"You okay, Arcee?" Jack paused, leaning around her shoulder to aim a concerned look at her face. Usually, their wash-wax-polish sessions on the helipad atop the Autobot base ended with her completely relaxed, her eyes closed, a serene smile on her lovely face. Today, though, her eyes were wide open and her expression distracted. She was stretched out on the huge tarps they'd spread out on the helipad, her chin resting on her crossed arms, staring at the blue sky and fluffy clouds on the horizon but not quite seeing them.

"Earth to Arcee." Jack chuckled, scooted over to her waist, and gave her ass a light swat.

"Hmm?" She raised her head, looked over at him, and raised a brow plate.

"Just wondering what's on your mind."

"Oh, sorry. You put so much work into this, I shouldn't have let my attention wonder."

"It's okay. It's not a chore or anything; I love doing this." He smiled, applied more polish to her shoulder, and rubbed the buffing cloth slowly over her gleaming surface. "Peace and quiet, a hell of a view, and a few hours alone with the love of my life. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon."

"Aw, you're so sweet." She closed her eyes and smiled, her face taking on the expression he'd grown used to seeing at times like this.

"Just telling the truth." Grinning, he moved on down her arm, rubbing the polish on slowly. After both of them remained quiet for another moment, he said, "So, gonna tell me what's on your mind? Or is it private or classified or something?"

"Well ..." She sighed. "I actually didn't want to bring this up, but ..."

He raised an eyebrow and gave her another concerned look, but kept polishing. "If something's bothering you-I mean, I don't want to seem like I'm prying, but if it's something I said or did-"

"Oh, no, nothing like that. It's just that I feel a little guilty. What you're doing for me, you spend so many hours at it, and it feels so good-but I wish I could do more for you."

"You already give me everything I need." He finished polishing her forearm, gave her hand a tug, and she lifted it for him. He kissed her palm and held her hand in both of his for a moment. "It's enough just to be in love. Anything extra is a bonus." He let her hand rest on his lap and began polishing it. "Besides, I assumed that you'd be grossed-out by human sexual acts, anyway, so ..."

"Well, some of them. And others are so bizarre that I can't possibly take them seriously." She chuckled, but a disturbed look flickered across her face. "Especially after some of the research I did."

"Uh-oh." Jack gazed at her for a moment, then his eyes opened wider. "Oh, no. You downloaded some porn, didn't you?"

She glanced away. "Well, I got curious. Just wondered if there was anything else I could do, something new I could try. Figured that maybe we were compatible enough for something. But the videos I saw ..."

"Oh, bloody hell. Do I even want to know which ones you saw?" I hope none of them involved a cup.

"Well, almost everything about them was ridiculous. And in most of them, all the couples performed the same acts in almost the same order." She shuddered. "And parts of them gave me the creeps. One of the worst things about them all was the, uh, 'big finish' on each one." She shook her head slowly. "When fluid spurts out of a Cybertronian, it's because he's just been shot or stabbed."

Jack chuckled. "Well, it's the same for humans, in most cases. This is one of the only exceptions."

She aimed a lopsided grin at him and wiggled her brow plates. "Okay, judging by the reactions of the guys in those videos, I'm assuming it feels pretty good."

"Yeah, it does." Jack blushed suddenly. "Not that I've-well, I mean, you're the first girl I've even had a chance with, but-"

"Not speaking from experience, then?"

"Right. Well, no experience with anyone else, I mean." His blush deepened. "That is ... wow, suddenly it's really hot out here."

She grinned again. "I know, you're talking about 'solo flights.' I'm still learning this stuff, but I've picked up a few things." She winked.

"Uh, yeah." He shrugged and resumed polishing. "I mean, what teenager hasn't tried that at least once?"

"I dunno. Like I said, I'm still learning." She winked at him again. "As long as you're thinking about me while you're doing it."

"Every time," he said softly, and his face grew even hotter.

"Wow, I had no idea human skin could turn that shade of red."

He snorted, turned her hand over, and began working on her palm. "Like I said, I assumed you'd think it was gross, so I never brought it up."

"Well, the first time we kissed, I thought it was really weird, but it grew on me. I have to admit, I'm a little curious about, well, certain other things. It still seems weird to me, but there's a part of me that kind of wants to experience it anyway."

"Well, maybe someday we'll figure something out. Some sort of new technology, or whatever." He smiled and finished polishing her fingers. "I'm in no hurry, though. Like I said, you already give me everything I need. Now, turn over; time to do your front side."

She grinned and rolled over. He kissed her before applying polish to her chest plate.

"Ah, my favorite part."

She laughed. "So, you're doing this to get your grope on, eh?"

"Like I said, I love doing this for you." He wiggled his eyebrows.

She patted his ass and her smile turned wistful.

He chuckled, but then a thought struck him. I can get off whenever I want, but she can't. At all. And now I've all but spelled it out to her. He tried not to wince. No wonder she wishes she could-

"You know," she said softly, "I've been thinking. About the Pretenders that have been captured. They have the right parts, and some of them sure seem to enjoy sex. If we could find a way to adapt that technology and-"

A chill rushed through Jack. "That's Decepticon technology. It can't be trusted. At least, not without study and testing so rigorous and thorough that it crosses the line into full-blown paranoia."

"Yeah, that's what worries me. Some of the defectors seem really sincere, but since their bodies are 'Con in origin, they could have all sorts of nasty surprises built into them." She traced a fingertip along his cheek. "Still, I'd like to give it a try someday."

He held her hand again. "Only if we're absolutely sure it won't hurt you. I don't want to risk your life just so we can get our rocks off."

She arched a brow plate. "So, you can get yours off all you want, but I can't?" She smirked and nudged his shoulder, hinting that she was just messing with him, but he could see it in her eyes-his comment had stung ever so slightly.

