Fandom: Transformers Bayverse
Author: gatekat and femme4jack on LJ
Pairing: Mirage/Hound/Alicia Rodriguez
Rating: NC-17 for mech/mech, mech/human
Codes: Slash, Het, Xeno (Transformer/Human), Mechsmut, Holosmut, Sticky
Summary: Hound and Mirage accompany their energizer bunny to her home in Northern New Mexico for their first Christmas together.
Notes: Written in the Dathanna de Gray fanverse (community .livejournal .com/ tf_socket_fics)
"text" translated Cybertronian.
~text~ bond talk
Alicia's going home outfit http: / www. brazilroxx .com/collectionW2008/8W7010 .jpg
Hound: Holo Joseph "Tracker" Jackson. Alt 2010 Jeep Wrangler Mountain
Mirage: Holo Don Adalberto de Fernandez y de la Torre (Lord Nobly Bright of the Fernandez family of the Tower). Alt. BMW Concept Vision Efficientdynamics http: / www. lincah .com/2009-bmw-vision-efficientdynamics-concept

Spanish translations:
Sangre de Cristo Mountains - Blood of Christ in Spanish, part of the Southern Rockies running from Northern NM to Southern Colorado. Named for the bright red color they take on at sunset.
Abuela - Grandmother
Abuelita - term of endearment for a grandmother
Mi hija or mi hiho - my child, my little one (term of endearment from an elder to someone younger)
Muchacha, Muchacho - Girl, boy, something an elder would call someone younger than them
Currandera - one of the types of 'witches' still common in rural parts of New Mexico. Essentially an herbalist and wise woman
Bruja - a dark witch who practices black magic, also still common in rural New Mexico.
Huevos - (lit. eggs) slang for testicles
Pajarito - Little Bird (Alicia's mother and grandmother's nickname for her)
Hola - hello
Primo - cousin
Loco - crazy
Bambino - baby
Cabron - bastard
Hijo de mil putas - son of a thousand bitches

The Naturalists: First Christmas

Perhaps fifteen miles outside the village of Truchas, New Mexico, one vehicle that drew eyes anywhere it went and one that looked like it belonged as much off road as on it were making good time in the biting dry winter of the High Desert.

Alicia was giddy. It was so wonderful to be driving trough the familiar, beloved landscape on the High Road to Taos, winding through the Sangre de Cristos. They were gaining altitude fast as the ascended the mountains from the Rio Grande Valley below. There was a dusting of snow on the piñons, junipers and chamisas, while the snow bound Truchas Peaks above them gave off reddish glow of reflected sunset from which the mountain range received its name. They took the cut off from the state highway onto a one lane county road with turn offs to avoid oncoming traffic.

"You're nervous," Alicia came to the starting realization as she looked over at the 'driver' of the sleek blue and white BMW Concept Vision Efficient dynamics with intricate golden filigree. Mirage's holoform wasn't fidgeting, but she could feel it from him.

"We're going to meet your family," he pointed out evenly.

"My family will adore you, and Hound too. They have been complaining about the lack of men in my life for years, saying I was ignoring my body for the sake of my brains. Now I'm bringing home two! What could be better?"

"One you can legally marry and have young with," he said quietly, his scanners ranging far ahead, compared to Hound's results, and mapping out every bit of everything far beyond the road. "It's been a long time for me."

~He's still got nerves to work out because he bonded with me without permission,~ Hound added. ~Doesn't matter that there wasn't anyone to ask on either side.~

She stroked the olive skinned Spaniard sitting next to her on the shoulder and grinned.

"I come from a family of strong willed females who all tend to bend the rules, for good or for ill, and my leaving home and going to Cornell was just another in a long line of examples. The town expects something outside the norm whenever I come home. And, obviously, you don't need to worry about my father's approval. I'm an only child, so no brothers to challenge you either."

"Just the matriarchs," he smiled back and reached over to squeeze her leg through the soft black cloth that made up the skirt of her new dress of denim, wool and cotton. Fine enough to quell his objections, if barely, but within what she insisted were the sensibilities of her home. "I want them to be pleased with your choice, even if they don't know the full truth of it."

"Oh, they will be pleased, especially Abuelita. Watch out for her, she might try to get your for herself using one of her love potions."

A soft rumble of amusement echoed from both vehicles as the faint lights of Truchas came into view.

"She has no idea what she's trying to charm," Mirage actually smiled, the rare honest one where he actually did find something amusing.

~She'd better not try to charm him away from me,~ Hound rumbled with mock aggressiveness. ~He's my mech.~

She grinned and smoothed her skirt, admiring the Nambé silver medallion hanging on her neck. While she might be casual, she was very dressed up by the standards of New Mexico where a night out at a fine restaurant meant wearing your new jeans and boots. The fact that the outfit had cost thousands made Mirage happy, and as frugal as she normally would be, she couldn't help indulging him. Even if it was with his money.

As they rounded a corner into the village of 400, she sighed and grinned at the familiar Christmas decorations. The flat roofs and walls of the stucco and adobe homes and the few shops were lined with faralitos, their candles already lit, turning the brown paper bags a warm honey color that tradition said lit Mary and Joseph's way to Bethlehem. Several of the homes had cheesy plastic manger scenes with all-too-white holy families and blond angels. A couple of old men in cowboy hats leaned against the outside wall of the general store, smoking their cigarettes and staring at the sleek, nearly alien looking concept car with undisguised curiosity, halting their conversation completely.

"Ok, now it is my turn to be nervous. This may be one of the oldest towns in the United States, but it must look like a primitive, backwater village to you... which it is."

~I've survived far worse,~ Mirage tried to soothe her as he pulled up in front of her mother's home and parked, Hound parking right behind him. ~I haven't seen a place that wasn't a backwater since the Towers fell. Though I must admit a garage would have been welcome in this weather.~

Alicia laughed out loud, leaning over to give "Don Adelfino" an affectionate kiss on the cheek.

~That makes me feel much better,~ she said with a bit of irony. ~And... we do have a barn out back if you don't mind recharging with our horses,~ she added.

She giggled at the shudder that passed down Mirage's holoform and real frame at the thought, and the way Hound snickered along with it.

~I'll keep you warm,~ Hound promised with a low, sultry rumble that caused an entirely different kind of shudder as they all stepped into the icy cold, dry mountain air. ~At least it's not wet,~ he offered helpfully.

~Small miracles,~ Mirage grumbled and took in the homestead was one of the originals in town, dating back to the 1600s. Though rebuilt several times, every round left evidence for Cybertronian sensors. It was a one level hacienda style adobe and stucco home built around a central courtyard with a frozen over fountain. The doors and window frames were painted in the traditional sky blue. It was on the outskirts of town, which meant you could easily walk to the village shops in a few minutes.

~Your mother is not home,~ Hound said silently, both mechs suddenly throwing their sensors wide open to find the human. ~I believe she is attending a birth two houses north.~

~Mama always gets called away for a birth when there is something important going on. I used to go with her quite a bit. If I'd followed tradition, I would have trained to be the village lay midwife and the curandera - I'm the last in the family line on either side,~ she explained and they walked into the courtyard.

~I probably should tell you now, they weren't expecting us until tomorrow. I didn't want to arrive to a house full of aunties, uncles and cousins - which would be half of the village,~ Alicia explained, even as an ancient looking, tiny woman came out the front door. Her hair was pure white, brushed out long and flowing over her shoulders. She wore a pink housecoat and slippers.

"Alicia?" the tiny woman said.

"Abuelita!" Alicia cried, running to the woman and wrapping her up in a tight hug.

"You came early," she chided affectionately before eying the fine looking men who were hanging back. "With such handsome men. Come in, all of you. Introductions where we can be warm."

The elderly woman confidently strode toward the two holoforms, neatly inserting herself between them and hooking her arms in theirs as though they were her escorts to a special function at which she was the guest of honor.

"Yes, such handsome men. Alicia, you naughty little girl, I'm so proud of you," she laughed as they stepped into the adobe house. The entry way led to a sitting room with rustic but comfortable furniture, much of it appearing handmade out of local woods and covered in brightly woven fabrics. There was a fragrant piñon fire burning in the kiva style fireplace in the corner of the room. Overhead rustic Ponderosa Pine lodge poles ran the length of the plastered ceiling.

"Why don't you two sit there so we can chat while Alicia makes some tea," the tiny woman motioned to the love-seat directly across from her as she sat down in a comfortable, soft chair and put her feet up on a stool.

"Don't I get to introduce them first, Abuela?" Alicia asked with a warm and indulgent smile at her grandmother.

"No, mi hija, just tell me if they are good in bed or not."


"Get the tea, muchacha. I'm an old woman. I can ask whatever I feel like."

Alicia shook her head, and laughed, waving at her mechs as she headed to the kitchen.

~Good luck, you two, the interrogation is beginning,~ she told them with an affectionate, good humored brush against their minds.

~I think I know where your sense of humor came from,~ Hound snickered back even as he slid a strong arm across Mirage's shoulders and drew him close so he'd relax. ~Remember, Alicia will not be driven off even if this one does not approve.~

~I want her to approve,~ Mirage put on an outward appearance of relative ease, which still seemed stiff compared to his bonded. ~Whether she can stop us is irrelevant.~

"All right, relax you two. I don't bite ... well, only a little. Tell me your names again. You'll have to forgive me for forgetting, but my mind isn't what it used to be," Alicia's grandmother smiled warmly at the two men, apparently finding nothing surprising about their physical affection with one another.

"I am Don Adalberto de Fernandez y de la Torre," Mirage introduced himself with the somewhat formal manner of one who was not accustomed to such relaxed manners for a first introduction.

"I'm Joseph Jackson," Hound grinned warmly at her. "Most folks call me Tracker, or Hound."

"Oh, very good. Such lovely names. Mine is Corazon Rodriguez, but if you are with my granddaughter, you can call me Corazon or Abuela. I am far too old to deal with formalities," she gave the two of them a wink, then sat up, putting her feet on the floor so she could learn forward and look them both in the eyes.

"So, mi hijos, how in the devil's name did Alicia manage to snag both of you?"

No one, including Alicia in the next room, missed the lightning bolt of tension that briefly gripped Mirage's holoform.

Hound was the one who broke the tension and answered with a low chuckle. "We had the good fortune to be playing Hunter and Prey near where she was working and drew her in. A lovely woman who can make Adalberto smile and doesn't find him intimidating is a catch."

Corazon have a hearty chuckle at the response.

"Hunter and Prey! Oh, does that ever sound like fun. You'll have to teach me. But my Alicia wouldn't be intimidated by anyone. She has intimidated the huevos off every man who ever courted her. We seriously believed she would never marry. Her head is too much in her work."

It was obvious that there was nothing the tiny woman found intimidating.

~I know where Alicia got a lot of her spark,~ Hound smirked privately to both his lovers.

~Definitely,~ Mirage grumbled privately. ~Even less sense of modesty and appropriate subject matter than the minor twins.~

~She's not that bad!~ Alicia defended her blood.

~True, they're irritating, she's just willing to ask things he doesn't want to talk about,~ Hound teased before grinning even wider at the old woman. "It takes a lot to intimidate my balls off," his grin became a smirk. "Or I would have never gotten him."

The wrinkled woman threw back her head and cackled with laughter. "Oh, I want to see what would intimidate you, Hound, if my granddaughter and your Spaniard don't."

"Abuelita, you sound like bruja," Alicia called from the kitchen where the tea kettle had started to boil.

"Curanderas are allowed to cackle too, my hija. It's a skill that comes to every kind of witch with age," the woman called back, shaking her head at her granddaughter.

"Alright," she turned her attention back to the men across from her with a wide smile, completely relaxed. "Why don't the two of you tell me what you really are."

The question was immediately followed by the crashing sound of a tea kettle being roughly set back on the stove as Alicia sped back toward the sitting room.

~Alicia, what the pit does she think she knows?~ Mirage snapped at her, his SpecOps programming coming on line rapidly.

~Doesn't matter,~ Hound overrode them both. "We are not permitted to speak of that," he gave the truth without any details. "Like so much where we met her, it's classified well above all our pay grades."

Alicia walked in the room, managing to look calm and relaxed despite the tension that radiated off of her through their socket-bond.

~I have no idea what she thinks she knows. She has always claimed to have second sight, which I never believed until I started seeing the kinds of things she has always described once you claimed me,~ she said quickly, showing them memories of some of the arguments she'd had with her grandmother over the very topic.

"Abuelita, what are you grilling my poor men about?" she asked sweetly, leaning down to give her grandmother a kiss on the cheek.

"They are not men, Alicia. And by that I don't mean they are transvestites. Their auras are completely wrong. I've never seen anything like them before. And that strange car and the jeep they drove have auras as well ... living ones, not what I see around mechanical devices."

Mirage looked ready to either pass out, bolt or attack. Only Hound's strong arm around him stopped him from loading more SpecOps protocols in response to the immanent threat of being exposed.

"Abuela," Alicia chided, utterly terrified as she felt both her lovers reach a state where they could justify a mind-wipe or kill. "Have you been trading your services for peyote again?"

"No, mi hija, I gave that stuff up years ago. It interfered with my visions rather than giving them to me. You all can calm down, you know. Your secret is safe with me. Your auras also read that you are tightly connected with my Alicia, and hers has changed to reflect yours. I don't see any sign of danger to her from you, though right now you are very dangerous to me. If you are going to kill me because I can see you for who you are, just do it quickly. I've been ready to go for years."

