Title: Regardless – Start Again

Author: pl2363

Series: Transformers AU/G1

Rating: T

Notes: Thundercracker x Skywarp. Thundercracker winds up accidentally sparked. He can't even reveal he's bonded to Skywarp to the rest of the ranks, let alone that he might have a sparkling. What will he decide to do? Oh! and this is a follow up fic to "Miles Adrift, Inches Away".

Inspired in part from Unintended, by Asher119.

Thanks to Mirage Shinkiro and Asher 119 for the beta! And Lambotwinlove for support.

Title taken from the song 'Roads' by Portishead. I like this part of "We're in this together" by Nine Inch Nails:

"You and me
We're in this together now
None of them can stop us now
We will make it through somehow
You and me
If the world should break in two
Until the very end of me
Until the very end of you"

Also... Transformers belong to Hasbro, I am just playing with them.

"You excited?" Skywarp asked the sparkling in his arms.

Lightningbolt made an agreeable-sounding squeal.

All three walked down the twisting corridors of the Ark behind Prowl. They were being led to the entrance to meet with Skyfire for their first flight in several Earth days. Thundercracker's wings felt twitchy and achy. He longed to be airborne again. His own excitement about taking Lightningbolt up for the first time was mixing with Skywarp's as it echoed across their bond. This would have been a milestone occasion back in Vos. An event often attended by family members to welcome the new sparkling into flier society. Instead they found themselves surrounded by Autobots. It was of no consequence to Thundercracker, though. What mattered was taking their sparkling up into the air before he and Skywarp put themselves into a potentially dire situation by assisting Starscream.

The mid-morning light silhouetted the looming forms of both Skyfire and Optimus Prime, as they mulled around the open entrance. As they drew closer, Thundercracker noticed Ratchet and Wheeljack were also present. He realized that even if this wasn't the family he imagined attending an event like this, they had each played an integral part in helping Lightningbolt arrive in the world and that somehow seemed fitting.

"Wow, look at him," Skyfire said with clear awe in voice as they finally reached the gathered group.

Skywarp offered a beaming smile in response as he hoisted Lightningbolt up a little higher against his chest, showing him off.

Thundercracker glanced over at the others. Each one was focused on the sparkling now in their midst.

"He looks quite happy," Prime commented.

Prowl nodded in agreement with his leader's statement.

"Would it be asking too much if I could hold him?" Skyfire asked tentatively, as his optics darted between Thundercracker and Skywarp.

'I don't mind. Do you, Warp?' Thundercracker silently asked over the bond.

"I guess it's okay," Skywarp replied out loud, in answer to both Thundercracker and Skyfire.

Very carefully, Skywarp transferred Lightningbolt to Skyfire's waiting arms. The sparkling stared up with wide optics at Skyfire. "Heh, hello little guy." Lightningbolt examined Skyfire's face for a moment, before he shifted his focus to the chest he was held against. His tiny fingers explored the different shapes curiously.

"So you're really gonna take him flying? You're not worried about dropping him or anything?" Wheeljack asked.

Ground pounders really knew nothing about fliers. "It's tradition," Thundercracker replied simply.

Wheeljack ducked his head slightly. "Ah, I see."

"Back in Vos, taking a sparkling flying for the first time was a right of passage," Skyfire added.

"Interesting," Wheeljack replied as his headfins flashed.

"Okay! Let's go!" Skywarp held out his arms.

Thundercracker caught sight of Ratchet smiling and shaking his head at Skywarp's obvious excitement.

Skyfire passed back the sparkling. "He's really adorable. Congratulations."

"Thanks," they replied in unison.

After re-establishing their bond, Thundercracker felt as if they were more in tune to one another. Maybe he was imagining it, but he couldn't deny how much more Skywarp appeared to be sharing over their bond now. His fears or anxiety as well as his joy came through sharply now.

"I want to carry him first," Skywarp stated as they headed outside the Ark entrance.

"Anything you want," Thundercracker replied.

The fliers, including Skyfire, all walked out into an open area. Skywarp turned Lightningbolt in his arms and took firm hold of him. Thundercracker and Skyfire both smiled at the sparkling. Lightningbolt made happy noises as he looked around with wide optics at the organic scenery surrounding them.

Thundercracker glanced over his shoulder at Prime. "How long do we have?"

"Take as long as you like. Just stay with Skyfire," Prime replied.

Nodding, Thundercracker initiated his thrusters. All three lifted up and took to the air. Being airborne and breaking away from the ties of gravity offered a freedom that only fliers truly understood. Skywarp held Lightningbolt against his chest, facing out so their sparkling could get a clear view of the Earth below them. Happy squeals and giggles carried on the wind as they flew in a wide arc through the clear sky. Thundercracker couldn't stop himself from grinning at the sight of his mate and their sparkling having so much fun.

Thundercracker moved to fly beneath them, flipping onto his back. Lightningbolt's optics brightened, and he flailed his arms outward, struggling with the winds whipping around him. Thundercracker reached out and gently took hold of his tiny hands between his fingers. Seeing how happy Lightningbolt looked made his spark swell in its chamber. This little being had been nothing more than a pulsing light on a spark-scan a few Earth weeks prior. Maybe it had been an unintentional sparking, but Thundercracker loved him no matter how he came into being. He would fight to ensure Lightningbolt would never know a life of pain, only joy.

