Title: Puppy Love, Chapter 1

Fandom: Transformers G1 AU

Pairing/Characters: Sideswipe + Sunstreaker, Ratchet, Wheeljack

Rating: PG for now; we got some angst and inappropriate thoughts

Warnings/Summary: And so begins the sequel to A Tail or Two. This series contains much more angst. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are teenagers who have been sold into slavery; that's going to leave a lasting impression.

Disclaimer: This is a piece of fiction. No harm was intended in the creation of this work. All rights belong to the original creators.

Several hours later, all Ratchet could think was, 'now what?'

The Twins' had merged and cuddled while Ratchet spoke to the head of the Veterinary Academy, updating him on the Twins' case. Shortly after, Prowl caught up with him, and he gave the Enforcer his official statement. After grabbing several cubes of energon, he followed Prowl into the Twins' recovery room and dispersed the fuel. Listening to Sideswipe's and Sunstreaker's statements just managed to infuriate Ratchet all over again, so he went into a cleaning frenzy, sterilizing and straightening everything in the rooms he had used.

Sunstreaker had watched for several moments before turning over to fall back into recharge. Sideswipe's optics followed Ratchet's every move, even while snuggled up in Sunstreaker's embrace. It was a little unnerving, but Ratchet managed to ignore it by worrying. Before he had left, Prowl mentioned sending over an official from Youngling Protection Services, the thought of which left Ratchet with a bad taste in his tanks.

Finally, Ratchet plopped down on the stool Wheeljack had been using earlier, and stared moodily out the window.

"What's wrong, Ratchet?" Sideswipe asked.

The medic shook his head, intakes heaving in a sigh. "This room's going to be needed in a few hours after the student surgery lab finishes. I'm not quite sure where to take you both."

"We're not going home with you?" Sideswipe asked in a small voice. Ratchet's optics darted over to see the red twin's faceplates twist with hope.

"Sideswipe…" Ratchet began, but broke off not knowing where to begin. "Technically, you're both considered younglings. Prowl mentioned an organization for orphaned sparklings and younglings…

Sideswipe shot upright, dislodging his brother. "No! We're not going to be caged up again!" he exclaimed, optics wide and wild.

Ratchet stood, coming over to laying a calming hand on the mech's shoulder. "It wouldn't be a cage. It would be a foster home that would provide for you until you reach adulthood. That's not that long off…"

"But we won't know any of those people!" Sideswipe protested. "What are they going to make us do?"

Ratchet glanced over to see Sunstreaker's open optics watching them both. The dark blue stare held a wealth of emotions and showed an age far more advanced than their years would suggest. As far as the medic was concerned, the twins had reached maturity through experience, not years, but the Protection Services wouldn't see that.

"You're not going to be made to do anything. But you'll have the opportunity to go to school, learn new skills," Ratchet explained. "Actually have a childhood."

"It's a little late for that," Sideswipe remarked, his optics turning as dark as his brother's.

"Why can't we go with you?" Sunstreaker spoke up, startling both Ratchet and Sideswipe. Ratchet had thought Sunstreaker was indifferent to where he went as long as he was with his brother. Apparently he wasn't as indifferent to the medic as he seemed.

Optics blinking to clear away his surprise, Ratchet's attention turned to the quieter brother. "I just don't have the space. Wheeljack and I room together in one of the student dorms to save money. It's half the size of this," he said, gesturing to the recovery space they occupied.

"We're smaller in our mech form," Sideswipe ventured, and Ratchet shook his head furiously.

"Absolutely not. This is your root form, and I'll not have you being forced into the other to fit into a space," Ratchet spat. A strange look crossed Sunstreaker's faceplates and then he made a noncommittal sound, lying back down.

"Are you going to take us right now?" Sideswipe asked, fidgeting. His frame was tense, practically vibrating with unvoiced apprehension. It was easy for Ratchet to make his decision.

"No. You can stay with me. Just for tonight," Ratchet said, seeing the immediate relief in the brothers. "You both need more time to rest before you're put through another move."

