Sideswipe helped Sunstreaker lower himself down to the golden twin's berth, and though he tried to be careful, Sunstreaker still twisted briefly in pain. "Sorry," Sideswipe whispered as he helped his brother lean back, lying him flat out on his berth in their shared quarters.
Sunstreaker sighed, exhausted, as he rested, letting his joints and arms relax beneath him while his helm rolled to the side on his berth, optics offline. Sideswipe backed away a few steps, then lowered sat down on the edge of his own berth, optics fixed firmly on his brother.
It had been a horrible, terrible couple of days for Sideswipe. Ever since the battle, when Sunstreaker had had a near-tragic run-in with the Sunticons, and then had been carried away by Breakdown and Wildrider when the Decepticons had pushed the Autobots back before fleeing again. Sideswipe had been entirely beside himself, frantic with worry and fear over Sunstreaker's abduction. The last time he had seen him, he'd been unconscious, sparking from his injuries - including a near-torn-off leg joint fritzing madly - as Breakdown dragged his brother's body behind him. Sideswipe never wanted to see Sunstreaker's helm bounce against the ground like that again.
Soundwave, however, had been careless during the battle, something that surprised Prime and Prowl, and allowed the both of them to quickly capture the Decepticon. Megatron was furious and enraged, and that had effectively ended the battle, forcing the Decepticon advance to halt when Starscream claimed he couldn't retrieve Soundwave from Prowl's clutches.
Sideswipe hadn't been involved with any of that, focused entirely on Sunstreaker's horribly bouncing helm against the ground and the hideous scrapping sound his body made as he was dragged away behind Breakdown's frame.
Bluestreak had forced him back, forced him to not tear after Sunstreaker and held him to their lines. Sideswipe hadn't ever wanted to hurt Bluestreak before, but he did just then. He wanted to rip Bluestreak's arms from his shoulder joints, push Bluestreak away, run after his brother and destroy everything in his path.
Jazz helped Bluestreak restrain Sideswipe, then calmed him down enough to drive back to the Ark. Jazz promised, on his spark, to bring Sunstreaker back. Sideswipe didn't have much history with trusting others, aside from Sunstreaker, and Primus knew he wasn't trusting Bluestreak at all at the moment, but Jazz had never broken a promise he'd made. He made very, very few, of course, but those that he did make, he kept.
"We have Soundwave, Siders," Jazz had said calmly, both black hands on Sideswipe's shoulder joints, holding the red twin together. "Just wait. We'll get Sunny back soon."
Sideswipe was banned from the Command Deck when they got back. His pacing, his frantic panting, and his continuing shifting through the targeting lenses on his rifle wasn't welcome. He paced outside the Ark instead.
Prowl and Prime stayed on the Command Deck as Ironhide and Jazz put Soundwave in the brig below. Jazz was making his way back up to the Command Deck when Megatron's call came in. It was a good thing, actually, that Sideswipe wasn't on the Command Deck when Megatron offered the proof of life for Sunstreaker during their prisoner exchange negotiations.
Megatron needed, desperately, to have Soundwave back, and the Decepticon was a terrible prisoner on the Ark anyway. He refused to speak or offer any intelligence to the Autobots, and they didn't have the resources to keep him locked within the Ark for an eternity, nor had the strength to beat back Megatron's never-ending assaults if they did keep him. Sunstreaker was injured, badly, and needed medical aid. Ratchet's sharply inhaled vents and scowling features told that to everyone, as if the image of Sunstreaker's mangled, unconscious, nearly-shredded form did not.
Jazz and Ironhide agreed to meet at the dam with Soundwave, and Megatron sent Thundercracker and Ramjet while Vortex carried Sunstreaker's limp body in a slingload beneath him. Ratchet, after patching Soundwave's minor injuries in the medbay, tagged along with Jazz and Ironhide as Soundwave collapsed himself down to his alt mode, sitting uncomfortably within Ironhide and strapped in a pseudo-binding thanks to an intricately tied seatbelt arrangement.
Sideswipe was forbidden to accompany them.