'You wanna carry him?' Skywarp asked over the bond.

Thundercracker's optics shifted to his mate's grinning visage. 'Maybe in a bit. At the moment I am enjoying the sight of you two together.'

Skywarp allowed his happiness to push across the bond. 'Thanks for giving me this, TC. A family, I mean.'

'I'd do anything for you, Warp. Anything.'

:: I am picking up an energy signature, possibly Decepticon moving in quickly, :: Skyfire announced over the comm. line.

Thundercracker let go of his sparkling's hands and dropped lower as he righted himself and scanned out ahead. Only one energy signature registered, definitely Decepticon. He tried to magnify his focus on the glinting jet a few miles away. Silver wings, red stripes, and blue detailing gave away the jet's identity: Starscream.

:: Skyfire, you and Warp fall back. It's Starscream. :: Thundercracker transformed and took off like a shot in an attempt to intercept their former air commander. A sensation of uncertainty flooded the bond. He tried to quell his mate's anxiety with his own sense of calm, which only seemed to help marginally. Coming up on Starscream, Thundercracker cut a sharp turn in front of him. Starscream easily dodged the maneuver, however.

His old comm. line frequency flared to life with Starscream's grating voice. :: What kind of greeting is that? ::

:: It wasn't a greeting at all, :: Thundercracker replied as he banked, making a tight curve in another attempt to halt Starscream. :: Why are you here? Don't you realize we are being monitored by the Autobots? ::

:: Before I left, I set up a beacon to alert me to when any fliers appeared in the sky over this area, which I made sure to place safely out of Autobot scanning range. Did you honestly think I'd just sit around waiting for you to contact me? :: Starscream said, clearly pleased with himself.

:: Isn't Megatron going to wonder where you are? :: Thundercracker asked, clearly irritated.

:: No. He's been locked in his quarters working on some new, moronic project. Now, shall we have a little trine reunion? :: Starscream kicked up his speed.

It took all of Thundercracker's effort to match the high speed, while he continued his attempts to cut off Starscream.

'Warp, I can't go fast enough to stop him! Let Skyfire take Bolt to a safe distance!'

He watched the larger white shuttle move away from Skywarp as they closed in.

'Screamer's is gonna eat my fist!' Skywarp's anxiety quickly flipped to an intense anger that barreled over their bond.

Starscream finally slowed and transformed in front of Skywarp. Thundercracker transformed as well, just in time to watch Skywarp throw his fist into Starscream's jaw, knocking him backward.

"You fragging aft! Why are you here?" Skywarp yelled.

"What is with you two?" Starscream shouted back as he rubbed at his dented faceplate. "I take the time and effort to come back here only be treated like the enemy! I am your trineleader. Show some respect!"

Off to the side some distance away, Skyfire floated with his back to them, while glancing over his shoulder. The wind changed direction and carried the sounds of their sparkling, crying his spark out.

"Your sparkling…" Starscream said in an astonished voice. He looked back at Thundercracker and Skywarp. "Is this his first flight?"

"Yeah, and you're ruining it you aft-wipe!" Skywarp shouted.

"My apologizes. I should have known better than to tangle with two creators that have their parental protocols initiated." Starscream smirked at them.

Skywarp's wings quivered against his back, his rage barely restrained. Thundercracker moved to his mate's side and placed a hand on his forearm. They had positioned themselves between Skyfire and Starscream, poised to defend if necessary.

"Former trineleader," Thundercracker corrected. "And I said I would contact you when we decided."

Starscream looked past them. "You're letting that traitor hold your sparkling?"

"Traitor or not, he's not an aft like you are!" Skywarp snapped.

Starscream instantly shifted his focus back to them. "My, my Skywarp. You have certainly learned to speak your mind." A wicked smile curled his lips. "Does this mean you don't intend to take part in overthrowing Megatron?"

"I intend to kick his aft and yours, too, if necessary!" Skywarp yelled as he clenched his fists.

Starscream canted his head as he looked to Thundercracker. "Seems you did decide."

Thundercracker sighed air from his intakes in a huff. "We decided that we'd help you, but only if you promise to call a cease fire and sign a treaty with the Autobots. If you don't hold up that part of the agreement, I will rip your wings off and personally hand them over to Optimus Prime."

Starscream's optics brightened with his apparent surprise at the threat. "Of course. Truth be told, I have given it a lot of thought. By being the one to put an end to the fighting, I will be seen as the greatest leader to ever rule."

'Holy slag, TC. He really is the most self-centered glitch to ever be sparked, isn't he?' Skywarp asked over the bond.

Thundercracker's amusement flickered over their bond. 'He certainly is. But if it helps us get what we need for Bolt, then I don't give a frag how much of a glitch he is.'

"So, we are in agreement, then?" Starscream asked as his optics bounced between Skywarp and Thundercracker.

"Yes," they both replied.

The wind shifted again, carrying the sounds of Lightningbolt's cries back their way.

"Now that we have that all settled, how about allowing me to meet the first flier to be created since the fall of Vos?" Starscream replied as he floated a little closer.

'Should we let him?' Skywarp's apprehension poured over their bond.

'If you don't want to, I'll make him leave.'

Feelings of uncertainty pulsed back from Skywarp.

