Author's Note – For "tf_speedwriting" on LiveJournal. The prompt was "Setting – in the brig". This fic references "Sparks Are Cheap" and is part of my "Designation 24601" series, my version of Wheeljack's background. Please see my profile page for reading order.

Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Two's Company"
by DragonDancer5150

"Remind me why we're here again?"

Wheeljack looked up at Ratchet from his lap where he was pressing against a knee trying to get his right armguard to straighten out a little more. "Hey, don't blame me. Ya didn't have ta follow me, ya know."

"I had to make sure you weren't going to get into any trouble."

Wheeljack cocked his head, then pointedly glanced around the tiny room into which they'd both been stuffed about a half-joor ago.

"Okay, any more trouble."

Wheeljack sighed. In reality, he knew very well, one, why Ratchet was here – why they both were, really – and two, that Ratchet was just frustrated and angry and unconsciously headed towards taking it out on Wheeljack if the engineer didn't watch how he responded . . . and that the stressed medic would apologize as soon as he realized what he was doing. Wheeljack knew his best friend too well and for too long not to see where things could go or know how to head them off. He went back to pressing on his armguard against his leg. "The new commander's just gotta get secure in knowin' he's got everyone's attention an' obedience. He'll let up once he's settled. Every new overseer back in the mines was the same way – he'd be extra hard on everyone till he knew you knew he was top mech over ya even though you'd been there forever an' he was brand new on the scene. Ultra Magnus'll settle an' get used ta how the base an' everyone works."

"I don't think anyone could ever quite get used to you and the way you work." There was a hint of amusement and fondness in Ratchet's tone. But then he scowled. "Still not right for him to toss you in the brig for a night – or more – while the clean-up crew works on the lab."

Wheeljack only shrugged. "He's just gotta be sure. He doesn't know me like you an' the others do."

Ratchet's scowl only deepened. "He accused you of deliberately trying to blow up the base, Wheeljack."

"He's not the first," Wheeljack rejoined with a chuckle.

"He meant it!"

Wheeljack sighed a puff of air through his vents, sat back against the cold wall of the cell, and eyed Ratchet sitting on the other end of the berth. "You're worried he'll press charges."

Without outright saying as much, part of Ultra Magnus's tirade at Wheeljack after this most recent mishap in the engineer's workshop – the first since the new officer had taken over command of this post – had been an insinuation that the miner-turned-inventor was actually some kind of Decepticon plant to sow chaos in the Autobots' ranks. Wheeljack's origins were no longer a complete secret, especially to any higher-ups, not after the bounty hunters had gotten hold of him in the wake of that skirmish on the edge of the Badlands . . . and "everyone knew" that nothing good ever came out of the Badlands. Blaster City was Neutral at best, its citizens largely too criminal or just too jaded to consider joining the Autobot cause. If anything, the promise of power and glory lured people to the Decepticon side "every time."

"You don't think he will? He all but called you a traitor, 'Jack."

"An' you called him a dirt-groper spewin' slag from his tailpipe." The amused grin was audible in the engineer's tone, the glow of his vocal indicator flanges a warm tint to match. "That, ta answer your earlier question, is why we're here. Well . . . why you're here, anyway." The medic only harrumphed, and Wheeljack continued. "Besides, even if he does try ta press charges, you an' I both know the clean-up crew won't find anythin' against me, an' the Command staff back at Iacon's already familiar enough with how I operate an' what I deal with."

"He still shouldn't have insulted you like that, 'Jack." Ratchet wasn't ready to let this go, not nearly as much so as Wheeljack was.

The former mining slave only shrugged, gaze dropping to his hands twisted in his lap. "People're always insultin' me, Ratch. I know you hear some'a what they say just as well as I do."

"You never defend yourself."

"Heh, you do enough for both of us. An' really, it's just not worth it. I'd be in too many fights with people if I tried ta set every mech on base straight . . . especially after that last fiasco." The one where Ratchet had followed the bounty hunters into the proverbial death trap. "Better ta just let 'em see on their own, right? Besides, aren't you the one always tellin' me not ta listen ta others?"

Ratchet didn't have an answer for that, just glanced away with a noncommittal grunt, arms folded.

Wheeljack waited a beat, then looked back up at his best friend. "Thanks, by the way. For stickin' up for me ta Ultra Magnus."

Ratchet had calmed a bit finally and gave the engineer a lopsided grin. "Hey, someone's gotta keep you out of trouble."

Wheeljack laughed, again glancing around the cell. "Or failin' that, make sure I've at least got company?"

"Something like that."

The hue of Wheeljack's flanges as they glowed for a moment communicated his grin, optics shuttering as he did. Then he scooted off the berth and onto the floor. "Anyway . . . play a game with me? I've got that stones game I showed ya before." He pulled a small container from subspace, dumping its contents on the ground in front of his folded legs.

Ratchet made a show of considering it before joining him. "Yeah, I guess. Hey, maybe I'll even let you win once or twice."

"Let me!" The engineer's laugh betrayed his attempt at indignation. "Oh, you are so on!"