, jerking back and releasing Sunstreaker at the same time. He grabbed at his cheek, the dermal plating already beginning to swell, even as he stared at Sunstreaker, optics wide. His vents stuttered.

Sunstreaker tucked his arm back at his side, though his hands remained in fists. His own vents whirred, and his engine rumbled from the wildness of his emotions. He had struck Sideswipe before. Physical altercations between them were nothing new. This, however, had a different taste to it.

“No,” Sunstreaker said carefully, each word enunciated. “I’m not going to lose anyone else, Sideswipe. I refuse.”

Sideswipe stared after him, something bleak and hurting in his expression. Sunstreaker’s spark squeezed into a tiny ball. He hated to see that look on Sideswipe’s face. He hated knowing that he’d put it there.

Yet, he couldn’t bring himself to apologize. Not right now. Not with customers peering at them around the edges of the doorway, and the threat of Dent’s safety hanging in the balance.

Sunstreaker spun back on a heel and stormed out of his studio, the crowd parting. At least, those that hadn’t already abandoned the cafe altogether. Here on the edge of Uraya, there wasn’t much to be had in the way of entertainment. Some were probably disappointed that there hadn’t been any energon shed.

Sunstreaker ignored them all and headed for his shared apartment with Sideswipe. He’d leave Sideswipe to deal with the customers and the questions, give them some space. If he came back in later and spouted that same slag about Dent leaving, they’d have another chat.

Or Sunstreaker would pack a bag. He had enough in his savings to get a small room until he could sell another painting. He’d figure out something. He wasn’t helpless; he didn’t need Sideswipe to protect him.

He wasn’t going to let Dent go. He wasn’t going to lose another one. He wasn’t. He refused.

His spark squeezed tighter.

Sunstreaker closed the door behind him, letting the quiet of the apartment swallow him. His hands ached, and he forced them to unclench. He looked at his right hand, at the scrape of silver paint across his knuckles.

Sideswipe’s paint.

Sunstreaker bowed his head, gnawing on his bottom lip. He hated arguing with Sideswipe. He hated the clench of guilt, the squeeze of his spark. He hated that look in Sideswipe’s optics.

Sunstreaker scraped his hand down his face and cycled a shuddering ventilation. It took several of them before he managed to stop shaking.

He went looking for Dent. Sometimes, just being in the Empura’s presence was enough to bring him calm. There was something soothing about the Empura, something Sunstreaker still couldn’t explain, awkward moments aside.

“Dent?”

He checked the washrack, the berthrooms, the storage-cum-Dent’s room, the main room. He looked in the closets, and it wasn’t until Sunstreaker looked under the berths, too, that he started to panic.

“Dent?”

No signs of a struggle. Nothing in disarray. He hadn’t been taken. He must have left on his own.

Sunstreaker’s spark strobed panic. He rushed to the back door, shoving it open. It was enclosed by a tall fence, mostly as a deterrent and preventative. Anyone could climb over it if they were nimble enough.

Then again, Dent could have walked through the front door while he and Sideswipe argued, and Sunstreaker wouldn’t have noticed.

He went back into the apartment and searched again, just to be sure, but Dent was truly gone. He hadn’t even taken any of the pouches from the cabinet. Of course he wouldn’t.

This was insane! Sunstreaker was sure they’d convinced him he could remain. Unless…

Oh, Primus. Unless he’d overheard Sunstreaker and Sideswipe arguing. The side door from Sunstreaker’s studio into the apartment was right by a storage closet, the one Dent favored for cleaning supplies.

That idiot!

Sunstreaker whipped back toward the cafe, anger and frustration both building inside of him, strong enough to eclipse the fear. He stalked back into the main dining area, his field preceding him in a boil of anger, and causing no few patrons to quail away.

“Come to apologize?” Sideswipe asked, his tone cold.

“No.” Sunstreaker snapped, his plating fluffed out as his defense protocols activated, preparing him for a fight. “I’m leaving.”

“What? Sunny!” Sideswipe threw down his cloth and vaulted over the counter. “You can’t be serious? Where are you going to go?”

“Out.” Sunstreaker stormed toward the door, customers scattering in front of him like frightened turbofoxes.

Sideswipe intercepted him, skidding to a stop and planting his hands on Sunstreaker’s chestplate. “Do you even hear yourself?” he hissed as his hands impacted Sunstreaker’s armor with a loud chime. “You’re acting crazy.”

Sunstreaker stared at him, jaw set. “He’s gone.”

“What?”

He’s gone,” Sunstreaker gritted out, his hands forming fists. “He left because he heard you.”

“Am I supposed to be upset about that?” Sideswipe demanded, his engine revving. “Him being here was putting us in danger!”

“And he’s in danger out there!” Sunstreaker shouted, his field slamming into the room with all the subtlety of a hammer. “Get out of my way, Sideswipe.”

“No!” Sideswipe’s hands grew firmer on his chestplate. “I’m not letting you go storming off into the Wastes after some… some…”

Sunstreaker snarled. “Some what? Go on, Sideswipe. Why don’t you say it? Tell me exactly what you think of him.”

Sideswipe glared at him, vents heaving. “He is not Prowl,” he said, his voice oddly hushed. His cheek was still swollen, energon dried in the cut Sunstreaker’s knuckle had left behind. “And I need you to realize that.”

“I’m not stupid. I know that. I know that he’s gone. I know that he left.” It hurt so much to say. It came out in a strangled sound, something tore from his vocalizer. “I know that he’s not Prowl,” Sunstreaker repeated, as much for himself as much for Sideswipe. “But he is my friend, and that’s all the reason I need.”

Sunstreaker wasn’t Sideswipe. He didn’t know how to charm people. He didn’t know how to connect and carry a conversation. He got lost in the words. He couldn’t read others either.

Sunstreaker didn’t have friends.

Before Prowl, he’d never even had a lover.

It hit him just then. It occurred to him why he’d clung to Dent so tightly, why he’d wanted to protect Dent and give him a place to stay.

Sunstreaker’s vents hitched as he looked his brother in the optics. “I have to find him, Sideswipe. I have to.”

His twin’s shoulders slumped, his head hanging. His hands softened on Sunstreaker’s chestplate. “Fine,” he said, sounding tired. “I won’t fight you on this. I’ll even help you, but please, Sunny. Not tonight. Just trust me. Not tonight.”

Sunstreaker shook so hard he can hear his armor rattling. But Sideswipe’s plea struck a chord with him. There was something in his twin’s optics that spoke of more than his disdain for Dent and what he represented. There was fear.

“Fine,” Sunstreaker gritted out. “But only for tonight.”

He took a step back, forcing Sideswipe’s hands to slide off his chestplate. The anger rattled inside of him like a loose gear. He gave Sideswipe another long look and then stomped back toward their apartment.

He was painfully aware of their audience, of the customers who watched and spoke to each other in hushed words.

“Okay! Show’s over!” Sideswipe said in a fakely cheerful voice, clapping his hands together. “What say you to a free round of engex on the house, hm?”

The cheer that rose behind Sunstreaker was muted and lacked enthusiasm, but hopefully, Sideswipe could get them all drunk enough they’d forget this night happened. Honestly, Sunstreaker wanted to indulge in the engex himself.

Dent was out there while the Regent’s soldiers were distributing those flyers. He had taken nothing with him. Who knew how far he would go?

Sunstreaker worried. He worried more than he could express in words. He feared for Dent, alone in the dark, surrounded by the half-crazed Empuras and the hungry Empties.

Dent was clean and polished. He was in good repair. He would stick out like a noble in Uraya’s main square. He looked like an easy mark.

Sunstreaker gnawed on his bottom lip. His hands clenched and unclenched.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would look. Tomorrow he would bring Dent home.

~

Every moment. Every available opportunity. If he was not minding the counter for Sideswipe, Sunstreaker searched.

He thought he’d lived long enough on the edge of the Wastes to have a decent idea of the layout. He was wrong. The deeper he ventured, the more twisted and confusing it became. Roads simply ended. Rusting, decayed buildings collapsed to create shambling husks of dark hiding places.

Empties peered at him from the dim, denta clicking noisily. Other Empura hid when they saw him coming, as though they believed him to be one of Starscream’s goons.

None stuck around long enough for Sunstreaker to ask them a question. No one would help him. But Dent had to be here. He wasn’t in the handfuls of Empuras Sunstreaker had seen Starscream’s goons lead out day after day.

He’d lived for weeks on his own. He knew how to survive. Sunstreaker still didn’t intend to leave him out here.

Days passed. Then weeks. A month crawled by, agonizingly slow. The distance between he and Sideswipe grew frostier. They barely spoke.

Sideswipe offered to help. Sunstreaker told him not to bother. He had more important things to do.

Sunstreaker kept looking. He returned home dirty and exhausted, his tank pinging him for energon. He had to hide from Starscream’s goons more than a few times, lest he be caught associating with Empuras.

He looked. He vowed to never stop looking until he found Dent, or what was left of him. Until he found a clue that would either lead him to Dent, or to the Regent’s Palace.

Prowl left.

Sunstreaker refused to lose anyone again.

~

“He won’t talk to me,” Sideswipe said, frustration spitting static into his vocals. He hit a corner, spun and kept going. “He barely even looks at me. I know he blames me, but frag, how was I supposed to know?”

Ricochet sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Sides, you’re makin’ me dizzy.”

He stopped mid-pace, spinning to look straight at his lover. Ricochet was perched in a chair, leaning forward on his elbows, visor dim.

“Sorry,” Sideswipe said with a cycled ventilation. “I just… I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. And you can’t tell me because you’re compromised or whatever.” He flopped a hand vaguely.

No mixing business with pleasure. He could talk about Dent with Ricochet and be reassured that Ricochet would never tell Starscream about him. But that also meant Ricochet wouldn’t tell him if Starscream had Dent, or what to do about it.

Ricochet leaned back and ran a hand over his head. “That’s one way ta put it. Seems ta me you’re doing everything ya can. All that’s left is ta wait for your brother ta get over it.”

“Right. Get over it.” Sideswipe snorted. “Sunny doesn’t do that. He dwells. He lingers. He already thinks he failed Prowl somehow. And now he’s equated the two in that fool head of his.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

Sideswipe tilted his head, blinking. “What do you mean?”

Ricochet leaned his head against his fist, bracing his elbow on the arm of the chair. “You objected ta the Empura even before the declaration. Why?”

“Because he’s dangerous!”

“Is he?”

