Crash Into You

Epilogue


Six Orns Later

Wheeljack sighed and rolled his neck collum, the joints stiff from the awkward bending and the contortions of his body as he worked. His internal chronometer beeped; it was time to quit for the cycle.

The large door of the Ark's hanger slid open slowly, three of the Aerialbots returning, once again, as they did each cycle at this time to collect their leader, to collect Silverbolt.

"'Bolt?" Slingshot's nervous, little vocalizer broke the silence of the hanger deck that had settled between Silverbolt and Wheeljack while the two worked, nearly all cycle, in silence.

Silverbolt started, so entirely absorbed within his project he didn't hear the hanger doors and hadn't heard the soft footsteps of his teammates. He inhaled deeply, finally allowing his concentration to break and for the flood of his teammates feelings to pour back over his spark. Silverbolt met Wheeljack's optics across the deck briefly. "See you next cycle?" Silverbolt asked as he did each and every cycle at this time.

Wheeljack nodded, audial fins briefly flashing as he straightened from his crouch, cables squeaking and protesting from his prolonged immobility on the decking floor. He began to collect his spread out tools, scattered around his former working position as Silverbolt moved across the deck to rejoin his three flyers.

Slingshot and Air Raid smiled wide as Silverbolt joined him without fuss, seemingly calm and, if not happy, not depressed either. It hadn't been that way in the beginning, back when Wheeljack had first begun working in the hanger deck, two orns after their battle with the Decepticons. Skydive stood slightly apart from the two more rambunctious flyers, though still distinctly pleased to see Silverbolt again. The three flyers reached out, hands touching the armor plating on his arms, chestplates, shoulderjoints, physically touching their leader in reassurance and love.

"Ready for some energon?" Air Raid asked, hope and excitement not hidden at all within his vocalizer.

"Fireflight says he'll come up and join us," Skydive added before Silverbolt could answer.

Silverbolt glanced to Skydive, slight surprise coloring his optics. He nodded, small smile stretching over his lipplates as he started forwards once more, moving off the hanger deck and towards the large doors.

"Maybe we could go flying after our energon!" Slingshot blurted out, excitement obvious in his bouncing steps. Air Raid grinned, though reached out to smack his brother as Skydive shook his helm with long suffering patience.

Silverbolt turned at the doorway, just as the group walked out, glancing back behind him to roam his optics one last time, just he did each and every cycle, over the fractured form of Skyfire, broken pieces of the large shuttle scattered over the hanger decking. Wheeljack met his optics briefly before the Concorde sighed and rejoined his now silent and waiting teammates in the hallway.

Wheeljack finished tucking his tools away haphazardly, his own order not nearly as neat as Ratchet's. He turned, gazing down over Skyfire's broken form once more as he rested his tired hands on his hipplates.

Skyfire's breaking of protocol had astonished them all. He'd cut his comms with Prime, with Red Alert, and dove down to Starscream just after the Seeker's incredible overthrow and offlining of Megatron. He'd seized the rockets, the missiles, the entire objective of the Autobot's and human Army personnel's forward objectives. The Autobots were to grapple with the Decepticons, the infantry and artillery supporting the giant Autobot fighters, while the air cover attempted to breach the Decepticon control of the skies in order to reach those rockets.

Skyfire had changed their entire battle plans, acting on his own to grab the missiles himself, fleeing the battle and rising up to save the entire planet.

Starscream had chased after him, naturally enraged at the shuttle's actions. What else had passed between them as they climbed higher and higher, Wheeljack didn't know. Their history, the fractured, shadowy history between Skyfire and Starscream was still kept locked away and hidden inside the large shuttle. He never spoke about it, never spoke about his time with Starscream or his explorations in the past, with any of the Autobots. That left some confused feelings within some of the more paranoid of their Autobots, Cliffjumper, Huffer and Red Alert not going out of their way to befriend the large shuttle.

Wheeljack had always liked Skyfire though, always enjoyed his friendship and camaraderie in the labs, while working together. He considered Skyfire a friend, and hearing about his sacrifice after the battle had left another painful burn in his spark, after so much else of the battle had as well, too much so to think about.

They had all assumed Skyfire had perished, vaporized in the massive explosions far, far above the earth. They hadn't searched for him at all, which turned out to have been a mistake.

An Army base in Alaska had scrambled their search planes, sent out a rescue team and a strike team after they saw the streaking lights cascading down through the sky, breaking apart the aurora borealis with its fiery trails lighting up the sky. They hadn't known what to expect when they got there, and nor did the hundreds of human households who called 911, reporting an asteroid strike, an invasion or the end of the world. Instead, they found the decapitated torso of an overlarge Cybertronian shuttle, white armor blackened from reentry, arms and legs ripped off, red wings torn, stretched, destroyed. Miles away, in the wilderness, they finally found his helm his optics cold and offline.

When Prime and Wheeljack had heard, they hadn't believed. It couldn't happen again, not again. They'd shared an unbelieving look for a long moment while the Army personnel finally took over, seeking more information from the base commander in Alaska. Unbelievably, their scans, their primitive human technology, was still detecting a surging pulse of power within his chest cavity. They truly hadn't believed.

First Aid and Hoist were already away, already far away from the Army firebase in Afghanistan where they all had remained, slowly packing and planning on returning to the Ark. Ratchet couldn't, wouldn't go, and they didn't bother asking. Wheeljack had boarded the next Air Force flight back to America, a long, unnaturally long flight across Europe, stopping in Germany, then England, then Texas, before finally making it up to Alaska and to Skyfire.

Skyfire's stubborn insistence on holding onto the rocket launchers and refusing to let go to spite Starscream in their last argument, had saved his life. They launcher fractured apart first, pushing him downwards and away from the piercing explosion of the nuclear weapons and sending him hurtling through the atmosphere in his destructive descent. His arms, legs and other appendages were shorn away, destroyed on reentry as his processor offlined and he plummeted far too fast, through all the layers of the Earth's skies, and crashed in the wilderness of Alaska again.

Wheeljack privately thought they should rename the giant shuttle the Ice Monster since he seemed to have an unconscious affinity for crashing into the ice. He thought often, while he worked to reattach Skyfire's helm and repair his torn, burned, destroyed internals, about how he would tell Skyfire of his renaming, how they would joke about his actions and his second entombment within the arctic ice.

Silverbolt had started helping Wheeljack silently back on the Ark, each of them lost within the memories of their friendship with the giant shuttle. Nearly everything had to be replaced within the shuttle, nearly all lines, all cables, all circuits. The task was immense, incredible, and Wheeljack was more than happy to have the help and assistance.

All the while, Skyfire's spark hummed, keeping the giant shuttle alive and in stasis, unbelievably, beneath their repairs.

***^***

Fireflight slipped through the heavy door of the brig, optics surging to compensate for the harsh blackness their prisoner preferred within.

Red optics surged as well, onlining within his cell near the door as he rose from his awkward position lying on the simple brig berth. "Fireflight?" a deep, tired voice spoke.

"I brought you something," Fireflight whispered, his small voice still overloud within the brig. He reached into his subspace, pulling out a large, polished smooth lava rock, a deep, inky, shiny, black, silky underneath his fingertips.

Thundercracker inhaled deeply, cables and joints audibly clicking as he pulled himself up from his berth, crossing the two small steps across his cell in front of his brig bars before he slid down, hands gripping the bars as he dipped down to a seated position, weariness covering his entire body.

Fireflight met him at the bars, stooping low to sit as well, directly opposite of Thundercracker's deeply exhausted form. Thundercracker's helm leaned forward, resting against the inside of the bars as he gazed up into Fireflight's optics.

"Here," Fireflight whispered, handing the lava rock through the bars to Thundercracker. Their hands met briefly as Fireflight set the rock within Thundercracker's palm, fingers dragging over Thundercracker's larger ones as his hand withdrew back between the bars.

