Okay, guys! New story! Woooooo

This is actually set in the same universe/series/whatever as CLICK, but way later. There's actually parts none of you will really get because there's a story happening before this that it references and blah blah blah.

If you don't get something, just leave a review asking about it!

Also disclaimer time: Transformers are copyright Hasbro.

Optimus walked beside Ultra Magnus, keenly aware of the optics watching them with unbridled curiosity. Every bot has to be wondering why the Magnus and the Prime who helped defeat Megatron are strolling casually down the street, side-by-side. He feels his faceplates flush, and ducks his gaze to the ground, focusing on walking forward.

It was an awful idea to have agreed to go on this . . . date with Ultra. There were absolutely no rules against dating a superior officer at his rank—Optimus had checked, and double-checked, and checked once more just to be safe—but it was still something to be approached cautiously.

Primus, he felt bad enough. There would be no chaperones at all on this date. And he knew that bots would be recording it; if only because it was so unexpected to see them out in public together like this. Alone.

They are planning on going to a specialty energon shop. It had just opened a decacycle ago, and he'd been wanting to try it out. He had mentioned it to Ultra, and the mech said they should go together... make a date of it.

He glances up at Ultra from the corner of his optic, and gets a bright smile in return. He looks down back down, and carefully moves out of the Magnus's arm length, despite the larger bot's continual tries to get him to hold servos.

This is only their first date, and putting aside the embarrassing amount of cuddling he'd done, and one or two stolen kisses, they have not been together this way before. Optimus doesn't want to be too forward. He's been accused of having obtained his rank in less than admirable ways before, and he has no desire to feed those rumors again.

He hopes the energon shop is empty. But knowing his luck, it will be packed full of curious bots.

They step in, and there's a sudden cut off of chatter. Offlining his optics, he's just about to turn away, when Ultra gently pushes him forward. He onlines his optics, and steps up to the counter. Not really sure what to order, he relaxes slightly when Ultra puts a servo across his shoulders, "If I could, I would like to order for the both of us."

Nodding, Optimus smiles up at the larger mech, "That may be a better idea, Ultra." There's a soft squeeze on his shoulders, and he can tell the other bot wants him to come closer; glancing around the full shop, he stays put.

Ultra Magnus orders two cubes with different additives; Optimus doesn't recognize one, but the other is a moderately uncommon crystal that he'd never considered could be added to energon. He hopes it tastes alright. Even if it doesn't, he'll drink it down. The energon dispenser they'd set up on Earth had produced some truly awful slag before they'd managed to get it functioning properly.

He glances at the shop. It's been designed to cater to a large variety of bot sizes, so the seating and arrangement of tables is somewhat eclectic. "I'm going to get a table, Ultra," he says, stepping out from under his servo.

The larger mech gives him a slightly disappointed look, but he ignores it. Looking around he finds a table in the corner, the only one unoccupied. The only problem is that it only has a single chair, and there's absolutely no way he can get a new one.

Ultra joins him, and looks at the table. "Only one chair?"

He stands a bit straighter, "I'm sorry, I can stand while we drink."

Ultra sits cautiously, setting the cubes on the table, "Don't be ridiculous, Optimus."

He shifts awkwardly, "I can wait until another patron leaves and drag the extra chair over."

"Optimus," Ultra scolds lightly, "there is no reason for you to stand and wait." He gestures at the room, "There are plenty of other bots sitting on a companion's lap. No one will even notice." Optimus looks and has to agree that there are a great number of mechs and femmes using laps instead of chairs. He just doesn't want to be one of them. Not when it would be so clearly inappropriate.

He wants to say something, but Ultra picks him up gently and and sets him on the larger mech's lap. He blushes violently, "Ultra, I..."

A cube is pressed into his servos, and Ultra smirks, his voice teasing but kind, "Optimus."

He looks down, and drinks his energon. Blinking, he tilts his head, "This is really quite good."

"I'm glad," Ultra smiles, "I've never tried it myself." He takes his own cube and sips at it carefully, making a pleased noise. "You should try this as well, Optimus."

Optimus sets his cube down to take the other, but Ultra stops his servos. "Let me," and he presses the cube to Optimus's mouth, tipping it slowly. Optimus takes a bit of it, feeling his faceplates flush again.

"D-delicious," he murmurs. Picking back his own cube, he starts to lift it up to put it to Ultra's mouth, but he can't; there are far too many bots staring at them. Turning away, he looks down at the floor, hiding his chest behind his arms; he no longer has the clear chest plate, but old habits from staring optics die hard.

Ultra puts a finger under his chin, lifting it so he has to sit up straight, not hide. "Would you like me to taste your's?" He blushes brightly, and Ultra takes the cube, "Your energon, Optimus. Would you like me to taste it?"

"Yes," he says, trying to keep his voice even. "I want you to taste it. The energon." It's a challenge not to hide his face with his servos at this point. Every bot in the shop, including the staff, is probably recording this, and he can't stand the thought of something so private being plastered everywhere, the way he knows it will.

The larger mech drinks from his cube, glossa flickering out to sweep a few drops from his lips. "It is very good. How lucky, for the both of us."

His optics follow Ultra's glossa before he blinks rapidly and turns away, "Y-yes. Very fortunate." Looking back down, he sips on his energon.

Ultra runs a servo along his side, starting to pull him a little closer, "How is your work going, Optimus? All the reports I've been getting are increasingly positive. Especially since you got the secretary to sort through what was important for you."

He keeps the energon cube between them, to prevent being pulled right up against his chest. "Things have been going very well, sir." Oh, he probably shouldn't call him that while they are on a date. "Ultra. My team and I have been settling in nicely. I appreciate not being in an active war zone." The servo on him drifts down his back, stopping just above his aft.

Ultra Magnus stops it there, a warm and heavy weight on his back. He must know that Optimus will get off of his lap if he actually gropes his aft.

Fingers pet his side, "I prefer you here as well, Optimus. You being with me is so much better than just seeing you through a vid screen."

Optimus blushes, rubbing his arm and looking away, "I'd have to agree, seeing you every day is so much better than only seeing you when you can get a free moment."

"I do wish you'd come by my office more often," Ultra admits, offering him another sip from the other energon cube, watching him drink it slowly. "You may only be a hallway away, but it seems like so much more."

Licking energon from his lips, he looks up at the larger mech, "I've been too busy the past few solar cycles. But I'll try to visit when our schedules permit."

Ultra smiles, "I look forward to it." The bot leans down, and Optimus ducks away, seemingly accidentally, as Ultra tries to kiss him. There's a tiny sigh from the larger bot, making Optimus give a tiny secretive smile, and Ultra murmurs, "Would you like to go back to your place, Optimus? Or possibly go to a movie? Or anything else you'd like to do with me?"

Finishing the energon, Optimus smiles, "I wouldn't mind walking back with you to my apartment." He won't be inviting the mech in; it wouldn't be proper this early in their relationship. But he's willing to . . . kiss. He flushes at the thought.

He slips from Ultra's lap, setting the cube on the table, and waits as the larger mech stands up. He deftly steps out of the way again when the other bot tries to hold his servo, and they walk out of the door.

There are far too many bots on the street, and Ultra keeps walking a little bit closer as they head back to his apartment. He's trying to find a subject to talk about that would distract the mech from holding servos in such a public view, but he's not really sure what to talk about. Not when he wants to hold servos. He looks down, frowning, he just wishes all the other bots weren't on the street or watching them.

"We should do this more often, Optimus," Ultra says quietly, letting his fingers brush against Optimus's servo. Optimus feels like if he blushes anymore, his entire frame is going to end up red.

As long as he doesn't try holding servos, he'll allow the touches, Optimus decides. And do his best to keep his own traitorous servo from latching onto the other mech. Primus, what he wouldn't give for a transwarping ability like Skywarp has; he could be at his door already, and unafraid of asking Ultra Magnus for a kiss.

"I... I think I'd like it more if we do this in a less public place next time." With his team to help chaperone, as well.

"That would be a wonderful idea. Is there anything specific you'd like to do?" Ultra brushes a servo along his back, and Optimus deftly moves back out of reach.

"I'll think about it, Ultra," he promises, spark fluttering nervously in his chest.

They reach his apartment complex soon enough, and Optimus is still surprised by it. He'd never believed he'd be living in such a central part of the city, so close to Autobot Command. Or that it would be quite so—large. Walking in, past the security guard—really, there's a guard stationed there, and Optimus can never get over the way he salutes him every time he goes past him—they wait for the elevator.

"I meant to ask if you liked your new residence, Optimus," Ultra smiles at him, brushing a servo against him. The angle is wrong for the guard to see, so Optimus doesn't mind it.

Optimus shifts from one ped to the other, "It's nice." They step in the elevator together—a very large one, and they both fit in easily. "I wasn't expecting an entire floor to myself." Or that he'd have the top floor apartment.

Ultra makes another try for his servo, and Optimus lets him just as the door closes, "It is fitting for the hero of cybertron to have such a nice place to live."

Stepping a little bit closer, Optimus shakes his head, "It is too large, Ultra. I barely use two of the rooms."

"But it was part of your reward for saving everyone from the Decepticons, don't you think you deserve it?"

He doesn't, not really, but he can't say that. Instead he just looks at his peds and mumbles something that could be an affirmitive or any number of things.

