EDIT: ffn decided to eat part of my dialogue because of the way it was formatted; the fix makes ryagelle unhappy, but at least it's in there now x_x


"Ratchet's worried about you," Sideswipe said without preamble after invading Wheeljack's lab one evening. His brother was still being reconstructed in the medbay; Sunstreaker must have been out of danger if the red mech was willing to leave his twin and his bondmate to pester the engineer.

"Is he now?" Wheeljack asked noncommittally, not turning from his calculations. He had just finished his own stint in the medbay, and had only left because Sunstreaker was the last mech requiring repairs—Ratchet insisted on doing all of the work on him by himself.

"You know slagging well that he is," Sideswipe replied, irritated.

Wheeljack snorted. "I don't know why he would be," he said calmly, finally turning to face the Lamborghini.

"Yes you do," Sideswipe insisted, crossing his arms over his chestplate and narrowing his optics.

The engineer sighed. "Look, Sideswipe, don't you have anything better to do?" he asked wearily.

"Nope," the red twin said stubbornly.

"Go pester someone else," the engineer snapped, in no mood to deal with the red demon's eccentricities.

"I don't want to," was the petulant reply.

Wheeljack made an inarticulate noise of frustration.

"C'mon, 'Jack," Sideswipe wheedled. "Just tell me what's wrong. Maybe we can help?"

"I doubt that," the inventor said, giving his unwelcome guest a pointed look.

"Why n— Oh." Wheeljack could almost hear the gears turning in Sideswipe's head as he put two and two together. "It's not fair that you should be alone when Ratchet's with us, is it?" he asked softly, with uncanny perception. Wheeljack wondered if the medic were giving him pointers. "And Ratch's been spending so much time with us lately…" He trailed off uncertainly.

"Look, don't worry about me," Wheeljack insisted, pushing past the Lamborghini to head for the common room and get some energon.

"Wait, wait, wait!" Sideswipe cried, catching his arm and, as Wheeljack watched curiously, he produced two brimming-full cubes from subspace and held them out to him. "Here," he said, "a peace offering." He smiled encouragingly when Wheeljack sighed and took one.

"You're bound and determined to be a pain in my tailpipe, aren't you?" the engineer asked, sounding resigned. He missed the hurt that flashed across Sideswipe's features—when he looked back up, the red twin had his usual 'I'm an idiot' grin plastered across his faceplate.

"Yup," he replied cheerfully.

"Did Ratchet put you up to this?" Wheeljack asked suspiciously.

"Maybe," Sideswipe's tone was unmistakably sly.

"I'll make sure to beat him for siccing you on me when I get hold of him, then," the Lancia grumbled half-heartedly. It eased some of the loneliness in his spark though, to know that his old friend still cared about him enough to send his bondmate to harass him about his well-being even when he himself couldn't come—and Wheeljack also had to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Sideswipe wasn't concerned for more than just Ratchet's sake, as well. After all, he had always got on well with the red trickster, despite the pranks that Sideswipe tended to play on whoever caught his fancy at the moment.

Sideswipe laughed at him. "I'll hold him down for you," he offered, and Wheeljack couldn't help but chuckle.

Ratchet let himself into the lab just in time to hear the last two comments and said dryly, "You'll do it over my dead body—I'll sic Sunny on your afts. And you know that Sunstreaker has no problem with beating some manners into you, Sides." He patted the Lamborghini on the head and laughed when Sideswipe razzed him. Finally he turned to look expectantly at Wheeljack. "Well?"

"Well, what?"

"You know damn well 'what'!" Ratchet said testily, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Wheeljack needs a hug," Sideswipe commented blandly, ignoring the evil glare the inventor shot him. Wheeljack got a sinking feeling in his fuel tanks when the red mech's expression suddenly brightened. "I volunteer!" he announced, and pounced on the Lancia happily.

Wheeljack froze for a moment in Sideswipe's embrace, then sputtered and flailed, and somehow managed to shove the red warrior off while Ratchet just stood and gaped in stunned bemusement. "You fragging jerk!" Wheeljack snarled, glaring at Sideswipe, and didn't let himself think about how good it felt to have someone's—anyone's—arms around him for even a brief moment.

"That was a bit much, Sideswipe," Ratchet said, and the Lamborghini flinched a little at the medic's disapproving tone.

"Just trying to lighten the mood," Sides muttered, embarrassed. Wheeljack's expression softened despite himself.