Thundercracker sighed, twirling the rock between his fingers slowly. "Thank you," He whispered back to Fireflight, optics still playing over the rock within his hands. He turned to his side, to the cell wall to his right, and set the rock down amidst a long line of treasures and gifts Fireflight had brought to him, one a day for the four orns he had been locked within the brig on the Ark. Dried flowers, rocks, seashells, small cacti, broken children's toys, and one, tiny toy jet sat in a long row. He added the lava rock to the end, setting it down gently.

"How was the air this cycle?" Thundercracker whispered, turning back to Fireflight and resting his helm against the bars once more.

Fireflight stared into Thundercracker's faceplates before answering. Their optics mingled, joined red and blue light the only illumination within the dark brig, their faceplates leaned close together and only separated by the brigs bars. "Wonderful," Fireflight breathed. "No turbulence. I caught a thermal near the canyon edge, rode it for almost a thousand feet."

Thundercracker sighed heavily, longing and imagining in his breath. He hadn't flown, not once, since his horrible, terrible crash, his attack on Fireflight, and his pointed, keen desire to offline under the younger flyer's lasers.

He remembered crashing, remembered the feeling of falling, of being entirely and utterly powerless to stop his thundering descent. He couldn't remember hearing anything though, just saw the too-fast advance of the trees and the ground beneath him, the hillside he was steadily plunging into. He didn't remember any pain, not then. Not until much, much later.

His optics had onlined finally later, much later, the sounds of battle faded far away. His spark, normally so full of not just his own feelings, but Skywarp's as well, was empty, silent. He had wondered, for an astrosecond, if he was dead, if he was in the Matrix, before the pain had set in. That, he figured, had to mean he wasn't. Had to mean he was alive, albeit barely, and painfully. His frame was shredded, armor plating gone in areas, ripped apart from his crash. One wing was gone, entirely, ripped away from his frame. Energon leaked from his body nearly all over.

He had snorted to himself, mocking himself in his utter failures in everything. In his life, in his pursuit of the Decepticons. In his bond, in his relationships, and now, in dieing. How could one fail and being a failure?

He was lying, panting while his breath and vents hitched, waiting and waiting for the final moments and to offline as the sky darkened steadily around him. A flyer began circling overhead, flying in wide, low circles over the mountainside, the forest, narrowing down until they were just above his frame. In the darkness, he couldn't see, couldn't tell if it was a Seeker, a human jet, or, Primus forbid, an Aerialbot. All he could do was wait.

The sound of a transformation, deep within the trees where the flyer had managed to land confirmed it wasn't a human jet, but he still didn't know if he was facing a Decepticon or an Autobot. He couldn't be sure which would be more angry to see him.

Fireflight's exhausted and pained faceplates had appeared over his own, gripping down in his frame and one of his hands in a too tight grip. Thundercracker hadn't been able to speak, his vocalizer too weak and his panting exhalations too quick to allow him to try. His optics shimmered, trying to ask what he couldn't voice as Fireflight continued to stare down at him.

"You told me we never die alone," Fireflight whispered, vocalizer ragged but still so young, so painfully young. "I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner."

Thundercracker didn't deserve this, didn't deserve Fireflight's mercy, his kindness, his friendship, not after what he had done, and everything he had become. He didn't deserve anything except to be left alone on the mountainside and in the forest, to die, slowly and alone. He had tried to break Fireflight's hold on his hand, tried to shake his helm, but his body wouldn't respond, wouldn't let him break this one contact on another mech, a chance to live.

"I'm going to get you out of here, Thundercracker," Fireflight had whispered, pinging back to the Autobot base, his brothers, and to Wheeljack, finally clueing them all into where he had disappeared to only joor after the battle had concluded. "You're going to be alright," he continued on, several klicks later. "I promise."

The passion, the burn in Fireflight's optics, the conviction behind his words, had seated within Thundercracker's processor. He gripped back, finally, on Fireflight's hand, holding on tightly until Wheeljack, Hoist, Silverbolt, and the rest of the Aerialbot's arrived.

His recovery had been long, and painful. Ratchet had stabilized him, then left him alone, returning to reconstruct and reattach his wing only two orns ago, and most of his confinement in the brig had been spent with only one wing. It was odd, being clipped, being incapable of flight, but he didn't dwell on it. The darkness surrounded him, consumed him, welcomed him. It prevented him from thinking, from realizing, from feeling the complete isolation he was now swimming in, cut off entirely from his bonded, from his trine, and from Skywarp.

He didn't know what had happened to them. Fireflight related the end of the battle to him, the parts he had missed, but he still didn't know, couldn't imagine, where Starscream would go. He told Prime all that he could during their infrequent conversations in the medbay. Thundercracker was strapped down to the berth initially, then allowed to remain on the berth under guard alone, but it wasn't much freedom, just as it wasn't much info. Starscream hadn't trusted him with much, not his plans, not his thoughts. Clearly he was a failure as a defector as well.

Thundercracker existed nearly entirely in the past few orns for Fireflight's visits each cycle. The flyer visited him every single cycle, sometimes more than once. He waited, vents cycling in and out, waiting for the heavy brig door to click open and the small flyer to slide in. He hadn't changed his paintjob back yet, refusing to alter the paint that Sunstreaker had applied himself, which made his shadowy form bleed into the background, blue optics nearly disembodied at the doorway until they sat before each other in the same place every time he came.

"You need to get out of here, Thundercracker," Fireflight whispered. "I'm sure Prime would let you fly with me, or with my brothers." He sighed, frowning as he stared at Thundercracker's weakening form. "You're dieing."

Thundercracker shook his helm slowly. "I can't, Fireflight." He bit down on his lipplates, chewing them between his denta. "I don't trust myself."

Fireflight stared at Thundercracker's faceplates, worry and pain stretched across his features. "Do you… do you want to go back to the Decepticons?" he finally asked hesitantly.

Thundercracker met Fireflight's optics, staring into them with too much shame emanating form within. "I don't know." His vocalizer was soft, too soft, words barely breathed out in a shaking, halting whisper.

Fireflight's comm broke the silence of the brig suddenly. "Hey Fireflight! 'Bolt's here and we're on the way to the Rec Room! You coming?" Air Raid's happy voice tore thorough their shared silence and darkness.

Fireflight sighed before he responded. "I'm coming, Air Raid. I'll be right up."

Air Raid paused, heavily, continuing instead of cutting off the line. "How is he?" he finally asked.

Fireflight tilted his helm, staring into Thundercracker's optics for a long moment before he answered. Thundercracker stared back, not speaking. "Tired," Fireflight finally answered simply.

Silence filled the comm line once more. "Maybe…" Air Raid began haltingly. "Maybe some of us can come with you next time. If he wants. If he wont kill us."

Fireflight smiled, chuckling softly. Thundercracker's lipplates twitched, a tiny smile spreading across his faceplates briefly. Fireflight caught it, and smiled wider. "Maybe," he replied fondly back to his brother, affection surging within his spark for his brothers. He cut the commline then, turning his attention fully back to Thundercracker.

"You should go," Thundercracker said, helm moving up the bars as he bobbed his helm upwards, once.

Fireflight searched Thundercracker's faceplates before he reached back through the bars, small hands gripping down on Thundercracker's own tightly. "I'll be back later," he whispered fondly.

Thundercracker's lipplates stretched into a small smile as he nodded back to the young flyer.

***^***

"Dump that piece of slag out the airlock." Starscream's vocalizer was hard as he turned to Soundwave on the command deck of Shockwave's freighter. Megatron's cold, offline body still rested within their cargo bay, untouched since being dumped onboard after Starscream led the Decepticons up to the moon, fleeing Earth.

Astrotrain had shuttled the Decepticon's that didn't have the necessary space mods to exist within the cold, harsh vacuum of space, shuttling them back and forth from their tiny hideout after finally losing the pursuing Army personnel from the battlefield. Starscream had found the freighter where Jazz and Prowl had planned to park it, safe and offline on the surface of the moon, entirely ready for his own takeover.

The secret was out on Earth. The world governments that knew, that had known previously about the Cybertronians among them, could no longer keep the secret of the great hulking machines living on their planet. The Autobots were hailed as heroes, as planet saving intergalactic heroes. Most governments dedicated themselves to hunting and punishing the Decepticons as well, not allowing their safe haven within their borders, and their militaries searched and hunted through the countries for any trace of the Decepticon factions hiding on Earth.