"You own it," Ultra sounds terribly amused. "We made sure of that. I know you, Optimus. If we'd not given you a place, you'd be staying in the Autobot barracks. I'm sure you'd even turn down the officer's quarters there."

Optimus flushes. He had been planning on that.

They step out to the alcove between the elevator and his apartment, and Ultra leans down, "Am I allowed to kiss you goodnight, Optimus?"

He tilts his head down, and looks up at the mech from the cornor of his optic, "I... I'd like one, Ultra. If it isn't too forward, I mean."

"It is not," Ultra replies, and he leans down to kiss him.

Optimus offlines his optics to enjoy it better, sighing gently against his lips. His sigh turns into a gasp when he feels Ultra's glossa, which slips into his mouth, rubbing gently against his own. He reaches up and clutches at Ultra's shoulders, so incredibly grateful now that he has the floor to himself.

He's pulled up into Ultra's arms, a servo on his aft holding him up. He breaks the kiss, ducking his head, and blushes brightly. Ultra seems to take that as an invitation to kiss one of his head fins. Gasping softly, he leans into the touch.

Ultra chuckles softly before there's a wet flick of glossa on the fin, making his spark jump in his chest and his engine give out a happy purr. He blushes brightly, and pushes away, "That's enough, Ultra."

Ultra gives him a disappointed look, but sets him down. "Would you like to-"

"Go into my apartment by myself? Yes." He gets up onto his tiptoes, and gives Ultra a chaste kiss on the lips, pulling away before it could get deepened again. "I had a good night," his engine roars its agreement, and he blushes deeply. He rushes through his door before he can embarrass himself more than he already has.

There's a slight thump against his door. Optimus stares at it for a klik, but the sound doesn't come again. His spark is throbbing in his chest in a way it rarely does, and he jerks his servo away when he realizes he's been rubbing his sparkplates.

He needs to—have some private time. In his berth.

Optimus stares at the news station in dismay. He'd onlined so nicely, to sweet thoughts of Ultra Magnus and his teammates. His energon dispenser had stopped trying to give him expensive grades of energon that were utterly wasteful, and had finally given him the generic, average-grade that he'd grown accustomed to on Earth. And then he'd made the mistake of checking the news.

It is showing pictures of the date. He's blushing so hard in them, and there's a long recording of Ultra feeding him energon. They keep showing it. Over and over. He turns the volume off as the news bots talk about how happy they are Optimus and Ultra are dating while looking forward to doing more articles on them, and hides his face in his servos.

He lays there for a klik, and raises a servo to his temple. "Cliffjumper?"

"Yes, Optimus Prime, sir?" the bot replies promptly.

"I'm not feeling well this solar cycle." There are no vital meetings or events he has scheduled, so he doesn't feel too awful canceling them. "Please reschedule or reassign the appointments I had planned. I won't be coming in."

"Prime, sir, do you need a medic to stop by?" Cliffjumper sounds terribly concerned. "I'm sure Ratchet could come-"

"That won't be necessary, Cliffjumper," Optimus stares at the screen again, and studies the images of himself sitting on Ultra's lap. He can't believe he was acting like that in public. "I'm sure I will be feeling fine tomorrow." He won't.

"Yes, sir. I'll clear all your appointments."

Optimus disconnects, and sits up. Staring down at his energon, he pushes it away; he's going to need something stronger than that to deal with this. He goes to one of the unused rooms, since none of them have the settings messed with, and selects high grade to drink.

It is really far too expensive of high grade for his tastes, but he's pretty sure the one he modified will give him only the energon he prefers, and not high grade at all. Flipping through the channels, his spark sinks; they've preempted everything just to show off their date.

He freezes, and jams up the volume when he sees a video of the kiss. How did that even get recorded? There's no volume, which he's grateful for, since he's pretty sure he most likely made very embarrassing noises when Ultra picked him up. ... and when he was being fondled. He wants to hide his face, but he needs to see how much was filmed. This is both easier and way harder to watch than those vids of Scatterstar 'facing Skywarp; easier because he knows there isn't going to be porn, and harder because it is him.

He hides his face behind his servos, still peeking out, when Ultra starts to lick his head fin. Just watching is making his spark jump with want, but he's grateful when video him pulls away, gives the larger mech a tiny kiss, and rushes back into his apartment. He's a bit surprised that the video stays on, and Ultra thumps an arm on his door. That gets cut off, and the news bot smiles brightly, "And then Ultra Magnus stays watching the door for a full two cycles! He must miss visiting Optimus Prime on earth, where he wasn't expected to get back somewhere in a certain time."

Optimus flips channels until he finds another shot of the kiss, and he forces himself to study the angle of the footage. Taking a deep swallow of high-grade, he stands and pulls out his axe, exiting his apartment. Cursing himself silently as a fool, he finds the bug easily, and crushes it as brutal and swift as possible. It would have been easier to track down the owner with it functioning, but it feels good to have destroyed the thing. He dumps the shattered remains on the floor and goes back into his apartment, engaging all the locks on the door before slumping down over his energon cube.

Slag. All that work he's put into getting away from the rumors when he was younger, and he's still managed to end up on the news networks. With actual footage. It's only a matter of time until his friends start calling him. Optimus disables his com. He doesn't want to talk to anyone right now.

He curls up on his side on the couch, nursing his cube of high grade, and looking through the channels. They're mainly playing the footage of them on the date, focusing on him getting pulled into Ultra's lap and being fed energon. He's thankful that it does only seem to be the shadier channels that are playing the one from the hidden camera.

Eventually, he wants nothing more than to shut the video feeds off. He can't. It's his responsibility to find out exactly how slagged he is, and to come up with some way to fix this. Primus, he wishes he'd had the courage to just ask for a traditional courtship. Then Ultra Magnus could have told him he wasn't interested and Optimus could sequester himself away in his office and forget about it all.

No. He knew precisely why he hadn't done that. He wanted Ultra to court him, and couldn't stand the possibility that the mech would deny him. Optimus finishes the energon. He was such a slagging idealistic idiot.

He gets up, and gets another cube of high grade, drinking it slowly as he realizes more and more channels are showing his apartment building. Walking over to a window, he looks out, and sees a great deal of bots just... standing around. Peering out of an open window, he sees several that he knows he can hit, even from this height, if he dropped energon on them. Looking down at them, and looking back at his cube in his servo, he shakes his head, and shutters all of the windows on the rooms he uses shut and dark. Pausing for a moment, he also shutters off a few other rooms randomly, not wanting the bots to know what ones he uses with any regularity.

The news blares the development that he did that, and he can't help but groan. Maybe he should throw energon at them; from one of the lit up rooms, of course. Or maybe one of the cans of food Sari left him. Most of the bots here freak out about organic things, and he can clearly label it so they scatter. He drinks more high grade, and that idea gets better with every passing moment. He's about to do that when the news chatters brightly about how Ultra is leaving the Autobot headquarters in his vehicle mode, and is clearly heading straight to Optimus.

Ignoring the speculation that the reason Ultra is showing up is because Optimus called for the mech, he goes over to his door. Programming it so no one but him can get in, he makes a face at it. He's never been happier than now that Sari taught him how to lock Ultra out, even if he wasn't happy about learning at the time. Normally Ultra would be the one bot no one could lock out, and Optimus wouldn't want to keep out, but right now he doesn't even want to see the mech. He's still fairly sure that if he saw Ultra, he'd just want to climb into the bot's lap and curl up to soak up the comforting heat.

He's deeply troubled by the fact that there are more reporters outside for his dating than there had been when he'd come back to Cybertron after the war ended. Though to be fair to them, not as many would have known where he'd been staying at that point. It's not long until there's a gentle knock on his door.

"Optimus?" he shivers at the voice, wants to hear it whispering comforting promises in his audio. "You called in sick today. Was it because of the news? Or do I need to take you to a medic?"

There's a rattle of the doorknob, and he can almost see the mech's frown at that. He drinks a little more of his high grade, not sure if he wants to respond, and the door rattles louder. "Optimus? Your team is worried about you, since you're not answering com calls or texts."

He smiles, glad Ultra realizes that mentioning his team will actually get an answer. "I don't need a medic, Ultra. Leave me be."

The door stops moving, "... are you okay, Optimus?"

"I'm fine," he lies, and puts the cube down. He shouldn't be getting overcharged around Ultra Magnus. There's a reason for that—he's pretty sure it's because he'll say things he shouldn't. "There are bots outside."

"There are," Ultra says cautiously.

Optimus covers his face with a servo, "I'm on the news, Ultra. You're kissing me on the news. I-" He stops, spark aching in his chest. "I worked so hard to get past the rumors when I was in the Academy. Everyone's going to start insinuating that I got my position with my spark."

"No, they won't, Optimus. You defeated the Decepticons," Ultra's voice is serious and upset.

He snatches the cube back up, and sips on it again, ""Yes, they will. This is always how it goes for me. Something fantastic happens, then something terrible makes all the good things useless."

"Do you think that all the news reports are going to make Cybertron hate you, or me want to stop dating you?"

He makes a face at his cube of high grade before putting it back on the table, "I don't care if Cybertron hates me, it isn't like they haven't before."

"Then what about me dating you? I don't want to stop."

Optimus glares at the door, "I do. This isn't the type of dating I wanted, anyway."

There's a long pause, "... are you... overcharged, Optimus?"

He glances over at the cube, "... a little?"