The red mech's faceplates shone with happiness. "Thanks, Ratch! We owe you so much."

The vet shook his head. "You don't owe me anything. Except to heal up and find a better life. Now come on. If you two are done canoodling, I can clean that berth," Ratchet said, indicating for them to get up. They parted reluctantly, each rolling off their side of the berth. Sideswipe looked to be raring to go, even as he wobbled a little. Sunstreaker just stared down at himself, sighing.

"You do have a washrack, right?" he asked, rubbing at marks only he could see.

Ratchet blinked at Sunstreaker. "There's a communal rack, yes."

"I guess that'll have to do," Sunstreaker replied. He glanced up at his brother and sighed again. "We have a lot of work to do."

Sunstreaker was true to his word. As soon as the trio entered Wheeljack and Ratchet's room, he grabbed Sideswipe and headed back into the hallway to the washracks. Sideswipe was up on his feet for short distances now that Ratchet had determined his back strut welds to be holding, but the medic had cautioned Sunstreaker to not let Sideswipe stand for too long.

Straightening his half of the room, he commed Wheeljack.

Are the Twins ok? Wheeljack asked, as soon as they had connected.

They're fine. Sideswipe's moving around for short distances. Sunstreaker kidnapped him to clean them both up. I… Ratchet trailed off. We have some guests for the night. I promise that it's just for the night though; I'll be taking them to Youngling Protective Services in the morning.

I figured they would be staying with us, Wheeljack said easily. There's nowhere else they can go. Wheeljack paused. Are you sure you want to hand them over to YPS?

It's the only option, Ratchet said firmly.

Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that, Wheeljack replied, smile evident in his tone.


No, I know. I'll stay in the lab tonight. Need to finish this project by the end of the week anyway. Let me know how things go.

Thanks, 'Jack, Ratchet said, truly grateful that he had such a great friend.

After their communication had ended, Ratchet looked around the room, gaze finally alighting on one of the data pads he had been studying a mere day ago. It now seemed like weeks. He grabbed it and sat on the edge of the bed, paging through his notes. The President of the Academy had granted him today and tomorrow off, but then he would be plunged back into his rotations. Thankfully, this was his second surgery rotation and had already proved that he had great promise so his teachers were more than happy to let him have personal time. Still, it bothered him to be away from all the cases he could learn from.

An unknown amount of time later, he was shaken awake to stare up into the concerned faceplates of one of his temporary wards. "Hey, Ratchet. You fell into recharge," Sideswipe said.

"Do you blame him? He was working on your sorry aft most of last night," Sunstreaker said, sprawled across Wheeljack's berth.

"Make yourself at home," Ratchet said grumpily, pushing himself upright.

Sideswipe's faceplates twisted a little at the reminder of all the effort Ratchet had made on his behalf. "I haven't been sleeping well these past few weeks. It must have all caught up to me," Ratchet reassured the former dog.

"Do you want us to do anything for you?" Sideswipe asked, straightening and looking around uncertainly. Now that he had stepped back a little, Ratchet could see that the majority of the scrapes and dullness had been repaired, and Sideswipe shone nearly as brightly as his brother.

"You do good work," Ratchet commented to Sunstreaker, giving the red mech a once over. Sideswipe preened a little under Ratchet's optics.

"Eh. I didn't have much to work with. Once I'm able, I'll strip both of our finishes and start over. This color is less than ideal," Sunstreaker remarked, holding out an arm and observing the paint job.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," Ratchet replied.

Sunstreaker glanced over, his optics raking down Ratchet's frame dismissively. "Of course you wouldn't."

Ratchet looked down at himself and had to admit that his normal bright white and red were looking a little worn out. "I've been busy," he protested.

"He's been saving our lives, Sunny," Sideswipe said, plopping down next to his brother's hip.

"Stop calling me that!" Sunstreaker hissed, glaring. Sideswipe ignored him, instead gazing at the vet.

"Why don't you take your turn in the 'racks? Relax under the hot spray and then come back and get a good recharge?" Sideswipe suggested.

