A/N: Alright, folks--this is not precisely a sequel. In fact, it was supposed to be a one-shot. Except, somehow, it just sort of took over and started writing itself and snowballed out of control.


Anyway, this will probably only be 2 (at most 3) chapters. (which is what I told myself about my last fic... I'm seeing a pattern here...)

Special thanks go to VAWitch for beta-ing this and making some very helpful suggestions. XD

"So I heard you got confined to quarters," Ratchet said quietly, watching the yellow mech stare sullenly at a rather violent video game. Pretending not to hear him, Sunstreaker snarled when his character died and slammed the 'off' switch on the console. He tossed the controller across the room and flopped down on the berth with his arms crossed, looking at the ceiling.

"Fraggit, Sunny, are you gonna talk to me or pout like a spoiled sparkling?" Ratchet walked over to sit beside the Lamborghini on the berth.

Sunstreaker gave him a cursory glance. "What does it matter?" he growled. "You're mad at me too."

Ratchet cycled his vents in a frustrated sigh. "Well, considering the shape Gears was in when they brought him to me, I have a right to be angry—but I've already decided not to yell at you over it. From what I understand, Prime and Prowl have already done a fine job of browbeating you. What I want to know is why. What did he do to set you off, Sunstreaker?"

"Little fragger was asking for it, running his mouth,' Sunstreaker muttered uneasily, but he scooted around so that his head was lying in the medic's lap, tacitly asking for comfort.

Ratchet gave it to him, stroking the vents that framed his lover's face reassuringly. The yellow Lamborghini shuttered his optics, allowing himself to relax by degrees, and when he reopened his optics to look up at Ratchet they were so full of a complete trust that the medic's spark leaped painfully in its casing.

"Surely you knew better than to listen to anything that minibot says," Ratchet said reproachfully, and knew it was the wrong thing to say when Sunstreaker's expression hardened.

"That minibot should know better than to open his fragging mouth," he seethed furiously. "What you and I do together is none of his business."

Ah—so that's what this was about.

"You almost killed him, Sunny," the medic reminded him grimly.

"He shouldn't have said those things about you," Sunstreaker reiterated. "Besides, if I had wanted him dead, he would be. I knew what I was doing," he added in a flat voice.

Ratchet felt his energon run cold at this blatant reminder of just what kind of mech he had bedded down with—and still he couldn't help but marvel at how he'd managed to win the love of so savage a being.

There was silence for a few moments as Sunstreaker let the medic's touch soothe him once again—and he suddenly felt compelled to explain himself to this mech who was the only one in the whole galaxy that cared for him besides Sideswipe.

"He said—" his vocalizer hitched a little "—he said that the only reason you have anything to do with a killer like me is because Sideswipe wouldn't have you otherwise." His voice died completely, and he turned his head so that his face was hidden in the medic's lap. He was startled into looking back up when Ratchet swore angrily.

"That little glitch! He'll wish he were scrap when I'm done with him," the white mech snarled, red fingers tightening on yellow armor. He opened his mouth to rant some more, but was interrupted by Sunstreaker's pleading voice.

"It's not true, is it Ratchet?" the Lamborghini asked desperately.

Ratchet shuddered with fury at the hurt and doubt lacing the question. He responded with the first thing that crossed his processors: he leaned down and kissed Sunstreaker fiercely, and Sunstreaker responded exactly as he had expected him to—with instant, white-hot desire.

It was a perfect distraction; if there was one thing these past few weeks as the twins' lover had taught him, it was that you didn't pull a maneuver like this on Sunstreaker without ending up flat on your back underneath him.

Not that Ratchet minded.

The brothers were as different as night and day when it came the physical aspect of their relationship, and the medic had come to enjoy spending time with each of them separately as much as he did when they teamed up on him.

Sideswipe was far from subtle when it came to seduction, but he could be very gentle and considerate when he wanted. Sunstreaker, on the other hand, was a battering ram to the senses, wild and unrestrained.

Once, Ratchet had walked into the medbay after a particularly intense coupling and had been surprised when Wheeljack, optics bright with fury, had demanded to know what Sunstreaker had done to him.

Still in a pleasant haze from the afterglow, it had taken him a moment to realize that he was covered in scrapes and dents and streaks of yellow paint. He had looked back up at his friend and said, a little helplessly, "Well, it felt good at the time." 'Jack had simply stared at him incredulously before setting himself to repairing the myriad dings and scratches, muttering under his breath about stupid medics who had the common sense of an over-energized Dinobot. He had only paused in his monologue long enough to scowl at Ratchet and dare him to say one word the next time the medic had to patch him up after one of his inventions blew up in his face.