"I'm coming in." The door rattles, and he can feel Ultra hitting it all the way across the room.

"Don't you dare, Ultra Magnus! There is a reason the door is locked so you can't get in!" He flops on the couch, "I want a traditional courting. One of the long ones, so I can be sure I'm loved, but no one wants to go through a long courting. Ever. And now you are going to refuse to date me, and I really like you, and you won't wan-"

"Optimus! You're rambling."

He glares at the door, and picks up the cube to drink again, "I want a traditional courting. If you don't want to court me, you can go away."

"You're serious about this, Optimus?"

"Yes." Optimus stares at the energon intently.

There's noise on the other side of his door, "I'll be back shortly, Optimus. Don't run off while I'm gone."

He has absolutely no intention of leaving his apartment this solar cycle. Turning the volume back on, he watches the news stations. Primus, he looks like such a fragging slutbot perched on Ultra's lap like that, blushing every time Ultra smiled at him.

"-appears that Ultra Magnus wishes to issue a statement. We bring it to you live, here on NDC, the news you can trust." The anchorbot smiles and the screen fills up with Ultra Magnus's familiar form.

Optimus leans forward, and Ultra smiles serenely at the crowd of reporterbots. "There is quite a bit of speculation about the nature of my relationship with Optimus Prime. We have decided together to quell the rumors before they have a chance to become potentially vicious or hurtful." He presses a hand to his chest, "We are planning a traditional courtship." Cameras flash and the bots start pressing him with questions, but Optimus doesn't hear any of the replies Ultra might be giving.

He leans back. He'd . . . he'd agreed to the courtship?

Watching the screen blankly, he puts a servo up to his temple, "Ratchet?"

"Courting?," comes the yelled reply, making him wince, "Are you serious? I bet you're going to ask me to come over there right now, aren't you?"

His optics flick over Ultra's face, his cheeks heating up, "Would you?"

There's the sound of irritable cursing, and he can't help but smile, "I'm bringing Arcee with me. I know you two idiots want to go on a date or something together, and I may as well have her with me to deal with it."

"Thank you, Ratchet."

"You're an idiot sometimes, Prime, and I want to know how you got him to agree to it, but you know we're gonna support you in this." And Ratchet cuts the call off before Optimus can reply.

Ultra Magnus has finished answering questions, and the footage shows him waiting patiently at the door to the building. He lifts a servo to his temple. Optimus hopes that's Ratchet informing him he'll be there soon.

Then the station cuts away, and the anchorbot smiles brilliantly, "Well, that was unexpected. Who would have thought that our favorite bots were planning a traditional courtship? We wish them the best of luck." Optimus wants to offline when they put up images of the both of them. Why in Primus's name had they felt the need to use an old picture of his Cybertronian form?

Standing up, he makes a face at the screen, and cleans up what little mess he made while watching the news. After that's finished, he debates if he should just shutter open all the windows, or shutter them all shut. Looking around at how dark it is, he lets in the light, but avoids looking out the window; he doesn't want to deal with some unscrupulous reporter trying to get him before the official start of the courting.

There will still be rumors floating around, but they'll be contained mostly in unscrupulous tabloids. The same kind that keep insisting he is in some bizarre orgiastic relationship with all of his teammates. As if he would ever engage in such an activity. He's only ever displayed his spark to a bot other than his medic on one occasion, and he tries to keep the memory of that dark point in his existence out of his processor.

He goes to the dispenser and gets several cubes of energon—they'll need them, he's sure.

He's setting them down when there's a com call from Lockdown, "So! Optimus. I heard you're going into a traditional courting."

He pauses, and takes a small sip from his own cube, "I am."

"Did you know," Lockdown's voice is smooth and convincing, Optimus is on edge instantly, "it is allowed for family bots to take pictures and publish them in their own news of the courting couples by themselves and not with a group of other courting couples?"

He rubs his temples, "No, Lockdown, I did not. I do now, though. Are you going to tell me that you are considered a family bot?"

"Prowl has me 'n' Jazz as his emergency contacts, so I'd say I count," he agrees. "But you know they're gonna report on you both. I'm proposing—No, Prowl. Contact him on your own time. I don't care that he's ignoring your coms. I am trying to make a business deal here." He sounds irritated, "Prowler says hello. And something about kicking your aft for not answering his messages."

"Did you have a point, Lockdown?" He's starting to get a processor-ache, and it's only partly due to the highgrade filtering through his systems.

"Of course I do. I want to publish stuff about you and that Magnus of yours. I'll let you both check the articles before we send out the files."

Optimus groans, "I want to have a article with me before I say yes or no to this."

There's a knock on the door as Lockdown chuckles, "I wouldn't do anything else."

Walking over, he checks who's there; Ultra, Ratchet and Arcee, of course. "That's good," he opens the door, "but I have final say yes or no." the mech is making celebratory noises as Optimus gestures the three bots in, "But the answer will most likely be no, Lockdown. I don't care that it is allowed. That doesn't mean I'll like it. Everything must be tasteful."

"Please," the mech scoffs, "you think Prowler and Jazz would keep 'facing me if I intentionally published trash about you? I'm not a glitchhead, and I remember when traditional courtships happened all the time. You're in safe servos with me, kid."

"We'll see." He's still on the wrong side of overcharged, and he's not going to make any decisions right now.

"Should have one of the family meeting stages on our ship, kid," Lockdown offers. "Plenty of room for all of you tiny little bots. And Magnus, of course."

"Would Bee and Sunstorm's sparkling be safe up on the Death's Head, Lockdown?" Optimus gestures everyone to sit down, shaking his head when they look like they want to say something.

"As long as you give me a solar cycle in advance warning, we can make it sparkling safe."

He sighs, "We'll think about it. I need to talk to Ratchet, Arcee, and Ultra now, so I'm going to hang up." He cuts it before Lockdown can say anything.

Ratchet gives him a dirty look, "So Lockdown can get through to you, but your actual team only gets a blocked signal?"

Optimus sits across from Ultra Magnus. "You know very well that Lockdown uses com frequencies that can't be blocked. It's either answer him or listen to your com chime for the megacycles he's willing to let it ring." He wobbles slightly when gesturing at the energon on the table, "Please, have something to drink."

Ratchet eyes him suspiciously, lifting a finger to move back and forth in front of Optimus's face. He tracks the motion, and blinks hard. "Primus, are you overcharged, Optimus?"

He looks away, "... not as much as I could be?"

Ratchet glares at him, "Did you spend this entire time drinking?"

"I stopped when Ultra announced we're doing traditional courting?"

Ultra looks like he wants to reach over and hold Optimus's servos, and in fact, does actually reach over; Arcee smacks the mech hard across the back of the servo, like he's a disobedient sparkling. Ratchet continues as if he doesn't notice, glaring the entire time, "You cut off com calls so you could drink and mope."

"I," he gropes for a word, "panicked. Just a bit."

"Oh, I'd say it was more than just a bit, Prime," Ratchet grumbles, pulling out a medical scanner. "Open up an access port. You know the routine."

Sighing, Optimus holds out an arm, letting a panel there slide open. It'll do him no good to argue at this point. "I'm not that overcharged, Ratchet."

"I'll be the judge of that," comes the grumbled reply. The medical scanner is plugged in with more force than strictly necessary, "You're more overcharged than you should be, that's for certain." Ratchet looks like he wants to smack him but only isn't because Arcee would protest. "I'm draining some of this out, and you're not drinking any more of that cube in front of you."

"I wouldn't even dream of ignoring my medic's orders," he smiles.

Ratchet finishes draining the excess energon with a glare. "You ignore my orders all the time, Prime." Shaking his head, he closes the access panel much harder than necessary. "So," he looks at the both of them, "you're serious about the courtship?"

If he wasn't busy with a sudden processor ache, he'd be incredibly happy and be shouting, instead he nods sedately, rubbing his temples, "I am."

Ultra straightens up, "I would not have said it if I wasn't."

Ratchet gives them a dirty look, "And I'm betting you're going to ask me and Arcee to be your escorts for most of the dates, aren't you?"

Optimus shifts uncomfortably, "I don't know many couples I would trust in such a capacity, Ratchet. If it truly upsets you, we will find someone else-"

"Oh, shut your trap, Optimus. You know I'm willing." The medibot yelps and glares at Arcee, who waves her servo at him warningly.

"I will hit you again if I have to." She smiles at Optimus. "We'd love to escort and share dates with you."

Optimus smiles at her, "Thank you, Arcee. I'm also planning on asking Prowl and Jazz." Ratchet and Arcee look at each other, so he contiues reluctantly, "Lockdown will also be invited, but I was planning on doing something he'd hate on that date so he refuses." He coughs into his servo, "I'll be seeing about Bee and Sunstorm, but that is really unlikely."

Arcee nods with understanding, "A Seeker might not be the most appropriate of bots to chaperone. I have a feeling he'd be cheering you on, rather than making sure your touches stay within acceptable bounds."

Across the table, Ultra Magnus watches him. "How formal do you want this to be, Optimus? I fear I won't be able to live up to my side of it." He takes the energon cube in his servo, "I don't want you to feel as if you're supporting the entire thing."

He looks down at his servos, "I'd like it to be as formal as we can make it. I wouldn't feel like I'm supporting it, though. I know you don't have much family, Ultra, you wouldn't be expected to do that much."

Ultra gives him a hesitant smile, "I'll see what I can do." There's a pause, and the mech frowns, "Jazz is calling me, a moment, please."

