Quite obviously I don't own Transformers and am making no profit.

This is a direct sequel to 'Equilibrium,' which should be read first for this to make any kind of sense. I'll apologise in advance for some of my muck-ups with the cannon as I'm running with fairly limited knowledge, combining information from the 80s cartoon, the films and a whole lot of other fanfiction to write from. Please set aside any inconsistencies (ie: Jazz is alive and well, because I like him that way) for the sake of enjoying the story.


Provenance

Chapter 1

"'Bee, you're taking this way too seriously," Sam shouted before hastily rolling out of the way of the yellow bot's feet. From the rec room sofa, Mikaela didn't try to suppress her laughter and Tempest chirped and clapped his hands.

Though in his first body that Ratchet built for him, Tempest was still the same size as Mikaela and easily held by the adult mechs. His white, grey and blue colourings matched what had been on his protoform at birth, though he'd developed a liking for stickers and a yellow smiley face or band name could often be found somewhere on his body. Duck, the large stuffed bear he'd been given by the humans, was propped up so that he was also watching them play. The toy went almost everywhere with him, and after three months it showed.

"Seriously, you're not really fighting! Stop jumping around before you break my leg!"

Quite certain that Sam would get out of the way if a proximity sensor missed where he was, Bumblebee didn't pause in his game. In theory the Wii was the perfect computer game to play with the Autobots. They couldn't simply hack it like they had the Playstation, memorise the patterns and then shame Sam's hours of game play with effortless wins. It had its drawbacks, though. Namely Bumblebee endangering the two teens as he boxed at the air with the remote held between his fingers. It put on a good show, though.

"The controller is inadequate," Bumblebee announced with a huff when the match ended with his opponent's victory, lowering his hands and clicking through the menu screen again. "It's not accurate."

"That's half the fun, 'Bee." Mikaela fidgeted on the sofa as Tempest curled himself on his side, his head in her lap though still watching the two standing in front of the television. "The idea's not to ace it – just to have fun."

"Says you," Sam mumbled, earning a winked optic from the young mech.

"May we do the bowling next?"

Sam nodded with a grin, knowing that he was still slightly better at that game. He glanced to Ratchet sitting at the table on the other side of the sofa, calibrating some part of some Autobot's head. It was a bit creepy to see Ratchet working, he had to admit, but he tried to remind himself that his friends were made of typically inanimate material. Despite how Bumblebee behaved playing the Nintendo. "Ratchet, you want to take a break and join in?"

"That'll be a 'no', but thanks for the offer," the medic replied without looking up from his work. Technically Bumblebee was watching Tempest for Optimus this morning, but more than once such a pairing had resulted in a lot of mess so he'd decided he'd better sparkling-sit the both of them and save the base's walls.

Tempest reached out for one of the bear's arms and pulled the toy into chest, curling around it with a low digitised sound akin to a moan. Mikaela felt the edges of his vents with a frown, feeling the sluggish movement of warm air. "I think Tempest needs some Energon."

"I'll do it." Ratchet set down his tools and stood, waving Bumblebee off. "You just keep yourselves occupied." Moving around to pick up the small mech, he withdrew a fuel line from beneath his chassis between his fingers, offering the end to Tempest only to have it batted away. "Come on now, mechling. I've filtered it twice for you."

Mikaela watched as Tempest continued to refuse the feedling line, squirming to hide his face against Ratchet's armour. "He's not eating?"

"Could just be being fussy, or could be a blockage somewhere." Ratchet glanced to her, offering a reassuring smile. "I'll see if he'll take from Prime before we start worrying."

"Shall I come?" Mikaela asked, already getting to her feet. She'd gradually taken on an informal apprenticeship with Ratchet since helping with Optimus whilst he was carrying Tempest. Her small hands made some tasks much easier for her than for Ratchet, and the old medic seemed to enjoy the company. There was a good chance it could turn into a paid career for her, maintaining the Autobots and answering questions from the military about their biology in human-friendly terms.

Ratchet shook his head, carefully picking up the bear. "No, he'll be in his office. Hopefully it'll just be in and out. If he still won't eat I'll let you know."

The offered bear was ignored. Mikaela grimaced. "Well that's not a good sign."

"Don't worry – sparklings know how to sulk," Ratchet assured, though his own systems were uneasy with Tempest's behaviour. Settling him against his chest, he made for the door.

