Title: Puppy Love, Chapter 29
Fandom: Transformers G1 AU
Author: FuziPenguin
Pairing/Characters: Ratchet, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Ironhide, First Tier, Prowl, Bluestreak
Rating: PG13
Word Count: 3106
Summary/Warnings: Getting settled in at the courthouse; tempers run high. (Ugh, you guys, this chapter fought me every word, every sentence, every paragraph. *So* many revisions have happened with it, and I'm still not completely happy with it, but I think it's as good as it's going to get.)
Disclaimer: This is a piece of fiction. No harm was intended in the creation of this work. All rights belong to the original creators.

They huddled together for several moments just outside the rec room until a polite cough from behind them made both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe jerk their heads up in surprise.

"Good morning," Mirage said, hands clasped lightly in front of him as he glanced between them and the door.

"Oh! Sorry!" Ratchet exclaimed, hurriedly extricating himself from their pile and moving to the side.

Sunstreaker couldn't help but glare a little as Mirage moved past them. This was the mech that Jazz had said no one ever got away from; yet the attacker that had injured Sideswipe was still out there somewhere.

"It is no bother," the Enforcer said softly. "Good luck today; everyone at the station wishes you the best outcome."

"Well, we appreciate that," Ratchet said, following Mirage into the rec room, the twins trailing along behind. "Will you be attending the hearing?"

Mirage shook his head. "I will not. I understand that Prowl, Bluestreak, and Ironhide will be in attendance, however."

"Ironhide and I will escort you there!" Bluestreak cheerfully piped up from his seat next to his cousins.

"Oh, yay," Sunstreaker heard Sideswipe murmur. Sunstreaker had to agree with Sideswipe's sentiment; things with Ironhide were still awkward and Sunstreaker wasn't a fan of Bluestreak's babbling.

"Optimus plans on attending a portion of the hearing as well," Prowl added as he stood to place his empty cube in the nearest recycling receptacle.

They moved up behind Mirage as he finished gathering his morning energon. "That will be nice; you two haven't met the Chief yet," Ratchet said in an aside to Sideswipe and Sunstreaker as he began filling their three cubes.

"You should leave directly after finishing your energon," Prowl told them. "That will give you sufficient time to make it to the courthouse."

"Yeah?" Sideswipe questioned with a grin, taking a sip from the cube Ratchet had given him. "You can predict that?"

Sunstreaker watched Prowl's optics flicker briefly, and then the Enforcer nodded. "With a 93.8% certainty."

Sideswipe stared at Prowl for a long moment before shaking his head with a laugh. "You're weird, Prowl. But I still like you."

The enforcer looked taken back for a moment. "I… thank you," he said cautiously as Sideswipe wandered off and took Prowl's former seat.

Bluestreak brightened as Sideswipe approached, and they soon struck up a conversation that involved a lot of hand waving on Sideswipe's part. Sunstreaker watched his brother for a moment; Sideswipe seemed to have an eager audience whenever the mechling was around. Well, as long as it shut the sharpshooter up, Sunstreaker was fine with it.

Sunstreaker turned back to Ratchet to hear him finish up a comment to Prowl.

"… just worried," Ratchet said, staring into the depths of his cube.

"It is a possibility," Prowl admitted. "But it is out of your hands, so there is no need to spend too much processing power on the issue."

"Mmm. I suppose you're right," Ratchet said.

Sunstreaker could tell that Ratchet wouldn't be able to stop worrying until the final verdict was read later this afternoon. He wouldn't give up Ratchet for anything, but he also wished that their caretaker hadn't been so negatively affected by their entry into his life.

Hoping to take Ratchet's processor off the trial for just a little while, he moved up behind Ratchet and bent to murmur into his audial.

"Can we ask about the apprenticeships?"

Ratchet's head turned, and he looked up at Sunstreaker, optics quizzical. A moment later, his face brightened as he remembered.

"Absolutely. Go ahead," he said, gesturing at Prowl.

Sunstreaker was suddenly faced with the Enforcer's politely expectant stare as Ratchet clapped Sunstreaker on the shoulder and then walked away, towards Sideswipe's and Bluestreak's table. Sunstreaker longingly stared after his caretaker before reluctantly turning back to Prowl.

"Um. Sideswipe and me were talking the other day…"

"'Sideswipe and I'," Prowl said, interrupting.

Sunstreaker blinked at the Enforcer, uncomprehending.