Ratchet leans in and whispers to Optimus, "How many credits you wanna bet that Jazz wants to know why Magnus didn't tell him about this personally?"

"I'm not willing to take a bet intended to make me lose," Optimus replies, just as quietly.

Frowning, Ultra's servo twitches—the one he holds his hammer in, Optimus notes. "No, Jazz. I was planning on calling you later." A long pause, "You heard about it from Lockdown first because Lockdown is incapable of keeping his mouth shut for more than half a klik."

Ultra turns around, and Optimus takes this time to watch the mech's aft. "Are you sure? I thought you wanted to be part of Op- No! Of course not. I would love to count you as part of my family. But I thought you'd stop since I put you with Sentinel so much. Yes, you were there because you never would have tried to kill him, no matter how bad he got."

Optimus hides his smile when Ultra turns back to the table, "Can we talk about this later? I'm sure you'll be dropping reports off sometime soon. Come by my office when you do." A pause, "Yes. It's good to hear from you too. Goodbye."

He sits once more, "Jazz wishes to be part of my side of this. I'm not sure what the protocol is for that, when it comes to gatherings, considering his relationship with Prowl." His lips twist a bit, "And Lockdown."

Optimus does actually smile, "We'll come to that when we have the family gatherings." He wants to reach over to take Ultra's servo, but knows that Arcee will hit him if he tries. "Would you like to do another date?"

The larger mech straightens in his seat, "If Arcee and Ratchet are willing, so am I."

Arcee gives Ultra an amused look, "We told you we are. This will have to be something we all will have fun with, and what you want to do."

"I'm sure we'll think of something, Arcee."

Nervousness sometimes made Optimus long for the comfort of a warm berth. He was not nervous right now. His family was about to meet, and judge, Ultra Magnus. It was one of many opportunities for them to reject his formal courtship, and if they did so . . . Optimus would have to settle for something less. After this sign of commitment, he wasn't going to give Ultra up, but he really, truly hoped that his friends and family could accept them.

They really are on the Death's Head, and he's watching Bee run around after his little sparkling, Firefly. As the tiny mech giggles loudly and fires off his mock-weaponry, Optimus realizes the little bot was named quite well. Ultra is talking to the various bots, and he frowns slightly as Sari is clearly disapproving of him.

Ultra is a good mech. He wishes that Sari would let go of the grudge she holds against him, but understands that she does have some valid reasons for her to be upset. Still. His spark wouldn't be jumping so unsteadily if he wasn't so worried about it all.

It does not help that Optimus is still not fond of this ship. Even after the remodel that Prowl and Jazz insisted on, it still reminds him of being strapped down and helpless. Without the amazing escape abilities that the ninjabots possessed.

He shudders, and Prowl drops next to him from wherever he was hiding, most likely the ceiling, saying, "Does he make you happy, Optimus?"

Glancing at the motorcyclebot, he smiles, "So far?" There's a nod. "Yes. Very."

Prowl flashes him a grin, "Can I rip his head off if he hurts you?"


"Spoilsport." He pats Optimus's shoulder comfortingly, "Not enjoying the ship? It's understandable. We repainted and tried to make it look less like a mad sciencebot's lair, and it still creaks in horrifying ways in the middle of a recharge cycle."

He watches as Sunstorm grabs Firefly out of the air and gets set back in Bumblebee's arms, "I hope Ultra doesn't agree to have the next meeting here."

Prowl looks at him from the corner of an optic, "He won't be. Jazz is going to apologize but say the ship is unavailable if we're asked."

He frowns,"That isn't fair, though. He should be allowed to have the choice, Prowl."

He's patted soothingly on his back, "No, it really won't be available, Optimus. You aren't supposed to have the family meeting in the same place if you can help it."

Optimus vents a quite sigh of relief. He isn't happy that a location has been taken away from Ultra's choices, but he doesn't want to spend his time here again. "I should read up on the courtship traditions. I seem to have missed that one."

"Not a lot of traditional courtships in recent times," Prowl admits. "Though you'll be interested to note that over a dozen couples have announced they intend to undergo it as well, and cited you two as their inspiration."

Optimus smiles, "I wonder if they realize we're going the most formal version we can."

"Doubtful, they were all clearly interfacing before declaring courtship." Prowl looks at him, voice dropping, "You want to bond at the end of this, don't you?"

He looks down, "I know you don't like it, ninjabot that you are, but I really want it. Hopefully when we first interface, or a little bit after."

"Have you told him?"

He looks down at Ultra, who is pointing at Lockdown and clearly asking Sari why she likes the bounty hunter instead of him, and sighs, "No one wants to bond anymore, Prowl." His voice drops to a soft whisper, and his shoulders droop, "No one but me."

Prowl rubs his shoulder reassuringly, "You won't know that unless you give him a chance, Optimus." He smiles, "We live a long time. It'll work out eventually."

Optimus sighs, "We'll see, Prowl."

"On the upside, I'm almost certain that part of Sari's dislike for Ultra Magnus stems from the AllSpark whispering what a good couple the two of you make."

He gives a soft laugh, "I'm pretty sure a large chunk of that disapproval stems from separating us from her when she needed us."

Prowl pushes him gently, "I'm trying to comfort you, don't ignore it."

What would comfort him would be a hug and, he flushes, a kiss from Ultra Magnus. It's unfortunate that he can't have either for quite a while. He likes kissing him.

Prowl follows his gaze. "I'm also here to keep you from running over to Ultra while he's supposed to be impressing the rest of us."

He sighs, "He doesn't seem to be doing that, does he?"

Prowl shrugs, "This early in the courtship, we're only really supposed to see if he does actually like you, and isn't just trying to get at your spark." Prowl tilts his head, "He does like you, by the way. But he's also trying to figure out the best way to convince you to get on the berth."

"I had guessed that," Optimus can't stop the flush the thought provokes. He's not going to lie to himself; he's thought about interfacing with Ultra, but it is far too soon to actually do anything about it. His spark is his life force. He can't just share that with anyone.

Prowl smirks, "It's my turn to go provoke Ultra, Optimus. Can you stay up here?" At his nod, Prowl launches himself from the overhang they were sitting on, and lands lightly on his peds.

Sunstorm picks up Sari, and brings her up to sit with him before dropping back to the ground floor. Shaking his head, he murmurs, "Think I'll ever get used to an actual flier in the family?"

Sari glares down at the seeker, "I have a jetpack. He didn't have to do that." Turning to him, she smiles, "No. You never ever will. Not even when Firefly is all grown up and harassing you for something."

Having sparklings running around was, well, it made him want one of his own. He glanced at Ultra. Surely, if he'd wanted a sparkling, he'd have had one by now. Something more to discuss during their courtship. Optimus would try not to push if Ultra didn't want any. "The seeker sparklings are all very . . . strong-willed. Already." He smiles.

She laughs, "They are." They watch as Firefly giggles madly and tries to buzz Ultra, only to be caught gently and handed back to Bee. "... I don't like Ultra, Optimus."

He sighs, "I know, Sari. If he really bothers you so much I... I..." He isn't sure what to say, he wants to tell her he'd stop being with him but his spark protests unhappily at the thought.

She sighs, "I'm not saying don't be with him, Optimus. He adores you, you adore him, etc, etc, etc." She waves a servo negligently, "I just don't like him. He wants to shove you into a berth, and ugh, interface the hell out of you. While you want to just be told how loved you are and held until you feel safe." She sighs, "But he's willing to wait for you."

"I appreciate your honesty, Sari." Even if it does occasionally embarrass him. Or when she explains where organic sparklings come from. "Does the . . . AllSpark have anything to say about it?"

She makes a face at him. "Only a fucking lot. Mostly, I keep getting told what beautiful sparklings you two would have."

He looks down at her, a hopeful look on his face, "Do you think they'll be femmes?"

She crosses her arms and looks away, muttering angrily, "I don't want them to be femmes."

Optimus frowns, "Why not, Sari?"

"I just don't, okay?" She doesn't look up.

He pulls her onto his lap, and pets her gently on her back, "Is it because I'll be 'replacing' you?" he makes little quotation marks with his fingers in front of her where she can see it only to get slapped away.


He pets her softly, peds swinging gently on the overhang, "Tell me?"

He's glared at, "No."

"Please, Sari? I want to know why you don't want me to have beautiful femmes for sparklings."

She wraps her arms around herself, "I don't want them treated like me, okay?"

"Are the other bots still treating you like-"

"Like some kind of whore?" She interrupts angrily. "Yes, Optimus. Yes, they are. And they're all so fragging interested because I'm 'even smaller than a minibot' and I've got this fucking spark-paint on my chest."

He rubs her back, "I'm sorry. If I could make them stop, I would. I'm just not sure how. I could come and walk with you more often? Perhaps that would show the bots that-"

"That their courting Prime is wasting his time with a techno-organic hooker?"

"Don't say that," he frowns at her. "We love you, and we will find some way to get the bots to shut up about it." Optimus smiles, "Hey, if I could get past all those rumors about working my way up the ranks with . . . less than noble means, we'll find something for you too."

She glares at him, then leans against his servo, "I hate it here."

He pets her hair, "We can have you move back to earth again?"

She shakes her head, "That's even worse, and I've told you that. I won't even be able to see you guys unless you hop on a space bridge and have more free time than you'd ever really get."