"Keep us post-damnit 'Bee, I was talking!"

Mechanical chuckles followed the medic out into the corridor.


Ratchet continued offering the feeding line as he walked to Optimus's office. It was batted away with narrowed optics, the sparkling squirming to turn his face into Ratchet's chassis with low clicks.

"Hatchet?"

He looked up to see Starscream approaching from down the corridor, walking with a noticeable limp. His own red optics narrowed as he saw Tempest. "Is he alright?"

"He's not eating. Just won't take it. I was just going to try him with Optimus," Ratchet replied with a grimace, offering the mech out when Starscream reached for him. Tempest chirped at the new bot but immediately tried to tuck into the Seeker's armour, curling beneath the plates above his spark chamber.

"You've already checked for impurities?" Starscream asked without looking up, running a sharp finger gently down the small body.

"Of course."

Starscream nodded absently, face plates drawn together in thought. He cocked his head and cupped the mech's back, feeling for the gentle vibrations of the motors, servos, pumps and fans inside. Amidst chirped protests he turned him, feeling the temperature from his vents and the resistance of cables. "Feels like his systems are locking up. Nothing in or out. Medbay?"

Ratchet quirked a smile. "If you're happy to hold him for me at the risk of him purging all over you."

Starscream made a soft sound of agreement, resettling Tempest against his chassis. "Wouldn't be the first time he's done it, though if he can keep it away from my vents this time it'd be appreciated."

Though his oath to protect the mech didn't require this kind of hovering, he cared more than he'd admit without torture. He had a lot of time for Tempest, and for Ratchet in turn. He'd been spending a lot of time with the grizzled medic since being released from the Medbay, usually whilst watching over Tempest. Ironhide was very frank about his unwillingness for the sparkling to be alone with Starscream.

Ratchet let Tempest remain in the Seeker's arms as they made their way to the Medbay, knowing that Starscream would hand him back if asked but that it would be a very reluctant parting. Away from Megatron, Starscream had calmed notably and had revealed himself to be quite an introspective bot. His impulsiveness was actually just speed on the crest of consideration, his actions well thought out before they were implemented. It was what had made him such a fearsome opponent, and an asset to the Autobots now.

It was going to be a long time before he was accepted within their ranks, though. Optimus was content with his presence, as was he, but Ironhide remained wary and Bumblebee's energy field pricked with anxiety when the Seeker entered a room. Prowl was, typically, unreadable, but he hadn't gone out of his way to make time for him. Everyone else was a mixed pot. If Starscream minded he didn't show it, his expression only readable when he was with Tempest, and then it was at peace. Even when he was leaking thin rivulets of energon from his back and limping.

"So what have you been doing to get so banged up?" he asked once they were inside the Medbay, gesturing for Starscream to take a seat with Tempest in his lap.

"Training with Ironhide. Thought he'd rearrange my armour a bit in the process." A smirk, still watching Tempest squirm. "He should be hobbling in to see you later when he thinks I won't notice."

Ratchet shook his head with rolled optics, transforming his hand into a multi-tool to take off one of Tempest's panels and check for a block in the fuel lines underneath. "You know, one day soon he's just going to offline you outright, and he won't say 'oops'. It'll be 'slaghead shouldn't have got in the way of my cannons.'"

A snort and Starscream sat back, easing Tempest onto his back and running his thumbs over the small mech's shoulder joints to keep him quiet whilst Ratchet removed the panel. "Fragger wants to get serious, I'm happy to oblige."

A rattled, irritated sigh. "Prime wouldn't want you two to be fighting, especially with ammunition. You're supposed to be one of us now."

A half shrug. "That's why we're not fighting. Not really."

Ratchet ran his fingers along the fine fuel lines, finding them unobstructed. "Just working out some issues, are you?"

"Something like that," Starscream replied softly as he watched the medic work.

"Why don't you train with Prowl?"

Starscream frowned outright at that, seemingly offended by the suggestion. "Because he's a tactician, not a specialist. And I'm not afraid of any of you, especially Ironhide, and I don't want the old fragger to think I am by avoiding him."

