Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. Only the plot and OCs.

Enjoy! ^-^


Chapter 75

Shades of Reason

Long, powerful arms crossed loosely behind his helm Megatron lay in the pitch black of his berthroom. With all the blinds and curtains drawn over the expansive windows that would have shown a rather impressive view of New Iacon's skyline had he felt like looking at it, his room was bathed in darkness.

An oppressive kind of darkness that left him squeezing his dark red optics shut against it so maybe some of the ache down deep in his chest would ease.

Logically—as much as the massive mech hated to admit it—he knew that sitting alone in the darkness wasn't going to make any of it stop hurting. It wasn't going to fix anything, nor was it going to give him any of the answers he so desperately needed.

The problem was, he couldn't have the answers he wanted.

For the only one that could give them to him was currently being pulled between two sets of mechs for two very different reasons, but both with the equal agreement that Megatron's long lost son was the last thing she needed to be quizzed about right now.

Besides, the eldest ex-prince wasn't sure he was ready for that conversation either. Mostly because it had become very apparent from her lack of still hating him with everything inside her—or being overly terrified of him—that she likely had no idea who the one she called one of her brothers was Megatron's forfeited sparkling.

Deep in his chest, his spark gave a pained cringe.

He tried to ignore it.

It didn't work all that well.

Shifting uncomfortably against the urge to split open his chest armor to see if his spark really was splintering off shards of itself along the lines of the cracks he could feel spider-webing through it he let out a long, tired breath.

If he still bothered to care about such things as appearances he would have swallowed down the pain in his chest, stiffened his chin, narrowed his optics, and gone back to work.

The thing was though, deep inside, he no longer cared.

He'd stopped caring when a giant sentient space cloud swallowed up everything he thought he once knew about himself. When vorns and vorns and vorns of a shadowed mind finally cleared from the grip of dark cosmic hands. When he started thinking again.

When he looked up and found not only that annoying little yellow runt with those impossible blue optics swinging down after him, but his brother as well.

With a heavy snort, he shook the image away.

Sentiment. He chastised himself.

It got him a life again, but it also got him a whole world of pain. Granted, he deserved it. The pain at least—he still wasn't sure about the life—for what he had done to his world. Even if part of it hadn't really been him.

Even if a lot of it he couldn't even remember.

It didn't wash the energon from his claws.

It didn't change the stupid, petty, vindictive things he had done because of his breed obsessed sire. When his mind had still been his.

In the end, the cities, the millions of lives; that hadn't been him but the beginning of riots in the streets, murders in allies, and the aftermath of the Rings . . . that had been.

He'd let himself destroy everything he had been trying to save. He had turned into the very monster so many claimed he and those like him were. He had proved that slaggin' bastard sire of his right.

He'd made himself an easily controlled brute without mind enough to realize what he was breaking until it was too shattered to repair.

Skydancer and the sparkling she had given him were just a piece of that.

Another hot flare of agony arched through bond that had long gone cold, curled in on itself, shivering with a long pushed away pain.

He just squeezed his optics shut tight once again. Letting it wash over him.

Maybe Soundwave was right.

Maybe he really was a self-punishing fool.

He deserved it though.

That he knew all too well.

The sound of a knock at his door didn't surprise him, neither did the overwhelming urge to throw his couch at it to make whoever it was behind the damn thing go away. Instead of doing that though he simply squeezed his optics tighter. Wishing to be left alone to drown in his own repressed memories and unforgettable mistakes.

Several moments of silence passed after the one knock—and yes he did know his oldest friend well enough to know it was him already—until finally the override of his key lock chimed. The heavy metal door slid away with a heavy 'shink' revealing the long, lean silver form of Soundwave.

Instead of acknowledging the mech he could feel across the room, Megatron scooped up one of his few pillows, yanked it up, rolled, and pinned it over the back of his helm. Refusing to so much as look at the silent form that walked slowly into his room. The heavy sound of the door closing behind him making plating and muscle cabling along Megatron's back tense and flex.

He did his best to hide the reaction. However, he wasn't foolish enough to think it truly worked. Laying with his optics squeezed shut waiting for the inevitable was not Megatron's style. It grated every nerve and instinct inside him. Made his energon boil and his claws flex.

Yet he lay there.

For weakness was something he had denied himself most of his life and it had got him nothing but lose and pain. He was starting to think that maybe allowing some forms of it . . . weren't all that . . . awful.

Maybe.

At least to some.

Soft steps of a grace balanced along a frame that was nowhere near as heavy as his was but still almost as large—at least in height—padded across the large but rather barren expanse of his berthroom until they came to a stop just the side of his berth.

Megatron's energy field might have been tucked so close it flexed under his armor but he still felt the smooth, almost soft calm that flowed around Soundwave. Offered up as it had been for vorns and vorns if Megatron was just paying enough attention to notice it. To remember that here in this quiet, intelligent, far too observant mech was the one being that had judged him for what he was of so many times and yet still stood there beside him.

When all others left.

When he no longer deserved it.

When he had signed away every right he ever had to happiness.

When he no longer deserved a friend.

Soundwave never left.

Soundwave still stood here.

From under the pillow stretched over the back of his helm Megatron let out a long, tired sigh. Letting all the pain, ache, confusion, and frustration boiling inside him out in that simple sound. Because with this mech, he could.

Nothing changed.

Even when he let his energy field flare out to show the truth of the feelings behind the sound.

Soundwave didn't so much as twitch.

His energy field simply flexing back to the tormented one presented to him with the ever present smooth calm.

It took a moment, pride waring with sense, but finally Megatron let his death grip on the now suffering pillow go. Throwing it off to the side away from where Soundwave stood the massive silverish grey mech finally levered himself up onto his elbows to look sidelong at the patiently quiet mech staring back at him.

Finally, crafted features set in a dull silver faceplate let knowing red optics shine back at him.

There was no judgement there—he'd known their wouldn't be, there never had been, even when he deserved it—but he still felt his breath catch down in his internal vents when he found that truth once again staring back at him in that almost bland expression.