"We could find a different neighborhood for you?" Optimus stops and considers it. "Perhaps someplace with a lot of ninjbabots? You'd get better treatment there."

"Any of those around here, Optimus?" Sari sounds doubtful, and Optimus shifts uncomfortably.

He should have investigated this immediately upon returning to Cyberton, rather than allow the council to offer a place for her. They probably settled her into the midst of bots they weren't that fond of. "I'll look into it," he offers. "They can be a bit pricey, and you need a recommendation from other ninjabots, but I'm sure Prowl and Jazz will offer that." He rubs the back of his head, "And I've got all this backpay from the time on Earth that I'm never going to use—seeing as they gave me a home."

She shakes her head. "No, Optimus. Don't you dare dip into your money to buy me a home. I don't need you to do that."

"But what if I want to, Sari?"

She curls up on him, "... no. Not... not yet. Maybe it is too early to tell if they'll calm down about this, and I'm over reacting."

Optimus pets her back, "You'll call me if you take me up on the offer? Or one of team?"

She frowns, but nods, "Yeah. I can do that. But I'm hoping I'm just suffering from new kid at school syndrome." He gives her a confused look. "Where the new kid moves in the middle of the school year, and all the other kids make fun of them until they settle in and know their way around."

"Just remember we're here for you." He rubs her back again, and looks up to find Ultra watching him. The way those optics flash at him . . . Optimus flushes, and Sari laughs.

"Are you flirting with him? Seriously?"

"How did you-"

She taps his chest. "You got all warm." Optimus is sure his face is red now.

She pats him on his servo, and he mumbles, "I can't help it."

"I know." She glances down at the ground floor, "I'm heading back down. Want me to send someone up?" He shrugs at her helplessly, and she smirks, "Lockdown to explain more about formal courtship, it is."

Fantastic. He watches her fly down with her jetpack, and shivers at the way Lockdown smiles at her. That was- He was not looking forward to this conversation. He knew the bounty hunter had changed, but they were not friends by any means.

Optimus vented a careful sigh. It didn't help matters that with Prowl and Jazz's relationship, Lockdown would be getting to vote twice.

He watches as Lockdown walks off the ground floor, and turns around to wait for him to come up, not wanting to expose his back. When the mech shows up, Optimus is torn between offering to let the bot sit next to him or telling him to leave. Lockdown takes the choice away by dropping down next to him and going, "So, Optimus, how traditional and formal are you going with this?"

He frowns at the mech, "As much as possible."

"That mean absolutely no 'facing through the entire thing?" Lockdown's tone is light, genuinely curious and not insulting at all.

"... I hope so."

"That kinda courtship usually ends in a bonding, you know?" The bounty hunter, looks at him from the corner of his optics. "Hoping that old Magnus'll bond his spark to yours?"

"Are you mining for quotes for the article you intend to write?" Optimus doesn't want to frighten Magnus off. He'll talk about a bonding with him. Later. When they've been together longer.

"Can't fool you, but I can leave it out if you want. You'll get first look through the article, and can cut any bits before handing it to your intended to look over," Lockdown gives him a smug look.

He sighs, "I've seen your writing, you know. How terribly written will these be?"

Lockdown smirks, "Even worse than normal. If you want, I'll even throw in spelling errors and terrible metaphors. The bots will still buy it, anyway. Since they only want the pictures, and don't really care about the rest."

Optimus examines him critically, "And how many of the pictures will actually focus on Ultra or myself?" He's nearly positive that Lockdown will be using this as a way to show off his ninjabot lovers.

"Some of 'em," Lockdown shrugs. "Gotta keep the audience hooked somehow."

Lockdown taps his lips with his hook, "Think I could get Sari to sit on Ultra's lap?"

Looking down at the ground floor, Sari being hugged enthusiastically by Firefly and patting him indulgently on the head while not looking very happy herself. "Maybe. She does like you, even if she doesn't like him," he tries to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

Lockdown looks like he wants to slap him on the back, but doesn't, "He just needs to bribe her with something she thinks is useful. Not give her sparkfelt apologies. She knows he's sorry, she is still angry at him."

Optimus rubs a servo over his face, "If you have any suggestions, they would be appreciated."

The older mech shrugs, "Dunno of anything right now, but I'll keep an optic out for you. You're family by association now." He grins broadly, and Optimus carefully disguises his shiver.

Twice family, really, because of Jazz being in Ultra's grouping, but he's not going to bother to remind the bounty hunter, he already knows and adores it. "You done talking to me, then?"

"Not in the least. You never answered if you wanted to bond or not. Prowl said you do, but I want to hear it from you. Kind of important to know if I'm supposed to explain about the courtship in depth, Optimus."

He doesn't want to tell Lockdown this, but he nods. "I would like to. A lot."

"If you do this the way you told Prowl you're going, you're going to have to pull out the allspark and 'face with it near you your first time together."

"You, what," Optimus feels his frame heat with embarrassment. "You are making that up." None of the material he'd ever seen had mentioned that.

Lockdown arches an optic ridge, "'Fraid not, kid. It's one hundred percent legit." He grins, "Could pull up some old archival footage of it, if you don't believe me."

He offlines his optics, wanting proof, but- "How much spark is showing in the video?"

Lockdown barks a laugh, "More than you'd want to see, you prissy little firetruck."

He sighs, "Then I'll just ask Prowl or Ratchet confirm it for me."

The bounty hunter makes an indistinct noise, "So I take it that's a 'no' on having witnesses for your bonding?"

Witnesses? Other bots? He feels his optics widen, "There have to be witnesses?"

Lockdown slaps his own thigh and laughs, loud and harsh. "Oh, Primus, kid. The look on your face." He lowers his voice when he realizes everyone is staring at them now. "Naw, you don't have to have them. It's more traditional if you do, but plenty of bots chose to keep it private."

Optimus vents an enormous sigh of relief, pressing a servo to his chest to calm his fluttering spark. "Thank Primus."

"You'll need to be just the way the AllSpark built you."

He blinks. "What?"

"No mods, no Earth altmodes, just the way you were sparked," Lockdown grins. "Those metal plates on your Cybertronian form? The ones behind the transparent blue glass? Those will have to go."

He gives the mech a horrified look, "I've always had the plates, though!"

The other bot shakes his head, "No you didn't. Your model type never did. They put those on you when you were still onlining to hide your spark. I'm betting the Allspark is kind of irritated at the bots that did it to you."

He fidgets, "I . . . other bots have to see me with my spark exposed like that?"

Lockdown actually pats his back this time, "Not if you keep the bonding private." He grins wide and lecherous, "And I'm sure Ultra Magnus won't be complaining."

Optimus shudders, imagining the prying optics and even worse rumors and accusations if he hadn't had the metal plates, not caring that Ultra would like it now. "How private can I make a private bonding in a formal courtship?"

The bounty hunter shrugs, "At the very least, you're going to want Sari to be the one to send you off, even if you kick the rest of the family out. She's Allspark blessed, Optimus, and you want the Allspark to bless you." There's a slight pause, "But with the way you had a clear chestplate, you were slightly blessed, too. I bet it is pissed at you for changing into the earth alt and keeping it." Another pause, "And for punching it into a lot of tiny pieces."

"I didn't have a lot of choice about that," he protests. "Should I have politely asked Megatron to remove the AllSpark from his chest?" Optimus crosses his arms over his chest in memory, "I was a bit distracted by the energy beam it was shooting me with."

Lockdown shrugs, "I didn't say you had many options, just that it isn't happy with you for it. It most likely is forgiving you since you collected most of it back into a single Allspark ball." Lockdown looks at the ground floor, "You're going to have to ask Sari what it thinks of the courting. Most likely forgiving you instantly if you go all the way through with it."

"That's comforting." His optics search for Ultra's familiar frame. He seems to be doing quite well, and the thought of his family accepting the bot warms his spark. Optimus can only hope he will do as well when it is his turn to meet the bots that make up Ultra's family.

Pushing up to his peds, Lockdown offers Optimus a servo, which he takes. Standing together, Lockdown grins at him, "You're always welcome to ask questions about this stuff, kid. There's plenty of info on it, but you might want some insight from a bot who actually saw it happen." Lockdown pauses. "Literally, in one case. Witnessin's always an interesting thing to participate in."

Suddenly aware of how the mech got that footage he was offered earlier, Optimus shudders. "I suppose you want us to pose for you now?"

They start walking down to the ground floor, "At least one of the both of you looking holding servos and looking into each other's optics all sappy in love." The bot smirks at him, "Not that it would be hard to do. What with how you look at each other from this far away."

It would be less embarrassing than the pictures the media already have of them. "I'll see what I can do." He leaves Lockdown behind and approaches Ultra, who is apparently trying to pay attention to whatever Bumblebee is telling him. Considering the wild arm movements and spinning wheels, it's probably about a race.

He steps smoothly up alongside them, "Excuse me, Bumblebee. Lockdown wants to get a few pictures of Ultra and I for his article."

"Yeah, sure thing, bossbot," the minibot grins and flashes him two thumbs up. "I'm gonna," he looks at his servos and freezes, "figure out where Firefly ran off to."

Watching him take off, Optimus shakes his head and turns to his intended, "You don't mind the pictures, right?"

Ultra holds out his servo, "As long as I get to be near you, I would agree to anything, Optimus."