"Sounds reasonable. But if one of you comes in carrying their own arm, I'm stepping in, and then Prime can deal with what's left," Ratchet replied with a wrench-associated warning look. When Starscream only smirked back, he quickly replaced the panel on Tempest's abdomen and sat him up again. "Alright mechling. No blocks, no leaks, so let's take a look at what's going on."

Tempest squawked a protest at the probing hands, and Starscream bounced his knee for a few seconds to quiet him. "No dregs in his tanks. He's just about dry."

Though he'd already gotten that from his scans, Ratchet didn't know how Starscream had figured that out. "How can you tell?"

A half shrug, equally helpless and affronted. "Just can."

"Seekers," Ratchet murmured, frowning. "If he's dry he should be guzzling energon, not turning his nose up at it."

Starscream cocked his head as Tempest took his hand, pulling it over his head to hide from Ratchet. "What're his systems like in general?"

"My next line of inquiry. Hold him, I need to look under his helm."

Lifting the sparkling in both hands, Starscream turned him about and lay him against his chest, holding him tight to his panels. Being pressed against the warm point over his spark chamber elicited a drowsy purr despite the medic unlocking a panel on the back of his head. The Seeker peered into the intricate workings whilst Ratchet probed with a fine tool for a few minutes, speaking up once he was done. "Nothing looks shorted. Bit worn, but the way he runs around that's not surprising." His voice switched to a recording. "'I'm your Prime, Tempest, not your climbing frame.'"

Ratchet looked up with a raised brow. "You've got some medical experience?"

Starscream shook his head, watching Ratchet pick up a scanner now that his visual assessment was complete. "Decepticons don't have dedicated medics. Easiest way to demoralise the enemy is to take out their medics, so Megatron decided we shouldn't have any. It forces you to learn some of the basics."

The medic's face was knotted with distaste as he ran a closer diagnostic scan. "Not the best way to run an army, having soldiers patch themselves up with no real knowledge. And we'd never fire on a medic."

Starscream's mouth curled in a sneer. "Megatron's a moron. This shouldn't surprise you."

"Still smart enough to pose a threat." A bleep from the scanner and Ratchet blinked. "Though Tempest's going to be smarter. His drives are full and his processor's clogged from all the information. No wonder he doesn't want any energon."

A raised brow from the Seeker as he looked to the mechling humming against his chest. "He's too smart? Hatchet, he calls that insipid toy bear Duck."

"Well, whatever the thinking behind that, it's too complex for the hardware he's got," Ratchet replied as he replaced the plate and lifted the sparkling away from the Seeker's body, holding him up to squeaks of pleasure. "Looks like I'll need to upgrade you again, little one. Your sire will be very proud to hear that you're so clever."

Starscream shook his head with something close to awe. "Not even out of his first frame yet."

"I know," Ratchet replied softly. "It's quite remarkable."

"Quite." Starscream followed as the medic moved to a berth and sat Tempest on it. "Everyone knew he wasn't going to be an ordinary sparkling."

"He'll have a larger capacity for language with this upgrade," Ratchet replied as he began gathering extra parts, scrutinising each one before placing it on the end of the berth.

"Great, he'll be able to answer Ironhide back with something other than 'bang'."

Ratchet smiled a little, though it was bittersweet. There was something very endearing about a sparkling's near-nonsensical chatterings that they'd all miss. "Doubtless the bear will still be called 'Duck', though, and you'll be 'Scree.'"

"I've been called worse."

"No doubt." Ratchet glanced up from inspecting the parts to see the Seeker lingering by the berth, a hand supporting Tempest's back to sit him up. "You don't need to stay for this, Starscream. I'll be putting him under for the installation. Should take about an hour."

A slight shift in weight from one foot to the other. "You're certain?"

For the other's sake Ratchet repressed a smile. "Yes, and he'll be fine."

A moment's consideration before Starscream shook his head and moved to sit up on the neighbouring berth, thumbing the newest lacerations in his armour. "I think I'll stay, all the same. Make use of your equipment."

"If that's your excuse," Ratchet replied under the sound of his vents as he put Tempest under, just loud enough for Seeker to hear.

Before he'd laid hands on Tempest, the medic's comm. chirped on an open channel, Prowl's voice sounding clipped. "Megatron and Blackout are engaged with an aircraft carrier docked at a military port. Looks like they're going after nukes again."

Ratchet looked to Starscream. "Looks like this'll have to wait."