AN: So, guess who's not dead? I do apologise most heartily about the hiatus. Now I'm back and hopefully going to be able to update more regularly. I'm hoping to get Reach Out up to a once a month update and also start some other projects.
Also, thank you to all the people who sent in reviews and faves over the last year. This is for you guys. As always, commentary at jalaperilo. livejournal. com
Reach Out - Chapter Nine
Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were playing noisily on the floor in front of Ratchet's desk. Normally the medic didn't allow the younglings in his office, or most places within the clinic, but there was simply no other place for them that cycle. Wheeljack was extremely busy with a few highly profitable commissions and just didn't have the time to entertain the twins. Ratchet was also weary of letting them out as well. Not two orns ago they had been escorted back to the clinic by one of the shopkeepers from a few streets over. Fortunately, the femme hadn't asked for reimbursement for the broken datapads. The embarrassment had been enough punishment for Ratchet for that cycle.
Somehow, the twins had become quite notorious in the district and everyone knew exactly where they lived and who was caring for them. Ratchet had moaned that his reputation had been glorious at one point in his life.
So now he tried to keep an optic on them, much to their chagrin. So now, drawing pads, playing figures and other games spread all around them and the floor, taking up all the space they could in the small office. They were currently exploring an electrum swamp in search of treasure. Ratchet ignored the noise, probably used to them and their volume by now, as he had yet to tell them to be quiet while he worked at his computer terminal. Ratchet hadn't even reprimanded Sideswipe when he climbed up onto his lap, then across the desk and jumped off. He did keep throwing a glance over to them every so often. It was rare that the two of them played so boisterously together for such an extended period of time without fighting.
The internal line rang, drawing Ratchet's attention away from the medical records in front of him. The line ran through the entire building, from their home to the clinic and the several handsets dotted around. Ratchet signed and hit the speaker button.
"Yes?" he said curtly.
"Hey Ratch. Are you busy?" Wheeljack's voice sounded, too cheerfully. Sideswipe popped his helm up to peer over the desk and towards the speaker.
"Hey 'Jack!" He called out cheerfully, beaming at the receiver.
"Hey Sides. Hey Sunny," he called out. Sunstreaker, still kneeling on the floor drawing, grunted a hello.
"What do you want?" Ratchet asked, cutting to the point. Sideswipe wrinkled his nasal ridge. Ratchet's workload was obviously huge and his temper short. He had to wonder why the doc hadn't kicked the two of them out by now.
"Ah, well. It's kinda embarrassing. I'm kinda locked in my lab," he said, still cheerful, but it sounded forced. Ratchet scowled at the communicator, as if Wheeljack could see it. This seemed to be a new low for the inventor.. Ratchet may have found it funny, but his sense of humour had taken a vacation that cycle it seemed.
"How in the name of Primus have you locked yourself in your lab? It's a four digit code that you programmed yourself into a basic lock," Ratchet asked incredulity dripping from his voice and shaking his helm. The code wasn't a secret, at least not to both adults.
Sideswipe had taken on a confused look, sharing a glance at Sunstreaker, who was still on the floor but listening to the conversation. He too was shaking his helm at the inventor.
"Bet he's exploded the lock," the yellow twin muttered.
"The lock works fine. I just can't enter the code," Wheeljack said. Ratchet's optics narrowed at that. Wheeljack was being vague and acting skittish. That meant that he was either up to something, or had already done it and needed Ratchet to bail him out.
"Wheeljack. Why can't you enter the code?" Ratchet asked, his voice steady and calm. Sunstreaker had now stood up and was also staring at the communicator. He shared a look with his twin before turning to Ratchet and eyeing him like a bomb that was about to explode.
There was a silence that filled the for a few astroseconds. The mood in the room dropped a few degrees as the foreboding stretched on. Sideswipe knew that this conversation was gonna end up with Ratchet shouting. Once again. He wrinkled his nose and waited for the storm to break.
"Ah, that would require fingers to punch the code in to the lock," Wheeljack said finally.