Lockdown's look turns lecherous, and Optimus glares at the bounty hunter, "But you'll keep it tasteful, right?"

There's a dirty smirk, "Of course, kid. You think Prowl would let me do this any other way? And I still need to let you both look it over first."

Optimus squeezes Ultra's servo in his own, "We will, as soon as you send it to us." Sharing an amused look with Ultra Magnus, he adds, "Well, so long as you don't send it in the middle of a meeting. Or in the middle of the night."

"Pshaw, you think I'd do that to you?" When Optimus nods, Lockdown frowns, "You know me too well, kid."

Lockdown moves around them, and Ultra tilts his head, "Any specific pose that you need, Lockdown?"

The bounty hunter shakes his head, "Just look at each other, I'll move so you look better."

Ultra squeezes Optimus's servo, and he sighs in happiness, wishing more than anything that the larger mech could pull him close and... he stops that thought before he could blush too much.

He looks up, hoping his flush isn't noticeable. The smile on Ultra's face lets him know that his hope is in vain, and he heats up more. Optimus allows a few cooling fans to click on, confident that the only mech close enough to hear them is Ultra.

When Ultra's optics dim, Optimus knows he did hear the fans. It's a bit embarrassing, but less so than having his face utterly red in the pictures.

Lockdown chuckles, "Okay, kids, time to do pictures with family." The mech calls over his shoulder, "Sari. I want you to sit on Ultra's lap."

She looks up from talking with Bulkhead, "I don't want to."

"Are you sure? It will be on the top of the article Prowl and Jazz are going to write of you," the mech's tone is casual and dismissive, "But if you're so sure, we don't have to."

She stalks over, glaring at Lockdown, "Can't I be on Optimus's lap if I have to be on anyone's lap at all?"

"The article will hit harder if you're on his, Sari." The mech gently pushes her at Ultra. "Now sit back down, Magnus, you have a picture to be taken."

Optimus steps back and observes. Sari crawls up onto Ultra's lap, rather than allow him to pick her up. She settles down and glares at the camera, arms crossed over her chest.

"Um, Sari," Bumblebee bounces Firefly on one hip, ducking his head away every time the little bot makes a grab for his horns. "You might wanna, you know, smile."

She glares at the minibot, "No, I don't."

Bee backs up quickly, waving his hands in front of him placatingly, "It was just a suggestion!" The mech grabs Firefly before he can take off, and drags the sparkling into a tighter hold, "I just thought it would be a good picture for putting up of you if you're smiling."

Lockdown just shrugs, "I'm mainly focusing on her, yeah. The Magnus will just be in the background, but whatever expression she wants will work." Sari sighs and stops glaring, her arms are still crossed, but she no longer looks like she wants to rip something apart. "That is better."

The seeker comes up behind Bumblebee and pulls the minibot and sparkling up into his arms, "Oh, but don't worry, Sari. You'll look beautiful no matter what expression you make." He nuzzles his minibot, "Even if you look like you want to commit murder."

Bumblebee squirms in his arms, "You're not exactly helping, Sunstorm." Optimus has to agree, seeing as Sari is frowning again.

Optimus glances over to where Prowl and Jazz are standing, "What will this article be about? Aside from just about Sari."

Prowl smirks and Jazz looks as unruffled as ever, "Just something explaining how she should be treated better than how she is."

He turns to Sari, "I think a article saying that should have a picture of you that shows you would like to be treated better."

Lockdown scoffs, "Or it could have a picture of you killing something." Everyone but Sunstorm and Bulkhead glare at the bounty hunter, but the mech remains unaffected.

"Fine, fine, twist my arm," Sari mutters, before smiling brilliantly. "Hurry up and take the picture," she grits out between clenched teeth.

Rather than risk her temper, Lockdown does as he's told, taking several image captures. Including a few that Optimus is fairly certain were aimed at Prowl and Jazz. Or, more accurately, at Prowl and Jazz's afts.

When he's done, Sari slips off Ultra's lap. "I don't want to do that again," she snaps.

Lockdown flips through the pictures he's taken. "Don't think I'll need to, princess. If we have another article on you, it would be better if you're on your own, or with my ninjabots." The mech leers at Prowl and Jazz, only to be ignored. "Since they're the ones that are going to be doing the writing. We want things on you to actually be readable, rather than whatever nonsense I come up with."

Optimus slips forward while they squabble and bicker like sparklings, and takes Ultra's servo in his. "I think you've been doing a good job impressing them," he murmurs, rubbing his fingers against the other bot's larger ones.

"Are you sure, Optimus?" Ultra sounds a bit doubtful, and . . . nervous? "I know Sari is not fond of me. And Ratchet and Arcee have every right to be unhappy with me as well. We did not handle things with them well during the war."

He steps a tiny bit closer cautiously, not wanting to alert his family to the fact that he's doing it, "Ratchet and Arcee have been escourting us during our dates, Ultra. If they really didn't approve, they would have refused." He reaches over and takes the larger mech's free servo in his, stepping even closer. He opens his mouth to continue only to get hit soundly across the back of the head and yanked away from Ultra.

Arcee gives them both dirty looks, Optimus's arm in her servos, "Do I need to put you in seperate sides of the room?"

"No, Arcee," Optimus waits until she lets go of him to rub the back of his head. Femmes hit hard.

"If you're having a hard time keeping your servos off, pretend you're at a diplomatic function," the femme advises him. "Best to resist temptation if you can."

He wants to remind her couples at a diplomatic function are allowed to stand closer than they are, but realizes that will only get him shoved even further away. "Yes, Arcee."

She looks over at Ultra, optics narrowed, "And you?"

The mech straightens, looking very regal, "I understand completely."

"I'm sure you're both eager to hear our verdicts?" Arcee smiles at them—Optimus feels assured of at least one positive vote. Even a single negative would invalidate the courtship. His spark fluttered nervously.

They both nod, and Optimus wants to take a step closer to Ultra, but isn't sure if he'd be allowed with Arcee still holding him. She leads him over to where everyone else is gathered, and Jazz does the same with Ultra.

"I vote yes," Bumblebee says immediately, before losing his grasp on his sparkling, who immediately ignites his tiny thrusters and zips off. "Firefly! Get back here!" He jumps and tries to grab the little bot, but misses entirely.

Ultra Magnus carefully plucks Firefly out of the air when he tries to buzz him, and hands the squirming bot back to Bumblebee. "I believe you misplaced this."

Bee sighs in relief, and Sunstorm picks them both up, "I say yes, as well." The seeker's optics dart to Optimus, "I am certain your courtship will be long and fruitful."

Bulkhead smiles at them, "I know he likes you, Optimus. So, yes."

Ratchet grumbles and mutters something until Arcee elbows his side, "Frag. Yes. I already agreed to go on fraggin' dates with you two. I'm not going to say no now." Arcee smiles, "That's a yes from me as well. It'll be nice to get Ratchet to go out more often."

"You're happy," Prowl says simply. "So I approve."

Lockdown rolls his optics, "That's not really what this meeting is about. It is just asking if we think that Ultra here likes Optimus more than just as a berth partner. I bet I'm going ot have to remind everyone of that in the other meeting because you know they're going to be harder to please since they aren't as close to Ultra as ... we ..." Lockdown offlines his optics, clearly irritated he had to include himself in that. Turning them back on, he continues, "Are to Optimus." There's a pause, "Yes, I approve." He looks away muttering under his venting, "Like I'd fraggin' say no."

The only bot left to cast a vote was Sari. Optimus reaches over and clasps his servo with Ultra's. She sighs, "Yes, okay? I vote yes on this." She gives Ultra Magnus a dark glare, "You're still too fucking old for him, but the AllSpark, ugh," she covers her face with her hand. "The AllSpark is fragging in love with you two, and wants to give you its blessing."

Ultra's optic's brighten, "Does that mean I can ki-"

Lockdown gives him an irritated look, "No. If anything, it means you get to slow down." The bounty hunter looks at their clasped servos. "Stop touching."

"Why?" Optimus's servo tightens on Ultra's, not wanting to let go of him.

The mech narrows his optics, "The fragging AllSpark wants to bless you. That means you won't be breaking the courtship rules." He tosses a filthy smirk at Ultra Magnus, "In case you bots don't understand what that means, I'll give you a hint: no interfacing at all." He seems to be reveling in this. "And if you do it right, you get to 'face the first time in front of the AllSpark, and it'll bond your sparks together." He adds, almost as an afterthought, "And probably give you sparklings. Almost always a femme. Or two."

Optimus reluctantly lets go of Ultra's servo. "I'd like that."

Ultra gives Lockdown very blank look, and his voice sounds quite far away, "No interfacing?"

The bounty hunter smirks meanly, "Since Optimus hasn't 'faced at all," Optimus hides his head in his servos, was he really that obvious? "you're very likely to have twins if you do this traditionally. But if you do it before that, then you will get nothing. No blessing, no bonding, nothing. All of it would have been completely useless."

With hitching intakes, Ultra Magnus looks at Optimus. "I," he reaches out, and then drops his servo, "I see." Relief shoots down Optimus's systems when Ultra's lips curve in a smile, "I have always wanted sparklings."

"Ugh, god," Sari mock-gags, "Just. Stop it. I don't want to listen to you guys talk about this."

Optimus smiles, "Of course, Sari." He straightens up, scooting a little bit away from Ultra since he'd like nothing more to jump in the mech's lap and kiss him senseless. "I'm glad you all approve of our courting."