A nano or two ticked by in which he just hoovered there in an awkward half bend on his belly propped up on his elbows staring back at those too knowing optics until finally he finished levering himself upright. Hydraulics and joints protesting with more noise than he would ever admit too, no matter how it was getting to where sometimes he was feeling his age, he twisted his huge frame around. Swinging his legs over the edge of the berth leaving him sitting in a slump he would never allow outside the safety of his dark quarters and under the glow of familiar knowing optics.

Helm slightly bowed—another thing he'd do to almost no bot willingly—he let out a long breath. Whole frame shifting with the force of the action until it left him feeling as rung out as he likely looked right now.

Only after that did he finally shift his full focus to the bland expression on Soundwave's faceplate. His own tired optics full of things he didn't want to admit to but knew he had no way of hiding anymore. Knew he had no right to try any longer.

"Soundwave," He finally greeted, though the action was proved rather pointless by the way the silver mech lifted one optic ridge just a bit over his left optic.

"Megatron." He replied, those optics finally leaving his faceplate to sweep over his hunched frame quickly. Only a moment of observation until the calm stare returned to his deeper colored optics. "If you are done having your sulk, I require your assistance."

The bristle at the words was instinctive—pride was a natural trait to some after all—but it was meant as little more than an old reaction that time hadn't dissuaded yet. It likely never would.

Soundwave also had never cared much for Megatron's pride. It was probably one of the reasons he'd been able to suffer some of the mech's darker moments. That or the silver mech truly was just one in a billion.

Another deep breath, both to silence his aching spark and stinging pride, he gave a short nod. For Soundwave had never been one for false alarms or one that asked for help for an empty thing. "What's wrong?"

That somber expression shifted for just the slightest moment to almost perfectly hid amusement in those red optics. It disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared but Megatron saw it all the same. The sight of it making him straighten up.

Well now, what was this?

His own optic ridges lifted, the focus he had on his aching spark drifting to the background while his processor focused in on what was before him. Not what he had left in a smoldering, energon soaked past.

It was easier.

It made him a coward, but well . . . so he was.

"We have a guest." Soundwave answered, only somebot that had known him as long as Megatron had would have been able to hear the hidden hilarity the silver mech found in his words.

Now the eldest prince was very interested in what he had missed this morning hiding in his room during his off shift.

"A guest?" He repeated, pushing himself to his towering height. Looking down the difference between himself and his oldest friend.

"Yes." Soundwave nodded solemnly, the flicker in his optics made the expression sort of pointless though. "It's going less than well. Your help would be appreciated. I doubt Optimus is likely to be pleased to come back from his meeting to find Jazz and the twins murdered each other."

"Oh." Unease flaring up through him while his optics flicked to the door. "I see."

Time to go to work.

Well, at least snatching up and tossing idiots was better than sitting around feeling sorry for himself.

If he thought about it too long, stalking out of his room and toward the elevator, Megatron was pretty sure he'd start to wonder if Soundwave had somehow planned this.

Knowing him, he probably had.


Energon dripped in a sticky slide down the fine line of Sunstreaker's cheek. Thin lines of glittering blue standing out in stark contrast to the silver tone of his protoform. The almost dull feeling of the stinging cuts somehow paling under the hot feel of the lives' fuel sluggishly slipping down.

His lips pulled back in a grimace of the snarl echoing deep in his chest a good portion of the fuel rolling down his cheek was actually pooling in the corner of his mouth. The hot, sticky, metal tang making him slide his tongue against the inside of his teeth out of instinct to the taste. Looking for the source even if logically he knew where it was he couldn't help that it was making him even angrier.

He never had liked leaking.

No bot did, but Sunstreaker learned long, long ago that letting it happen—allowing others to think they could touch him without repercussion or see that he was indeed mortal like the rest of them—only made things worse.

Once weakness was found, it was exploited. That was just the way nature functioned. Be it with monsters or those that called themselves civilized. It was simply a primal instinct that no amount of evolution was ever going to breed out of their race.

Not as long as there were those that liked killing because they could. Not as long as there was a need for it.

Not as long as memories like Sunstreaker's lived inside.

Cheek stinging, energon on his tongue and dripping slowly down the curve of his chin, the big golden frontliner did nothing to try and stop the roaring of his engine while he glared across the hall where he'd finally planted his peds. Refusing to be drug another inch, refusing to be touched another nano.

He admittedly slightly regretted punching Outrider in the mouth as the big red mech stumbled while he let go. Large hand coming up to cup at what was at least a fractured strut as he backed off behind him.

For if the hit hadn't been proof enough that it was time to get away from the ex-pit fighter, his blades snapping free from his wrists were.

The truth some forgot—though none of this inner circle—was that Outrider and Smokescreen had been Ring fighters. Gladiators in their own right under the ruin of a master and slaver just as the twins had. They had served their time and earned their own demons that made them just as dangerous as the frontliners.

There was a difference though.

Neither of them, not Smokescreen with his clever mind and sharp wit or Outrider with his sheer strength and resourcefulness was a match for either of the twins. Hammerdown surly wasn't.

Just as big and strong as Rider, the blue mech admirably was, but he'd fought a war. He was a solider, he wasn't a gladiator.

That was the difference between them.

Rider and Smokey, they had survived; Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, they had thrived.

"Get off me!" The low snarl came a nano before Sunstreaker's wrenched free arm swung back to crack Rider hard in the jaw. The sharp intake of a silent gasp the only sound of pain the bulkier red mech when he stumbled back. No longer able to keep the second snatched up hold he'd taken of Sunstreaker the klick the doors to the medical bay shut behind them.

He had known better—any fool did—then to hold tight to Sunny when he didn't want to be touched, but the anger pouring off the mech as energon dripped down his cheek had made him do it anyway.

When Thundercracker snatched Jazz up by his scruff and marched away from medical muttering darkly to himself while the silver mech twisted, hissed, and spit once again in his grip all of them had known why and what came next. So when Sunstreaker's snarl returned the nano the doors slid shut Hammerdown and Outrider had done the only logical thing.

They'd latched hold of both of them and tried to keep them from following.

It hadn't worked.

Not in the slightest.

So here they all were again.