The old woman continued to smile warmly at the two 'men' in her sitting room. They could not read even a hint of anxiety in her.

~Oh God, please don't hurt her,~ Alicia begged, feeling as though she was going to collapse from the strength of emotions flowing to her from both of her lovers. ~She is the most important person in my life beside the two of you.~

Mirage closed his eyes and made a conscious effort to turn the protocols off. As Mirage's holoform relaxed, Hound lowered his head to press his forehead against his neck.

~I can refuse you nothing that important to you,~ Mirage murmured. Deep brown eyes locked onto Corazon. "Just how common is this ability of yours?"

Corazon grinned and put her feet up again. "I truly don't know. The curandera I apprenticed with had the sight, and she picked me because I had it as well. I am the only one I know of in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona or Utah, and perhaps the only one in northern Mexico as well, because I have had people come from that far to see me. None of the other curanderas I associate with have the sight. They pretend to, but their skills are of another kind. Alicia would have it, too, if she didn't allow her scientific, rational brain to refute its existence."

Alicia walked over to the love seat and sat on Hounds's strong lap, needing physical assurance after feeling their field protocols in a manner she never had before. Both her lovers embraced her, offering a soothing presence and support after what had frightened them as well, even if it was in a different way.

~If she's right...~ Mirage couldn't help but go to the tactical advantage it would be to her. ~If you can do this thing if you allow yourself. Alicia, surely by now you understand how far beyond your science reality stretches.~

~I already can see some things differently, but only while we share,~ she reminded them. ~I thought it was because you claimed me. I can see what mystics would call my chakras, and can see you sparks, not just through the link. When we share I can see all of our auras.~

"Well, now that we've got that all settled, do you still want tea? Or perhaps something stronger. I could use a shot of tequila myself," Corazon said with a wink at the three of them.

~No one will see us a bit further from the road, beyond the house,~ Hound suggested softly. ~I brought high grade.~

~I could use that,~ Mirage murmured in agreement. "I think it would be good for everyone," he said and carefully eased Alicia fully into Hound's embrace so he could stand to pour tequila for all of them, the tea pot forgotten in the kitchen.

~You two aren't going to just leave me alone tonight, are you? I have absolutely no qualms about coming to find you if you disappear on me,~ Alicia warned lightheartedly as she sensed their real forms sneaking off beyond the barn to get cozy. She slowly relaxed into Hound's strong arms, wishing she had the absolute calm and confidence her grandmother possessed.

She watched with amusement as Mirage first poured a liberal shot of Tequila into a glass for her grandmother, who downed it immediately, throwing her head back, then holding out her glass for another which Mirage obligingly poured.

"Oh, Abuelita, I've missed you," she said with an incredulous laugh at her grandmother's behavior.

"We have missed you," Esperanza smiled over at her granddaughter. "Though I do want to know their real names. At least what you call them."

~It is up to you,~ she quickly assured her lovers.

Mirage and Hound exchanged a long, wordless look, not even communicating over their bond.

"You may not tell anyone else," Mirage fixed Corazon with a stern look. "Please do not tell anyone else you do not believe we are human. We'd like to be able to bring Alicia back whenever she wishes to visit."

"I wouldn't dream of it," she gave them a bright, open smile that they recognized from Alicia's own face. "I wouldn't do anything to hurt my granddaughter. I do not have any idea what you three are up to, but I can see in her aura that she is very happy, and is as sexually satisfied as I've ever seen a woman. It's about time, too, even though it makes me jealous."

~Could you set up a block in her mind so she can't tell anyone?~ Alicia asked sheepishly. ~I believe her that she won't deliberately, but she does get drunk from time to time.~

~Can, yes,~ Mirage answered. ~If she'll only do so drunk, it is of little threat.~

"My formal designation is Mirage," he allowed the mechanically lyrical sounds of his native Towers dialect flow. "Mirage is what most call me here."

"I'm Hound," he grinned and hugged Alicia close. "Hound," he said in the very different dialect of his origin.

"Well, whatever you are, I'm very pleased to meet you, Hound and Mirage. So when are you going to give me great grandchildren?"

Alicia was unfortunately taking sip of tequila at that comment, and it ended up coming rather painfully out of her nose.

"We aren't intending to breed her for next few years," Mirage answered smoothly, much more comfortable with this question than previous ones. "After that, we will see. It is not something we intend to rush into."

"Breed her! Ha! What a way to put it. Well don't take too long, mi hijos. I'm 82 years old. Alicia is the last of her family line on her father's side. Too many only children."

~She appears older but her physical condition is far younger,~ Hound noted.

~Lots of time in the sun. Wrinkles you up like a prune unless you are fortunate enough to meet some mechs who decide to shut off your aging process.~

"Would you all stop talking that way?" Corazon complained. "Don't be rude to your elders. I can see it happening in your auras, and have no idea what delicious things you could be telling one another."

"Our apologies," Mirage spoke smoothly. "It is second nature to us. We have to remember to speak out loud. Hound noted that you appear older than you are. Alicia explained it was extensive exposure to solar radiation."

"You can really see that, not feel it?" Hound was as fascinated as he sounded, leaning forward a bit.

"Please forgive him for treating you like some fascinating new species," Mirage chuckled softly at his bonded's reaction. "It is his nature."

Corazon waved off the concern. "My noggin interprets it as sight," she explained, rapping on her white head with her fist. "I do not believe it is a visual sense, but it is the only way my little old brain has to interpret it. I see it as a variety of colors that surround everything, living and non-living, and are all interacting with one another. It took me a long time to learn how to interpret what I was seeing. Lots of trial and error, and help from the old witch who taught me. But every one sees differently, you know, so it wasn't just like she could tell me what my sight meant. When you talk the way you've been talking, it appears as ripples through your auras, like a pebble hitting a pond, but the ripples go in the direction of the ones you are talking with."

"Fascinating," Hound murmured, his deep brown eyes wide and eager.

"Hound," Mirage said the tracker's name in Tower dialect, a warning in the tone.

"I know, I know," he waved it off. "Doesn't make it any less interesting." He shifted his focus to Corazon. "I was thinking of how much we could learn if we could see what you see. I believe I know what it is, but there is no way of knowing unless you came home with us for a while."

"I certainly wouldn't object to that," Alicia murmured wistfully. To be able to spend some extended time with her grandmother before she passed away would be an amazing gift. "If she came with us, she might be able to teach me. I ... I should have trained with her when she asked me to instead of dismissing it all as superstition."

"Ah, but look where your road took you, mi hija," Corazon smiled kindly at her granddaughter, gesturing to the two handsome not-humans who were snuggling with her on the love seat.

"I know we could talk Prime into it, but you know the importance of consent," Mirage hugged her, but looked at Corazon. "Teaching her to use her gifts would be welcome by both of us."

The old woman cracked a large smile, her teeth yellowing with age. "Alien abduction! Oh, that sounds thrilling. One of things on my bucket list! That old hag of a curandera Carmelita claimed the ones who crashed in Roswell took her away and did sexual experiments on her. I will not have her one up on me before I croak."

Alicia hid her face in her hands, murmuring. "What am I getting myself into?"

"I definitely know where you came from," Hound chuckled happily. "We'll see about arranging an extended visit. What else is on your list?"

"Oh, wouldn't you like to know, young one. I'm still adding to it, though I'm afraid that getting married to a decent man might be beyond anyone's ability to grant. By the way," her eyes got a distant look, "if the two of you walk just over the next hill, you'll have an amazing view of Truchas Peaks at sunrise, though feel free to sleep in the barn, too. It is actually quite clean. You do sleep, don't you? Wish you could fit your real selves into the house."

"How are you seeing that, Abuelita?" Alicia asked, leaning forward with interest. She could feel her mechs through the bond sitting just beyond the barn sharing high grade and getting cozy.

Corazon just shrugged her shoulders. "It's in their auras, pajarito. The colors that connected them with the cars began to move where cars could not possibly go while Mirage was pouring the Tequila."

"Why do you call her 'little bird'?" Mirage asked, suddenly looking as curious as his bonded.

"Because I believe she was one in a past life. Her familiar is a Rufous Hummingbird. Beautiful little things, but highly aggressive and territorial."

Hound snickered. "That's Mirage. She hasn't been either since we met her."

"I'm territorial about the two of you," she countered, giving the men a mock-severe look.

The phone chose that moment to ring, and Alicia waved her grandmother to stay seated, going to the kitchen to answer.

She came back quickly. "That was mama. Complications after the birth, and Antonio has the ambulance out on another run and won't be back for an hour. The baby is fine, but the mother is hemorrhaging."

"I can stop it," Hound was on his feet, the sound of his powerful off-road engine rumbling through the room as his holoform vanished.

"Will he need an introduction?" Mirage focused on Alicia, all thoughts of the evening gone.

Alicia nodded, already heading out the door. "Mama is protective of her patients. The only one she lost would have been lost in a hospital just as well," she added even after his holoform had dissipated, knowing he'd hear her easily.

She hadn't made it three steps out the door when the sleek blue and white prototype rolled up with an open driver's side door.

She quickly slipped inside after looking back to see her grandmother standing the door watching and giving them a wave.

"Well, this has certainly proven to be a far more exciting night than I was anticipating," she said wryly as she settled in and put her hands loosely on the steering wheel.

"Quite true," Mirage agreed as he sped far faster than anything on Earth would have dared on these roads even in full daylight to catch up with Hound.

~The woman will not live long enough for the hospital,~ Hound said grimly as they came within his sensor range.

~Can you save her in your holoform, Hound?~ Alicia asked immediately.

~Yes. There is no need to show myself. A bit of unusual tech if your mother pays enough attention. Does she have the sight?~

~No. Abuela is my father's mother. If it is hereditary, it also skipped a generation, if I really do have it,~ she added.

~Or it is female-only,~ Mirage pointed out. ~Many human genetic traits require two X chromosomes to activate. Males can be carriers, but never express them.~

She quickly got out, giving Mirage's hood a caress, after they pulled up to the small stucco adobe home and both holoforms got out with her.

~I didn't tell mama your profession, babe. So I guess you are now Dr. Joseph Jackson, OB Gyn.~

~I can fake that,~ Hound chuckled. ~Even if xeno-veterinarian would be more accurate.~

"You should knock," Mirage spoke out loud, his hand on the small of her back. "They know you."

~Yeah, better not refer to yourself as a veterinarian, though I know many who would likely do a better job with births than the OBs we've dealt with,~ she commented as she knocked on the door.

It was answered by an anxious looking man in his early 30s. ~My cousin Marcos is the father, his girlfriend's name is Ava,~ she quickly told the mechs.

"Hola Marcos," she said, giving him a brief hug. "This is Dr. Jackson, he is an OB. He and Adelfonso are with me."

Marcos wasted no time in letting them in. "They are in the bedroom. There is a lot of blood."

"I know, primo. My Joseph can take care of it. He's the best."

Despite the instinctive unease at a stranger, Marcos nodded and showed them to the bedroom. One look and Hound grimaced but quickly set his handsome, dark features in a determined smile.

"Esperanza, Ava," he drew both their attention as he entered the room. "I am Dr. Jackson. I can help, if you'll allow me."

Alicia's mom looked up from where she was calmly and professionally trying to control the hemorrhage. The pale young woman's feet were being held in the trendelenberg position above her heart while Esperanza massaged her abdomen. The young mother had an oxygen mask on. In the next room, they could hear the newborn crying, being comforted by Marcos' mother.

"You didn't tell me he was an OB," Esperanza said accusingly, giving her daughter a hard look.

"He is a good one, mama. I promise. Trust him, he can help."

Esperanza gave Hound's holoform a hard look, and then nodded. She knew this was serious.

"I don't think it is retained placenta," she said to him. "It feels like a uterine rupture to me. The baby was large, much larger than we thought he would be. 11lbs 1oz."

Hound nodded and knelt by the side of the bed before bringing out a bit of tech that Alicia recognized as a hand scanner the humans took into the field, or at least a holoreplica of one. She could feel his pinpoint depth scans because she knew what it was, but it was doubtful anyone else could.

~It is a uterine rupture. She will die if I don't interfere,~ Hound informed his lovers. "Adalberto, Alicia, please get my full kit from the Jeep. She needs IV fluids."

"Painkillers?" Mirage inquired, even as he and Alicia turned to do as they were bid.

"No, that will make the bleeding worse," he shook his head before looking at Esperanza. "I believe it is retained placenta," he kept his voice low, calm and any kind of disapproval out. "I have some drugs that will help control the bleeding and help her expel the retained tissue. If you could continue massaging her abdomen, it would be helpful." He tried his best to include her even as he took over.

"If the idiotic state board of review would allow us to administer IVs, we could make it all the more safe for the women in these small towns, too far from hospitals," Esperanza commented, in full agreement that this was a moment that called for medication. "What do you have in your kit? Pitocin?"

"Among others," he nodded. "I truly wish midwives were treated with the respect you deserve by the city doctors."

"Ava, stay awake, dear," Esperanza coached the girl, continuing to massage her uterus. "It is important you stay with us. This is Doctor Jackson. He is helping you."

Alicia swiftly returned to the room, followed by Mirage carrying the medical kit Hound kept in his subspace pocket.

"Thank you," he reached for the kit and quickly set up an IV, injecting the nanite-filled contents of three syringes after it was inserted into Ava's arm and flowing well.

