[IDW] Chasing Cars

Ratchet expected a lot of things from their return to the Lost Light. A sense of belonging again. A sense of fellowship, of homecoming. He expected relief, exultation, the simple pleasures of a large berth, a variety of engex, and the relative safety of a larger ship.

He did not expect to find himself so poisonously, insidiously angry. Or worse, jealous.

Another soft laugh dragged Ratchet’s optics from his datapad to the corner of the small lounge. Drift and Rodimus were crowded around a low table, some kind of boardgame set up between them, their heads bent so close their facial spurs nearly tangled.

Rodimus was laughing, his frame language animated, his spoiler twitching upward happily. Drift grinned, his optics sparkling, every bit of him as joyful.

They’d only been back for a few weeks, but Drift and Rodimus had fallen into their friendship as if Drift had never been exiled from it. Ratchet knew they’d had a single, private conversation upon Drift’s return, one Ratchet had not been privy to and neither did he demand to be part of it.

He still did not see how a single conversation could fix what Rodimus had so thoroughly broken. Never mind that Drift had volunteered to take the weight of the disgrace. If there was one thing Rodimus was having trouble learning, it was the consequences of his actions and damn it, the quicker Drift forgave him, the sooner Rodimus forgot his lessons.

Drift, however, was too relieved to have his friend back, he had so few. Ratchet was reluctant to put any kind of damper on his partner’s enthusiasm. Injecting rationality into matters of the spark never worked anyway.

It still infuriated him.

Grinding his denta, Ratchet forcefully returned his attention to his datapad, and read the opening sentence of this novel for the fortieth time. He hadn’t gotten past the first chapter. He was reluctant to blame the author.

Not when Rodimus and Drift laughed again, louder this time. Ratchet tried not to flinch. He knew he failed. Luckily, neither of them were paying him much attention, too wrapped up in their game with each other.

“No way, that’s an unfair move!”

“Unfair, but not illegal,” Drift pointed out, with that new calm he’d carried since Ratchet found him and convinced him to come back home. “Don’t sulk because I’m winning.”

“I’m not sulking!” Rodimus retorted with a flutter of his spoiler halves and a roll of his optics. It was a very calculated bit of frame language, meant to make him look cute and charming. Frag but if it didn’t work, too. “I’m taking stock.”

Drift coughed a vent. “Really. Where have I heard that before?”

“How should I know?”

“Been picking up more from your co-captain than you think, hm?”

Rodimus hissed, but it barely counted as angry. If anything, it was in good-natured fun. He grinned at Drift. “Shut up,” he said. “I need to concentrate if I’m going to whip your aft this time.”

“You mean, for once.”

“Hush!” Rodimus shoved his palm in Drift’s face, pushing a laughing Drift away from him. “Concentrating here.”

Any other time, Ratchet might have found their interaction cute. He would have been glad to see Drift relaxing in the presence of another, acting like the average mech who didn’t have the gutter hanging over his shoulders. A part of him would have even been happy for Rodimus, who bore his own unbearable weight, and deserved to laugh, genuinely laugh, from time to time.

Their easy camaraderie was even enviable. There was a time Ratchet had been like that, too. So long ago. A lifetime ago. He’d been a different mech then. Just as Optimus had been Orion Pax and Roller still lived…

Today, however, Ratchet only felt that sick, seething emotion. Not quite jealousy, not quite anger, perhaps closer to resentment.

Drift and Rodimus were so damn close. Drift was more relaxed with Rodimus than anyone else, and that included Ratchet. Sometimes, he still held himself separate, as though he was terrified of doing the wrong thing or disappointing Ratchet. He was occasionally cautious and restrained.

But not with Rodimus. Rodimus was so damned cute, and unfairly so. Rodimus who was closer to Drift in personality, though not in age. (It was easy to forget how old Drift was when he behaved like that around Rodimus). They had far more in common. They actually looked good together.

Drift smiled around Rodimus in a way Ratchet envied. Did Drift smile for him like that? He wasn’t even that comfortable around Ratchet.

Ratchet ground his denta. He turned his attention back to his datapad. He told himself to focus on it and not the two laughing mechs, leaning so close together they shared ventilating space, touches playful but genuine. And easy, so easy.

Ratchet knew he didn’t have a right to be jealous. That there was nothing to envy. But the jealousy still ran deep. It loitered around his spark, and tangled in his tanks like a heavy coil of chains.

Later, the question spilled through his vocalizer before he had the good sense to rein it in. He hoped he didn’t sound as bitter as he felt, or as accusing.

“Are you sure you and Rodimus were only ever friends?” Ratchet found himself asking, and then felt horror creeping on up him that he’d been so bold as to ask it.

But Drift only blinked as if confused. “Yeah, though it’s kind of hard to believe, given what happened, right?” Drift laughed, it didn’t sound amused. “He’s my friend, though. One of the few that I have. And that’s all.”

Ratchet knew Drift wasn’t lying.

But he also knew that in the nooks and crannies of a mech’s spark, there lingered secrets. Little desires that maybe the mech himself didn’t even know. Like Ratchet, who had realized all too late, how much Drift had meant to him. And he, almost like Rodimus, in waiting too long in going after him.

“Why?” Drift asked.

Ratchet shook his head and focused on tucking his datapad onto the shelf. “You two are close. You spend a lot of time together, before and after,” he said, as though that should be explanation enough. “And it’s not uncommon for friends to have extra benefits.”

Drift barked a laugh. His finials twitched with humor. “Not those kinds of benefits.” His hand rested on Ratchet’s arm and slid down the length of it, fingers curling around his wrist and then his fingers. “I saved those for you.”

Cheeky speedster.

Ratchet’s spark warmed and thumped. “The grumpy old ambulance,” he said, dryly.

“Hey, even creaky piles of rust have their charm,” Drift teased and leaned in, his lips brushing the curve of Ratchet’s intake. “Come to the berth with me and I’ll show you.”

Ratchet’s spinal strut tingled.

No more was spoken of Rodimus last night. Words, in fact, were offered very little, and Drift showed his love with lips and denta and glossa. His optics glowing and his fingers clever and every action in them speaking of worship.

Ratchet pushed the worst of the thoughts from his mind. That even though Drift was here, kissing him, embracing him, he pictured Rodimus and Drift wrapped together. Two younger, faster, sleeker frames, all polished armor and glossy paint.

How could Drift choose Ratchet over that image?

It gnawed at him, coiled in his belly, sat there like a lump of unprocessed low-grade. Ratchet held Drift tighter, kissed him fiercely, and fought away his own insecurities as they were none of Drift’s fault.

He trusted Drift. He told himself that time and again. He did trust Drift. That was not a lie. But sometimes… sometimes it had little to do with trust and everything to do with feelings a mech didn’t even know he carried.

Sometimes, one could be too blind to see what was right in front of him. And that worried Ratchet most of all.

~

Ratchet thought he could let it go.

His processor, however, had a different thought about it.

He remembered the times Drift returned to their quarters late, more often than not because he was with Rodimus. They played games, or went racing, or sparred, or kept trying to pick up Rodimus’ much-neglected sword training. Sometimes, they sat in the commissary, shared energon, and talked.

There was no reason for Ratchet to be jealous about any of it.

He was.

He’d watched a couple of times when they sparred. Drift usually won, having experience on his side, but sparring often devolved to ridiculous play. Rolling around, laughing, trying to tickle one another, wrestling like they were a pair of sparklings. Rodimus giggling, and Drift laughing, and teasing Rodimus as he pinned their captain down again and again, positions more obscene than they had right to be.

Envy twisted and coiled in Ratchet’s gut. He and Drift wouldn’t ever do anything like that. Not only was Ratchet too old and irritable, he was simply too large and heavy. He was taller than Drift, though not by much, but he thoroughly outmassed his lover. Medics were built that way a-purpose. Especially forged ones.

Ratchet made himself stop peeking in on their training sessions for that reason alone. He didn’t like the poisonous thoughts that encroached on his mind. But then the doubt settled in. What were they doing while he wasn’t watching? What about all those fond looks Drift kept giving Rodimus? Why was it so easy for them to be friends when Ratchet and Drift’s relationship had always been one of friction?

The darkness seeped in, tainting every thought he had, until he found himself speaking out again, less than week later, before he could fully form the reasons why.

There in the medical bay, with Velocity pointedly pretending not to look, and First Aid making no effort to hide he was eavesdropping, Ratchet all but glared at Drift, who blinked at him in genuine confusion.

“What?”

Ratchet shook his head. “I said ‘no.’”

Drift blinked at him. He frowned. “I wasn’t asking permission.”

“You asked if I was okay with it. I said no.” Ratchet set down his datapad. He’d been taking inventory – time filler, more than anything to do. He hadn’t been in the medbay in so long he felt he needed to familiarize himself with everything.

“Is something wrong?” Drift murmured and his gaze slid past Ratchet as if to point out the other medics who continued to both stare and not-stare. “Maybe we should talk about this, um, elsewhere?”

Ratchet forced himself to cycle a ventilation. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he said, at once ashamed of his own reaction. He’d let irrationality speak for him. “Just go. Have fun with Rodimus.” Did he sound bitter? Probably.

Drift stepped closer, his hand sliding down Ratchet’s arm until he touched Ratchet’s fingers. “Is this about–”

“No.”

Lies. And yet, he had the audacity to think Drift was the one he couldn’t trust. Ratchet chastised himself. He was too old to behave like this. He was not some immature little brat.

“Sure seems like it,” Drift said, and gave Ratchet’s hand a squeeze. “Look. It’s just a spar. Nothing important. I’d rather spend time with you, but I thought you were busy.”

“It’s just inventory. He’s free to go,” First Aid piped up. No shame that one. Didn’t even have the decency to pretend he wasn’t paying attention.

Velocity, meanwhile, coughed and buried her head further behind the portable scanning unit, her faceplate darkening with heat.

Ratchet glared in his apprentice/kinda-sorta the CMO’s direction. “I don’t need you deciding my shifts for me.” He untangled his fingers from Drift’s, and pretended he didn’t see the brief flash of hurt over his partner’s face.

Jealousy battled with guilt. He was making an absolute aft of himself. Yet, he couldn’t seem to stop, as if he’d committed to this trainwreck and was determined to make as much a mess as possible.

“Technically, that is his job now,” Velocity offered.

Ratchet ground his denta. “Fine.” Never let it be said that he didn’t know how to surrender his post gracefully. “Come on, Drift.” He tossed his stylus onto his discarded datapad and took his leave.

First Aid snorted, and muttered something subvocally, that Ratchet didn’t bother trying to catch. Velocity wisely kept her silence.

Ratchet didn’t check to see if Drift followed him, and it wasn’t as though he could hear Drift’s footsteps. The mech walked like he belonged in Spec Ops half the time. It used to be disconcerting, until Ratchet got used to it.

Drift stayed quiet until they stepped out of the medbay and into the empty corridor. “I’ve already canceled with Roddy,” he said.

Ratchet sighed and scrubbed a hand down his faceplate. “You didn’t have to do that.” He hung a sharp turn at their door and punched the code into the panel.

Drift made a noncommittal noise.

They moved into the privacy of the habsuite, and the door closed behind them. Ratchet pinched his nasal ridge and turned to face Drift, only to freeze as his partner curled his arms around Ratchet’s chassis and rested his head on Ratchet’s chestplate.

“I’d rather spend time with you,” he reiterated.

Ratchet’s spark throbbed. He lowered his arm, wrapping both back around Drift. He cycled a ventilation and leaned his head against Drift’s.

“Then I’ll be less busy,” Ratchet replied, attacking the bites of jealousy with shame, until it sulked away. “Not like I have a lot to do around here anymore anyway.”

He’d make time. He didn’t want Drift to slip through his fingers, knowing there was something he could have done to prevent it.

He wanted to squeeze Drift tighter. He wanted to ask if Drift had thought about leaving him. He wondered if Drift would rather spar with Rodimus, but guilt had him insisting he’d rather stay with Ratchet.

He wondered a lot of spark-clenching things. He voiced none of them. His own jealousy was none of Drift’s problem.

“Sounds good to me,” Drift murmured and nuzzled into Ratchet’s intake, pressing a kiss to the cables there. “Engex and a movie?”

Ratchet barked a quiet laugh. “What an exciting life we lead,” he said and turned his head, lips brushing over Drift’s forehead. “That sounds good.”

If Drift was further bothered by their little confrontation earlier, he said nothing else that evening. They curled together on the couch, selected one of the Earth movies from the intranet, and snuggled for the rest of the evening.

Like this, Ratchet could easily believe Drift loved him and only him. He could push away the jealousy and the worry.

Right now, Drift was his.

He just hoped circumstances would remain that way.

~

The question had caught him off-guard. As had the rest of Ratchet’s behavior in the following week.

Drift answered honestly, not because he hadn’t the time to work up a lie, but because it had been the truth. He and Rodimus had only ever been friends, as intimate as that could be. Rodimus flirted, as he did, he flirted with everyone. And yes, Drift had been tempted, but they had never taken a further step.

As Drift’s relationship with Ratchet took shape, molded into something important and genuine, thoughts of berthing Rodimus vanished to the furthest depths of his mind. He still found Rodimus attractive, he didn’t think that would ever change, but his fantasies had shifted gears to Ratchet’s warm embrace and warmer kisses and the approval and affection he caught in the medic’s optics.

He’d thought he’d exorcised those particular feelings during his exile. Especially when Ratchet came to look for him, and told the truth about what happened on the Lost Light in Drift’s absence. He’d thought that knowing Rodimus never came after him was enough to throw what feelings lingered into a dark pit, never to see the light of any sun again.

He’d not expected for them to come crashing back upon their return to the Lost Light, and the first exchange of hesitant smiles between them. He hadn’t expected for Rodimus’ awkward, but genuine overtures to rev his engines so strongly. Or that he’d want to pin his friend to the nearest berth and frag the Pit out of him.

Or how much his deepest, darkest fantasies involved Ratchet and Rodimus both, wrapped around him, embracing him. And that the most profound of them, the darkly buried, didn’t even involve interfacing, but domestic moments. Shared berths and shared energon and inside jokes and himself painting Rodimus’ armor to a deep shine, and the both of them tickling Ratchet to submission and just…

Drift didn’t admit any of that to Ratchet. He didn’t know how the medic would take it, and honestly, Drift himself didn’t even know if it was what he wanted. Or if it was one of those fantasies that sounded lovely in his daydreams, but terrible in reality.

So he hadn’t lied to Ratchet.

He just hadn’t told the whole truth.

What good would it do to tell Ratchet how much he wanted both of them in his berth? To be the sole focus of two very determined, stubborn mechs? To whimper and melt beneath their gazes? Or to even watch them together, while Drift self-serviced again and again.

“Drift!”

Drift startled, lurching himself out of his circuitous thoughts. There was a hand in front of his face. A yellow hand with snapping fingers.

Drift cycled his optics before he jerked his head back and swatted the hand away. “What?” he demanded, a touch annoyed.