Scrambled together in a cross section hall with three very pissed mechs snarling at each other while the rest of them tried to keep them from killing each other while also wondering what the pit just happened.

It wasn't going very well.

That was for sure.

"Sunny!" The shout from Bumblebee was no surprise, he was one of the few in this world that could talk either twin back to their right mind when they slipped, but there was no red creeping around Sunstreaker's optics then.

He wasn't slipping.

On no.

He was just that pissed.

"You slaggin', sliver aft, stupid, little, glitch!" He snarled the words out through clenched teeth stained by his own energon though he came no further than the half step stalk after his blades slide free and Rider was picking himself up off the floor.

That was only because a small yellow mech striped in black with doorwings pinned in upset and fear against his back had jumped in front of him, planted his peds firm, and shoved both palms against the strong, flexing armor plates of his abdomen.

Sunstreaker stopped.

Heaving hard breaths through his vents, energy field boiling around him at the intensity of his emotions, optics narrowed into thin dark slits while he didn't so much as glance down at the pleading feel and tone of the small mech pressed up against him to stop him. He registered it, he stopped, but he didn't calm.

He couldn't.

Sideswipe, a sound echoing his brother's in his engine, shoving off Hammerdown with a knock back of his helm hard into the dark blue mech's noseplate. The hard snap of strut and low yelp hardly heard under the pitch of the two roaring high performance engines.

Later he would probably regret that, but right now it hardly registered.

All that was clicking with him after those doors slid shut and the control Ratchet had over their anger went up like smoke was that energon was slipping down his brother's cheek. The same energon that was staining Jazz's claws.

Sunstreaker wasn't the only one that was pissed.

Blades sliding free with a hard scrape the red mech snarled across the distance between them and where Thundercracker had Jazz dangling in the air. His fingers itched, his temper frayed, the only thing keeping him in place being the stall in Sunstreaker and the pleading feeling of Bumblebee's field pushing hard into their own boiling one.

It didn't stop him spiting a hiss across the distance between them and where TC was doing his best to keep a hold of the very angry form of Jazz at the moment.

"What the ever loving frag, mech!?" He ground out, fists twitching behind his blades. Dark blue optics locked on the smaller silver frame of a mech they both trusted more then they would ever admit to more than a few. A mech that just walked in and slugged them both, that made Sunstreaker leak, that had better start slaggin' explaining himself before they all did something very regrettable.

"I could ask you the same damn question!" Jazz spit back, twisting around in the scruff hold that Thundercracker had him in.

The fragger.

Jazz was going to hit him oh so very hard for his!

Dangling him out high off the ground by his scruff bar at the back of his neck the huge mech had him in such a way that he could neither reach the ground nor the mech himself because of the one arm hold. The flier's long limb stretched out from him meant that there was no way Jazz's shorter limbs could nick plating. The height of the hold meaning he couldn't get a grip for the floor or the walls. Worse than that though, was the long sharp claws pinched tightly around his scruff bar meant that even though Jazz was as flexible as he was, no matter how he pitched his weight and swiped he couldn't quite reach the arm those fingers belonged to.

Not unless he seriously wanted to do Thundercracker harm.

The big flier had been betting on the fact that he didn't when he snatched him up, and though Jazz really did want to break something, that something wasn't the seeker.

So he hung.

Hissing and bristled like a mad cat he glared back across the distance between him and two very angry looking frontliners.

Ignoring the feel of Prowl very loudly cursing at him through their bond, and the way his field flared for him to notice he just fumed. Spark constricting in a very real kind of terror in his chest alongside a very hot kind of rage he wasn't sure he'd ever felt before.

He suddenly wondered if this is what Ironhide felt like every time Bumblebee proved he was no longer a youngling, that he was old enough to do what he wanted with whoever he wanted.

He also suddenly wondered if this was the universe's cruel idea of payback for all that teasing and ribbing he'd done to Hide over the vorns.

Probably.

Damn it.

"What are you even talking about!?" Sideswipe hollered back, not even caring as Hammerdown shoved himself back up right behind him. A sharp sniff leaving the bulky mech when he tipped his helm back and pinched his noseplate to try and stop some of the energon flow suddenly sliding over his lips. Outrider was hoovering beside him, a hand on his arm while they both warily watched the two snarling frontliners held in place by only a small yellow mech with his hands plastered to one of them and a pleading glance between them.

Smokescreen was off between the growling. Standing just to the side of his brother a bit in front of Thundercracker doing nothing much more then blinking dumbly at the floor with Bluestreak clinging tightly to his arm.

Neither of them were quite sure they were awake to be honest.

Maybe they were still reeling in the Land of Concussion after they got their stupid afts blown up playing with Wheeljack's toys.

It was possible.

Right?

More likely then what they just saw in the medical bay.

It had to be.

Because . . . that was a Praxian . . . ?

What was happening here?

"WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT!?" Jazz screamed back at them, claws flexing and clenching at his sides. "YOU FRAGGED IN THE DAMN RACKS WHILE SHE WAS THERE!"

And just like that the snarls cut off like squealing records.

Narrowed optics widening as jaws slacked slightly. The two of them left standing there staring back at Jazz as he glared at them.

"Well, this seems to be a very interesting morning." The deep rumble made Thundercracker twist, taking the still hanging Jazz with him, to find the enormous form of Megatron standing just a few paces behind him down the hall with his arms crossed lazily over his chest, amusement sparkling in his optics, a wiry twist to his lips, and an optic ridge lifted high. To his left stood Soundwave, looking as somber as he always did though the blue seeker swore he saw a flash of humor flare through those bright red optics before it vanished. Leaving behind a calm, collected, mech that TC knew was all nothing but a well-played front.

For a moment, all went silent.

Even the growling Jazz had rightfully been doing.

As the ridiculousness of how they all looked sunk in under the judgmental dark red stare until finally the eldest prince spoke again.

"Thundercracker," Those deep red optics swept to the large blue flier.

"Yes?" Dipping his chin just a bit TC tried not show just how foolish he felt at the moment.

"Your trine brother is currently in the fourth-floor cafeteria, or so I have been told. You should go and see about getting him down from the ceiling before he harms himself or somebot else."