"Well, you are an unusual one, then. Most of the OBs, even the ones I like fairly well in Los Alamos or Santa Fe, think we are crazy brujas who only worry about the mother getting to eat the placenta after the birth."

Hound huffed and shook his head. "It's not bad in less developed areas. A great deal of nutrition is in them that shouldn't be wasted if she needs it."

Esperanza lifted her eyebrows at that. "I like you already, Dr. Jackson. I've never heard an OB around here admit that before. They all act like what mother animals all over the world do by instinct is somehow disgusting and wrong. They think the lay midwives are backwards and dangerous for trusting mothers to trust their instincts for birthing."

"Most doctors have not spent much of their life watching nature and raised to believe that whenever possible, she has it right," he muttered, then smiled warmly at Esperanza. "I'm not your typical doctor. I was taught by practical experience first, educated second. That practical experience is still something I find more valuable than the formal training."

~And you have now completely won my mother over forever, Dr. Jackson. She most certainly wants to take you to bed for saying that. My grandmother wants both of you, and now my mother,~ Alicia chimed in from where she was in the corner cuddled with Mirage, observing the whole exchange with a smile.

~They can't have either of us, unless you approve,~ Hound chuckled silently, brushing her mind affectionately.

Esperanza nodded and smiled in response to Hound's explanation, and continued to massage the young mother's uterus, saying encouraging words to her, relieved to feel it begin contracting back into shape. Ava expelled a couple of swift rushes of blood, and then the bleeding slowed to a trickle.

"Marcos, why don't you bring the baby in to nurse now," Esperanza gently ordered the frightened father, clearly desiring to show that she was still the primary attendant of this birth. "That will help contract the uterus as much as the pitocin will. Things were far too tense before for the baby to attempt to latch."

"Will you be staying with her tonight?" Hound asked politely, more than willing to allow her to take complete charge now that he'd done what he could.

"Absolutely, and you are welcome to as well, if you wish, but now that the bleeding has slowed, I'm sure I can manage if you want to go bed down that daughter of mine," she gave him a smirk that spoke volumes about how happy she was with her daughter's recent activities.

"You and Corazon are most unusual as well," Hound chuckled deeply.

"How good are you with nursing coaching?" Esperanza suddenly asked as Marcos handed off the big newborn, "I could sew up her tear while you help the little one get a good latch." It was obvious that Esperanza enjoyed the prospect of this unusual physician doing the coaching on breastfeeding that she would normally do, just to see how he did it. She could always make corrections later.

"It's always a joy to help with the first latch," Hound smiled warmly and began quietly and gently talking with the exhausted young mother, guiding her in positioning the baby and how to squeeze her breast so he latched on to her areola rather than the nipple, preventing much pain and discomfort later.

~He is loving this,~ Alicia commented to Mirage, who looked like he really would rather be anywhere other than this messy, bloody, all too organic scene, and yet managed to simultaneously be watching his bonded with admiration for his unique skills and complete comfort with a situation that would make most Cybertronians cringe.

~Yes he is,~ Mirage smiled and hugged her gently.

The midwife watched for a moment, her smile widening as Hound guided the girl with all the skill of a proper midwife. Confident he knew what he was doing, she gave Ava a heads up that she was going to examine what she was expecting to be a large, 3rd degree tear of her perineum. She shook her head and looked back up, confused.

"Well, I must be more tired than I thought I was. I could have sworn I saw you tear when the head crowned, Ava, but now there isn't a thing. 11 lb 1oz baby on your first time, and not even a tiny rip. That is amazing."

~Guess the nanites put more than her uterus back together. Gotta love those little kinky DNA changers. ~ Alicia smirked.

~Hopefully they won't lower your mother's opinion of herself. She did have it all correct after all,~ Hound murmured.

~She is far too taken with you at the moment to be concerned, and mom's confidence in herself is notoriously high. You couldn't have planned a more effective introduction of yourself, love.~

~Good,~ Hound smiled warmly at the new mother, though much of it was for his socket. ~We want your family to like us.~

~Well, Abuelita already loves both of you, Mama adores you, and she will adore Mirage, too, because she likes high class men.~

"Mama, you need any help from me here tonight, or should we get back home?" Alicia said to her mom as the midwife continued to clean-up the contentedly nursing, shy young woman.

"You get on home, mi hija," the midwife gave her daughter a warm smile, finally having a moment to really look at her. "I'm glad you came early. Even though it wasn't a uterine rupture like I thought, it still was a bad bleed and your hot doc here made all the difference. I'd give you a hug, but I'm still too messy."

"We'll do hugs and kisses tomorrow, mama. Should we call the cousins and have them wait to come a different day? You are going to be wiped out."

"Are you loco, mi hija? I've already heard about that car you came in, and I was in the middle of a birth. Nothing is going to keep the family away. I'll be fine. And hello to you, Adelfonso," Esperanza said, finally turning her attention to Mirage, not hiding that she was giving him a long up and down look. "I'm not in a state to welcome you properly, but you'll get your hug tomorrow."

"As long as it is not one your daughter will object to, I look forward to a proper introduction, Esperanza," Mirage inclined his head, his Spanish flowing smoothly in the fairly ancient dialect found in Northern NM, as close to 'Old Spanish' as could be found anywhere in the world.

"Your husband's mother has already attempted to get both of us in her bed," Hound chuckled.

Esperanza gave a hearty laugh while Alicia hid her face in her hands. "I hope Alicia warned you about her love potions. You can't trust her for a moment. She usually mixes it with her tequila."

"She has, though not the tequila part," Mirage chuckled and hugged Alicia from behind. "Though she is also well aware of our territorial nature, and I am far more possessive of what is mine."

"Which is a polite way of saying he'll make anyone who tries to steal me or Alicia disappear," Hound chuckled deeply and walked over to give his socket and bonded and kissed each in turn. "Never challenge a noble."

Esperanza gave them an odd look, as though she couldn't quite decide what to make of the comment.

"You both are strange, but I like you, and Alicia looks very happy. She has never been one to let anyone be possessive of her, something she has in common with me and her grandmother. If she lets you, than you must be special enough for her to put up with it. Now get on home and get some rest, you've had a long journey to get to our little corner of the world."

"Yes, ma'am," Mirage gave her a small smile, which made Hound laugh.

As they walked out, she heard Hound mention something about grandchildren.

Alicia woke early, well before sunrise despite the late night lovemaking with her mech's gorgeous holoforms, something that happened rarely enough that she wasn't going to let a little thing like sleep slow her down. They had disappeared once she was well sated in order to more fully concentrate on their own outdoor heat-producing activities and then to recharge. Waking up alone was enough to make her insist that they all sleep in the barn over Mirage's objections to bedding down with the horses.

She put on her robe and took a quick look outside at the icy clear New Mexico predawn where she saw that Corazon was already tending to the animals and was probably planning on an early morning ride on their gentle mare ... which was likely an excuse to spy out the aliens on her land.

Alicia next headed to the kitchen to have a cup of green tea and help with the preparations for the day. She soon was chopping up familiar ingredients for the posole and the chile verde that would be on the stove available for any and all that stopped in during the day. Once she had both stews going, she made the dough for tortillas and started cooking them one at a time on the griddle after she had formed them into perfect circles with the palms of her hands.

"Good morning, my little fighting bird," Mirage's voice greeted her before warm, strong male hands slid around her waist to draw her against him. "You are awake far too early."

Alicia quickly took the tortilla skillet off of the burner and turned off the gas before turning around to press her body completely into his embrace, kissing his neck and shamelessly rubbing up against him.

"I didn't have two warm bodies, metal or flesh, in bed with me when I woke up, so there was nothing to keep me there," she explained with a fake pout, "and I wanted to make sure everything was ready so Mama will take a nap for a few hours before the relatives start arriving. How was your night in the great outdoors? Did you survive roughing it?"

"I survived," his mouth quirked in a grin before he kissed her firmly on the mouth. "Hound does keep me warm," he hummed in pleasure. "Still is. The hill does give a lovely morning view."

"Mmm, I wonder if we could make both of your forms overload at the same time," she said before pulling him down for another kiss while feeling through the bond that her mechs were doing the same to one another in their natural form.

Mirage shuddered in anticipation of the thought as Hound picked up on the challenge and began to touch him more intimately, driving his arousal charge higher.

~How?~ he moaned into her mouth, more excited than she'd ever felt him as he offered up many ideas.

~You want to claim me in my abuelita's kitchen, don't you?~ she playfully teased while simultaneously sharing ideas with Hound. ~Is this public interfacing kink a Towers thing? Because it is so sexy I'm shaking. Shall I suck you off on top of the kitchen table, or do you want to take me there?~

Her fear of her mother walking in and finding her that way was making it even more intensely erotic. Her grandmother would simply find it funny.

~Your grandmother will find our natural forms interfacing if she keeps on riding in the direction she is going,~ Mirage was barely breathing in his need, his want. He grabbed her and lifted her ass up to the table before pushing her down. ~Yes, a Towers thing. A pairing was not official until the second creation pleasured the first creation to overload in front of kin.~

~Abuelita will enjoy the show.~ Alicia gasped, her robe roughly pulled off of her and thrown to the floor, revealing her naked, shapely form. Mirage's clothing disappeared in an instant, faster than her robe was thrown aside.

~Hopefully your mother will as well,~ he pressed his mouth against her and grabbed her hips before thrusting into her slick, hot sex. ~You're beautiful, my little fighting bird."

Alicia's had one last coherent thought as she began crying out "yes" and "more" and "harder" on top of the table she had eaten breakfast at since being she'd been a toddler. It was that her noblemech so enjoyed the idea of her as a bird that she'd better watch out for him changing her nanites to make her grow feathers. He did have such a thing for avians, going back to his very first socket.

She wrapped her legs around his hips and thrust up into his punishing pace, knowing that their mech bodies were still at the stage of rubbing against each other, trading paint and working digits between armor plates. Pleasure was intense from their side, but much less immediate than the fierce hunger Mirage felt for her right now.

~I can't even share energy with you right now like this, and you still want me this much?~ The awed thought ghosted through her mind even as her moans continued to echo through the kitchen and the rest of the house. She raked her fingernails down his back, her hands landing on his smooth ass which she used for leverage to pull herself even harder against him. The ever so organic noises of soft, slick flesh, of balls slapping the inner edge of her butt cheeks in rhythm with his grueling pace, combined with the sure knowledge that it was Mirage giving her everything this form had, and giving it to her hard just like she liked it the most was beyond erotic.

~Yes,~ he gasped against her mind, the rising pleasure of both bodies making it very hard for him to convert his thoughts to anything she understood as language. ~Strong, lovely, giving ... want you. Want you happy.~

Something he had no word for in his state but translated just fine by her mind was to have her full ... swollen with new life.

~I am! So, so happy! Oh my Mirage~ She didn't even notice it was the first time she had consciously 'spoken' his designation in his own language within her thoughts, because her rapture choose that moment to crash through her like a tsunami.

Several miles away, Corazon Rodriguez was happily following the energy trail that had appeared a few minutes before between the house and what she was sure was the ridge she'd advised her granddaughter's lovers ... husbands, even if the US wouldn't acknowledge it ... to watch the sunrise.

Even at some distance, she could hear metal against metal and feel the gradually rising heat coming from the outlook.

As she crested the hill on her soft footed brown mare, she saw two gigantic creatures sitting at its base, the larger, green one's head at least 15 feet up from the base of the hill even in the seated position, the smaller, more delicate looking blue one straddling its lap. The sounds of metal rubbing together echoing through the valley. They were, for all intents and purposes, making love.

She watched in fascination as their auras flared, shifted, interlaced and caressed each other. The amazingly quiet sounds of pleasure. She knew without any doubt that the larger one was Hound and the smaller one Mirage, but the raw power of their natural forms was intoxicating.

Seeing their real forms, she found herself wondering what could possibly be the basis of Alicia's obvious connection with them. What could beings like that possibly need a human for. Yet, the colors clearly showed her that there was a strong need in them that connected to her granddaughter, and it wasn't precisely sexual, though sexual pleasure was a component of it.

But all of those thoughts and questions faded as Hound gently lowered Mirage to the ground on his back, pinning the noble's hands with his own larger ones, and kissing him passionately while rocking his pelvis into the smaller mech's form. It was so very human, and yet so very alien all at once.

The mechanically musical sounds Mirage made as he pressed against his lover and rocked his hips were beautiful in an unearthly way. Hounds deeper reply sent a shiver down the elegant blue and white form under him and Corazon's eyes widened a bit as she recognized something very much like a penis colored like his armor extend from Hound's lower pelvis and sank into Mirage's body.

Both moaned, rocking slowly to build their pleasure up as they kissed and touched.

Corazon, like her granddaughter had been the first time she'd watched them, was fascinated and aroused by what she saw, but not afraid. They were powerful beings who obviously could crush her kind like an insects, but the colors of their auras were familiar. They had the same kinds of feelings and connections as lovers did everywhere, though far more intense. Their fear of discovery the night before had made them dangerous to her, but that was because it was their nature to protect one another and their kind, and by extension, Alicia whose energy now reflected their own.

For the first time in many years, the curandera wished she was young again.

Electricity cracked and danced along Mirage's frame as his pleasure soared higher, the heat of their passion thawed the frozen ground to sandy mud for dozens of meters around them, wisps of steam rising from the small amount of moisture in the air, creating heat waves to warp the view of the mountains beyond them.