"Excuse me?" Ratchet's optics opened wider in the wave of that little revelation. "And why have you got no fingers to punch in the code?"
The younglings shared the same expression of disbelief, almost mirroring Ratchet's own. The torrent of fury under the surface of the medic was the only difference. They had heard Ratchet make references, normally in the form of biting one line remarks, on Wheeljack's renowned ability to destroy stuff, which was almost on par with his excellence for creating. If Sideswipe thought about it, the first time he had met Wheeljack, he had been missing several digits.
"It's a long story involving a faulty on/off switch. You might want to bring a medkit," Wheeljack said in a manner that was not at all fitting. Ratchet offlined his optics and took a couple of deep intakes for several astroseconds before regaining some calmness back. He rubbed his helm and finally stood up.
"Fine. I'm on my way. You'd better have all your digits though, cause we don't have any spare," Ratchet barked as he reached for his medkit.
"Bring a cleanser pack as well. There's hydraulic fluid everywhere! Who knew wrist joints held so much fluid," Wheeljack said, shifting around from the sound of the rustling in the background.
"Wrist fluid? How much of your fragging body have you hacked off?" Ratchet finally snapped.
"And there's the cursing. I honestly thought he wasn't gonna snap that time," Sideswipe muttered, grinning. Sunstreaker rolled his eyes but wore his own little smirk before being drawn back to the conversation.
"One and a half hands?" Ratchet shouted incredulously. He slammed his hand down on the disconnect button before hefting his kit on his shoulder and turned to leave the office. He stopped at the door and turned to look at the two younglings, who were just stood watching him.
"I don't know if leaving the two of you here is a good idea or not," he said neutrally, eyeing them wearily. Sunstreaker scowled at the implication, but Sideswipe shrugged and shifted from one pede to the other.
"Who knows. I mean, there's a lot of stuff here that can get broken by boisterous younglings, especially myself," the red twin said. He eyed the medic, who has narrowed his optics, nonverbally prompting the youngling to continue with wherever the pit his train of thought was leading. "I mean, I know we don't intentionally cause trouble, it's just circumstance and always accidental, but sometimes when in a confined space, we tend to forget ourselves as a way of keeping our already short attention span occupied."
"Speak for yourself," Sunstreaker huffed.
"Are you suggesting that you would in fact cause less trouble if allowed to run free?" Ratchet mused, temper ebbing from him as he stood and listened to the twin's illogical bleating.
"Certainly less property damage," Sideswipe said solemnly. Ratchet sighed and seemed to be waging an internal war. He didn't really have time to be debating this, but he honestly seemed torn. Finally, after a mere 47 astroseconds, the medic caved and groaned.
"Fine, you little glitches, you can go out but I want you back three breems before the offcycle," he said. Sideswipe burst into a huge grin. Sunstreaker smirked at how easily Ratchet was caving nowadays to the twins. Maybe they were just grinding down his resolve?
The twins followed the doc out of the room and towards the entrance. Before they could scurry off, Ratchet stopped them by their scruff bars and loomed over them.
"Listen very carefully. I want you to behave. No trouble, no fighting and absolutely no enforcer escort you understand? This is your chance to prove that you are capable of behaving out in public, unsupervised. You're going to be mechs soon, and you need to learn how to be proper, upstanding members of society," Ratchet said.
"What if we fake it?"
"Good enough for me," the medic replied before letting them go and turning towards the stairs to their home.
The twins walked off in another direction, not before Sideswipe shouted for Ratchet to say hi to Wheeljack for them. Ratchet didn't respond.
The two bots began walking towards the main leisure area. They walked along walls and took long-disused shortcuts down side passages and over fences until they were told off by someone for walking too noisily on the mech's roof. They kicked a piece of scrap metal along the road, taking it in turns until Sunstreaker cut in Sideswipe's turn, which set of a struggle to be the next to kick before it was kicked down a run off chute. After that, they mostly chatted about the game they had played that cycle after that and who could win in a fight, a tank model or a freighter.