"Oh, come now. It isn't like I'd hurt him! You two really distrust me that much?" Starscream asked as he placed his hands on his hips. "I would simply like to meet him. After all, he is the reason we are about to put our necks on the line, is he not?"

'If I didn't know any better, I'd think he cares about us,' Skywarp said silently, his words linked with his feelings of confusion.

'In his own fragged up way, I really think he does.' Thundercracker winced as he heard the continued cries of their sparkling. He wanted nothing more then to fly over and calm Lightningbolt down. The sound felt like it was piercing his spark.

'I guess it would be okay for him to see him, but I don't want him holding LB.'

Thundercracker nodded to his mate in agreement before glancing back at Starscream. "You can see him, with your optics only." He turned partway and motioned to Skyfire to come over.

The white shuttle seemed hesitant but did as directed and slowly flew over to join them. As he neared, he gave Starscream a funny look before turning his attention to Skywarp to pass the crying sparkling back.

The moment Lightningbolt was in Skywarp's arms, he quieted.

"Look LB, that's the aft we hoped you'd never have to meet," Skywarp said sarcastically as he turned Lightenbolt sideways to see.

Their sparkling gave Starscream a very confused look.

"Don't hold back now, Skywarp. I'd hate to think you had a single shred of respect left for me," Starscream replied sarcastically.

Thundercracker focused his attention on Starscream, poised to protect their sparkling if their former air commander dared to move closer. Starscream grew quiet and remained floating in place as he took a long moment to gaze at Lightningbolt.

"While I am not so sure about the colors you two picked, I am quite happy the first sparkling in stellar cycles is a flier." Starscream looked pleased, not at all menacing like Thundercracker worried he'd be, especially after Skywarp's taunts.

"Not Tee-cee," Lightningbolt suddenly said. He pointed at Starscream then looked up at Skywarp.

Thundercracker moved in even closer to his mate and sparkling and placed his hand on Lightningbolt's helm. "That's Starscream."

"I am most certainly not Thundercracker, little flier," Starscream replied in his usual superior tone.

Lightningbolt looked back at Starscream. "Oh."

Starscream chuckled. "I can certainly see why you two would be willing to fight for your little creation. He's rather… cute." Starscream's wings lowered against his back in a relaxed gesture. Their former Decepticon comm. frequency suddenly pinged. :: Megatron is expecting a shipment of supplies from Shockwave tomorrow at the spacebridge. Time and location encoded in a follow up ping. I expect both of you there on time. I have worked to bend the odds in our favor. ::

:: We'll be there, :: Thundercracker replied in a curt tone.

A swell of apprehension pushed over the bond. Skywarp was worried and with good reason. They were about to put their lives on the line, and with the time frame officially set, the gravity of the situation was heavily settling over them.

"Well, then. I should get back. It was nice to meet you, little flier. And I'll be seeing the two of you later." Starscream spun around, transformed, and took off without waiting for anyone to acknowledge a word he said.

Skyfire turned to face their small family. "What was he talking about? Meet you later?"

Thundercracker frowned. "It's not what you think. We are going to take down Megatron."

Skyfire's blue optics flared brightly. "You're what? Just the three of you? What about your sparkling?"

"He's why we agreed to help Starscream," Thundercracker replied. "We don't want Bolt to grow up in the middle of a pointless war."

Realization bloomed over Skyfire's face.

"Don't go snitching to Prime, this is our fight," Skywarp added.

"I won't." Skyfire's optics focused on Lightningbolt. "If you'd let me, I'd like to help."

"Do you think you could get our arm cannons back?" Thundercracker asked.

"I could do that, but I was hoping you'd allow me to fight with you, too," Skyfire replied.

Skywarp's uncertainty and disapproval of the idea pushed over the bond.

"This is our fight for freedom. Getting our weapons back for us would be a huge help, though. We would greatly appreciate that," Thundercracker replied.

Skyfire looked at Thundercracker. "What you said to Prime about not wanting there to be factions spread through the Ark quickly. I agree with that sentiment with every ounce of my being. My guess is you made Starscream promise to bring about peace." Skyfire dimmed his optics as a gentle-looking smile crossed his lips. "That seems like an outcome worth fighting for. More than that, I am also from Vos. I know Megatron manipulated the fliers into helping him and eventually destroyed our home. I think it's time to 'repay' him."

"You were fraggin' frozen here on Earth when that all happened. What do you know about it?" Skywarp quickly countered.

"I went through all the records after I awoke here. I may not have lived through it, but I can promise I have spent every moment since learning about the fate of our home silently mourning its loss. You aren't the only ones to lose family and loved ones." The sadness that obviously affected their fellow flier bled into his voice as he spoke.

Thundercracker wondered which was worse: living through it or waking up to find it was all gone. He decided they were equally painful. It was another in a long list of reasons to end this war. Enough was enough.

'Warp, I think we should let him come with us.'

'Screamer will be fragged off if we do,' Skywarp silently replied.

'Since when do we care what he thinks?'

Skywarp looked back at Thundercracker and half frowned.

'Starscream's not in charge anymore, we are.' Thundercracker canted his head at his mate. 'And Skyfire wouldn't be fighting as an Autobot, he'd be fighting as a fellow flier.'