Sideswipe stared at Ricochet. “… he’s an Empura,” he answered, and realized how stupid he sounded.

He sighed and scraped a hand down his face. “You don’t understand. It’s Sunny, okay? I just–”

“–are weirdly protective of him?” Ricochet’s lips quirked in a grin before his free hand gestured to Sideswipe, beckoning him closer. “It’s okay. I get it. My brother’s like that, too.”

Sideswipe blinked and moved closer. “You have a brother?”

“Mmm. An older one.” Ricochet captured his hand and dragged Sideswipe down into his lap, as amusing as it was given their height difference. The chair creaked beneath their weight, but held fast. “He’s a pain in my crankshift. Loves the rules. And he’s protective like you are. Took me forever ta convince him ta let me do what I want to do.”

Sideswipe arched an orbital ridge as he draped his arms over Ricochet’s shoulders. “Huh. I can’t imagine why he would object to you being a thug on the edge on the Wastes.”

“I am far better than a thug,” Ricochet said with a note of fake-offense in his tone. “But that’s beside the point.”

He tugged Sideswipe closer until their frames were flush. He tipped his chin up, putting their lips in proximity.

“There’s a point when ya gotta let go,” Ricochet murmured, his fingers teasing a gentle pattern up the ridges of Sideswipe’s spinal strut. “When ya let him make his own choices, his own mistakes.”

Sideswipe hummed in his intake. “I know that. I’m not his caretaker.”

Ricochet chuckled. “Sometimes, I’m not sure ya know that.” He leaned in, lips brushing over Sideswipe’s. “You’ll get through this. I’m sure of it. Just stop trying ta lead him and start standin’ beside him.”

“Heh. Since when are you so full of sage advice?” Sideswipe asked, tracing his nasal ridge over Ricochet’s cheek, just below his visor.

“Since always.” Ricochet’s engine purred, fingers dipping into Sideswipe’s transformation seams. “So how’s about instead of talking, ya let me distract you?”

Sideswipe’s dermal plating tingled. “Sounds good to me,” he breathed before dragging his mouth to Ricochet’s and capturing his lips for a glossa-tangling kiss.

He had only a few hours before he needed to return to the apartment and make sure Sunstreaker came back safely.

He wanted to make the most of every moment of it.

~

Sunstreaker was running out of places to look.

Granted, the Wastes were large, far more than Sunstreaker ever gave it credit. Given that it was a dumping ground for almost the entirety of Cybertron, could he be so surprised? He was at the point of daring to go underground, something even the desperate were reluctant to do.

Surely Dent wasn’t so foolish as to hide there?

Sunstreaker paused and ducked into an alley. He leaned against a decaying wall, ex-venting softly. He was exhausted. He needed to get home before Sideswipe started to ping him with worry again. He had the unfortunate feeling that someone or something had been following him…

Sunstreaker shuttered his optics, counted his vents. He could spare maybe twenty more minutes of searching before he’d need to start heading back.

He didn’t want to lose hope, but he wondered if maybe he ought to be realistic. Maybe it wasn’t that he couldn’t find Dent, but that Dent hid from him on purpose. Maybe, no matter how hard he looked, he’d never find his friend.

Sunstreaker sighed and pushed himself off the wall. Nothing to it. Once more, into the breach, he reasoned.

He would just have to keep on looking.

“You need to go home.”

Sunstreaker whirled around, his spark throbbing in his chest. There, in the dark and dim, he could barely make out the shape of another mech. But there was no mistaking that field, the familiarity of it, almost reaching for Sunstreaker’s own as if magnetically drawn.

“Dent?” Sunstreaker whispered, taking a step toward the dark shape. It immediately moved back a step and Sunstreaker froze.

“You need to go home.” The sound of pincers clicking together nervously filled the space between them. “It is not safe here.”

“I can take care of myself.” Sunstreaker worked his intake. “Besides, I’m not going home until you come with me.”

The single optic dimmed. “I cannot see you harmed,” he said, voice wreathed with static, the strong flare of his field abruptly dropping into something barely tangible. As though he’d expended what little energy he had.

“Pah. I’m not scared of the Regent.”

“You should be.” Dent slid away another step, until Sunstreaker could barely make out his shape. He wished he had more light so he could see Dent in full. “Dangerous.”

Sunstreaker closed his hands into fists. “You let me be the judge of that.” He cycled a ventilation and peered over his shoulder, out the mouth of the alley.

There was no one around. No prying audials. Well, save for the Empties and other Empuras. But they were as unlikely to betray Sunstreaker, as they were unlikely to offer aid.

“I want you to come home,” Sunstreaker said, his spark squeezing again. He tried inching closer to Dent, and was relieved when the Empura didn’t immediately shift away.

“Sideswipe–”

“Frag Sideswipe!” Sunstreaker hissed, perhaps a bit too sharply, because Dent cringed away from him, and Sunstreaker cursed at himself. “I’m sorry. I meant, Sideswipe’s dumb. Don’t listen to him. You belong with us. With… with me.”

Dent’s optic flared brightly. His vents stuttered. His pincers clicked together again. “With… you?” His field shivered where it gently touched Sunstreaker’s. “Sir, I can’t.”

Sunstreaker flinched. So it was back to that, was it? He gnawed on the inside of his cheek, wishing he was better at this, at talking. How could he help Dent understand?

“Because you don’t want to?” Sunstreaker asked, trying to keep his voice soft. “Or because you think you shouldn’t?”

Dent’s optic grew even brighter. His vocals lay a round of static and he pressed against the alley wall. “I… can’t.”

Sunstreaker’s spark ached. He took a small step forward, reaching for the other mech. “Dent–”

–Sunny!–

He hissed, dizziness cresting over him. Sunstreaker reeled, his shoulder hitting the alley wall as he clutched at his head.

–Sides…? What…?–

–Stay away!–

Their bond flashed, fear and panic intermingled. Sunstreaker’s knees wobbled and he dropped. His focus turned inward, and both hands clutched at his head now. It felt like his processor was trying to split open, such was the volume of Sideswipe’s shout.

–What? Why?–

–It’s the Regent.– Sideswipe’s comm was strained and their bond sizzled again. –Please, for once, just listen to me, damn it. I need you to–

The comm cut off, leaving Sunstreaker with a static-laced silence. He could still feel Sideswipe on the other side of the bond, faint impressions of worry, of false bravado. But no matter how many times Sunstreaker pinged his twin, Sideswipe would not pick up.

“Sunstreaker?”

Warmth. Comfort. Familiarity.

Sunstreaker blinked, looking up to find that Dent had approached him. One pincer gingerly lay on Sunstreaker’s shoulder as that single optic glowed down at him.

“It’s Sideswipe,” Sunstreaker gasped, his mouth dry, his legs trembling. “Something’s happened. I don’t know. I have to… I have to get back.”

He pushed himself back to his feet, bracing himself against the wall. His entire frame wobbled. Sideswipe hadn’t leaned this hard on their bond in centuries. Not since they were trying to scrap out a living in the Wastes.

“I will go with you,” Dent said.

Sunstreaker stared at him, vision wavering before it clarified. “But–”

Dent approached, sliding an arm around Sunstreaker’s waist and encouraging him to lean against Dent’s side. “You will need help.”

Sunstreaker leaned hard into him, his knees like gelatin but holding his weight. “Does this mean you’ll stay?”

Dent’s pincer twitched at his side. “I will see.”

It was enough.

“That’s fair.” Sunstreaker took one careful step, grateful for Dent’s support. “We can worry about Sideswipe first.”

After all, if the panic in Sideswipe’s voice was anything to go back, Sunstreaker might not have a home to go back to.

~

Sideswipe finished wiping down the display bottle of engex and returned it to the shelf behind the bar, fighting back another sigh. There was a certain degree of energy any good bartender knew to maintain. He simply found himself struggling to keep it up day after day.

Tense was too soft a word to describe the atmosphere between him and his brother. Sunstreaker was mad at him, perhaps rightly so, but he didn’t understand, damn it.

It was all Prowl’s fault, when Sideswipe traced everything to the roots. If Prowl hadn’t come here and swept Sunstreaker up into romantic fantasies, none of this would be happening now.

Sideswipe’s engine grumbled. He set his jaw and reached for the next bottle to dust. His cafe was already sparkling clean, but he needed something to do that wasn’t pacing back and forth behind the bar, anxiously watching the door.

Sunny was out there again, searching for that fragging Empura, and there wasn’t a damn thing Sideswipe could do to stop him.

The tiny bell dinged. Customers.

Sideswipe planted a smile on his face and turned. “Welcome to Color and– Oh.” He steeled himself, spark throbbing with anxiety as Starscream, Ricochet, and a handful of mercenaries crowded into his cafe. “What can I do for you, Regent? I didn’t know we had a meeting.”

Starscream grinned and sauntered toward the counter. “We don’t,” he said, something in his tone making Sideswipe’s spinal strut shiver. “I came here for another matter. An official one.” He tilted his head, resting a single clawed hand on the counter. “I hear rumors, Sideswipe, and I am very disappointed.”

“Rumors?” Sideswipe repeated, keeping up his grin. From his peripheral vision, he could see Starscream’s goons scaring his customers right out of the cafe.

Frag.

Fragfragfragfragfrag.

“Of what sort?” Sideswipe asked even as he sent a ping to Sunstreaker’s comm, which predictably, was sent straight to his inbox. So Sideswipe sent another. And another.

Starscream leaned against the counter, only the space of it separating them. “I’ve been informed that you are hiding an Empura,” he purred, crimson optics bright. “Which we all know is an offense that demands an immediate arrest.”

Sideswipe very slowly set down the bottle of engex. “I don’t know what you mean. There’s no one here but you and me, your guards and well, not any customers though. Seems you scared them off.” He braced his hands on the counter and grinned.

Sunstreaker didn’t answer his ping. Damn it.

He only had one tactic left, and Sideswipe hated to do it. He had no choice. Sunstreaker couldn’t come back here. Especially if he’d found Dent.

Sideswipe leaned on their bond. He tapped on it. He beat on it. He shoved into it like he hadn’t in decades because it tended to send Sunny reeling.

Starscream grinned. “Perhaps. So I’m sure you won’t mind if I have a small look around, just to be sure.” He lifted a hand, making a gesture that prompted his squad of guards to make a beeline toward their apartment. Only Ricochet stayed behind.

“Sure.” Sideswipe shrugged nonchalantly. “The door’s unlocked. You won’t find anything.”