A surge of worry flaring through the big mech's spark he dropped Jazz to the ground without thinking.

Pit.

He should have known better then to try and leave Skywarp to himself this morning.

"I'll see to him. Thank you."

At Megatron's nod of acknowledgement he turned away, one last quick glance to the quietly stalled group behind them, before he left them to figure it out on their own. He hadn't told Jazz to start a fight in the first place.

Maybe he should have expected a reaction like that from the mech, but honestly he'd always known Jazz to be a very leveled helmed, collected and together kind of mech. It took a lot to make Jazz angry enough that he stopped thinking rationally.

It always had. Even back when he went under a different name and the way they had known each other had been very different indeed.

He, himself, had been a little miffed at the twins for being so careless with her. So it was possible he'd done it a bit out of spite, but he hadn't meant for the three of them to get this wound up on each other.

Leaving it all before it was finished made him a tad uneasy, but well, a glance at the knowing look in Soundwave's optics told him all he needed to know. He would make sure it was settled without further energon shed.

Peacekeeper was what the silver mech spent so much of his time doing for most of his life, after all. He was very good at it. His skills at observing meaning he always seemed to know where bots were most needed and when.

It would be sorted.

Thundercracker was sure of that.

He also knew he'd be back to find out what was going on with the brightly colored doorwinged mech who came strutting in so easily after he got a handle on Skywarp.

When the tall blue frame of the winged mech disappeared around the corner of the hall behind Megatron the towering mech turned his focus to the pair of bulky fighters behind the twins.

"Outrider, Hammerdown," He said evenly. "Mirage is going to miss his Recruit class starting in a few klicks down in the east courtyard, he has been sent on a task. Would you two be so kind as to cover his class for him? Smokescreen and Bluestreak should be a good use to you for that group as well."

"Umm," Outrider blinked, startled for a moment at the sudden task. His processor still whirling around at what had happened, at what was happening. His cobalt blue gaze snapping around not only at the stalled twins but Jazz and Prowl as well. Unsure quite what he needed to do. Smokescreen and Bluestreak looked lost in their own helms—he didn't fraggin' blame them, if he hadn't had to grab the twins he would be too—and he wasn't sure they were going to be much use to anything but he also wasn't sure they needed to stay in the middle of this. "Well."

"P-p-p-pr-pr-pra-raxian." Bluestreak stammered out, his soft blue optics impossibly large even though he was hiding his faceplate in Smokescreen's shoulder. The grip he had around the tri colored mech's arm had his knuckles creaking from the force. His doorwings hanging limply behind him in a broadcasted silent scream of the confusion rolling through the mech's spark and processor.

The squeaked out jumble of a word made Smokescreen flinch a bit beside him, or maybe it was how tightly his arm was being squeezed. Whichever the reason Smokescreen seemed to come out of his daze, turning his helm enough to blink over at the quivering grey mech huddled against him.

No real thought processes went across his faceplate, at least not one anybot could make since of, as he didn't seem to really hear the word so much as feel it in the shudder of the wings high behind his back. Still, he reached out with his free hand to pat at the white knuckle grip Bluestreak had on his other arm.

Blue shivered a little harder, tucking himself further up against Smokescreen looking for both comfort and understanding as his bright gaze darted over to find Prowl turning to stare sadly back at the pair of mechs he'd raised.

"Blue," Prowl sighed, his cool blue optics darting between the younger grey mech and the slightly older tri colored one as slowly Smokescreen lifted his gaze to stare hard into his elder brother's.

Then, everything in the tri colored mech's expression shut down. His wings hiking higher behind his back in a way that made Outrider and Hammerdown shift uncomfortably. They knew what came next.

Smokescreen had never handled things surprising him well.

"Which class is it?" He asked, voice slipping into a hard but even tone that made Prowl's wings sag behind his back. The black and white mech taking a step away from his mate standing on his own now on the floor beside him only to come to a skidding halt when Smokescreen shot him a dark glare.

Megatron, dark red optics darting around between them all, paused in his figuring to let that dark gaze settle on the brightly colored mech. "Strategy and defense."

"Yeah, they'll be slag at the first half of that." He nodded, a task in front of him, and something else to focus on making him stand a little straighter and breathe a little easier. "Come on Blue, we better go make sure somebot covers Mirage's shiny aft. Hammer, Rider, I think the twins are less homicidal now. Let's leave them to it."

Turning away, he drug a still shivering Bluestreak with him. Not waiting for the sounds of Hammerdown and Outrider to follow him, but still letting out a relieved breath when they did. Heading down a different hall then TC did in search of a class missing a teacher.

Mirage was really going to wish he'd showed up to teach this one though. Because Smokescreen was not above taking out his frustration on Mirage's best laid study plans.

After the four mechs disappeared down the hall Megatron made a questioning sound in the back of his throat, turning his sharp gaze down to Soundwave.

"I was under the impression they knew about Nook's existence."

"Knowing and seeing are two very different experiences." Was Soundwave's shrugged reply.

It was enough of an answer to make Megatron nod before turning his gaze to the rest of the collection of bots. The deep red shade resting on Bumblebee now.

"Having a busy morning, are we, mechling?"

Bee had enough humor in him to smirk dryly at that, shrugging his doorwings behind his back as he slowly stepped back from where he had planted himself in front of Sunstreaker. When the golden mech just rumbled softly at him he took another step away, turning now to fully face the towering eldest royal brother.

"You could say that, I guess. Wasn't expecting Nook to walk in, that's for sure."

"Yes," Megatron drawled. "So I heard."

Optics slipping among them all one more time, lingering for a moment on the energon still dripping down Sunstreaker's faceplate, he finally sighed.

"What you choose to fight about with that little femme is not my business. Not mine, nor Optimus', nor anybot else. If she gives you the right to be protective over her, then Jazz you have every right. However, I don't think she's given you license for the over protective sire card just yet."

Jazz looked away, sensor horns bending back as he scuffed his peds across the floor.

"Also, the twins have been doing a rather impressive job of keeping up with her since she came here. She is still their responsibility after all. Granted, sending her wondering away jumpy over something like that might not be the best way to handle somebot with her background. Nor make her any more incline to listen to what you two have to say."