It was a long, too-long wait, the hours ticking by in agony for Sideswipe. Briefly, once, he felt a surge in his spark, the flickering presence of his brother unleashing itself within him once more. It faded as soon as it came, but Sideswipe gasped, clinging to the small bit of Sunstreaker's returning consciousness and turning the memory over within his processor; Ratchet was working on Sunstreaker in the field, stabilizing and controlling the energon leaks, the sparking circuits, doing what he could to make transport safer and easier.
Though Sideswipe was still upset that Sunstreaker wasn't here, he had to relax slightly. If Ratchet was taking the time to work on him in the field, then that meant Sunstreaker wasn't quite on death's door. He'd be racing back to the Ark at full speed if so, or calling Skyfire for a rapid transport with Wheeljack and First Aid on board.
When Ratchet finally arrived, Sunstreaker was stable, though he still looked horrific. His leg needed to be reattached, and the damages to his lower abdomen was contained within a static bandage. His paint was scratched deep, more off than on in large parts of his body, while ragged tears in his plating still had dried energon surrounding them. His helm had several large dents all around it, dirt ground in. Sideswipe watched them wheel Sunstreaker into the Ark and to the medbay as he plodded along behind, Ratchet speaking in low voices with the med team as First Aid furiously input everything into a data pad.
Ratchet reattached his leg, then worked to repair the burns to his abdomen while Wheeljack de-dented and cleaned the Lambo's other injuries. Sideswipe sat on the decking just inside the medbay, watching it all.
They were worried about his processor, after all the jostling his helm had taken. Sideswipe was finally beginning to feel normal again, after Ratchet reattached the leg and the energon had been mostly cleaned from his body by Wheeljack, and was able to quip back to Ratchet that he was always worried about Sunstreaker's processor. Ratchet grinned at him before starting the defrag program on Sunstreaker.
Jazz checked in much later, letting Sideswipe know that he had removed the red twin from the duty rotation the next day while Sunstreaker healed. Sideswipe thanked him stiffly, both for the day off to stay with his brother and for keeping his promise. Sunstreaker was going to be just fine.
Sunstreaker woke up finally with both Ratchet and Sideswipe leaning over his faceplates, both pairs of optics staring downward expectantly.
"Frag off," Sunstreaker groaned, weakly pushing his hand out to wave both of them away from his berth. "I'm fine."
Ratchet, predictably, rolled his optics and sighed, while Sideswipe grinned his trademark, lopsided, exuberant grin down at his brother. Sunstreaker just glared at him even harder.
Sideswipe was collecting energon cubes for them all, bringing one back to Ratchet as a simple thank you gift for his work on Sunstreaker, when Sunstreaker discovered the extent of his mangled paint. Sideswipe couldn't help the brief chuckle that exploded from him as he caught sight of Sunstreaker's pouting, twisted faceplates. No one could pout like Sunstreaker could.
However, Ratchet felt that if Sunstreaker could throw a temper tantrum and pout himself into a scowl, then he was well enough to slag off out of the medbay. "I'm tired of looking at you," Ratchet said gruffly, adding as an almost after thought, "Again."
Sunstreaker glared at Ratchet as Sideswipe helped his brother down off the berth, Sunstreaker still wincing slightly as the pain lingered on. Ratchet, despite his harsh words, helped escort Sunstreaker to the doorway, all the while giving strict instructions to them both to rest, fuel up extra, and to report back with any questions or concerns. Then, he let them loose.
Sideswipe wrapped his arm tighter around Sunstreaker's waist, drawing his brother close as they limped back to their shared quarters together. Sunstreaker, after a moment, draped his arm over Sideswipe's shoulders and leaned into the embrace his brother offered. He truthfully didn't need that much support, but it was welcomed after what he had been through.
"I'll paint you, Sunny," Sideswipe said softly as they approached their quarters. "I'll help you fix your paint." Sunstreaker grunted.
Sunstreaker rolled his helm again on the berth, now looking across the small separation between their two berths in their small quarters. Only a simple table, strewn with rifle parts and old energon cubes, separated the heads of their berths. Sideswipe met his online optics and smiled softly at his brother. "How do you feel?"
Sunstreaker shifted, a slight grimace crossing his features again. "Stiff," he said after a moment, rolling his shoulder and hip joint briefly before reaching across to Sideswipe and holding his hand out to his brother.
Sideswipe's smile grew as he tangled their fingers together. "You're always a stiff, Sunny."