Not everyone loved the Autobots though; a seed group, an angry, paranoid group of humans, entirely frustrated and overcome with anger over the hidden Cybertronians living among them, were growing louder in their displeasure.

Soundwave turned from the piloting controls to face Starscream fully. He had effortlessly broken orbit, taking the freighter finally from the moon's surface, and setting their course back to Cybertron. Starscream had taken his time, collecting the salvageable bits of the Decepticon bases, mini outposts and equipment dumps before the humans tore through their technology. Astrotrain needed time as well, time to transfer and shuttle the mechs with Blast Off up to the moon. Now though, it was time to leave, time to travel back to Cybertron and take his rightful place of the leader of the Decepticons across the universe.

Soundwave nodded, once, then sent his silent orders to his Cassettes, Rumble and Ravage down below guarding the corpse in silence. They would transport the body to the airlock, dumping him out into space in the middle of the spacebridge tunnel jump, leaving his corpse to float in the depths of space alone.

Starscream's cold optics burned into Soundwave's own. They two officers had come to an unspoken arrangement, Soundwave remaining as the 3IC, useful to carrying out Starscream's orders and providing an additional legitimacy to Starscream's seizure of leadership. Starscream still didn't trust him fully though.

Finally, Starscream turned, silently walking off the command deck and turning into the private side anteroom. As the doors slid closed, his optics fixed on his new 2IC, the shadowy form of his trinemate standing silently in front of the tall window, legs spread wide as he bracketed himself before the expansive starfield.

"Enough of this, Skywarp," Starscream spat out, crossing quickly across the deck to stand behind his remaining trinemate. "Cut it out of your spark!"

Skywarp shuddered, inhaling raggedly as Starscream stopped behind him. The pain hadn't receded, not at all, not even a slight, tiny amount, since the battle. Since Thundercracker had wrested himself from their bond, from their sparks, crashing and offlining in a horrible attack from Fireflight. He hated, purely and entirely, the young Aerialbot, the mech he had almost begun to trust because of Thundercracker back on Cybertron.

"It hurts!" Skywarp hissed back to Starscream, not turning from his gaze out to the stars.

Starscream didn't say anything, faceplates twisting to a frown. Finally, he stepped forward, well into Skywarp's personal space, blue hands slowly rising to drag his fingers lightly across Skywarp's wing edge. "It always will," he whispered. "You must take control." Starscream gripped down at the edge of Skywarp's wings, at his tips, as Skywarp shuddered again. "Cut it out of your spark."

Skywarp trembled, the pain overwhelming his spark even as it surged, reaching back for Starscream and for the intimacy they had finally fallen into, clinging to each other in their sudden, complete aloneness. "I'll end up like you, wont I?" Skywarp whispered, leaning backward slightly into Starscream's touch upon his wings.

Starscream lifted his helm, staring into the back of Skywarp's helm. He hated, and nearly loved, his trinemate. Nothing would replace the hole, the gaping, still bleeding hole within his spark where Skyfire had lived for his entire life. Before his death. Before his offlining. He refused to play over the memories, refused to let the feelings and emotions out from his spark. Refused to accept responsibility for their lives and for the course of their failing union.

But this, Skywarp, was a balm against all of that. Starscream leaned forward, his mouthplates close to Skywarp's audial as he stretched over the purple Seeker's wings. "You'll never hurt again," he whispered before leaning back and stepping away as Skywarp shuddered throughout his entire frame.

"There's another unending, unstoppable source of power, Skywarp," Starscream began again, referencing back to the beginning of their entire mission, their entire, convoluted mission that had sparked the rending of their entire world. "Seize the pain. Make it your own."

Skywarp lowered his helm, optics flickering as his lipplates trembled. He never, never before, would have shown this weakness, this pain, to Starscream. However, Starscream's own pain had surged forth, beating and breaking out of his spark, the fullness of his feelings and history, previously only hinted at, finally exploding across their bond. They clung to one another, lonely and alone, hurting and in agony, cut off entirely and completely from the mechs that they could never, ever have again.

"I need you. Here." Starscream continued. "I need you, Skywarp." He backed away slowly, turning away from his last trinemate and finally breaking his burning gaze, his optics dragging away from the back of Skywarp's helm and wings. "Make your decision," Starscream spat over his shoulderjoint as he turned, striding out of the anteroom and away from Skywarp once again.

Skywarp couldn't stop the trembling that had settled over his frame, couldn't stop the wracking shudders and sobs that descended on his processor. He had wanted, for so long, to hear Starscream's vocalizer saying those words, to feel his trinemate's presence within his spark, to feel his wings and frame on top of his form. He had never thought it would come about like this though, amidst too much pain.

Skywarp lifted his shaking hand to the window, streaking his fingers lightly across the cool surface, blocking out so many far off stars from his sight. "TC," he whispered, agonizingly. "I love you too…"

***^***

Wheeljack tiredly padded down the hallway, one hand rubbing the back of his neck collum as he approached the doors of the Rec Room. Loud laughing burst suddenly from within, the Ark finally pulling itself back into the normality of its routine, of its life. Wheeljack smiled as he palmed open the door, optics sweeping across the room.

The Aerialbots lounged in the corner, Fireflight smiling with his teammates as they surrounded Silverbolt. Wheeljack smiled towards the Concorde as he entered, optics shifting around the Rec Room once more, falling on the minibots, minus Bumblebee, laughing and cajoling a blushing Bluestreak. Hound and Mirage rested against one of the couches, Mirage's optics still traveling over Hound's form with regularity, still convincing himself that Hound was there, was alright and was fully functional. It had taken a Primusly long time to extract and extricate the nuclear weapons and peripheral attachments Hook and Scrapper had attached throughout his internals. Mirage had hovered, entirely, over Hound throughout his recovery, the tables now turned within the two bondmates. Normally, Mirage was the one in danger, Mirage, the spy, was the one Hound was hovering over worriedly.

Hound basked in the attention and in Mirage's complete and total devotion and concern. He allowed it all with a smile brimming with emotion, long suffering and accepting as he gently teased Mirage back over his mother-henning, his care and concern. Mirage was unapologetic and unashamed of his smothering.

Wheeljack continued glancing around, optics finally landing on the smiling faceplates of Prowl, relaxing against the other couch in the Rec Room, data pad resting in his lap.

Skyfire's survival was incredible, and entirely unexpected, but nothing compared to the survival of Prowl and Jazz. Their crash, their entirely devastating crash, had nearly shorn their bodies apart at the seams, lines and internals fractured and ruptured, energon leaking over the pebble beach they had crashed upon and floating in the gently laping ocean waves. Their crash had nearly destroyed them, but it had also nearly destroyed the tropical forest surrounding the beach, alerting the villagers for miles of something dangerous, something unusual, something terrifying and unnatural upon their beach.

Once again, the humans thought they were being invaded, being attacked, asteroids or aliens plummeting to their world. They flooded through the forest, spooked faces and eyes stunned at the sight of the dieing, clutching together Autobots in the waves.

Naturally, they assumed the US government must know something about this, and the Mayor of the local village had called Mexico City, Mexico's President immediately contacted the US President, who instantly contacted the Pentagon. The Pentagon, already rocking under the revelations of the Autobot forces to the public, sent the information along to Prime and their joint strike forces in Afghanistan.

Prime, Wheeljack, and Red Alert had been trying to gather their forces, trying to clean up and patch up what they could, the battle still nearly just over. Wheeljack had just returned from Fireflight's impromptu rescue of Thundercracker and had just sedated the Seeker and begun to repair and replace his internal lines when the call came through from Trailbreaker, still working with the human personnel to share information. His vocalizer had been unbelieving, nearly laughing with disbelief.

Prime didn't laugh. Not at all.