Both frontliners lowered their optics in a shared cringe.

"However, when you cause a fuss like this, it becomes others business. Don't make me lecture the three of you like Optimus does. He does it more than enough for none to be needed ever again. Besides, we all know I don't do lectures. It's not my style. Behave like grown reasonable mechs and I'll treat you like reasonable mechs. Make me need to knock you from here to the moons and back because of your own stupidity, then I will. You all know this. Right?"

Three sets of slow, sullen nods.

"Good, then we'll drop this here. I don't need an explanation of what you two were thinking nor why Jazz flipped. Work it out between you as you should have done in the first place. I'm sure Ratchet is going to have an opinion, but he's entitled one when you slice up one of his sons in his own bay, Jazz."

Another set of slow nods as both the twins and Jazz silently cringed under the irony of being lectured on anger management and reasons to flip by Megatron.

The smirk toying at the corner of the huge mech's lip betrayed just how much amusement he was getting out of it as well.

Fragger.

He was right, but still.

It had yet to get normal for the rational side of Megatron to show itself in place of the less then civil method of dealing. Sure, they had gotten used to it over the last vorns.

Pit, turns out the mech was actually pretty impressively clever when he wasn't mad at the world and loosing his mind to some wannabe god.

Still, it was kind of weird after all the things he'd thrown temper tantrums about that lead to wars.

Yep.

The universe had a messed up sense of humor.

"Now," Megatron went on after a few moment of relishing in the cringing and the irony. "Does anybot want to explain to me where the pit the green Praxian came from and what I'm supposed to tell Optimus about him when he gets back in a bream?"

Sideswipe and Sunstreaker shrugged.

They hadn't the slightest clue what Nook was doing here. Let alone how he got here.

Jazz and Prowl didn't have much more idea then they did. Only knowing they had strolled up upon him and Jynx just as the twins had rushed in.

Bumblebee was the one who's doorwings twitched behind his back, so he was the one the towering prince set his gaze on again. Optic ridge lifting slightly in question he nodded for the young mech to go on when his antennas flickered atop his helm.

"Well, I don't know just what or how but I do know how Jynx found him. TC found her this morning, and after they talked he decided he'd take her to see the races at the wall. You know, to get her out of the Compound for a little while." His bright blue gaze darted over to the twins for a nano before darting back. "She said she wanted to so that was what they were going to do. I found them on the way and decided to tag along. We were almost there when she just froze up all of a sudden in the middle of the sidewalk. Next thing I knew she was sprinting across the street and ran helm first into him. He was just . . . here. No idea how, but I mean, the Gates are open. We're supposed to be letting refugees in. He probably just walked in like the rest of them. I assume he was looking for her because he was damn happy when she found him. Then, me and TC gathered them up and brought them back to the Compound to talk to Optimus. I figured he needed to know what was going on and Jynx sure as pit wasn't letting go of Nook anytime soon. Then we met Jazz and Prowl on the way there, and then she suddenly drug him off to Ratchet. From there it just kind of all went down hill."

Megatron nodded as Bumblebee ended his explanation with a more than a little confused shrug.

It made sense.

She had broadcasted herself across the whole damn planet because Optimus let her. The green and gold mech would have had to have been already on his way to get here this fast, but Megatron had been doing his job in between all his moping these last few orns. He saw the scout reports.

He knew what Optimus meeting about was about this morning.

The surface towns were emptying, bots were appearing from places and directions they hadn't even known there was life, and all of them were heading this way. Dozens of thousands if Lazerbeak's last report was correct—and the mech always was—he and Ravage had been busy collecting what patrols and normal bots could not. The two of them shadowing and tracking huge masses of bots that one had to wonder how the Ground could possibly miss.

Jynx was apparently right though. When the Ground went below for the Festival they barricaded themselves in like the scrap-rats they were. Letting the rest of the world fall to pieces for all they seemed to care while they murdered and fragged each other.

Megatron understood the line of thinking, the Rings had never been all that different after all.

But now he could only sneer at the sheer lack of sense it made. The mech ruling this thing behind the scenes was supposed to be this evil mastermind. How could he be stupid enough to let his forces close themselves off from the rest of the planet for three whole decacycles?

The sheer strategical stupidity of it made Megatron cringe down to the deepest part of his battle training. Soundwave had always been the strategy behind the Cons, it was his mind that kept them all from dying in the wake of a mad god's mind control. He was the force that kept the faction on its peds when the mind in the banished prince was lost.

However, Megatron was no fool.

He had been raised as heir long before Optimus ever came to be, and long until he was grown. He knew now that it had all been for show. A false play by his damned sire to appease a carrier that was still alive at the time, and then the population after she 'died'.

No matter the falseness behind it though, he did have the training. He did have the knowledge of how to run a world, how to manage troops, how to conduct war. He had been a gifted military mind when his mind had been his own. Now, that it was again, he more often than not stood beside Soundwave and Magnus now as battle plans were made.

To look at a troop plan such as this that the Ground functioned under . . . it made him want to punch something.

Right now though, quizzing Jynx about what she knew was apparently still going to have to wait. He doubted it would wait much longer then when all those coming bots came streaming through the Gates though. For now, he supposed, he would just help Soundwave deal with figuring out where they were going to put them all. It was better than thinking about past mistakes, let alone talking about them.

"And you don't know what she's brought him down to Ratchet of all bots for?" Megatron questioned, his dark optics holding that bright baby blue one.

Bee shook his helm. "She didn't say. We'll probably find out pretty soon though."

"Yes," The colossal prince nodded. "I bet we shall after all of that. Well, I suppose we'll have to see about getting him somewhere to stay and alerting Optimus. I doubt he's any plans of leaving any time soon. Soundwave?"

"Already working on it." The silver mech nodded. "Though I've left telling your brother to you."

"Oh fun." A heavy roll of dark red optics made the silver mech's lips twitch ever so slightly. "I'm so looking forward to it. At least it's positive news . . . I think. Guess that will depend on what the mech really wants. For now though I guess we'll just assume positive. Isn't that what Optimus is always preaching? Benefit of the doubt or something?"

