Not mine, for which I'm sure the Autobots involved are all very grateful, and not for profit.


"Great Primus, mech, you look terrible."

Thus Ironhide to Ratchet, as the latter, weariness in every line of his body and deep fatigue stamped on his face, collected his morning's ration of energon, and brought it to the table the black mech had set an identical cube on.

"It's an accurate reflection of how I feel," Ratchet said, and fell into the seat opposite Ironhide's.

"Th' Pit happened to you?"

"The twins major. You aren't looking any too shiny yourself."

Nicks and dings and the odd bit of paint missing here and there on Ironhide's frame intensified the same physiological manifestations as Ratchet's. "Prowl and Jazz happened ta me. We're gettin' old, Ratchet." The weapons specialist had some energon. It didn't make him feel any better. He thought that probably, sixty vorn of sleep might.

"I think it's those four," Ratchet said darkly. "I think we ought to sic them on each other, and you and I should take on Optimus. He's alone at night too much."

Ironhide smirked. "Ain't a bad thought. Spill the details, Ratch."

Ratchet looked around, but they were the only mechs in the common room. They were also late for their shifts. Oh well.

"Let's comm first. Let 'em know where we are, and that we're late."

"They'll think we ..."

"I know. I don't care. You?"

"Not enough, I guess." They completed these necessary communications, and sat back, optics on one another.

Ratchet spoke first. "You know Sideswipe's been on my tail lately."

Ironhide chuckled, and winced. "I did know that. Optimus and I have a bet. He thinks you're for the high jump. I have faith in you."

One corner of Ratchet's mouth twitched. "Sorry to tell you, it's misplaced. He finally wore me down."

Ironhide's own mouth was knocked agape. He shut it with an effort. "You mean - "

"Last night," Ratchet said wearily, one hand supporting an aching forehead, "Sideswipe and I were in his quarters, and we'd about gotten to the good part. The door opens, and in comes Sunny. He was on patrol, took a hit from Ravage, got patched up, got sent home by Aid, with instructions to rest.

"Sides was pretty annoyed, but we gave Sunny the berth and necked on the couch for a couple joor. What that mech knows about tactile stimulation should be added to the medical textbooks under 'F' for 'Do Not Ever Touch Your Patients' – " Ratchet broke off, seeing Ironhide's mouth agape again, and collected himself. "Anyway, Sunny slept for a while, and when he woke up, he wanted to join us. I ran a quick scan, and couldn't find a reason to say no on his account. Besides, while I like redheads, I've always had a particular … taste … for that one."

Ironhide switched stares, from "I can't believe this" to "I don't want to believe this." He thought, after hearing that, that he might actually be showing up in the med bay himself, asking Ratchet for euthanasia, since he had clearly lived too long … or maybe just something to settle his fuel tank? One or the other. They both seemed like reasonable courses of action, at this point.

Unaware of Ironhide's plans for his own imminent demise, Ratchet had some more energon, and continued. "Started out with wires and sensors being stroked, then nipped, and pretty soon I found out I couldn't tell whose hands, or teeth, were where, including my own. Then Sunny brings out his interface cables, and Sides, not to be outdone, brings out his.

"I said no. Said I didn't know them well enough."

Ironhide frowned. "And?" Because insisting on "yes" when someone had said "no" in that situation carried with it consequences.

"Found out that Sides'll whine, 'Aww, Ratchet,' but Sunny won't. We went back to what we'd been doing. And then more of same, and the interface ports came up again."

Ironhide smirked. That was exactly what interface ports did, if you put enough effort into them.

"A little later, I found that they'd used their twin bond, and they both knew that if they … if I … if they, when I … well. Let's just say there was an exchange of information and I benefited greatly from it."

Ironhide grinned. His were bonded too, and he had enjoyed the same ... benefits. There was something to be said for an orgasm-induced blackout. For one thing, it carried with it no hangover.

Ratchet smiled back. Both mechs regretted this social gesture, as it made their faceplates hurt.

Ratchet winced and continued, "Sometime later, when there was light outside their window, I found that I was the one with my interface cable hanging out. So they took theirs out again, to be companionable, you know."

Ironhide took refuge in his energon, and spared a thought for the fact that Ratchet must have unplumbed depths of stamina. He had, after all, begun playing with the twins – well, one half of the twins, anyway – after his shift was over and had continued until the sun came up. With both involved at - the halfway point? So say one and a half twins major, all night, one-half of one planetary cycle. "Primus almighty," he said in response to his own calculations, gazing at Ratchet with new respect.

"You may say so, and you may well be right," Ratchet said primly, unaware of the true subject of Ironhide's comment. "Anyway, we all got hooked up, except they've got a new way to do it that takes an extra cable. You –"

"No," Ironhide said flatly. "No details. Really. Please, Ratch."

Ratchet nodded slowly. "Shall I have one of them tell Jazz?"

Ironhide put his helm into his hands. "It's too late. He already knows."

"Once you get into overcharge when three of you are wired that way, you can't – "

"Yes. I know."

"I lost count of the successive orgasms at fourteen. I don't know when I lost consciousness."

"Nine for me. I'm older'n' you, so I think I probably passed out faster."

One ancient mech stared at the other.

Age brings with it a sobering knowledge of one's physical decline, and, if not regret for the things irrevocably gone beyond one's capabilities, a certain savor to the things still possible. Eventually. Once you get over resenting not being young anymore.

And in this particular case, while excessive life experience reduces the need to fly frequently, as it were, that life experience also requires one to lengthen the runway considerably if one wishes to take off, though once one is finally airborne one achieves altitude a lot more quickly, and one's lift factor is much more ... intense, than younger fliers'.

Yes, it fraggn' well is.

"This morning," Ratchet said eventually, "I couldn't get out of bed. It wasn't just that I was tired. I couldn't find my knees. I had no feeling from my sixth spinal strut to my ankles."

"I had to crawl outta the bunk on all fours, and search my room for my armor," Ironhide said, his helmet fins radiating the heat of embarrassment. "It was on the desk by the computer. I looked at it twice and didn't recognize it. I have no idea why my cannon was in the desk drawer filed under 'P.'"

The two of them watched one another curiously for a time. Then Ironhide said, "You do it again?"

Ratchet shook his head, but said, "Yes. Not until I have a day off after to recover, though."

Two old mechs considered their current situation.

"I think we ought to, uh, introduce them to one another, and introduce Optimus to this whole procedure ourselves." Ironhide finished his energon.

"Jazz and Sideswipe are kindred spirits of a sort, anyway."

"Sunny and Prowl got things in common too."

"Yeah?" Ratchet got up, and threw both their empty cubes into the recycling. The echoing clang was a fresh pain to both. "Come along to med bay with me, and I'll cure you with a hit of purified oxygen, and some intravenous additive, while First Aid puts me out of my misery with the same."

"Okay," said Ironhide, accompanying the medic out of the rec room, "an' we can maybe talk about how to spring this on Optimus."

"You think he won't go for it if we just ask nicely?"

Ironhide snorted, and was sorry he had done so. "Not'n a million years. For a Prime, he's awful straitlaced, or maybe, I dunno, that 's a requirement for bein' a Prime. But once we get him alone, and involved in it, once he shakes hands with the idea, so ta speak ..."

"So to speak. A nine-joor overcharge would be good for him."

"'Course 'twould. Was for us, wa'n't it?"

"Yes," said Ratchet. "It was."