“I hope I don’t.” Starscream’s optics flashed and he moved, quicker than Sideswipe could have expected. His hand shot across the bar, snatching Sideswipe’s jaw and holding it firmly. “It’s unfortunate, really. You were my favorite supplier.”

Sideswipe’s spark rang with fear. He jerked back, away from Starscream, as Sunstreaker finally answered the ping. He shouted a warning at his brother over the comm.

“I still can be.” Sideswipe’s vents stuttered, uneven. “There’s no one here so you have nothing to worry about. We can quash that pesky rumor and get back to business.”

Starscream’s smirk showed too much denta for Sideswipe’s comfort. “Yes,” he said. “Business. As it turns out, I have need of you and your brother for a little venture.”

“Can I say no?”

Starscream’s smile widened. “That depends on what I find in your apartment.”

Sideswipe worked his intake. His glance skittered to Ricochet, but his lover was stone-faced and silent. He stood there like the silent but deadly guard he was, arms folded behind his back.

Right. Never mixing business with pleasure. Sideswipe could expect no help on that front.

“Then let me go ahead and turn you down gently,” Sideswipe said brightly, pretending to wipe down the counter and easing away from Starscream. “Because, as I said, there’s no one here but me and my business, which is sadly, now empty.”

The apartment door shoved back open. “He’s telling the truth,” one of Starscream’s hired guns said as he stepped out, another on his heels. “There is no one here.”

“But we did find these,” the second said as he tossed a handful of energon pouches onto the counter.

Sideswipe worked his intake. “So?”

Starscream walked to the end of the counter, dragging his clawtip along the top of it until he came to the pouches. “You have a mouth,” he observed idly. He picked up one of the pouches, examining it. “No need for these.”

“I run a cafe.”

Starscream thumbed the tip of the pouch, designed to accommodate an auto-injector. “This is specifically designed to fuel an Empura.” He gave Sideswipe a sideways look. “I don’t imagine you have too many paying customers of those, do you?”

Sideswipe set his jaw. “I make it a habit of stocking everything.”

“Mm. Sure you do.” Starscream tossed the pouch onto the pile, his wings flicking left and right. “Where is your brother?”

“Out.”

Starscream’s lips curved into a smile that Sideswipe had learned to be wary of. “Out the back, I suppose. Perhaps the moment you saw us walk in?” He shook his head, clicking his glossa. “I’m so disappointed, Sideswipe. I thought we had something special.” One hand lifted, gesturing toward Sideswipe.

The two goons rushed around the bar. Sideswipe held up his hands, hoping to forestall violence, thinking cooperation might gain him some slack.

Cooperation didn’t stop the two mechs from slamming him face first onto the counter and roughly cuffing his hands behind his back. Perhaps they’d been warned. Maybe they expected resistance.

Ow. Sideswipe started to think he should have started with resistance. His shoulders ached where they wrenched his arms back too suddenly. The cuffs were strong when he tested them, Enforcer grade if he had a guess.

The shipment he’d gotten for Starscream two months ago – courtesy of Swindle – was coming back to bite him in the aft.

“I didn’t do anything!” Sideswipe growled.

They hauled him back upright, each gripping him by the shoulder, as they mechhandled him around the counter.

“Harboring an Empura is prohibited,” Starscream said dryly as he watched his mercenaries drag Sideswipe to the center of the cafe. He strode closer, tilting his head. “Where is he?”

“He’s out!” Sideswipe snarled, grinding his denta. “Why are you so interested in my brother anyway.”

Starscream rolled his optics. “Not your twin. His pet.”

Sideswipe’s engine growled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re not as good a liar as you think you are.” Starscream whirled on a heelstrut. “No matter. He’ll show up eventually. Let’s go.”

He strode toward the door, Ricochet preceding him and his guards dragging Sideswipe out behind him. His customers had all scattered, Sideswipe noticed sourly. Outside, he could see a few curious faces peering his direction, mostly from the position of onlooker. No one offered help.

No one wanted to cross the Regent.

Sideswipe should have known. At least he would be relieved to know that Sunstreaker was far, far away by now. He should have gone to their bolthole, grabbed the supplies and ran, if he knew what was good for him.

Because Sideswipe had the discomfiting feeling that he might not make it out of this alive.

~

Sunstreaker ran.

He hated the roads, the clogged and cluttered pathways that made transforming impossible. He hated that he still felt weak, that his knees wobbled, but worry eclipsed all else. Worry kept him going, putting one foot in front of the other, ducking down alleyways and climbing over debris.

Dent was on his heels, surprisingly able to keep up, though his ventilations puffed and stuttered and he made as much noise as Sunstreaker did.

The main road back into Uraya came into view, but Sunstreaker skirted around it, coming up behind Color and Conversation instead. As he did, he caught a glimpse of what appeared to be the Regent and a handful of guards.

Sunstreaker skidded to a halt and ducked behind a pile of garbage, pulling Dent down beside him. His spark thudded in his chassis.

The Regent, a handful of assorted guards and – Sunstreaker leaned out long enough to look before ducking back – yeah. They had Sideswipe. Frag.

“Sunstreaker?”

He muttered another curse under his vents and pulled out his blaster, checking the charge. Half-power. Not enough.

“I don’t know why Starscream wants Sideswipe, but he can’t have him,” Sunstreaker said, pushing back to his feet.

He kept to the shadows, to the cover offered by buildings and piles of refuse as he tried to plan his attack. Not that there was much he could plan. He was outnumbered and outgunned. All he had was the element of surprise.

“The Regent is dangerous,” Dent said as he followed along, keeping himself hidden far better than Sunstreaker did.

“Not as much as I can be.” Sunstreaker ducked into an alley, trying to ignore the tremors in his spark.

Why did Starscream linger? What was he waiting for?

No. That answer was obvious. This was a trap, and Sunstreaker was going to walk right into it. What other choice did he have?

“Stay here,” Sunstreaker said. His spark pounded in his chest. “I can’t do this and worry about you, too. Okay?”

Dent’s optic brightened at him. “You will need assistance.”

“I can do this on my own.” Sunstreaker gripped his blaster and cycled a vent. “It won’t be the first time. Just… stay here.”

Dent lifted his head in a nod, his single optic dimming. “Very well.”

Sunstreaker worked his intake and then pushed to his feet. He felt he should say something else, but there was nothing to say.

He crept to the edge of the alley and peered out. No one had moved, though Starscream had taken to pacing. Sideswipe looked obstinate. Two of the guards looked bored, their hands resting casually near their blasters.

It was most definitely a trap.

But it wasn’t the worst odds Sunstreaker had ever faced. He’d already lost Prowl. He wasn’t going to lose Sideswipe, too.

Sunstreaker flexed his grip around his blaster. Starscream spun on a heel, his back to Sunstreaker’s position. His wings twitched. He looked to be in the middle of some speech.

Now or never.

Sunstreaker emerged from his hiding place. He let his blaster announce his appearance, firing at the two guards who looked bored. One shot struck true, straight through the chassis. The other guard dodged and Sunstreaker took out his knee, firing again when he collapsed to blow up his blaster.

Two down, two to go, and Starscream.

Sunstreaker pointed his blaster at the Seeker, keeping his focus on Starscream and the guards in his peripheral. “I have no qualms about killing you,” he said, his voice cold. “Let my brother go.”

Starscream grinned, folding his arms over his cockpit. “Thank you for saving me the trouble of finding you,” he purred.

“Let him go!” Sunstreaker snarled, the blaster giving off a charging whine.

“No,” Starscream replied, in the same moment that Sideswipe threw himself forward.

“Behind you!” Sideswipe shouted as the two guards yanked him back.

Sunstreaker spun as a fist swung toward his face. No time to move, no time to avoid. It slammed into the side of his head, sending his processor into disarray. Strong fingers gripped his wrist, yanking him forward, off-balance. He dropped the gun, fingers lacking input, and Sunstreaker swung blindly.

He connected, heard the dull impact of metal on metal, and a low curse. Ricochet. He knew that voice.

Stars danced in his optical feed as another open-palmed smack struck the opposite side of his head. Static overlaced it all, audials ringing. Sunstreaker stumbled. Everything was a rush, a blur, until sensation snapped into sharp relief with the inhibitor cuffs that were slapped around his wrists.

Sunstreaker’s knees buckled and he slumped forward, knees hitting the ground. His arms were cuffed behind his back, numb from the elbows down. His tanks lurched as the disorientating pulse of the inhibitor cuff swept through his frame. How did Ricochet get hold of those?

“Now,” Starscream said, his voice as if from a distance. “Perhaps we can discuss this like civilized mecha. Ricochet, bring him here.”

“Yes, sir.” Ricochet hauled Sunstreaker back to his feet and dragged him across the ground, only to shove him down next to his brother.

Sunstreaker’s processor whirled. Lights danced in his optics. It was hard to focus on anything except the lurching of his tanks. This morning’s energon wanted to re-emerge.

Sharp pain echoed through his head, where Ricochet had struck him the first time. Sunstreaker groaned, his fuzzy vision clarifying into Starscream leaning over him.

“Pay attention,” the Regent said. “I asked you a question.”

Sunstreaker forced himself to focus, to look up at Starscream, building belligerence into his expression. “I’m not answering any questions,” he slurred.

The Regent held out a hand, one of their guards slipping a blaster into it. He flicked a thumb over the charging node. “I may be able to change your mind,” he said, and aimed the blaster toward Sideswipe. “Now where is he?’

Sunstreaker’s spark skipped an oscillation. His optics widened. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you don’t.” Starscream rolled his optics. “Don’t play games with me, brat. Where is your pet, the Empura, the mech you’re protecting.”

“What? I’m not protecting anyone except my brother!” Sunstreaker said and wriggled beneath the grip of on his shoulder.

Starscream cycled a ventilation, his lips pressing to a thin line. “Then suppose you tell me how you found out,” he said, an odd shift of gears as he made a broad gesture with his blaster. “Did you realize it on your own, or is there actually something left of Prowl in there?”

Sunstreaker’s vents caught. He worked his intake, rebooting his audials. “Prowl? Prowl’s gone,” he spat, forcing anger into his vocals to hide the fear. “He left months ago.”

“I am not an idiot, Sunstreaker.” Starscream leaned closer, looming without trying, the tip of the blaster forcing Sunstreaker’s chin up so that their optics could meet. “You’d taken it into your home. You sheltered it, fed it, polished it. You’ve known it was Prowl all along, didn’t you?”