Shaking his head, Skywarp's lips pulled into a small smile. 'All right.'

Thundercracker smiled at his mate before he looked back over at Skyfire. "Meet us on the roof of the Ark tomorrow, noon."

Skyfire nodded. "I will. And thank you."

"Fly?" Lightningbolt asked as he gazed up at Skywarp.

Thundercracker quietly laughed at the innocent request. He leaned forward and placed a kiss to the top of their sparkling's helm.

"Ready for more, huh?" Skywarp asked.

"More!" Lightningbolt exclaimed, clapping his hands against Skywarp's chest.

"He's learning words already? That's amazing," Skyfire said as he gazed down at their excited sparkling.

"Everything about Bolt is amazing," Thundercracker replied proudly.

Lightningbolt was worth fighting and dying for. But even more importantly, he was worth fighting and surviving for. Thundercracker would do whatever he had to make sure he and Skywarp would return to their sparkling. If including Skyfire helped ensure their success, then he was more than willing to do it.

o o o o

Ratchet rapidly made his way across the base to Thundercracker and Skywarp's specially assigned quarters. He was responding to an urgent-sounding request for assistance just before noontime from Thundercracker. A thousand scenarios of different things having gone wrong with their sparkling were running through the medic's processor. Once he reached the room, he quickly palmed it open.

Standing inside, Thundercracker held Lightningbolt in his arms, hugging the sparkling close and planting small kisses to his forehead. Skywarp was pressed against both of them, gently running his fingers along Lightningbolt's back in a comforting motion. Ratchet stepped inside and froze in place, closely watching the affectionate nature of their interactions with one another. He knew they were doing well as parents, but not once had they shown this side of things to the medic. He found it both wonderful to see but also disconcerting. They had been so fiercely private, so why were acting like this in front of him now?

"We need to you look after Bolt," Thundercracker said without looking away from the sparkling in his arms.

Thundercracker's tone so stern and serious, that it instantly caused a sinking feeling in Ratchet's fuel tank. "Why?"

This time, Thundercracker looked at Ratchet as he asked. "Will you look after him?"

"Yeah, I suppose I could for a bit. What's going on?" Ratchet took a hesitant step forward as he glanced at Skywarp. The younger flier's usual easy-going smile replaced with a very sharp-edged look he was not used to seeing on him, other than on a battlefield.

"Depending on the outcome, you may need to watch him for more than 'a bit'. However, that's a pretty slim possibility." Thundercracker's seriousness broke slightly, showing his underlying angst as he frowned at Ratchet.

Ratchet furrowed his brow. "Outcome of what?"

"Warp and I are going to help Starscream overthrow Megatron."

"What?" Ratchet asked, stunned. "Starscream? Have you lost it?"

"Starscream will negotiate peace once Megatron is no longer an obstacle." Thundercracker gently nuzzled his sparkling who made a soft cooing sound in response.

"Starscream? Again, I ask, have you lost it entirely? Like he'd ever call for peace!" Ratchet was overwhelmed with shock. They honestly thought engaging in a dangerous fight was the right thing to do? Admittedly, Ratchet only knew Starscream in the context of a battlefield. Even so, the only outcomes that came to mind involved them being betrayed by the Decepticon SIC or possibly dying while trying to help him.

"He will bring peace, or I will kill him." Thundercracker spoke with a level of conviction that told Ratchet he had not only thought this through but was already committed to seeing it to the end. "Please, you are the only one we would trust to look after Bolt. Will you do it?"

Ratchet looked at Lightningbolt. This was a potentially huge responsibility to take on, raising another couple's offspring as his own if they didn't make it back alive. It took less than an astrosecond to decide, though. "Yes. I'll look after him."

Skywarp pressed his face against the back of Lightenbolt's helm. "Be good."

Thundercracker pulled away and crossed over to Ratchet, handing over the small sparkling. "We kept him awake for longer than he's used to. He should go right into a recharge for you."

Ratchet took hold of the clearly tired-looking sparkling. Lighteningbolt stared up at Ratchet for a moment, before curling up against him and letting his optics go dark. His small body started to softly vibrate as he quickly fell into his recharge cycle.

"Thank you for everything you have done for us," Thundercracker said as he warmly smiled at Ratchet.

"You two better come back, understood?" Ratchet replied in a sharp tone.

"Understood," Thundercracker replied, still smiling.

Ratchet watched Thundercracker walk back over to Skywarp. The two warriors hugged each other close. Moments later they both disappeared from the locked down room. He sighed air from his intakes, realizing just how Thundercracker had gotten out of the room the other night. The locks on the door were totally useless. Ratchet looked down at Lighteningbolt, cradled against his chest. "Those two idiots better know what they are doing," he whispered.

o o o o

The two jets and a shuttle streaked across the sky. Thundercracker led Skywarp and Skyfire toward the appointed meeting place with Starscream. Their fellow flier, Skyfire, had met them with their weapons on the roof of the Ark, just as he promised. Thundercracker thought it felt odd to equip his heavy cannons again, and found himself looking forward to a time when he would no longer have to wear them.

They flew over a desolate desert landscape, dotted with rocky outcroppings. The location Starscream pinged to them was fast approaching, and he started to scan out ahead. Suddenly, a silver jet darted out from behind one of the rocky formations and sped in their direction.