"Yeah… I'm sorry—you just startled me, is all," he said, feeling uncomfortable. The awkward silence spread between them for a few more minutes, until both Ratchet and Sideswipe got that look on their faces that Wheeljack had come to realize meant they were communicating using their bond. Sideswipe looked questioningly at Ratchet, and left at the medic's nod.

"What was that about?" Wheeljack asked softly.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, Sunny's awake. He doesn't like to be left alone when he's injured, so Sides'll stay with him," Ratchet replied, equally soft. Wheeljack nodded thoughtfully, staring off into space.

He was startled when Ratchet gently touched his shoulder. "Are you sure you're alright, 'Jack?" the ambulance asked, all quiet concern.

"Of course, why wouldn't I be?" Wheeljack murmured, not meeting his friend's optics.

"C'mon, now, 'Jack, don't give me that slag," the medic snorted. "We've been friends too long for that—I know when something's bothering you."

For half a moment, the engineer considered lying and insisting he was fine, but Ratchet was right. They'd been friends for too long to hide things from one another now.

"Slag me if I'm not jealous, Ratch," he confessed sheepishly, still not looking at his old friend. "I see what you've got with those slagging twins and—I want it, so bad I can taste it. It's not that I'm not happy for you," he added hastily, seeing the startled look on Ratchet's face, "and Primus knows I'm glad that you've got someone to come home to at the end of the day—but… is it wrong for me to want something like that for myself?"

"No," Ratchet answered gently after a moment, and he put his arms around his friend. Wheeljack, for his part, allowed himself to be wrapped up in Ratchet's embrace without complaint.

Sideswipe abruptly stuck his head back in the door and scowled at them. "Hey, how come he rates a hug and I don't?" he asked the engineer irritably before the two of them could leap apart and pretend nothing had happened. "Never mind," he continued, waving off whatever reply they might have come up with. "You need to get out here, Ratch—Bluestreak's being too altruistic for his own good again. I caught him in the corridor trailing energon and coolant and trying to hide it."

"He what?" Wheeljack demanded, and they both rushed out into the hall where Sideswipe held the little gray Datsun captive by his doorwings.

"What the frag do you think you're doing, Blue?" Ratchet demanded, already going over the gunner's frame and trying to find where he was leaking at.

"Umm… well, you see, I was just going to my quarters to clean up and rest and I didn't really want to bother you since Sunstreaker was hurt and can you please let go of my doors, Sideswipe?" Bluestreak babbled, glancing nervously between the medic and the engineer and clutching his arm suspiciously close to his side. Ratchet noticed the movement and pried the limb away, wincing when he saw the dirt ground into the gash at the top of the Datsun's waist.

"You, mister, are going to the medbay, and that's that," Ratchet said firmly, taking hold of Bluestreak's other arm and dragging him along behind as he started off down the hall. Somehow, he had the feeling that the youngling wouldn't follow him on his own. Sideswipe and Wheeljack tagged along, as well, and they made an odd little procession as Ratchet force-marched his unwilling patient to the medbay.

"You should have said something about this immediately," the CMO scolded Bluestreak as he all but shoved the uncharacteristically silent gunner up onto a repair table. "Any one of us could have repaired this for you. You didn't have to sit and let it fester. Now you've got dirt all through your fuel and probably your coolant systems and they'll have to be flushed." He doused a cloth in cleaning solution and began clearing the worst of the muddy debris out of the wound.

Wheeljack, seeing how badly Bluestreak was trembling, laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Hey, you deserve to be repaired just as much as everyone else does—you're not bothering us if you're injured, Blue," he said, patting the young gunner comfortingly and earning a smile for his efforts.

The sudden shriek of monitoring equipment drew all optics to a nearby table, where Cliffjumper—one of the hardest hit in this battle—lay, recovering from his wounds.

"Frag!" Ratchet snarled, shoving the cleaning rag into Wheeljack's hands and heading for the minibot's side. "I had hoped that damned jury-rigged coolant pump would hold till we could get a new one…!"

"You can use one of mine," Sideswipe said quietly, startling the medic into staring at him incredulously.

"Are you crazy?" Ratchet demanded, hurriedly unfastening Cliffjumper's chest armor.