He immediately ordered First Aid and Hoist out of Afghanistan, the Army providing a private, personal charter plane for the two Autobot medics racing against time to find their missing, injured officers. SPC Jackson, back at their firebase and waiting for his teammates to return with 'Bee and Hound, had hopped on the satellite comm instantly, speaking in broken, halting Spanish with a local mechanic and tried to instruct the highly confused and nervous local in some patch repairs of Prowl and Jazz, similar to the roughshod repairs he had performed on Trailbreaker.

The mechanics had clamped and secured enough leaking energon lines to preserve the tiny, lingering bits of energon still in their frames, enough to continue fueling their spark chambers with the life giving fluid until First Aid and Hoist were able to tear onto the beach. The locals hadn't moved the hulking machines, not physically able to drag them move than a few feet higher on to the beach and out of the waves, though separating and rolling them to their backs, only a few feet apart.

When First Aid and Hoist finally arrived, Prowl and Jazz had already interlocked their fingers, hands gripping each other's in a firm hold.

As best as the two medic's could understand, and after lengthy conferences with Ratchet, when the medic was able to speak, the joined and united sparks of Prowl and Jazz with Pax and Switch had intensified and lengthened, stretching out wide beneath their joined life forces. Both Pax and Switch had surged within the two Autobots during their attack on the Quintessons, taking over in small, hidden ways, merging fluidly with their own life-forces in a full and complete way, as they had only done so few times before; when spark merging, when bonding and when the two had joined life-forces in the past, strengthening not only their own bond, but Pax and Switch's finally realized bond as well.

The two ancient Cybertronians took over, subsuming the spark energy of Prowl and Jazz deep within, absorbing the damage and pain of their injuries and the crash entirely. They claimed control, allowing themselves to perish first, to expire before Prowl and Jazz's sparks finally broke free to take control once again.

They were still wounded, fatally so, mortally so, still clinging to the edge of death, but their joined sparks expired in sequence. Pax and Switch's sacrifice for the mechs that had carried them, allowed them to finally live and love again and to protect their home from the Quintessons once more. It allowed them a bare, slim chance to survive. Beneath all of that, there was something else, something unidentified, pulsing deep within as well.

After they had been stabilized, energon flooding their frames in a trembling field transfer under disbelieving optics and the shaking hands of Hoist and First Aid, Prowl, Jazz, Hoist and First Aid were the first mechs back to the Ark, back to the medbay, where they stayed in near stasis as the slow repairs began.

Wheeljack had taken over with First Aid, letting Hoist resume his work with Grapple as they worked to restore Jazz and Prowl back to health. Each night cycle, after Jazz's motor circuits were repaired and his backstruts able to hold his weight once more, he had shuffled across the medbay in his unconscious state, curling up around Prowl's still unconscious and healing form on the medberth next to him. Each new cycle found Wheeljack dragging Jazz back to his berth with First Aid, settling him back into his sensor monitors and fluid drips for the cycle before Jazz made his nightly escape again and again.

Ratchet, emerging from his own fog briefly, had finally helped Wheeljack push Jazz's berth next to Prowl's, resetting their sensor monitors and fluids together to allow the two mechs to physically recover together, their physical presence comforting and reassuring each other across their bonds.

Slowly, they recovered. Wheeljack fondly remembered, nearly as the best moment of his life, the cycle Jazz had finally onlined, his optics searching around the Ark's medbay in confusion and disbelief before settling on Wheeljack's form.

"How do you feel, Jazz?" Wheeljack had asked, smiling softly at the Saboteur.

Jazz had stared at Wheeljack for a long, hard moment before his faceplates burst into a wide, beautiful smile, optics surging up to Wheeljack and his oft repeated question. "I'm great, Wheeljack," Jazz had croaked, vocalizer harsh from disuse and cracking under his joy. "I'm great."

Jazz had turned his helm back to stare upwards at Prowl's still unconscious, though healing, body next to him, continuing to smile as his optics offlined and he sighed, heavily, thankfully, spark blooming under his too strong emotions. Wheeljack's audial fins lit brightly, lingering on as he stared down at the two officers fondly. Jazz had fallen back offline moments later, still recharging and resting as their repairs took hold, but well on the road to recovery.

Prowl's optics met Wheeljack's in the Rec Room as the Enforcer smiled up to the inventor, to the mech that had saved his life, along with First Aid and Hoist. He inhaled suddenly, his smile shifting to something more private, more intimate, and Wheeljack recognized the look within Prowl's optics that settled deep inside the indigo illumination when he was communicating with his bondmate.

::Where are ya, lover?:: Jazz's gentle, teasing voice and presence filled Prowl's processor.

::In the Rec Room.:: Prowl had spent far more time in the Rec Room, both with and without Jazz since his recovery, socializing lightly with the rest of the mechs on the Ark and breaking his former isolation as the 2IC. Jazz wasn't entirely sure if it was the after effects of their injuries and brush with death or somehow a merge of their own personalities over their bond that had brought out the more social aspects of his mate. Jazz himself noticed his own personality slightly shifting. His office, his work, was more organized, his reports now completed and submitted to Prime before their deadlines. Prime had stared knowingly at him the last three times it had occurred, his optics smiling and shining at his 3IC and friend.

::I'm on my way, lover.:: Jazz affectionately brushed against Prowl's spark before pulling back, offlining the terminal within his office and rising to join his bondmate.

***^***

Ratchet sighed heavily in his office as he rubbed his palm over his tired, weary faceplates. He was exhausted, all the time, these cycles.

Sparks were crazy, insane things. He'd never before understood spark bonds, never before thought much about the desires and motivations that would pull two mechs to want to unite their processors in one joined unit. As a medic, it was too stressful treating those bonded mechs, having to struggle to save both lives even if only one were injured.

The same had been true for vorns between Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, the twins united sparks bonded from their creation, twin formed and forged together. He'd entirely too frustratedly worked on one badly injured twin as the other lay in stasis nearby, waiting on Ratchet's care to determine their joined survival.

Ratchet had never, ever before desired to spark bond with any mech, to unite himself permanently to a lover, to tie his existence to their own. When he saw, horribly, the graying, fading frame of Sunstreaker laying on his side and gripping tight to his brother, he had instantly understood the motivations, the desires and the urge to bond. He understood the gnawing emptiness that surviving bonded mechs spoke of, after their bonded offlined, themselves usually following after shortly to join their bonded within the Matrix. He understood entirely, feeling the ache and agony settle over his spark as he stared at Sunstreaker's body.

He had known Sunstreaker for vorns, fought with him viciously, then cared for him, struggling to understand and bring out the reclusive, angry warrior from his self imposed isolation before falling too deeply for him. He'd shared that emotion, that unacknowledged, too deeply felt feelings, the burning, unbridled passion, with Sunstreaker for three cycles, three perfect cycles, before it all came crashing down around him.

He understood, perfectly and entirely. He wanted in that moment to lie down next to Sunstreaker and will his armor to turn grey himself, to hold fast to his lover, his love, and fade away, to allow the pain and anger and rage to consume him entirely. He wanted his spark to be intimately and perfectly tied to Sunstreaker's own, to not have to continue on without him.

Wheeljack had had to shake him from his plummeting, plunging spark, hissing frantically into his audial and shattering the black, descending cloud over his processor. "They're dieing, Ratchet. They're not dead yet!"

Ratchet had snapped, broken entirely and focused solely on Sunstreaker. He'd thrown himself down to their sides, scanners, sensors and tools flying, trying to absorb everything, every tiny thing happening between the twins.

Sideswipe's spark chamber and spark had been destroyed, crushed within Soundwave's raging revenge and overlarge palm. Sunstreaker had come upon his twin, shaking and trembling and struggling to breath, to inhale, as his engine seized and the energon spat out into his chest cavity out of the line that had formerly fed his spark chamber. Sunstreaker hadn't paused, throwing himself down next to Sideswipe as he chucked his rifle and began to tear open his chestplates.

Sideswipe had stared up into Sunstreaker's terrified optics, his own faceplates trembling with agony as he panted, knowing that his death would drag Sunstreaker down with him. "I'm sorry…" he had whispered, shaking. "I'm so sorry, Sunny…"

"Shut up!" Sunstreaker had screamed, shouted down to Sideswipe as he tore his chestplates away, uncaring about his paint or brilliance at all, only caring for Sideswipe. "Just shut up!"