Prowl smiled just a little, his lipplates quirking up at the corners. Absently, Sunstreaker had the thought that Prowl should do that more often. He was actually a very attractive mech, but his normally blank face plates were pretty uninviting.

"The correct phrase is 'Sideswipe and I'," Prowl said, elaborating.

"Oh. Alright. Well, Sideswipe and I were thinking about apprenticeships. But we're not sure how to go about getting one. We thought you might know."

"Hmm. Yes, you are not far off majority," Prowl said, nodding. "Some apprenticeships will begin at this age, as long as there is guardian approval."

"Ratchet said yes," Sunstreaker hurried to add.

Prowl's helm tilted a little to the side. "What type of apprenticeships are you looking for? I'm not sure that there would be much, if any, available for two mechs…"

"We don't have to be together," Sunstreaker said, although the thought did fill him with a little unease. "Sideswipe says he isn't picky, although maybe something to do with numbers? I… I wouldn't mind something to do with the art field," he said, optics dropping shyly.

"Art and perhaps business," Prowl mused, tapping a finger against his chin. Sunstreaker was thankful that the Enforcer didn't comment on the art field request; it was embarrassing enough to admit to Sideswipe and Ratchet.

"I will look into it for you," Prowl said decisively. "And I'm sure Jazz will help; between the two of us, I believe we can find some good opportunities."

Sunstreaker exvented a draught of air he didn't even know he had been holding on to. "Thanks, Prowl. We really appreciate it," he said, knowing without looking that Sideswipe was gratefully staring in Prowl's direction.

"I am glad to be of assistance," Prowl said. "Now go ahead and join your family; you wouldn't want to be late."

Prowl nodded once at Sunstreaker and then caught Bluestreak's attention with a small wave. The sharpshooter excused himself from the table and together the cousins walked out of the room to linger in the lobby, conversing lowly with each other. Sunstreaker finally shook himself out of his dazed state and strolled over to join Ratchet and his brother.

Family. It was such an odd word to hear spoken aloud, especially by someone outside of their little circle.

Sunstreaker really liked the sound of it.

The walk to the courthouse was both awkward and entertaining.

As they were leaving the building, Bluestreak had bid them farewell in order to take to the rooftops. Prowl had departed to the Precinct for some last minute paperwork, promising he would meet them at the courthouse before the trial started.

Which left the four of them - Ratchet, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, and Ironhide – standing in a tense circle on the sidewalk. An awkward silence descended, and Sunstreaker feared that they would remain like this forever, none of them willing to speak or otherwise attract attention to themselves.

Ratchet turned out to be the bravest of them all, which after Sunstreaker thought about it, didn't really surprise him.

"Well!" Ratchet exclaimed, slapping his hands together decisively. "We don't want to ruin Prowl's statistical analysis, right? Let's get going; I know it's a bit of a long walk."

"You know, we wouldn't have to walk if we had vehicle alt modes," Sideswipe said innocently.

"Yes, Sideswipe. I am aware that your life would be so much easier with an alt mode," Ratchet returned, long-suffering. "And I'd probably have twice as many spark-attacks," he grumbled, mostly to himself.

Sunstreaker hid a smile. Ratchet was probably right, especially considering Sideswipe's tendency for boredom and love of thrills. Not that Sunstreaker was inclined to sit at home and watch vids all day either.

"'Round this area, Hopper's is the best for variety in alt modes," Ironhide offered.

Sunstreaker glanced over his shoulder at Ironhide with a wary surprise. The Enforcer was trailing behind them a few steps, gaze watchful as he scanned the surrounding area.

"Oh?" Ratchet asked. "I'll keep that in mind. Maybe schedule something in a few days."

"Yes!" Sideswipe crowed, throwing a fist in the air and spinning around to skip backwards. "Thanks 'Hide!"

He grinned at the Enforcer for a total of two seconds before he remembered that he was supposed to be mad with Ironhide. Then the smile dropped and a faint scowl replaced it. But Sideswipe could never stay angry for long, especially if his spark wasn't in it. Moments later, Sunstreaker watched his brother begin grinning again, excitement over the prospect of their alt modes thrumming across their bond.

Sunstreaker was a little excited as well. Interfacing certainly burned off some of their pent up energy, and once their training with Ironhide resumed, they would have yet another outlet. But both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe yearned for even more physical activities, especially those that pushed their limits. Sunstreaker had no doubt that he and his brother would end up picking an alt model that was one of the fastest on the market.