Rodimus grinned and laughed. His optics sparkled with amusement. “What’re you thinking about? You’ve been staring into space for forever.”

“It wasn’t forever,” Drift said, just shy of a scowl. But his face was hot, and he realized too late that he was blushing.

Mostly because Rodimus poked him in the cheek, right where the heat had gathered. “You and Ratchet get up to something naughty and you can’t stop thinking about it? Is that it?” he teased.

Drift batted his hand away again. “No.” This time he did scowl and purposefully bent his head back over his sword, sliding the whetstone against the edge of it. He felt heat gather in his finials, and knew that gave him away.

“You’re such a liar.” Rodimus laughed and bounced on the balls of his feet. “Come on, Drift. What’s up? Your field is all… wobbly.” He flicked his fingers through the air as if to illustrate, his spoiler dancing happily in its mounts. “And you’re blushing.”

“I’m not blushing,” Drift said and sighed. Rodimus was as stubborn as Ratchet. He wouldn’t let this go.

Drift set the whetstone aside, wiped down his blade, and slid it back into his right sheath. Apparently, resuming Rodimus’ sword lessons was going to wait. Again.

Sometimes Drift wondered if Rodimus even wanted to learn, or of it was just an excuse to spend time with Drift. He didn’t know which answer he preferred.

“It’s Ratchet,” Drift said.

Rodimus’ grin widened. “I knew it.” He grabbed his chair, spun it around and plopped his aft in it, bracing his arms on the back of it. “Tell me. Details. And make them sordid.” He dropped his chin onto his crossed arms.

Drift rolled his optics. “Not like that.”

“Come ooooon, Drift. Don’t tell me you two only snuggle and coo sweet nothings at each other.” The chair rattled beneath Rodimus. “Ratchet’s gotta have a kinky streak wider than the Lost Light!”

Drift’s face blazed. “Rodimus!” he hissed, and hoped it came out chastising. “For Primus’ sake!” He dragged his hand down his face. “It’s not about interfacing!”

“Oh.” Rodimus slumped and looked disappointed. Even his spoiler drooped. “Then what is it about?”

“You,” Drift huffed, and then cursed himself for being unnecessarily sharp. He dialed back. “I mean, you and me, spending time together.”

Rodimus blinked. “Why? We’re just friends.”

“Yeah, I know that. And I’ve told him that but–”

“Well, to be fair, I am hot stuff,” Rodimus interjected with a toss of his head and a waggle of his spoiler. He snickered.

Drift rolled his optics. “Yes. So hot I can’t keep my hands off of you. See how difficult I find you to resist?”

Rodimus leaned forward against the back of the chair and lifted his aft, giving it a wiggle. “I am one fine piece of speedster, after all.” He winked, glossa flicking across his lips.

Drift pointedly did not stare.

Much.

“And so modest, too,” Drift drawled. He shook his head, trying to steer the discussion back on course. “That’s not the point anyway. He’s just being difficult about it. Like I’m trying to hide something.”

“Pfft. He’s Ratchet. When is he not difficult.”

Drift folded his arms over his chestplate. His badge-free chestplate. “Ratchet came for me, Rodimus.”

“Which is more than I did, I know.” Rodimus sighed, and his spoiler flattened against his back. He scrubbed the back of his head. “You want me to talk to him?”

“No!” Drift lurched forward, his internals tying into knots. “Primus, no. That would probably have the opposite effect.” His spark thudded so hard it tried to escape from his chamber. Rodimus going to Ratchet with this kind of topic was just a disaster in the making. “It’ll work itself out somehow.”

Rodimus shrugged. “If you say so. Just say the word, though, and I’ll step up.” He offered Drift a wry look. “I’ve caused enough problems, don’t you think?”

“This time, it really is my fault though. To be fair.” Drift laughed and pushed himself back to his feet. “Anyhow, didn’t you want more lessons?”

Rodimus’ face lit up. In this, at least, he’d been sincere. He wanted to learn, even if he did sometimes put it off. At first, back then, Drift had assumed Rodimus was only saying so to be close to Drift. More of that weird flirting that wasn’t.

He bounced up from his chair and spun it back into place under his desk. “About time you remembered!” He planted his hands on his hips, spoiler flicking up happily.

Primus, he was unfairly adorable sometimes.

Drift chuckled and withdrew his left sword, handing it to Rodimus hilt first. “And yet I must ask, do you remember anything?” It had been months, if not a couple years, after all.

“I remember how to hold it.” Rodimus rolled his optics as he took the blade in hand, fingers wrapping around the hilt. “I’ve held a sword before, Drift. Along with other things.” He snickered.

“All right then, hot shot. What’s your first pose?” Drift asked, arching an orbital ridge. He pointedly did not comment on the innuendo. If he let Rodimus get started, his friend wouldn’t stop.

Rodimus’ spoiler drifted downward. “It’s… um…” His field rippled, betraying his confusion, as he shuffled his feet. “I mean, honestly, you and me?” He laughed, abruptly redirecting the conversation. “The world would combust with all that pretty wrapped together, right?”

Drift’s optics narrowed, even as his face heated. He pointedly did not picture that very scenario, and his fans absolutely did not click on. “Right,” he said and coughed a ventilation. “That pose is wrong, by the way.”

“It’s not a pose yet!” Rodimus retorted, waggling the sword in Drift’s direction. “You haven’t given me a chance to try.”

Brat.

Drift shook his head and moved closer. “Feet here, hands here,” he said, directing Rodimus with words as well as light touches. “No, your feet are too close. Further. You’re going to destabilize your stance.”

“Oh! I remember now!” Rodimus fluidly shifted into the first stance, gripping the hilt properly this time. “Told you!”

Drift gave him an amused look. “Uh huh. And the second stance?”

Rodimus’ face flushed. “How many stances are there?”

“Seven.”

“Oh.”

Rodimus rolled his shoulders and shifted his weight. “Give me a minute. I’m sure it’s in here somewhere.” He grinned and stared at his borrowed sword, as if Drift had inscribed the instructions on the hilt as a cheat sheet.

Drift folded his arms and watched. If his optics wandered, just a little, well there was no way for Rodimus to know. He was absolutely focused, for once, and it was cute how his bottom lip poked out as he concentrated.

“Have you ever, you know, thought about it?” Drift asked, the question spilling out of him before he could realize it was a bad idea. Because it was. He didn’t need to put any thoughts in Rodimus’ head that weren’t already there.

Rodimus startled. “What? You and me?”

Drift shook his head. “Never mind. It’s a stupid question. Forget I asked.” He gestured toward Rodimus. “You remember that second stance yet?”

Rodimus’ jaw dropped. He lowered the sword, whirling to face Drift. “Of course I have!” he said, and he threw his free hand into the air. “Do you have any idea how hot you are? Plus, you’re smart and you put up with my bullshit, though Primus knows you shouldn’t. And you’re my best friend and–”

He cut off, his optics bright, his face visibly pink. He coughed a ventilation and backed up a step.

“But, uh, that was the kicker, you know?” He rubbed the back of his head. “You’re my best friend. I didn’t want to lose that.”

Drift’s spark throbbed. “I thought about it, too. A lot,” he admitted and the safest place to look was the floor, so he focused on it. There were some scuffs, he noticed. “But like you said, we’re friends. And then we were part of the command structure, and things were kind of…”

“Uneven,” Rodimus supplied.

Drift nodded and forced himself to lift his gaze, lest he come across as a coward. “And now…”

“Now you’re with Ratchet, and you’re still my best friend.” Rodimus shrugged, but if he meant it to be nonchalant, he missed the mark. “Either way, I win, if you ask me.”

“I love Ratchet,” Drift said, and feared he wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince himself, Rodimus, or both. “I genuinely do, Rodimus.”

“I know.” Rodimus dared step closer, his hand resting on Drift’s shoulder, giving it a pat and a squeeze. “The spark’s a tricky thing, isn’t it? Love doesn’t often constrain itself.”

There were times Rodimus was the most reckless, ill-informed, and irresponsible person Drift had ever come to know. And then there were times which proved he had a depth to him, one he rarely let people see.

This was one of the latter.

“Sometimes, you really are the smart one.” Drift smiled, though he admitted it was wobbly. As shaken as his spark felt.

“There’s a little bit of wisdom knocking around in here.” Rodimus tapped his head and winked. “I mean it, Drift. Don’t let me come between you two. Unless Ratchet wants me to.” He chuckled and waved his hand dismissively. “Just kidding. Don’t we have work to do?”

“You do,” Drift said with a pointed look to Rodimus’ borrowed blade. “I still haven’t seen the second stance from you.”

Rodimus pouted. “I did it! You just weren’t paying attention.”

“Liar.” Drift chuckled and moved closer to Rodimus, correcting his pose with gentle touches to Rodimus’ elbow and hip. “And don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine. Me and Ratch, we’ll work it out.”

Rodimus nudged him with an elbow. “I know you will. Now where does my heel go again?”

And that, as they say, was that.

Drift bent his focus toward training Rodimus, and tried to turn his thoughts from more tawdry directions. But Rodimus’ words still lingered, echoing in the back of his processor like an audible tease.

Why not both?

Only if Ratchet wants me to.

The notion was there, and it wouldn’t leave him. Would Ratchet be open to it? Would it hurt just to ask? If he explained himself properly?

Ratchet was always talking about how communication was important. That and honesty both.

Maybe asking was better than letting things fester. Maybe, just maybe, he could find a solution for the emotions clawing at his spark.

Maybe Ratchet had the answer Drift needed to hear.

All he had to do was ask.

~

Ratchet regretted ever bringing it up. From the day he’d asked Drift about Rodimus, Drift had started behaving oddly. Well, odd for Drift. It was almost a little sad how much that hippy-dippy bullslag had started to go in one audial and out the other.

It wasn’t that he was avoiding Ratchet or playing coy. He was as present and attentive as ever, but there was an absence to it, as though his thoughts were elsewhere. On top of that, he didn’t spend much time with Rodimus. While part of Ratchet was relieved, another part of him felt guilty.

Drift had so few friends. Ratchet didn’t want to be the possessive kind of afthole mate who demanded their partner had no other companions. Couldn’t Drift find someone else to befriend? Nautica perhaps. Or Velocity even. Both Camiens didn’t hold the same hang-ups about Decepticons, ex- or otherwise, that the rest of the Lost Light-ers did.

Now Ratchet was in the uncomfortable position of wanting to talk to Drift, but worried he’d only make things worse. How could he reassure Drift that he didn’t mind his partner’s friendship with Rodimus when he quite obviously did? Worse was that it wasn’t his place to decide who Drift was friends with.

Either Ratchet trusted Drift or he didn’t. That was what it came down to. And Ratchet did, by the way, trust Drift.

Maybe he simply didn’t trust himself. His own inadequacies, peeking out at him, reminding him that Drift could do so much better.

Though whether or not Rodimus qualified as ‘better’ was certainly up for debate.

Ratchet growled to himself. He was talking himself in circles and getting nowhere. If he was a turbofox, he’d be chasing his own tail, yipping at the infernal thing for not having the good graces to get caught.

The agitation built.

Drift spent less time with Rodimus, and more time with Ratchet, and it was hard to be worried when he was being lavished with attention. When they spent so much time in the privacy of their hab-suite, as though they missed the cramped, yet isolated space aboard their rickety shuttle.

Or maybe Drift was hiding from something. Someone. Ratchet didn’t know. He was afraid to ask.

Two weeks later, as Drift tangled his fingers together and hesitantly presented a question, Ratchet wondered if maybe he should have poked at the combiner in the corner a little sooner.

“Beg pardon?” Ratchet cycled his optics and rebooted his sensory suite, just to be certain he’d heard what he thought he’d heard. “Care to repeat that?”

Drift’s face flushed, and his finials twitched. “Have you ever, you know, thought about a threesome? Both of us agreeing to let another join us in the berth?”

Ratchet stared at him. Yes, he’d heard Drift correctly the first time, and no, he couldn’t believe his audials. What in Unicron’s rusted undergarments was Drift thinking? Was he serious?

Another look and yes, Drift was serious. His face had gathered heat, and his hands were doing that nervous tangle they did when he was resisting the urge to grip his swords for comfort. His optics were steady. He nibbled on his bottom lip.

He was serious.

Ratchet put down the remote. He’d thought they were going to snuggle on the couch and try to watch something on the vidscreen. Between Bluestreak and Swerve both, all of the habsuites had access to a vast collection of Earth entertainment now. Most of it wasn’t worth the dataspace it took up, but Ratchet was more looking forward to getting a grope or two on his pretty speedster, not the movie itself.

That certainly wasn’t happening now.

“You mean with Rodimus,” Ratchet said flatly. Because he wasn’t an idiot.

“W-what?” Drift’s field flared, panicked. “No. I just meant–”

Ratchet cut him off with a growl. “Don’t you fragging lie to me, Drift. This isn’t some random wondering. There’s only one mech you’d be interested in like this, and it’s Rodimus.”

Unless, of course, it was Megatron. But that was a whole different pot of nanites Ratchet wasn’t touching right now. Drift was still skittish around their co-captain, and though he obeyed and could hold down a shallow conversation with the mech, they had miles to go before they’d be at all comfortable around one another.

Megatron, at least, was preferable. And what that said about Ratchet’s own irrational jealousy, he didn’t know.

“Isn’t it?” Ratchet demanded.

Drift cycled a rattling ventilation, and on the ex-vent, his shoulders sank. “Yes.”

“That’s what I fragging thought.” Ratchet huffed and palmed his face. His head ached, and he assumed it was because fury and disappointment both raged inside of him. He knew it. He fragging knew it.

A smart mech would have taken the opportunity to apologize. Backtrack. Realize what a huge mistake he’d made and try to make amends.

But not Drift. Oh, no. He’d been spending far too much time with Rodimus apparently.

“Well?”

Well? He asked. Well? As if Ratchet’s reaction hadn’t been abundantly clear.

His hand slid down his face. He glared at Drift. “Are you seriously asking me that?”

Drift folded his arms over his chestplate, defensive. “You didn’t answer the question.”

“Because I thought it was obvious!” He was snarling, and he half didn’t mean to, but he also did. “The answer, Drift, is no. Emphatically. No. I’m not interested in whatever fantasy the two of you have cooked up together.”

“But–”

“No,” Ratchet hissed and felt his armor flare, his ventilations quickening. He pointed an angry finger at Drift’s chestplate. “If you don’t want to be with me, that’s one thing, but don’t dress it up under the guise of a casual threesome like I’m some kind of fragging idiot.”

Drift shook his head. “That’s not what I’m trying to do.”

“Isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not!” Drift’s vocals were louder now, nearer a shout, and he leaned forward, his optics flashing. “Primus, Ratchet. Do you think so little of me?”

“Apparently, you think that little of me,” Ratchet snarled and threw his hands into the air. “You want to stick your spike in something prettier than me, fine, I get that. But I don’t have to go along with it. I don’t have to participate. And I don’t have to fragging like it. Especially not with Rodimus Slagging Prime!”