"So, what now?" Sunstreaker asked, crossing his arms as they entered the main road.
"Dunno," Sideswipe shrugged looking around, weaving past the other bots on the street. Sunstreaker sighed.
"It was your idea to come out. I assumed you had a plan," the yellow twin griped, rolling his eyes as they came to a halt to one side. Sideswipe shrugged again. He looked around try and find inspiration.
"Man, we never used to not know what to do. What happened?"
"We've been tamed."
"I know. Let's get some energon goodies," Sideswipe announced, pointing down the street towards the shops. Sunstreaker wrinkled his nasal ridge. Energon goodies were always too sour for his taste. He was sometimes glad that he had an intolerance, as it provided an excellent excuse not to have them. Sideswipe, on the other hand, would stuff his faceplates with them until he purged from overfilling his tanks.
Sensing his twin's reluctance, he sighed and grabbed Sunstreaker's hand, dragging the unenthusiastic youngling behind him.
"Well, I want goodies. You don't have to have any. And besides, I have all the credits," Sideswipe announced as he finally reached the energon store. Sunstreaker wrenched his hand out of his twins grip before they entered the store.
"I'm not going in. It smells of mercury and rust in there," Sunstreaker huffed, crossing his hands over his chest. Sideswipe rolled his optics and turned to enter the store.
"Fine, you wait out here. Do you want anything?"
"For you to explode from eating too many goodies?" Sunstreaker shot back, glaring at his brother. Sideswipe laughed and disappeared into the store. Sunstreaker had to resist the urge to yell 'glitch helm' at the red one.
It took some time for Sideswipe to get his bag of energon goodies, as the old femme who owned the store seemed to have fritzy audios. She was nice, just needed some extra amps. He managed to buy a can of oil as well for his brother, just so he wouldn't moan. Sunstreaker accepted the gift as graciously as he ever was.
They continued to walk, consuming their fuel in no time. They then decided to give each other back rides down the street which abruptly ended when Sideswipe tripped and they both went down in the middle of the street, which got them yelled at again for obstructing people. They ended up sat on a low wall, watching a distant crane unload boxed off of a flat bed truck.
"Do you think Ratchet has repaired 'Jack yet?" Sideswipe asked.
"Hmmm. Half a groon of shouting, two breems of Wheeljack calming him down, another groon of finding the bits of hands. Dunno how long it would take after that," Sunstreaker mused, rubbing the back of his head.
"You'd think that Wheeljack would get a voice automated door," Sideswipe said as they jumped off the wall and walked down a random route back towards the district centre.
"He'd probably blow his vox-mod the day he got it," Sunstreaker replied, smirking at the image.
"Yeah, he'd be all 'crshhhh Ratch cssstch boom cruuuuck please don't hurt me'," Sideswipe imitated, holding his neck as he did a really bad impression of the inventor. Sunstreaker laughed as his twin stumbled around with a limp.
"Yeah, and Ratchet wouldn't fix it. 'I'm sick of your fragging slagging scrap'," Sunstreaker put his hand on his hip and started stabbing his finger towards Sideswipe. "I'm gonna make you eat your vox-mod and spit up batteries!"
"Crrrsh but Ratch sssssck don't hurt hssssss swallowing the bomb seemed like a good idea!" Sideswipe cried out, laughing and cowering from his twin, who was trying to act serious but couldn't help but grin.
"I'll put that bomb in your fragging aft you misfire of a faulty diode," Sunstreaker yelled as he pretended to beat Sideswipe up. The red twin wailed an over exaggerated 'no' as he put his hands over his helm.
Suddenly a clearing of a voice module alerted them to the presence of someone behind them. They both immediately stopped and turned. They both looked up into the neutral faceplates of a tall, white and black mech. His faceplates were unreadable, as if set in position. He had what appeared to be wings, but unlike any design they had seen. His demeanour stuck them as an enforcer, but the symbol he carried was different to the ones they usually ran into.