His mind jolted back to the present when Sunstreaker shoved him back on the berth and straddled him, never breaking the kiss as his fingers probed the seams of the medic's armor. The yellow mech was shaking and whining with need above him, already desperately trying to establish a connection even though it had been mere moments since they began. Seeing Sunstreaker's difficulty and mounting frustration, Ratchet gently put a halt to his unsteady attempts and did it for him—and the Lamborghini sighed with relief and sank gratefully into his lover's arms.

As always, interfacing with Sunstreaker was like riding a whirlwind of sensation and emotion—violent and earth-shattering. The entire encounter could not have lasted more than five minutes, but by the end they were both as trembling and shaken as if they had just fought Megatron himself.

"Don't ever think for a moment that I don't love you," Ratchet said fiercely after he recovered enough to talk without his vocalizer shorting. Face buried against the medic's neck, Sunstreaker nodded once, jerkily, but made no move to pull away, even when the door cycled open to admit his brother.

To Sideswipe's credit, he didn't say anything as he took in the sight of them entwined on the berth, just calmly locked the door and walked over to sit beside them. He carefully laid a hand on his brother's back between the shoulder plates and stayed like that for a few moments before he spoke.

"You ok?" he asked softly, and Sunstreaker just nodded again, wordlessly. Sideswipe sighed and rubbed his free hand over his face.

"Primus, Sunny! What were you thinking? I don't know how I managed to convince Prime to let me keep an optic on you instead of throwing you in the brig again—though I'd say Ratchet's being here weighed pretty heavily in the decision. Primus!" he repeated. "It's bad enough I have to go out on patrol and leave you behind without coming back to find out that you've been mauling the minibots while I'm gone. One of these days I'm just going to leave you to clean up your own messes." He looked like he might say more, but Ratchet cut him off angrily when Sunstreaker just shrank in on himself instead of rising to his own defense.

"That's enough, Sides," he said, wrapping his arms a little tighter around the yellow twin. "It wasn't right, what Sunny did to Gears, but I can't say it was right for Gears to say what he did to Sunstreaker." Sides just gaped at him like a landed fish for a moment, mouth opening and closing in surprise, before shuttering his optics and giving a short, bitter bark of laughter.

"That little fragger has a death-wish, doesn't he," the red Lamborghini muttered, shaking his head. "Fraggit, they know all of his buttons and just how to push them. Do they like being whaled on?"

Ratchet grunted, sitting up so that Sunstreaker was forced to roll off of him. "If Gears and Cliffjumper could learn to keep their traps shut, they wouldn't be in the medbay nearly as often," the white mech said, reaching out to gather the yellow twin back into his arms before he could get upset about being pushed away. "What I can't figure out is why you two don't say something about it to Prime."

Sideswipe snorted. "Yeah—'Sorry to bother you, Optimus, but Cliffjumper just won't stop picking on me'—that'll fly like a lead balloon." He gave the medic a dirty look. "I'm not a tattle-tale, Ratchet, and neither is Sunstreaker. If Prime can't see what's right under his nose, I'm not going to be the one to enlighten him."

Ratchet made a frustrated sound. "If you don't start defending yourselves to him, this is going to continue to happen. No one is going to admit to seeing Gears provoke Sunstreaker—"

"That's because no one was there for that part," Sunstreaker interrupted, lifting his head from where he had pillowed it on the medic's shoulder. "They must've heard the noise, though, because they all poured in to watch the fight. Primus, that little glitch left blue streaks on my paint," he added, rubbing angrily at one such discolored patch.

"You did a little more than scuff his paint, Sunstreaker," Ratchet replied dryly. "Did you ever stop to think that it's going to take me forever to put him back together? And in the meantime I get to listen to him run his vocalizer." He checked his chrono, and sighed. "Look, I have to get back to the medbay; my shift's not over yet. I just came to check on Sunstreaker, and I've got Wheeljack covering for me until I get back. Will you be alright if I leave?" He directed the last at Sunstreaker, and the yellow mech nodded.

"Sides is here now…" he replied hesitantly.

Sideswipe nodded in agreement. "I won't leave him alone. Besides, I've been doing this a lot longer than you have," he said, with no small amount of ironic amusement—and it was certainly true that the red Lamborghini had more experience at performing damage control over his brother's rampages than Ratchet did.

Though he was fairly certain it had never occurred to Sideswipe to use the medic's favored method of 'distraction'.

Sunstreaker confirmed it a moment later when he commented, "But he's so much better at it than you are," with a sly look at his brother.

"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response," Sideswipe growled. He stood up so that Ratchet could get to his feet, and both twins followed him to the door. The medic kissed each of his lovers gently—and was stopped on his way out by a hand on his arm just above the elbow-joint.

"Don't say anything about this," Sideswipe said quietly. "We've always dealt with it on our own, and we don't need anyone butting in because they feel sorry for us."

