A/N: Yeah, you've probably noticed by now that I really like writing scenes of dialogue between the male and female protagonists, especially when they are romantic interests of each other. Once I start doing them it's hard to stop. I could seriously spend the next three chapters with just the two of them lol. I've done it in other fics actually. Anyway, I changed the plans I had for this chapter, since things needed to be addressed and I still hadn't quite finished the whole thing with Jack and Arcee yet.

Chapter 15: Side by Sidecar

I walked up to Arcee as she sat on the edge of the water and took a place behind her. I tried to wrap my arms around her, but the little wing-like pieces of her robot form got in my way. She turned and frowned at that, "Sorry, Jack." Focusing, she pulled them into her form. Noting the success of the experiment, she took the chance to smooth out all the sharp points on her body, "There, now I won't accidentally stab you anymore."

I smiled and embraced her from behind, resting my chin on her shoulder, "This place is amazing. An entire world for only us that lets us be anywhere and be anything we want. I'm glad I thought of trying to add a setting to our inner world."

Arcee chuckled, "You couldn't have picked a vacation spot with less sand? Don't we get enough of that every day?"

"Hey, I've never been to a beach before. Heck I never saw a lake until I was 16."

"I have you beat." my lover joked, then stopped, frowning a little. It didn't take a telepathic bond to realize what was was suddenly bothering her.

"Does our age difference bother you?"

"I'm young for an autobot. If you do the math and factor in the different lifespans I'm actually not that much older than you. I'm only the equivalent of around 25."

"How old in real years?" I asked, "I don't care, and you don't need to tell me if you don't want to."

"You haven't even lived a tenth as long as I have. Nowhere near it in fact."

"Wow."

"Transformers are essentially immortal. Though after a point bots that managed to live beyond functionality would often decommission themselves."

"They would choose to die?"

"Yeah. It was a lot more common to live that long before the Great War. In fact I knew one of the older bots around that time who would've chosen that if he hadn't given up his life near the start of the war. As a species we don't have a family structure, but he was like a 'grandfather' to a lot of bots, me included."

I squeezed her tightly, "I'm sorry to bring up old pains."

She grabbed my hand and squeezed it with a smile, "I'm long over his death. He died saving me, and it bothered me for a long time, but after a few years of seeing people die alongside me in the war I realized his death was far better than being decommissioned, and that I could carry on in his place."

It was jarring. Not only the culture shock, but the sheer magnitude of the influence the war had on Arcee, no her people as a whole. Saying it bothered me would be understating it, and Arcee picked up on that.

The 'young' bot turned and kissed me softly, "It's fine. You make everything all right... even if it's embarrassing to admit." she kissed me again, "Even before I realized my feelings weren't just platonic, you gave me something to fight for when I'd lost sight of the reason I was fighting. You gave me purpose again."

"Technically, you gave me purpose for the first time. All I had before I met you was trying not to burden my mom too much and getting through every day. Heck, only a handful of people even talked to me. I was just... there." I embraced the love of my life, "Now I'm here."

She smiled, "That was very poetic. I never knew you were such a sweet-talker."

"Neither did I." I laughed.

Arcee pushed me onto my back playfully, a seductive expression on her face, "Well, consider me seduced."

"M-me too." We'd done it at least a dozen times over the past few days, but that expression on her face was practically brand new.

"I want to try something... something for you." Arcee's form started shifting. Her metal skin turning the same color as mine and her features smoothing even more. The helmet-like form of her head turning into a biker helmet as her suddenly very human body was covered by a skin-tight riding suit. She took off the helmet and flipped her hair back and I recognized the form she had taken on: the same as her supermodel-inspired holographic rider Sadie, "Hey, lov-"

I interrupted, placing my finger over her lips. Her expression was stunned as she noticed I wasn't at all pleased. I released her lips to let her ask the question before I answered.

"What's wrong? I thought you'd enjoy this. Now you don' have to make love to such a foreign form."

I looked hard at her, using the mutual control over our inner world to change her back, "I love you. Why the hell would I want to have sex with some other form? What's the point unless it's you?" I rolled over on top of her, "You underestimate the sheer magnitude of my feelings for you."

She blushed, "God... you make me feel and act so girly sometimes."

"And it's adorable." I teased.

She glared at me and I kissed her. We both let ourselves get carried away by the sensations of our very souls making out and making love. After that, I got the wild idea to do something I'd seen in a movie once and we made love while swimming in the artificial ocean. We were in paradise... and both of us knew it was high time we got back to reality.

Before that, we walked side-by side on the beach for a while, simply enjoying being together and saying nothing until Arcee broke the silence, "You did pick a great spot after all."

"I know."

She stopped and looked at the sunset, sighing, "We should get back."

"I know."

She looked into my eyes and we both smiled for no reason, "You know. There's a thousand reasons this shouldn't work."

"I know."

"And every single one will likely come back and bite us in the rear axle."

"I know."

"It might not work... trying this might destroy our relationship."

"Not trying would tear us apart in more ways than just the one."

She rolled her eyes, "When did you get so good with words?"

I chuckled, "I was working on that one for a bit, I figured you'd say something like that and came prepared."