Ratchet had to admit that that sounded like a wonderful idea, especially after the past few days he had had. "That… actually sounds pretty appealing. Have you both had enough energon? There's a communal dispenser downstairs if not. I can give you my code."

Sideswipe shifted and cuddled up against his brother. "No, we're fine. Go wash up. We'll keep ourselves occupied."

Ratchet paused, halfway to standing. "Stay out of trouble, all right? Most mechs are either recharging or studying right now."

"We'll stay right here," Sideswipe promised, pulling his feet up onto the berth.

Eyeing them warily, Ratchet opened his door and walked down the hall to the washracks. Once there, he heaved a sigh and began picking up the drying clothes the Twins had haphazardly left behind. He placed them in the cleaning shoot and then chose a stall near the end that offered the most privacy. Then he turned on the water full blast and leaned against the wall.

As he stood there, he pondered the two younglings snuggled together in his room. He couldn't keep them. There was just no way. He didn't have the money or the space, and what did he know about younglings, really? He was having trouble even thinking them younglings anyway, especially with their elegant lines and broad chasses. Sunstreaker especially was very handsome, and Ratchet had to firmly lock those thoughts away even as his groinplates grew warm. Younglings. They were innocent, inexperienced younglings. And he apparently needed to get out more.

Ratchet turned, allowing the spray to beat down upon his back, his thoughts continuing. Would YPS be able to place the Twins in an appropriate place? Would Sunstreaker and Sideswipe get the love and affection they deserved? Fretting, Ratchet scrubbed himself down with the cleaning solvent, worrying about TopNotch's trial and his own money situation.

Finally, he was clean again and after a few quick swipes with a towel, he was hopefully presentable enough for the particular Sunstreaker. He placed his used towel in the laundry shoot and headed back to his dorm.

Once inside, he had to keep himself from sighing dopily. The red and yellow forms were once again tangled together, Sunstreaker's head buried under Sideswipe's chin. They were fully in recharge and barely twitched as Ratchet walked across the room. He stood over them momentarily and gazed upon their peaceful frames, thrilled once again that he had had some part in unlocking their forms and reuniting their sparks. Even though they weren't dogs any longer, he still considered them his patients, and he was proud of the work he had done.

Nodding his head in satisfaction, he turned to crawl into his own berth. He settled in with a sigh, glancing over at his entwined guests one last time before sending the code to turn off the lights.

Sideswipe rose out of recharge, shaken and unsettled. Faint echoes of shouting rang in his audios as he looked around in confusion. Sunstreaker's arms tightened around him, and he met his brother's flickering optics, a little dazed.

What's the matter?

Memory purge, I guess, Sideswipe replied. We're with Ratchet, right? This isn't a bad line of code?

No. We're in Ratchet's tiny excuse for a living area, on his roommate's tiny excuse for a bed, Sunstreaker grumped. Go back to recharge.

Sideswipe looked of his shoulder and just barely made out Ratchet's still form with the dim light of his own optics. Are you absolutely sure?

Sunstreaker's intakes heaved once, and then he ran a light hand down Sideswipe's faceplates. Yes, you glitch, he said fondly. It's all real.

Sideswipe immediately leaned into the caress and then folded himself back into his brother's arms. Thanks, Sunny.

Sunstreaker almost immediately cycled back down into recharge, but Sideswipe continued to remain conscious. Even basking in his brother's presence, he felt… off. He remained in the berth for nearly an hour, fighting to clear his processor and join Sunstreaker in recharge but finally gave up.

He stealthily removed himself from his brother's grip and padded softly over to Ratchet's berth. He gazed down on the medic's still form for a moment before climbing into the berth and settling down as close to Ratchet as he dared. The medic stirred, and Sideswipe froze, frame braced to dart away.

Ratchet's optics slitted open, and the two stared at each other before Ratchet reached out and laid a hand on Sideswipe's cheekplate. "Red?" he asked fuzzily. "Are you hurt?"

"No, no… I'm…" Sideswipe stuttered, unable to vocalize his unease. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, I'll…" he said, already starting to slide away.

