For Will, things had calmed down considerably and while he had a penchant to stick around Ironhide until his logical mind told him he was an idiot and clingy, he didn't really care most of the time. Neither did Ironhide, apparently. Their mission in Maine had them close to each other anyway and both enjoyed the different scenery, even if it was all work-related and not a vacation; just like Lennox enjoyed being in command again, even for a short while.

They still had to hide the true depths of why the military was here, looking into apparently unrelated accidents and local lore about ghosts and such, but it was… fun. Will almost smiled. Fun of a different kind. He was very much aware of how serious their mission was, but it didn't mean he couldn't take some pleasure in being away from the base, though he had to mostly hide himself. Lieutenant Carter was doing the leg work together with his team. Will was there to keep an eye out on a possible mech appearance.

Will had set up camp in a motel room. Carter had rented the room for him since a man with moving tattoos would really stand out. The motel wasn't frequented that much and it had seen better days, but the rooms were clean and no one asked any questions. Ironhide's massive bulk was standing out, but aside from a look or two, no one had stopped and bothered him.

It felt like real skin under his hands. Warm and alive, soft over hard muscles, and Will Lennox couldn't moan softly as broad hands slid over his slick skin, caressing him. Nerve endings screamed, his body vibrating under the touch, and he wanted nothing more than to thrust and find release.

Dark eyes regarded him, heat and power combined in a devilishly handsome face. High cheekbones, tanned, the black hair cut short, and clean shaven. Drop dead handsome and just about everyone's wet dream.

Will's included.

"Gawd… please…" he groaned as one hand slid south.

He had never been submissive in any of his relationships and mostly he had topped, or at least retaliated from bottoming by topping the second round.

Not this time, though.

He couldn't but let the other take what he wanted, the way he wanted it, and it was this heady feeling of utter bliss that raced through him at every little caress that had him whimper.

So real. So fucking damn real!

The hands were maddening and when they guided him to bend over the hood of the car he did just that. Will's fingers splayed over the warm metal and he moaned encouragement as he felt something hard and deliciously thick enter him. How it was at all possible was beyond him – and right now he didn't care.

All he wanted was the hard rhythm, the hands holding his hips with bruising strength, the sensation of molten lava running down his spine, and the ecstasy that came with penetration.

Will woke with a start, feeling extremely aroused and more than a little disturbed by what could only be called a wet dream. He was breathing hard, harder than should be normal when waking up, and it took him a moment to remember that he was in a strange bed in a motel room. The sheets were tangled around his legs.

Will's eyes narrowed all of a sudden. "Ironhide!" he hissed and grabbed for his communicator.

"Slept well?" the mech in question asked as the line connected.

"What the fuck did you do?!"

Runes swirled lazily over his skin and he felt the need to really, really do something about the state he was in. With gritted teeth he tried to will down the arousal, but the dream had been rather… real.

Almost unconsciously a hand drifted down his body and rubbed over the prominent bulge. Will bit back a groan.

"Tried out something I suspected might work."

"You gave me that wet dream?!"

"We share a bond."

"Hell…" Will whispered, trembling from the tension he was under.

"You only woke too soon."

"You have no idea about human sex!" Lennox exclaimed.

"Your internet is a good educational tool."

He groaned again.

"Didn't you enjoy it?"

I would have enjoyed it more if it had come to an end! Lennox thought. Now I'm left hanging!

"You gave me a gay dream," he muttered instead.

"And you liked it."

He glared at the ceiling for lack of a better target. Lennox wasn't ready to go out with a hard-on and yell at his truck. The runes swirled over his hands and forearms, probably all over his body, and they spoke of his satisfaction, a well as his aroused state.

"What porn site did you browse?" he muttered, angry at the pleasant, fuzzy sensation still residing in his body.

"There were several interesting ones."

"Why did you do it?" he finally asked wearily.

"I thought you might enjoy the difference."

Uh-huh. Yeah. He had really enjoyed it and he hadn't even been bi in the past!

"I adjusted some things…" Ironhide added slyly.

"Yeah. Noticed."

And he still noticed it. Shit.

"How would you even know what it feels like?" Lennox asked.

"It's amazing what you can learn on your internet."

"You never felt it!"

"The information was enough to simulate the actual interaction."

Will sighed. This relationship was still complicated and always hit him from out of the blue with something new. Now this… this… whatever it was.

"Can we just go back to the usual sex?" he sighed.

"We don't have sex," Ironhide repeated his usual answer.

"Sharing," Will corrected himself.

"Right now?" came the taunt.

"No!"

Right now he wanted to go into the bathroom and finish what Ironhide had started.

"Spoilsport."

He hissed a curse and flung the communicator onto the bed as he crawled out between the sheets. Right now he needed relief, not a roll in the hay with a horny mech who thought this was funny.