Sunstreaker grumbled low in his throat. He tugged on Sideswipe's hand, pulling his brother from his own berth to his. Sideswipe put up a token resistance, though he sat down next to Sunstreaker with a sigh and a small smile as Sunstreaker scooted to make room for his body.
Sideswipe inhaled shakily as Sunstreaker's other hand wound its way up Sideswipe's armor and sideseams, gently rubbing the edges of his backplating. Sideswipe arched his back briefly, rolling his shoulder joints as he squeezed down on Sunstreaker's hand still tangled with his own.
"Sunny…" he breathed, tilting his helm as Sunstreaker's fingers continued their caress, now stroking slowly over his backstruts. "You need to rest." Sideswipe tried his best to glare down at his brother.
Ratchet's pain medications were still in Sunstreaker's systems, still drugging his thoughts and teasing his movements. He'd never be so bold otherwise. He grinned, his own lopsided, feral smile, up at his brother as he tugged again on the hand he still had entangled with Sideswipe's. "C'mon, Sides…" he whispered. "Make it better."
"You need to rest," Sideswipe said again, even as he let himself be pulled down next to Sunstreaker. Sunstreaker's hand dragged over his plating.
"You know you want to," Sunstreaker whispered, his yellow fingers dropping lower, tracing the edges of Sideswipe's black hipplates along the finely hand-painted demarcation line between his white abdominal plating and his black hipplates. The fog of the pain medications was doing funny things to Sunstreaker's inhibitions.
Sideswipe groaned and leaned his helm against Sunstreaker, thudding the two black armor plates together. He bit his lower lip, trying to twist his hipplates away from Sunstreaker's wandering, teasing fingers, and only managing to press himself deeper into his brother's frame.
"You need to rest," Sideswipe tried, one last time, to remind both of them of Sunstreaker's injuries.
"No, I need you," Sunstreaker leaned forward, capturing Sideswipe's lipplates. He'd never been so bold, ever.
Sideswipe lost it then, tossed away his control and his inhibitions, grabbing Sunstreaker's helm in both of his hands to kiss his brother back. The pleasure, the surging of feeling within him burned through everything, igniting the tensions and electrical fires that had built within. He gasped, his hands clenching his borther in a too-strong hold as he shook.
Later, they both collapsed backwards, panting. Sideswipe couldn't move, and didn't, resting himself against Sunstreaker's shoulder joint as he tried to focus.
Sunstreaker's arms still circled Sideswipe's body in a loose embrace. Sideswipe wobbled as he shifted over Sunstreaker's body. "Stay," Sunstreaker grunted, shifting slightly onto his side to make room for his brother to join him.
Sideswipe stretched out on his side, drawing close to Sunstreaker and pressing his forehelm into his brother's. Sunstreaker wound his fingers into Sideswipe's, drawing his brother's body flush up against his own. His optics were offline, already partly in recharge, and Sideswipe wrapped his other arm around his Sunstreaker, tucking his brother into his embrace. He savored the moment, for as long as he could, before he fell into recharge.
"Sideswipe, I need to see you in the medbay." Ratchet's voice pinged over Sideswipe's comm unit on the Command Deck during his entirely too-boring shift at the Ark's comms station.
"What is it?" he pinged back, confused.
"It's Sunstreaker." Ratchet said simply, his voice tight and controlled. "I need to see you now." Ratchet closed the line.
Sideswipe stammered a half-understood explanation to Prowl, then raced of the Command Deck and down to the med bay. His processor raced over everything that had happened recently. Since Sunstreaker's abduction and the last battle, things had actually begun to settle down on the Ark. Things were quieter, much more so, and there hadn't been any big battles in a while. The humans were doing well, and no disasters had crept up that necessitated any Autobot assistance. Sunstreaker had been fine, completely so, after he was repainted and the stiffness in his left leg worked itself out. He hadn't complained of anything in the slightly-more-than-a-month that had passed since then.
Sideswipe really had no idea what to expect when he barreled into the medbay, but it most certainly wasn't the sight of Sunstreaker unconscious on one of the berths with an energon drip line inserted into his arm. His optics boggled, widening and flashing in shock as he raced to his brother's side.