The walk to the courthouse took almost forty minutes, but they arrived with time to spare. One by one, they went through the security checkpoint, getting scanned for weapons and stamped with temporary identifiers. Sunstreaker had to be cajoled through the checkpoint, the yellow twin glaring at the guard as he burned the stamp onto the underside of Sunstreaker's wrist.

"Not even a full day!" Sunstreaker growled as he showed off the blemish on his paintjob at the other side of the security gate.

"You can barely see it. And your nanities will have repaired it by tonight," Ratchet remarked, wisely choosing not to mention how he was mourning the flaw to his own new finish.

"It's not the same," Sunstreaker said, frowning as he accepted Sideswipe's soothing pats to the back. Ratchet privately thought that Sunstreaker pulled off a pout even better than Sideswipe could.

Ironhide snorted, lips quirked in amusement. "Prissy little thing, ain't ya?"

First Tier chose that moment to walk up to them, a distracted air about him. He didn't seem to notice the abrupt increase in tension among their group.

"The start time hasn't changed," the lawyer reported in greeting, datapad held in the crook of his arm. "Let me show you to your seats."

Without another word, he turned and began walking down the first hallway, not even checking to see if they were following.

"I'll show you prissy," Sunstreaker growled, completely ignoring the lawyer coming and going. His hands clenched into fists, and he took a menacing step forward. Ratchet quickly stepped between his ward and Ironhide, placing a hand on the vibrating yellow chest to try and push him back. Ironhide didn't help matters by taking a challenging step forward himself.

"Behave yourselves! Sideswipe, follow him!" Ratchet hissed, waving after the retreating lawyer. He hoped the red twin wouldn't get involved too, because trying to hold Sunstreaker back felt as if Ratchet were pushing against a building. Sideswipe thankfully seemed uninterested in joining his brother; instead, he took a step back, crossing his arms over his chassis and raising an orbital ridge.

"Awww, but I want to see Sunny and 'Hide fight. In the courthouse. Twenty minutes before the trial starts," he said, each statement becoming more and more pointed. It was enough to catch the posturing mechs' attentions.

Sunstreaker blinked, shooting a glance at his brother, before sneering at Ironhide. The Enforcer took on a sheepish air, rubbing the back of his head and looking down at the floor.

"We wasn't gonna fight," he mumbled.

"That's right. You weren't," Ratchet snapped, glaring between Sunstreaker and Ironhide. Over Ironhide's shoulder, he saw the security guard staring at them curiously.

"Is there a problem?" First Tier called, pausing halfway down the hall with a concerned expression on his faceplates.

Ratchet shook his head, feeling embarrassment warm his lines. "No!" he called back, tugging on Sunstreaker's elbow. "We're coming."

Sideswipe snorted, shaking his head. "Well, this is off to a great start."

Ratchet made sure to keep the twins in front of him and Ironhide behind as they caught up with the lawyer. For the entire length of the hall, Sunstreaker and Sideswipe gestured at each other, their conversation silent as they kept it over their private bond. Sunstreaker's expression was set in a scowl, Sideswipe's bemused, and Ratchet wondered what they were saying to one another.

"Fighting amongst yourselves is not a good way to start this off," First Tier said quietly as they came within speaking distance.

Sideswipe wordlessly gestured at the lawyer, looking significantly at his brother. Sunstreaker merely grunted and crossed his arms over his chest.

"It was nothing," Ratchet hurried to say. "We're fine."

First Tier narrowed his optics and pursed his lipplates. "Mmmm. I hope so. Follow me," he said finally, gesturing with his head towards the set of double doors he stood in front of. He pushed open one and indicated for them to enter.

Sideswipe went in first, looking around with frank curiosity. Sunstreaker took everything in with a glance, appearing aloof and bored. Ratchet vowed to speak with his errant ward as seen as they were alone; the trial was a cause of stress for all of them, but Sunstreaker's behavior was starting to get out of hand.

First Tier began leading them down the center aisle, passing row after row of seats. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker trailed behind, the red twin excitedly pointing at things around the room.

Ratchet paused as Ironhide stepped to the side of the door, instead of following their little party to the front of the room.

"Ironhide?" Ratchet ventured.

The Enforcer waved a hand through the air. "I ain't a witness. You go on," he said. "I'll be back here if ya need me. And, uh… sorry 'bout earlier."

He wouldn't quite meet Ratchet's optics, obviously embarrassed.

Frowning a little, Ratchet nodded and hurried to join the twins as FirstTier showed them their seats. Ratchet supposed that another conversation with Ironhide was warranted, but now was not the time.