Ratchet's hand slipped to Sideswipe's shoulder, and Ratchet tugged. "No, it's all right. Come 'ere." With a pull, Sideswipe landed up against Ratchet's chassis, and Ratchet rested his chin on Sideswipe's helm. "Everything's ok," Ratchet reassured the youngling, fingers stroking Sideswipe's neck cables soothingly.

Sideswipe immediately melted against the vet's frame, engine rumbling in a happy purr. His free hand crept along Ratchet's side and reached up to splay over Ratchet's spark. He drifted back into recharge, lulled by the medic's steady spark beat.

When Ratchet's forgotten internal alarm brought him out of recharge, his first thought was that he wished he had turned the Primus forsaken thing off before he had crept into bed. The second was that he was really warm. And comfortable. He stretched, feeling the heavy weight of another mech draped over him, and booted up his optics. Somehow he wasn't surprised to see Sideswipe's form sprawled up against him. What was surprising was his own lack of reaction. Instead of startling and pushing Sideswipe away, he stroked the other's helm, smiling a little as Sideswipe murmured nonsensically.

"The little glitch is good at worming his way under your defenses," Sunstreaker said wryly. Ratchet turned his head to see the yellow mech sitting on the side of Wheeljack's berth. His faceplates were blank, but his optics held a soft light in them as they looked at his brother.

"And what about you?" Ratchet asked. Sunstreaker startled, gaze moving to the vet.

"What about me?" he asked brusquely, the fond light turning hard.

"There's still room for one more," Ratchet said, lifting the arm that wasn't pinned down by Sideswipe. Ratchet patted the berth to his side invitingly, glad that he and Sideswipe had scrunched up against the wall in the middle of the night.

Ratchet's spark twisted at the look of shock across Sunstreaker's faceplates. He had obviously never expected to get such an invitation, had probably never had any one touch him in gentleness except his twin.

Sunstreaker stood, form wavering between sitting back down and moving across the space separating them. He hesitantly shuffled forward and flinched backwards when Ratchet shifted slightly to his side.

"Come here, Sunny," Ratchet said softly, lowly, in the tone he used for the most skittish of animals.

Still hunched over as expecting to be hit at any moment, Sunstreaker slid himself onto the bed, making sure to keep a healthy distance between himself and Ratchet. The yellow mech stilled, teetering on the edge of the berth until Ratchet snuck his arm around Sunstreaker's shoulders and gently pulled him closer.

"It's all right," Ratchet murmured. "It's all right; I got you, sweetspark."

With a low keen, Sunstreaker turned and threw himself at Ratchet's side, clutching at whatever seams he could find. A little startled, Ratchet snugged his arm over Sunstreaker's back and held him close, placing a soft kiss on the yellow mech's helm.

Moments later, Sideswipe came up out of recharge, pulled awake by Sunstreaker's distressed lunge. He reached across Ratchet, finding and clutching at his brother's hand, crooning softly.

"We're safe now, it's ok, Sunny," Sideswipe whispered.

Sunstreaker violently shook his head, unable to lift it to meet Ratchet's optics. "Don't let us go. We'll do anything. Just keep us," he pleaded, vocalizer filling with static.

Ratchet pulled his arm out from under Sideswipe and wrapped it around the shaking Sunstreaker, causing another cry to emerge. Ratchet hushed the shivering youngling, hands soothing over his upper back.

"Shh, shh. We'll find a way. I don't know how, but I'll think of something," Ratchet murmured, knowing he shouldn't make such a commitment but unable to do anything else. The Twins had wound themselves through his spark so deeply that he doubted he would ever be able remove them.

Sideswipe flung himself over both Ratchet and Sunstreaker, resorting to sparkling clicks in his overwhelming emotional state. Ratchet freed a hand to stroke at his helm as well, clutching both of them close as they keened out their fear and need. Ratchet found himself shaking as much as the Twins, and buried his faceplates in the nearest armor, sending a plea upwards to Primus.

Ratchet had absolutely no idea how he was going to make this work. Only that it had to.