Sunstreaker's spark chamber forcibly clicked open as he leaned down, grasping Sideswipe and pulling him into his arms, falling sideways and screaming as their chests had connected. Sideswipe shrieked, a pained, terrible sound erupting from his vocalizer as Sunstreaker's spark surged within his broken chest cavity. Sideswipe's systems had pulled, grasping at Sunstreaker's identical spark, recognizing it as his, as the duplicate and dual spark forged at the same moment of his own. It surged, pushing against Sideswipe's broken systems and uniting with his processor, working to power Sideswipe, working, struggling to keep both twins alive.

One spark was not powerful enough to keep both mechs alive. It was barely enough to keep them both going in a minimal way, in a tiny, fractional way. Sunstreaker hadn't known, at all, what he was doing, what he could do, only knowing that he had to try to save Sideswipe. He trusted, relied on Ratchet to figure out his mess, if he survived, as Ratchet always had.

Ratchet however had no clue, no idea how to proceed, how to fix the barely alive mechs clinging to each other and sharing one spark. Pulling them apart would send Sideswipe plummeting again, dragging Sunstreaker down as well, both of them offlining painfully and suddenly. He didn't know what to do. At all.

They'd moved the twins off the battlefield slowly, gently, fluids pouring into their frame, high grade medical energon forcing their systems to keep operating, though still at depressed, unnatural levels. They laid, locked together in the medical tent back at the firebase after being transported in a terrifying helicopter slingload back through the mountains, all while Ratchet was frantically going out of his processor again and again.

He thought of nothing else other than their injuries and how to separate their frames before Sunstreaker's spark extinguished in exhaustion. The key problem, the underlying issue, was Sideswipe's lack of a functioning spark chamber, any spark chamber.

Ratchet had slight flashbacks of Starscream, the ever-traitorous Seeker, as he rebuilt and forged a new spark chamber for Sideswipe. He poured everything of himself into it, begging Primus that his skills were up to the task, up to the daunting task of saving both twin's lives.

Ratchet had gone through Sideswipe's back plating, removing the red twin's armor nearly entirely and exposing his sensitive, vulnerable protoform as he installed the fabricated spark chamber back into Sideswipe's clamped energon line, leaving the chamber clicked open during the installation.

As soon as he had finished, the chamber clicked closed, automatically and without his own input, just after he unclamped the main energon line and allowed the fluids to flow through his newly created spark chamber once more. The tiny, threaded capillaries filled, thrumming with purple illumination, with the energon filling within, perfectly. Ratchet had been elated, for a moment, until the chamber clicked closed without his authorization.

It clicked shut on Sunstreaker's spark, neatly cleaving the spark in two, shattering and separating the golden warrior's spark as Sideswipe's body greedily grabbed hold, demanding an independent spark for his self. Sunstreaker had shuddered, then seized, processor plunging and vital functions dropping as his body sharply reacted to the loss of half his strong, powerful spark.

Ratchet had had to do many procedures to Sunstreaker before, many fluid transfers, many shocks through his system when Sunstreaker was badly injured and wounded in the numerous battles with the Decepticons over the vorns. He'd never had to do so knowing the intimate touch and feel of the golden twin though, never had to shock his system as he begged, pleaded with both Sunstreaker and Primus for the twin to hang on, to stay alive and online, and for Ratchet to see his shining optics and that look, his look, one more time.

The twins' bodies had still been intertwined, strapped together and immobile, which had allowed Sideswipe's new spark chamber to pulse, vibrations and tendrils of Sunstreaker's own spark stretching back to his now-closed chamber, shocking and caressing the golden warrior's chamber and stabilizing the twin as his functions regulated. They were still weak, but stable again.

Ratchet hated sparks at that moment, exhausted, frustrated, confused, worried and shaking, fearful for both twins' lives and the dual pressures on his conscience.

Remarkably, the twins had grown stronger. Ratchet's entire focus and attention had been dedicated to them, the two most massively injured from the battle. He did help and assist Wheeljack, First Aid, and Hoist with Jazz, Prowl, Hound and Skyfire briefly before returning back to the near constant monitoring of the two frontline warriors. By the time the entire Ark crew was ready to transport back to the Ark an orn after the battle, back to their home in an absolute fleet of Air Force transport planes, the twins were able to be separated, no longer needing the physical contact to keep them both online and alive.

The next orn was spent with the twins on life support, separate but unable to support their own systems. Vent respirators and O2 lines, energon spikes and artificial pumps stood next to both berths, working to keep the two alive and online. Their frames, their armor, slowly began regaining color, their scratched and ruined paintjobs brightening from within as the light of their lives began to build, fractionally, each cycle.

Sunstreaker strengthened first, enough to remove the artificial life support devices in his typical difficult fashion. His body began cycling independently, fighting the influence and pattern of the auxiliary systems, breathing and pumping on his own and creating a mess against the opposing life support functions. It was the first time Ratchet had smiled, briefly, as he thought of how Sunstreaker just had to be difficult.

It was near the third orn after the battle that Sunstreaker nearly offlined Ratchet entirely in shock. He had spent the day cycle sanding, buffing and repairing the raised scar on Sunstreaker lower side, just as he promised he would, though it now was the least of the damages and injures to Sunstreaker's frame. Ratchet hadn't repaired his chestplates yet, still wanting that rapid access capability to his spark chamber if the golden twin dropped off again. It had been difficult for Ratchet, repairing the scar, soothing the injured armor and Sunstreaker's imagined pride all at once, as he remembered their mission, their times together, and the long history of the two of them. He replayed their conversations, over and over, their laughing, teasing moments, the surprising gentleness Sunstreaker had displayed, and the burning, unquenchable passion Ratchet had felt. It had been entirely difficult for him to work on Sunstreaker's unresponsive, silent body, spark still wrenched tight in pain, still wound too tightly within his chest.

Ratchet had left the medbay, one of the very few times he had at all. He had essentially moved in, recharging in his office or on one of the berths near the twins, optics locked on Sunstreaker until his processor forced him offline. He'd gone to Wheeljack, working steadily on reconnecting Skyfire's internals and spent some time in the calming, happy presence of his friend.

"I don't understand, Wheeljack," Ratchet had said tiredly. "I'll never understand."

Wheeljack had nodded, audial fins lit before he flashed back, speaking slowly. "We have six mechs alive who should not be. There's something there, something within their sparks that kept them here."

Fireflight had been working with Silverbolt, who had been working on Skyfire's lower hipplate, reattaching and replacing wires that would eventually connect his still-missing legs. "Well," the flyer began softly. "Four of them spark merged with Starscream. Maybe there's something there."

Ratchet had raised his optic ridge to the younger Aerialbot, snorting in tired disbelief. "I might believe that, since that fragging Seeker is impossible to offline." He'd shaken his helm, then continued. "Though, after what I've seen, I'm not sure I don't believe anything anymore." His optics wandered over Skyfire's form slowly.

When Ratchet had finally returned to the medbay, Sunstreaker was no longer in his berth. Ratchet had a momentary flash of panic before he found him laid out on top off Sideswipe, half bent over at the waist where he had tiredly stood by his twin's berthside for an unknown stretch of time. He'd dropped offline and into recharge, draping his upper half across the berth and letting his legs dangle over the side.

After Ratchet had recovered from the shock and terror of not seeing Sunstreaker where he had left him, he'd grabbed two chairs from his office and pulled Sunstreaker down into one while he sat next to the golden twin in the other, stroking his hands over his lover's helm while Sunstreaker recharged. Ratchet fell into recharge a long while later.

He'd onlined to find Sunstreaker already online and sitting up, staring hard and unmoving at Sideswipe's body on the berth. Ratchet had been overjoyed, smiling wide and gripping Sunstreaker's hands as he whispered Sunstreaker's name, longing and spark-tearing happiness surging from within.

Sunstreaker had ignored him. Entirely.