Drift’s field spiked with anger, like he had a right to do that, when he was the one who presented this absurd request as if he genuinely thought Ratchet would agree to do it. “It’s not about that,” he snapped, his plating flaring, his field an aggressive push. “It’s not just… lust or wanting to play or wanting to leave you or any of that! It’s just…” He trailed off, huffed a noisy vent, and continued, “Ugh, I don’t know why I’m bothering to talk to you about this. You’ve already made up your mind about Rodimus.”

Ratchet rolled his optics. Drift did not get to guilt-trip him. “Probably because I can see him with a clear head. Whereas you’re just looking at him through the rose-colored lens of your spike!”

Drift had the audacity to snarl, his engine revving. “Damn it, Ratchet! If I just wanted to frag him, I would’ve done it already!”

Ratchet lost his mind. That was the only excuse he had.

“And how do I know you haven’t?” he demanded.

Drift’s optics widened. His finials reared back. If Ratchet had to guess, he’d say the reaction was genuine, but what the frag did he know? Drift wanted to frag Rodimus, and that was new to him. Clearly, he didn’t know Drift at all.

He took a step toward Drift, jabbing a finger toward his chestplate again. Reason abandoned him, leaving behind the anger and the fear. He saw it now, crumbling around him, losing Drift to a mech who shone bright enough to blind, while Ratchet slowly rusted away into irrelevance.

“You two have been up each other’s afts since we got back,” Ratchet hissed, leaning toward Drift, looming over him, truth be told. “How stupid do you think I am?’

Drift stared at him.

Ratchet expected the denials to come pouring out. The anger, even. He expected Drift to fight back.

He did not anticipate Drift spinning away from him and start stomping toward the door, the jewel of the Great Sword flashing angrily.

“Where do you think you’re doing?” Ratchet demanded. “We’re not done here!”

“Yes, we are. And I’m going out.” Drift paused and threw the rest over his shoulder, his expression disturbingly blank. “If I stay in here any longer, I’ll say or do something I’ll regret, and you’re doing enough of that right now as it is.”

Taking the moral high ground, was he? Of course he was. Because Drift keyed himself right out of their hab-suite after that, and he didn’t look back again. The door slid shut behind him, soft and quiet, disobedient to the roil of emotion it had just sealed in.

Ratchet snarled.

He threw himself into the couch, which rattled and creaked beneath him. The urge to shout burbled up inside of him, but he swallowed it down. What use was it? Nothing compared to the growling of his engine, and the pounding of his spark, and the chastising thoughts snarling at his processor.

Drift hadn’t answered the question, he realized, most worrisome at all. The fury continued to claw at him, nestling deep, sinking in, taking hold.

He was angry at himself, at Rodimus, at Drift. He didn’t know which of them inspired his ire more, or whether he only had himself to blame.

Right now, Ratchet was just angry.

Drift had the right idea in walking away.

Ratchet wished he’d thought of it first.

~

There were only a handful of places Drift could go, and of those, most were somewhere public, and around other mechs was the last thing Drift needed. Well, other mechs who weren’t all that keen on him to begin with, at any rate.

He knew he shouldn’t. Given that argument, the accusation in Ratchet’s words, the look in his optics, Drift shouldn’t be letting his feet take him down a familiar corridor. But his spark ached, and he needed comfort. He needed familiarity. He needed…

“Drift?” Rodimus opened his door and looked visibly shocked. He stuck his head out into the hallway and peered around as if expecting Ratchet to be not far behind. “Isn’t it date night?”

Did Drift look as miserable as he felt? Or did he always look this way?

“It was,” Drift said, and cycled a ventilation, as stuttered though it was. “Are you busy? Can I come in?”

“You know you’re always welcome.” Rodimus stepped aside, gestured him along. “I’m not busy either. Magnus is on shift right now, and I gotta take over for him later, but I can talk.” The door slid shut with a quiet beep. “What’s wrong? Your field is a mess.”

A mess. Drift wondered what color it was. Obnoxious hues, dull shades, fuzzy lines. He felt as disordered as his aura and his spark ached. It went so wrong and so quickly.

And yes, he told himself. Yes, there was a harm in asking.

Drift gently removed the Great Sword and set it aside before he flopped down onto Rodimus’ couch. A second later, he leapt up and started pacing. He couldn’t sit. He didn’t want to sit. He needed to be moving, though the urge to flee rattled at his processor.

“Drift?”

“I made a mistake,” he said, and stared at the floor, watching his feet as he paced a circuit around Rodimus’ habsuite and furniture.

“What kind of mistake?” Rodimus asked as he lowered himself into his chair. “Did something happen with Ratchet?”

“I’m an idiot.” Drift skidded to a halt and dragged a hand down his face. “I asked him a really dumb question and I should’ve known better. I don’t even know what I was thinking.”

Rodimus made a noncommittal noise. “Well, whatever it was, I’m sure it’s not that bad. I mean, you didn’t try and cut off your own arm to escape your own destiny or anything like that.”

Drift stared at him. “What?”

“Never mind. It’s a long story.” Rodimus waved it off. “Anyway, my point is, whatever it is, I’m sure you two can work past it.”

“I kind of asked for a threesome,” Drift said, deadpan.

Rodimus blinked. His spoiler twitched. He coughed into his hand. “Oh.”

“With, um, well, with you,” Drift said, and he felt the heat in his cheeks and his finials spat sparks.

“Oh.” Rodimus blinked again. His face pinked and suddenly, he couldn’t hold Drift’s gaze either. “Well, uh… that’s…”

“Yeah.” Drift rubbed the back of his head and started to pace again. “It wasn’t like that though. I mean, it was, but it also wasn’t. I didn’t really get the chance to explain.”

Rodimus coughed again. “I’ll bet not. Ratchet is, uh, not too fond of me for many reasons. In fact, if he knew you were here, he’d probably hate me a little more.”

Drift sagged. He flopped back down onto the couch. “I couldn’t stay there. Not with him yelling.” He buried his face behind his palm. “I just… it’s not about the ‘facing even. I just thought that would be, I dunno, easier.”

“Easier for what?”

“For you two to get along,” Drift replied and cycled a long ventilation. “I know Ratchet isn’t happy with you. He gets growly anytime he sees you and me together. But I just, I don’t know, I’d like it if my two favorite people could at least be friends.”

“And you thought interfacing would solve that?”

Drift dropped his hand and shrugged. “Why not?”

Rodimus stared at him. “Drift, no offense, but that’s the kind of idiotic plan I’d have come up with. Which, you know, is kind of why it didn’t work.”

Drift groaned and sank further into the couch. Rodimus really did have all the best luxuries. “I know.”

“Do you even really want a threesome? And I mean, not just a quick frag, but like a real triad type thing?”

Drift gnawed on his bottom lip. “No,” he said, but it didn’t come out as sure as he’d like it to. “I just… Look, I love Ratchet and you’re my best friend. I want to be able to be in the same room as the two of you without Ratchet getting agitated and you being anxious. That’s all.”

Well.

Maybe not all. But it was the best he could hope for. Drift would be happy with that. He would. He didn’t need to have Rodimus in his berth. He just wanted both Ratchet and Rodimus in his life.

“Okay.” Rodimus audibly ex-vented. “Okay, that’s a reasonable request.” He slapped his hands on his thighs and popped to his feet. “I can’t speak for Ratchet and eventually you’re going to have to do that yourself. But I can meet him halfway. I can try and make amends.”

Drift shook his head. “Roddy–”

“I know you said you didn’t want me to get involved,” Rodimus said as he held up a hand, cutting Drift off. “But I think it’s too late for now. I can’t fix things. But I can do something about my half. Even if all I do is start with an apology.”

Drift cycled a ventilation. He scrubbed his hands down his thighs. “I don’t know if it’ll make a difference, Roddy.”

Rodimus patted him on the head, careful to avoid his finials. “It can’t hurt to try. Right? And it’s the least I can do. I owe you a lot.”

Drift reached up, snagging Rodimus’ hand before his best friend could withdraw. “You’ve already apologized. I’ve forgiven you. There’s nothing more that you owe me.”

The smile Rodimus offered to that was small and broken, as was the shame that echoed behind his optics. “Maybe for you,” he said, and turned his wrist, grasping Drift’s fingers and giving them a squeeze. “But I know I have a long ways to go.”

Drift wanted to argue otherwise, but he read Rodimus’ field, and well, there wasn’t much he could say to convince Rodimus to let go of his own guilt. That would come in time.

“We’ll figure it out,” Rodimus said before he extricated his fingers and offered that shaky smile. “You’ll see. You and Ratch’ll make up sooner than you know it and everything will work out just fine.”

Drift hoped he was right.

Though he couldn’t help but wonder when Rodimus had become the optimistic one.

~

One day passed, and Ratched held onto his anger as if it were high grade that kept him fueled and fit to chew nails. He glared at the door to the medbay, at the door to his habsuite, waiting for Drift to saunter back through it, full of self-satisfied bravado.

One day passed and Drift did not return.

Three days passed, and Ratchet had only seen Drift from a distance, glimpses of white and red armor that he could identify as Drift with an eighty percent certainty. Drift avoided the medbay. He did not return to their habsuite. He crashed with Rodimus, no surprise there, or on some occasions, Rung, much to Ratchet’s surprise.

Rung, of course, who looked at Ratchet as if they both were being idiots and kept stressing the merits of communication because Ratchet ought to know better. Well, he did. Know better, that was. He wasn’t keen on being the bigger mech right now. That involved letting go.

Ratchet really wasn’t good at letting go. As the bottles of high grade would attest, scattered around in the mess of their habsuite he’d made. He was getting too old for this.

By day seven, Ratchet wasn’t expecting much when he dragged himself home. He still held on to his righteous anger, though even that had started to dull. He wondered if maybe Rung might have a valid point, which yes, he did. But that didn’t mean Ratchet had to accept it immediately. Rationality had to take time to seep in when matters of the spark were on the line.

Ratchet opened the door to the habsuite, expecting to step into a chilly, messy, dim – as he had for the past seven nights – and cycled his optics when instead he found a bright, warm interior which had been recently tidied. His first assumption was that Rung had come over to pull Ratchet out of his rut, and couldn’t help himself. Such was the way of things with Rung.

That assumption was immediately derailed by the sight of Drift, sitting cross-legged in the sectioned off corner he’d claimed as his meditation area when they first returned to the Lost Light. Drift gleamed as though he’d spent hours in the washrack prior to his return, polishing away his shame.

Ratchet wrestled with himself for all of ten seconds before he decided to rely on blithe indifference. “Decided to come back, I see.”

Drift unfolded himself from the floor and rose to his feet, fluid and smooth, shining and pretty. “We’re still partners, last I checked,” he said, an eerie calm in the way he carried himself. “I just wanted to cool off.”

“In Rodimus’ arms no less,” Ratchet sneered, knowing good and well he sounded petty and not giving a frag. “Good for you.”

Drift’s jaw visibly clenched. Only for him to cycle a ventilation as if gathering his patience and wrapping it around his shoulders like a cloak.

“I’m sorry,” he said, when a part of Ratchet had been hoping he’d argue, just for Ratchet to have an excuse to yell. “Sorry I ever asked. Sorry I even thought of it. Sorry I made you think you weren’t good enough and that I hurt you and made you think the worst of me.”

That… was not how Ratchet expected this to go. His processor stalled, all of his waspish retorts withering on the tip of his glossa. This wasn’t the script he understood.

Drift sighed again and took a step toward Ratchet, his hands raised as if beseeching. “Just pretend I never asked, okay? Pretend I was an idiot, which should be easy, and let’s just move past this. Can we do that? Please?”

He was earnest. Honest even.

Ratchet sighed. He searched Drift’s face, wanting to believe him. “It’s not that easy. I can’t pretend that you don’t want him.”

“Look. He’s my best friend and you’re my conjunx.” Drift closed the space between them, and Ratchet was too weak to resist the warm press of his field, the way it begged forgiveness. “Is it so wrong that I want to, I don’t know, manage to be in the same room with you two at the same time without you trying to glare his face off?”

Ratchet twisted his jaw. “And you thought having a threesome was the solution?”

Drift’s shoulders hunched. “I didn’t say it was a good plan,” he admitted, and his finials twitched guiltily. “Even Rodimus poked at me for it.”

Ratchet sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. “You’re an idiot.”

“I know.”

Why did he always fall for the idiots?

He snagged Drift by the shoulder and pulled him into an embrace, one Drift returned with a grip strong enough to test the durability of Ratchet’s armor. “I’m not going to frag Rodimus.”

“Noted.” Drift’s reply was muffled in the crook of Rodimus’ intake. He trembled, ever so minute, and his grip on Ratchet’s hips was unrelenting.

Guilt soaked in, chasing away the anger. He still felt righteous in it, but maybe he’d overreacted a tad. Sparks were complicated things. He knew that as well as anyone.

There was a reason he and Drift never spoke of Pharma.

“But if it means that much to you, I can at least try to make friends with him,” Ratchet said with an exhausted ex-vent. Maybe it was time he let go of his resentment, hm? After all, Rodimus shared a captaincy with Megatron, so clearly all bets were off now.

“Sound fair?”

Drift’s engine purred, vibrating through both of their frames. “Yes. Just don’t… don’t leave.”

“I’m not going anywhere, kid.” He swept a hand down Drift’s back. “I’m sorry I was such an aft. I was angry. Not that it’s an excuse.”

Drift sighed softly. “Apology accepted.”

Ratchet was still convinced Drift let him get away with far too much. Or maybe they both did. It was a learning experience, a curve even, one so steep Ratchet didn’t know if they’d ever find the top.

But he’d meant it. He would at least try and be friendly with Rodimus. For Drift’s sake. And eventually, maybe he could convince himself that he was enough.

“I love you,” Drift said, much quieter this time, as though it were a fragile thing that he feared shattering with too much volume.

Ratchet’s spark squeezed tighter. He pressed the side of his head to Drift’s, arms tightening around the swordsmech.

“I know,” he said. “And I love you. Though that doesn’t preclude you infuriating me sometimes.”

Drift laughed, and there was a hitch in it, genuine though it was. “If I said you frustrate me, too, would that be fair?”

“More than.” Ratchet pulled back, slipping one arm free of Drift’s chassis so that he could tip a knuckle under Drift’s chin. He tipped Drift’s head up, so that their optics could meet. “But Drift, if you ever–”

“I don’t and I won’t,” Drift said, cutting him off, his hands squeezing where they gripped Ratchet’s hips.

Ratchet stroked the curve of his jaw with his thumb. “If you ever find your spark shifting,” he repeated, because sparks were funny things. People changed, and sometimes they didn’t, and you could never be sure, millennia later, who you might love and who you wouldn’t.

Just ask Pharma.

“If you want to… to….” Ratchet paused, cycled a ventilation, feeling the shrinking-compression of his spark that made it hard to ventilate. “I want you to be happy. Even if it means that happiness is not with me. Understand?”