The high-pitched but quiet keens and deep, rumbling grunts rolled over her, audible all the way to town, she expected, and she had no doubt they were trying to keep it down.

"Well," she commented, placing a hand on her fidgeting, nervous mare, "it is a good thing that the elk are rutting, because the whole town just heard a very interesting bugle."

"I'm sure," Hound chuckled and soothed a flush of embarrassment in Mirage with a kiss as he withdrew his spike. "At least the ground will freeze again by tomorrow," he spoke to her as they reluctantly drew away from each other with many small touches. Metal popped and creaked as it cooled and they each brought a cloth out of an invisible pocket and began to wipe both paint and fluids from each other.

"I meant what I said, about convincing Prime to let you come and teach Alicia how to use her gift," Mirage's cultured Spanish rolled over her warmly. "You would be welcomed, even more so if you would allow us to study it."

Corazon expertly guided the mare down to the bottom of the hill, looking at the two mechs with fascination. They clearly were the same people who had been in her sitting room. There was no doubt. Even the voices were the same, but much deeper and resonant.

"There is nothing I'd rather do than come back with you and teach my Alicia. I've spent my whole life learning as much as I can about everything around me. Now that includes the two of you, and your kind," she said, far more seriously than anything she had said since she had met them. She dismounted her horse and approached them slowly because of the heat, but with no fear.

Despite how far it radiated, even within touching range they were no hotter than the height of summer; very noticeable in winter, but not dangerous.

"The view at our level is very nice." Hound extended a hand to her, flat on the ground.

"You may even find a mech of your own," Mirage teased, but he was serious in a way. "Your energy is still strong."

Corozon gave the mare a pat, and saw some sort of wave of energy coming off of Hound toward the previously tense animal, calming her.

Without hesitation, she stepped onto the gigantic hand. She might have called him a robot, but it just didn't feel right. His aura said he was a living being, every bit as living as her and her mare.

"A mech of my own, hmm? Tell me about that. Why is my Alicia with you?"

"Cybertronians, Cybertronians ... our kind ... need the energy of sentient organics to survive," Mirage began the explanation. "The energy that is radiated by strong emotions and sensations. We tend to focus on pleasure, sex, because it is nearly universal and we enjoy it as well. In exchange for the life, we offer extended life and health. It is common to form a strong attachment to a single organic and claim them. It shifts their energy, as you saw, to be more in line with our own. It makes the energy more readily absorbed by our spark."

Hound drew her attention with a flicker of his EM field. "Alicia is one of those special ones that sees past his mask to the mech I love. Even without accepting her family gift, she sees what is really there."

Corazon laughed in delight. "She has always seen underneath the surface. Her empathy and natural insight is how I knew she had the gift. It may be that she already uses it, but just perceives differently than I do. Who knows? But what I do know is that it is somehow no surprise to me that when she finally found true love, it was with not just one, but two highly advanced beings from outside our world. She never had much patience for an ordinary man, just like me, and her mother, to be honest."

"Thank you," Mirage said softly and reached out to caress her back with a slender finger. "We have not had many opportunities to have family approval."

"She loves you. She has freely given herself to you. I see it in her colors. And she is more because of it, not less. You are helping her to become something more than what she could have been on her own." The old woman looked out over the view, watching the colors play off of the peaks.

"Why would any of your kind pick an old woman like me?" she finally asked. "I only have a few years left and it is not like I have my beauty any longer." She spoke without a sense of remorse, but as one completely as peace with herself.

"Because of your humor, your gift, your energy," Hound attempted to explain. "Like you, our kind do not see just the physical body, or even the physical form as you perceive it. Yes, you are old for your kind, but your energy is strong. That is what sings to our kind."

"We are also long accustomed to having an organic only a short time for us. Even with the extended lifespan we can offer, it is only a few days compared to ours," Mirage added.

"Does it cause you grief? To become close to people that are with you for such a short time? Your colors speak of more than an attachment based simply on physical need and survival, though it's obviously very different than the colors that attach the two of you," she noted thoughtfully.

"Yes, for a time," Mirage nodded, his optics distant. "It hurts to loose anything you care for, even when you know it is coming and they are at peace with it."

"And yes, it is different between Mirage and I than between us and Alicia," Hound picked up. "Our souls are a physical thing," he tapped his chest with his free hand. "What we call a spark. Sparks can merge briefly, and they can also bond, joining together and forever leaving part of themselves with another. Mirage and I are bonded. Our energy, our very sparks, look different than before."

"Yes, I can see that in you both, just as I can see that these forms are where your souls live, not in the forms you used to interact with me last night."

She was still again for a moment, clearly puzzling something out.

"There has always been something about Alicia's colors that have drawn her away from people, drawn her to the rest of the natural world, but even more than that, drawn her to the stars. Some of the changes I see in her now are only a deepening of differences of what I had already seen in her since she was born. Would you think I'm just a crazy old curandera for saying that I think this may not be the first time she has had such a relationship with your kind?"

"Not really," Hound smiled gently. "We have long known that sparks and spirits can come back. Usually in a new body without memories, but occasionally back into one. We have had some kind of sharing relationship with organics for a very, very long time."

"How are you able to know that about a soul, if it is not a physical thing like your spark?" the old woman asked, her eyes bright with curiosity. "Even the existence of our soul is something we have to take on faith. We cannot prove it is there."

"Back before the war destroyed our world, some organics decided to go to the Well of All Sparks to be with their mechs when they died, instead of going where organics normally go," Mirage tried to explain something that was hard for him to fathom even on his best days. "Sometimes they come back as sparks."

"That is amazing! How were you able to tell that it as an organic lifeform that had come back as a spark? Are souls and sparks essentially the same, but existing differently in life?" Corazon's heart was racing with excitement to speak with people who had actual knowledge rather than just speculation on such matters.

"They are ... different," Hound struggled to explain. "Their need for charges are lower, the frequency not quite right, lifespan shorter, their nature is more..."

"Fluid. Organic," Mirage supplied. "Despite the similarities, there are differences. We were created mechanical. It is inherent in our nature all the way to the spark. Organic life is not based on the same set of fundamentals. Similar enough to interconnect, but not the same."

"Are there any alive now, who were once organic? I would love to see the difference in how I would see them. Forgive me, this is just so fascinating. You can take me back and study me as much as you want as long as I get to return the favor."

"Not that I'm aware of," Mirage admitted. "After a few centuries as a mech, it is extremely difficult to tell without a spark-merge." He paused. "Jazz said you are cleared to return with us, or whenever you wish."

"Well, once I figure out a way to explain it to my daughter-in-law, you can abduct me. I'm especially looking forward to the probings," she cackled, her dark eyes shining with mischief.

Hound laughed deeply, his voice rolling through the valleys and around the mountains.

Mirage just smiled. "Tell her you want to spend your last few years with your granddaughter."

"If she knows of your gift, you can say it's to train Alicia," Hound added. "It's true after all."

Corazon gave a wide smile, showing her aging teeth without any self-consciousness. "Thank you ... thank you both so much. You have no idea what it means to me, both to finally train my granddaughter, and meet the two of you."

"It has been a pleasure to meet you, Corazon," Mirage said with a regal smile as Hound set her down. "The sun is fully visible. We should return to the barn before anyone who shouldn't see us does."

The next morning, before dawn, after a full day of meeting second cousins twice removed, great aunts, and a whole host of other somehow related people, most of whom wanted, more than anything, to see the BMW concept car that was actually her lover, Alicia woke up in a sleeping bag on Mirage's natural form's chest, her breath making steam in the barn she had somehow convinced the two to recharge in.

~You can recharge a bit longer, or go pretend to watch the sunrise with Hound, love,~ she said as he stirred. ~I'm going to sneak back into bed before Mama realizes I slept outside. I'm hoping to get a chance to have a cup of tea and chat with her a bit before we head to Santa Fe.~

Alicia had promised to show her mechs the more 'cultured' side of her state, including several private showings at galleries on the famous Cañon Road and at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, an afternoon trip to one of the world's most exclusive spas overlooking the city from the Sangre de Cristos, followed by a night at the Santa Fe opera where Renee Fleming was singing Mimi in La Boheme for a one time appearance. They had the best seats in the house.

She knew that it was probably too much to hope that Mirage would be impressed, but at least he seemed to appreciate that they were doing what the wealthiest did when they visited New Mexico and were spending more than she cared to think about. He was going to get to pick out and purchase her gown for the opera, something that would make him smile.

It's a rough life, being an energizer bunny for a noble, but someone has to do it, she smirked. She secretly had to admit, though, that she was far more excited about Hound's promise to go horseback riding with her while his alt form followed at enough of distance to maintain his holoform. She wondered if she could convince Mirage to do the same. Horses were very noble animals, after all.

After Mirage had set her down gently and rolled over to start molesting Hound, she went back into the house through the back door, heading first to the kitchen, where, much to her surprise, her mother was already awake.

"Good morning, Mama," she said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

"Morning, mi hija. Did you and your men have a fight? Why were none of you in bed?"

"Oh, well," Alicia quickly looked down, trying to quickly think of a believable answer. "The time zones have us all messed up. So we woke up at 3 and decided to go outside and look at the stars. There is nothing like seeing them at 8000 feet in dry mountain air."

"Hmmm," her mother responded, sounding unconvinced. "Where are they now? I didn't see their cars out front."

"They went for a drive. Adelfonso drove to Taos for a cappuccino, and Joseph wanted to do a little off-roading this morning." Alicia walked over to put the tea kettle on the stove, not wanting to meet her mother's eyes as she lied to her.

"I had a birth, mi hija. It was a quick one. But neither of the cars were out front all night. Why are you lying to me?"

Alicia continued to look at the teapot and not her mother. "They parked in the barn last night. Adelfonso's car is really too nice to leave parked out front, even in a small town like this."

"Hmmm," was all her mother said. Alicia silently made her tea.

"Did the birth go ok, Mama?"

"It was all the way in Chimayo," she replied, sounding distracted. "Lorita Menendez married a boy from there ten years ago, and she wanted the family midwife. It went fine. 3 hour labor, 15 minutes of pushing. It was her third."

"You want some tea, mama?" Alicia asked quietly, feeling like a 16 year old girl who had snuck out to meet her boyfriend and had gotten caught in a lie.

"Yes, mi hija, and I'd also like some answers."

Alicia spun around to see her mother starting at her with sharp eyes.

"You've always been honest with me, mi hija, but you've been lying to me all morning. Did you and your men have a fight? What is really going on?"

Alicia sat down by at the kitchen table and shook her head.

"Nothing is wrong, mama. Why do you keep asking if we fought? I've never fought with them."

"This whole thing is strange to me, Alicia. I like both of them. I like them a lot. And if you married either one of them, I'd be thrilled for you. But I think this whole arrangement of yours is set up for heartbreak for you. They obviously love one another, and even told me they had been together long before they met you. Pajarito, I get the feeling from them that they will be together long after you are no longer a part of their lives. You are just a passing phase for those two, and it is going to break your heart."

Alicia sighed. "Mama, I know what we have is not traditional. But I'm very happy. Even you can see that. And Abuelita completely approves."

"Corazon approves because they are a couple of hot tamales, bambino, and she is happy you are finally getting laid on a regular basis. And now, somehow, she gets to come to this top secret location with you to train you in her curandera bullshit, but I can never see where you live and make sure you are really happy," Esperanza said in a low, angry voice.

"Mama! Is that what this is all about? That Abuela is going to spend her last few years with me? They gave her clearance because she is a dying woman, and I'm her only living kin. That is base policy."

"Only living kin? What does that make me, Alicia? I may not be related to her by blood, but she has been a mother to me ever since she took me in after that son of hers took off. And now I will be here all alone, and I can't even think about leaving because it would leave far too many women without a midwife," the older woman looked like she was about to cry. "I'm worried about both of you. Something is just not right about all of this."

~Love?~ Mirage and Hound both ghosted across her mind, asking in the single word if she wanted their interference, advice or anything else.

Alicia sighed in relief at the open connection.

~I have no idea what to do here. On one level, her perceptions are correct. There is something strange going on from a human point of view, and she is picking up on it. And she is right that Primus willing you will both be together long after I'm gone. But I have no idea what to say to her, and I hate lying to her.~

~That is the grief we all face until Prime makes our presence public,~ Mirage soothed her. ~Given current politics and Ops missions, I will be quite surprised if that does not happen within five years. Then it will require only a small bit of planning for her to visit you at home and know the full truth, or however much you want her to know of it. I can simply make her forget any desire for this conversation if she does not give up. I will not have you distressed.~

~I don't want to do that to her unless we have to, love. It is a violation ... even if she is happier for it. I would not want someone to do that to me in the same circumstance. Maybe if she can talk with the two of you. From her perspective, she is afraid you'll be leaving me in a year or two and I'll have my heart broken, and nothing can be further from the truth.~

~Even if we hadn't claimed you, that would not be true,~ both mechs rumbled fiercely.

"Mama, you are tired. You've had two nights in a row catching babies. That is clouding how you are seeing this. I can promise you that Adelfonso and Joseph are completely committed to me, and I am to them. They are not going to break my heart."

"Pajarito, we'd be having this conversation whether I had sleep or not. Adelfonso is possessive of you. He and Joseph even said so. At first I thought it was sweet, but the more I thought about it and watched you yesterday, the more it bothered me. You've never let anyone be possessive of you. Not even me. You've always done your own thing, and now I see how you look at both of them, like they are more important to you than your career, your desires, even your own life. I don't like it."

