"That looks serious."

Perceptor did not answer, did not move. As always, he just continued to stare at the cube of energon Magnus had given to him with all his usual sightless intent.

The City Commander could not help staring at the sparking split in the smaller robot's helm as he spoke. "I'm no medic, but do you want me to call Ratchet and have him fix that for you?"

"... No." Perceptor snatched his injured head away. "Thank you, but no."

Perhaps it was too uncomfortable to stay after Ultra Magnus had so blatantly pointed out his wound. The microscope pushed his energon cube away and, with his usual quiet thanks, left.

oOo

Ratchet was always busy, jetting back and forth between Earth and Moon Base Beta. Ultra Magnus managed to catch him on rare downtime somehow.

"Perceptor? No, I haven't seen him for a long time," the gruff-voiced medic answered, pausing as he was about to board the freight back to Moon Base. "He's more than capable of running his own diagnostics."

"And Wheeljack?" Pressed the soldier, "has he?"

"Doubt it," shrugged Ratchet tiredly, "Wheeljack hasn't been back since Metroplex was completed. He's been busy."

The medic turned away again, lingering only in case the City Commander had any last words to add. He did not see Magnus frown.

"I... see. Well, have a safe return journey, Ratchet. We shall be in touch soon."

oOo

Carefully, Perceptor ran his fingers over his sleeping bondmate's cheek. Mirage did not always recharge in peace.

He was snuffling again. Little whimpers. Mirage was never loud, per se. Even when he shouted, he was never loud. Perceptor cooed to him. Don't be afraid, I'm right here...

"Mmm... Perce?" Golden optics glowed brightly as Mirage woke. Perceptor smiled gently.

"Sorry to wake you..."

"Mm. Don' worry about it, sweet. C'mon, you look tired..."

Perceptor let Mirage ease him down on the berth. Let himself be tucked in, cuddled possessively, let Mirage remove the scope from his shoulder and place it on the floor when it got in the way. "... have a good recharge cycle."

"You too, sweet." Mirage offlined his optics. Perceptor let himself do the same.

oOo

Ultra Magnus sat and watched Perceptor swirl the energon around in its cube. Strangely enough, there were no signs of violence on his frame; the first time that the microscope had come to his superior's quarters without some injury.

"Do you do your own repairs, Perceptor?" he asked at last, unable to keep his traitorous vocaliser in check.

The microscope stared at his cube and then shook his head mutely.

It was a subtle change, but noticeable nonetheless. The atmosphere became somewhat colder after Magnus had asked the question, and Perceptor was not exempt. The gait of his body, the posture, the tilt of his shoulder away from the other mech, all betrayed his wish to talk no longer.

Ultra Magnus respected his wish for privacy and did not press the matter, fully expecting his small companion to stand up and leave any moment.

He was pleasantly surprised when Perceptor stayed. The red robot even gave him a small smile for his kindness.

oOo

Who fixed him? Ultra Magnus wanted to know who fixed him?

Why, but that was easy!

Mirage fixed him. Every single injury, Mirage painstakingly fixed him, repaired him, brought him back to perfection again. Every mark, every blemish, every scratch of paint Mirage carefully washed away, all the while whispering apologies.

It could be painful, especially on the more sensitive areas of his face, but Perceptor always lay on the berth in silence and let Mirage straighten the dents out. The aristocrat was no medic, that much was certain from the sloppiness of some of his repairs, but he always seemed so determined...

Afterwards, while his newly-repaired wounds were still tender, Mirage would crawl onto the berth with him, caress the still-sore injuries with such a tender, gentle, loving touch that the pain seemed to seep away.

The microscope would smile at him, invariably. Mirage would smile back when he noticed, and would gather Perceptor into his arms and silently whisper for forgiveness... which the scientist always gave.

Perceptor liked those times, when Mirage cradled him secure. His aristocrat, always so contrite and careful...

oOo

"Why do you keep betraying me like this, Perceptor?" Mirage wailed, turning his back on his mate's dented face. Perceptor bowed his head to the floor.

"I do not mean to..."

"But you do, and it hurts me." The aristocrat walked away some few paces, placed his hand against the wall, heaved a sigh. His shoulders were slumped, his frame stooped as though under some invisible burden.

"I'm sorry..."

Mirage did not turn around. His shoulders were shaking, his vents erratic. "You say that every time and you still keep on finding any excuse to leave! So go on, then, run to your other lovers!"

Perceptor frowned in confusion and no small amount of fear, "I don't have -"

"GET OUT!"

He ran.

oOo

Kisses with Mirage were amazing. Each kiss, the Ligier cradled his little lover, coveted his mouth, cherished his pale cheeks. Those brilliant golden optics dimmed but still always watched Perceptor's face.