Sunstreaker’s optics widened. His world ground to a halt. He rebooted everything, his gaze sliding to Sideswipe before a tap of the blaster barrel redirected it back to Starscream.

“He’s… he’s Prowl?” Sunstreaker repeated, barely above a whisper, too small for his comfort. He swayed, processor spinning. “Oh, Primus. That makes so much sense now. But I don’t understand. How…”

“You didn’t know.” Starscream sounded disappointed. He spat a barrage of static at Sunstreaker and straightened. “Of course you didn’t. That would have been too easy for me.” He muttered something else, but it sounded like static to Sunstreaker’s audials.

Sunstreaker shook his head slowly, the realization crawling over him in a hot, burning wave.

Prowl. His Prowl. And Dent. Beaten. Battered. His sensory flats gone, the nubs on Dent’s back. Scorched off. Torn off. Did it matter which?

His face, oh his beautiful face. His hands. The same hands that had been gentle, that had coaxed Sunstreaker into overload, that had taught him to dance.

He’d thought. He’d thought Prowl had left him. He’d thought he’d been abandoned. But Prowl had been there all along, without even knowing it.

“You….” Sunstreaker’s engine raced as he dragged his gaze up, his entire frame going still, fury burning deep within his belly. “What did you do to him?”

Sideswipe made a distressed noise. “Sunny–”

“No!” he growled and shook his head, plating vibrating. “All this time, I thought… and then you… you mutilated him!”

Starscream stared at him, not an ounce of expression in his face. “Yes,” he said coldly. “Because his spark means nothing to me.” His wings twitched. “There’s only one spark I’m interested in saving, and it’s none of yours.”

Sunstreaker’s engine whined. He shook.

Prowl had been next to him the entire time, and he’d never known it, hadn’t recognized. How could he not know?

“I tire of these games,” Starscream said, sounding bored. “Is your little pity party over? Because there is still a question I have need of answering.”

Sunstreaker shook his head slowly, his processing capabilities still sluggish. “You think I would offer him up to you after this?” He dragged his gaze up, to Starscream, letting the fury blaze brightly in his optics. “You can rust in the Pit.”

“I thought you might say that.” The blaster returned, pointed at Sideswipe yet again, though close enough now that Sideswipe could probably feel the heat of the barrel.

“So let me make this abundantly clear,” Starscream continued as he hit the charging node again. “While I have use of you and your brother, I suspect the answers I need are within Prowl. You are expendable.” He tilted his head, crimson optics incisive. “Is one Iacon brat worth the life of your brother?”

Sunstreaker’s ventilations wheezed. His armor clattered. The taste of betrayal, he knew, would be bitter on his glossa.

“Decide quickly.” Starscream’s tone was cold, empty. “My hand grows weak.”

“I–” Sunstreaker faltered. It wasn’t that he couldn’t decide. In the space of a sparkbeat, he knew he would choose Sideswipe. He would always choose his brother.

It was in the idea of losing Prowl again that he faltered.

“Starscream.” Ricochet stepped into view, one hand landing on Starscream’s wrist and gently pushing it and the barrel of the gun away from Sideswipe’s head. “Look.” He tilted his head.

Sunstreaker followed the gesture as Starscream whipped around, the outrage in his field echoed by the loud snap of his wings. There, stepping out of the alley, each step measured and careful, was Dent. Or Prowl.

Sunstreaker’s spark sank.

“Well, now,” Starscream purred as he turned fully toward the oncoming Empura. “Isn’t this interesting? And here I thought you didn’t remember anything.”

“What are you doing, idiot?” Sunstreaker shouted, trying to move forward, but only effecting a dull shuffle on his knees. “Get out of here! Run!”

Dent’s single optic focused on him. “No.”

“Goddamn fool of an Empura,” Sideswipe snarled beside Sunstreaker, and then there was a blur of motion.

Sideswipe threw himself to the side, aiming at the guard to his right, tackling the mech to the ground. He slammed his shoulder into the guard’s chestplate, though it was Sideswipe’s plating that gave way. He howled, scrambling to get the upper hand, but the other guard was on him in an instant.

A blow to the head left Sideswipe reeling long enough for the guard to drag him back over and plop him into place beside Sunstreaker. His head hung and dents showed up in stark relief against the red of his armor. His bottom lip pulsed energon.

“Why would you do that?” Sunstreaker asked.

Sideswipe’s lips curved. “Because.”

Above them, Starscream huffed a ventilation. “That was pointless,” he said, wings flicking. “Ricochet, retrieve Dent.”

It was over. Not that it ever had a chance to begin. Starscream was right: pointless. Then again, much of Sunstreaker’s functioning had been a pointless rage against the machine. He’d fought for so many things he didn’t deserve, and all of this right here, right now, was proof of it.

“Ya know what, sir?” Ricochet pulled one of his blasters out of a thigh panel. “How about no?”

The blaster whipped up and Ricochet squeezed the trigger, faster than any of them could register. The guards to either side of Sunstreaker and Sideswipe crumpled, smoking holes in their chassis. The distinct scorched scent of expended spark rose thickly in the air.

Sunstreaker stared, sucking in a sharp ventilation. What in the name of Primus…?

“What do you think you are doing!” Starscream shrieked, whirling toward his bodyguard.

“What I should have done ages ago,” Ricochet growled as he advanced on Starscream, blaster leveled and steady. “Starscream, you are under arrest by order of the Enforcement Guild of Iacon.”

Arrest? Like Starscream was going to go quietly.

Starscream stared at him, frame taut, his wings hiked up. “No,” he said with a slow shake of his head. “No, I refuse,” he growled.

“It wasn’t a yes or no question,” Ricochet hissed as he stepped again to the side, firmly planting himself between Dent and Starscream. “For what ya’ve done to my brother, I should kill ya. Yer lucky that idiot infected me with somethin’ like moral principles.”

Starscream was distracted. Sunstreaker’s processor spun. His hands were numb, his tank unsettled.

He looked at Sideswipe, who was gathering himself up, getting one foot beneath him. He met Sunstreaker’s gaze and nodded.

Enough waiting.

“Drop the blaster,” Ricochet said.

Starscream laughed. It was a high-pitched eerie sound. His wings twitched. His flight engines spat fire from his thrusters.

“All of my work,” he said, in between hiccups of his vents. “All of it to be undone in this moment.” He cackled, the eerie noise echoing in the air. “And it was all because of you.”

The last was a snarl as Starscream shoved himself into the air with a pop of his thrusters, his blaster aimed unerringly at Ricochet.

No. Not at Ricochet. Behind him.

At Dent. At Prowl.

No.

No.

Sunstreaker snarled and lunged to his feet. He ignored the heat of Starscream’s thrusters. He ignored the lurch of his tanks, the pain in his chassis. He threw himself at Starscream, reaching with hands he hadn’t realized were released from their bonds until his fingers wrapped around Starscream’s ankles.

He pulled.

Starscream yelped.

One thruster spat fire at Sunstreaker’s face. The other sputtered. The Seeker tilted, dropping in the air.

It was enough for Sunstreaker to get a hold of his knee, his hip, to pull and pull until Starscream growled and twisted toward him.

“You are grit in my articulators,” he snarled as Sunstreaker stared into the barrel of a blaster.

Spark pumping, he threw himself back, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the agony that exploded in his chassis. Heat lanced through his entire frame, errors streaking across his HUD.

He stumbled backward, legs feeling as strong as putty. Something ground in his chassis, wet and grating. His spark pulsed, erratic.

Starscream shouted. He dimly saw Sideswipe take him down, saw Sideswipe snarl as he pummeled fist after fist on the Seeker. He saw them struggling, saw the blaster waving about, saw Starscream’s claws rake across Sideswipe’s upper chestplate, dangerously close to Sideswipe’s main intake line.

Sunstreaker didn’t see red. He saw a kaleidoscope of colors that sparkled in his optics and tripped through his spark. He roared, a wordless sound, and threw himself into the fray. His ventilations staggered as he grappled with Starscream, trying to get the blaster away before it could do harm to any of the mechs Sunstreaker loved.

Starscream snarled beneath him, spitting obscenity and insults. It sounded like static, a buzz in Sunstreaker’s audials. His fingers shook. He felt weak, his distant sensory lines tingling. The warnings shrieked at him, louder, and louder.

Someone screamed his name.

Sunstreaker had a grip on the blaster. He wrenched it away, turned it around in his fingers. He had a knee on Starscream’s abdomen; he had a gun in his hand. He had it pointed the right direction.

Starscream went still beneath him. His fans spun. One wing was crumpled. One optic shattered. Energon bubbled around his sharpened denta. His glare was a challenge.

“Do it,” he rasped, his field pummeling Sunstreaker with too much emotion, more than he could hope to identify. “If I can’t save him, I’d rather die here.”

Sunstreaker’s ventilations heaved. His fingers shook. “It was you,” Sunstreaker said as his processor spun and wind rushed in his audials. “All this time.”

He dimly heard someone call his name. The blaster wavered.

He thought he’d been abandoned. He’d thought he’d been left behind. But no. Instead, his Prowl had been tortured, had been maimed, all because of Starscream. Who knew what else the Seeker had done?

“It was you,” Sunstreaker whispered.

“Sunny!”

Starscream’s energon-stained lips curved. He twitched beneath Sunstreaker, maybe intentional, maybe not given the way electricity crackled beneath his plating.

He would have killed Sideswipe. He would have killed them all.

They were in Uraya. No one cared about the Empties in the Waste. No one would care about this one either.

Sunstreaker shuttered his optics and squeezed the trigger. He heard the rapport of the blaster through the static in his audials. He squeezed until the charge ran dry, until the scent of scorched energon and metal became too much to bear.

He shoved himself away from Starscream, stumbling backward, dropping the blaster in his haste. He unshuttered his optics as pain returned to his awareness. As he realized the damp on his frame was not Starscream’s energon alone.

What… had he done?

Sunstreaker looked down, saw the energon spilling out of his abdomen. He touched the raw, ragged edges of the wound. He thought that it should hurt. No. It did hurt. His spark squeezed into a tight ball, smaller and smaller.

“Sunstreaker!”

His knees hit the ground. He shuddered and tasted energon at the back of his throat, half-processed, gritty and sour. He tilted forward, catching himself on one elbow, the purge spilling out of his intake into a gross splatter beneath him. It contrasted mightily with the bright energon dripping out of his chassis.