Drift’s optics hardened, determined slits of fiery blue as he set his jaw. “Yes,” he replied, and his head turned into Ratchet’s palm. “But that’s not going to happen. I am happy with you. The fact that I’m an idiot hasn’t changed that.”

“You’re happy now,” Ratchet corrected. Or at least Drift thought he was. “But I just want you to know that you’re not not obligated, all right? Don’t stay because you think you have to or that you owe me or something or–”

Actions spoke louder than words, Ratchet supposed. That was the only explanation for Drift interrupting him again, only this time with a kiss, with the eager press of lips to his, Drift’s field pouring over him as well. It was warm and tingling, affectionate and apologetic, desperate.

He knew it wasn’t quite the mature thing to do. That they needed to talk more than they needed to kiss and touch and do… other things. But talking hadn’t gotten them anywhere right now, and Ratchet just wanted Drift in his arms again. He didn’t want his words to drive his conjunx away.

This was better. Safer. And far more appealing.

Ratchet relented into the kiss, softening Drift’s desperation, his fingers stroking the curve of Drift’s jaw. He stroked a hand down Drift’s back, letting their fields tangle, their ventilations rhythm match. He hadn’t had Drift in his arms in a week, and his spark felt that lack.

There was always time to talk later.

~

Rodimus paced back and forth outside of the door for the better part of ten minutes. He thanked Primus that no one ventured near this section of the Lost Light, and therefore, no one was privy to his obvious indecision. Well, except whoever was watching the security feed.

He knew what he needed to do. He just didn’t know if he was brave enough. Why was it easier to surf meteors or leap into the Dead Universe or strap himself to Tyrest’s Kill Switch than it was to raise his hand and buzz Ratchet’s door. Ostensibly, his office, though he claimed he wasn’t reclaiming it from First Aid or Velocity.

Rodimus stopped and stared at the door. He gnawed on his bottom lip. He’d promised Drift that he’d try and repair the rift between himself and Ratchet. It was something a long time coming anyhow.

He knew he was a disappointment. He didn’t know if there were enough apologies for that.

Rodimus sighed and scraped a hand down his face. He wouldn’t prove himself by being a coward, that was certain.

He buzzed the door.

It opened immediately.

Rodimus gathered his courage and stepped inside, though he hovered in the doorway, preventing it from auto-closing. He wouldn’t linger if Ratchet was busy. He didn’t know if he could do this with the medic in a tetchy mood.

“If you’re bleeding, you’re in the wrong place,” Ratchet said without looking up from whatever datapad he was examining. There was a dim cast to his optics, deeper lines in his face than Rodimus remembered.

Or maybe his anxiety was making him exaggerate.

“I’m not injured,” Rodimus said. “Got a minute?”

Ratchet looked up then, and a flurry of expressions flickered across his face before he leaned back in his chair, dropping his stylus to the top of his desk. “You’re the captain.”

Rodimus tried not to flinch. He didn’t think he was successful. “This is personal.”

Again, that same long look, indecision obviously warring within Ratchet, before he sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face. “I have a minute.”

He could not have sounded least engaged if he tried. Well, it was better than nothing. Rodimus stepped fully inside and the door closed behind him. Locking him in. Trapping him under the force of that heavy stare, which somehow always felt as though it examined Rodimus and left with disappointment.

Ultra Magnus used to be bad about that, too. But they’d come to something of an accord since Tyrest. Meanwhile, Rodimus’ relationship with Ratchet had only ever worsened. It wasn’t so much that Rodimus sought Ratchet’s approval in particular, but he did wish for it.

Ratchet was old guard. Friends with Orion Pax and then Optimus Prime. He’d been there from the beginning. He’d seen it all. He’d fought through it all. To be judged by a mech like him and found wanting, well, it stung.

Ratchet sighed again. “Well?” He looked just short of a scowl.

Rodimus startled. He’d been standing there too long like an idiot. Damn it.

He cycled a ventilation and swept a hand over his head. “I just came to apologize,” he said and dared step closer to the desk. He didn’t want to have to shout. “I never meant to cause a rift or anything like that between you and Drift.”

“Noted.” Ratchet lifted his head in a nod, but only in the barest sense of the word. “Was that all?”

He was cold, colder than liquid nitrogen. Rodimus failed, once again, to not flinch. He wondered how Megatron held his head up when so many people on this ship hated him. When so many people in the universe did. Meanwhile, Rodimus withered under the disappointed looks of a handful of mechs.

He supposed that’s what made Megatron the kind of mech people would follow, even to their deaths, while Rodimus just got his own killed.

Ratchet sighed and pinched the bridge of his nasal structure. “Look, Rodimus, I have a lot of work to do.”

“I know.” What was he hoping for? That Ratchet would smile at him? Idiot. “Sorry, I just… I know you hate me, Ratchet, and you have every right to. I wish it was different, is all. For Drift’s sake.”

Yes. Exactly that. For Drift’s sake. No selfish reasons here. None at all.

Ratchet’s engine rumbled. “I don’t hate you, kid,” he said, and his hand dropped to the desk with a loud clunk. “Hate is a very strong word. I’m angry. I’m disappointed. I’m upset. But I don’t hate you.”

Rodimus flinched. He couldn’t help it. Disappointed. There was no quicker way to cut the rug out from beneath him, honestly. Then again, that was Rodimus. Reaching for the stars, and crashing so hard back to the planet’s surface he killed other dreams along the way.

Good for him.

He believed Ratchet at least. Hate wasn’t part of the equation. But there was still something else there.

“But it bothers you that Drift is friends with me,” he said. And he knew it was with good reason.

He’d fragged up. A lot. He’d let himself be manipulated by Prowl. He’d let Drift take the blame. He’d tossed Drift off the Lost Light as though he meant nothing. And then, when the guilt consumed him, he eased his own conscience by admitting it to the crew.

He didn’t, however, go after Drift. Because guilt was one thing, and fear another. It was easier, so much easier, to admit what he’d done to a crew of a couple hundred mecha who constantly waffled on liking him anyway. But to go after Drift, his best friend, and admit that he’d fragged everything up…

That was a thousand times more frightening.

Ratchet chuffed a vent. “My issues with Drift are none of your business.”

Ow. That sounded defensive.

“When it concerns me, I think they are,” Rodimus said, and held up his hands, backing away a step. “Look, Ratchet. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Don’t think I don’t know that. I don’t want to get in the middle of it.”

“Except, apparently, where you do,” Ratchet gritted out.

Rodimus ground his denta. “That was Drift’s idea, not mine. But that’s not even the point. I’m not trying to take him from you, Ratchet. I swear! I’m happy just being his friend.”

Which was the truth. Rodimus adored Drift, and if friendship was all that ever came out of it, he’d be glad for it. He didn’t want to lose Drift either.

“I fragged up,” Rodimus said, which he didn’t know if he said it often enough. “I know I did. I don’t even deserve to call myself his friend, so if you want me to go away, I will.”

As much as he wanted Drift’s friendship, he would not cling to it if it meant Drift risked what he had with Ratchet. Drift had given up too much for Rodimus already.

Ratchet audibly cycled a ventilation and scrubbed at the base of his chevron. “I don’t want you to go away,” he said testily, though it didn’t sound like the absolute truth. “And it’s unfair of me to make that decision for you or him.”

“I’m not talking about what’s fair, I’m talking about what’s right.” For the love of Primus, if they brought fairness into it, they’d never see the end of weighing the scales of justice.

“And so am I, kid.” Ratchet sighed again and lowered his hand to the desk. “I don’t hate you. And I can’t lose something that wants to leave.”

“Drift loves you,” Rodimus insisted. He didn’t like the resignation in Ratchet’s tone, as though he’d already lost Drift and was just waiting for Drift to realize it. “You went after him when no one else did, including me. He doesn’t want to leave you. I’m sure of it.”

Ratchet snorted. “I don’t need you to tell me that either.”

Contrary stubborn old medic!

Rodimus leaned back and rubbed his forehead. “All right. I can take a hint.” At least he could say he’d tried. He backed toward the door, which opened when it sensed his proximity. “We don’t have to be friends or anything, Ratchet. But it would be nice if we could get along. Or, at least, pretend to.”

He left, his spark quivering, and his armor drawn tight.

He’d tried. He’d made the effort. Maybe it was enough. Maybe it wasn’t.

But he’d tried.

~

Ratchet knew Rodimus was right.

He didn’t want to admit it, because all the other emotions crowding into his spark kept him in the grip of shame, but Rodimus had a point. They didn’t need to be friends. But they could stand to get along. If not only for Drift’s sake, but also for the sake of the crew of the Lost Light.

Ratchet was no longer Chief Medical Officer. He’d left that position to First Aid, who may or may not have turned it over to Velocity. Honestly, Ratchet wasn’t sure anymore. The war was supposed to be over. Titles didn’t matter anymore, except to the people who needed them.

Ratchet hadn’t returned to boot Velocity out of the medbay. It was her territory, her domain. He assisted. He took shifts. He counseled. And that was that.

For the crew, however, it was not that simple. They still looked to Ratchet for guidance, especially when it came to the fact their co-captain was Megatron.

Ratchet bore that responsibility in stride. The weight of it was at least familiar. But that also meant he couldn’t be seen acting like a sparkling or an immature protoform.

So when Rodimus pinged his door again, a week later, Ratchet braced himself and allowed the captain inside. He expected it to be another attempt at an apology, and he was right. Only it came with a gift attached.

“Drift said you forget to fuel sometimes,” Rodimus said with an almost sheepish air as he presented Ratchet with a cube of mid-grade which, judging by the glittery bits floating around in it, was spiced to his specifications.

Ratchet peered at him, but accepted the cube. “I do,” he said. “Though it’s usually on purpose because it gives Drift an excuse to bother me.” At least, currently that was the rhythm. Before, yes, when he was Chief Medical Officer and that was all, he did forget to fuel, entirely on accident.

“Oh.” Rodimus’ face heated and his finials twitched. It was kind of cute. “Do I want to know why you want him to, ahem, bother you?”

Ratchet smirked and leaned back in his chair, fingers cupped around the cube – which was warmed, he noticed. Someone had been spilling secrets. “That depends on how much you want to be embarrassed right now,” he replied. Did he sound smug?

Probably.

Drift was his goddamnit. And Rodimus might be one of the prettiest things wandering the corridors of the Lost Light, but Ratchet wasn’t going to count himself out of the equation just yet.

Rodimus stared at him for a long moment, his optics flickering, until he suddenly reared back, his spoiler twitching upward. “Wait? Is that why he sent me here?”

Ratchet almost choked on his energon, though that kind of half-cocked plan did sound right up Drift’s alley. “I should certainly hope not,” he spluttered as his vents heaved. He didn’t know if he was amused or outraged, or possibly both.

“Primus,” Rodimus muttered and pressed the heel of his palm to his face. “That idiot. I’m going to kill him.” He spun on a heelstrut and stalked toward Ratchet’s door.

“Not if I get to him first!” Ratchet called after Rodimus, but the captain was already gone.

Ratchet shook his head and wiped droplets of energon from his desk and chair, his vents still twitching. Energon did not belong in the vent system. Primus, that would itch for a few hours.

And well.

That was kind of nice, he reflected. He’d tried, hadn’t he?

As it would turn out, neither he nor Rodimus killed Drift. If anything, the fragger looked smug as Ratchet returned to their shared habsuite, and vociferously denied any evil intentions behind sending Rodimus to Ratchet’s office.

It must have been the start of some kind of grand plan on Drift’s part, because surely it wasn’t Rodimus’ idea to clean the medbay and Ratchet’s station prior to Ratchet’s arrival.

Surely Rodimus was too busy for the thrice weekly visits to Ratchet’s office, brief stays where he brought energon or little goodies or a new book from the bridge box Brainstorm had installed before they left Cybertron again.

Only Drift, and perhaps Rodimus in concert, could envision a plan of rekindling a friendship that looked an awful lot like old-fashioned courting.

Ratchet did, at least, believe Rodimus was sincere. And if Rodimus was trying, then Ratchet could, too. He could meet Rodimus halfway.

~

It was Drift’s idea.

Ratchet had agreed, burying his reluctance deep in the pit of his tanks, and drowning it out with half a bottle of engex. Not enough to get him wasted or drunk or even tipsy, but just enough to have the courage to agree. It was worth it, for the soft and careful smile on Drift’s face. For the way he leaned in, lips brushing over Ratchet’s cheek, fingers lingering on Ratchet’s hip. The way he murmured his gratitude, and his field spoke a heated promise for later.

It was just snacks and a movie, nothing special or unusual, save that they’d invited Rodimus to join them this time. Three friends and sorta-friends enjoying a casual past-time. There should be nothing special about it.

Anxiety tightened around Ratchet’s intake. He distracted himself by tidying, barking at Drift about the incense odor lingering, and picking up random odds and ends scattered around their shared quarters. They weren’t messy mechs, but clutter did tend to linger.

Drift wisely didn’t comment on Ratchet’s behavior. He didn’t even defend himself about the incense. It was a row they’d had before, but not with any seriousness behind it.

The door chimed. Ratchet’s hackles rose. He let Drift answer it, and tried not to act like he was watching too closely. Except that he was.

Drift opened the door, and Rodimus stood there, holding some kind of box, his lips curved in a nervous smile, his spoiler-halves twitching with visible agitation.

“I’m early, aren’t I?” Rodimus said.

“Just a little,” Drift replied with a soft laugh. “I admit I’m a bit impressed. I didn’t know you could be early.”

The mech who usually somersaulted onto the bridge and never showed up somewhere without making a scene, all but crept into Ratchet and Drift’s shared habsuite.

“Hi, Ratchet,” he said, fingers tightening around the box that he lifted to show. “I brought snacks.”

“Rust crisps?” Drift asked, popping up beside Rodimus and leaning over his side, trying to peer into the container. “Oilcakes? Magnesium jellies?”

Rodimus chuckled and twisted away from Drift as if trying to hide the box. “You’ll find out,” he said teasingly, only for his gaze to slide to Ratchet and he coughed a ventilation. “I mean, yeah, it’s rust crisps. I figured everyone likes them.”

Tension crept in. Drift backed away from Rodimus, though there had been nothing untoward in their behavior. Rodimus fidgeted. Drift moved further away.

“I do like them,” Ratchet said, to be polite. “Thank you, Rodimus. That was considerate of you.”

Rodimus lifted his shoulders in a shallow shrug. “It’s nothing special,” he said, and his faceplate heated. “Skids owed me a favor is all.”

“I didn’t know Skids could cook.” Drift moved next to Ratchet, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze.

“Neither did he.” Rodimus laughed. “He decided to give it a try a couple months ago and lo and behold, it started to come back to him. He likes cooking though. Says it relaxes him.”

A couple of months ago. No wonder Ratchet hadn’t known it either. This would have happened while both he and Drift were gone.

There were so many things they didn’t know.