Perceptor could never keep his optics online for more than a quarter-klik in their kisses, even the slow, warm, loving ones. Each time, Mirage would cup his cheeks, say to him 'I love you', value him, protect him.

Each kiss was a blessing. Perceptor cherished each one as though it would be the last. The last taste, the last caress, he dreaded that but savoured each liplock as though he would never have such privilege again.

What was the possibility of that, when Mirage was always so angry with him...?

Each kiss was truly a blessing, not in the least because Mirage was still willing to press their lips together.

Oh, Mirage...

oOo

"I know it's a bit forward," murmured Perceptor quietly, swirling the pink liquid in its container, "but may I stay here tonight?"

Ultra Magnus glanced at him. "If you wish.

"I don't need a recharge plate." the scientist said before the soldier could offer.

"Perceptor, as I said, my door is always open to you should you need it. If you want to stay for the subsolar cycle, then you may."

Perceptor nodded and thanked the taller mech quietly.

He stayed with Magnus that night, offlined in the chair he always sat in when visiting. Magnus had offered him the berth; he had declined as many times as he had needed to.

OOo

Mirage was trembling uncontrollably when Perceptor entered the room. Immediately, he knew why.

"Where were you Perce?" Remarkably, his voice was not trembling. Perceptor answered, very quiet. Mirage heard every word clear.

"Ultra Magnus let me stay."

His mate was upon him in an instant, howling and tearing at his chassis as though he was in pain. "Why! Why! You betrayer, you cheat, you liar, you unfaithful little glitch! How dare you tell me you love me when you rush to spend any opportunity with that common soldier!"

"'Raj, I do love you..." Perceptor cooed, trying to catch his mate's hands.

"Don't! Don't you say that! You have no right saying that after spending a night in Magnus' berth!"

"I didn't go in his berth."

Mirage was not consoled. "Are you that shallow? Do you go with him because he's the City Commander? Do you go with him because you want a promotion? Am I not good enough for you!?"

"I didn't go in his berth!"

"STOP LYING TO ME!" Mirage hit Perceptor in the cheek, leaving a smear of blue paint beneath his eye. "STOP IT, STOP IT!"

He collapsed forward onto his microscope's chest, sobbing brokenly into the examination tray.

oOo

"You want some more energon?" the Commander asked of his smaller guest. Perceptor had all but finished the cube Magnus had given him; it was the most the soldier had ever seen him drink.

"... please."

Another cube. Perceptor drank it. Magnus stared.

"I feel a bit ridiculous asking this," he admitted, folding the empty canisters into subspace, "but is everything all right?"

Perceptor gave him a Look. "Everything is fine..." a small smile. The first smile Magnus had seen for deca-cycles. "May I have another?"

Another cube. Perceptor drank it. Magnus stared.

"Any more and you'll fry your systems," he said quietly, taking the empty cube from Perceptor. "This is not like you."

"I know."

It was clear from the microscope's tone he had no intention of elaborating. Ultra Magnus sighed. There was blue paint near one of the two azure optics staring dolefully at him; he wanted to wipe it away.

Blue paint? Blue hands? Who did he know with hands of that colour...?

"You have blue on your face." He raised a finger to point. Perceptor raised his fingers to the mark self-consciously, then looked away and shrugged, more sluggish than usual.

"It's not a problem."

Ultra Magnus would not back down. "Whose paint is that? Tracks?" He started naming as many mechs as he could remember. "Beachcomber?" Nothing. "Prime?" ... no, thank Primus he had been away on Cybertron since before Metroplex' completion. "Smokescreen?" He was giving up hope of getting any reaction. Perceptor sat as still as though he were deactivated. "Mirage?"

The microscope's optics flickered. It was all his companion needed.

"Mirage? Mirage? Is he the one responsible for this?" When Perceptor could not meet his gaze, he knew he was right. "I'll have him arrested for assault."

Perceptor rose, a tad unsteady, caught Magnus' arm. "Don't."

"It is a matter of protocol, Perceptor. I will not have my soldiers manhandling each other. Stand down."

"Don't!" Cried the microscope, moving to block the door. "I'll stop you! Drop it, just leave us be...!"

oOo

"I'm sorry I hit you, Perce." Mirage whispered contritely, running his fingers over the mark of paint he had left. Perceptor smiled and caught his mate's hand between both of his.

"Don't worry," he replied, tone gentle, "it's not painful."

Mirage's optics faded a sliver. "It's not right that your beautiful face should be damaged." He was almost begging now. "Let me fix it."

"Now?"

"If you would it."

Perceptor quirked a smile at his lover's archaic grasp of language and swung his legs on the berth.

Mirage's repairs were almost always clumsy, but it was always good to feel his tender fingers easing the injuries away...