"This is the witness section for the prosecution," FirstTier said as Ratchet sat down next to Sideswipe. "Wheeljack and Prowl should be arriving shortly. I'll be seated up there," he said, gesturing at one of two small tables just beyond a railing that separated the rows of seats from the front of the room.

"The defense lawyer will be there," he said, pointing to the opposite table, "and TopNotch there."

First Tier gestured at the same row of seats they were in, but across the middle aisle. Ratchet frowned again. He had thought that First Tier would be seated separately from the rest of the room, much like the judge and jury. He didn't know how he felt about sitting so close to the mech who had almost destroyed his wards.

Before Ratchet could ask another question, Sideswipe spoke up.

"Sunny, move down two," the red twin instructed, gently pushing Sunstreaker's shoulder.

"Why?" Sunstreaker demanded. Irritation practically radiated off his frame.

"'Jack and Prowl are gonna need a place to sit too," Sideswipe pointed out.

Exventing an annoyed sigh, Sunstreaker stood and walked a few paces to the left. In an uncharacteristic move, he gracelessly plopped down in the new chair, slouching against the back of it.

"And keeping some distance between those two would be nice as well," Sideswipe murmured too quietly for anyone but Ratchet to hear.

Ratchet grimaced, flashing back to the sight of Sunstreaker's teeth around TopNotch's throat. Ratchet prayed the twins would behave themselves, but he also wasn't going to discount their tempers. Sunstreaker's already seemed to be running high today.

"First come, first serve!" Sunstreaker grumbled as Sideswipe stood over the seat next to his twin. "And why are you hogging Ratchet?"

"I'm not hogging him!" Sideswipe retorted, exasperated. "You came in first, he came in last."

"There's an easy solution," Ratchet said with a huff of amusement. "Here, Sides, switch… yeah. Does this work better?" Ratchet asked after manhandling Sideswipe into Ratchet's former seat. He now had a twin on either side of him, which is how they seemed to prefer it while they were at home.

A strange look came over Sunstreaker's faceplates as leaned forward enough to look around Ratchet's body at Sideswipe. Sunstreaker hesitated a moment before speaking.

"It's fine," he said, his posture screaming the opposite.

"Now who's the sparkling?" Sideswipe muttered. He nudged Ratchet while gesturing between him and Sunstreaker. "Ratch – switch back to that seat, Sunny – you come to the middle; I'll take the other end. Come on, let's go, before this thing is over with!"

Bemusedly, Ratchet stood and let Sideswipe slither by, Sunstreaker scooting over to sit in Ratchet's abandoned chair. When they had all settled, Sunstreaker contentedly leaned back in his seat, placidly watching mechs trickle into the courtroom.

"Are you all quite done?" First Tier asked from where he had stepped back to watch their maneuvering.

Sunstreaker arched an orbital ridge as if to challenge the lawyer to comment further. "Quite," he replied. Now with Sideswipe on one side of him, Ratchet on the other, and Ironhide left at the back of the room, Sunstreaker seemed much more at ease. Ratchet hoped it would ease some of his irritability.

"Well, as long as you're comfortable," First Tier said doubtfully. "It should only be another fifteen minutes or so. The jury and judge will enter right on the hour."

"Where's 'Notch?" Sideswipe inquired.

"He'll be escorted in after the jury is seated," First Tier said. "I would like to look over my notes one final time. Will you be alright if I do that?"

"We'll be fine," Ratchet said, shooing the lawyer away. "You're not far; if we need you, we'll come get you."

With one last considering glance, First Tier moved went through the gate dividing the audience seats from the lawyer's tables.

"And he's the best we could get?" Sunstreaker muttered.

"Sunny! I know this is stressful, but I've had just about enough of your attitude today," Ratchet exclaimed, giving his ward a chiding look. Sunstreaker dropped his optics and fidgeted.

"Sorry," he muttered. "I'm just…" He trailed off, looking frustrated.

Ratchet sighed, leaning over to place a kiss against Sunstreaker's cheek. Sideswipe leaned into his brother from the other side, optics sympathetic.

"I know. It's alright. Just tone it down a little, ok?"

Sunstreaker nodded, drawing himself up a little. "I'll try," he promised.

Some of the tension bled out of his posture, and he began looking around the room, showing more interest in his surroundings.

He snorted when his survey of the room turned back towards the doors they had entered through.

"Your friend's here," he announced, grinning.

~ End Chapter 29