Ratchet tried to get his attention, tried shaking his hands, his shoulderjoints, shouting at him. Nothing broke Sunstreaker's focus on his twin. Ratchet scanned him unendingly, searching for some reason Sunstreaker was ignoring him, some medical reason, some malfunction in his circuitry. There was none. Sunstreaker was simply ignoring him.

Happiness turned to anger, which turned to frustration, which turned to determination. The next night cycle found Ratchet sitting beside Sunstreaker again, holding him once more when the golden twin fell into recharge. The same pattern of events repeated the next cycle, and the next, the three of them having fallen into a stagnation; Sideswipe's healing and recovery stuttered, Sunstreaker didn't break his pattern of ignoring Ratchet, and Ratchet never broke from his dedication to Sunstreaker.

Finally, after cycles, Ratchet had had enough. He had sat down for the night cycle again with Sunstreaker and began to talk, began to just unload, speaking out loud all the pain, anger and frustration he'd had within him, fearing for the worst when Sunstreaker lay graying on the battlefield, the agonizing cycles spent around the world, not knowing if Sunstreaker or Sideswipe would offline at any moment. The determination he had, within him, to press onwards, not allowing either of them to perish, to fight on and hold close each of the twins' lives.

He spoke haltingly about what he felt, for Sunstreaker, of the pain and terror and confusion, and of his wish to lay down with him and expire. He spoke of finding inside himself the determination to move forward, to press onwards to save them both, to heal both horrible, terrible twins as an entirely selfish act; he needed Sunstreaker, needed him fiercely within his life.

Sunstreaker had turned to stare at him, finally looking at him, during his ceaseless talk. When Ratchet finally stopped, finally ran out of words of longing and pain, Sunstreaker was shaking, trembling next to Ratchet with burning, heated optics.

"I hate you," Sunstreaker whispered. "I hate you…" His vocalizer shook, cracked on the words as his optics and faceplates twisted, too much emotion within. "Why do you make me feel this way?"

Ratchet's spark had stilled, had nearly stopped entirely as Sunstreaker began to speak, halting whispers barely reaching his audials. They were the first words he'd heard from the twin, from his lover, since the battle. He sobbed, hands grasping Sunstreaker's audial vents and helm, thumbs stroking over the armor plating as he exhaled forcefully, frame sagging and spark finally unclenching within his chest as he understood, finally, what they felt between them.

"Sunny," he whispered back, shaking and beginning to rain tiny kisses across Sunstreaker's helm and faceplates, drawing himself closer to the twin as he pulled Sunstreaker down towards him. "Sunny, I love you too. I love you too…"

Sunstreaker had finally come apart within his hands, shaking and trembling underneath his kisses and words of love. He'd curled into Ratchet's arms, recharging and holding Ratchet in return for the first time in orns.

Ratchet onlined to Sunstreaker's violent shakes, trying to wake the exhausted medic still seated next to him. "Ratchet!" Sunstreaker hissed, shaking him again. "I can feel him again!"

Sunstreaker revealed he hadn't been able to feel Sideswipe through their bond, which Ratchet hadn't even tried to understand, considering how they both had Sunstreaker's spark inside them. He'd tiredly, foggily, stood, beginning his full body scans of Sideswipe once more as Sunstreaker watched his every move.

"I think," he began later, "That your systems are each trying to rebuild the two halves of your spark and integrate them into each of your own functions. I think your healing is tied together." Ratchet had indicated to the terminal display, showing Sunstreaker the rapid advancement Sideswipe had made in his own healing that night cycle. He could come off the life support very shortly. "You need to take care of yourself, Sunny. Until your spark becomes his spark, your healing is effecting his own healing."

Sunstreaker had nodded, staring up into Ratchet's optics and listening dutifully. He had sighed, looking over Sideswipe's form, then back to Ratchet before speaking. "I guess you're right, I should be doing more for him."

"And for you," Ratchet had interjected, turning away from Sideswipe to stare down into Sunstreaker's faceplates. He'd raised his optic ridge. "Say that again."

Sunstreaker frowned. "What?"

"Say it again, the part about me being right."

Sunstreaker's own optic ridges had arched upwards as his optics took on a teasing, sarcastic glint. "I said, 'I guess you're right.'"

Ratchet smiled, tired, exhausted and relieved, and had joked back to his lover, "Mmm, that turns me on a bit." He'd regretted it the moment it left his lipplates, a slip of his normal sarcastic nature shining forth. He didn't know if Sunstreaker would appreciate the humor, given Sideswipe's condition.

Instead, Sunstreaker his tilted his helm, Ratchet's Look shining outwards for the first time since before the battle, lipplates curling upwards slightly. "I said 'guess.' That leaves room for you to be wrong."

Ratchet had smiled back fully, leaning down for a quick kiss to Sunstreaker's lipplates. "I'm never wrong."

Their life settled into a sequence after that, Sunstreaker remaining at Sideswipe's side during the day cycle as he regained his strength, Ratchet working in the medbay and helping Wheeljack, helping the Army, locate the missing pieces of Skyfire around the globe to piece back together. He repaired Thundercracker, reattached his wing and tried to talk to the blue Seeker, though Thundercracker was still fighting his own demons deep inside.

Each evening, he and Sunstreaker took a walk, working on strengthening Sunstreaker's, and by proxy, Sideswipe's systems. They chatted, talking idly about the Ark, the gossip, the battle, and their suddenly known existence around the world. Sunstreaker's strength steadily improved, and they began walking to the Rec Room for energon each evening, resting there for several joors, then returning to the med bay to recharge together on the adjacent berth to Sideswipe.

Sunstreaker's healing pulled from within Ratchet his deeply buried lust, locked away while the twin was recovering, but peeking out now that Sunstreaker was gaining strength each cycle. He'd lay, arms wrapped around Sunstreaker's body on the med berth while the twin recharged, with his surging engine and fantasizing processor preventing him from his own recharge. He wanted, desired, the twin again, but Sunstreaker still hadn't shown an interest, hadn't shown an inclination towards physical intimacy with his brother still down, though now off the life support, and himself still healing. Ratchet never pressed.

Ratchet finally offlined his terminal and stood, leaving his mess on the desk and walking out into the med bay. Sunstreaker was waiting for him, still seated in the chair next to Sideswipe, long legs stretched out before him as his optics glazed over, roaming over his twin's frame. Ratchet had sealed and repaired both of their chestplates, repairing the cosmetic damage as well. They both gleamed, brilliantly.

"Ready?" Ratchet crossed the medbay to stand in front of Sunstreaker, one hand extended to help the golden twin stand.

Sunstreaker nodded, moving his optics from Sideswipe's frame to Ratchet's faceplates and taking hold of Ratchet's hand to help pull himself upwards. They dropped the grip as they both began to walk, crossing the medbay and heading out into the hallway and to the Rec Room for their evening energon.

Sunstreaker padded along silently next to Ratchet as Ratchet's thoughts once again turned to the deeply personal revelations of his feelings during their entire ordeal. He had been pouring over and through his emotions, over the thoughts that had surprisingly reared up within his spark and processor back in the beginning, when Sunstreaker had seemed lost. His own thoughts had turned, again and again, and far more seriously recently, towards bonding.

Ratchet had no doubt the depth of Sunstreaker's feelings, the sincerity of his love, not after their shaking revelations. Sunstreaker had opened himself to Ratchet entirely, their conversations, their day and night cycles spent wholly together. Sunstreaker leaned on Ratchet, on his strength, on their strength together, during his and Sideswipe's healing. Despite all of that, or perhaps because of their growing togetherness, they did have several bitter arguments, fits of anger blossoming amidst the frustrations of Sunstreaker's healing. Still, Ratchet knew, as deeply as he'd ever known, that Sunstreaker was the one mech he couldn't live without. He felt deep within that Sunstreaker felt similarly.