Drift nudged Ratchet with his shoulder. “Maybe I can get him to teach me. That way I can spoil you.”

“Perish the thought.” Ratchet rolled his optics and eased his fingers free. “Aren’t we going to watch a movie?” It was weird. Drift wasn’t usually this clingy when others were around.

Maybe this was his fault. His little jealousies and accusations probably made Drift wary in his behavior around Rodimus. Usually they joked and teased each other, playful little nudges and looks. Now there was a distance, a hesitation. Rodimus stood around as if he didn’t dare come closer, and Drift wanted to be attached to Ratchet’s hip.

“That was the plan,” Drift said cheerfully. “Come on, Roddy. You can put the crisps on the table over here.”

“I’ll get the engex,” Ratchet said, and left them to it. He tried not to watch like some kind of jealous lover, keeping his attention focused on the bottle and cups he’d collected specifically for this evening.

It wasn’t very strong. Wouldn’t even produce a light buzz for a lightweight, but this particular blend was about taste anyway.

Weakness set in. Ratchet snuck a glance at Drift and Rodimus, but Drift was arranging pillows on the couch, and Rodimus was tapping through the movie selection at their disposal. They weren’t even talking.

Guilt scorched away the weakness. Ratchet dropped his gaze.

There was no maybe about it. This was his fault. He should feel triumph. Instead, he felt a sickly unease. As if he’d stolen something precious from Drift.

Ratchet gathered up the engex and cups, put them on a tray, and joined the two speedsters. He set the tray on the table next to the unboxed treats, which sparkled bright and enticing at him. He recognized more than a few of them, and the guilt clawed at his spark again.

They were all his favorite flavors.

“What did you pick?” Ratchet asked before he flopped down on the couch, sinking into the thick, plush cushions he and Drift had agreed to buy on an indulgent whim.

Rodimus turned with a grin. “I couldn’t decide,” he chirped and swept up the remote, only to present it to Ratchet. “Figured you should have the honor.”

Drift dimmed the lights before he settled in next to Ratchet, snuggling up to his right side, leaving more than enough room on his other side. He was warm, his engine purring quietly, vibrating both of their frames. His field nudged at Ratchet’s, thick with affection.

“Besides, we all know my taste in movies leaves something to be desired,” Drift said with a quiet chuckle. “Right, Ratch?”

“Right.” Ratchet grunted and accepted the remote.

Rodimus laughed, but he didn’t take the bait or the opportunity. The chance to tease Drift came and went and fizzled away. The awkwardness settled back in.

“I’ll watch anything,” Rodimus declared. He looked at the couch, the empty space next to Drift, and then he spun around and plopped his aft on the floor, next to the table.

He fidgeted for a few seconds before Drift wordlessly handed him a pillow, and Rodimus accepted it with a quiet thanks. He tucked it under his aft and leaned forward, draping his arms over his knees, his spoiler halves twitching faintly.

Ratchet quietly selected something that looked vaguely entertaining. It had three stars and declared itself as some kind of bold, action-filled romp. He figured it was loud and exciting enough to captivate both Drift and Rodimus. Ratchet had the feeling he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything no matter what he’d picked.

“Good choice,” Drift murmured as he slid an arm around Ratchet’s chassis, pillowing his head on Ratchet’s shoulder. His field was still that heavy, affectionate pulse against Ratchet’s. “This is an interesting series.”

“Glad you approve.” Ratchet’s arm rested around Drift, and he had to admit, it felt nice. But the guilt gnawed at him the more he stared at the back of Rodimus’ head, while the empty half of the couch mocked Ratchet for being such a jerk.

He leaned forward, setting the remote on the table and grabbed the tray of engex. As he leaned back, he plopped the tray into Drift’s lap.

“Get off the floor, Rodimus,” Ratchet said, and maybe his tone was a touch cranky, but damn it, he hated feeling like this. “There’s plenty of room up here.”

Rodimus ducked his head and peered over his shoulder, the opening strains of the film’s credits nearly drowning out his words. “You sure?”

“Wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t,” Ratchet said with a dismissive shrug. “Get up here. And bring the crisps with you. I’m too old to be moving around this much.”

Drift chuckled. “You’re not that old,” he said as he nuzzled Ratchet’s shoulder. It was a tease, but it couldn’t hide the tension in his frame as Rodimus obeyed, unfolding himself from the floor and snagging the tray of treats.

Drift, in the middle, became the holder of snacks. The treats joined the engex as Rodimus eased onto the couch next to him. There was a noticeable distance between them, a great care taken. Rodimus perched on the cushion as if it would bite him, his armor drawn tight, and his gaze was firmly focused on the screen.

He startled when Drift nudged him, offering a cup of the engex, and accepted it with a small smile.

“Help yourself to the treats,” Drift said. “Just because you brought them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any.”

Rodimus hid behind his engex. “I think I’ve had enough already,” he said, and then his gaze slid past Drift, to Ratchet, and suddenly, he went silent. His attention returned to the screen.

Tension sizzled in the air. Drift cuddled closer; Rodimus leaned further. He shifted. His thigh brushed Drift’s. They looked at each other, and then hastily looked away.

Ratchet sighed, but only to himself.

This wasn’t tenable. This wasn’t fair.

This was his fault.

He had to fix it, repair what he’d ruined. He’d done this, with his accusations and his insecurities. He’d made this uncomfortable rift between two people who should have been friends, who should be able to be there for each other.

He had to fix this.

And soon.

~

A month into Rodimus’ quest to make himself a helpful nuisance that Ratchet couldn’t seem to stop tripping over, he invited Rodimus to join him at the bar. A public place even. Swerve’s, as public as it got on the Lost Light, and without the Drift-shaped buffer between them.

Drift was busy assisting Perceptor, rekindling another old friendship, yet one that did not make Ratchet quite as growly as the hesitant flame-colored mech currently sliding into the booth across from him. Rodimus smiled, but it held nothing of the confident smirk it usually did.

“Where’s Drift?” he asked, looking all around them as if Ratchet had Drift tucked behind the bar or under the table.

“It’s just us,” Ratchet said, and gestured to the tall flute of bubbling sweetness in front of Rodimus. “That’s for you. I’m told it’s your favorite.”

Rodimus’ optics lit up, even as his face heated, and he quickly moved the cup out of view of anyone else in the bar. Though not before he discreetly took a sip.

“It is,” he said. “Thank you.” His spoiler waggled with sheer delight.

Frag it.

He was unfairly cute.

“You’re welcome,” Ratchet grunted and took a heavy hit of his own engex, something thick and oily, vaguely unpleasant, if only to keep him from getting too enticed by Rodimus. “Thanks, by the way. Don’t think I haven’t noticed the effort you’re putting in around me.”

Rodimus actually ducked his head. “I’m not good with words,” he said and stared hard at the table top. “I don’t know how else to say I’m sorry.”

“Actions’re a good start.”

“Yeah, but….” Rodimus trailed off and shrugged. “They don’t say enough.”

Ratchet tilted his head. “That’s debatable. I suppose it depends on the offended person.”

Rodimus lifted his gaze, though the hesitation in it made Ratchet’s internals squirm. “Why isn’t Drift here?”

“Can’t talk to me without him?” Ratchet said with a raised orbital ridge.

“No, I just….” Rodimus scrubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “Just didn’t figure you’d want to bother with me without him.”

Ratchet snorted. “Contrary to popular belief, I do exist without a swordsman shaped shadow. Besides, there’s only so far friendship can be pushed for someone else’s sake.”

Rodimus’ optics rounded. “Friends?”

Ratchet waggled a finger at him. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid. I’m just saying, we can work on it. But it’ll only work if we don’t have Drift playing peacemaker. Get me?”

Rodimus nodded so vigorously his spoiler flaps wriggled. “Yeah. I get you. Does this mean you forgive me?”

For what? Ratchet wanted to ask, but he bit it back. Lots of things Rodimus had done weren’t Ratchet’s to forgive. He was angry, furious even, on the behalf of others. But Rodimus was trying, had tried.

He had his bobbles. He was still reckless, occasionally tactless, and hopelessly desperate to please. But he was miles farther than where he was when he started this journey, and he had miles yet to go.

“It means that we can start to move forward,” Ratchet said, and focused intently on his engex. “And I’m going to make an effort to be less of an aft.” And, quite possibly, offer some apologies of his own.

By the way Rodimus beamed at him, Ratchet would have thought he’d just said he was going to boot off Megatron and the quest would be Rodimus’ alone again.

“I can work with that,” Rodimus said and slurped at his fizzy, lurid pink drink, the smile on his face enough to make Ratchet’s spark squeeze just a tad. “I just, you know, wanna fix things.”

Ratchet nodded. “Then I think we’re on the right track.”

It occurred to Ratchet then, that maybe Drift was right when he said things weren’t so simple. That it wasn’t about just wanting to frag Rodimus.

No one worked this hard just for a quick night of swapping cables or exchanging fluids. There had to be more, something Ratchet was missing. Something Drift had either been unwilling or unable to explain.

“It’s not just about interfacing, is it?” Ratchet found himself asking, much, much later, when he and Drift were curled up in the berth, ostensibly trying to recharge.

Ratchet, however, wasn’t doing too much sleeping. He was staring hard at the ceiling, his processor churning, memory core bringing up image after image of Rodimus, of Drift, observations of the two of them together. Memories of Rodimus’ behavior toward himself.

There was more to the story, he was sure of it.

Drift stirred, his field lifting from where it had been blanketing them both in a sleepy haze. “Huh?” he murmured, curling inward, nuzzling Ratchet’s windshield.

“This thing with Rodimus.”

Tucked under his arm, Drift went still. So still he barely ventilated and the warmth of his ex-vents scarcely fogged Ratchet’s windshield. “I’m not sure what you want me to say, Ratchet.” He still curled close, but something in him felt as though it were withdrawing. Bracing himself, perhaps, for what felt like an inevitable fight.

Ratchet didn’t want to fight. He wanted to understand.

“I want the truth.” However much it hurt. “The real answer.”

Drift didn’t look up. He was silent for a long moment before he cycled an audible ventilation. “It’s not,” he said, so quietly Ratchet almost didn’t hear him. “Just interfacing, I mean.”

“And it’s not about making he and I friends either.” Ratchet shuttered his optics and worked his intake. It was as he’d feared. “You love him.”

He felt, more than saw, the shiver that raced through Drift’s armor. His silence was telling, but Ratchet still wanted to hear the words. He needed to know it wasn’t all in his head.

“Drift,” he prompted.

“Please don’t make me say it.”

“Drift. Look at me.”

Nothing. Honestly, Ratchet had himself to blame in part for this, given how he’d ‘blown up’ for lack of a better term, at Drift a few months ago. What did he expect?

He curled an arm around Drift’s frame and nudged a finger beneath Drift’s chin, tipping his head up. Drift’s optics were pale, but he focused on Ratchet nonetheless.

“You love Rodimus.” It was a statement.

Another harsh tremble ripped through Drift’s frame. “Yes.”

There it was. Did Ratchet feel better? Not at all. But as he’d told Rodimus, he couldn’t lose something that didn’t want to stay. And he had no right to cling tightly to someone who wanted to leave.

“Do you want to dissolve our partnership?”

“No!” Drift lurched into motion, bursting out of his huddle to slam his hands to either side of Ratchet’s head. “No, that’s not it at all. Primus, I wish I’d never asked that stupid question!” Anger flashed in his field, but it was turned entirely inward.

Ratchet’s hand slid to Drift’s back. “I believe you.”

“Huh?”

Ratchet sighed and tilted his head back into the pillow, half-shuttering his optics. “I’m old and cranky and creaky, and there’s a part of me that still doesn’t believe in us. Not because of anything you’ve done, but because of what I am.”

Drift’s expression turned fierce, his mouth opening in what was most likely a vigorous defense of Ratchet’s attractiveness. Ratchet quickly cut it off with a finger across Drift’s lips.

“Hush, I’m not done yet,” he said, and Drift’s mouth closed. He nodded.

Good. Ratchet shifted to cup Drift’s face, stroking his thumb over the jut of armor framing Drift’s cheek. He was so handsome, and maybe the numerous re-builds were to blame, but Ratchet still found it hard to reconcile the fact that Drift was almost as old as he was.

“I love you,” Ratchet said, because it was a truth that would not change, no matter what Drift told him. “And you love me. But you also love him.”

Drift’s cheek heated under his hand. He trembled, but he said nothing.

“Rodimus and I have come to a… ceasefire, if you want to call it that.” Though Primus knew Ratchet was the only one wielding a blaster. “And I think, if you truly want to give it a try, then I’m willing to make an attempt.”

Drift stared at him. His field pushed at Ratchet’s, as though trying to be invited within so as to suss out his intentions. “What are you saying?”

Ratchet cycled a ventilation. He hoped he wasn’t making a huge mistake. “I’m willing to try sharing a berth with Rodimus.”

Drift’s optics rounded. His ventilations caught and stuttered.

“One,” Ratchet was quick to correct, before Drift got ahead of himself. “One try at the least. It might not work out. It could be that I’m far too possessive or he’s a pain in the aft in more ways than one but–”

Drift kissed him. Fierce. Deep. Desperate. It held echoes of before, after their first messy argument about this, as though Drift sought to reassure Ratchet with actions, not words, all over again.

Their denta clanged, and the faint taste of energon flavored the kiss. Drift’s field rose up and around him before crashing down, thick with relief and need and desire and so much love that Ratchet felt he were drowning in it.

Drift approved, Ratchet assumed. And was grateful for it.

Now he could only hope it wouldn’t be a concession he would come to regret.

For both of their sakes.

~

Upon receiving the invitation, Rodimus had thought it a cruel joke or an even crueler prank. But he’d triple-checked the signature, and confirmed it with Drift and Ratchet both before he was able to believe it.

He was then faced with a choice: to confirm or decline.

His spark leapt at the opportunity. It had his cursor hovering over the acceptance and only the screeching protest of his processor kept him from clicking ‘accept’ within seconds of realizing the invite was real.

This could backfire, his processor told him.

Horribly.

He’d meant it when he told Ratchet he didn’t want to come between them. He’d also meant it when he told Drift he didn’t need interfacing to be with Drift. He was happy with their friendship alone.

But he wanted. By Primus did he long to accept this invitation. Not just because of Drift, but because of Ratchet, too.

He liked Ratchet. He respected Ratchet. He’d heard stories about Ratchet.

He wanted to accept, but the risks nagged at him. He could mess up, make things worse somehow. Triads weren’t always the solution. They often caused more problems than they solved.

He didn’t want to decline.

Rodimus gnawed on his bottom lip until it felt bruised. And then he clicked the ‘accept’ option and sent the response on its way. Feelings bubbled up within him. Excitement. Elation. Arousal.

Dread.

But he’d made his choice, and he would see it through.

For better or worse.

A week later found him standing outside of Ratchet and Drift’s habsuite, nervously shifting his weight from foot to foot as he waited for one of them to answer his ping. He was early, perhaps obnoxiously so, but having spent the better part of the day pacing around the Lost Light with both Ultra Magnus and Megatron asking him what was wrong, he couldn’t wait any longer. Else he might lose his nerve altogether.