A spark for a spark, he thought grimly. How poetic.

Energy fields assaulted him, comfortingly familiar. He felt hands on him, but his visual feed was a blur, a blur that clarified into a single bright optic.

Dent. No. Not Dent. Prowl. His Prowl.

“Prowl,” Sunstreaker whispered, reaching up to touch the side of Dent’s optic with energon-stained fingers. He managed a smile.

Prowl hadn’t left him after all.

And then the world went dark.

[IDW] Come What May

Ratchet had done all the convincing.

Or, if Drift were being honest, Ratchet had nagged him until, laughing, Drift had agreed. He would return to the Lost Light, to the crew, to Rodimus. He would address his past so that he would have one less weight to drag with him in the future.

Though a part of him believed Ratchet was simply tired of the confined space they were now sharing. Ratchet often grumped about missing his very nice berth in his very private hab-suite, and the scorching heat of his private washrack. The cold rinses they were allowed on their shuttle just didn’t cut it.

So Drift gave in, and two weeks later, they hailed the Lost Light for permission to come aboard. Ratchet stormed down the ramp and into the cargo bay with no hesitation whatsoever, his field clearing the way. Drift pretended that reluctance didn’t tug at every armor panel and followed at a more sedate pace.

He didn’t know how to react. He didn’t know how to behave. He didn’t have the words, and wouldn’t know what to say when he saw Rodimus again.

They had agreed to Drift taking the blame. Yet, his exodus from the ship had still left him hollow on the inside, as though something were missing.

The crew surged forward to greet Ratchet, Swerve talking a mile a minute, Skids offering a handshake, Bluestreak daring to crowd in for a hug, and Velocity strutting in to introduce herself. Ultra Magnus boomed a welcome, Ten jostled Bluestreak out of the way for another hug, and Tailgate proudly showed off how he could pick up both Ten and Ratchet all at once.

Ratchet was quickly surrounded, and despite his bluster and growling, he was pleased beneath it all. The noise distracted the attention from Drift, for which he was grateful. He didn’t think he could handle that level of excitement, not with anxiety turning his internals into raw knots. Especially since Megatron hovered in the doorway, far from reach, and that was another reunion Drift was not prepared to handle.

Rodimus stepped into Drift’s line of sight, and his spark startled. Rodimus smiled at him, but it was tentative. He was quiet, reserved for once, as he approached Drift.

“Hi,” he said. “Welcome back.”

Drift worked his intake. “It’s good to be back,” he said, though he wasn’t sure that was the truth yet.

Rodimus folded his arms, though it didn’t look defensive so much as uncertain. “I owe Ratchet a thank you, I guess. I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to say this.” He hunched his shoulders, his gaze falling, his field withdrawn. “Drift, I’m sorry. For everything.”

“Are you?” That was more cutting than he meant it to be, and until then, Drift hadn’t realized how bitter he felt.

Rodimus flinched, but lifted his gaze, meeting Drift’s optics with more determination than before. “Yes,” he said. “I am. And I wish I could tell you how much but you know I’m no good at that.” He unfolded his arms and rubbed the back of his head. “I just, I dunno, can we start over? Will you let me show you that I can do better?”

Drift hesitated. He hesitated for so long that Rodimus’ field turned bleak, and Drift felt an itch across his spinal strut. Drift’s gaze skittered past Rodimus, to Ratchet and his crowd of friends and admirers. The medic inclined his head as though offering advice.

Advice Drift wanted to follow.

He cycled a ventilation and shifted his attention back to Rodimus. “All right,” he said, casting off the weight that had been dragging him down. “Let’s start over.”

Rodimus’ exultant smile could have powered the Lost Light for cycles.

~

It wasn’t easy. Nothing worth doing ever was.

They took small steps. Shared meals. Long walks in the corridors. Games played on holo-tables. Drift declined the offer to return to command. He wasn’t sure he was ready to share the bridge with Megatron yet.

That was another confrontation he didn’t have the courage to face.

Everything Rodimus said or did was tentative, as though he took great care to think about his actions first. The first time he reached for Drift’s hand, and Drift reached back, Rodimus’ face visibly heated. His spoiler-halves wiggled with an adorable glee.

Drift nearly forgave him in all entirety just for that alone.

They settled into a rhythm, bit by bit. Drift made the first genuine move, pulling Rodimus into an embrace before they parted for an evening. He kissed Rodimus a week later. In another month, they shared a berth, wrapped around each other, sharing heat and softly spoken words of affection.

Later, sharing a berth of course led to other things. Sloppy kisses and lingering caresses. Exchanged charge and Rodimus writhing with pleasure in his arms. Rodimus giggling and panting and moaning, Drift losing himself in the ecstasy they built between them. He felt insatiable, and perhaps Rodimus did as well.

Soon, they didn’t need separate quarters.

They didn’t return to what they used to be, instead, they became something more, something better. Drift’s spark swelled with affection, adoration, and he tasted the same in Rodimus’ field and in his optics. Trust returned.

So when Rodimus made the gentle offer to share sparks, for pleasure and nothing else, Drift didn’t hesitate to agree. It spiraled open a whole new world of bliss for him, left them panting and aching in the aftermath.

The rest, however, was all Rodimus’ fault.

~

“What is that you’re drinking?” Drift asked, making a face at the cube of roiling, bubbling liquid that Rodimus clutched in one hand.

It wasn’t energon, not any sort that Drift had seen. Nor engex. It smelled terrible, and he swore it had the consistency of some kind of acid. Energon should not bubble as though it were carbonated.

“It’s my anti-sparkling blend!” Rodimus chirped, and gulped down half of the liquid in one go. He grimaced, but gamely swallowed the mouthful. “Guaranteed to keep us egg-free!”

Drift peered into the cube. He gave it a sniff, only to immediately recoil. “That smells awful. Like something drained from a waste tank. Are you sure that’s what it does?”

Rodimus shrugged with one shoulder. “It’s worked so far. An old friend taught it to me.” His smile softened with fondness, like an old memory turned grey from age, before it brightened again. “Want some?”

Drift wrinkled his nasal ridge. “No, thank you.” He thumped his chestplate. “Ratch installed a shunt. I’ll stick to that.”

“Suit yourself.” Rodimus tipped the cube back and chugged the rest in one fell swoop. His plating ruffled as he swallowed it down and tossed the cube into a recycle bin.

~

Rodimus’ little concoction did not work as he claimed it would. In fact, they would later discover that Rodimus was lucky he hadn’t rotted out his tanks drinking the acidic mixture. It had already been slowly eating away at his internals.

The end result was that Rodimus was sparked. He had a trio of eggs growing in his ovoid tank, and Drift supposed he was as much to blame as Rodimus. He probably should have asked whether Rodimus had a shunt before agreeing to the spark merge, no matter how mind-blowing it had felt at the time.

“You’re both idiots,” Ratchet declared while Rodimus reddened about the so-called birth control that wasn’t. “And you’re idiots with three eggs growing in that tank of his.”

Drift couldn’t swallow past the lump in his intake. Simultaneously elated and terrified, he clutched at Rodimus’ hand and tried not to be intimidated by Ratchet’s stare.

“What’s next?” he asked.

“That depends on what you two want,” Ratchet replied, his gaze shifting between them. “Either I can start Rodimus here on some supplements and project a Lay date. Or I can offer a systems purgative.”

Rodimus’ field went jagged around the edges. “The supplements!” he blurted out, surging forward, as though he thought Ratchet was going to shove the purgative into his tank. “I mean, please. I want the supplements.” He squeezed Drift’s hand and looked at him. “You do, too. Right? I mean, I know we didn’t plan for it and maybe it’s too soon and we’re still working stuff out, but–”

“Yes.” Drift squeezed Rodimus’ hand back, trying to bury his fear down deep. They would figure it out. “The supplements please, Ratchet. We will do this together.”

Rodimus’ smile stretched wide.

Ratchet grunted and got to his feet. “So be it,” he said. “And Primus help us all.”

~

Their world changed again.

All focus shifted toward the growing lives in Rodimus’ ovoid tank. He consumed energon three times as often. His moods swung left and right. He slept too much, and had a voracious appetite, for both energon and pleasure.

His abdomen swelled, bit by bit, until the narrow waist vanished and Rodimus was left with a rounded belly. There was no hiding that he was carrying young, and soon, everyone on the Lost Light had to have their say, their advice to offer. Everyone came around to pat Rodimus’ belly and rub it.

Drift’s patience ran out before Rodimus’ did. He started growling at their crewmates, showing his denta to a few who didn’t get it immediately. After that, people started asking first, though Rodimus was more selective about who he let stroke his belly.

Megatron was one of them.

Megatron who Drift would eventually sit down and talk with. But for now, they had settled for a polite distance, and polite interaction, pretending as though there wasn’t a Past that sizzled between them.

That, however, was a worry for another time.

Drift had better things to consider, such as his current favorite activity.

Well, second favorite, if he were to be perfectly honest. But the first favorite had led to the circumstances of the second favorite, which put him in an awkward position.

Drift chuckled quietly to himself and rested his helm on Rodimus’ chest, just above the slight swell of his abdominal plating. Rodimus was fully gravid, and Ratchet claimed he would lay any week now. It was just a matter of waiting.

Drift’s fingers walked over the stretched plates of armor, tickling down over the taut cables beneath them, and in a few places, brushing over heated protomesh. Their legs tangled together as Rodimus’ engine purred and Drift’s own did as well, though at a deeper pitch.

Three eggs. Three little ones. Three hatchlings.

Drift didn’t know if he was panicked or jubilant, save that he was a mixture of both. He tipped his head forward, lips brushing against the nearest curve of Rodimus’ belly before he settled back on Rodimus’ chestplate again. His hand continued the same pattern, rubbing gently over the swell.

Three little sparks, nestled in a cocoon. Three innocents to look after.

Drift pressed open-mouthed kisses over the curve of Rodimus’ belly, his lips tracing seams, armor ridges, and heated, strained cables. He loved feeling Rodimus’ plating shift beneath him, and swore he could hear the movement of the eggs within Rodimus’ chamber.

His mouth walked the same path as his fingers, and he ex-vented a damp warmth as he did so. Rodimus shivered delicately beneath him, frame getting more and more restless.

“You know they can’t feel that,” Rodimus said as one of his hands found Drift’s head. His fingers teased at Drift’s finials and audials, a light touch that tickled as much as it aroused.