They entered the lift together, Sunstreaker leaning tiredly against the back wall. He wasn't up to his full strength, not yet, and even their short walks would tire him out. Ratchet joined him, leaning against the side bulkhead of the lift next to Sunstreaker, his own exhaustion settling over his frame. He was old, older than Sunstreaker, and recharging on the medberths each night was not kind to his systems. He wouldn't change a thing, not at all, wouldn't let go of his time with Sunstreaker, but he certainly was tired.

Sunstreaker's optics slid over to stare at Ratchet, Ratchet's optic's dim as he leaned backwards tiredly. His optics traveled the length of Ratchet's body, dragging themselves over his shoulderjoints, his arms, and lingering on his red hands. They continued downwards, shifting across his red hipplates, then following down the length of his long, lean legs. Finally Sunstreaker shifted his gaze back upwards to Ratchet's faceplates. The medic had caught him staring, caught his lingering gaze over his body, and was staring back at the golden twin with a small smile.

Sunstreaker reached his hand out, fingers intertwining with Ratchet's red digits gently. "We should recharge in your quarters tonight," Sunstreaker said softly. "I think I can make the trip."

Ratchet's helm shifted, turning to stare at Sunstreaker as his lipplates parted slightly in surprise. "Are you sure?" he asked, stroking his thumb up and down Sunstreaker's palm.

Sunstreaker nodded, tugging on Ratchet's hand and pulling the medic fully against his body. "You need better recharge. I know that." Sunstreaker paused, optics dragging over Ratchet's faceplates. "Sideswipe will still be there next cycle." His vocalizer was slightly strained, voice equally spread between conviction and still needing to convince himself of the truth of his words. He needed to give this to Ratchet, to themselves, but tearing himself from Sideswipe's side still felt unnatural.

The lift halted, doors beginning to slide open. Ratchet inhaled, pulling backwards to push at the controls, closing the doors and keeping them inside the closed lift. This wasn't the time, wasn't the right time at all, but they had never been good with timing during their relationship. Sunstreaker had always been bugging and bothering him, then cropping up at all times, inconveniently, persistently. Then, their union, their ill-timed revelations to each other and subsequent too strong passion stretching out seemingly forever though ending too quickly amidst their friends and teammates. The timing of everything else, the battle, Sunstreaker's near death, too close to their final, perfect coming together. This was as good as any other time.

Sunstreaker stared into his optics, questioning.

Ratchet inhaled deeply, staring back into Sunstreaker's optics. He swallowed, gears rising and falling within his throat slowly. "There are things I can do, and things I can't do, as a medic," Ratchet began, red hands both sliding into Sunstreaker's yellow ones, fingers intertwining together. It was hard for him to admit that he had limits, had instances that baffled his expertise and knowledge. "I don't understand what happened, between you and Sideswipe. I truly don't. I just try to keep going."

Ratchet sighed deeply once more, swallowing again as Sunstreaker continued to stare down at him intensely. He hadn't thought this would be so difficult. "I can't fix this for you. I can't bring Sideswipe back tomorrow and I can't fix your sparks. Both of you have half a spark now, because of what you did." Ratchet hurried to finish as Sunstreaker frowned, opening his mouth to interject, to defend himself from what he thought was Ratchet's attack on his choices, his actions. "Because of your sacrifice. Because of your bravery," Ratchet finished, softly. "You are the most incredible mech I've ever known, Sunny. You are courageous, and you're brave, and though you try to hide it, I know you actually care about others."

Sunstreaker frowned, shifting uncomfortably beneath Ratchet's words of praise. His helm tilted as he licked his lipplates, then rubbed them together, gently chewing the inner edge of his lower lipplate.

Ratchet lifted Sunstreaker's hands in his own, bringing the golden fingers to his lipplates and dropping small kisses onto each knuckle, a repeat of his actions in their shelter's medbay when everything had changed between them. "There is something I can do for you though, something I want to do, so much." Ratchet's lipplates lingered on Sunstreaker's fingers, optics staring upwards into Sunstreaker's faceplates. "You already have everything of me, Sunny. You have my processor, my spark, and my love." Sunstreaker's optics burned into Ratchet's own, pinning them both in place as their world shrank to the two of them, pressed together within the lift, and Ratchet's halting, nervous words. "Please, Sunny. Please take my spark as well. It's yours already. Please." Ratchet kissed Sunstreaker's hands again, once, lipplates brushing against the golden armor as Sunstreaker's mouthplates fell open beneath Ratchet's whispers.

Sunstreaker stared into Ratchet's optics, his faceplates, optics searching over and through the medic's gaze. He exhaled, slowly, long and ragged. Finally, his lipplates pressed back together, firmly, optics slitted as he glared downwards to Ratchet. "You want to bond with me?" Sunstreaker asked, firm glare belied by the shaking in his vocalizer.

Ratchet nodded, unable to speak.

Sunstreaker stared, hard, still glaring. They remained locked in their position, hands still intertwined in front of their chests, gripping tightly to each other and frozen in place. Sunstreaker began to shake his helm, slowly, softly, each shake getting bigger and wider as he held Ratchet's gaze. "I hate you…" Sunstreaker whispered. "I hate you so much…"

Ratchet's faceplates split into a wide grin. It was an unconventional relationship, their own, using words of hatred in place of words of love. "I love you too, Sunny. You have no idea how much I love you."

Sunstreaker didn't answer. He broke Ratchet's hold on his hands, grabbing Ratchet's helm and dragging his faceplates to his own. He kissed Ratchet, deeply, their first true kiss since the whole horrible ordeal had begun.

Ratchet moaned, backstruts and legs weakening as Sunstreaker's glossa invaded his mouth, Sunstreaker's hands cupping his helm and stroking his faceplates tenderly, too tenderly to be believed as their kiss stretched on and on. Ratchet's hands dropped to Sunstreaker's chestplates, fingers splayed wide as he gripped down, clinging to the golden twin's form as he rode their kiss, losing himself within the touch and feel of his lover once more.

"Whoops!" A loud, human voice suddenly sounded from the open lift doors, unnoticed by either mech, too wrapped in the sensations of each other.

Ratchet's helm whipped around, glaring at the sudden intrusion as Sunstreaker's hands fell to his shoulderjoints. The golden twin's optics looked just shy of murder as his helm peered around Ratchet's, both of them panting heavily.

Bumblebee and Whitmore stood side-by-side, matching wide grins stretched across their faces and faceplates. "Sorry, Ratchet," Bumblebee began. "We didn't expect you to be in here." He still grinned cheekily up at the medic.

"We were just leaving," Sunstreaker growled, pushing off the back wall and grabbing Ratchet's hand, dragging him from the lift and past the minibot and Whitmore, now dressed casually in shorts and a long-sleeved shirt, face cleanly shaved.

Ratchet followed Sunstreaker's stalk down the corridor, the golden twin not dropping his hand. He quickened his pace, falling in step with Sunstreaker and glancing sidelong in time to hear Whitmore's exclamation to 'Bee. "Were they doing what I think they were doing?"

"Depends, what do you think they were doing?" Bee's vocalizer teased.

"You know! Were they… do you guys actually have sex?"

"We 'interface.'"

"Interface? What the shit is that? I 'interface' with the CENTCOM network, what does-"

"You do?" Bee's still teasing, shocked tone interrupted Whitmore as the lift doors closed.

Ratchet finally chuckled, still glancing sidelong to Sunstreaker, who hadn't dropped his firm grip on Ratchet's hand. Sunstreaker's optics slid back towards his own, Ratchet's Look once again shining from within. Ratchet's lipplates stretched into a wide smile, again, staring into Sunstreaker's happy faceplates. "You never answered my question," he asked softly, lightly.

Sunstreaker stopped, turning and bodily pressing Ratchet backwards against the corridor bulkhead, frames sliding together as he pressed against his lover, pressing him backwards till he was pushed up against the wall. He stared, hard, into Ratchet's optics as Ratchet inhaled, engine thrumming from the effects of their combined kiss in the lift and Sunstreaker pushing up against his frame.

Sunstreaker leaned forwards, capturing Ratchet's lipplates softly, too gently, within his own, lightly kissing him slowly. Ratchet moaned again, red hands gripping down on Sunstreaker's hipplates to draw the twin closer.