"Innocent until proven guilty." Soundwave corrected softly.

Snapping his long claws Megatron nodded shortly. "Yeah, that one. The one he stole from the humans. All that slag."

"You mean like he stole Freedom is the Right of All Beings from you?"

"Yep." Popping the 'p' Megatron hid a growing chuckle even while the little yellow mechling fluttered his antennas and doorwings in amusement. At least somebot appreciated his humor. "Anyway, lots of slag to do. Worrying about the guest is your mechs problem until Optimus decides to deal with it. Now are you done trying to kill each other over a femme who would slap you all should she realize you were doing it about it her. Can you handle dealing with that?"

The twins said nothing, but nodded slowly behind Bumblebee.

Jazz still refused to lift his stare from the floor as he stood there beside Prowl on one end of the hall, but when Megatron let out a less then pleased sound at being ignored he nodded once rather stiffly. Prowl sighed beside him as he said.

"I'll handle it."

"See that you do." And with that the huge mech turned away. Heading the direction he could sense both his brothers so that he would only have to explain this idiocy once. Made his life easier after all.

Soundwave stood just a moment longer, those knowing red optics sweeping across the semi-circle of mechs until they rested on the brightly colored mechling standing in the center. One optic ridge lifting ever so slightly was all the real question that needed to be asked.

Understanding flashing through those bright blue pools as the young mech gave a short nod, doorwings casting out at the bottoms in a slanted angle.

Alright then. Soundwave nodded to the silent answer to his unspoken question. Turning away and leaving them all too it. Bumblebee really was the best choice to leave with them. For none of them would so much as blemish his paint and he would make sure no further energon was shed.

Good.

Less mess that had to be explained to Optimus.

It was for the better. Soundwave already knew how rattled he was going to be after that meeting. There was a reason after all, Soundwave had chosen to leave his report to Magnus and not be there to see how the Prime took his creations' findings.

However, it was time to go and do damage control. Least Elita be forced to smack them all up side the helms.

He turned then, striding as silently and as swiftly as a ghost down the hall after his oldest friend leaving the rest of them standing there in the hall. Most of them refusing to look at each other while the youngest of them flickered his stare back and forth between the two pairs of mates. Each invested in a damaged little femme for both the same and very different reasons. Both equally as right in their tempers this morning, but considering Sunstreaker was still standing there with energon dripping down his chin Bumblebee was more than ready to call them all stupid and be done with it.

Letting out a huff of a breath, the young mech turned away from Jazz and Prowl. Spinning on his heels to face the twins he walked the short distance back to Sunstreaker. Digging in his subspace pocket as he went, he found what he was looking for with a few flicks of his wrist. Pulling out the small white box to flip it open. Pulling out a plastic packet he flicked the rest of the box back into the pocket. Tugging at the edges to tear the little packet open he finally lifted his gaze away from the revealed small cool, wet, white cloth. Finding dark blue optics staring back at him was no surprise. He just reached out with his free hand to tug at Sunstreaker's fingers hanging limply at his sides after he had retracted his blades.

For a nano the big golden mech blinked at him, but another slight tug of his fingers had him letting out a tired sigh. Going down slowly on one knee he brought himself level with Bumblebee's reaching hands. Closing his optics with a low hum deep in his chest when the young yellow mech leaned into his side and went to work. Bringing up the small, cool, white cloth he wiped carefully at Sunny's stinging cheek.

Mindful of when the protoform twitched around his closed optics to the sting of the touch, humming softly back from high in his throat to keep the huge mech still long enough to be tended to. He was not above pulling the youngling card—or youngling noises in this case—to play on old instinct with the mech to hold him still.

The hall was quiet, only the sound of five different mechs breathing—two of which breathed in harmony with each other—echoing around them while the red twin hoovered to the side of the small mech and his brother. Dark optics slipping between his other half and their little half pint as Bee quickly but carefully whipped at the energon sliding sluggishly down the side of his faceplate.

Optics zeroed in on his task Bee whipped softly at the four thin lines of energon until finally he found the source of the slide underneath. Four thin scrapes of claws running from the arch of Sunny's cheekstrut to the ridge of his jaw. They were not deep, now that Bee got a good look at them. Hardly more than scrapes really, compared to what Jazz could do when he swung his claws. It was clear the silver mech hadn't actually wanted to hurt the mech.

Still though, hitting Sunny in the face was never a good idea.

The golden mech had a right to be as angry for that, but then again, Jazz had a right to be angry too.

Bee wasn't here to decide who had a right to be pissed at who though. He'd much prefer if they'd stop squabbling like sparklings over a femme who if she found out about it would somehow blame herself and make everything all that much worse.

So, he stood there next to the kneeling frontliner and swiped carefully at the energon on his cheek until it finally stopped flowing. The big mech's self-repair finally able to catch up with the flow now that it had been slowed.

Patting lightly at the scrapes that would heal in less than an orn he watched as the tiny flicker of nanites beneath protoform finally started sealing. A few more light pats with the corner of the cloth and finally Bumblebee stepped back. Gaze flickering over his work as the last of the repair nanites sealed into place over the scrape. Sunstreaker twitching his cheek a few times at the feel before his optics slipped open to stare over at the small yellow mech striped in black beside him.

Offering up a hesitant smile Bumblebee leaned forward just enough to nuzzle lightly at the bottom of Sunstreaker's now cleaned off chin. It got him a low, deep, warm rumble that the golden mech had not made for him in quite a few vorns. A soft smile curling up the sides of Sunstreaker's lips as he dipped his chin back against the smaller helm rubbing at the bottom of it. Rubbing a few strong digs back before finally he reached out to cup the little mech around the back of the neck. Pulling him closer for a short side hug that made Bee purr deeply against him until Sunstreaker pushed himself back up right. Letting Bee stay close, energy fields flexing together.

Glancing up Bee found Sides' warm optics shinning down at him with a bubbling emotion that had he not known these two almost as long as he'd been alive he probably wouldn't have recognized. He did know them as well as he did though.

Which was why he smiled back at them with the full force of his megawatt grin.

The affection filled knuckle the red mech gave him between the antennas making him bat playfully at the hand.