~I'm possessive of Hound as well,~ Mirage pointed out. ~As you thought many times, it shows I care enough to fight for something.~

~We'll be there in a moment,~ Hound added.

~I adore that you are possessive of me. It is very different than being a possession. But she is being a protective latina mother whose only experience of men is those who have done her wrong, and men in our culture are notoriously possessive in all the wrong ways,~ Alicia explained. ~Don't try to argue her out of her anger. Just try to calm her down,~ she added, knowing how fiercely protective they both were of her when she felt distress.

~And she is right about your importance to me. You both are more important to me than anything and anybody,~ she added. ~But not because I've somehow lost myself like she fears.~

The conversation took less than a second as she got up and wrapped her arms around her exhausted mother.

"Mama, I have been able to do more in my career since I have met my husbands than in the previous ten years. They are helping me to achieve my dreams, not take them away. But I'm also more than a career. I'm a woman, and now I'm not alone. I'm devoted to them, yes, but that is because they are worth being devoted to. You know I would never have given my heart to someone who didn't fully value me for who I am. You raised me better than that."

"I just don't want to see you get hurt, Alicia. The harder you fall in love, the worse it is when it comes crashing down," Esperanza whispered fervently.

"They won't do what papa did," Alicia promised as a polite knock announced the arrival of her mech's holoforms at the open kitchen door.

"Are you all right?" Hound managed to speak first with Mirage's processors heavily wrapped up in damage control planning.

While she could feel, and if she paid attention even pick up details of all the many nasty and illegal things that were on the board for Mirage in addition to the legal ones, so was the fact that he wasn't planning to use any of the plans. It was just prep so he could act fast should he have to. It calmed him greatly to have options and be ready to use them at a moment's notice.

Alicia managed to look surprised at the arrival of her lovers, and gave them a weak a smile.

"Mama is being a protective mother bear, just like she should be," Alicia said, rubbing her mother's shoulders from behind. "I'll be the same way whenever I have a daughter, I promise you," she added, hoping to get her mom's thoughts on a far more appealing topic for the midwife.

"Sit down and have tea with us," Esperanza gestured to them, wiping her eyes. "You have a right to know my concerns."

The pair nodded. Mirage sat first while Hound poured them both tea before joining his bonded around the kitchen table with the human women.

"Thank you for choosing to do so in relative private first," Mirage spoke first, his voice rich with honest gratitude.

"Oh, I'd never embarrass Alicia or someone she loves in public. Look, I want you both to know that I like you very much. Joseph, you, saved my patient's life and you're probably the best OB I've ever met in terms of you attitudes and ideas. And Adelfonso, it is obvious that you are always aware of her comfort, needs, wishes, and you are very protective of her. And it is clear that Alicia is crazy about the two of you and that you both dote on her."

The woman took a sighed. "I guess that is just what I'm having trouble understanding. The Alicia I raised didn't let men dote on her. She's fiercely independent, always scared off the men who were interested in her, and now she is completely smitten with two men who have been lovers for a long time...I just don't understand it. It's not that I'm old fashioned or homophobic - I raised her to be open-minded. But I'm having trouble figuring out why when the two of you had one another, you were suddenly interested in her."

"In the most basic terms, it is because I didn't scare her off," Mirage answered. "Because she is strong and sees whatever it is in me that makes her want to be with me, with all the doting and possessive nature that involves. As much as Joseph and I love each other, we don't feel complete without a third."

"Add his desires to mine for someone who can enjoy the wilderness as I do, that has a life and desires outside of us, and it's rare to find anyone who will even consider joining us," Hound added.

"So you've had a third lover before?" Esperanza asked, lifting her eyebrows.

"Mama, she died," Alicia said, quite honestly.

"Some years ago," Hound said as he reached out to press the back of his fingers against Mirage's neck, knowing his bonded needed the contact right now.

"We do not leave those we commit to," Mirage said quietly. "I am aware that by culture and experience there is nothing that we can do or say to show our sincerity. Not after your husband left you. She cannot marry both of us, for all we are willing. You do not know what our honor means to us. All we can give you our word and that we have ensured she will be well provided for if something happened to us. She will inherit from both of us."

"I appreciate hearing that, I really do. But you make it sound like you are both so old, when you both look to be in your early 30s. 'Those you commit to'? Just how long have the two of you been together, and how many others have you been with?"

Mirage gave a glare and silently apologized to Alicia for what he was about to say. Hound sighed and settled in for listening and memorizing the full on round of lying that was about to go down.

"We've been together twenty-three years," Mirage began, settling in for the full-fledged cover story he could make to Cybertronian standards within kliks. "First as friends, then as lovers. Aaron was our first third. He left us because I was too much to deal with. Ababuo remained with us until she died in a car crash six years ago."

~I'm sorry she is being so stubborn.~ Alicia sighed from where she still stood behind her mother, rubbing the tired woman's shoulders.

~She cares about you,~ Mirage brushed against her mind with affectionate acceptance.

~We knew this was likely when we agreed to this visit,~ Hound added.

"Mama, do you really need to make them talk about all the baggage? It is painful stuff. Trust me. They are absolutely committed to me, and I'm committed to them. Should it come as any surprise to you that I'd end up in a non-traditional arrangement and that I wouldn't settle for anything less than two perfect men who adore me and cater to my every whim?" she added, trying to interject some levity into the thick air of the kitchen.

Esperanza shook her head. "No ... no mi hija. It shouldn't. I'm sorry to be grilling you all so hard. It's just that a little less than a year ago, my only daughter went on what was supposed to be a short but secret project on some island, then the next thing I know she is staying there for good, has all but married two men I've haven't met, and sends for her cat when her own mother can't even visit. And now Corazon is going, too. It just has all made me very suspicious, like there is something more going on that you all aren't telling me. But I trust you when you say you are committed to her and will provide for her. I can see the truth of that in you."

"Thank you," Mirage inclined his head gracefully in respectful thanks while Hound smiled warmly in relief. "I regret that we can not be more open with you about what we do, where we live and that you can not visit. You are her mother. We will try to arrange a visit, but given your good health and the security involved at home, it is much easier for us to visit you than for you to visit us."

"We promise that your mother-on-law will visit at least once a season, if not once a month, if she wishes to," Hound offered. "Even if we can't come with her. So long as you promise not to get her drunk. National security issues can be sticky to deal with."

Esperanza snorted at that. "Oh, she does a good enough job getting herself drunk, or high when she is in the mood, which thankfully is not that often. Life makes her drunk and high enough as it is. I will be very lonely without the old witch. I'm excited for her - she deserves some adventure, even if it just the adventure of having a military base full of handsome soldiers to shock because they don't expect a wrinkled old lady to hit on them. Now what do you all want for breakfast?"

Alicia giggled at the description of her grandmother. It would be too true, though she expected that it wasn't just men that the old woman would be hitting on. "Mama, don't you dare worry about breakfast. Get some sleep. You've gone two nights without and these births always happen in threes. We are going to get ready and head off to Santa Fe soon, so you don't have to play hostess with us."

Esperanza looked like she was about to argue, but then yawned. "You are right, Pajarito. Between two births and a house full of relatives, I'm ready to hide under the covers all day. Go have your fun - it sounds like a fabulous day."

Hidden in mech form above the Santa Fe Opera House, Mirage was content to snuggle in Hound's arms, listening and enjoying the opera at a distance and through their holoforms. Inside they had a VIP box to themselves, very much intentionally, and Alicia's lips were busy between Adalberto's legs while Joseph occupied his mouth to keep any sounds from escaping.

~Enjoying the opera, love?~ Hound asked in a relaxed tone, thankful to have the processing power to focus on beauty of the the soaring soprano voice, the softness of his bondmate's holoform lips, the delicious sounds of Alicia's mouth pleasuring Adalberto, the multitude of desert animals around them including the coyote watching them with curiosity 10 meters SSW, and to still have the majority of them trained on the mech in his arms.

~Very much,~ Mirage groaned, his chassis arching slightly in response to Alicia's efforts on his holoform. ~She has an exquisitely trained voice for a human.~

~And here I thought you were going to say something about Alicia's exquisitely trained mouth,~ Hound chuckled, nibbling on his bonded's sensitive neck components. ~I'm glad you are enjoying yourself,~ he added, knowing how much that would mean to Alicia.

~Hard not too, with you here, her and your holoform on mine and something that actually qualifies as culture to listen to,~ his engine gave a sharp rev and he pushed back, rubbing against his bonded. ~You're so warm.~

~I could make you warmer,~ Hound purred, shifting the lighter mech to straddle his lap facing him, leaning slightly down to capture his lips and slide his glossa between them.

Mirage shuddered with a rush of heat and slid his arms around Hound's neck, pressing their chassis together eagerly. ~Anytime, anywhere, my love.~

Hound lay back in the sandy bed of the arroyo that ran between two hills above the opera, starlight shining from above as intensely as it could on a planet with an atmosphere. The dryness of the air and the altitude made the arm of the galaxy that stretched across the sky vivid and bright. The cluster of stars the humans called Orion were rising on the eastern horizon. The sounds and warmth of thousands of tiny organic life forms surrounded them even as the human soprano voice soared to a high C.

There was nothing more beautiful to the nature loving mech as the one he pulled down on top of himself to kiss with all of the warmth inside of him.

The warmth and desire that kissed him back warmed his plating that much more, and he groaned softly when Mirage shifted to rub their interface panels against each other.

Something about the setting called for a slower and more relaxed buildup to overload. Hound ran his large hands down Mirage's back and aft, stroking every sensor along the way with the knowledge of a longtime lover.

~Tease,~ Mirage moaned, arching lightly into the touch.

~You know I'll spike you as soon as you open your panel,~ Hound slid his glossa along his bonded's, stimulating the sensors with a light burst of electricity. ~And I'll keep building us up as long as it's closed.~

~Wretched tease,~ the noble whimpered in anticipation of the long, slow enjoyment, likely overloading only when the opera ended.

~Can't have us disappearing on Alicia, now, can I?~ Hound chuckled, breaking away from the kiss only to begin kissing every sensor on his noble's face with knowing lips and glossa, building up the charge with agonizing and deliberate leisure.

~No, we can't,~ he shuddered, submitting to the exquisitely pleasurable torture as he returned the favor with his fingers and delicate touches to Hound's grill.

Hound shivered despite the growing heat between them as the perfect fingers of his bonded began stroking under his grill that camouflaged one of the finest sensor suites ever to have been created, the only one capable of detecting Mirage under his cloak. He groaned and traced a single sensuous finger down the seam that separated him from the spark more precious to him than his own.

~It's yours, always,~ Mirage whispered across their bond, pouring just how completely he meant that with the words. ~I am yours, everything I am is yours.~

~I know, thank you, love. You are perfect, everything I could ever need or desire,~ Hound whispered back, knowing just what his bonded needed to hear when he submitted so fully, aware, as always, that for Mirage, he was filling the role of the first creation the noble so desperately needed to shape himself for.

Hound wrapped his arms tight around his elegant beauty, as though holding on to that which he would never let go, and rolled him over so he could slowly kiss his way down the gold filigreed chassis.

A low, sweet moan rewarded his attention, as did the fine fingers working his shoulders and helm, getting into crevasses and to wires that very few could reach.

~Love you, Hound,~ Mirage shivered, intent on giving as good as he was getting.

Hound hummed right over the exquisitely detailed chestplates, matching resonance with the spark within, that, as chance would have it, was in perfect harmony with the aria currently being sung by Rodolfo in the open-air opera house. ~And I love you, always, Mirage,~ he sang the name through their bond.

He traced Mirage's filigreed designs and glyphs as though it was an act of worship, teasing highly tuned sensors all along the way until his noble was venting fast and quivering under him, no longer able to return the touches.

As the distant rush of pleasure from Alicia's orgasm washed over them, Mirage whimpered and unlocked his chest plates at the same time as he slid his interface panel open. In the most organized commands he could manage, he spread his legs and slid them up alongside Hound's.

Their bond resonated with desire, wordless need and want as Mirage silently pleaded for a full overload.

Hound was more than pleased to oblige, his own chestplates unlocking as he filled Mirage's weeping valve in one achingly slow movement, lighting up every sensor deep inside. For several seconds he pushed hard on the deepest and most highly tuned nodes before pulling out fast and beginning a hard, claiming pace. He moaned in pleasure as it snapped Mirage out of his sensual stupor to grab his shoulders and hook his legs fully around Hound's.

Pleasure lashed across the bond, made their sparks expand as they strained to touch their mate.

Mirage's mouth was open, his lovely golden optics dimmed as he surrendered himself fully to the building charge of an overload more than two joor in the making.

~Primus you are beautiful,~ Hound whispered his last coherent words as his chestplates fully parted and his spark chamber spiraled open, lighting up the sandy riverbed around them with a rich blue light only slightly changed by the more blue-white light of Mirage's.

Tendrils stretched out and entwined eagerly, securing the first physical link between their sparks.

Hound changed his rhythm to a slow, sensuous slide within his bonded's valve, keeping them at the edge of overload as he lowered himself to merge their coronas in sweet, incomparable ecstasy. Their sparks literally seemed to leap at one another from there, pulling their cores together as if by their own will, into a single brilliant blue light that made the nighttime desert glow with their life as much as the heat from their frames vanquished the winter chill around them.