Sunstreaker pulled back, inhaling deeply as he gazed into Ratchet's optics. He nodded, slowly, up and down, not breaking their stare.

Ratchet's smile threatened to break his faceplates, stretching wide as his optics surged, shining brilliant with far, far too much emotion. He couldn't speak, vocalizer freezing under too much sensation. He leaned forward, capturing Sunstreaker's lipplates in dozens of kisses, pressing into Sunstreaker again and again. "When you're better," Ratchet murmured between kisses. "When you're healed."

***^***

Jazz was reclining backwards on the Rec Room couch, helm laying in Prowl's lap and optics offline when Cliffjumper burst into the Rec Room. "All of you lazy mechs come outside with me!" Cliffjumper drawled. "You are not going to believe this!"

Prowl had stopped reading his data pad, and more importantly to Jazz, stopped his fond, light stroking of Jazz's bumper, turning to look quizzically at Cliffjumper before staring downwards at Jazz, his optics ridges raised. The rest of the mechs, including Ratchet and Sunstreaker, who had arrived only a few breems ago, looked around in confusion as well.

"Come on!" Cliffjumper called out again. "You're going to miss it!"

Prowl sighed, then stood, bumping Jazz's helm up off his lap as Jazz squawked in protest. Prowl met Cliffjumper's optics with his own ever-patient ones, then gestured for the minibot to lead the way. Jazz stared up to his bondmate in disbelief, mouth open as he glared. Prowl was leaving him, leaving their comfortable recline to go gallivanting after Cliffjumper.

Prowl's optics smiled down at Jazz as his lipplates gently teased. Sighing, Jazz huffed himself up, standing next to Prowl and following him out of the Rec Room. The rest of the mechs soon followed suit, Sunstreaker and Ratchet joining the parade of mechs at the end, Sunstreaker's movements much slower than usual in his weakened and tired state. Their trek from the medbay had already taken much of the strength from the golden warrior.

Cliffjumper led them all back outside, nearly bouncing with excitement and repressed humor. He turned, grinning wide as they finally all tromped out through the entrance and stopped around the Dinobots, all in their preferred alt modes and sitting around Kup, himself sitting high atop a boulder.

"More!" Grimlock roared, backed by cheers and shouts from Slag, Snarl and Sludge and caws from Swoop as he flapped his wings. Kup grinned wide, waving to the new arrivals and gesturing for them all to take a seat and join the fun. Smokescreen and Blaster were atop an adjacent tall rock, Smokescreen sitting and dangling his legs over the side as Blaster reclined backwards, knees bent upwards. Hot Rod stood behind them both, fidgeting and glaring across at Kup.

"You're ridiculous, Kup!" Hot Rod jeered. "No mech believes that!"

"They do!" Kup pointed down to the Dinobots, still jostling for more stories. "They love my stories! At least some mechs appreciate the experience of their elders!"

Hot Rod sighed, rolling his optics. "Experience! It's all made up!"

"Is not!" Kup retorted forcefully.

"Your 'stories' change all the time! I think I've heard the one about your 'rescue' of-"

"Why you ungrateful little mechlet! All the times I've saved you –"

Hot Rod and Kup's escalating and oft repeated argument was droned out by Blaster's sudden crackling of his radio, the chorus of an old Earth song blasting over the assembled mechs. "…How sweet it is to be loved by you…"

Smokescreen shook his helm as he chuckled over Blaster's song choice. "You two are incredible," he laughed, glancing between both Hot Rod and Kup's frowning, scowling faceplates.

"You Hot Stuff be silent! You Kup tell Dinobots more adventures!" Grimlock suddenly shouted, slowing and switching his long T-Rex tail. The rest of his Dinobot team roared in affirmation as Hot Rod sighed again, throwing his hands up in frustration and collapsing next to Blaster.

Kup grinned and rubbed his hands together as the rest of the mechs settled in around the Dinobots. Ratchet gently helped Sunstreaker sit on one of the lower side boulders before joining his lover next to him. Sunstreaker leaned heavily into his arms and rested his helm on Ratchet's shoulderjoint. Few of the mechs spared them a second glance; the shock of their union had worn off while Sunstreaker and Ratchet refused to entertain their stares and shocked looks in their evenings spent in the Rec Room.

'Bee and Whitmore stumbled out from the Ark, pinged outside by Cliffjumper. Whitmore was on extended leave from the Army, and chose to spend a majority of it with 'Bee, traveling around parts of America and then visiting the Ark for the next orn. He would be returning to the new Department of Cybertronian Affairs as a liaison between the Pentagon and White House after his vacation.

Hound and Mirage settled down together, each of their hands intertwined as they sat in the dirt. Mirage would never have before lowered himself to join Hound on the ground, preferring to stand until his servos tired. Now though, after Hound's brush with too-close death, small things had changed. He didn't hesitate to settle in next to Hound, shoulderjoints rubbing together as both their hands joined within Hound's lap.

Even Prime was there, finally emerging from within the Ark with Ironhide, the two older mechs enjoying a private relaxation within Prime's office. Red Alert had wandered out as well, Inferno tagging along and standing next to the Security Officer. Wheeljack moved to join Silverbolt, smiling fondly and standing next to the Aerialbot leader while his ever-bickering and talkative teammates settled down behind him, folding themselves around each other with their wings overlapping. The Protectobots pulled in around the Ark, vehicle modes transforming to mech modes as they all waited for Kup's next story and watching the Dinobots with suppressed humor.

"This story is not that old," Kup began, glancing a harsh look to Hot Rod's still scowling form. "Certainly not as old as some here would have you believe I am."

Kup glanced over the crowd and spotted Jazz and Prowl, standing together near the back. Prowl stood behind Jazz, arms wrapped around the Saboteur's waistplates in an unusual public display of affection as his chinplate rested on Jazz's shoulderjoint. Jazz's hands gripped down on Prowl's, fingers intertwined where they rested, wrapped around Jazz's frame.

"This story begins on a simple patrol, three mechs out trying to protect their teammates…" Kup's voice droned on, despite Hot Rod's overdramatic, interjecting sighs as he flounced against Blaster's form.

Prowl turned his helm into Jazz's neck collum, softly mouthing the cables within, safe from view behind the entire crowd. Jazz inhaled, shifting against his ministrations, his soft, tender kisses, rotating his helm to give his bonded better access. Prowl's helm lifted, mouthing and lightly sucking his way up Jazz's neck collum to the back of his helm, then over to his audial, still lightly kissing Jazz's armor plating. "I love you," Prowl breathed into Jazz's audial.

Jazz shivered, from his helm to his feet, at the feel of Prowl's words ghosting over his audial. He squeezed down, gripping tightly to Prowl's fingers where they still held him, then pressed his frame back against the Enforcer's own. He turned his helm sideways, finally breaking under the perfect feel of his bondmate's tender kisses.

Kup's voice continued on, rising and falling as he relayed their story to the gathered mechs, their friends, teammates, fellow Autobots on the Ark and from Cybertron, though it all passed unnoticed to Prowl and Jazz. Their optics met, shining, sparkling as they stared into the other's gaze, before they drew together, one of Jazz's hand rising to cup Prowl's faceplates as they met in a brilliant, perfect kiss, stretching onwards beneath the setting desert sun.

-

Musical Selections for Selected Characters:

Prowl/Jazz – Far Away, Nickelback

Ratchet/Sunstreaker – I Need You To Love Me, Barlow Girl

Starscream – I'm Alive, Disturbed

Starscream/Skyfire – Hurt, Johnny Cash

Skywarp – Always, Saliva

Thundercracker – Never Enough, Five Finger Death Punch; Ever Fallen In Love, Pete Yorn

Skyfire – 1000 Miles from Nowhere, Dwight Yoakum

Resistance Mechs – Another One Bites the Dust, Queen

Bluestreak and Fireflight – Stuck in the Middle With You, Stealer's Wheels

Musical Selection for the Entire Story – All I Want, Staind

Musical Selection to Preview the Sequel – Tomorrow, Sixx AM