"Everything ok here?" The mech asked in a measured voice, looking from one to the other. Sunstreaker, as always, matched the other person's stare, while Sideswipe fidgeted under the gaze.
"Yeah. Just playing," Sideswipe said with false cheer. He still didn't know what the deal with the mech was, whether they could run away, not knowing if he'd give chase or not.
The mech considered the comment for a second. "Just playing huh?" His gaze shifted over to Sunstreaker who was still matching his stare. Sideswipe admired that his brother had the bearings to not cower whenever an adult confronted them. Ratchet had called it insolence. Sunstreaker had smiled at that.
"That was some strong language you were using," the mech said to Sunstreaker. Sideswipe felt Sunstreaker bristle.
"Are you an enforcer?" The yellow twin asked. The mech quirked an eyebrow, obviously not expecting a youngling to be so forward.
"Not at the moment," he said promptly, squaring his shoulders. His wings shifted higher.
Oh great, thought Sideswipe. An off-duty Enforcer was almost as bad as an on-duty one. Probably had no qualms with taking his work home with him. This was going to have to be dealt with subtlety.
"Then I don't think we owe you any explanations."
Sadly, Sunstreaker was anything but subtle. Sideswipe threw a panicked glance at his brother before turning back to the mech, who looked mildly surprised at the attitude of the yellow youngling. Obviously, he was one of those who thought younglings were naive and innocent. Sideswipe's CPU booted up to full speed to try to control the situation.
"What he means, is that you're obviously off-duty, so we won't bother you with 'work'," Sideswipe cut in, stepping forwards and letting a charming smile grace his features. He ignored the 'glitch' that floated through the bond from his brother. The mech's attention returned to the red twin, who felt the heavy stare and the feeling of being sized up and analysed before his body language changed and relaxed.
"Well. Thank you for the consideration. I guess it's hard to turn off from 'work' mode. May I ask, in a purely conversational manner, where your creators are?" The mech asked, a small, calculating smile graced his lip plates. Sideswipe smiled back, his own a mix of youngling innocence and roguish charm. Sunstreaker let his brother control the situation, now that he was warming up to the other's presence.
"Probably still at the clinic," Sideswipe said.
"Clinic? Is everything all right?" The mech asked concerned. Sideswipe just waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.
"Oh yeah, he just needs his fingers reattaching, no big," he replied.
"That sound's quite serious," the mech said.
"Nah, he does it all the time. Ratch'll sort him out." The mech's look turned to confusion as the conversation progressed. Sunstreaker realised that to an outsider, it sounded bizarre.
"Our carer had an accident and is being fixed by our other carer. They own the clinic," Sunstreaker clarified. The mech seemed to comprehend after that. Sideswipe could be a glitch at times, the yellow twin surmised.
"We should get back. We'll be late if we don't set of now," Sunstreaker said, gesturing behind him. Sideswipe shrugged as he turned, swinging his arms.
"Would you mind if I walked you home?" the mech asked, that small smirk back on his face again. Both younglings froze, their optics seeking each other out.
::Does this count as being escorted home by an enforcer?::
::In Ratchet's optics?::
"No offence, but if we show up with an enforcers in tow, it's not gonna go down well, despite you being off-duty," Sideswipe said, levelling with the mech, who raised an optic ridge.
"Is that a regular occurrence?"
"Not as regular as Ratchet makes out," Sunstreaker mumbled.
"Well, it would settle my processor if I at least made sure you returned home safely. It is getting late," the mech said, that small smile still fixed on his face.
"Fine, you can tag along, but you can explain to Ratchet that you're our new friend and that we're not in trouble. If you could also mention that we were mature and responsible as well, that would help our case," Sideswipe said, motioning for the mech to follow.
"I believe you have yourself a deal," the mech said with a smile as he followed.
"Though now that we're friends," the mech said, a wry amusement in his voice on the word 'friends', "I feel we should know each other's designations."