He knew there wasn't any putting it off longer than that though. So he cast his gaze back across the hall to find Jazz and Prowl staring back at the three of them.

Well, at least the plan worked.

The twins calmed down and Jazz collected himself enough to look up. He still don't look happy, but he was at least looking.

For a nano or two that visor covered blue gaze stared hard between the two larger mechs who straightened their back struts and rolled back their shoulders to it. Sunstreaker's arm, still loosely dangling between his doorwings, flexed a little. Though weather it was wanting to pull the young mech closer or remove him from the line of fire, Bee didn't know.

So he just stood where he was, watching the four of them. Because he couldn't do anything else. They had to work this one out for themselves.

Then, finally, Jazz breathed. "Why would you do that? That? Of all things. You know how she is, you know how she thinks. What is she supposed to make of that, mechs? What are any of us? Neither of you are stupid, why act like it?"

Sideswipe shifted uncomfortably where he stood. Arms lifting to cross defensively across his chest as he moved closer into his elder twin's side. Sunstreaker shifted just enough to give him a place to press without making it look obvious while he gaze back across at Jazz and Prowl.

"We needed to merge." Was the simple answer the golden mech gave. His expression tight to go along with his frame. Sideswipe shifted a little closer to him as he sighed.

"We . . . didn't mean to . . . let her know. Figured she'd recharge a while longer then she did. It's not an excuse, but . . . we really did need to."

Prowl's doorwings shifted behind him at that, processor working over the words searching for the meaning underneath. Jazz huffed beside him though. An optic ridge lifting over the rim of his visor.

"And you couldn't wait?"

"No." Sunstreaker bit back, voice lowering into a bit of a growl at that. "We couldn't."

Oh. It clicked, in Bee's processor at least. He could see the thought work through Prowl as well, but Jazz was still angry. Protective and scared and jumpy all over things he couldn't change and didn't know if he should.

"Why?" He ground back.

"In case you have forgotten, Jazz." Sideswipe snapped out. "She's been attached to our hips since she got here. She's been with us for over half a vorn. For the last half of most of it she's recharged with us. All orn, every orn, we're with her. We've only been alone when she ran away and when she got the new visor. Not that it's any of your slaggin' business but that whole time we've merged once. Once since she got here. Half a damn vorn and one merge. How many times have you two merged in that time, huh!?"

Jazz flinched a little at that, something guilty coming to life behind his visor. Something far more visible in the way Prowl's doorwings lowered behind his back.

"Yeah. That's what I thought." Sides snorted, optics narrowing as he went on. "We're twins, mech. We require a lot more connection then normal sparkmates do. So yeah, we needed to merge. Right then. And we didn't think she'd even know about it. She was exhausted and stressed, I figured she'd recharge for at least a bream longer than that. Likely, she would have had I shut the damn door all the way. But it is what it is now, we'll fix it. Somehow. We have to. But you don't get to bristle up about this, Jazz. Not to us. You know slaggin' well we'll never do anything to hurt her. Not if we can help it. We didn't mean to spook her, we get why she did, we feel slaggin' awful. Thanks ever so much for making it worse! But we're trying, mech. We've got no idea what we're slaggin' doing here! But we are trying, don't you get that!?"

The last bit was a half shout that the crimson mech swallowed back the end of as best as he could. He'd hadn't meant to start shouting again, hadn't been the plan, but there it was all the same.

The aftermath of that leaving him quietly panting just a bit while he flicked his optics away. Sinking back into the silent strength that was Sunstreaker as his brother stood there beside him staring. Blaming himself and not saying anything.

"And now Nook's back." Sides whispered, fear tilting his tone just a tad as he glanced back over his shoulder toward the medical bay they had left her there with him in. "What the slag are we supposed to do now?"

"We'll help." Prowl said the words slowly, measured, waiting until the two mechs looked up again in slight bemusement before he went on. "You two know that don't you?"

"Help with what?" Sunstreaker growled softly back. "Figure out how to court a femme terrified of bonds? Figure out how to deal with finding the one spark in the whole damn universe that can fit with ours only to know she's been broken so much by others she's going to run screaming from us the nano she figures out she's wrong. That the only reason she trusts us, because she doesn't think we look at her and see anything but responsibility, is wrong. That we do look at her and see a femme. See the spark. That we want it. You're gonna help with that? You two? Her sire she's not sure she wants to talk to and his mate. She's as scared of you two right now as she would be that, you know that."

"And yet you tried to talk to her about it, about me, didn't you?" Jazz's words were hushed, his claws rubbing together in a nervous gesture he almost never showed outside his berthroom and the safety of Prowl.

Both Sunny and Sides paused at that.

Dark optics narrowing with thought until slowly, Sides nodded. "Yeah. After you finally listened to our growling and gave her some space. We did try and talk to her about it."

"Must have worked, huh?" Jazz told them evenly, gaze locked on theirs. "Because she came and talked to me."

Sunstreaker shrugged. "She always was going to do that. She's too brave for her own good."

"Yeah." Jazz nodded. "To the last part at least. I didn't figure she'd ever talk to me again. At least not for another forty vorns or so. If I could manage to get her to let me stay around that long. But there she was, wanting answers, and why?"

"Because she deserves them." Sides huffed back.

"Yes, but who told her that?"

The twins paused then, the thought making them both shift a bit on their peds while they looked back at Jazz.

"Yeah," Jazz nodded. "You two. I owe you for that mechs, I'm not stupid enough to not know that. And now that you've said it. Yes, I get it, I knew you wouldn't do that to . . . I don't know try and pressure her or something."

Both mechs bristled up like angry hounds, snarls half way built on their lips before Jazz slight smirk cut them off.

"See? I know you mechs, and we all should have taken that little biological fact into consideration the longer she has been with you."

For a klick the twins blinked at him until Sideswipe snapped. "Then why the pit did you get so mad, Jazz?"