Oh, crap, there it is. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. You're right, it's not fair to you. But I really am afraid for you. If you get hold of an 'empty' Pretender body and link up to it, who knows what could happen? It could have hardwired firewalls, viruses, and other defenses that could cause permanent damage. It's not worth you dying."

"Believe me, Jack, that's the first thing I thought of when the idea crossed my mind. I wouldn't even try it without being absolutely sure it's safe. But maybe someday."

"Yeah." He laughed softly. "We should at least wait until I'm eighteen. My mom's still a little weirded-out by our relationship; just imagine her reaction if she found out that we were using Pretender technology to hump it out."

Arcee burst out laughing. "I just imagined the look on her face. Slightly terrifying."

"More than slightly, for me. Ever since I was a little kid, whenever I got into serious trouble, she'd get this look on her face that made my blood run cold. Whenever I saw that, I knew I was in the deepest shit."

"Yeah, I definitely wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that, especially from my future mother-in-law." She smiled and rubbed his back. He patted her other hand and went back to work, rubbing the cloth gently over her chest.

Arcee grinned, put her hands behind her head, crossed her ankles, and let herself relax.

Whew. Jack smiled, but tried not to let his sudden relief show. Thought we were about to have our first big argument.

He kept smiling and continued polishing, and soon lost himself in the moment, his thoughts wandering as he made his way down her body. He had almost finished with her feet when his comlink beeped.

At the same time, Arcee touched the side of her head, indicating that she was also receiving a message.

Jack picked up a clean towel, wiped the polish off his hands, and took the comlink out of his pocket. "Hey, what's up?"

"We have just received some information that you two would want to see," Optimus replied.

Jack raised an eyebrow and exchanged a glance with Arcee. Optimus sounded ... unnerved. As much as the stoic Prime could, at least.

Arcee nodded. "We'll be right there."


"Hey, Ratchet. How's it hummin'?"

Ratchet leaned on his console and groaned. "Is no one ever going to let me live that down?"

Jack chuckled. "Hey, when you hit on a guy's girlfriend, he's gonna get all territorial on you." He glanced at Arcee and winked.

She laughed. "Take it easy, Ratchet. He's just winding you up."

"Yeah, I am. It's just a joke." Jack smiled. "I figure it's better to laugh at stuff like that than let it get under your skin."

"Ah, yes, of course. That's ... wise." Ratchet slumped forward a bit more, clearly relieved. "It's just that ... well, it was terribly embarrassing."

"Don't let it get to you. You're not the only one who's ever done something embarrassing."

"No kidding," Miko said from the couch over in the corner. "At least you never had your host parents walk in on you while you were double-clicking your mouse button."

Ratchet stared at her in utter confusion. Raf, sitting beside Miko, shot her a mildly horrified look.

"Wow," Jack muttered, and stared slack-jawed at her.

Arcee glanced at Ratchet, chuckled, and walked over to him. She leaned closer and whispered something to him. His optics opened wider and his mouth flopped open.

"Ah, ahem, yes, um ... hmm." He picked up a canister of glowing green fluid. "Anyway, I was just tweaking the formula a little more, and-"

"Oh, no." Arcee held up her hands and backed away. "You keep that green shit away from me."

"Ah. Of course. I'll keep working on it. Perhaps it can still be used to power equipment or weapons. Weapons that aren't built into our bodies, that is."

"Good. I'll keep my fingers crossed. We definitely need something now that we're running so low on energon." A worried look crossed her face as she resumed her course toward the main console in the hub, where Optimus, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead waited.

Raf glanced at Miko again, shrugged, and returned his attention to his laptop. He pointed at the screen and said, "Anyway, what I'm wondering now is: Did River marry the Doctor, or did she actually marry the Teselecta? Because if Moffat really wanted to screw with us-"

Miko's jaw dropped. "Oh, that sounds like something he'd do, alright."

Arcee shook her head. "Oh, he damned well better not!"

Jack snickered and Arcee chuckled.

"It's your fault for getting me hooked on that show."

"Hey, I do what I can." He grinned as they walked up to the other 'Bots. "Hi, guys. What's up?"

Then he noticed that all of them looked shocked and angry. Uh-oh.

"What is it?" Arcee said, going into all-business mode after seeing their expressions.

"Bad news," Bulkhead muttered. "Just ... horrible."

Another cold sensation rose through Jack's chest. And the afternoon started off so well.

Arcee crouched and reached out to take his hand.

"We have received notice from Agent Fowler of possible Decepticon activity." Optimus closed his optics and opened and closed his mouth several times, as if needing to force his next words out. "Sixteen human bodies were found recently in the forests near the northwest coast. They were decapitated."

Arcee gasped and covered her mouth with her free hand.

"Shit," Jack said under his breath.

"The heads have not been found," Optimus continued.

Implying ... someone kept them. Jack stared up at Arcee as a suspicion formed in his mind. Trophies. Oh, no.

"What makes you think it's Decepticons?" Arcee mumbled.

Optimus reached out to the console and pressed a button. On the main screen, a set of photos appeared. Most of them showed military personnel searching a wooded area; Jack recognized a few of them from the Groom Lake air base.

One of the pictures was a close-up of a grayish-white material pinning a headless corpse to the ground. It looked part organic and part metallic, and had a distinct web-like appearance.

"No," Jack whispered. "Oh, Christ, no." He looked up at Arcee again, and almost recoiled from the look of sheer rage on her face.

"I doubt she would've left that stuff laying around like that," Bulk said. "Unless she wanted it to be found." He turned back to Arcee. "Looks like someone's trying to get your attention."

Arcee snarled. "Well, she's got it."