The door opened, revealing a smiling Drift who looked as nervous as Rodimus felt. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Rodimus replied and tilted to the side, trying to see past Drift, but not able to spot Ratchet. “I, uh, know I’m early but…” He trailed off and offered a nervous smile of his own. Somehow, knowing Drift was anxious also made Rodimus relax by a fraction.

“It’s okay. We figured you would be. Come on in.”

Drift stepped aside, Rodimus cycled a ventilation and accepted the invitation. His spoiler was twitching, he realized, and his knees wobbled, but he planted a grin on his face, and a mantle of confidence on his shoulders.

Ratchet was here, as it turned out, seated in his favorite chair with a glass of engex cupped in one hand.

“Guess being early is your new habit,” Ratchet said, closer to a grunt, and probably the closest thing he had to friendly.

Rodimus’ face heated. “I… uh…”

“Ratchet, play nice,” Drift said with a roll of his optics. “Besides, which one of us has been sitting in that chair staring at the door for the past hour?”

Ratchet’s optics narrowed, and his grip on his engex tightened. But his expression told all that Rodimus needed to know.

More of the apprehension eased off his shoulders. It was nice to know he wasn’t alone in his anxiety.

“Fair enough,” Ratchet grunted and took a long drag of his engex. “Then let’s set some ground rules.”

Drift sighed and scrubbed his palm down his face.

Rodimus planted a bigger smile on his lips. “I’m okay with ground rules,” he said with a sage nod. “Are we talking safe words or…?”

“No. Primus, no. We are not engaging in that sort of play,” Ratchet said with a shake of his head.

“At least, not this time anyway,” Drift cut in with a long, exaggerated wink. He looked fit to burst, bouncing on his heel struts, his optics bright and energized. Gone were the blades, all three of them, set aside in preparation for this.

He was pretty cute like that.

Rodimus tried not to stare. He distracted himself by coughing into his fist and redirecting his attention to Ratchet.

“So… is this one of those things where I’m not allowed to spike Drift or something?” Rodimus asked, and then winced. Way to reveal you’d been in a threesome before Rodimus. Way to show them just how much of a slut you were.

Drift groaned. “Roddy…”

“No, nothing of the sort,” Ratchet said, and his lips curved in the closest thing to a smile he’d managed so far. “Just… keep it simple. Stop if someone says stop. Ask first. And above all, communicate.”

Rodimus nodded. “I can do that.” He folded his arms and then realized that looked defensive, so he dropped them again. His gaze skittered toward the berth. “Are we just going to… uh…” Primus, he felt awkward. Where was all his charm?

Ratchet leaned back in his chair, his expression at once unreadable again. “You two’ve waited long enough. I think, for now, I’ll watch.”

“Hardly a trial, right?” Drift said lightly, obviously a tease.

Ratchet snorted a laugh. He said nothing further, however, only waved them on. Rodimus felt the weight of his gaze, however, and it made his backstrut tingle.

Just as much as Drift suddenly looking at him did. They were within arms reach of each other, but Rodimus didn’t know who should make the first move. What was more acceptable? What if he looked too eager? What if Drift did?

His spark pounded in his chassis. He licked his lips, nervous.

“Well?” Ratchet urged, his voice sounding as if it came from a distance. “Do you need me to play director?”

Rodimus flushed.

Drift rolled his optics. “He’s such a mood-killer,” he murmured as he closed the distance between them. “No, we don’t!” he added in an aside to Ratchet.

“Then get the show on the road!”

Rodimus chuckled, his spark palpating as Drift reached for his hand and tugged him the last step or two, until their chestplates rang together.

“He’s just nervous. Awkward. We all are,” Rodimus said, shivering as Drift’s thumb rubbed circles on the inside of his wrist. There must have been a hidden node cluster there or something because it made heat coil in Rodimus’ belly.

His vents quickened.

“What’s there to be nervous about?” Drift asked as his other hand rested tentatively on Rodimus’ hip, his fingers stroking a soothing pattern.

Rodimus huffed an uneasy laugh. “Everything,” he admitted and dared rest a hand on Drift’s shoulder, his thumb stroking over Drift’s tire. “I don’t want to mess anything up. You know I already have a pretty good history of that.”

“You can’t mess this up,” Drift said with a little smile. “But let’s make it simple. We could just start with a kiss.”

Rodimus liked his lips. “Okay,” he said, and cycled a ventilation.

He leaned in. Drift reflected him.

Their lips brushed together, tentative at first, before Rodimus dared press his mouth to Drift’s. His hand tightened around Drift’s even as Drift tugged him closer, their chestplates colliding, heat building between them.

The kiss deepened. Rodimus shivered. He startled when Drift’s glossa introduced itself, the damp tip touching Rodimus’ lip in quiet request. He heard Drift laugh softly, into the kiss, before he pressed onward.

Rodimus moaned, Drift’s glossa plunging into his mouth, the kiss turning heated. Hungry. Drift tasted like he’d been snacking on those energon jellies he liked, sweet and sour both at once. His field flowed in around Rodimus’, surrounding him on all edges. Heat wafted off his frame and Rodimus shivered again.

And then it was over, far, far too soon. Drift’s forehead pressed to his, their lips so close they exchanged ventilations.

“See?” Drift murmured, his hand squeezing Rodimus’ hip. “Nothing to be nervous about at all.”

Rodimus grabbed him by the head and kissed him again, fiercely this time. Because Drift was right. He had no need to be anxious, and if this was his only chance, he intended to enjoy it.

Drift groaned into the kiss, grabbing Rodimus’ hips, squeezing tightly enough to stress the metal. His armor rippled, his field turning thick and heavy with lust.

For Rodimus.

Primus save him.

Heat flashed through his frame like a wildfire. It curled in his belly, pooled in his array, made his spike throb and his valve twitch. His engine purred hungrily, and he didn’t realize Drift was slowly urging him backward until his aft bumped into something. Table? Couch? He wasn’t sure.

He supposed it didn’t matter. It gave him something to lean against, trapped with Drift pressed hard to his front, knee nudging between his thighs. Rodimus moaned as he parted them obediently, his valve throbbing. He refused to release his grip on Drift’s head, worried that Drift might pull away, and Rodimus wanted to kiss him more. Wanted to drown in it, honestly.

He knew, distantly, that Ratchet was watching them. It was a constant prickle on the edge of his awareness. A worry. What did Ratchet think? Was he angry? Was he upset? Was he jealous?

Rodimus unshuttered his optics and glanced to his left, catching a glimpse of the medic. Ratchet’s expression was unreadable, his gaze focused on the both of them. But one hand had wandered to his interfacing panel, and he was stroking it. Hopefully, that was a good sign.

Drift squeezed his hips, and Rodimus’ attention swerved back toward his best friend. Drift looked at him, his optics warm and affectionate.

“You okay?” he asked, his voice soft so as not to carry.

Rodimus’ face heated. “I’m fine,” he replied. “I just…” His backstrut tingled. He knew Ratchet was watching them. What if he crossed some line?

“Hey.” Drift squeezed again, and then loosened his grip, fingers tickling into seams and making Rodimus shiver. “You can just focus on me, okay? Just me. Worry about the rest after.”

Rodimus nodded, but even he knew it was distracted. Heat pulsed through his frame. Arousal was definitely there. Need, too. He wanted Drift. He felt like he always had. He just…

“We can still stop, you know,” Drift added, and his field was nothing if not earnest.

Rodimus shook his head. “I don’t want to! I just…” He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and cycled a ventilation. “Just don’t let me frag things up.”

Drift smiled. “You can’t. Not in this,” he said, and slanted their lips together, drowning Rodimus in a kiss that made his knees weak and his vents stutter.

He moaned, clutching onto Drift, arousal returning with a vengeance. His cooling fans roared as he rolled his hips, grinding his array on Drift’s thigh, his panels snapping open and leaving a streak of lubricant behind. His spikehead poked at Drift’s groin, rubbing over heated metal, and it felt so damn good.

He took his best friend’s advice, pushing all else from his mind. If this was his first, last, and only chance, he wanted to savor it. So he focused on Drift, the heat of him, the scent of him, the feel of his field wrapping around him. He’d wanted this for so long after all. He’d always wanted this.

Rodimus tucked his face into Drift’s intake. “Drift,” he panted, scrubbing his valve over Drift’s thigh. “Frag me. Please.”

A low growl spilled from Drift’s intake. His panel snapped open and Rodimus shivered as he felt Drift’s spike grind against his belly. Drift leaned against him, pinning him against the back of the couch and Rodimus nearly whimpered. His valve ached, lubricant trickling down the inside of his thighs.

His fingers curled over Drift’s shoulders. He shifted his weight, hooked a leg around Drift’s waist, and shivered as Drift’s spike bumped against his valve. Yes. This right here. This was what he wanted.

“Just tell me to stop,” Drift growled into his audial, his vocals rough and hungry. He gripped Rodimus’ hips, tilted him, his spikehead sliding through the swollen, dripping folds of Rodimus’ valve.

Rodimus moaned. “Never.”

Drift slid into him, one long push that slowly filled him, igniting every one of his inner nodes along the way. Rodimus shivered, his backstrut arching, his sensornet tingling. His valve clasped hungrily on Drift’s spike, spilling charge at him.

He clutched Drift tighter, burying his face against Drift’s intake, in-venting the scent of his best friend. The cheap wax, the incense, the heat of his arousal. He trembled as heat spilled into his groin, tightening into a coil.

Drift bottomed out and lingered, his spike throbbing, the head of it pulsing against Rodimus’ ceiling node. He, too, was shaking, though more subtly. His grip on Rodimus’ hips was almost bruising, but there was a desperation in it, too.

Rodimus panted and pressed a kiss to Drift’s neck, his denta grazing the heated cables there. “Frag me,” he murmured, right into Drift’s audial. “Come on, Drift. Make me scream.”

A low whine eeked out of Drift’s engine. His grip tightened, and then suddenly he was claiming Rodimus’ mouth again as he pulled back and thrust, harder, deeper.

Rodimus gasped into the kiss. His backstrut curved, his hands scrabbling at Drift’s shoulders. He moaned as Drift pumped into him, rattling him against the couch, making it rattle in return.

Pleasure flooded Rodimus’ array in a bright burst of charge. His calipers clenched, fluttering excitedly, as ecstasy spooled within him. His spark throbbed to the same beat, as Drift’s field wrapped around him with tingling warmth.

Oh, Primus. It was good. It was so good. Better than this imagination, far better than the secret fantasies in the dark of his quarters.

“Harder,” Rodimus moaned. “Oh, Drift. Harder. Make me feel it.” Give him something to remember, if this was all there ever would be.

He trembled, his vents coming in gasping bursts against Drift’s lips. They less kissed as their mouths clashed together. Rodimus’ foot drummed against the back of Drift’s thigh before he felt Drift hitch him up, both of his legs encircling Drift’s waist. His aft slammed into the couch as Drift pounded into him, raking over his node clusters. The change in angle trapped Rodimus’ anterior node cluster against Drift’s pelvic span, sending a new burst of pleasure through Rodimus’ frame.

Charge built and built, his spark throbbing to the oscillations of it. Rodimus growled out a moan, his hands forming fists on Drift’s shoulders, his frame shivering. Static fire crawled through his lines, and his thighs trembled.

Drift slammed into him, grinding hard against his ceiling node, and Rodimus jolted. Overload snapped through his frame, his calipers cinching tight as he rippled around Drift’s spike. His own spurted, spilling transfluid against Drift’s belly, and his vents roared.

Drift claimed his lips, growling as he overloaded as well, and Rodimus felt the hot spatter of transfluid within him. He moaned as it triggered another, smaller overload within him, his valve rippling and hungry. He panted, hips rocking gently against Drift’s, extending the pleasure.

Drift pressed his forehead to Rodimus’ as he panted. He rolled his hips, grinding into Rodimus in slow motions, as if savoring. They were both trembling, their vents roaring.

Rodimus groped for words. Something glib to say even. But his processor offered nothing but static, and his frame hummed.

“Ahem.”

Rodimus froze. Drift echoed him.

Ratchet.

He’d forgotten about Ratchet.

~

In his relative youth, Ratchet had been something of a mech known to party. He’d had his fun, dancing and playing around and hopping from berth to berth in search of the next, best pleasure high. He’d chased after the good times as though they were going to vanish, and hah, little did he know, but they would.

Ratchet was not an inexperienced mech. And it would take one with no interest in interfacing whatsoever to not look at two mechs like Rodimus and Drift intertwined and think anything short of “Primus, but can I join them?”

Because he did want to join them. His array was so hot that his panels scorched to the touch and only sheer force of will kept his equipment hidden. His spike was desperate to pressurize. Lubricant pushed at the panel concealing his valve. He trembled, already on the cusp of overload.

The two of them separate were gorgeous. Wrapped around one another, they were the stuff interfacing fantasies were born from.

One of them belonged, for lack of a better word, to Ratchet. The other did not.

Attraction warred with jealousy. He gripped his cube of energon to conceal the conflicting emotions. He ground his denta because he didn’t know if he wanted to storm across the room and separate them, or slide between them.

His control faltered. Which led to his interruption of their afterglow.

“Ahem,” he’d said, and judging by their half-guilty, half-embarrassed looks, it had come across as accusing as he hadn’t meant it to.

He wanted them. He wanted them both. He just didn’t know if his own possessiveness could handle it.

“Should I go then?” Ratchet said, a touch snide, because when it came down to it, he wasn’t as mature as he thought he was.

Drift and Rodimus looked at each other, some wordless conversation passing between them, before they separated. Fluids streaked their respective frames, and the both of them were still pressurized. Eager, as only mechs with their kind of frames could be.

“What?” Rodimus drawled with that easygoing smile that got him so many things, including the ship they were currently residing upon. “You didn’t like the show?” He planted a hand on his hip, but his attempt at flippancy fell felt.

Ratchet tilted his head. His gaze slid from Rodimus to Drift and back again. “It’s more a question of whether or not I’m going to be part of it.” Because from where he was sitting, they looked as if they were in their own world, one Ratchet didn’t belong to.

“Part? But you’re the main course!” Rodimus’ grin widened, and he licked his lips. He raised his arms as if to highlight the mess of his frame, the pulse of his biolights, the jut of his spike.

Drift moved, stepping behind Rodimus, his hands slipping around Rodimus’ frame. Ratchet watched them as they slid down Rodimus’ admittedly gorgeous chassis, before one encircled Rodimus’ spike and other slid down to cup Rodimus’ array.

“We did agree to share,” Drift said from over Rodimus’ shoulder, catching Ratchet’s gaze and holding it. There was warning in the look, as well as invitation. His fingers stroked Rodimus’ array as though demanding Ratchet’s attention. “He’s very pretty, isn’t he, Ratchet?”