"Oh yeah. I'm Sideswipe. This bucket of happiness is Sunstreaker." Sideswipe introduced, which earned him a ringing slap on his shoulder from his twin.
"My designation is Prowl," the mech, Prowl, told them. Sideswipe repeated it to himself.
"So, Prowl, what's with the wings? Are you a jet?" Sideswipe asked, completely relaxed and slightly over familiar now. Prowl let out a sigh.
"They're not wings, they're door panels," Prowl said, with a tone that seemed to suggest that he had had this conversation more times than necessary. Sideswipe looked from Prowl's faceplates to his panels, which hitched up slightly.
"What's the difference?"
"For one thing, I cannot fly. They form the side panels of my alt mode," Prowl said with practiced ease.
"Have you ever tried to fly?" Sunstreaker asked, already coming out of his sulking mood to satisfy his own curiousness.
"No. It's just an aesthetic choice, like the femme frame, or the seeker mold. Its popularity is mainly localised to Praxus it seems," Prowl said, looking down at the two younglings. Sideswipe was about to say something else, but Prowl cut him off.
"Are you two brothers?" the Praxian asked, possibly to get away from the subject of his 'wings'.
"We're split-spark twins. We're unique."
"You certainly are, despite the obvious contradiction to that statement. So, you were one spark that split?" Prowl asked, genuinely intrigued. Sunstreaker sighed. He wished his brother would just settle for 'brothers'. That would save the questions. The same type that the Praxian found tedious, he guessed. He decided to derail the conversation.
"So, if you're an enforcer from Praxus, why are you here?" Sunstreaker asked, keeping his faceplates neutral. He wasn't very good at faking emotions, not like Sideswipe, but he'd learned that keeping a straight face made him impossible to read. It gave his the same results as the fake smiles Sideswipe came up with to charm his way through life.
"I'm here working on a joint project with your city's council, as a liaison more than anything," Prowl answered, his panels hitching slightly at the mention of work.
"Sounds boring," Sideswipe commented, picking up a piece of piping and banging it against the passing buildings.
"I suppose it can be," Prowl said simply.
Soon enough, they arrived at the clinic. Sideswipe entered the foyer first, reminding Prowl to 'play it cool'. The mech followed him, with Sunstreaker trailing behind. The room was empty, and there wasn't anyone at the desk. Sideswipe ran up to the buzzer and pressed it a few times, before holding it down. It took less than a minute for Ratchet to answer.
"Sideswipe, you stop that this very-," the medic stopped as he emerged from the corridor. He looked from grinning twin, to stubborn twin to Prowl and his Praxian insignia, and back again. He walked over to the sliding doors and slammed the release before stepping out.
"What the pit did you do to warrant a Praxian high enforcer escort?" Ratchet asked, looking at Sideswipe. Sunstreaker was still behind Prowl, leaning against one of the chairs and frowned. High enforcer?
"We're not in trouble. Prowl's our new friend," Sideswipe said, approaching the medic. "Prowl, this is Ratchet. Ratchet, Prowl." Ratchet grunted unconvinced before turning to Prowl. The enforcer saw fit to cut Ratchet off.
"They have been no trouble at all. I was out investigating and began talking to these two. I decided to walk them home. To make sure they stayed out of trouble," Prowl said solemnly. Evidently the enforcer was an excellent judge of character. Ratchet seemed to approve of this but had no time to admire.
"I just find it hard to believe that the one time they 'befriend' someone, it's a Praxian official. What brings you here?" Ratchet asked. The twins looked at each other. Sunstreaker had caught on first that Prowl wasn't a normal enforcer. Sideswipe picked up on the 'official' part. They both turned to Prowl, who's demeanour seemed to have changed, possibly to 'work mode' as he had put it earlier.
"Without going into detail, we're investigating some very worrying activity in this prefecture, possibly linked to the Tarn-Vos war. We believe that a number of, shall we say vigilantes, are starting to organise themselves into one larger group, more so on this hemisphere," Prowl informer the medic. Ratchet frowned. The twins were suddenly lost. Evidently there was more going on in the outside world than they knew.