“Mm, I know,” Drift said, tilting his head into Rodimus’ gentle caresses. “It’s for my benefit, not theirs.”

Rodimus laughed, which made his belly ripple beneath Drift’s fingers. “You’re cute.”

“That’s what I hear.” Drift’s lips curved with amusement. He stroked around the curve of Rodimus’ belly again, and felt a shift beneath his fingertips. “They’re moving. They know I’m here.”

“Pfft. They’re always moving, whether you’re here or not,” Rodimus retorted. His ventilations hitched however. He squirmed beneath Drift. Heat wafted up from his armor.

Drift quieted a laugh before it could emerge. He let his fingers walk a path down the curve of Rodimus’ belly to the underside of it. Rodimus’ ovoid tank was positioned a little lower than most mechs, which left him carrying almost in his pelvis. The lowest curve of it brought Drift’s fingers teasingly close to Rodimus’ interfacing array.

Rodimus’ ventilations stuttered again.

Bingo. It was almost like clockwork.

“You seem to be in some discomfort,” Drift teased as he stroked a long, purposeful pattern over the bottom curve. He tipped forward a few inches, lips brushing over distended plating. “Do you need something, hot shot?”

Rodimus pinched his right finial. It stung more than it hurt. “You know good and well what you’re doing, slagger.” He shifted restlessly again, thighs rubbing together, the scent of his arousal filling the space between them.

Drift chuckled. He nuzzled the upper curve of Rodimus’ belly and let his fingers wander lower, ghosting over Rodimus’ interface array panel.

“Do I?” Drift asked.

“Yes!” Rodimus hissed and his fingers closed about Drift’s finial, giving it a tug. His legs shifted against Drift’s, rubbing their armor together, as his frame grew even hotter. “Stop teasing me, slag it.”

“You’re so screwy,” Drift murmured as he gave Rodimus’ belly one last stroke before he pushed himself to his knees. “Here I am trying to be romantic and loving, and you’re getting wet.” He swept his fingers over Rodimus’ leaking panel in emphasis.

From zero to dripping. Rodimus’ already over-active libido seemed to have quadrupled during the course of his carry.

“Is that a complaint?” Rodimus pouted, not that it lasted long as it quickly dissolved into a sly smirk.

“Did I say it was?” Drift grinned and tugged his head free of Rodimus’ grip so that he could work himself between Rodimus’ thighs.

He flattened on his belly on the berth, pulled Rodimus’ thighs over his shoulders, and ex-vented warmly over Rodimus’ still closed panel. Heat emanated from the crimson plating, the seams juttering. Rodimus’ ankles crossed behind Drift’s head, keeping him in place.

“Going to make me work for it, I see,” Drift said as he extended his glossa and licked a long line up the middle of Rodimus’ panel.

Rodimus’ backstrut arched, a sound catching in his intake. “You just called me easy, of course I’m going to make it hard for you.”

“Hard,” Drift repeated and snickered.

Rodimus’ knee knocked against his finial. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Drift lifted his gaze enough to see the color in Rodimus’ face. He was adorable, an odd mix of shameless sexuality but also embarrassed reserve.

“Why not?” Drift asked and slid his hands around Rodimus’ aft. He lowered his head again, pressing a longer, wetter kiss to Rodimus’ panel. “It’s true, you know.”

Rodimus’ hips squirmed in his grasp. His panel juttered again. “Shut up,” he said, but it was breathless. The berth creaked as he squirmed, the sheets rustling when he tangled his fingers in them.

“Make me,” Drift purred against Rodimus’ panel, his lips tingling where the scorching heat of Rodimus’ array wafted over them.

Rodimus moaned and his panel snapped open, brushing Drift’s lips as it did so. Rodimus’ spike instantly pressurized, his valve spilling a dribble of lubricant that Drift was quick to catch with his glossa.

He moaned happily as he pressed his mouth to Rodimus’ valve, glossa sweeping up the escaping trickles of lubricant. His nasal ridge rubbed against Rodimus’ exterior node. His lips caressed the rim of Rodimus’ valve. He heard Rodimus’ calipers clicking restlessly, as Rodimus rocked down toward his mouth. He made little sounds, whimpers and choked off moans.

The berthcovers rustled more. One of Rodimus’ hands found Drift’s head again, resting on the top of it, until Drift reached up and redirected it to his finial. Rodimus’ grip was a touch too hard, but Drift’s own engine purred at the threat of pain.

Rodimus was delightful to pleasure. He panted. He squirmed. He moaned and whined and whimpered. His ankles and heels drummed against Drift’s upper back. His hips rolled up and down against Drift’s mouth. He whispered pleas for more and hissed excitedly when Drift caught his exterior node between his denta and rolled his glossa across it.

Rodimus babbled a stream of delight and clutched harder at Drift’s finial.

Drift grinned against Rodimus’ array. He briefly abandoned Rodimus’ valve so that he could lick up the length of Rodimus’ spike. His glossa flicked over crimson and orange bands, wrapped concentrically around the thick length. He took the head of Rodimus’ spike into his mouth, giving it a firm suck.

Rodimus’ back arched off the berth again. “Drift!” he shouted, frame trembling harder beneath Drift.

He returned to Rodimus’ valve, lapping up the new dribbles of lubricant before plunging his glossa deep. Rodimus’ grip tugged him closer, shoving his face against Rodimus’ array, as Rodimus ground down on him hard. He panted audibly, vents roaring, and Drift knew he was close, could taste the charge on his glossa.

Drift flexed his fingers around Rodimus’ thighs, made a happy hum in his intake, and rubbed his nasal ridge against Rodimus’ exterior node again.

“Driiiiift!” Rodimus shouted, his heels snapping against Drift’s upper back as he arched and overloaded, pulsing lubricant over Drift’s glossa and lips. There was too much for him to swallow, and it flowed over his chin, soaking his face.

Rodimus pawed at him as the pleasure traveled through his frame in waves. Drift tasted his overload, the charge biting at his glossa, before Rodimus abruptly sagged onto the berth. He kept his grip on Drift’s finial, however, and his whirring fans vibrated the berth.

Drift grinned and licked his lips, tasting Rodimus upon them. In normal times, that would have been embarrassingly quick, but now, Rodimus’ overloads came numerous and often.

Rodimus loosed a tiny squeak of a moan and pawed at Drift’s head and shoulders, trying to get a grip and pull on him.

Drift chuckled and shifted his weight, navigating Rodimus’ swell of a belly. He couldn’t help but press a kiss to it as he passed, his lips saying hello to the twitching armor. There was movement in the strained cables also, as though the growing eggs were shifting about.

Another tug reminded him that Rodimus sought his attention, as did the pulsating heat in his own array, so Drift gave Rodimus’ belly one last kiss and finished crawling up Rodimus’ frame. He was careful, however, not to rest his weight on Rodimus’ round abdomen.

“Do you want something?” Drift asked as he pressed their foreheads together, his knee nudged between Rodimus’ thighs, rubbing against the damp of Rodimus’ valve.

Rodimus gripped Drift’s head, his optics blazing and bright. “You know what I want,” he said before he pulled their mouths together, his glossa hungrily plunging past Drift’s lips.

The need knotting in Drift’s tanks exploded. It radiated outward, his engine rumbling. His spike throbbed within its casing, his valve cycling tight. Drift braced his weight on the berth and returned the kiss, Rodimus’ nipping at his lips and denta.

“Come on,” Rodimus said in between kisses, his hips rocking down against Drift’s knee, leaving pink lubricant smears on a white thigh. “Spike me.”

Drift tried to wriggle out of Rodimus’ grip, but with newfound libido came a newfound strength. “I don’t want to put pressure on your belly.”

Rodimus scoffed. “That’s not going to hurt them.”

“Because you know so much about the carry process,” Drift retorted, though it was with a grin. “Captain ‘I’m going to drink this poison and assume that’s enough’.”

Rodimus’ face flushed. “This and that are two different things.” He squirmed, rubbing his valve on Drift’s thigh again. “Come on. I’m all charged up with no satisfaction.”

Drift shifted his knee forward, rubbing against Rodimus’ valve. Rodimus shivered beneath him, charge indeed dancing from beneath his armor. A low moan echoed in Rodimus’ throat, and the sound of it made need tighten in Drift’s belly. His fingers clenched in the berth covers, his spike pinging against the cover.

“We should comm Ratchet and ask,” Drift said, his vocals strained.

Rodimus pressed kisses all over his face, denta leaving light nibbles on Drift’s lips. “Primus, no. I can’t imagine anything more humiliating. Just roll over instead.”

Roll over?

Drift’s finials twitched. The arousal in his internals exploded into an inferno, his spike popping free. Rodimus meant to ride him.

“Okay,” Drift breathed. He didn’t have to be told twice.

It took some finagling, some fumbling, and some awkward reshuffling before Drift’s back hit the berth. Rodimus wasted no time in straddling him, his valve drizzling lubricant down onto Drift’s spike. Each heated drip made Drift twitch as his hands found Rodimus’ waist, not so narrow currently. His belly seemed to hang even lower.

“That’s better,” Rodimus murmured and sank down onto Drift’s spike without any preamble, his valve swallowing Drift to the base in one smooth slide.

Drift shivered, a moan escaping him. He worked his intake, gripping Rodimus’ hips tighter.

“Mmm, yeah. That’s what I was missing,” Rodimus said as he rolled his hips, keeping Drift deep, the head of his spike grinding against Rodimus’ ceiling node.

He leaned forward, dug his knees into the berth, and planted his hands on Drift’s belly. His fingers rippled, pressing against Drift’s armor, as he braced himself. He lifted and sank, riding Drift’s spike with eager huffs of his ventilations.

“Primus,” Drift moaned, his ventilations quickening. He braced his feet on the berth, attempted to thrust up, but Rodimus planted his weight and ground down instead.

The intent was clear; Rodimus was in charge.

Luckily, Drift didn’t mind one bit. Not when Rodimus’ face darkened with desire, his optics bright and feverish. He licked his lips, still making those urgent noises, his hips moving faster and faster. His valve rippled frantically around Drift’s spike, charge exchanging between their nodes faster than Drift could track.

So fast that Rodimus overloaded again, his frame shuddering as charge erupted from beneath his armor. His fingers dug into Drift’s seams, his hips rocking back and forth in an off-beat rhythm. His fans roared, vents flaring wide.

Drift’s spike throbbed, rigid and unsatisfied as Rodimus’ valve rippled around him. He groaned, trembling beneath Rodimus.