Ratchet appeared at the base of Sunstreaker's berth, tapping a few of the controls to call up a new diagnostic. He reviewed it, lips pressed together firmly before shaking his helm. Sideswipe stared at Ratchet, optics wide and bright before exclaiming, "What the slag is wrong with him?"
Ratchet's optics revealed nothing as his lipplates pressed together. "Come with me," he said simply.
Sideswipe very reluctantly pried himself away from Sunstreaker's side, plodding after Ratchet and into the medic's office. As Ratchet slid the office door shut behind them, Sideswipe finally couldn't take it anymore. "What's going on? Why wont you tell me what's wrong with him, Ratchet? What happened?"
Ratchet stared at Sideswipe hard before crossing to sit behind his desk. "No, Sideswipe," he finally began. "He's not dieing. He's going to be fine. He collapsed earlier." Sideswipe's mouth dropped open. "His energon readings were low. I have him hooked up to a line, and he's fueling and resting."
Sideswipe frowned back to Ratchet. "Why did he collapse?"
Ratchet sighed, his lips pressing together again. He held Sideswipe's gaze, then spoke again. "I need to ask you a few questions, Sideswipe, about your brother. Please, it's important." Sideswipe nodded quickly. "Is your brother seeing anyone? Is he with any mech on the Ark?" Ratchet began, his optics bearing down into Sideswipe.
Sideswipe frowned, not following the sudden shift in the conversation. "What?" he stumbled out, face scrunching up in confusion.
"Your brother is a private mech. If he were seeing anyone on the Ark, I'm not sure we all would know about it. He certainly wouldn't say anything when I asked him." Ratchet paused, inhaling slowly. "So I am asking you: is Sunstreaker with anyone on the Ark?"
Sideswipe felt a slow chill settle over his lines, icy shoots of pain extending outwards from his tanks to encircle his spark. No one, not anyone, on the Ark could know about him and his brother. What they did together wasn't allowed, not at all, and too many mechs wouldn't understand their relationship. They could lose it all, if anyone were to find out.
It was for that reason that they weren't exclusive. They couldn't ever just be together, not in the way Sideswipe wanted to. It still paled, entirely, to what he had with Sunstreaker.
They never discussed it. Sideswipe occasionally spent his nights away from their quarters, and he never asked if Sunstreaker had anyone. There were opportunities, many times when they were entirely separated by shifts, duties, and different socializing events on the Ark where Sunstreaker could have entertained a lover. Sunstreaker hadn't ever before spoke of his partners, and never once had he mentioned anything on the Ark.
"I… I don't know, Ratchet," Sideswipe said slowly, breathing in deeply. "Why?"
Ratchet sighed heavily, finally looking down to his hands folded on the desktop surface. He frowned, his optics darkening. "Sideswipe, Sunstreaker has sparked with some mech. He's carrying a sparkling."
Sideswipe's entire world shifted. His vision swam, colors and lights and even sounds becoming streaks as his vents suddenly hitched, suddenly panted too fast as Ratchet's voice played over and over within his processor.
"Sideswipe!" Ratchet's firm voice finally broke through Sideswipe's swirling cacophony of noise and light, bellowing in his faceplates for him to calm down. Reality suddenly zeroed in around Ratchet's faceplates, too quickly, too sharply, and Sideswipe's felt the dizziness in his processor drop to his tanks. He moaned as Ratchet, now kneeling before him, guided his helm to lean down between his knees. "Calm down, Sideswipe," Ratchet breathed. "Don't collapse on me too."
The dizziness finally passed. Ratchet sighed again, then stood gruffly, leaning against the front of his desk. "Do you know when?" Sideswipe asked, his vocalizer shaking.
Ratchet didn't answer for a moment. "Yes," he finally said, tightly. "That's the other thing I need to talk to you about."
Sideswipe felt, suddenly, his world drop out from underneath him. Ratchet's gaze, the assessing, sizing up gaze could only mean one thing.
"It's a about a month along, and I can't help but wonder…" Ratchet's voice trailed off and he inhaled sharply. "I didn't do a full exam on him when he got back. There wasn't any evidence of trauma, and he didn't say anything… but this is Sunstreaker, he wouldn't say anything…" Ratchet's voice faded off, still not looking at Sideswipe, who now sat confused, staring upwards at Ratchet and trying to melt himself backwards into the chair.