"It's certainly not as safe to be out as it once was," Ratchet said, almost nonchalantly.
"Indeed. I understand that you own this clinic. May I ask, have you seen anything one might call suspicious? Unexplained injuries? Odd behaviour?" Prowl asked, still standing ramrod straight.
"I operate a free clinic. Anybody can come for medical treatment, and I refuse no one, so I do see some strange things. I tend not to ask questions. Nor do I share patient records," Ratchet said, crossing his arms, his optics hardening.
"I wouldn't expect you to. Do you get more of this type of activity around here than other clinics do?"
"We're the only free clinic in the city, we draw people from mega miles away, so I couldn't really say where the trouble hotspots are," Ratchet said, hesitating slightly, optics sliding to one side as if in thought before settling back on Prowl.
"Though, I believe something happened at the construction yard about three days ago. Treated a few mechs. One for laser damage. Nothing was reported on the broadcasts," Ratchet informed the Praxian, who nodded.
"Thank you. I apologise for bothering you," Prowl said, his doorwings lowering slightly. Ratchet shrugged, brushing off the questioning. He motioned for the younglings to go inside.
"That's fine. Society seems to be going crazy nowadays. Doesn't seem safe to be outside anymore," Ratchet said. Prowl nodded. He then turned to the twins and smiled.
"Sideswipe, Sunstreaker. It was a pleasure to meet you. I hope you stay on your best behaviour for Ratchet. I know good bots when I see them," he said, holding out a hand to them. They were suddenly back on familiar grounding, now that the grown up talk had finished. Sideswipe took the hand and shook it. Sunstreaker seemed more reluctant, but shook Prowl's hand anyway.
"We'll try, or fake it really well. If you ever fly, will you tell us?" Sideswipe said. Prowl's small grin turned wry.
"You'll be the first to know." The Praxian exchanged stilted goodbyes with the medic before leaving.
"I swear, you two seem to find trouble even without being in trouble," Ratchet muttered before locking the doors to the foyer and ushering the younglings further into the clinic.
"What was all that about?" Sideswipe asked as they followed Ratchet down the corridor to one of the examination rooms.
"Hm? Oh, nothing for you to worry about yet," the medic said as they entered a room with Wheeljack sat on a med berth, reading a datapad. His other hand, yet to be repaired it seemed, resting on a medical tray. He looked up and smiled at the younglings, who ran up to him.
"Hey there little buddies," he said, flashing his fins a couple of times.
"How's the hand? Was Ratchet mean to you?" Sideswipe asked as he poked the still to be reassembled hand. The inventor laughed before dropping down into a whisper and lowering himself to their level.
"Very mean. But then again, he's always mean," he winked an optic before straightening himself. "I take it from the lack of shouting that you managed to stay out of trouble."
"Actually, they received a personal bodyguard from their new friend. A Praxian high enforcer," Ratchet said, returning from the far side of the room with the last of the reassembled fingers. Wheeljack's optic ridges rose lightly as he looked at them.
"What did he want?"
"Was asking about suspicious behaviour in the area," Ratchet said lightly as he sat back on the stool and took up his welding torch. Sideswipe climbed up on the berth next to Wheeljack, while Sunstreaker stood next to them.
"Told you the whole world's going crazy," Wheeljack said as he watched his hand spark up as Ratchet welded wires back together. Ratchet hummed agreement.
"What's the difference between a normal enforcer and Prowl?" Sunstreaker asked the question that had been itching his processor since they arrived home.
"A high enforcer works for the council. Very influential. They tend to deal with affairs of state and all that," Ratchet said as he zoomed in to begin working on the smaller lines.
"Looks like you have friends in high places," Wheeljack said, smirking at the younglings.
"Even higher if he learns to fly."
A/N: Next time – More Ratchet and Sunstreaker bonding, cause I just love it.