"No," the Lamborghini snorted. "And I'm not suicidal, either—but I am a warrior model, and you know just as well as I do that I have several redundant systems built in to keep me from bleeding out so easily. And before you ask, that's about as much as I know about my tech specs, too. Now take the damn pump," and he undid the clasps on a section of his own armor, revealing a small, secondary coolant pump.

"You don't even like Cliffjumper," the medic muttered, even as he drew another repair table over beside the minibot's and directed Sideswipe to lie on it.

"Doesn't mean I'll stand by and let the little pipsqueak die," Sideswipe replied levelly, obeying his bondmate's commands without question or hesitation.

Ratchet just grunted in reply, but his movements were no longer so hurried and stressed as he crimped the ends of the coolant lines leading into the little pump in his lover's chest and pulled it out. Coolant from the pump spilled across his hands and into Sideswipe's open armor, but neither paid it any mind as Ratchet turned his attention to the rapidly overheating minibot.

Wheeljack and Bluestreak stared at the exchange for a few moments, and then looked at each other in blank disbelief.

Had they actually seen Sideswipe willingly donate a part to a minibot?

Wheeljack just shook his head—he supposed stranger things had happened. "Well, Blue, looks like I'll be the one fixing you this time," he said, and suited actions to words by gently taking up where Ratchet had left off and finishing the removal of the mess still in the gunner's innards. "I'll start flushing your lines as soon as we get these leaks taken care of," he added, forcing himself to be cheerful for Bluestreak's sake. "Won't take but a few minutes." Bluestreak nodded in acceptance.

True to his word, it did not take Wheeljack long to finish mending the rent in the gunner's side and flush the dirt out of his systems. Ratchet was running a few final scans on Cliffjumper to make sure that his new coolant pump was working properly before refastening Sideswipe's armor. He nodded to his friend once he was done and led the red Lamborghini back to their quarters where the convalescing Sunstreaker waited for them, and suddenly the two of them were alone but for the injured recharging in their berths.

"Alright, Bluestreak, you're good as new!" the inventor said, letting the Datsun up off of the table and wishing he could at least smile at the nervous young Autobot. Something must have shown through on his features, though, because Bluestreak visibly relaxed a little and beamed at the Lancia gratefully.

"H-hey, Wheeljack?" the gunner asked hesitantly.

"Yeah?"

"Well… Well, I was wondering… Maybe you—"

"C'mon, spit it out, Blue," Wheeljack said patiently, patting Bluestreak's shoulder once again.

"W-would-you-please-stay-with-me-tonight?" the younger 'Bot blurted out in a rush, looking away from Wheeljack with a wince when the engineer gaped at him. "I-I mean, it's nothing bad, but it's just that Hound is staying with Mirage tonight because he got hurt and I just don't like being by myself and I was thinking maybe you could stay in his berth and…" His shoulders slumped dejectedly. "You don't have to if you don't want to," he added miserably.

Wheeljack just stared at him for a minute, unsure of what to do, before pity overruled everything else at the sight of Bluestreak standing there looking so defeated. "C'mon, Blue," he said sympathetically, "I've got an extra berth in my quarters—I'll fix it up for you, and you can stay there. I don't mind." Poor thing, he was probably afraid he would have nightmares, judging from the way he was acting.

"Really?" Bluestreak breathed, doorwings twitching hopefully.

"Yeah—you're welcome anytime you want," Wheeljack reassured him, putting an arm around his shoulders (mindful of the wings) and leading the younger mech to his quarters.

It didn't take long to clean the dust off of the spare 'charge pad in his room, and he soon had Bluestreak settled comfortably. He had lain down on his own berth and was just beginning to initiate his own recharge cycle when the Datsun spoke his name again.

"Yes, Blue?" the engineer asked patiently.

"Would you…talk to me? Hound always talks to me, 'cause sometimes I have trouble recharging after a f-fight…"

Wheeljack sat up to look at his new roommate. "What should I talk about?"

Bluestreak shrugged. "Whatever you want," he replied shyly, smiling sweetly at his companion.

"Alright," the inventor murmured softly. "I guess…well, I could tell you about the project I'm working on…"

The Datsun nodded. "That sounds good," he said agreeably, so Wheeljack launched into a rambling explanation of the intricacies of his latest device—and he only got about halfway through when he realized that the young gunner was recharging soundly.

With a soft chuckle, Wheeljack stopped talking and lay back down, initiating his own recharge cycle; it wasn't long until he was out.