"Sideswipe," Ratchet began again, turning to stare down at the red twin. "Do you know if the Stunticons assaulted Sunstreaker? Did you see anything, in your quarters?" Ratchet's optics burned, anger, shame and agony at having to ask radiating outwards and pinning Sideswipe to the chair.
Sideswipe's vents shuddered, halting for a long moment. Dual sensations tore through him, elation at Ratchet not knowing their secret, and absolute body-wracking terror at the prospect Ratchet suggested. He didn't think so, hadn't seen anything, and Sunstreaker hadn't said anything… but then again, he didn't know if Sunstreaker really would say anything to him.
Sideswipe shook his helm, slow shakes building in intensity until he was nearly vibrating within the chair. Ratchet swallowed, his expression twisting in pained understanding before dropping down in front of Sideswipe once more. "I'm sorry to ask, Sides…."
A chirp rang out over Ratchet's terminal, and he twisted backwards and read the flashing message. "He's waking up," Ratchet said softly. "I am sure he'll want to see you."
Sideswipe stood shakily, his legs almost giving out beneath him as he followed Ratchet into the medbay. Sunstreaker was awake, his optics online and staring upwards, staring at nothing, while his hands rested over his abdominal plating. Sideswipe gasped, trying to silence the noise he made, though Sunstreaker turned instantly towards the sound. His optics widened, blazing as he caught sight of Sideswipe.
Sideswipe followed Ratchet over to Sunstreaker's berth, his optics never leaving his brother's.
Ratchet flicked at the bag of energon suspended above Sunstreaker's berth, then at the smaller bag also feeding into the drip line. "Your energy levels are still low, Sunny," Ratchet said. "You need the additives in this drip, to make up for what you've been lacking in your rations this past month. If you decide to keep it, you're going to need to start taking these additives every day with your energon."
Ratchet flicked at the bag once more, then moved away. "Get some rest, Sunny," he called back, disappearing into his office and shutting the door, giving the two brothers space to speak.
Sideswipe, still shaking, moved closer to his brother's berth, stopping next to Sunstreaker's helm. Sunstreaker refused to meet his brother's pleading, wide-optic'd gaze, instead stubbornly staring upwards at the ceiling as his hands pressed down firmly on his abdominal plating.
"Ratchet asked me," Sideswipe began, "if the Stunticons had… forced you…" Sideswipe's vocalizer twisted, wrenching his words to a sudden stop. Sunstreaker turned, glaring at him. Sideswipe held his burning gaze, the both of them refusing to move, refusing to react to the other.
Finally, Sunstreaker shook his helm, rolling his helm back against the berth to stare once more at the ceiling. "No," he spat out. "They didn't do anything to me."
Sideswipe let loose a torrent of air, a great heaving gasp he hadn't realized had been locked within. "Whose is it, Sunny?" he whispered.
Sunstreaker didn't move, not for a long moment, though his jaw cables clenched and the gears in his neck rose and fell as he swallowed. He turned back to Sideswipe, his optics cold. "Do you even have to ask?" Sunstreaker whispered, slowly and painfully enunciating each syllable.
Sideswipe refused to let go of Sunstreaker's gaze. His lips quivered as his mouth shook. He tried, and failed, to speak, then finally gripped down on his brother's berth edge, mouthing out the words more than vocalizing speech. "Is it mine?"
Sunstreaker offlined his optics, not able to hold his brother's gaze any longer. He inhaled, not knowing what would happen when he answered, and when everything changed between them.
Sideswipe pitched forward, his helm falling to rest over Sunstreaker's hands, still resting on his abdominal plating over his reproduction chamber and the sparkling, their sparkling, contained within. He offlined his optics, shaky gasps escaping his now pained vents just before Sunstreaker twisted one of his hands off his plating to grip unseen at Sideswipe's hand on the edge of his berth.
Sideswipe squeezed down on his brother's hand fiercely, too tightly and painfully for them both. He rolled his helm, still resting on his brother's torso, and gazed into his brother's perfect faceplates, now edged with fear and panic.
"What are we going to do?" Sideswipe whispered.
"I don't know," Sunstreaker answered honestly, his own vocalizer finally cracking, finally shaking around his words.