Bee rolls his optics, "As if we wouldn't. You worry too much, boss-bot."

He ducks his head down, "I suppose I am prone to that. A bit."

A loud metallic clap interrupts his thoughts, and Lockdown smiles cheerily, "So, I think it's time for you to all get off my ship. I've got an article to write."

Optimus walks in to meeting Ultra's family. He's not really sure how well this will go, since he's upset half of his intend's "family" by letting the jet twins get kidnapped by Slipstream. He's not looking forward to seeing Red Alert, Wheeljack or Perceptor at all. At least Cliffjumper, Blurr and Jazz will be much easier.

There are more bots than he'd expected milling around. Jazz has Lockdown and Prowl, of course, and Blurr has come on his own, and is . . . cowering in a corner. Looking at the opposite side of the room, Blurr's reaction suddenly makes sense.

Shockwave is standing tall and proud, and he is draped from head to toe in tiny sparklings. Optimus has to fight the urge to pull out his axe and attack that bot that nearly offlined Ultra Magnus.

"He's promised good behavior," Cliffjumper offers Optimus a cube of energon. "So I'd appreciate if you don't beat him into scrap unless he violates that promise." The firetruckbot isn't sure he can manage that. "Or at the very least, give me the first shot at punching him in the spark." The red minibot glances over at Shockwave, whose optic brightens and he lifts one servo to wave at him—with a sparkling dangling from his claws. "Sparklings ought to keep him occupied."

Finally taking the cube, he drinks it hesitantly, "And he gets a vote?"

Cliffjumper shudders, "Unfortunately."

Optimus rubs his temples with his free servo, "So I'm going to have to talk to him, and show him I really care about Ultra?"

The minibot looks over at Shockwave, "... He'll say you do. I'm telling you that you don't, and he's going to have to live with it, since I know that will only end in his death."

"You've no idea how much I appreciate that, Cliffjumper." Energon slides cool and refreshing down his throat. Wiping his mouth, he offers the minibot a smile, "I appreciate how hard you work at maintaining peace. It's a very admirable trait."

A little shrug answers him, "Spend a couple of stellar cycles on a Decepticon base and you learn a lot about the importance of limiting conflict."

Optimus winces visibly, "I'd still like to-"

Cliffjumper waves a servo, stopping him, "Stop. I got it. You don't need to keep apologizing. You did all you could, and storming the base would have been suicide. I went... not so much willingly as not wanting the Magnus to die. I have a sparkling now, and I loved Longarm." The minibot sighs softly, "I still see little bits of what I loved of Longarm in him, and I'm with him now. It could be so much worse."

"We should have rescued you. And all the others."

"We were fine. Shockwave never really hurt us, or forced us into anything," he rubs his helmet unconsciously, "Though the fragger still pinches my horns when he's cranky." He smiles a bit, "Mostly, I was bored out of my processor. Do you have any idea how awful most of the 'pads Shockwave kept around were? I wanted to rip my own optics out after reading a few of them."

He wants to say more, but he knows it will only upset Cliffjumper, "If you say so." He coughs, "But, I'm supposed to impress you about how much I like Ultra, aren't I?"

The minibot welcomes the subject change easily, "You are." He is studied carefully, and Cliffjumper smirks, voice playful, "And what, Optimus, are your intentions towards our Magnus?"

Optimus smiles, sitting down to talk, "I hope for a bonding."

Cliffjumper blinks at him, "... are you serious?"

"I am." He presses a servo to his chest, "I care for him very much, and I would gladly share my spark with him."

The minibot shakes his head, bemused. "Shockwave disabled our bonding protocols when he caught us. I've never had the desire to get them up and running again." He looks over his shoulder at Ultra Magnus, then back to Optimus, "But I wish you the best of luck. I think you'll be good for him."

He watches Cliffjumper walk off, and wonders if he's supposed to go to the other bots. Ultra didn't have to, but he's fairly sure that it was because his family is more accomidating about this sort of thing than Ultra's, especially when he looks at Blurr's cold refusal to stay away from Shockwave. He starts to get up only for Jazz to come over with Prowl and Lockdown.

"Hey, OP," Jazz drops into a chair next to him, and Prowl to the other chair, and Lockdown stands in front. "I'm supposed to ask you how you feel about Ultra. Have anything new I need to know?"

"Only that I hope our courtship is successful, and," he flushes, "that it ends with a bond. And possibly with a sparkling."

Lockdown scoffs, "Already told you it would if you follow the rules, kid. Just don't let that old lecher get a hold of your spark and you'll be fine."

Optimus raises an optic ridge, "You're calling him an old lecher, Lockdown?"

The larger mech smirks, pretending to buff his fingers on his chest, "At least I'm honest about it, kid."

"We are so cruising off track here, dig?" Jazz waved a servo between them. "Supposed to be talkin' about Magnus." He rests his servo on Optimus's shoulder. "You're sure you wanna bond with him? It's cool if you do."

With his optics lowered, Optimus answers him. "I've wanted to be bonded since I first read about it. And I've always felt very strongly for Ultra, and those feelings only grew more powerful the longer I knew him."

Jazz gives him a quick smile, "Confirming what I already thought. Ultra would bond with you right now if you let him, you know?"

Optimus blinks at him in surprise, almost spilling his energon. "N-no. I didn't."

The carbot leans back, "He would. It's pretty obvious, too. He was really hoping you'd interface before the courting is over, too."

Lockdown cuts in, "Which you won't do. You don't want to piss the Allspark off, kid."

"No, I would think not," he murmurs, engine running a bit hot now. He would not give up, just because Ultra Magnus was willing to bond now. The ritual—it is important to Optimus. It would give them several stellar cycles to learn one another, and to develop their relationship in ways they never could otherwise. A thought struck him, "Are bots currently allowed near the AllSpark we recovered?"

"Kid, you're courting the slagging Magnus," Lockdown laughed. "Even if you weren't allowed near it, he'd get an exception."

Optimus smiles hesitantly, "Yeah."

Prowl puts a servo on his shoulder, "Even if you weren't, we'd find a way to get it to you."

He gives the ninjabot a stern look, "And I'd have told you not to, but you'd do it anyway."

Prowl looks away, a tiny smile on his face, "What is family for, if not that?"

"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not have to bail you out of jail for stealing the AllSpark." Optimus offers him another look, this one more playful.

A smiles flits across Prowl's face, "You think I would get caught?"

"No, but I woul-"

Lockdown puts a servo between them, "No talking about stealing the Allspark, kids. You still need to talk to the other family members, and it is bad form to keep talking with your friends in your intended's family."

Optimus straightens up, looking over at the remaining four bots, "Who am I supposed to go to first?"

The mech rolls his optics, "Whichever one looks like they're most likely to talk to you." Optimus is picked up bodily, "Go talk," and pushed towards Blurr.

The poor blue bot is looking nervously from side to side, scoping out the exits while his wheels spin in little bursts. "Oh-Optimus-Prime,-Sir,-I-am-so-happy-for-you. This-is-just-great-and-I'm-so-very-glad-that-you-and-Ultra-Magnus-are-finally-together,-you-know-I-always-thought-you-and-he-would-make-a-great-couple-and-now-that-opinion-has-been-validated,-and-it's-just-great-and-Oh,-sweet-Primus,-Shockwave-is-looking-at-me-again!" Blurr hunches down and tries to position himself so Optimus is standing between him and the ex-Decepticon.

Optimus didn't exactly pick up everything the intelligence bot said, but he's glad the bot approves of their relationship. "Cliffjumper has apparently gotten him to agree to be . . . as good as he can be. He won't be allowed to hurt you in any way, agent Blurr."

He pats Blurr cautiously as the mech shudders, "That's-what-Cliffjumper-told-me,-sir."

He wants to grab a chair, but he realizes the other bot is too freaked out to be able to hold still, "Well, Shockwave seems to be very..." he glances over his shoulder, Shockwave is tickling a sparking that's squealing happily, "parental? Right now."

Blurr shakes his head, standing up a bit straighter, and waving a finger in Optimus's face, "That's-what-he-wants-you-to-think.-Acts-very-nice-then-tries-to-smash-you-into-a-cube."

"I'm not entirely pleased with his presence either, Blurr." The mech had tried to murder Ultra Magnus. He's not entirely sure why Ultra had even allowed Shockwave to come. The thought that it might have been to settle the requirements of the courtship warmed Optimus's spark. Still. It was Shockwave.

"I-don't-understand-why-the-minibots-stay-with-him,-sir.-Do-you-think-they're-being-blackmailed?" Blurr actually looks pleased at this prospect, and Optimus feels bad for having to disappoint him.

"Cliffjumper actually sounds rather content," he admits reluctantly, "and the others all seemed to be fond of Shockwave to various degrees. A few even profess to love him."

Blurr doesn't look deterred, "They-could-still-be-blackmailed-into-it,-and-just-not-admit-it."

Looking at the sparklings, he winces, "Emotional blackmail, possibly." He sets a servo on Blurr's shoulder, "But let's not focus on him, okay? I need to gain your approval to court Ultra."

Blurr tilts his head, "You-already-have-my-approval,-sir."

Optimus sighs, "Lockdown is going to yell at everyone for this." He rubs his optics with his thumb and forefinger before looking back at the blue speedster, "The point of this meeting is to prove that I like Ultra enough to court him."