Ratchet regarded him for a moment with an unreadable expression. "I can't promise I won't comply with a direct order from Prime, but I won't go running my vocalizer." His optics narrowed. "Trust me a little more than that," he added, and Sides lowered his gaze at the rebuke in the medic's voice.

"We trust you," Sunstreaker said in a low voice, stepping up to wrap his arms around Ratchet. "I love you," he breathed in the white mech's audios so that his brother couldn't hear it, and then pulled away to go back to his video game as though nothing had happened. Ratchet's spark fairly sang—he found himself treasuring every time that he managed to pull that admission from the vainglorious yellow twin.

"Ya know, that dreamy little smile makes you look really stupid," Sideswipe teased.

And then he crashed back down to Earth.

"Shut it, Sideswipe." He shoved the red mech playfully. Sideswipe shoved him back, and it almost degenerated into a wrestling match—which probably would have further degenerated into another bout of interfacing, knowing Sideswipe—until Sides reminded him that Wheeljack would probably take his head off if he didn't get back to the medbay soon. Ratchet nodded reluctantly, and, kissing the red twin one more time, he took his leave.

"What kept you?" Wheeljack asked, obviously irritated. "I swear, if you tell me you were interfacing with one of them again, I will dismantle you," he added, waving a laser-cutter at his friend.

"Alright, then, I won't tell you," Ratchet replied blandly, and laughed when the inventor cursed.

"You're as insatiable as a youngling with his first partner, I swear," 'Jack grumbled.

Ratchet snorted. "It's more like they're insatiable. I'm too old to be this—what was the human word? Oh yes—horny all the time. Sometimes I wonder if they're not trying to give me a CPU meltdown." He regarded the mangled wreck of a minibot that lay on one of his repair tables grimly. "Frag, but this is a mess," he sighed, reaching for a toolkit and trying to decide where to start.

"He's really done it this time," Wheeljack said, going back to cutting away the ruined armor. "I'm surprised that Prime has remanded him into Sideswipe's custody after this."

"It surprised Sideswipe, too." Ratchet bent to begin removing a cluster of burnt wiring.

"So why did he do it?" the engineer asked. "Surely he had to know that attacking a fellow Autobot would frag Optimus off royally. Has he finally lost it?"

Ratchet shot his friend a sour glare. "Look, Sunstreaker may be neurotic but he's not completely crazy, not yet. And trust me, I would be the first to let everyone know if he had 'lost it'—I know very well just how dangerous he can be." He paused to replace the fried wiring he had just removed with new. "There is always—always—a reason behind Sunstreaker's behavior, it's just that most mechs don't look for it."

"Slaggit, Ratchet, I know you love him, but you can't stand there and tell me that Gears deserved this," Wheeljack said hotly, indicating the twisted frame lying in front of them.

Ratchet sagged at that, looking defeated, then raised optics burning with anger back up to bore into Wheeljack's own. "No… Gears did not deserve getting the beating of his life. But he sure as slag should have been smart enough to not taunt Sunstreaker."

Wheeljack blinked in confusion. "What do you mean? Everyone who witnessed it said that ol' Sunshine just attacked without warning."

"Yes, I do think that explanations are in order," a deep voice interrupted, and they looked up from their argument to see Optimus Prime enter the medbay. Ratchet merely scowled and turned back to his work.

"How is he?" Prime asked, coming to stand beside the CMO.

"Who? Gears, or Sunstreaker?" Ratchet returned irritably.

"Both," the Autobot leader rumbled gently. For a moment, Optimus wondered if the medic would answer, then:

"Gears will live—but he'll just about have to be rebuilt from scratch. As for Sunstreaker… well, he's calmer now than he was. And Sideswipe is with him." Ratchet fell silent after that, refusing to look up at his commanding officer.

Optimus sighed at the CMO's defensive tone, warm air hissing out of his vents. He had no desire to antagonize Ratchet, but this was such a touchy situation, made more so by the medic's emotional involvement with the Lamborghini twins. He could not really see a delicate way around this—

"He's not crazy, Optimus. Just very… defensive," Ratchet said quietly. "It doesn't help that he's programmed for war, and his first response to anything he perceives as threatening is violence. It's not really something he can help."

"He needs to learn to overcome his programming," Prime replied, irritated despite himself. "He's not a mindless drone. He must learn to control himself if he is to be a productive member of this crew. We are Autobots—we do not just instigate brawls to settle our differences. Not to mention the fact that Gears is hardly a threat to Sunstreaker."

"Well, Sunstreaker's not the only one that needs to learn some self-control," Ratchet muttered savagely, removing a damaged servo with unnecessary force.