:: What's with the shuttle? :: Starscream snapped.

:: He's going to help us, :: Thundercracker replied as he slowed to a stop and transformed. All the fliers followed suit, transforming into robot modes to speak face-to-face.

"I don't want that traitor helping us!" Starscream's optics flashed brightly and waved a hand in Skyfire's direction.

"Too bad. And in case you haven't noticed, we are all traitors here." Thundercracker crossed his arms over his chest and deeply frowned at Starscream.

Their former air commander gave Thundercracker a pointed look. "You have some gears on you, you know that?"

"If you don't like it, we'll just do this without you," Thundercracker replied.

"No need to get snippy." Starscream placed his hands on his hips. Looking directly at Skyfire he deeply frowned. "This doesn't change anything between us."

"I know," Skyfire replied quietly.

Thundercracker suddenly sensed there was something more going on between Starscream and Skyfire but decided it was none of his concern.

"Can we just get this over with?" Skywarp asked, as if reading Thundercracker's mind.

Starscream glared at Skywarp before he turned to face everyone. "Soundwave, Scrapper, Hook, and Dirge are with Megatron right now. While I doubt the Constructicons would really bother to protect Megatron, I am not so sure about Soundwave. That could be a problem if he decides to unleash his little pit-spawn tapes. Let's all be careful. I will lead, of course. That is, if you two still know how to follow."

Thundercracker shook his head disapprovingly. "We'll follow. But if you start to frag this up, I am taking over. And my threat of removing your wings stands if you try and betray us or weasel out of this."

Starscream grimaced as he nodded. "Let's go."

A mixture of anger, anticipation, and adrenaline coursed over their bond. It wasn't just Skywarp's emotions being passed; Thundercracker knew his were mixing with his mate's. As they flew toward the ravine edge and the spacebridge that lay at the bottom of the small canyon, Thundercracker mentally focused on why they were doing this.

'For Bolt,' he said over the bond.

'For you and me too, TC,' Skywarp replied.

He glanced over at Skywarp, who flashed a quick smile.

Fight and survive, Thundercracker thought.

Starscream led them toward Megatron who stood just beside the spacebridge entrance. Their former faction leader was overseeing the unloading of the materials that appeared to have just arrived from Cybertron. Dirge, Scrapper and Hook all stopped in their tracks to stare at the group of fliers as they landed. Thundercracker and Skywarp flanked Starscream, and Skyfire stood just behind them.

"Get back to work you ingrates!" Megatron yelled at the dumbstruck group.

"Don't bother," Starscream said the same three mechs. "I'm about to take over the mantle of leadership. In fact, how about scurrying out of the way?"

Megatron turned, his optics narrowing on the group of fliers. Thundercracker watched as the Constructicons quickly dropped their loads of materials and moved clear. Dirge, however, stepped up to Megatron's side. Quickly scanning the area, Thundercracker saw Soundwave standing silently to the side, unmoving.

"Starscream, seems you found your lost little fliers after all," Megatron said in a mocking tone. "Oh, and I see you added the traitorous white shuttle to your roster."

"Make fun all you like, Megatron. This will be your last chance to do so," Starscream said confidently.

"Is it, now? A glitched SIC, two defectors, and a traitor are going to overthrow me? I think maybe you've burnt out your logic circuitry." Megatron's lips curled into a wicked-looking smile. "Perhaps I should rearrange some of your processor for you."

"You'll do no such thing." Starscream made a quick nod.

Thundercracker's confusion at the out of place gesture was replaced by surprise as Dirge suddenly turned both arm cannons on Megatron and fired. Laser fire pinged off the heavy armor.

"You will die for your insolence!" Megatron spun around, grabbed hold of Dirge's arm and threw him so hard he offlined when he landed on the ground.

:: Distraction. Now go! :: Starscream commanded.

In a scattered formation, their trine lifted into the air and then flew at Megatron, all firing at him. Skyfire remained where he stood, also firing.

Starscream landed in front of Megatron and shot with both null rays. Megatron was built like a tank, however, and they seemed to have little effect. The hulking Decepticon leader stepped forward, moving with incredible speed for his size, and grabbed hold of Starscream by the neck, lifting him off the ground.

"Once again, you have proven that you are weak, Starscream. An annoyance and nothing more." Megatron began to darkly laugh as Starscream struggled. "Soundwave, dispatch the others."

"Negative," Soundwave droned.

Everyone turned their attention to Soundwave who was currently being held captive by Skyfire. The larger white mech had his arms wrapped around Soundwave's chest preventing the ejection of his casseticons.

"Well, well, Starscream. Too bad that still isn't enough to stop me. Your loyal band of misfits will not win against me." The sound of metal creaking filled the air as Megatron squeezed Starscream's throat.

Skywarp rushed in, pounding his fists into Megatron's side. "Starscream maybe a glitch, but he's not a psychopath like you!"

Thundercracker's fear instantly spiked. His mate's good intentions were often not thought out, and the scenario unfolding was quickly leading down a bad path. Megatron smirked as he lifted his free arm equipped with the fusion cannon up and twisted it toward Skywarp. Thundercracker flew in, wrapping his elbow around Megatron's neck in a headlock. He needed to create a diversion in order to save his mate from the inevitable fusion cannon fire.