Rodimus chuckled, though it was interspersed with breathless pants. “What? You’re not done yet?” he teased.

Drift shuddered as he held himself still, resisting the urge to toss Rodimus on his back and frag his lover senseless. “Says the sparked mech with the increased interface drive.”

“Fine by me. I can go again.” Rodimus took Drift deep again and circled his hips, the deepest ring of calipers clutching tight around the head of Drift’s spike.

A moan escaped Drift before he could stop it. He tossed his head back, trembling as the pleasure rolled through his frame in waves. It wasn’t an overload, not quite, but the prelude of one.

“I kinda like you like this,” Rodimus said as he rolled his hips in small circles, lubricant soaking their pelvic armor. His spike bobbed, relentless. “At my mercy and all.”

Drift focused his gaze on Rodimus, whose frame sparkled with condensation, the plating around his midsection stretched taut.

This wouldn’t do at all.

Drift got his elbows beneath him and shoved up, causing Rodimus to flail in surprise. Another moment of clumsy fumbling and Drift got Rodimus in his lap, his legs crossed beneath Rodimus’ aft.

“That’s better,” Drift murmured, though Rodimus’ belly was between them. He still had enough room to capture Rodimus’ lips in a kiss.

“Yeah, okay,” Rodimus said against his lips, his arms draping over Drift’s shoulders. He crossed his ankles behind Drift’s back, their frames as close together as his belly would allow. “This is better.”

Drift chuckled softly and kissed Rodimus deeper, his arms sliding around Rodimus’ frame. He had just enough reach that he could glide his hands up and caress the bottom edges of Rodimus’ spoiler. Rodimus shuddered, his spoiler flicking back into Drift’s hands in wordless demand for more.

“Knew you’d say that,” Drift murmured as Rodimus began to move, slowly working his valve over Drift’s spike in long, deep strokes.

Drift shivered and pressed his forehead to Rodimus’. Pleasure tingled up and down his backstrut. He increased his pace, their frames moving together slowly and surely. Rodimus’ fingers found his finials, playing with them gently, and Drift shivered again. Charge danced out from his substructure, lighting up the room.

“You’re close, aren’t you?” Rodimus purred, both teasing and incendiary. “Gonna fill me up again?”

Drift worked his intake and nipped at Rodimus’ audial. “Don’t you start that.”

Rodimus chuckled and gentled his nibbles. “You’d rather I talk about how good you feel in me? How much I love it when you hold me close? Or that your field gets all warm and fuzzy when we ‘face?”

Heat rolled over Drift’s frame. “You’re a menace,” he said.

“A menace you love,” Rodimus replied and his kisses traveled the length of Drift’s jaw, gentle and caressing. His valve squeezed down tight on Drift’s spike.

Drift groaned and stole Rodimus’ mouth for a deep kiss, closing off the path of conversation before Rodimus killed him with words alone. Pleasure tapped rapid-fire down his spinal strut, his spike throbbing endlessly. He teetered on the edge of overload and thrust up deep into Rodimus, valve calipers clutching at his spike head as though determined to drive him crazy.

Drift’s grip tightened on Rodimus’ spoiler. His spark throbbed to the same beat of his spike. And then Rodimus revved his engine, the vibrations rattling through both their frames, and what little control Drift had left, evaporated.

Overload rolled over him in steady waves. Drift gnawed on his bottom lip as the echoes of it reverberated through his frame, his transfluid filling Rodimus’ valve, joining the soaking mess of lubricant.

Rodimus purred amusement at him, his lips brushing over the curve of Drift’s jaw. “You have a kink for romance, don’t you?” he teased as his valve rippled around Drift’s spike restlessly. Charge spilled out from beneath his plating, his field thick with need.

Drift turned his head and captured Rodimus’ lips, ventilations exchanging between them. “That,” he said. “And because I love you.”

Rodimus’ engine purred. His grip on Drift’s shoulders tightened, even as his face reddened. He tried to bury it in Drift’s intake, but Drift wouldn’t let him, choosing instead to kiss Rodimus all over again. If there was one way to embarrass Rodimus, professions of affection were a surefire method.

Drift kept a grip on Rodimus’ spoiler, but shifted enough that he could slip a hand between their frames. His fingers ghosted over Rodimus’ swollen anterior node and rim before encircling Rodimus’ spike. It pulsed happily in his grip, liberally dripping prefluid.

Rodimus murmured Drift’s name against his lips and nuzzled into Drift’s intake, his lips and denta laving a path of pleasure. Drift shivered and squeezed Rodimus’ spike gently, fingers working Rodimus in all the ways he knew his lover preferred. He caught a finial with his lips and nibbled on it, causing Rodimus to arch in his arms.

Rodimus’ valve rippled around his half-pressurized spike again, the rapid-fire cycling that denoted his approach to overload. So Drift doubled his endeavors, fingers sliding to the base of Rodimus’ spoiler as he gently tugged on Rodimus’ spike, until Rodimus came apart in his arms. He clung tight as he overloaded, fluids spilling over Drift’s fingers and wet ventilations puffing against his intake.

Rodimus tilted forward, draping himself against Drift, though his hips tilted back to give his belly more room. His ventilations purred, his frame shuddering as the last vestiges of overload wandered through his frame.

“Mmm,” Rodimus said as he nuzzled into Drift’s intake. “That was good.”

Drift leaned his head against Rodimus’ and stroked a hand down Rodimus’ back. His damp fingers rested on the curve of Rodimus’ belly. Plating and cables flexed beneath his fingers in arrhythmic twitches.

“Need another?”

“No. I think three’s good. For now.” Rodimus chuckled. His frame hummed with warmth. “Need a nap.”

Drift’s optics half-shuttered as he latched onto Rodimus’ energy field and lingered in it. Satisfaction and affection pulsed between them. “Why am I not surprised?”

Rodimus’s engine purred happily. He snuggled harder against Drift, making soft little noises in his intake. He was adorable like this.

Drift slid his hand between their frames, the curve of his palm gliding over the curve of Rodimus’ egg-heavy belly. Once again, he could feel the shift of the eggs within, as if they were energized by all of the overloads.

His lips curved. “They’re as energetic as you are,” Drift commented as he started stroking again, smooth circular motions of his hand over Rodimus’ belly, prompting Rodimus to purr harder.

“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Rodimus said. He squirmed closer to Drift, wriggled away, and then squirmed again as though he couldn’t get comfortable.

“Problem?”

“No. Yes. No. Maybe.” Rodimus frowned briefly before he nibbled at Drift’s intake. “Kinda getting hungry though. These things are insatiable.”

Drift chuckled and pressed a quick kiss to Rodimus’ lips. “I’ll get you something then,” he said, and worked his way free of Rodimus’ clinging embrace.

“Be quick about it.” Rodimus flopped down to the berth. He grabbed a pillow and clutched it close, in the same way he’d been holding Drift.

“Yes, Captain.” Drift winked and slipped out of their berthroom.

In the hall, he looked down at himself and wrinkled his nasal ridge. Perhaps getting a damp rag would be helpful as well. He was coated in a mixture of lubricant and transfluid both.

Drift headed to the storage room and mixed up Rodimus’ blend of choice, an odorous bitter mix that Rodimus declared delicious. Cravings, Drift guessed, because normally Rodimus wouldn’t have touched the stuff. This thick, gloppy mixture slithered as it went down. And yet, Rodimus drank it by the pitcher.

Gross.

Drift shuddered and put a cap on the cube so he wouldn’t have to smell it. He grabbed mid-grade for himself – unflavored and odorless, his own preference now that Rodimus’ choices were so malodorous. He grabbed a handful of rust sticks, too. He just wouldn’t tell Velocity that Rodimus was eating them.

The last thing he snagged was a cloth which he dampened with a mild solvent. He gave himself a quick wipe down before he returned to their berthroom victorious.

Rodimus had rolled onto his side in Drift’s absence, but he rolled back onto his spoiler when Drift returned. He clutched the pillow with one arm and made grabbing motions with his free hand.

“Huuuuuungrrrrrrrry,” he whined.

Amusement tugged at Drift’s lips. “You’re lucky you’re cute,” he said as he handed over the cube and a handful of rust sticks.

“I’m adorable,” Rodimus agreed, popping one of the rust sticks into his mouth.

Drift shook his head and grabbed the pillow tugging it out of Rodimus’ grip. Or well, trying to at any rate.

“Mine,” Rodimus said, his lips speckled with sweetened dust as he turned his frame, tightening his grip on the pillow.

“I’ve been replaced by a pillow, have I?”

“The pillow is the only one who doesn’t leave me,” Rodimus said.

Drift snorted. “So I see.” He let go of the pillow and Rodimus thumped back to the berth, only to scoot up a few feet so that he could rest his head on the other pillow. “Can I at least get you clean?” He waved the cloth for emphasis.

Rodimus’ answer was to shift on the berth, draw up his knees and cant his hips toward Drift.

Yes. He was damn lucky he was so cute.

Drift chuckled to himself and climbed back onto the berth. He settled next to Rodimus and started to clean, gently wiping the drying fluids from his lover’s thighs, pelvic armor, and abdomen. A few spatters had even gotten on his belly.

“Guess I’d better be careful,” Drift teased as he wiped up the last of the fluids. “Else I might get you going again.”

“Shut up,” Rodimus grumbled, but it was good-natured.

He popped open the cube and Drift was quick to seal off his olfactory sensors. The energon was pungent and the stench lingered.

With Rodimus clean, Drift took the opportunity to stroke over Rodimus’ belly again. It was yet his favorite thing to do, his fingers exploring the smooth stretch of the protomesh, the strain of cables, the rigidity of Rodimus’ plating. Rodimus radiated heat now, and it all felt concentrated here. Even better that Drift could feel the twitch and jostle of the eggs within his ovoid chamber.

It was more pronounced now than it had been earlier.

“I am eager to meet you, bitlets,” Drift murmured, careful to keep his words subvocal. He leaned close, lips following the same path as his fingers. “To be honest, so is the entire crew. Even Ratchet.”

Rodimus chuckled. “Ratchet is figuring out if he can escape again. That’s what he’s doing. You watch. We’re going to online next week and the shuttle will be missing.”

Drift cast him a sardonic look. “Ratchet wouldn’t do that.” Then again, remembering the stricken and pale cast to Ratchet’s face, maybe he would.

