A/N - Done while I was supposed to be listening to the lectures this week. Oops. Hey, four hours of lecture about taxes after ten hours of work means I have to have something to keep myself awake!
"Red?" Inferno stuck his head into the security center.
"Over here," Red Alert called from behind one of the computer banks.
"Ya goin' to be much longer? Ya promised I'd get ya to myself for the whole evening," Inferno reminded him, stepping into the room.
"I said I'd try, which is not exactly the same thing," Red Alert corrected. "And that was before all this happened."
"Can't it wait 'till mornin'?" Inferno tried, already knowing Red Alert's response.
Inferno heaved a sigh, pulling up a chair and resigning himself to yet another long evening of watching Red Alert work.
"What was that?" Red Alert jerked.
Inferno paused in midstep, listening. "Jus' the building creakin'," he said soothingly.
"I'm not so sure," Red Alert muttered.
They hadn't even made it across the walkway before Red Alert stopped short. "There's something alive in here," he muttered. "There!"
Inferno spun, headlights flaring. A tiny rodent scampered out of the glare and behind a crate. Sighing, Inferno turned back. "It's just a rat," he started.
Red Alert ignored him, peering intently into the darkness behind them.
Inferno sighed. "C'mon, let's get back to the others," he murmured, herding Red Alert towards the exit.
"I don't get it," Sideswipe declared. "How the frag do you put up with him?"
Inferno looked over at him, frowning. "Huh?"
"Red Alert," Sideswipe clarified. "I'm tryin' to figure out how anyone puts up with a twit like him."
Inferno's optics darkened. "Watch yer mouth," he growled.
"C'mon, you tellin' me you like the yelling?"
"The paranoid fits," Sunstreaker muttered.
"Yer both skating on thin ice," Inferno rumbled.
"Hey," Sideswipe raised his hands in surrender. "Just curious."
"Ya really wanna know?"
Inferno leaned forward conspiratorially. "Because he's great in bed," he told them. Then he walked away.
He'd made it back from his three-day patrol and made a bee-line for the washracks. He'd emerged clean and freshly shined, only to find Red Alert's office empty. The security director was cooped up in a meeting with Optimus Prime.
Inferno let himself into Red Alert's quarters and sat on the berth, looking around. Neat, orderly – Red Alert's room, not his never mind that he stayed there more often than not.
The door opening startled him out of his thoughts. He looked up, matching Red Alert's smile.
"Missed you," he murmured.
"Missed you, too," Red Alert whispered back.
Red Alert jerked awake, staring around wildly, scanners coming fully online.
Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he slumped back on his berth with a noise of frustration. He lay there, listening to Inferno's engine idling beside him.
Eventually he sat up, swinging his legs off the edge of the berth. Gripping the edge tightly, he stared blankly at the floor, silently cursing his traitorous subconscious.
He was so sick of waking up like this...
Strong arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him back down.
Inferno held him close, the deep rumble of his engine lulling him back into recharge.
"How did you talk me into this?"
Inferno chuckled. "Cmon. It's good for you to get out once in a while, and we get to help out the local kids at the same time!"
"I didn't agree to this," Red Alert muttered as a pair of sticky child hands landed on his window, a dirty face pressing against the glass.
Red Alert resisted the urge to jerk away and transform. Around them, the third-graders shrieked and giggled, climbing all over the Autobots.
"Never. Again," Red Alert growled.
Inferno laughed, bouncing on his tires to happy shrieks of childish delight.
"Hey, Red?" Inferno hovered in the doorway. "You need anything?"
Red Alert didn't look up, continuing working on the gutted sensor. "I'm fine."
"Want me to get you a cube?" Inferno asked.
"Already had one," Red Alert said, distracted.
Inferno shifted his weight. "Want a hand with that?"
"I've got it, thank you."
Shoulders slumping, Inferno turned towards the door. "Alright, if yer sure..."
"Inferno?" Red Alert called after him, turning the sensor over in his hands.
"Yeah?" Inferno asked hopefully.
Red Alert nudged a chair out with his foot. "Sit. Come keep me company."
Sitting, Inferno smiled. "Sure, Red."
"Red? Can I see you for a moment?"
Red Alert followed Optimus into his office. "What do you need, Optimus?"
"There's no delicate way for me to ask this," Optimus said, sighing. "You're relationship with Inferno-"
"Will not interfere with my duties," Red Alert said firmly. "Inferno understands that there are certain things we can't discuss, and he's fine with it. This won't effect my performance."
Optimus nodded. "I have every confidence that it won't. And Red?" he added as Red Alert turned to go. "Inferno's a good mech. I'm happy for you both."
Red Alert smiled. "Thank you, Optimus."
"He's a prisoner," Optimus said, disapproving.
"He's a Decepticon," Red Alert snapped back.
"We're not going to harm a helpless person, enemy or not."
"They wouldn't hesitate to maim or kill one of us! And I'm not suggesting anything permanent. Just yanking out his vocalizer!"
"I'm kinda likin' the idea myself," Ironhide drawled, wincing as Starscream shrieked and threw his energon ration at the brig camera. "You should here 'em in person. Think I need my audios recalibrate."
"No," Optimus repeated.
"Aw," Ironhide muttered.
Red Alert twitched at a particularly shrill string of expletives. "...What about gagging him?"
"Pickin' up anything?" Inferno asked.
Streetwise shook his head. "Not a peep."
"Alright, we do this the hard way." Inferno checked his map. "Either Blades' transponder was damaged in the crash, or he's dropped down in one of these canyons and his signal can't get out."
Streetwise flinched at that. Inferno laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "We'll find him, kid."
Turning back to the others, Inferno raised his voice again, all business. "Split up in pairs. Radio checks and locates every half hour. Don't pull anything stupid out there! Streetwise with me. Let's go! Blades is counting on us."