'Warp! Stop!' Thundercracker commanded over the bond.

"You are all such weaklings! You honestly thought you could overpower me with numbers, Starscream?" Megatron asked, unimpressed with their attempts and obviously pleased with his easy resistance to their attacks.

"I know something you don't," Starscream choked out.

"Oh?" Megatron turned his full attention back Starscream trapped in his grip. "And that would be?"

Starscream smirked. "Parental protocols."

"What?" Megatron asked, evidently confused.

Thundercracker initiated his thrusters and jerked his full weight on Megatron's neck. As he did, Skywarp started firing at Megatron, pressing the muzzles of his weapons to the silver-plating, which managed to do quite a bit of damage.

"You little fragging defectors!" Megatron tossed Starscream to the side and reached over his shoulders, grabbing hold of Thundercracker's wings. He was flung over the larger leader's head, landing flat on his back. He was left reeling from the impact as pain flared over his dermal plating. He fought to remain focused and tilted his head back against the ground looking up to see Megatron lift his fusion cannon, taking aim at him.

Fight and survive.

Thundercracker quickly rolled, just as the cannon powered up and fired. The blast hit his side and left wing as he attempted to move out of its path. A sharp pain instantly registered across his sensory net, but he ignored it as best he could by dampening the sensors.

Skywarp jumped up and attempted the same chokehold on Megatron. "You fragger! How dare you hurt him!" An intense, fiery hatred pushed over their bond. He had seen his mate snap in battles before, but this was far beyond anything he had witnessed or felt. The desire to protect was a two-way street for them. Forcing himself back to his feet, Thundercracker grabbed hold of his injured side. It was then he realized the shot had damaged one of his main fuel lines. Energon seeped from the burnt, open wound and trickled down his hip and leg.

He needed to think, decide how to end this fight and quickly. They weren't as powerful as Megatron, especially since the oversized leader was armed with his fusion cannon. The fusion cannon…

'Warp! Move back!'

'What? No!' Skywarp glanced at Thundercracker, his optics burning brightly.

Megatron twisted at the waist and grabbed one of Skywarp's wings, pulling his mate off his back with one hand and tossing him to the ground. "Moron, you are going to pay for your treachery!"

'Move out of the way, now!' Thundercracker rushed forward and squarely landed a punch against Megatron's jaw.

Surprised, Megatron shifted his attention back to Thundercracker. "You rather die first, hm?"

Thundercracker knew he'd have to time his move perfectly as his optics darted to the fusion cannon and he listened to its high pitched whir as it powered up. The only thing that could take down Megatron was Megatron. He knew in that moment, he might not survive but Megatron needed to be stopped, even if Thundercracker wound up trading his life for the peace that would follow. It would be worth it to ensure Lightningbolt's future.

'TC!' Skywarp's call over their bond felt desperate.

'I love you, Warp.'

"It's over," Megatron said with a cocky certainty in his voice.

For you, thought Thundercracker.

The cannon lifted, and the white-hot glow of the energy about to explode from the end was all Thundercracker concentrated on. Everything else around him faded away as he shoved his fist into the cannon. The energy that was about to explode outward built up within the barrel and imploded instead. The sound of metal ripping apart and loud booming of the backfiring cannon were all that registered in Thundercracker's audios. It all seemed to happen in slow motion; the optic blinding light of the explosion and the silver metal paneling of Megatron's body bursting apart at the seams.

Thundercracker was vaguely aware of losing his footing and falling over top of Megatron as the giant mech fell backward.

What were only a few seconds felt like eons as Thundercracker fought his processor's unrelenting series of warnings: fuel tank breach, main fuel line severed, left arm no longer responsive, massive systems failure eminent in the face of fuel loss. Glancing at the unresponsive arm, he saw it had been blown off completely from the elbow joint down. Mustering his remaining strength, he pushed to sit up with his remaining arm.

Warmth suddenly enveloped his side, and he glanced over to see Skywarp hugging him. His mate's optics were glassy with coolant. "You fraggin' idiot!" Skywarp shouted.

"Megatron's spark is still pulsing," Starscream said. Both looked up to see their former air commander standing over the mess of metal and charred parts that had been Megatron moments ago. Starscream lifted his null ray and took aim at the spark chamber. "I'm taking command, Megatron. Just as I said I would." Starscream shot at the chamber, obliterating the spark and forever ending the tyrant's rule.

No longer able to fight off his body's desire to shut down, Thundercracker slumped against Skywarp. He pulsed his love to his mate over their bond as his vision started to black out. 'Take care of Bolt if I don't...'

'Don't you die on me, TC!'

Thundercracker succumbed to his shutdown, leaving the conscious world behind.

o o o o

"Why do you love me?" Thundercracker asked his father while sitting in his lap.

His father hugged Thundercracker's smaller frame tightly as he kissed his helm. "Because you are my light and greatest achievement."

Thundercracker furrowed his brow as he tried to figure out what his father meant by that. Twisting in the close embrace, he gazed upward at his loving father. "What does that mean?"

His father laughed and smiled brightly. "It means that someday you'll surpass me in every way."

That made even less sense to Thundercracker. "Huh?"

"You will be a great flier one day. Possibly the best!"