~Yes ... love ... want ... ohhh, everything,~ thoughts drifted back and fourth as the line between them faded. Their sparks united, their systems synched fully, driving both their systems to move flawlessly to draw the pleasure out as long as they could. Penetrated and penetrated, they both felt the glory of the slide of perfectly fitted parts at just the right pace.

The standing ovation at the finale of La Boheme covered the piercing keens that erupted from the high dessert, soon joined by the singing of the coyotes. Inside, her lovers having disappeared, Alicia was on the floor in bliss as she felt the distant echoes of an overload even more beautiful that the love songs of Mimi and Rodolfo.

The day and night on the town had been nothing less than fabulous for Alicia, and her mechs had enjoyed her enjoyment, and had been appreciative of the artwork and especially the opera. Singing, it seemed, was equally appreciated by both of their cultures, and Renee Fleming had an unsurpassed lyric voice. Alicia couldn't help but to enjoy the artwork they had picked up for their quarters to remind her of home, as well as the amazingly fancy opera gown Mirage had picked out for her at a private fashion showing at one of the galleries. While most New Mexicans went to the opera in their clean jeans and new boots, those in the VIP boxes still dressed in tuxes and evening gowns.

They fact that they had their VIP box all to themselves had led, unsurprisingly considering the hedonistic nature of Cybertonians, to some rather kinky fun involving all three of them taking turns kneeling between each others thighs and the struggle not to make any noises that interrupted the beauty of the singing. Having an orgasm during Mimi and Rodolfo's closing duet, followed by distant joy of their natural forms' spark overload was an experience she would not soon forget.

The next morning, after sleeping late, Hound hauled the horse trailer to a forest service road that promised beautiful vistas and a lovely valley to take their lunch break at. Much to Alicia's delight, all four of the family horses were in the trailer, and Corazon was riding in Mirage as they drove to their destination in order to give Mirage and Hound their first taste of horseback riding as Joseph and Adalberto.

It surprised both humans that Adalberto was the one who settled into it first and easiest. Joseph was more comfortable with the mounts, but the noble had spent much of his youngling and mechling vorns on turbofox and petrorabbit hunts that involved riding hoverbikes, or on rare occasions even lightmounts.

Base forms walking slowly behind after scans showed no human activity on the rarely used road, they set off up the switchbacks that would take them to a mountain valley that was low enough not to be snowbound yet, but which had a tremendous view of the surrounding peaks.

Reaching a flat point on the road that was little more that two tracks through the Aspen grove, Corazon sidled up between the two holoforms and gleefully said "You hot tamales want to race?" before taking off at a gallop that no 82 year old in her right mind would attempt.

Adalberto grinned and clicked to his mount, urging her to take off after the other, Joseph not far behind. Both mechs were happily using their advanced senses to make up for her greater knowledge, and soon caught up.

Alicia laughed, but instead of riding ahead, she rode back to trot her horse between her walking mechs. She breathed in the familiar cool mountain air.

"It is so good to be home," she said. "I spent more time outside riding along trails like these than I did indoors as a kid." She gave them a broad smile, feeling the gentle EM waves coming off of Hound to calm her mount in the presence of their giant forms.

"You still spend more time outside than inside, though not by as much," Hound chuckled and reached over to brush his fingers along Mirage's. "How far is she likely to race?"

"Oh, not far. She wants you to catch her. Question is what you will do with her when you get her?"

The mechs looked at each other, speaking without even bothering with their bond. They had their field mods, her energy was high ... but they both knew enough to realize it would be far too weird for Alicia.

"Nothing," Mirage said for them both.

"Good boys," Alicia said with a smirk. "Then why don't you catch me instead," she laughed, and was suddenly galloping ahead to catch up with her lovers' holoforms and her flirtatious abuela.

"Always," Hound laughed and both mechs picked up their pace so the horses didn't outdistance their holoform range.

Despite Adalberto's greater familiarity with the idea and practice of riding, it was Joseph who caught the reigns of Alicia's mount first.

"Now, what do I get for catching you first?" he rumbled with a hungry grin.

She leaned over, grabbed his flannel shirt and kissed him and he suddenly found himself with a lap full of Alicia, her legs wrapped around his waist even as he continued to hold the reigns of the now riderless energetic stallion.

~Does my wildlife lover want to study a native in her natural environment?~ she asked, while continuing to ravage his mouth.

~Anytime, anywhere,~ he rumbled, kissing her back hard as Adalberto reached out to take the stallion's reins, freeing his bonded to grope her ass and pull her closer.

"Now this is just unfair. Who is going to keep me warm," Corazon cackled as she rode up.

"These are my aliens, Abuelita. Get your own," Alicia said when she came up for air.

"How can I when you have the only ones in the state?" she lamented, which only caused everyone to laugh.

"I'm sure you will be able to claim plenty of attention when we get home," Mirage chuckled.

"Yes, Abuelita, those who freely share are quite popular on base," Alicia added, already having visions of the stir her grandmother was sure to cause among the mechs who would be curious about her simply because she new and was so very different than that average young civilian or military socket.

"So what is this base of yours like, some sort of 60s free love commune?" Corazon asked with a twinkle in her eye. "Because I lived on one of those for a bit, out by Pecos, but it was just a bunch of gringos trying to get back to the earth and having no idea what the devil that even meant. They wanted a real, honest to God witch and paid me to teach them. When they realized that most of what I did was offer a listening ear and mix up some herbs to relax lonely, confused people, they decided it wasn't nearly as interesting as they thought it should be and asked me to go. The sex wasn't bad, though."

Hound and Mirage did a quick internet search and burst out laughing.

"Actually, mix that with randomly placed battles and the chaos of integrating two very different societies while creating a third and it's not a bad comparison," Hound said, still laughing.

Alicia shook her head and then buried it in the warm chest in front of her. "Have you warned them about just what kind of storm is about blow into Diego Garcia?" she asked, snickering into Joseph.

"No, and we're not going to," Mirage had a smirk on both his faces. "We had to learn the hard way, it will be enjoyable to see others do so."

"That I can't wait to see," Alicia murmured.

As they continued to ride toward the valley, Alicia turned around so that she was facing forward on Joseph's horse. She felt him automatically adjust his weight so as not to overburden the spirited paint stallion.

"So, mi hijos, tell me how this whole energy thing works," Corazon asked from where she was riding next to Mirage's natural form. "Which version of you boys is making my Alicia's sex chakra practically blind me every time I look at it?"

"Both," the noble's engine rumbled deeply. "Primarily this one. Holding a holoform through an overload is difficult at best. They take considerable focus."

"But how do you make love to her when you are so large?" Corazon asked, her own vitals spiking with arousal at the images that brought to her mind.

"Abuela! Do you really need to know all of this?"

"Yes, mi hija, I do," the old woman gave a delighted laugh.

"If you aren't willing to show off for her, I'm sure there will be many mechs happy to give her detailed explanations," Joseph chuckled, snuggling Alicia against his chest. "You know that once we warm up, you won't need clothes to be warm."

"She is my grandmother! And she wants to watch me have sex with you. That is so wrong on so many levels," Alicia felt her face turning red.

"Oh, Alicia, I just want to see what the auras look like," Corazon teased. "Don't be such a prude."

"We can with just the cable," Mirage suggested, his engine giving a rev. "Not as much fun, but it would work."

Alicia face lit up with an idea. ~Would it be too much for you to show her a spark merge? That creates the most intense pleasure in me without your having to touch me a bit, and would be utterly fascinating for her.~

Alicia knew that her grandmother would see they were having a private conversation. In this case, completely justified.

The mechs shared a glance that their holoforms didn't bother to mimic. Hound's was busy nibbling on Alicia's neck while Mirage's had his work cut out for him handling two horses.

~I don't mind,~ Hound ghosted to his bonded in a conversation not even Alicia was privy to. ~But I know you never feel very safe out here.~

Mirage dropped his gaze briefly and rippled the armor plates down his back. ~Last night was different. I don't think I can with an audience that is more than Alicia.~

~No,~ Hound passed on his choice for both of them.

~Then we'll start just with the cable, though I might get undressed anyhow and forget she is around. She might as well get used to seeing socket culture and public interfacing. I've shared with you in public there, and won't stop doing so just because my grandmother lives on base.~

She pulled one of Hound's hands up to caress her breast, turning her head so she could find his lips.

~Besides, isn't there some Tower's tradition about claiming your bonded in front of family?~

"Yes," Mirage shivered, his armor clicking against itself in the cold breeze, but immediately around the two mechs, the ambient temperature was much higher as their systems revved in anticipation.

"Just how far to where we're going?" Adalberto asked Corazon absently.

"The road curves up ahead and ends at the valley. Only about another half mile at the most." The old woman smirked, well aware of the growing heat behind her.

~Explain the tradition to her,~ Alicia suggested. ~It would make it feel ... less like a demonstration for my grandmother and more like a ritual acknowledging our commitment since it is not possible for us to do so in traditional human ways. She will respect that, and it will make me feel better, too.~

"Alicia asked that I explain a few things," Mirage spoke up. "Primarily that I am a Towers mech, a noble, back when that meant something on Cybertron. A culture that has little in common with the one I live in now. One of our traditions, a core of what is our marriage ceremony, is interfacing ... sex ... in front of our close kin and clade lords."

"So you would like me to be a witness to my pajarito's marriage to the two of you rather than being a pervy and insatiably curious old woman?" Corazon asked, sounding suddenly quite serious.

"If you would," Mirage's voice dropped in volume as it sank in that this did mean something to him, beyond making Alicia feel more comfortable. It wasn't for his bonding, it wasn't his kin, or Hound's, but it was someone who was blood to his socket. This was as close to family as he was likely to have anytime soon.

"Then I would be honored to be your witness, youngsters. I'll even promise to behave myself and keep my lewd thoughts to myself for once," Corazon smiled warmly. "I always did hope I'd get to see Alicia get married."

"Thank you," Mirage said smoothly, though it was impossible to miss the shifting of his mood from simple lust to a far more contemplative excitement towards the passion that would soon happen.

"Marrying us doesn't mean she won't have children," Joseph added from where he was still fondling Alicia's breasts. "And she will have plenty of time for it now."

"You know, this valley is where I always fantasized I would get married when I would ride here as a little girl," Alicia said, smiling and leaning back into the broad chest of her mech's holoform. "But in my girlhood fantasies, it was never a man that I married. It was always some magical creature who came down off the mountain to sweep me away," she explained, her hands starting to tremble in anticipation.

"I'd say that's an accurate enough description of who you are marrying," Corazon smiled at her granddaughter. "You have taken all the bad luck with men we've had for generations and turned it around."

"Mama Maria was looking after me," Alicia shrugged her shoulders playfully. "She had given up on trying to find men for the Rodriguez girls, and we are hopelessly heterosexual, so women weren't an option. What else was she supposed to do? Aliens were the only ones who could handle me," she gave a sassy smile and reached behind her to cup the hard cock in Joseph's jeans and gave it a squeeze just as they rounded the bend and the trees opened up into a stunning vista of snow capped peaks.

Joseph breathed in hard and growled, his own hand moving down to her crotch to massage it ruthlessly.

"Time for lunch," Alicia giggled. "Are there a couple of hungry sparks around here who would like something to eat?" ~I know this is serious, but I'm so happy that I just can't help being completely giddy,~ she explained. ~I'm so drunk on both of you.~

~We can feel it,~ Mirage soothed her as Joseph urged her to dismount so they could let the horses graze and drink from the creek.

The two mechs settled, and half to Mirage's surprise, he was drawn onto Hound's lap and his back pressed against the scout's chest. With a kiss to his neck, the noble moaned and arched, pressing into the light contact with a shudder of want.

Corazon watched as her granddaughter gave each of the human...holoform versions of her lovers a kiss before they disappeared. With a wistful smile she walked over to stand by her grandmother, wrapping an arm around the tiny woman.

"You aren't going to join them?" Corazon asked, feeling a little confused.

"Oh, I will, once they've heated up the air around them enough for it to feel like the middle of summer. They told me you saw them melt the frozen ground the day before yesterday. What did you think?"

"Sexy and alien, yet also very familiar," her Abuela replied easily.

"The familiar parts are on purpose. When they took organics as symbiots, they modified themselves to be able to more directly bring pleasure to their pets. Apparently enough organics have similar sexual organs to ours that that is the standard configuration - a spike that can modify its shape and size to fit the organic in question, and a valve that can likewise be modified if an organic would wish to penetrate," Alicia explained easily while the two women watched the gentle strokes and touches arouse Mirage as the frost under their legs began to melt.

"Pets?" she raised an eyebrow and turned her head to consider Alicia. "They treat you as no owner would a pet."

"A very inexact translation of the word in their language, Abuela, but also one that has created lots of fun play between the three of us. Think about it, though; to them, we are short lived, tiny, adorable organic creatures whom they cannot live without out, and part of their protocols...their instincts if you will, is taking care of their symbiot, providing for his or her needs. So on one level it is a relationship like that of a very loving human to his or her favorite pet who is treated as a family member, but on a different level is it a relationship of lovers. But we are looking at two beings who can live a billion years, or even longer. On a very real level, it is not possible to have a relationship as equals between their kind and ours. We are just too different. I don't think any less of myself for it, even though it makes me all too aware of my own mortality and just how short lived I am, even with all the extra time I'm being given."