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Trent had never thought that of all the people he knew, a mechanoid life form would have the most trouble with his current condition. Propped up in his hospital bed, bored by the daily TV program, he had turned to looking for Arcee. He had called her through the usual channels, but he didn't get a reply. Inquiries had gotten him the information that she was functional, had been seen, but she wasn't talking to a lot of people. Least of all him.

Sam had told him that Arcee felt guilty because she thought she could have prevented his injuries, but from what Trent figured that was wishful thinking. Bikers always got the short straw in any kind of accident, even if they only hit a small mammal the size of a rabbit. Arcee had been attacked by a crazy troubleshooter who had figured that Trent was the enemy. There had been no chance for either of them to influence the outcome. Trent was just glad to be alive.

Still, Arcee refused to see him or talk to him. Trent knew from Keyron and the nurses that she had been with him for a long time, cooped up in his room, watching his every breath. Now that he was awake, she was MIA.

A month had passed since he had woken from the artificial coma and he was making progress, but his body felt weak and he knew it would take a long time to recover. Sam spent time with him, keeping him up to date, playing video games, watching TV with him, or just generally hanging around. Trent was glad for the company. He was going stir crazy sometimes. Lennox dropped in when he had time, which was at least once a week. WiFi had set up camp, much to Trent's surprise. The little Nokia had accompanied Captain Bowman during a visit and had popped up two days later on his own. Trent had called Bowman, much to WiFi's angry chittering, which probably translated along the lines of 'I'm not a child, I make my own decisions, idiot!', and he got the confirmation that the cell phone transformer had decided to stay for a while.

That had been a week ago.

"I know where to find him," Bowman laughed when they talked. "Don't worry. He'll behave."

And he did. WiFi was an avid video game player and he had beaten Trent in four out of five games. Not much of a surprise since Trent was still a little out of it, fell asleep sometimes in the middle of a game, and WiFi was a computer.

The mech also set him up in the World of Legend online role playing game and Trent was stunned to discover a few familiar names.

"The Autobots play RPGs?" had been his surprised exclamation.

The expression on WiFi's tiny face had been smug.

Now Trent was a player, too, and it was fun. It fought the boredom, which he was glad for.

WiFi chirped and then shrilled something. Trent looked up from his game and frowned, then his face lit up with a smile.

"Arcee!"

The troubleshooter was crouching slightly outside his room, blue optics duller than he ever remembered them being, and she appeared hesitant.

"Come on in. I think we can squeeze you in somewhere," Trent said lightly.

WiFi scurried across the table and hopped onto the raised back rest of the bed. He looked expectantly at the much larger Autobot.

"Hello, Lieutenant DeMarco," Arcee said, sounding formal.

"Cut the crap and come in," Trent simply replied.

Arcee folded her legs under her, looking a bit lost.

"You're a hard mech to find. I tried calling you."

"I had some things to take care of."

"Like brooding in a forgotten corner?" Trent teased.

She gave an almost human sigh.

"Arcee, what happened wasn't your fault! No one blames you, least of all me!"

"You could have lost your life and we have sworn to protect our allies. You were seriously injured and it's still not clear how much you will recover."

"I don't blame you for it."

Arcee was silent.

"I don't," Trent repeated. "I'd by lying if I told you I'm not terrified of what my future might be. I'd by lying if I said that I know I'll always have a job with you guys. I don't know anything and I'm scared as hell, but I'm alive!"

Arcee's optics were a deep blue, looking as old as she was, serious and very level. "I spent time with Tom Banachek. I wanted to make sure you're not left on your own, that I can take responsibility for my failure."

"Arcee…!"

She raised a hand. "Trent, it was my fault. I could have detected Chromia if I had looked more closely. I let my guard down on your world and you paid for my mistakes. Banachek promised that you will have a job with the Autobots and the Earth military, at the base, and with full payment."

Trent blinked.

"You're a valued member of the team and while you're part of the military, you have, as Tom said, a desk job. You can still work for us, even with a handicap."

"I…"

WiFi chirped softly, sounding pleased.

"Thanks," Trent finally managed.

Arcee smiled a little. "And if you still want to once you are healed, we can drive together again."

If his leg allowed it, Trent thought. If his body allowed it. From Arcee's expression he knew she had realized that as well. He simply nodded.

"So, you got some time?"

Arcee tilted her head a little. "Yes?"

"Ever played World of Legend?"

Arcee suddenly smiled. "Jazz told me to get an account and I already set one up."

"Cool. Want to play?"