"Oh, okay." At least that made sense to Thundercracker. He had already decided to work his hardest and train to be one of the top fliers. After all, he wanted to make his father proud of him.

"One other thing I want you to do, though. Something I want you to promise me." His father's voice grew soft as he spoke.

"What's that?"

"One day, far in the future, I want you to fall in love. It's the one thing I know I'll never get to do, so I want to be sure you get the chance to."

Thundercracker stared up at his father, seeing a touch of sadness taint his smile. "Love someone else?" he asked, suddenly feeling confused. He couldn't even imagine loving someone other than his father.

"There are different kinds of love. The love we share is one kind. The kind I want you to find someday will be the one that makes your spark dance around in your chest." His father pressed his fingers to the center of Thundercracker's chest plate.

Thundercracker looked down and put his smaller hand over this father's fingers. "That sounds funny. Will it hurt?"

His father nuzzled the back of his head. "If it's true love, it won't hurt. So do you promise you'll find someone to fall in love with?"

"I promise," Thundercracker replied.

o o o o

Slowly, systems started to come online. Thundercracker immediately registered that his arm was still half missing as well as a heavy warm pressure along his side. He no longer seemed be suffering from a lack of fuel, though. And most importantly, he wasn't dead. He dimly lit his optics to see Skywarp crammed into the medbay berth pressed up against him, recharging.

"That explains the heavy pressure," Thundercracker whispered.

"First recharge he's gotten in almost three Earth days."

Thundercracker glanced over to see Ratchet sitting on a stool next to a workbench. The medic was bent over the lower half of an arm, busily working away. Thundercracker looked around, surveying the area and realized he was in Autobot medbay. A curtain cordoned off they area they were in, just like when he first found himself in the medic's care for phase two of carrying... Lightningbolt. "If Warp is here, where's Bolt?"

"Bolt's been in and out of here, visiting for short amounts of time. At the moment he's playing with Wheeljack back in our quarters." Ratchet turned partway in his seat and looked back at Thundercracker. "Skywarp has refused to leave your side."

Glancing back at his mate nestled against him, he wondered how close he came to death. "How slagged up was I?"

"If they had gotten here even a few breems later, we would be holding a funeral service." Ratchet's tone was stern.

Shifting his gaze back to the medic, he could see just how serious Ratchet was. The medic shifted on his stool and faced Thundercracker. "I was honestly shocked to see your spark pulsing at all when you were hauled in here." Ratchet canted his head as he narrowed his optics. "What the frag were you thinking? Do you have any idea how much damage the electrical feedback from the disrupted cannon charge alone caused your systems? Not to mention the amount of plating I had to clean, reform and replace! And now I am having to rebuild you a lower left arm!"

Thundercracker couldn't help the grin that spread across his lips.

"What? Was something I said funny? 'Cause I think you acted completely recklessly. I don't see any humor in that." Ratchet furrowed his brow and crossed his arms over his chest.

It wasn't that Thundercracker found his near death funny, he was just so incredibly grateful to be alive. He shook his head. "I'm just very happy you saved my life."

Ratchet's optics brightened as he sat up a little straighter. "That's what I do."

"Well, thank you," Thundercracker replied.

"I should be thanking you," Ratchet said, his stiff posture relaxing. "You two managed set in motion the end of the war. Starscream has been here for talks with Prime over the last three days. I've had to prepare reports on your condition for him, since Skywarp refused Starscream's request for a visit." Ratchet sighed air from his intakes as a small smile played across his lips. "I never thought I'd see the day peace would be negotiated."

"The world didn't have a place for us. So we made our own," Thundercracker replied.

"You certainly did," Ratchet replied with a huge smile.

Thundercracker smiled back. Their lives were theirs to live again. No more pointless fighting or violence threatening their existence. What seemed like nothing more than a distant dream of a different life was now going to be reality. He looked back at Skywarp and felt his spark happily pulse in its chamber, marveling at the strength gained by the deep love he felt. They had taken back what was rightfully theirs: a life to live together without fear, only love.

They were finally free.


The humans of Earth had agreed to share resources, but it was only enough to maintain a small electrical grid and energon convertors for the fifty or so homes the Constructicons had built back on Cybertron. Their rebuilt city had been declared the new capital, which Starscream had named New Vos, and was now home to a mix of Autobots and Decepticons. As per the agreements made, Starscream was put in charge of the rebuilding efforts on Cybertron and Prime remained on Earth, working with humans to maintain good relations. Factions remained, but had become little more than political parties after some time. It turned out that both sides were tired of the millennia-long war and simply wanted to leave the memory of past hostilities behind.

Optimus Prime offered Thundercracker a high-ranking position in the new structure of their peaceful society, but he had turned it down. He wanted to give Skywarp all his attention and love and didn't want anything to distract him from watching his sparkling grow up. All he wanted was to lead a quiet life and spend time with his family.

The light of Cybertron's moons reflected into the room Thundercracker and Skywarp shared through the overhead windows. It was the start of the orn. Skywarp lay pressed against Thundercracker's side, his mate's face smooshed against his upper arm. Thundercracker gazed at Skywarp, still deeply recharging. After so much fighting and struggling, he often found himself in awe over the most mundane of moments he shared with his mate and sparkling.

The sound of their door creaking open caught Thundercracker's attention. He glanced at the doorway, now cracked open, to see two small red optics peer back at him.