"I don't know." He sighed, shrugged his shoulders as he picked absentmindedly at his armor with a sharp claw until Prowl reached over and wrapped his hand up in his own. "I'm scared to lose her, I guess. She slipped through my claws twice already. I . . . I can't lose her again. I was scared she'd get jumpy, too jumpy, and bolt from you, I suppose. We all know the only reason she came back was because of you two. If it had just been me, she'd never have stopped running. If she becomes scared of you again, I guess I'm afraid there will be nothing at all to keep her here."

"There is Nook to deal with now." Sunstreaker pointed out with a half shrug.

"Yes." Prowl drew in a long breath, his doorwings flexing behind him. "There is."

"Funny how we were trying so hard to bring him back before and now when we're all scared of what it will do with her he just shows back up." Sides snorted in a humorless huff.

"He's here for her." Jazz said softly. "We all know that. That's not the problem. The problem is what does he plan to do now that he is here, and how is she going to deal with it. The only way we know that is we let it happen, mechs. You think you're going to be able to share?"

"Do you?" Sunstreaker shot back, optics dark and brooding.

Jazz's only response was the thin smirk that crawled up his lips.

They likely would have left it at that too. For the tension was gone between them, and there were no more answers to be had. The four of them reminded again that they all really were on the same side when it came to Jynx. Breathing a little easier between them even if nothing was really solved.

For there were other things to attend to now. Like dealing with Ratchet's fit that would undoubtedly come later, Optimus opinion on matters, and figuring out just how to handle Nook back with Jynx.

However, that was when Bumblebee finally decided to speak back up again. The young yellow mech had been very quiet after they started talking among themselves again. Standing in his place against Sunstreaker simply watching his family sort themselves out again. Near the end of it though he'd found himself distracted.

Spark picking up on something different in the flow of energies around him. The feeling leaving his focus to narrow down until the world faded out, leaving a different plane in its place. What Bee found there among the endless fields of black streaked with ribbons of glowing blue light made his own spark clench uneasily in his chest.

He looked, picked, and prodded as much as he was able without being intrusive as the mechs had talked. Optics narrowed slightly into the middle distance watching something no bot else could see.

Only when the other mechs trailed off into silence did he quietly murmur.

"Sunny?"

Shifting to turn his focus down to the small mech tucked into his side the golden mech hummed. "What is it, Half Pint?"

"What is . . . ?" Mouth working for a moment unable to come up with anything he finally just reached out and pointed at Sunstreaker's chest. "That?"

The twins blinked, startled.

Both naturally looking down to their frames in search of what the little mech was asking about until they both realized it was what was inside that Bee was looking at now. He had that faraway look in his optics that he got when he was staring at something nobot else could see.

The two of them were confused for a moment until the thought registered.

Oh. The thought bounced between them. He can see it.

"There is . . . something there?" Bee went on, helm tilting as he thought. His antennas wiggling atop his helm while his processor worked.

"Yeah," Sideswipe told him quietly.

"It's like a hole?" That small pale grey faceplate mixed here and there with the yellow that framed it scrunched up at the thought. His optics finally focusing again to flicker up to the mirrored darker shade.

"Something like that." Sides nodded, a tired look in his optics.

Bee blinked for a moment, his thoughts rolling, before a low whine left him and he shifted uneasy on his peds. "That . . . hurts."

"In a way." Sunstreaker admitted, not wanting to scare the little mech.

"But . . . but . . . your bond is . . . I don't . . . ."

"It wants Jynx, mechling." Sideswipe told him softly, reaching out to knuckle at those suddenly pinned down antennas to try and get them to stop looking so stupidly sad. "It's finished what it started a while back and it's in no confusing terms letting us know. Reason we had to do what we did. Feels a little too much like spark withdrawal for us to think all that clearly, but it's fine, mechling. We're fine. Don't worry about it. We'll figure it out."

"Spark withdrawal?" Bee breathed, optics widening while he stared between the two brothers. He might not have been alive the last time these two went into something like that, but that didn't mean he didn't know the stories. That didn't mean he didn't know the truth.

That didn't mean he didn't fear the concept with every part in his frame.

"Bumblebee," Sideswipe rumbled at him, his grip slipping down to wrap around the back of his neck. "Calm down, little one. It's okay."

"Spark withdrawal is not okay!" Bee snapped, more than a little panic creeping into his voice as he plastered himself up along Sunstreaker's side. Arms wrapping tight around the golden brother. Sunny shifted his arm to wrap tightly back around Bee's back. Slotting the limb between pinned down doorwings in an effort to get them to flicker back up a little before they hurt themselves.

"No, but we're okay." For now.

"You don't feel okay!"

"So maybe we need to have a talk with Ratchet." Sides admitted softly. "And we will, but it's alright, Bee. We promise, we'll be fine. We're working on it."

Bumblebee made a high, unhappy whine in the back of his throat, slotting himself more firmly against Sunstreaker's side. Hiding his faceplate away in the strong plating of his abs as his arms tightened around as much of the mech as he could reach.

The golden brother stared down at the top of that bowed helm, fingers rubbing soft circles into the joints of his winglets with a stiff look on his faceplate. Sideswipe watched them both for a moment before flicking his gaze across the hall to find Prowl and Jazz watching them with a mix of worry and unease. A question shinning in Prowl's optics and Jazz's visor that they wouldn't ask out loud while Bee was around to hear it.

Sideswipe saw it for what it was though.

His lips thinning as he slowly shook his helm.

Because no, no they weren't completely okay, but they were still alright.

And yes, they would say something when they weren't. Neither brother was willing to face what might happen should they let their spark get volatile again. They feared it just as much as those that had once seen it did.

"We're working on it." Was all Sideswipe said, the truth behind those words shinning in his optics enough that Jazz and Prowl nodded to it.

It was all any of them could do for now.


How about a little change in perspective for you all? It was about time Megatron strutted back in. He's got just as much riding on a few newly discovered things as the others. I also just love playing with him. So there you go.

The twins do seriously need to go have that talk with Ratchet though. Spark withdrawal is nothing not play at.

Talking that out with Jazz and Prowl was a little more pressing at the moment though.

Also, Bumblebee is too cute for anyone's good.

I hope you all liked it. I'm looking forward to seeing what you all thought! Thank you for reading and reviewing! I love you all!

See you next chapter!

-Jaycee