"I see. So you think you're really smart, huh?"

I grinned, "Ye-"

She suddenly tackled me to the ground mischievously, "I'll show you!"

As the fake sun set, we wrestled and played around in the sand as a farewell to paradise.

About an hour later we walked into base, literally together. It was hard giving up that feeling, even though it's hard to describe it, it was like holding hands, but so much more. My minor bliss was broken into by the realization that my mother was in the base, not looking at all happy. I could understand why. It was bad enough that I'd gotten badly injured when MECH kidnapped Arcee and me again, but I'd been missing for yet another three days, and had been stuck in the middle of a war that destroyed a military installation and was missing for several days after. Plus, her words a few moments later made it clear she knew about the other changes... well, the physical ones at least.

"Jack Darby, you get out of that robot right now, young man."

To avoid weirdness, instead of speaking directly from Arcee's mouth, I had her convey the message, "He's coming out, but you might not want to watch, it's not disgusting or painful-looking, but it takes a bit of getting used to. It's... jarring."

"I can take it."

"We warned you."

Arcee opened her chest, revealing her spark chamber as she knelt down. I came out of her chest as a swarm of metal wires with speed that we'd been working on for the past few hours. Returning to human form still wasn't as fast as a true 'bots transformations between forms, but I had it down to a matter of seconds and the whole thing was more organized, rather than stitching my anatomy together from a pile, I made the point of shaping the pile into a human shape as soon as possible and working from there.

Mom was still grimacing through the whole thing, "That... was jarring."

"Told you." I said as tissue formed over the metal, filling out my form with the organic parts of my true form. "At least the skin coming back first is automatic. I don't even want to imagine what the rest of the squishy parts coming in looks like."

Ratchet stepped over, "Arcee, can I speak to you over in the medlab? It's nothing negative about your health, but it's about your condition."

"Should I be there for this?" I asked, worried despite the reassurance.

The med-bot shook his head, "No. This just concerns Arcee, you can hear about it later."

"Anything that concerns Arcee concerns me. Part of the whole 'part of' thing."

Arcee placed a reassuring... finger on my relatively small shoulder, "Thanks, slick, but talk things over with your mother, she needs you more right now. I'll fill you in later."

I nodded and watched the two 'bots walk off before turning to Mom.

An expression of sadness and genuine concern was on her face, "Jack... what have they done to you?"

"Mom, don't you dare put it that way." I replied firmly. "This was an accident that the 'cons caused. If anything, Arcee suffers for this. She was trying to protect me and now Ratchet thinks she might need me to keep on living. She can't even recharge without my help because of this."

"She seems bigger, stronger."

"Yeah, but she's missing lots of parts because the accident gave them to me. Imagine saving someone's life and your digestive system shutting off. It's the same thing for her. Don't you dare make this her fault."

"I'm sorry." she apologized, then stepped forward, "You can understand why I'm upset though. It was hard enough for me to let you keep hanging around with them after I first found out about this whole mess, but MECH and that spider were still out there. Then they hurt you and... now this."

"This is a good thing." I pleaded. "Except for the needing me to live part."

"How is this good? You're... you're a robot!"

"Well actually a cyborg, but semantics aside I'm not regretting any of the changes." I stepped forward, smiling "I mean, I'm faster, stronger, tougher. Mom, I'm pretty much Superman without the flashy tights." Mom started to say something, but I wasn't finished, "More important is that I can help her now and protect the two of you myself. I never have to watch either of you in danger and sit around helplessly again."

"I don't want you in even more danger."

"But I want this. You don't understand how much I want this. How long I've wanted this!" I looked away, something occurring to me, "Well, you're my mother, so you probably understand. You probably wanted the power to protect me since you found out about the 'cons."

Mom was shocked that I was trying to look at things from her perspective, but smiled, "Jack... you've always been very mature for your age, and Optimus always tells me how reliable you are when he files his reports."

"Optimus reports to you?"

She nodded, "Yes. Every night, even if it's just to say you were safely hanging out at base the whole time. He even talks about current threats so I know he's keeping them away from you as much as possible."

"I didn't know that."

Mom smiled, "Relax, he's not giving too many details. The big guy respects privacy." her smile suddenly shifted to a fond one, "He's a really responsible leader and accidents and kidnappings aside, I trust him, Arcee, and you enough to let you do this. Alright?"

I hugged her carefully, "Thanks, Mom."

"Just don't get killed." she joked.

Arcee's Perspective

A few hours later, Jack and I were back in the desert, this time with an audience, as we tested out something Ratchet had discovered: an optional sidecar for my motorcycle form. It was more than just extra space for passengers or cargo, the small buggy was the final proof that the accident had reformatted me into a prime-class chassis. Like Prime's rarely used trailer, the sidecar was an added feature for the alt-form using the extra matter of the larger robot form and a prime's higher stores of energon for transformation. It was a separate unit with alternate modes of its own, in Optimus' case his unwieldy and impractical trailer could turn into a small outpost that could provide supporting fire, cover, and rudimentary computer functions. It could also turn into a remote drone. However, it was pretty cumbersome so he rarely used it, preferring mobility to raw power.