"Mmm," the old woman considered the two mechanical beings, who were now facing each other, Mirage straddling Hound's lap as their kisses muted the moans and whimpers of pleasure. "They heat up fast." She held up her hands to the warmth already radiating out from them. "Yet they never grow hot enough to burn?"

"I suppose they could, but not with me around. They have protocols to keep me safe. Just by their size and strength they could be so very dangerous to me, but there is nowhere I am safer than when I'm with them, because they know my body and its limitations better than I do myself. What do you see in their auras right now, Abuelita?"

"They are so bright, their energy flowing to one another," she glanced at her granddaughter again. "It flows to you as well. You can feel their pleasure?"

Corazon watched Alicia shiver, but not with cold. "Yes, very much, through our socket-bond. When they claimed me, their nano-tech changed me in many different ways, enabling me to interact with them at the quantum level. Not like when we are connected physically, but it is amazing. What I feel is nothing compared to what it is with one another, though. That would be far too much for me or any organic being." Her granddaughter gave a moan and her eyes became glossy as the two giants' interface panels scraped together.

The heat soon demanded that the humans shed their heavy winter coats. Mirage was trembling, his head thrown back to offer his throat to his bonded, who took advantage of the silent request that Corazon 'saw' rippling to both socket and bonded.

"What are they asking you?" Corazon whispered, her body responding to the heat and desire flowing all around her like a blanket and brewing storm all in one. She watched her granddaughter shudder again in obvious pleasure and desire.

"Hound wants to know if we would like to reenact the first time all three of us were together. It was outdoors as well, and is a very precious memory, for all that I couldn't share energy with them yet."

"Why not?" she asked, puzzled.

She watched as Alicia lifted up her long dark hair and pulled down the turtle neck that had been a staple of her wardrobe each day, Corazon recalled. A silver metallic, highly intricate looking port was now a part of her neck, just at the base of her skull. It was strangely beautiful, for all that it was frighteningly alien appearing.

"I didn't have this yet," Alicia said, gently touching the metal on her neck. "This socket is how they connect with me, so my pleasure and joy can give life to their sparks...their physical souls. Through it they also can make my body feel what they are feeling and can directly stimulate any nerve in me, even create highly realistic visions and fantasies in my head. It is completely amazing, and someday much of that will be able to happen without the hardline connection because my energy resonates so well with theirs."

"That will be amazing," the old woman's attention locked back on the mechs, who's energy was nearly blinding as they rubbed against each other, their fingers working under armor plates and their vents and fans struggling to cool them despite the cold air they were drawing in.

It wasn't long before Mirage shuddered and pressed his hips hard against Hound's and buried his face against the thick neck, simply gripping the larger mech as he shuddered. Hound pulled him even closer, stroking his back more slowly to draw the last slide to an inevitable overload out just a bit longer.

"You're so beautiful like this, my Mirage," Hound murmured, his own systems close to critical. With their bodies pressed so close together, the discharge from the one who went first would send the other over within nanokliks.

"The intimacy they are sharing now is the old way of bringing one another to climax, what they showed me when they were trying to...seduce me...and test me to see how I would react to them," Alicia said breathlessly. "From before they added organic-style mods. This is incredibly stimulating to them because they are covered with sensors and the when they work their fingers deep enough under armor plates, they are caressing the living liquid metal of their protoforms, which are almost organic in appearance and incredibly sensitive. They only rarely remove their exoskeletons, but when they do, the passion is blazing. They must have protoform to protoform contact to reproduce. We will try to create a new spark soon. Hound lost one earlier this year and we are anxious to try again."

"They reproduce?" Corazon asked, eyes wide with amazement.

"They are living beings," Alicia said reverently. "In this case, they create a new spark and one will carry it for close to 83 years before it is ready to be put in a frame they will create from raw materials and donated protomass from their own bodies," Alicia moaned and trembled, leaning against her grandmother as the electricity dancing across Mirage's chassis set Hound off with a bellow that shook the valley and mountains around them.

Mirage followed him with a nearly inaudible keen as he threw his head back, his optics flaring bright gold with the explosive release of the charge across his every system.

"And you are involved in the reproduction how?" Corazon prompted when the mechs had calmed, sagging into each other as minor systems rebooted and others reluctantly did a soft boot to reset.

"By giving them strength, and giving strength to the new spark that is created. By being connected to strengthen both when the spark separates to be framed," Alicia whispered, obviously awed by the prospect despite how focused her body was on her mechs inviting her to join them.

Alicia gave her grandmother a kiss on the cheek and then practically ran over to join her lovers, shedding clothing on the way.

~More beautiful every time I see it,~ she murmured to them, climbing on to Hound outstretched hand like she had on the first day she met them.

~It is more incredible to feel your response grow each time,~ Hound smiled and laid back as Mirage slipped back to settle between Hound's legs. ~I'm sure within half a vorn there will be little that requires the socket connection anymore.~

Mirage leaned forward to kiss his bonded, shadowing Alicia as she crawled over Hound's grill. Both their engines revved hard as Hound connected to her, then Mirage joined the link. Other cables came out of armor joints to stroke her, tease her sex, wrap and fondle her breasts.

Corazon watched with rapt attention, far less interested in the attention her granddaughter's young body was receiving from the giant aliens as she was with the energy swirling around and between the three in brilliant colors. She saw pulses of it travel down the cables from each of the mechs, into Alicia, following the path of her central nervous system. In response, Alicia's body was beginning to swirl with an iridescent pool flowing from both her heart and sex chakras. The curandera could see each of the giant lovers' shudder as waves from that pool splashed into them, to be siphoned quickly into the bright stars within each of them that were nearly too vivid for her to look at directly.

She watched a pulse of excited color flare from all three, and then Alicia was being guided by Mirage's cables toward the large phallus-like cable between Hound's legs, situated slightly higher than a human version of the organ would be. Her granddaughter faced Mirage so she could watch him while she wrapped herself around Hound's large cable to worship it with her body even as the alien's colors indicated a worshipful awe of the life and energy that was building in her.

The old curandera felt her own body wake up as though young again. Her mind went to what it would feel like to be on a base full of such mechs and humans, where there was so much energy, adoration and pleasure flowing freely. Perhaps she was not so ready to leave her flesh as she thought.

Her body heated as Mirage's cock-like thick cable slid from his body for the first time in her sight, colored in a stripe of white and blue like his armor just as his mate's was the green of his form. Energy flowed from the rest of his body to focus on his spike as he slid it into Hound's body, a place that had also lit up with energy.

Corazon watched in fascination as Hound made indecipherable pleading noises, then Mirage's voice clearly said "ride him, my Alicia," as the thick green cable suddenly shrunk in size, and the young woman hilted it in herself in one smooth motion. The swirling pool inside of her granddaughter grew wild, as though being tosses by a storm. She saw what appeared to be energy floodgates preventing the pool from leaving Alicia's body as the young woman began to move herself smoothly up and down. The mechs, she realized, were consciously allowing the energy to rise to it peak before it would break through like a flash flood rushing into their sparks.

It was indescribable, watching these three committed lovers move in the sacred dance of life, blending their life-energy to strengthen each other. It was made all the more sacred that this was a marriage that had asked her to witness to validate. She had no doubt that Mirage had spoken the truth of his traditions. Though they would long outlast her granddaughter, the now was sacred.

She saw Mirage adjust his grip on Hound's hips, allowing his lover to gently thrust into her tiny form in a way that to her must have felt sharp and claiming, even as Mirage quickened his pace. She saw how careful they were of her fragile body, their slick, sensuous cables sliding over her to wrap her in their embrace, moving her in rhythm with the two mechs.

How many human men were so considerate of their lover, of the mother of their children? As they neared their climax, she saw all three of their energies synch, far more than was normal. For the brief moments when the physical pleasure overtook them, all within a few seconds of each other, their fields merged so completely that they were a single entity with three interlocked bodies.

Just as they became one, Corazon saw the flood gates open, and the iridescent color that was Alicia's unique energy burst forth and flow into the mechs, absorbed by their physical souls, only to have the pleasure of receiving that torrent flood back into her to create yet another wave of life for the sparks to drink. Back and forth it went, like waves sent back and forth in a pool, growing in intensity as a very different sort of climax took them.

Finally, the energy quieted, but to Corazon's senses, the two larger presences were intertwined with one another, both reaching out strands of energy to wrap up Alicia the same way their cables wrapped her body. The curandera wiped her eyes, not even aware when she had started weeping at the strange beauty of what she saw.

A flicker of non-native energy above her caught her awareness as the lovers sank to lie with each other, drawing in and venting huge gushes of air that melted the frost and snow around them. Something much larger than anything that could fly but much smaller than the mechs before her came swooping down.

She looked up at red optics, saw the colors of viciousness. Talons grabbed her and she was airborne before she could even scream.

The ground fell away and suddenly the energy she identified as the mech's human forms was there with wide wings and a rage-filled scream. Energy blasts lanced through the air all around her as her captor swooped and dove, dodging both weapon blasts and the two now-winged holoforms working to force him down.

Finally, one of the holoforms managed to grab a hold of her captor's wing, and she saw Mirage jump up and run in her direction and they came spiraling down. She was coherent enough to be thankful that Hound had stayed with Alicia, even as Mirage took what looked like an impossible leap, grabbing her before she could be dropped and die hitting the ground.

She was curled against his chest ... no inside his chest ... wrapped in many cables when he hit the ground and rolled to dissipate the energy. He had no doubt done a fair level of damage to the terrain, but she felt warm, protected ... completely safe below the pulsing star that was his spark. She could see his anger though, a slow-burning rage that flared up brightly.

With Alicia's grandmother now safe, Hound and Mirage opened fire on Ratbat, Hound's advanced sensor suite extending to the limit to search for Soundwave or any of his other symbiots. Ratbat evaded the shots with ease, and was soon out of range.

"Was ... was that a Decepticon?" Alicia asked shakily.

"Yap. Ratbat. One of Soundwave's minions," Hound nodded and scooped her up, holding her close as he stood to jog towards Mirage.

"Will he be back?" Alicia asked, thoroughly shaken. "Why did he grab Abuelita? What in the world would they want with an old woman?"

"Ratbat is a spy, an intel-gatherer," Hound explained, his optics locked on his bonded. "He probably heard about her ability. Add that to how much she means to you and she makes a good bargaining chip against Mirage."

"Will he go after Mama, too? She is all alone at home," Alicia looked frantically back down the trail that suddenly felt far too long.

"Your mother does not have the gift," Hound shook his head and stepped forward to greet his bonded, leaning in to touch foreheads as Mirage briefly opened his armor and brought Corazon out.

"This was a target of opportunity," Mirage added as he and Hound straightened and shifted away from each other a bit. "Soundwave has been informed of the consequences of going after your kin by now."

"Does that have anything to do with how you make folks disappear?" Corazon asked, looking up at Mirage from the elegant noble's hands.

He chuckled softly. "Yes. I'm a SpecOps mech; spy, infiltration, sabotage, assassination. Third best alive."

"You are in very good hands, Abuelita. Are you ok?" Alicia silently asked Hound to transfer her over so she could physically wrap her arms around her grandmother.

"Shaken up, vulnerable, but otherwise fine. If that cabrón had broken my hip I would have taken him out myself. I'm not ready to be a cripple yet. But your Mirage put me away for safekeeping."

"I saw that, a very special spot indeed," Alicia looked up at her mech with gratitude.

Mirage smiled down. "I felt how much she means to you."

"How do you think they found out about Abuela's gift? Do you suppose that rat thing has been spying on us the whole time, or did they pick up a transmission when you talked with Jazz?" Alicia was still anxious about her mother. Yes, she did not have the gift, but it would be every bit as devastating for the socket to lose her mother as it would be to lose Corazon, and if the 'Cons had checked into her family, they would know that.

"He's likely been watching for some time," Mirage answered, trying to sooth her through EM field and bond. "If they do grab your mother, it won't be to damage her. She'd be too valuable against me to harm."

"Unless it was for revenge," she murmured. "We should never have come home. It just never occurred to me that my family would be at risk. Hijo de mil putas!" she uncharacteristically cursed, hitting her thighs with her fists, bruising them.

She felt Mirage trying to calm her and forced herself to take a deep breath. "And now we are going to be leaving Mama here all alone without anyone to protect her."

"As are many socket's families, yet there have been no attacks. Even Prime's socket-kin are unmolested," Mirage reminded her. "You also know she wouldn't come with us even if I arranged it."

"I know. I just wasn't expecting this. I never would have put Abuelita at risk," Alicia said softly, looking around her mournfully. It had been so wonderful to come home, to show her lovers where she came from, the place that was in her very soul.

"But I'm fine, mi hija. Your youngsters did a great job protecting me, and I got to have my first true alien abduction experience," Corazon hugged her granddaughter tight. "Life isn't worth living without some danger."

"Do you have any idea how old these youngsters are?" Alicia murmured from where her face was buried in the old woman's shoulder.

"Their bodies or their sparks?" Corazon asked. "Because their sparks are older than this universe, mi hija."

The mechs exchanged a startled look, both struggling to form the words to question.

"How?" Mirage finally managed to stammer. "We are old to organics, but not nearly that old."

"I know old souls when I see them," Corazon shrugged. "This isn't either of your first go around. I've always figured God was a very good recycler. Honestly, I don't know how I know some of these things, and maybe it is just an old woman's delusions," she grinned.

The mechs shared another look, a more thoughtful one.