Yes. Yes, he was. Rodimus’ attractiveness had never been what was in question.

Ratchet squirmed on the chair. He gripped his cube tighter. His array demanded attention, panels juttering, informing him that like it or not, he couldn’t deny himself forever.

Drift smirked and turned his head, his lips grazing Rodimus’ audial though he kept Ratchet’s gaze. “I think you should go introduce yourself, Roddy,” he purred and squeezed Rodimus’ array.

Rodimus groaned, his hips jutting forward, but into nothing as Drift suddenly released him. Rodimus stumbled a little, looking unsure of himself, until his spoiler twitched upward and determination replaced all else. He strode forward, with what Ratchet assumed was meant to be temptation.

Ratchet set the energon aside and watched Rodimus. He didn’t know what game the two of them were playing.

“Well?” Rodimus asked with a cocky grin and a slide of his palm down his own belly. “Am I pretty?”

“You already know you are, brat,” Ratchet said as Rodimus came to a stop in front of him, one leg pressed to the chair between Ratchet’s. “You don’t need me to tell you that.”

“Maybe I do.” Rodimus leaned closer, his hands braced on the arms of the chair, their faces inches apart. “Hi.”

Hi, he said. Like they’d just met for the first time. Attached to it was a cute little blush and damn it, this was entirely unfair.

Ratchet snorted. “Hi yourself,” he said, and cupped Rodimus around the back of the head, tugging the mech in for a kiss.

Rodimus made a little squeak – again, unfairly adorable – and melted into the kiss, their lips brushing together before Ratchet introduced his glossa. Rodimus made a muffled noise, one that sounded hungry, before he returned the kiss, his mouth opening to Ratchet’s. He hummed in his intake, his field pushing against Ratchet’s with desire and need.

Desire. Actual desire. For Ratchet.

Rodimus’ hands flexed on the arm of the chair. He pulled back from the kiss, licking his lips, his optics bright and hungry.

“Wow,” he said and Ratchet felt the heat of a hand on his thigh then. “So, um, I was thinking…” His hand slid up Ratchet’s thigh, his thumb brushing over Ratchet’s blazing panel. “Do you mind if I…?” He trailed off, licking his lips for emphasis.

Lust shot through Ratchet like a lightning bolt, the last of his restraint crumbling. His panel snapped open, his spike jutting toward Rodimus’ fingers. Ratchet tried to play nonchalant as he leaned back and spread his hands.

“Help yourself,” he said, even as his spike bobbed and pre-fluid dribbled from the tip.

Rodimus’ fingers curled around his spike, and Ratchet’s engine growled. His hips surged toward the younger mech’s grip.

“I think I will,” Rodimus purred, some of his confidence at once returning.

He stepped back and fluidly knelt between Ratchet’s knees as if he wouldn’t have trouble standing again later. Che. Young mechs.

Rodimus’ hands rested on Ratchet’s knees, and they slid forward, achingly slow, stroking his armor toward the apex of Ratchet’s thighs.

“I like your spike,” he said, the words bold, but something shy in them. “And I’m sure when you show me, I’ll like your valve, too.”

Ratchet obligingly spread his thighs, making room for Rodimus. “Nothing special about them,” he grunted. He didn’t want either of them to spill pretty words at him. He knew what he was. No need to pretend otherwise.

Rodimus leaned forward, ex-venting over Ratchet’s spike, and he shivered. The moist heat made his spike twitch and throb, need boiling in his lines. He was already perilously close to overload, just from watching them, from wanting them.

“Mmm. I’ll be the judge of that,” Rodimus murmured before he lapped at the tip of Ratchet’s spike, licking up a dribble of pre-fluid.

Ratchet gripped the arm of the chair. He huffed a ventilation, his hips rising toward Rodimus’ mouth before he made himself sit back down.

Rodimus had the tact not to smirk. Instead, he looked cutely focused as he licked at Ratchet’s spike again before taking the head of it into his mouth. He made a humming noise, like someone might if they’d eaten a delicious energon candy, and then took Ratchet deeper, his spike inching into the warm grip of Rodimus’ mouth.

Ratchet groaned, his ventilations hitching. He rested a hand on Rodimus’ helm, his fingers stroking over pointed finials, and Rodimus moaned around his mouthful. He took Ratchet deeper, until the head of his spike bumped the back of Rodimus’ intake, where the vibrations of his moans teased Ratchet’s spike.

His hips stuttered again, and Rodimus’ hands gripped them, keeping him down. He worked Ratchet’s spike with single-minded dedication, swallowing around him, glossa flicking over and around, tracing the bands of his sensory net.

Ratchet felt Drift’s field seconds before Drift leaned over the back of the chair, his arms sliding over Ratchet’s chassis, the side of his head pressed to Ratchet’s.

“You two make a pretty picture,” Drift murmured, his lips caressing Ratchet’s audial.

Ratchet licked his lips. He looked down, watching his spike sink into Rodimus’ mouth, Rodimus’ lips wet and shiny as they were stretched around his length. Rodimus’ faceplate was stained pink, his optics half-shuttered, like he enjoyed himself.

“Can’t wait to get you both on the berth,” Drift purred, his lips blazing a path of tingling pleasure as he caressed Ratchet’s audials, and chevron, and intake. “Feel both of you around me.”

Ratchet swallowed thickly, his spark throbbing, pleasure cresting inside of him in faster waves as Rodimus swallowed him down, lips and denta and glossa working him with sheer dedication. He hummed around Ratchet’s spike, oral lubricant dribbling around the corners of his mouth.

Drift’s hands stroked Ratchet’s chassis. “He wants you to overload for him,” he purred. “He wants you to spill in his mouth.”

Ratchet groaned, his fingers trembling on Rodimus’ head. Rodimus moaned around him, in unison, taking Ratchet deep again, until his spikehead ground against the back of Rodimus’ intake.

Rodimus swallowed.

Ratchet jerked and spilled down his throat, ex-vents breaking free in a whoosh as the pleasure stripped him raw and left him rocking his hips into Rodimus’ mouth. He spilled spurt after spurt down Rodimus’ intake, and Rodimus swallowed him down, making little hungry, happy sounds.

Drift chuckled against his audial, pressing little kisses to the sensitive plating surrounding it. His hands stroked over Ratchet’s belly, even as Rodimus suckled on Ratchet’s spike. He slowly withdrew, Ratchet slipping from his lips, but not before Rodimus pressed a parting kiss to the tip of it. He licked his lips, his optics dazed.

“Taste good,” Rodimus said, his vocals striped with static.

Ratchet growled and hauled Rodimus up, pulling the almost Prime into a deep, hungry kiss. He tasted himself on Rodimus’ lips, even as Rodimus squeaked and sank into the kiss, his engine growling, his hips thrusting against Ratchet’s knees. Arousal flooded Rodimus’ field, tugging at Ratchet’s as well.

Drift’s arms tightened. “Berth,” he suggested with a hot ex-vent. “Now.”

Ratchet nipped at Rodimus’ lips, the younger mech looking back at him, a bit dazed. “Yeah,” he said, not nearly as gruff as he would have liked. “Let’s.”

Rodimus moaned.

Drift always did have the best ideas.

~

If there was truly an Afterspark, a Well of Allsparks, a heaven for Cybertronians, Drift thought it might look a little something like this. Not just for the interfacing, as processor-blowing as it is, but for the sensation of having two energy fields pulsing in tune with his. The two fields of the mechs he adored most in the universe.

They tumbled onto the berth, Rodimus with a little giggle, Ratchet with an exasperated roll of his optics, but his hands nevertheless reaching for both of them. Drift’s spark grew three sizes as he bent over Ratchet, stealing a kiss from his partner, and then he leaned toward Rodimus, indulging in a kiss from his best friend.

He returned to Ratchet, whose grabbing hands were almost desperate, and Drift poured his love into the kiss, his reassurance. He let his lips and his hands speak for him, his field spinning back into theirs, broadcasting his happiness.

Rodimus’ whimpering captured his audials. He broke away from the kiss to peer at Rodimus, only to find his best friend stroking his own spike, wriggling about on the berth.

Drift shared a conspiratorial look with Ratchet before they pounced in tandem, Rodimus greeting them with a yelp of surprise. A damn cute one. Unfair, was what he was.

Drift made a beeline for Rodimus’ spike, rigid and dripping, a gaudy decoration of glittering flames spiraling the length of it. He chuckled to himself, because of course, before he let his glossa do the exploring.

Rodimus moaned and clutched at him, but his moans were muffled and his hands captured by Ratchet. Drift savored, tasting Rodimus’ spike, the sweetness of his pre-fluid. He looked up the length of Rodimus’ frame to see Ratchet kissing him fiercely, his hands pinning Rodimus’ flat to the berth.

Rodimus trembled beneath them, his field rising and falling to the same stuttered rhythm that his hips rocked toward Drift’s mouth. His valve trickled lubricant freely.

Drift stalled, caught between the feel of Rodimus in his mouth, and the temptation that Rodimus’ valve offered. He didn’t know if this was his first, last and only chance. He didn’t want to waste it. But his own valve clenched, and the interesting whirls and ridges of Rodimus’ spike demanded to be tested.

Rodimus’ hips bucked. He whimpered. Drift’s mouth watered and moved of its own accord. He took Rodimus past his lips, moaning as the heated length slid over his glossa. Rodimus tasted like heat and charge, like hunger.

He took Rodimus deeper and looked up his frame again, just as Ratchet moved to straddle Rodimus’ chassis. He was nipping at Rodimus’ intake, and Rodimus moaned. Shivers wracked his frame.

“Sit on my face,” Rodimus gasped out a plea and made a strangled sound. “Please, Ratchet. I want you to–”

“I’m too heavy, Rodimus.”

“No, you’re not!” Rodimus whined low in his intake and squirmed in Drift’s grip. “I swear. Please. I want to lick you. Want to taste you. Want to–”

His words cut off, muffled, and Ratchet was kissing him again, fiercely, with a possessiveness few knew him capable. Drift’s own engine revved at the sight.

Heaven, he thought, for sure. And swallowed Rodimus deeper, until his best friend’s spike nudged the back of his intake. Pre-fluid trickled over his glossa and down his throat. Rodimus throbbed on his glossa, smelling of arousal and need.

The berth jostled. Rodimus’ frame did, too.

Drift let Rodimus slip from his mouth. Hunger gripped him as he watched Ratchet move – cautiously, ever so careful. He shifted around to face Drift and knelt over Rodimus’ face, sure not to rest his weight on Rodimus’ spoiler. Rodimus’ hands were busy, tugging him around, guiding him. His optics were bright, focused on Ratchet, his glossa sweeping over and over his lips, even as Ratchet dripped onto his face.

“Rodimus, I don’t think–”

“It’s fine!” Rodimus interrupted firmly. His hands curled around Ratchet’s thighs and he pulled, his mouth rising to meet Ratchet’s valve halfway. Rodimus’ moan was muffled, but genuine, a desperate sound of lust.

A low whine eked out of Ratchet’s intake. His hips rolled, backstrut curving as the sloppy sounds of Rodimus licking him filled the room, barely audible over three sets of spinning fans.

“Oh, Primus.” Ratchet’s head hung, his optics shuttering, his face bright with need. His spike rose between his thighs, proud and eager once again.

Drift’s mouth watered. His valve clenched, and he pulled himself upright, straddling Rodimus’ hips, dripping lubricant down on Rodimus’ spike. He didn’t hesitate, guiding Rodimus’ spike to his valve and sinking down to the hilt.

Rodimus moaned, his hips bucking upward, feet sliding against the berth for leverage. His spike pulsed eagerly, and through the vee of Ratchet’s thighs, Drift could see Rodimus licking him, the eager flicks of his glossa and the lubricant glittering on Rodimus’ face.

Ratchet panted, his hips moving in little rocks as his armor lifted away, allowing for heat flow. His field rose in the room then, thick and tingling, so heavy with lust it made Drift’s processor spin.

He lifted and dropped himself harder, riding Rodimus’ spike as though it offered him salvation. His valve clutched at it, spitting charge between nodes and receptors. His ventilations roared, his fingers curling against Rodimus’ belly.

He couldn’t stop watching, his optics locked on the sight of Ratchet riding Rodimus’ face. His audials soaked in the sounds, Rodimus moaning, and Ratchet sighing happily, and the slick noises of Rodimus’ glossa against Ratchet’s valve.

Rodimus’ spike throbbed in Drift’s valve, spilling charge, dancing against his inner nodes. It spiraled around the strange whorls of Rodimus’ spike and seemed to double in intensity. Drift gasped and ground down, his valve spasming. His hips moved in little circles as overload throbbed through him, the pleasure singing through his lines. His valve grasped and squeezed on Rodimus’ spike, extending the overload, until he quivered and panted.

He sank back down, letting Rodimus’ spike throb within him. He looked blearily at Ratchet, his face eclipsed with pleasure and need, and his spark trembled.

Perfect. This was so perfect.

Rodimus whined, his hips pushing up toward Drift, but unable to get any leverage. His hands tightened on Ratchet’s hips. He doubled his efforts, and Ratchet muttered a curse, his hands clawing at the air. His hips danced in Rodimus’ grip, his spike dribbling onto Rodimus’ chassis.

Drift’s mouth watered again.

He dug his knees into the berth and shifted. He tilted forward, kept Rodimus deep, and was ever so glad he and Rodimus were of similar heights. He could keep riding Rodimus’ spike, and wrap his lips around Ratchet’s spike. He purred as he took his partner into his mouth, Ratchet’s pre-fluid slithering over his glossa, joining the taste of Rodimus lingering there.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Drift moaned. He thought that Rodimus and Ratchet echoed him.

Ratchet’s hands landed on his shoulders, fingers hooking in his seams. He made urgent noises, hungry ones, as his hips rolled toward Drift’s mouth, and back onto Rodimus’, and he couldn’t seem to decide which he wanted more. Which suited Drift just fine. Ratchet’s field, in the grips of pleasure, was a beautiful thing.

He swallowed Ratchet down as best he was capable and rolled his own hips, squeezing down on Rodimus’ spike, loving the feel of Rodimus throbbing within him. He wasn’t able to thrust, not really, with his attention split and unable to get any leverage.

But they figured it out. A rhythm emerged.

Ratchet sank back, Rodimus thrust up, Drift rolled down, Ratchet thrust forward. Over and over and over, their vents whirring and fans roaring and engines purring.

Drift’s field rose up, encapsulating both of his lovers, and he purred when they responded in kind. Mingling and joining, heat and pleasure, affection and understanding. It spun and spun, tighter and hotter, and honestly, if asked later, Drift wouldn’t be able to tell you who overloaded first.

He remembered the taste of Ratchet on his glossa and down his intake. He felt the hot gush of Rodimus’ transfluid in his valve. He remembered trembling between them, his spike spilling a hot mess over Rodimus’ belly. Ratchet clutched at him, and Rodimus’ field stroked over his, and Drift couldn’t recall a time he was happier.