Blurr gives him a blank look, "But-it's-really-obvious-that-you-do.-If-you-didn't,-you-wouldn't-have-decided-to-court-at-all."

"It was likely originally intended to assure that neither participant had been coerced into the courtship," Optimus offers. "It is a relief to know I have your support in the later stages of the courtship as well, Blurr."

"It's-no-problem,-sir.-Just,-try-to-be-good-to-each-oth-oh-slag,-he's-looking-again!" Optimus glances over his shoulder, and Shockwave is staring rather intently at the both of them, considering that he has a sparkling trying to grab onto one of his antlers. "He-keeps-staring-at-my-chest!"

Stepping directly into Shockwave's line of sight and in front of Blurr, he sighs, "I wish I could stop him, but I don't know how I'd be able to." The carbot just shudders unhappily. "You can hide behind me as I go talk to Red Alert, Wheeljack, and Perceptor?" Blurr looks torn, clearly not sure if he should be doing it. "It is always better to be with your team, Blurr. I may not really be your team since you always work alone, but I'd like to think you like me enough to trust to keep you safe."

Blurr straightens up, "That-would-be-very-nice,-sir.-I'd-like-to-walk-with-you."

The trio watch them approach, and Optimus expertly hides the wince he wants to display. They have such great reason to hate him. The jet twins, Jetfire and Jetstorm—the twins these scientists modified and reformatted and loved—were lost under his command. Seeing as they had left no notes behind, it had been impossible to know if they'd gone with Slipstream of their own free will, or if they had been coerced in some way.

All Optimus knows for certain is that Red Alert, Wheeljack, and Perceptor have no great fondness for him. The commanding officer who lost their twins.

Blurr keeps peeking over his shoulder at Shockwave, ducking back down instantly. Because of that, he is seriously thinking of not sitting down, but he doesn't want the three other bots to think he's playing some power play game as he talks. Sitting down, he pulls Blurr into a seat that blocks the blue bot mostly from Shockwave's view, and smiles in turn at Red Alert, Perceptor, and Wheeljack.

They all give him large strained smiles back, except Perceptor, who forces a tiny smile to the forefront rather than his normally blank face. Optimus hides his wince, "Is there anything you want to talk about before we get down to Ultra and me?"

Red Alert fidgets, "Have you discovered anything new about Jetfire and Jetstorm?"

Despite relentless searching, not a single scrap of evidence or any clues have been found as to their whereabouts. His spark clenches painfully when he answers, "Nothing new. Not even the other Seekers seem to know where Slipstream may have disappeared to." They were hiding something, but none of them knew her location.

Red Alert and Wheeljack sigh, while Perceptor seems to go even more emotionally dead. Wheeljack looks up, headlights flashing as he talks, "But you're trying?"

Optimus nods solomely, "Even more than before, no one wants them back more than me other than you three. If it helps, the seekrs are absolutely certian they're alive and well. She was very protective of the twins towards the other seekers."

They all offline their optics, and Perceptor is the first to speak, "We have been informed you wish to bond with Ultra. Is this true?"

"It is." He shifts his thoughts away from his failures. "Provided he is willing." Optimus can't help a faint flush, "And Sari informed us that the AllSpark wants to bless us, if we continue the courtship the traditional way."

"Is she doing well?" Red Alert interrupts. "I haven't had a chance to see her since I arrived back home."

Optimus shakes his head, "She isn't happy right now. The place she's staying at is filled with bots that treat her badly. I offered to get her a new place, but she's refused. She's hoping that once she's settled in, it will get better."

Red Alert frowns, "Is it like how she was treated by the new recruits before you started giving that speech before they were allowed in the base?" He sighs and nods, making her frown even more, "I would go make that speech to her neighbors as soon as you leave, Optimus."

"It wouldn't fit her situation, Red Alert, and I'd want to ask her if she wants me to, first. She is an adult, and can make her own decisions; I will not make them for her. She'd be more upset I did it without asking, than happy they stopped harassing her. Especially since I know that Prowl was making threatening gestures at the recruits behind my back as I was doing it."

"She ever wants to vent some steam, she can stop by my lab," Wheeljack offers. "I never met her, but if Red Alert likes her, she's gotta be a good kid. And explosions are great for calming you down."

Perceptor turns his impassive stare to his companion, "When less than half of the explosions are intentional, they are not particularly calming."

Wheeljack shrugs at the other bot, "I don't mind."

Perceptor offlines his optics and, Optimus is fairly certain, would be shuddering if he wasn't so impassive. Optimus looks over to Blurr, who is ducking down unhappily. Patting the blue bot gently, he asks, "Are you okay?"


"Would it be better if you were behind a larger bot? I could get Lockdown for you to stand behind?"

"You-don't-need-to-do-that-sir,-I'll-be-fine.-I-have-every-intention-of-leaving-here-immediately-after-this-meeting-and-locking-myself-in-my-residence-for-the-next-solar-cycle." He pauses for a breath, and Optimus tries to keep up with him. "I-was-wondering,-sir,-if-I-could-get-Bumblebee's-com-frequency-from-you?-There-are-a-number-of-very-important-things-I-would-like-to-speak-with-him-about,-if-at-all-possible,-and-having-that-frequency-would-be-quite-useful,-seeing-as-I-never-got-it-from-him-on-Earth,-before-I-was-forced-through-a-space-bridge-and-had-that-encounter-with-Shockwave."

Optimus blinks, "... You want Bee's Frequency?" Blurr gives a firm nod, and Optimus send it to him. "There you go, then."


Turning back, Wheeljack, Red Alert, and Perceptor all look slightly confused about that exchange, it is slightly odd to see confused on Perceptor's face, but Optimus is proud of himself for reconizing it for the emotion it is. "Would you like me to go more in depth about the bonding or the Allspark's blessing?"

Wheeljack's audio lights flash, "No, you really don't need to. I mean, I like Ultra Magnus, but I don't really want to hear about the . . . details."

Venting a sigh of relief, Optimus relaxes a bit, "Thank Primus. It's," he flushes, "not really something I want to have to explain. Lockdown would explain it better, if you change your mind."

All three exchange looks, and Red Alert shakes her head, "I'm certian Ultra will tell us if we ask, Optimus."

He smiles, then looks over at Shockwave. Frowning, he glances over to where Ultra is, making sure not to look at him, "Do you think I'm supposed to talk to Shockwave now? Cliffjumper said I'm not, but I have no idea if I should try anyway. Or if I should just go to Ultra and we hold the vote."

"No one should be forced to talk to Shockwave," Red Alert murmurs, and stands. "We may as well hold the vote now."

Optimus follows suit, and slowly makes his way to Ultra. The mech smiles at him from all the way across the room, and he feels his spark flutter happily in response.

Taking Ultra's Servo in his, he almost starts to step closer, only to stop at Lockdown's look. Looking around, he squeezes Ultra's servo reassuringly as the mech asks, "Has everyone talked to Optimus?" Shockwave steps forward only to get punched by Cliffjumper. "Am I allowed to continue courting him, then?"

Cliffjumper nods, "I'd certianly say so."

Shockwave lifts a servo, and drops it when Cliffjumper shoves a sparkling into his grasp, "And Shockwave says yes too, don't you, Shockwave?" The larger bot looks up from the tiny, antlered sparkling.

"Yes, I suppose I do." Shockwave sounds somewhere between amused and irritated.

All three sciencebots give their approval as one, and the three turn and glare at each other. Or, Optimus assumes the look on Perceptor's face is a glare. Apparently, the twins' habit of speaking in tandem was not entirely based on their twinned spark.

He starts to step closer to Ultra, only for Lockdown to put an arm between them, "You're lucky Arcee isn't here, kid, or you'd lose your servo for trying that again." He sighs, and steps away, still holding Ultra's servo stubbornly. "Looks like you can learn. Better keep that in mind for later on."

Ultra squeezes his servo, "Does that mean you're voting yes, Lockdown?"

The mech rolls his optics, "Yes. Same with Jazz."

They glance at the mentioned ninjabot who nods in agreement, a easygoing smile on his face. "Sure do, UM. Happy for you both, too."

The way Ultra stares at him, Optimus is certain that he'd have been thoroughly kissed if it were not for the courtship rules. For once, Optimus found himself more irritated by the rules than Ultra Magnus was. Ultra smiles, and then turns to Blurr, "And your verdict?"

"Oh-Primus-I-can't-believe-you'd-even-think-I'd-say-anything-but-yes,-sirs.-I-mean,-it's-so-painfully-obvious-that-you-are-head-over-heels-in-love-and-if-I-said-no-to-that-I'd-deserve-to-have-been-crushed-to-death-painfully.-So-yes.-And-I-hate-you-Shockwave,-goodbye." And with that, the intelligence agent sped out of the room as a streak of blue and a screech of ped wheels. Optimus blinks.

"That was a yes, right?"

Ultra squeezes his servo again, making his spark flutter, "It was."

Please review

As I said, if you have questions, just ask.

This is going to be updated whenever I get around to editing more of it. There's a lot of the fic left, and it is insane how long it is _ It has a great deal to post, and we aren't actually done with this fic, sadly. However, that doesn't really matter much to you guys, since I could post about ten thousand words a day for a month, and you'd still get fic.

That isn't happening. Not unless you want to come here and edit in all the italics. I am for it if you're going to do it. I'll post every day if you do.