Beneath his fingers, Rodimus squirmed. It wasn’t the restless shifting of a mech experiencing the slow climb to arousal. It was different. As was the tingle of unease that radiated through Rodimus’ field.

Drift looked at Rodimus, who had the smallest of frowns on his face. He’d finished his energon, and the hand not clutching the pillow slid down, resting on the curve of his abdomen just above Drift’s hand.

“What’s wrong?” Drift asked, feeling as though he should be alarmed.

“I dunno.” Rodimus squinted and squirmed again, a small huff escaping his ventilations. “Getting spasms or something.”

Drift tossed the washrag aside and rested both hands on Rodimus’ belly, pressing a little harder than he normally would. Beneath his fingers, he felt the plating twitch, and the cables spasm arrhythmically.

Now, Drift wasn’t a medic, but clearly, he was the only one who had paid attention to Ratchet’s brief lecture on “what to expect when you’re expecting.”

“Uh, Roddy, those aren’t just spasms,” Drift said, a mixture of excitement and dread peppering through his lines. “I think you’re getting ready to lay.”

Rodimus blinked at him. He opened his mouth, closed it again. He rubbed the heel of his palm against the top swell of his abdomen.

“Huh,” he said. “That would explain why it’s just getting worse.”

Primus on a pogostick!

Drift leapt from the berth, kicking into overdrive. He sent an immediate ping to Ratchet, only for it to be ignored and redirected to Velocity.

“Drift? Is something wrong?”

“I think Roddy’s about to lay!”

A very un-Camien like curse escaped Velocity – she’d been hanging around Whirl too much. “Come to the medbay. I’ll wake Ratchet.”

The comm ended, which meant Drift could redirect his attention to Rodimus, who was gamely trying to ease off the berth. One hand on his belly, an elbow beneath him, Rodimus grimaced as he managed to swing his legs over the edge.

“A little help here?” he demanded, looking cross.

Drift rushed to assist and got a very warm armful of Rodimus for his trouble. Red plating was flared to its max extent, allowing for greater dissipation of heat. His field was warm and fuzzy, tingling where it collided with Drift’s own.

Rodimus grinned up at him, momentary annoyance gone. “Mmm, that’s better,” he purred, and pressed their foreheads together. “Ready to do this?”

“Not at all,” Drift replied with frank honesty.

“Figured that.” Rodimus slung an arm around Drift’s waist, leaning against him, and then turned them toward the door. “Good thing we’re in this together.”

Drift made a non-committal noise. Rodimus exuded heat like a furnace, but Drift felt as though someone had dropped him onto an ice star. He shivered, his spark flickering erratically. He dipped an arm around Rodimus’ frame, steadying him, but even that wasn’t enough to chase away the chill.

Out in the hall, they made a beeline for the medbay. Drift focused on getting Rodimus there as quickly and safely as possible. A task made more difficult given that Rodimus seemed to have no urgency in his movements.

Rodimus, one hand resting on his belly, giggled. “You know,” he said, looking at Drift with over-bright optics. “It must have been your good loving that convinced the bitlets it was time to hatch.”

Drift had no words, except the overwhelming urge to scrape his hand down his face. He began to realize why Megatron’s face was lined from stress.

“Must have been,” Drift managed to say, his voice faint and crackling with static.

Rodimus chuckled, but it faded into a hitched vent and a clutch at his belly. “Ow,” he said with a wince, and rubbed over the roundest part of his abdomen. “That stings.”

Drift picked up the pace. “You all right?”

“Yes and no.” Rodimus cycled a ventilation and kept his palm flat against his belly. “Tell you what, next time you do the carrying, and then you can tell me whether or not you’re okay.”

“Point taken.”

Drift nearly sagged with relief as the door to the medbay came into sight. He hustled Rodimus inside and prayed that no onlookers were present. Luck was with him as the only two within were Ratchet and Velocity, who immediately came to offer aid.

Ratchet, in fact, simply swept Rodimus off his feet as though he weighed next to nothing and hustled him toward the nearest private berth room.

“I could have done that,” Drift said.

“Don’t be petulant,” Ratchet called over his shoulders. “And no, you couldn’t.”

Rodimus laughed and slung his arms around Ratchet’s neck. “My hero,” he snickered. “But you’ll have to wait to ravish me, Doctor. I’m kind of in the middle of something here.”

“Primus,” Velocity said.

Drift felt a little like agreeing with her.

Ratchet deposited Rodimus onto the berth without any ceremony, and luckily, without any commentary on Rodimus’ inappropriate joke. “Stay,” he said.

“Don’t plan on moving.” Rodimus leaned back with a sigh of relief. “My backstrut was killing me,” he said as his gaze tracked all of the frames moving around him.

Ratchet and Velocity – efficient and focused. Drift, keeping to the perimeter, following an uneasy circuit. He didn’t know what to do and wringing his fingers was obviously not a solution, but he felt in the way otherwise.

“That is because you carry so low,” Velocity informed him. “Your backstrut has bore most of the weight. Something to keep in mind for the future.”

Ratchet shot her a look. “Do you want me to have a spark attack?” he demanded. “Let’s get these pitspawn out before we start talking about more!”

“Awwww, Ratch. You sound a little grumpy,” Rodimus said, quite cheekily, ever one to poke the sleeping predacon. “Not having much luck with Megatron, are you?”

Drift screeched to a halt. Silence fell in the medbay. Velocity dropped something that went clatter. Color drained from Ratchet’s face before it was replaced by a blaze of heat.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped. “Now roll over. You can’t Lay in that position.”

“Perhaps he should,” Velocity ventured, though it was with evident caution. “He’s carrying so very low.”

Drift, for his part, was stuck in some kind of loop. Worried for Rodimus and scandalized for Ratchet, and he didn’t know which of the two extremes should take the lead in his emotions. He gaped at Ratchet, and tangled his fingers together and shifted his weight from foot to foot.

Rodimus laughed. “Yes, you do,” he said as he paused in the midst of rolling to his hands and knees, an attempt made more awkward by his pronounced belly. “That’s what you need to turn your frown upside down, Ratch. Let me tell you, a good fragging session and you’ll–”

“Shut your mouth is what you’ll do,” Ratchet growled in a dangerous tone that Drift knew all too well. “You have better things to worry about then imagined nonsense.”

Rodimus grunted, flopping back on his back as he clutched at his belly. “I’d rather think about that then this,” he muttered, face scrunching up as the plating on his abdomen rippled alarmingly. “Drift, this is all your fault.”

“I believe you had something to do with it as well,” Drift said, daring to get near the berth, though he hovered close to Rodimus’ helm while Ratchet and Velocity crowded around his feet.

“You may be right about his carry, Velocity,” Ratchet said, the perfect picture of professionalism, despite the color in his cheeks. “Stay on your back, Rodimus. It should be more comfortable.”

Rodimus snorted a laugh, one that quickly devolved into giggles. “Yeah, it sure is.” He turned his head, winking at Drift as he did so. “Right?”

“Can’t you take anything seriously?” Drift demanded, all thoughts of Ratchet and Megatron gone as he focused on his lover.

“I’m – owwww – trying not to.” Rodimus’ backstrut curved as he arched off the berth before flopping back to it with a pant. One hand groped for Drift, and when he offered his hand, Rodimus squeezed it mercilessly.

Ow.

“Can’t I have some drugs?” Rodimus demanded as the medics each grabbed a leg and shoved his ankles into some stirrups.

Ratchet shook his head. “There’s no point. By the time it works through your system, you’ll have laid.”

“You’ve been ready to lay for hours. Didn’t you notice?” Velocity added, blinking owlishly at them from her perch between Rodimus’ thighs. There was a hint of pink to her cheeks.

Drift coughed into his free hand and looked everywhere but at the medics.

Rodimus half-grimaced and half-grinned. “I was distracted.”

Ratchet snorted. “Yeah. I’ll bet you were.” He tossed Drift an accusing look before he rounded the berth to Rodimus’ left-hand side, his hands ghosting over the swell of Rodimus’ belly. “All right everyone. Shut up and focus. We got bitlets ready to greet the world.”

~

Grumpy he might be, but Drift couldn’t ask for a better defender than Ratchet. He kept the nosy away from the private corner of the medbay occupied by Drift, Rodimus, and their three furled little ones. Each was about the size of Drift’s fist, their shell-plating a muted shade of grey with the thinnest seams webbing around their circumference.

They’d hatch within a few days, Ratchet said. Until then, Drift and Rodimus would have to keep them warm and keep them close, letting their fields mingle so that their bitlets would recognize them after unfurling. It was hardly a trial to curl with Rodimus in a berth, their little ones cradled between them, Rodimus’ forehead pressed to his own.

Exhaustion fed into Rodimus’ field, but he gamely fought against it. He had one arm curled around the eggs, and the other curled around Drift, as though determined not to let him go. He still exuded heat like a furnace, enough that Drift’s cooling fans were whirring at speed, but right now, the last thing he wanted to do was push Rodimus away.

“Well,” Rodimus murmured. “We did it.”

“You did most of the work,” Drift replied. He stroked a hand over Rodimus’ belly, still a little swollen, the cables and plating slowly shifting back into place. “And now we’ve got three bitlets. Three hatchlings that we’re going to have to care for.”

That ripple of unease returned, one that had crouched on his shoulders from the moment Ratchet told them that Rodimus was sparked and they knew, as one, they would keep the hatchlings. Drift, who had always struggled with his own identity, didn’t know if he could do this, if he could be a good caretaker.

“Yeah, but at least we don’t have to do it alone,” Rodimus said, and snuggled closer, making a happy sound in his intake. “We got mechs lining up in the corridor to babysit. And I’ll betcha Ratchet will be one of the first in line, for all his grumpiness.”

Drift hummed a laugh. “You may be right.”

“They won’t let us fail,” Rodimus added, and there was confidence in his vocals.

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Of course I am.” Rodimus brushed their nasal ridges together, his field swelling with affection. “I love you. You know that, right?”

Drift’s spark throbbed with warmth. “I do.” He pressed a kiss to Rodimus’ forehead. “Get some rest, hot shot.”

Rodimus made a noncommittal noise, his field enveloping both Drift and their bitlets, as he ex-vented quietly. He slipped into recharge right then and there.

Drift’s lips pulled into a soft smile, his spark bubbling with happiness. His fingers danced over the warm curves of their unhatched young. He pressed another kiss to Rodimus’ head and then allowed himself to slip into recharge as well, content and happy like he couldn’t remember being before.