In my case, we quickly noticed a weak point that such devices don't normal have. When I detached the sidecar and went into my robot form, I was my former size again, lacking most of the prime-enhancements but not all. My upgrade wasn't a flawless one. Worse still...

"I can't get back in." Jack struggled as he tried to merge with my smaller form, "My forms are too big."

"Hm... so you can only merge with her Prime state." Ratchet mused, "An idea occurs to me. Arcee try controlling the sidecar, turn it into the drone form and steer it."

I turned it easily enough the conversion was only a shifting of a few parts and closing the top off, not a form change. Steering it was another matter, "This takes a lot of my attention. I couldn't do this and fight. Why aren't I getting any feedback from the AI?"

Ratchet grinned as his theory was reinforced, "Now, Jack, try merging with the drone."

He did so with a nod and it went smoothly, the sidecar changing slightly to allow him room, the wheels growing slightly and spreading out. The whole things became only slightly more streamlined, like a small car without the passenger bits being obvious. The drone wiggled slightly, "This is strange, being alone in a 'bot."

I walked over, "Check for features, you should be able to trigger a transformation like you practiced merged with me. The system would be basically the same."

The drone wiggled again and the roof opened. There was enough room for a passenger, barely, "There's that." closing the door, he wiggled again and accidentally drove backwards, "Oops. That's a little close to the other system. Gotta get used to that." He wiggled again, "There's something else I can't trigger. I'm probably in the ay of a mode while merged."

"Perhaps the station mode" Ratchet guessed.

"Yeah... Huh? Wait a second." suddenly, the familiar transformation sound filled my senses and the small car transformed into a short blue humanoid figure, a bulkier and androgynous miniature me that was only as tall as my chest. The faceplate was totally featureless, but it turned out to be a screen that sprang to life at Jack's will, showing his face on it. The teen was all smiles, "Oh yeah! Robot mode!" he focused on changing his hands to weapons, and sure enough his hands could become small blasters and he could pop out arm-mounted blades. They were actually identical to my own, but smaller. "Weapons too. Probably not that strong though."

I froze, a strange emotion I didn't think such a thing would invoke. Why was I disappointed of all things?

"Something wrong, Arcee?"

I shook my head, "We shouldn't use that too much it combat. The prime enhancements would probably be a lot more useful than two weaker forms."

"True," Optimus noted, "It is a useful ability for a scout to have however. You can flank even by yourself or access smaller areas without risking young Jack's safety quite as much."

Jack was still looking at me, worried. Our bond, though not as clear as when we were in Headmaster mode, was still empathic. He could tell if I lied or hid something, "What's really wrong, Arcee?"

I jumped a little when he spoke into my head without using a com-link and outside of Headmaster form. It was probably the normal drone communication method, "Okay, so we're also telepathic with each other when he's in the drone. That's even better. Communications can't be jammed." I looked away from him, trying not to show my emotions on my face as I spoke privately to Jack, Sine I have to be honest, I'm disappointed you can fight now."

"Why? Isn't this useful? You don't have to protect me as much."

"I... sort of liked you needing me... a little. Alright a lot." Why the heck was I so girly around Jack lately? Love does weird things I guess.

Jack hid his smile, but I could feel it through our bond, "That's adorable."

I whipped towards the amused teen and snapped at him, unintentionally out loud and with my embarrassment on full display, "Would you stop teasing me? Seriously!"

Jack laughed, and took a step forward as if to tackle me playfully as we had done several times in our inner world. He stopped though, realizing we weren't in that world, and everyone was looking at us with expressions that varied for amusement to confusion, to shock. "Um. Sorry. Makes more sense if you heard the whole conversation. We'll avoid going on tangents in..." There were suddenly quite a few crossed arms and raised eyebrows as he tried avoiding any questions, "What?"

Miko's face suddenly exploded to an expression of slightly mischievous elation, "You two are dating!"

As Jack did a poor job of lying I was about to do one as well before a transmission to my beacon drew my attention. It was an old band. Triple-encrypted with a familiar cipher. I knew who it was, and I knew the code word to unlock the message. Only Hot Rod would know that cipher and that code. The message was scans with a simple warning in a wounded voice, "New type of transformer, not a 'con, almost as strong as a prime."

The images... were of a giant organic spider with strange glands resembling transformer parts, and of an organic, deformed 'robot' mode with a familiar face. A voice recording was included, it was a familiar voice, "GIVE ME YOUR SPARK!"

I froze, terrified. Jack had glanced over to get my help, but saw the scans, as did everyone else. I could scarcely get the words out, as if admitting it was her would make the nightmare real. Quickly that fear was joined by hatred and anger, "Airachnid!"

Next Chapter: The Hunt

A/N: No, Jack isn't an autobot now. This new separate 'bot form is just a completion of the Headmaster concept, based most heavily on the exo-suits humans used in later G1 Transformers. In fact, the exosuit of more than one human has been used as a headmaster unit. It being a sidecar is (like explained in the chapter) builds off the idea that Arcee has been "Primed". Jack will later take on a codename to pose as an autobot though, going by "Sidearm" a play on sidecar and the fact he can turn into a weapon. It also sounds cool, lol.