The troubleshooter nodded and the screen on the wall lit up, showing Trent and WiFi's characters. Suddenly there was a third one and Trent had to laugh. Arcee was an Elemental, a fire breather, which looked like a mix between a human and a dragon. Two-legged, scaly and not really very nice to look at. Most of her character was hidden under a long, black, thick cloak. WiFi had gone for being a kitsune and Trent himself had opted for a warrior scholar.

"Okay, let's see what's up for us," he announced, grinning.

And they walked off into the Forest of Naab.

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Barricade had chosen one of his regular hang-outs, the old and abandoned warehouse district of Mission City, and he had parked in the shadow of a derelict building. His presence had already driven away the scum that had chosen this site as a drug trafficking area. There were just a few of the homeless still sleeping here.

Jazz had unerringly found him. The Autobot hadn't been far away from his spark bonded ever since the attack and while Barricade openly growled and grumbled, he was secretly glad to have Jazz close. Their role reversal wasn't lost on him, even though he hadn't suffered as badly as the first lieutenant. His memories were still intact and he hadn't actually died.

What disturbed him were the imprints Sam's contact had left on his matrix. He could still tell where the safety net had been attached to, how strongly the human technopath had held on to him, and how much it had cost. Sam had nearly been dragged down as well, but he had been stubborn and his strength made Barricade proud. He had trained the human; this was his achievement.

The connection he had to the human was also stronger than ever before, as well as easier to access. It wasn't Sam's doing, just a result from the rescue.

::Cade?:: Jazz murmured.

His reply was a gruff grunt.

Jazz smiled and caressed his spark presence. ::Glad you're alive:: he only whispered.

So was Barricade. More than glad, even if he would never say it out loud. Not just because he preferred living to permanently off-line. No one wanted to just die. Few were suicidal enough for that. Too much was now connected to him. Jazz was connected to him – and closer than ever. As frightening as that fact had been just a few years ago, it was now a major factor in calming and comforting the former Decepticon.

For some strange reason Ironhide had left him alone after Barricade had been beaten by Chromia. The shock trooper had expected taunts and jeers, but nothing of the like had happened. Ironhide had been strangely laid back, unresponsive when it came to Chromia and her attack on their Decepticon ally, and he hadn't so much as looked wrong at Barricade. Then again, she had also blasted the Autobot's partner and attacked Ironhide himself. That had to smart.

Barricade wondered why Prime was so reluctant to pull the plug. Chromia was beyond help. At least their help. Maybe the Allspark could have repaired her, but that was a huge bet. And while Lennox looked like the Allspark's two-legged vessel, he wasn't. He didn't have these kind of powers. It would be merciful to off-line the troubleshooter completely.

::We don't do that:: Jazz chastised.

::No, you wait for her to find a way to kill one of you::

If it had been Bumblebee who had been under attack and nearly dismembered, maybe they would have acted different. But it had only been him.

Anger coursed through him, coming from Jazz's side. ::You're not some redundant cannon fodder!::

Barricade chuckled darkly, but he didn't reply.

::Cade!::

::Don't blow a fuse:: he told his bonded.

"You're not superfluous, you're not anyone's cannon fodder, and whoever says something like that will get to know me real personally!"

Barricade laughed and transformed, catching his partner's hands and trapping him against a wall. He leaned in, optics glowing a deep, blood-red.

"I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm very well able to take care of myself. Autobot."

Jazz glared. "I don't like it when you think so lowly of yourself with us."

"I know where the acceptance ends."

"That's not true!" was the hiss of anger.

"If it weren't for the spark bond, I wouldn't even be here any more. I surrendered to Prime, but aside from maybe Bumblebee, none of the others would trust me."

"You have proven yourself multiple times. You're our ally," Jazz insisted.

"And I honor that alliance."

Barricade slid one clawed hand around his partner's waist and Jazz leaned closer. There was a soft clonk as he rested his head against the shock trooper's shoulder armor.

"You're no different from the others," he repeated.

Barricade didn't even try to argue. Jazz was an Autobot, an idealist. As much as they were alike in so many regards, here they different. Had Jazz joined the Decepticons he might be tainted like Barricade, too. He might view certain things differently. He might be more suspicious, less trusty. As it was, he hadn't. Jazz was an Autobot, through and through.
And somehow, it was the spice in their relationship. Barricade grinned, a terrible expression on his features, and tightened his hold. His spark grew in presence, enveloping Jazz, and he surprised his bonded, who suddenly chuckled.

"Pushy. Sexy, but pushy. I like."

Barricade only growled, but Jazz didn't resist. He grinned cheekily and invited his bonded inside.

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Optimus Prime couldn't say he was satisfied with the turn of events or how the situation had resolved itself. There had been no resolution. The problems were still there. One problem was now in stasis and would probably not come out of it any time soon. The other was the possible presence of a Decepticon. That worried him more than anything else.

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end for this fic. I know, I know! More to come!