Prime cocked his head questioningly. "And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that if certain minibots would keep their derogatory comments to themselves, I wouldn't have to be saving them from their own stupidity. The humans have a saying: If you play with fire, expect to get burned," the medic replied coldly.

Prime was completely taken aback. "Do you mean to tell me that Gears provoked Sunstreaker?"

"It makes sense," Wheeljack offered hesitantly. "Everyone knows that Gears doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut." Wheeljack fell into uneasy silence when Prime's optics shifted to look at him.

"Look, can't you see I'm working here? Why don't you two go continue this discussion elsewhere so I can concentrate?" Ratchet demanded angrily, slapping both hands down on the edge of the repair table.

"I can see that you're getting a little defensive," Prime observed. He hesitated for a moment, then said gently, "Ratchet, if there's anything you know that might help Sunstreaker's case, you should tell me. We can certainly use all the help we can get in trying to prevent these little… temper-fits." He received no response.

He's ignoring me, Prime thought incredulously. "Look, I can order you to tell me," he reminded the medic quietly.

"Order away," Ratchet shot back.

Optimus winced at that. "You realize that if you fail to comply, I will be forced to have you spend a night in the brig—and you know that Sunstreaker won't like that any more than you will."

The medic's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Yeah," he muttered. He shot Prime a sour look. "Thanks so much for backing me into a corner, Optimus," he said sarcastically. "Such a wonderful friend you are."

Sorrow flashed across Prime's face for a moment before his expression hardened. "I am sorry, Ratchet, but something must be done. I'm ordering you to tell me what you know of this matter."

The CMO expelled all of the air out of his vents in a long sigh. "Fine. Sunstreaker is very insecure about our… relationship. Gears played into that by telling him that I am only interested in him because of his brother." His optics flashed up to meet his commanding officer's. "It was a low trick, Optimus, and I don't blame Sunny for being hurt and angry because of it. It took a lot of doing to reassure him, and I still don't think he's completely at ease over this—he's well aware that most of the mechs on base wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole, and that those same mechs are generally on good terms with his brother. He's also well aware that Sideswipe refuses to get involved with someone that won't accept both of them. It's not such a big leap from knowing all that to thinking that someone might be using him," he added fiercely. "It doesn't help that he actually believes everything he gets taunted with—and most of the taunting is very mean-spirited. Neither Gears nor any of the others who get themselves slagged courtesy of Sunstreaker are as innocent as they would have you believe."

"I… see. And how long has this been going on?" Optimus asked, looking at Gears appraisingly.

Ratchet snorted. "Frag if I know. Trying to get something like that out of either twin is like—to use a human phrase—trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. Sides is just as closemouthed about it as Sunny." He paused for a moment, thinking. "If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that it's been going on under our noses the whole time, and Sunstreaker is just too proud to say anything about it—and Sideswipe would never break his brother's trust with something this personal."

Prime nodded. "I can see that I shall have to have a word with some of the minibots, as well as Sunstreaker," he rumbled grimly.

Ratchet shook his head. "Let me deal with Sunstreaker, Optimus," he argued. "I'll get him calmed down, and keep him from attacking anyone else, as long as you can keep the others from harassing him." When it looked like Optimus might refuse, he added earnestly, "I beg you."

Prime gave him a hard stare, then, abruptly, his expression softened and he sighed. "Very well… but he's still confined to quarters for the next two weeks. If I do not see an improvement by then, it's into the brig with him until something can be done about him. Understood?"

"Yessir," Ratchet replied quietly.

Optimus nodded. "Let me know when he's online," he said, indicating the stasis-locked Gears.

"Will do!" Wheeljack chirped, a little nervously. Ratchet merely nodded, and Prime left.

"You do like to live dangerously," the engineer commented dryly. "It's a good thing he likes you, or I think you'd be spending the night locked up in a cell."

"I'm entitled to a little insubordination," Ratchet muttered, rubbing a hand over his face. "I've put his aft back together more times than I can count. He owes me one."

"Yeah, looks like Sunstreaker owes ya one, too, now… Slaggit, Ratch, no one's been able to civilize him so far, what makes you think you can keep your word to Prime?"

"Civilize him?" the medic echoed. "I don't think it's possible to civilize him—but maybe I can convince him it's in his better interest to at least ignore what they say to him." He suddenly favored his friend with an evil smile. "Not to mention the fact that Prime's not the only one who's going to have a word with a few minibots…"

Wheeljack laughed outright. "You know, I don't think there's a mech on this base that doesn't know better than to run afoul of your temper!"

"With good reason," Ratchet replied affably. "There are not many mechs that can nail a Lambo in the head with a wrench at thirty paces." He turned back toward the unfortunate Gears. "Now, let's get this fragger back to the land of the functioning."