Ratchet was the first to pull away, hissing softly his discomfort as he eased Drift off his spike and Rodimus away from his valve. Sensitive as always in the wake of overload. He rose up on his knees, and Rodimus squirmed out from beneath him, even as Drift lifted himself off Rodimus’ spike, his knees wobbling and his frame wrung dry.

Rodimus lay there, his armor quivering, but his field speaking of satisfaction. Drift managed enough effort to flop down onto the berth beside him, and was very relieved when Ratchet tucked himself against Drift’s back and slung an arm over his waist. Or, well, halfway on top of him, to be more accurate. Ratchet was a heavy, sticky weight against Drift, and he preferred it that way. Ratchet was safety for him. Had always been.

Drift’s engine purred. His field kept a grip on Ratchet’s and Rodimus’, energies mingling together. He didn’t want to let go. He wanted to keep this forever.

He slipped an arm over Rodimus’ chassis, his hand laying over Rodimus’ chestplate, feeling the whirr of Rodimus’ spark beneath his palm. It throbbed much like Drift’s did. But whatever Rodimus actually felt, Drift couldn’t tell. He was suddenly a closed book, one that shifted away from Drift.

Subtly, but all the obvious in the aftermath.

Drift frowned. “What are you doing?”

Rodimus squirmed. “It’s just, you know, I should probably go,” he said. He followed it with a chuckle, but there was nothing humorous in it.

Drift cycled his optics. He propped himself up with an elbow and felt Ratchet do the same behind him, peering over his shoulder.

“Go?” Drift repeated. “What?”

“Well, we’re all tired now, and I’m pretty sticky, so I’m thinking a shower. Recharge a little.” Rodimus shrugged, an attempt to be dismissive that failed. He squirmed a little further from Drift’s hand. “In my hab. By myself.”

Ratchet stirred. “Because you want to or you think you’re supposed to?” he asked, his tone careful, but holding none of the emotions Drift expected.

He’d though Ratchet would be happy to see Rodimus go. But, no. Instead Ratchet sounded worried.

“Either?” Rodimus said. “Both?” He cringed.

“You’re welcome to stay,” Drift said.

“We want you to stay,” Ratchet said with a grunt. He reached over Drift, grabbed Rodimus’ hand and tugged.

Sometimes, Drift forgot how strong Ratchet could be.

Rodimus yelped. Armor clanged. Drift grunted as an elbow caught him in the chest, and a knee in the belly, before Rodimus wound up firmly pinned between Drift and Ratchet.

Rodimus blinked in surprise. Drift stared, looking at Ratchet as if he’d never seen his partner before. Because honestly, this wasn’t what he’d expected. Ratchet’s willingness to do this had always been grudging.

“Unless you want to leave, you’re going to stay right here,” Ratchet said with a hand pressed to Rodimus’ chestplate. “You’re going to lay with us in this berth, recharge if you’re as tired as we are, and after a nap, we’re going to all three get up and use the washracks. Understand?”

Rodimus’ mouth opened, closed, and opened again. “No,” he finally said.

Ratchet sighed. “I suppose that’s my fault.”

Drift carefully snuggled up to Rodimus’ side, though he kept his gaze on Ratchet. “A bit, yeah.”

Ratchet sighed again, and his field flexed, pressing against both of theirs with a blooming mix of affection and confusion. “We need to talk. All of us,” he said, and though his words were firm, his tone was gentle. “We’ve complicated something that was a mess to begin with, and we’re going to have to solve it. Together. But right now, we’re all going to recharge, and yes that includes you, Rodimus. You’re a part of it now.”

“I don’t want to leave,” Rodimus said in a small voice.

“Then don’t.” Drift tilted his head against Rodimus’, slipping a hand over Rodimus’ frame and letting it rest on Rodimus’ belly. “Stay right here with us.” He smiled at Ratchet and was glad when his partner caught it.

Ratchet nodded and lowered himself back down next to Rodimus, though his hand remained on Rodimus’ chestplate. “We’ll talk later,” he said.

“Okay,” Rodimus said and turned his gaze toward Ratchet, his lips curving in a smirk that was an echo of his usual confidence. “Guess that means you like me now, huh?”

Drift snickered.

Ratchet rolled his optics. “Don’t push your luck, kid.”

Which was just Ratchet speak for ‘of course I do, but I can’t very well say it, can I?’

Ratchet was so transparent sometimes.

Drift grinned and tucked his head beside Rodimus’. He cuddled close, soaking in the sensation of both of their fields, listening to their respective engine’s purr, luxuriating in the heat their frames radiated.

Ratchet was right. A talk would be necessary. But for right now, Drift had this, and he couldn’t imagine anything that would make him happier.

~

After centuries of waking alone, it had taken time for Ratchet to get accustomed to sharing a berth again. He’d only just adjusted to recognizing Drift beside him, having learned how to recharge with sensors attuned to another system, but not one in distress.

He’d memorized everything about Drift: his field, his scent, the sound of his systems, the rhythm of his vents. Ratchet had committed those tiny details to memory, imprinted them on his spark and into his autonomic scanners.

It was the unfamiliar cant of another mech that stirred Ratchet from a deep recharge. As awareness settled in, subtle scans identified Rodimus as the other visitor, not that Ratchet needed his scanners to tell him so.

Ratchet supposed he would have to learn Rodimus as he had learned Drift.

He sighed softly, neither loud enough to attract attention nor wake his berthpartners. What a complicated mess. But one that was inevitable.

Sparks were tricky things after all.

Sensory suites fully online, Ratchet engaged his optics, the world seeping into color around him. He was overheated, he realized, no doubt due to sharing his berth with two speedsters.

He gingerly sat up and extricated his arm from where it had been pinned beneath Rodimus, careful not to wake him in the process.

Sometime overnight, Drift and Rodimus had curled into one another, their faces pressed close. Rodimus’ spoiler was tucked at an odd angle that had to be uncomfortable, but he was deeply asleep nonetheless. They both were.

Ratchet’s spark twinged looking at them, and it wasn’t entirely jealousy. They were adorable together, and clearly their feelings ran deep. But Ratchet was also certain Drift loved him.

Sparks were such many-layered things.

Ratchet did not love Rodimus, but he was fairly fond of the reckless mech. The attraction was there also. Rodimus was very appealing in construction, and when not behaving in an absurd manner, could often hold an intelligent conversation as well.

Could Ratchet bear to share? This he did not know.

Ex-venting once more, Ratchet gently leveraged himself out of the berth without disturbing either of his berthmates. He retrieved a warming tarp and lay it over them, tucking it around their tangled frames. He supposed Rodimus was like Drift, craving heat for comfort whilst in recharge.

They didn’t stir, except to curl closer together. Ratchet’s spark trembled once more. He was getting soft in his age, he thought, as he resisted the urge to rejoin them, perhaps wake them with careful touches and teasing kisses.

Ratchet left them to rest and went to his private dispenser, summoning a cube of midgrade to burn off the recharge fog. He should probably visit the washracks, but that sounded like effort. He then felt rather like Cyclonus as he moved to the window, peering out into the inky black. Perhaps Cyclonus had the right idea. The view was certainly one for contemplation.

And contemplate Ratchet did.

He had told Rodimus and Drift that they would all three need to talk. In truth, Ratchet knew the burden of choice fell on his shoulders alone. He was the tipping point. And he knew, without any doubt, that he could turn Rodimus away, refuse to accept him, and decades down the way, he would lose Drift as a result.

Because sparks were complicated things, and Drift could not fathom having to decide and hurt anyone. He would choose a life of solitude first, even if he tore himself apart in the process.

Ratchet sighed and turned toward his chair, dropping heavily into it. The weight of ages creaked in his gears. He set the energon aside, appetite gone.

He loved Drift. That was not in question. Could he share? Could he court a mech like Rodimus, bring him into their pair? Or would Rodimus upset a carefully crafted balance?

Then again, who was to say he hadn’t already? They were here now, weren’t they? Facing this difficult choice.

Ratchet tipped his head back against the chair and shuttered his optics. He did not know if he could love Rodimus simply because he had never taken the time to consider it before. He had not courted Rodimus. He had not interacted with the mech with the notion of making Rodimus his lover.

It wasn’t necessary, truth be told, that he even court Rodimus. So long as he was willing to share.

That was the true question, he supposed. Could he share?

If it meant a happy Drift, if he was certain Drift would not leave him. But then, did it matter? He could fight and grumble and complain and put his foot down, and it wouldn’t matter in the end.

The options were simple.

He could either walk away now, from both of them, and perhaps spare himself the sparkache in the future.

Or he could put forth the effort. He could learn to mitigate or even surrender his jealousy. He could learn Rodimus. He could, potentially, make room in his spark for the errant, reckless mech.

It wasn’t impossible. Frag, Megatron was sharing captaincy of their quest, after all, and being slowly fused into the crew as a result. If that was possible, then surely Ratchet could find room in his spark for acceptance, for affection, at the very least.

Warmth brushed over his cheeks, both of them, and Ratchet’s optics snapped online. Two familiar fields nudged against his as he startled.

“Good morning,” Drift purred into his right audial.

“You left us in the berth,” Rodimus said into his left, his vocals sounding as though he were pouting at Ratchet.

This was it.

Ratchet calmed his throbbing spark and straightened. He turned first toward Drift, acknowledging him with a brief brush of their lips.

“Had to think,” he said, and turned toward Rodimus, who unlike Drift, had leaned back after the teasing kiss. “Good morning, Rodimus.” Perhaps a touch too formal, but they’d thrown him off balance, and he’d already been teetering.

“Only you would wake up first thing in the morning wanting to rationalize, rather than roll over and continue where we left off,” Drift teased as he nuzzled Ratchet’s head with his own.

Rodimus’ face flushed under Ratchet’s steady gaze. His head ducked. “Well, he’s probably right, Drift. I mean, fragging’s good and all, but it doesn’t really solve anything.”

How unexpectedly astute. For Rodimus anyhow.

“Maybe not, but it sure was fun.”

Ratchet fought off the shiver Drift’s murmurs raked down his spinal strut. He rocked himself out of the chair, because it would be far too easy to fall under their spell if he was nice and comfortable.

“It was,” he said, and hoped his gruff tone covered up how much he tingled. “Fun, I mean.”

He turned to face both of them, Drift nothing but mischief and Rodimus back to that hesitant hope he’d displayed last night. Ratchet’s spark squeezed and squeezed. He wanted Drift. He didn’t want to surrender anything.

He thought he could grow to like Rodimus, beyond the thin-ice professional respect he already carried.

“I’m sensing there’s a ‘but’ in there,” Rodimus ventured, his armor clamped tight, and everything about him withdrawn.

Ratchet shook his head. “Not in the way you think. We can’t just… just dive into a sexual relationship and assume that’s the solution. It won’t work. We’re three very different people.” Honestly, how long had it taken him and Drift to realize what they wanted from each other? And then to add Rodimus, himself a very volatile mech?

No. They couldn’t just leap from a meteor and assume all would be well.

“We’ve already established it’s not just about interfacing,” Drift said, his words sounding as though they were carefully chosen. He folded his arms over his chassis. “And it’s pretty obvious whatever happens, it’s going to take a lot of work.”

“And honesty,” Rodimus chimed in, his faceplate visibly heating. He ducked his head, coughing into his hand. “Something that, uh, there wasn’t really a lot of.”

Ratchet arched an orbital ridge at both of them. “Oh, I’m more than aware of that. I just want to make sure that you two reckless idiots realize what you’re signing up for.”

Drift and Rodimus both stared at him, optics gradually widening as realizations started to trickle in. They solidified for Drift first, whose field all but surged forward and tackled Ratchet with both relief and affection. Rodimus was much slower, and he held something of himself back – roiling thick with uncertainty.

His fingers tangled together. “I don’t…” Rodimus paused and cycled a ventilation. “I don’t want to be in something where I’m just going to be tolerated.” He flinched, barely visible, but Ratchet caught in nonetheless.

He had the feeling there was a story behind that. But now was not the time to poke at an internal scar.

“And it definitely won’t work if you deal with it because you don’t want to lose Drift,” Rodimus added. He nibbled on his bottom lip before he met Ratchet’s gaze with a more common boldness. “I guess what I’m really asking is… what part are you expecting me to play?”

“I don’t know yet,” Ratchet said, honestly. “I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep. But I am willing to try and see what happens. Maybe I’ll find out that I’m not really built for a trine or whatever we’re going to call this.” He paused, and his lip quirked into a wry grin. “Or maybe I’ll find out that I have a kink for speedsters and can now strut around with one on each arm.”

Drift snorted a laugh.

Rodimus’ face flushed a deep crimson. He looked away, scratching at his chin. “Can’t be any worse than me realizing how much I want you to pin me down and frag me,” he said, almost offhand, only to freeze.

Drift’s laughter turned to wheezing gasps. His field burst with amusement, trickling down over both of them, shattering the tension.

Ratchet felt his grin turn far more sly than crooked. “Oh, do you now?” he asked and planted his hands on his hips.

Rodimus’ engine gave a weak little rev. “I guess this is the part where I stick my foot in my mouth.” He chuckled, his face still ablaze. “But I do mean it, Ratchet. I’m willing to try if you are.”

“One step at a time? Patiently? With no rushing?” Ratchet said, cocking his head. Though now Rodimus had planted an idea in his processor, and his array was agreeing with it quite heatedly.

Drift draped himself against Ratchet’s side, armor still quivering with amusement. “Well, we can rush some of it,” he said, his lips brushing over Ratchet’s audial. “Physical compatibility is just as important as the rest.” His hand boldly slid over Ratchet’s abdomen, and this close, Ratchet could nearly taste the elation in Drift’s field. He was giddy with it.

“I meant what I said. I can’t promise anything,” Ratchet murmured as he turned his face toward Drift’s, their lips inches apart.

“That you want to and are willing to try is more than I could have ever dreamed,” Drift breathed, and brushed his lips over the curve of Ratchet’s jaw.

Ratchet shivered and shifted his attention back to Rodimus, who looked caught between wanting to participate, but not wanting to interrupt. His optics focused on them, and echoing in his gaze was a longing that made Ratchet’s spark ache.

He lifted his left hand toward Rodimus, beckoning him. “Come on then,” he said. “You’re a part of this now, too. If you want it.” Mess and all.

Rodimus surged forward, before he seemed to realize he appeared too eager, and tried to ease into a suave strut.

Adorable. Unfairly adorable.

“I want it,” he said and made a point of letting his gaze slide from Ratchet to Drift and back again. “And you. Both of you. I mean, I want to try.” His fingers slid into Ratchet’s, and he politely didn’t comment that they trembled.

Ratchet tugged, pulling Rodimus close enough that Drift could reach him as well, and brushed his lips over the crown of Rodimus’ forehead.

“Then let’s try,” Ratchet murmured, feeling Rodimus shiver against him, his field flexing against theirs, ripe with heat and want.

Sparks were such convoluted things.

But Ratchet was more than certain that he had enough room in his for one more.

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