"You up? Can I come in?" Lightningbolt asked in a hushed voice.

"I'm up, but Warp isn't. And yes, you can come in."

The door opened all the way and Lightningbolt, who was on his fourth upgrade with his first set of wings, bounded across the room and jumped up onto the berth, landing front first on Thundercracker's chest. A grunt was forced from Thundercracker's vocalizer, and he frowned in response to his sparkling's energetic greeting.

Lightningbolt was undeterred by the look and grinned brightly. "Love you!"

Thundercracker's frown instantly broke into a smile. "Love you, too."

"Warp said we'd go flying. Can I wake him up?" Lightningbolt asked as he wriggled sideways and peaked over Thundercracker's arm at Skywarp.

"You can certainly try," Thundercracker replied, as he rested a hand on his sparkling's back.

Reaching out, Lightningbolt started to poke Skywarp in the arm. His mate groaned but didn't light his optics. "Come on. Time to wake up and go flying," Lightningbolt said excitedly as he continued to poke Skywarp.

"Primus, LB," Skywarp replied in a rough sounding voice, while leaving his optics off. "TC and I were up kinda late. Could I get like another cycle of recharge in?"

"No," Lightningbolt replied simply.

Thundercracker couldn't help but chuckle a little.

'You're not helping!' Skywarp said over the bond.

'He's just excited to go flying.' Thundercracker replied.

Skywarp dimly lit his optics and looked at Lightningbolt with a deep frown.

"Love you!" Lightningbolt said cheerfully. It was their sparkling's favorite form of greeting them first thing after a recharge.

"Love you. Now how about you go grab me and TC a couple of energon cubes?" Skywarp said as he sighed air from his intakes with a soft hiss.

"Okay! Then we can go flying?" Lightningbolt asked.

"Yeah. We'll go flying."

"Awesome!" Lightningbolt pushed off of Thundercracker, jumped to the floor, and sprinted out of the room.

"Awesome?" Skywarp repeated. "Where did he get that word from?"

"I think from playing with Miles." They made regular trips to Earth to allow Lightningbolt to play with Miles since they were close in age. There had been three more sparklings created since the end of the war, but they were still too young to play with Lighteningbolt, making Miles his main playmate.

"Fraggin' Jazz," Skywarp muttered. "I'm still tired..."

"That's your own fault," Thundercracker teased.

"Is not." Skywarp pouted. "How are you so awake?"

"Well, as I remember it, you were doing most of the 'work' last night," Thundercracker replied as he started to poke at Skywarp's side playfully.

Skywarp made a whining sound. "Bad enough the kid likes to poke me, you mind?"

"Why should I mind? You're the one being poked," Thundercracker said as he laughed.

"Har, har," Skywarp replied wryly.

"Here!" Lightningbolt announced from the doorway. He crossed the room with two servings of energon clutched close to his chest.

Thundercracker and Skywarp both sat up and each took a cube.

"Thank you," Thundercracker said as he patted Lightningbolt's helm.

"You're welcome." Lightningbolt crawled onto the berth and made himself comfortable on Thundercracker's lap. He was more physically affectionate with Thundercracker, always wanting to touch or be held by him. But he was more talkative and engaged with Skywarp, preferring his company when he wanted to play. "When we go flying, can you show me someplace cool?"

"Someplace cool?" Skywarp took a long swig of his energon.

"Yeah! Let's explore and find treasures." Lightningbolt grabbed at his pedes and rocked back against Thundercracker's chest.

"That's a tall order for such a short flier," Skywarp replied.

Lightningbolt made the same pouting frown Skywarp often sported. "I'll be as big as you someday!"

Skywarp smiled. "You will?"

"Yeah!" Lightningbolt sat forward and flexed his wings against Thundercracker. "I already have wings just like you, see? And before you know it, I'll be just as big as you!"

Thundercracker set his cube down and grabbed his sparkling by the waist, hugging him close. He pressed his lips to the side of Lightningbolt's helm. "Someday you will, but don't be in too much of a rush to grow up, okay?"

Lightningbolt tilted his head back and gazed at Thundercracker. "He doesn't believe me, though."

"He's just teasing you," Thundercracker explained.

"Oh," Lightningbolt replied.

Skywarp finished off his cube and dispersed the empty container. "All right. Are there any fliers up for treasure hunting around here?"

"Me!" Lightningbolt exclaimed.

Skywarp grinned as he got off the berth. "Let's go, then." He grabbed Lightningbolt by the waist and slung him over his shoulder. Their sparkling giggled and flailed around as Skywarp headed toward the doorway. Pausing at the threshold, Skywarp turned halfway and looked back at Thundercracker. "Coming?"

Thundercracker nodded.

The sight of his mate and sparkling together never failed to make his spark happily pulse in his chest. He made sure to drink in every moment he had with them, appreciating the simple pleasures they shared. The darkness and war that had tried to consume and destroy him felt like a distant memory now. It served to highlight the joy of such an uncomplicated, peaceful existence they now lived.

To love and be loved, how incredibly lucky he knew he was.

A/N- I am both happy and sad this story is at its end. Thank you again everyone for the reviews, faves, and appreciation you have shown my story! It was very satisfying to write and I hope it was just as enjoyable to read. Thanks again!