"It would explain some things," Hound admitted, optics on his bonded.

"I wonder if Primus lets us remember when we're with Him," Mirage murmured thoughtfully.

The ride back was more subdued than the ride up, partially because it was so clear that Mirage and Hound were focused on sensor sweeps in all directions. Their holoforms still rode with the human women, but everyone was quiet, the women listening to the sounds of a blue spruce and aspen forest, the mechs searching for signs of Decepticons. Hound would occasionally point out animals that he sensed but they would not otherwise have been seen, including a cougar resting on a tree limb fifty feet above them, as well as bobcat waiting patiently by a rabbit den.

Corazon was especially quiet, until Alicia finally asked her what was on her mind.

"Just thinking about what I saw today...the colors, the energy. It was sacred, mi hija. But in a whole different way than coupling that leads to conception. Why God would see it fit for creatures like us to give life to the souls of others is a mystery I can't understand."

"Is it so strange, Abuelita? La Virgen gave life to a god, or at least that it what we'll sing about tonight at Mass."

"Are you saying you believe your husbands are gods, Alicia?" Corazon grinned, looking pointedly at both mechs, Hound in front, and Mirage walking behind, their holoforms on horses on either side of the women, effectively surrounding them with protection.

"I have a friend on base from a village in Burma who believes they are. But no, I do not. They are mortals, but they happen to be from a species that has had far longer to develop, and whose lifespan and physical makeup allows them to do things that seem god-like to a brand new, short-lived organic species like ours. My existence might be but a blink in theirs, but to God, or Primus as they say, they are as tiny and finite as we are, at least that is how I see it." She paused for a moment, and then gave a feral grin. "God-like in bed, though? That I would never argue with."

"Jazz says that we did not always need organics, did not always need to fear carrying new life. That it was the work of the Unmaker that crippled our kind," Mirage spoke softly, his attention primarily on his sensor sweeps. "That Primus made a deal with your gods so we could have a semi balance of what we once were. What He offered in exchange I do not know."

"I'll put that on my list of things to ask about when I croak," Corazon replied with a smile. "But I'm willing to place a bet on sentience. What do you think, Alicia?"

"What would gods need to exchange?" Alicia wondered aloud. "It implies that organics had something Primus couldn't create himself, and that Primus had something to give that organic creators could not. Sentience, language, intelligence? Perhaps. Perhaps even the ability of the soul to outlive the body. Or perhaps it is simply a matter of interdependence - that all the gods wished us to learn the value of that."

"Politics and commerce," Mirage shrugged. "Organics, mechs, gods, even animals ... no matter how a gathering comes about, both happen eventually and they usually look much the same. It could be as simple as giving to avoid having it taken. If you give, you can claim the other owes you a favor later. It could be to strengthen the strongest defense against the Unmaker available. The organic gods gave some of their children to strengthen us, knowing that when the Unmaker returned, if we stopped Him, He would not continue to their worlds. I doubt it was anything for you."

Hound chuckled. "That's as far from a Tower mech as I've heard you," he smiled back at his bonded.

"Between you and Jazz, I've changed a great deal from that mech," Mirage said demurely.

"Oh fine, just wreck my idealistic and romantic view of Primus giving us organics some sort of mythological gift like sentience in order to make it easier for us to give life to his children," Alicia laughed. "I'm afraid that I'm going to have to stick with my childhood faith on this one, that God, or the gods, are the power of love, and above such things as politics and commerce. What about you, Hound? What does our resident xeno-veterinarian think?"

"Umm..." he hesitated, his processors scrambling for an answer. "I guess I never thought about it much. As far as our own teachings go, it's been this way for as long as we've existed. Jazz ... he's older than most written records. Maybe all of them. But he's just one mech, and even he'll tell you he doesn't know everything."

"Just most of it," Mirage snickered.

As they approached the final bend where the two mechs transformed into their alt forms, Corazon looking on, mesmerized. "Do you ever get tired of watching that?" she asked her granddaughter.

"Sadly, we live in an island with very few roads, so I don't see it nearly as often as I'd like, or get to ride with them at top speeds even less. But giving them a carwash leads to amazing things."

Both mechs revved their engines hard in agreement.

"We'll put in for a transfer to the first base on a continent we have," Joseph grinned. "Probably still be hot and humid, but with plenty of space to drive fast."

"Well, it's Christmas Eve on deserted roads in New Mexico. Mirage can at least drive fast, but I'm afraid the poor horses wouldn't do well with your top speeds, Hound, and I don't think we could talk Mirage into hauling the horse trailer," Alicia snickered.

"Perhaps we'll go for a drive after Mass?" Mirage suggested with a rumble of anticipation. He didn't like the dust, but it had been entirely too long since he'd been able to go all out and test his limits.

"I don't suppose I need to warn either of you that New Mexico has the highest drunk driving rate in the nation," Corazon noted as Hound backed up to the hook up to the horse trailer while the humans and holoforms unsaddled and groomed the horses. Alicia grinned when 'Joseph' produced a carrot for his mare, before continuing to give her a far more thorough brushing than the others had received.

"Why am I starting to feel jealous of my horse?" she laughed, wrapping her arms around his muscular chest from behind and leaning her face against his broad back.

"No need," he reached one arm back to hold her. "You have me all night, after all."

"No, there is no need to worry about drunk drivers," Mirage smiled at Corazon. "Even if by some incredible fluke they manage to avoid our senses that should find them and their state at thirty miles out, there isn't a vehicle on Earth that can damage either of us no matter what the impact conditions are."

"Well, that is a relief, youngster. But don't get cocky. I won't be going to Mass tonight, so I won't be there to look after you."

"Why not, Abuelita? The new priest won't give communion to a curandera?" Alicia asked, looking miffed.

"No, it's not that," Corazon smirked. "I slept with Deacon Gonzales a few weeks ago, and now I'm trying to avoid him. He is absolutely smitten."

"So, Stratosphere, do you always go pick up the new humans?" Corazon chatted happily with the mech-turned-cargo plane as they flew over the Pacific Ocean at speeds no native aircraft could attain.

"No, only when Prime asks me to," the deep rumble of his voice carried through his frame.

"And Prime is the one who is kind of like Jesus, except he rips Decepticon's faces off?" the tiny white haired woman asked.

"Oh Abuela," Alicia put her forehead into her hand from where she was working to remove the worst of the New Mexican dirt and sand from Mirage's frame.

"He is the spiritual leader of Cybertron, yes," Stratosphere said.

"He does have an irrational tendency to try to sacrifice himself. Though so far we've managed to stop him," Hound added.

"Except for that time protecting Sam," Mirage countered. "His spark extinguished, it just didn't stay extinguished."

"Sam didn't stay dead either," Hound said.

"Or Jazz," Mirage said through a deep, rumbling purr of his engine at Alicia's attention.

"Or Megatron," Alicia added mournfully.

Corazon blinked several times before asking, "Is resurrection a regular occurrence with your lot?"

"Only since we arrived here," Hound shook his head. "It had been something only legends tell of. Theoretically possible, but never proven."

"Primus has to send a spark back without absorbing it again," Mirage added. "Possible, but rarely done. We have no idea how Sam happened. Only that he came back not exactly human anymore."

"That's an understatement," Hound snorted. "The kid reeks of the Allspark."

"There will be a lot of interesting colors to keep you fascinated for years to come, Abuela," Alicia added, gazing fondly at her grandmother's excited expression.

"Yes yes, but when will the probing start?" Corazon cackled.

"I'm putting my money on Perceptor or Wheeljack," Alicia whispered.

"Ratchet, if you ask. Jazz will too. Depends on how forward you are, and knowing you ... just pick a mech you like the looks of and make a pass," Mirage chuckled. "All except Prowl. Leave him alone. Jazz doesn't share him freely."

"Kind of a double standard, on his part, considering how freely he shares Miles," Alicia noted. "Personally, I prefer to be thoroughly claimed and jealously guarded," she purred, her cleaning efforts becoming steadily more sensuous and caressing.

Mirage shuddered on his wheels. "Yes it's a double standard, but it's because no one's willing to cross Jazz when it comes to his bonded. Prowl doesn't like the attention, so Jazz protects him from it."

"So don't proposition Prowl, Abuela. You won't be able to miss him. White, black and red, stiff posture, door wings, often has a small silver mech or a teenage looking blond kid trying very successfully to distract him from his work."

"And almost always has a datapad with him," Mirage added.

"But you can proposition the small silver mech," Hound continued.

"And the teenage looking human," Alicia concluded with a smirk.

Stratosphere's descent was so smooth, Corazon hardly even noticed it before she could look out and see that they were circling around a horseshoe shaped island in order to land from the opposite direction as their initial approach.

"We are cleared to land," Stratosphere calmly announced as Hound gathered Corazon to his chest with hands and cables and Mirage transformed and did the same with Alicia.

"This is so exciting," Corazon happily snuggled into Hound's grip and watched as the island came into focus. She could see mechs walking about, playing in the water, flying ... it was very much like being transported to the far future in a tropical paradise. And the colors! The island all but glowed with the energy of the mechs, much of it in hues similar to Hound and Mirage. There were dark auras there too, and ones that were a swirling mix of light and dark that moved like oil and water; in the same space, but never mixing.

"You can speak Spanish to anyone here, Abuela," Alicia explained as the cargo doors opened. "All the humans with sockets can access translation protocols, and the mechs can understand and speak every major language on earth, and many of the minor ones."

"Most will speak English, a few Spanish, with a smattering of other languages," Mirage added, setting foot on his new homeland once more. He and Hound both rattled their armor out, taking in the hot, moist, thick air. "I believe there are only a handful on base who do not speak at least basic English or Spanish."

A giant of a mech, blue and red with a flame motif, stepped closer. "Welcome home," his deep, rumbling baritone washed over them as Stratosphere taxied to take off again. "And welcome to Diego Garcia, Corazon Rodriguez. I am Optimus Prime."

"Leader of the Autobots," Mirage added quietly even as he bowed deeply, a move Hound didn't bother with.

"Oh, hello dear, but aren't you huge! And such a dazzling, bright energy." And so much grief she noted silently to herself. She could see in his colors that he agonized and blamed himself for every death since the beginning of the war.

Beyond Prime there were many mechs, all gathered and curious about this unusual addition to their territory. Auras ranged from a level of inherent, unchecked violence that made her wonder how the individuals functioned out of battle to a peaceful brilliance of a purely scientific mind to those who had seen too much, done too much and simply did not have it in them to lay down and pass on while they were needed.

"Thank you," Prime smiled as a smaller mech, though larger than Hound, with neon yellow paint as bright and fierce as his aura pushed his way to the front.

"You must be Ratchet!" Corazon said before he could speak. "Ready to rush me off to medbay for my first alien probing. Do you have that consent paperwork all ready? Because I am."

~God help me, I may never be able to show my face on base again,~ Alicia giggled.

~Don't worry, no one will care after a couple months,~ Mirage chuckled, even as Corazon's attention suddenly snapped elsewhere.

"Oh my, you must be Jazz," the old woman breathed as she took in the tightly controlled maelstrom of a black hole at his core, the corona of light and the flickers of thousands of 'others' trying to escape but too weak to. There was a second presence nestled next to his core that seemed very happy to be there, one that looked much like he did, but with a larger halo of light around it.

"That'd be meh," the relatively small silver mech smiled at her with the ease of a natural charmer. "I understand ya charmed mah SIC."

"If freaking him out so badly that he was ready to make me disappear for good counts as charming, then yes I did, youngster," she gave him a wink. "Silly boys thought their little disguises would fool an old crone like me. Lucky for me they drank some of my special tequila, or I don't know what would have happened."

She watched the reactions around her with interest, noting the flares of color indicating surprise, amusement, and concern. She also noted with interest that though many, if not most of the sparks around her were old in terms of having lived several lifetimes, Jazz's was young, as in only having had one life, yet it was still older than many if not most of those around him that had returned many times.

"Ya really can see holoforms aren't real?" Jazz was several steps closer.

A larger white, red and black mech with wing-like extensions on his back and bright golden optics and carrying a blond human just out of his teens was close behind him. Prowl, she was sure. He had lived more lives than most, and his connection to Jazz was far stronger than most couples she could see. Only one pair had a stronger connection, and they didn't look healthy at all. A single soul separated into two bodies. She didn't even want to imagine what torture that would be.

"The auras were not human," she explained, looking straight into Jazz's visor, "and were connected physically to their true forms, which both had souls brighter than anything I'd seen. Explaining it makes me sound like a washed up old hippy," she laughed.

"Fascinating," a mech with a very calm, intensely curious but methodical energy spoke up as he approached.

"This is Perceptor," Jazz snickered. "I'm sure he'll want to spend a lot of time probing into your talents," he winked his visor playfully.

"I'm all yours, as soon as Ratchet is done," Corazon winked at the scientist. "But why so much interest in little old me? I'm just a village curandera."

"You can sense what very few others, even our own sensors, can," Perceptor explained. "It makes you very interesting."

"All right, there will be plenty of time for a meet and greet when I'm done," Ratchet stepped forward and knelt, lowering his hand flat on the ground. "You are going to liven up this place, I'm sure."

"Oh, I do hope so," Corazon smiled, stepping into his hand. "From what I've seen and learned this past week, I'm looking forward to being an examination subject."

Ratchet gave Hound and Mirage a raised optic ridge but didn't comment as he turned to take Corazon to medbay and the gathering began to disperse.