The Long Road Home

Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers; I'm just prostituting it for my amusement.

Summary: Ratchet falls for the Twins when they are gladiators enslaved to the Tarn's arena. Even as they become Autobots it's an uphill battle for these three lovers as not even the Twins' own brother, Red Alert, believes they can be trusted. (Runs concurrently-ish with The Road Less Travelled By)

Warning: war, M/M robots

Pairings: Twins/Ratchet, Jazz/Prowl, Optimus/Ironhide

Klik: One minute, 1.2 kliks

Breem: 8.3 minutes, 9-ish kliks

Joor: One Hour, not giving it a specific length, suffice it to say that Cybertron does not share the same orbit or rotation as Earth, an hour, a day would be different lengths from ours

Mega-cycle: One Day, 93 hours/ joors

Orn: One Week, 13 mega-cycles

Quartex: One Month, 4 orns

Stellar Cycle: One Year, 7.5 quartexes

Vorn: Length of Sparklinghood and Younglinghood: 83 stellar cycles.

A gladiatorial arena. This was possibly as close as you could ever come to the last place Ratchet would have ever wanted to visit. It was the last place he wanted to be now. But the Commander had chosen Officer Hardstrike to escort Ratchet on a quick trip to Tarns. They were due a reward, he had said. Hardstrike had been keeping the ranks of the garrison well in line over the last few quartexes, and Ratchet had been keeping his acidic opinions, mostly, to himself. No one had asked Ratchet if he had wanted to visit the arena. Had Ratchet been asked what he would have liked for a reward, he would have said a day of quiet, a long distance comm to one of his friends, most anything but a day at the arena.

But Hardstrike was a fan of the arena, and he had been allowed to choose the reward for both of them. They had two platinum tickets to the largest arena in Tarns. It would allow them anywhere, even into the pit where "debtor" gladiators were housed.

Primus Ratchet was a medic. Why would any medic want to watch two mechs or femmes rip each other to shreds? Ratchet watched this sort of mayhem enough when the garrison had skirmishes with the Decepticon rebels or the local Tarns militia. Frag, he saw it often enough when some 'Bot stationed in the garrison got a little testy and a little overcharged. How anyone would want to pay to watch the bloodsport, Ratchet would never understand.

Maybe he could lose Hardstrike at some point during the day. Then Ratchet could sneak back to the hotel, to his private room and have the day of quiet he had wanted from the beginning. Now there was an idea worth considering. Ratchet kept his disappointment and his disgust to himself. He even feigned gratitude. Hitting the grey and blue painted officer with a wrench and calling him a fragging glitch for taking him to the arena would only hinder Ratchet's plans. If Ratchet played his cards right, he might work his way to a transfer somewhere, anywhere, closer to real civilization. Iacon would be ideal, but Ratchet would jump on a transfer to Praxus, Crystal City, anywhere but the Decepticon strongholds. He was tired of living in the "in between" places, garrisons set up by the Cybertronian government outside of the independent city-states. The official reasoning was to act as a peace keeping forces when trouble brewed between the city-states. If he had to keep his glossa to himself, just for a little while, to get out of the garrisons, maybe into a civilian operation, Ratchet would swallow his temper and play nice. Even if it meant spending a day in the arena.

He was already biting his glossa to stop from cursing Primus, Unicron, the Commander, and everyone else for this "reward." The fights hadn't even begun.

Ratchet was actually surprised when they walked passed the stairs that should have led to their seats, close to the combat floor, front row in effect and instead walked down a flight of stairs into the underground levels of the arena. Hardstrike had a real spring to his step. He was tickled pink to be at the arena, even if that meant he had to escort the garrison's malcontent medic. The cheers of the crowd echoed through the floor, as did stomping peds. Ratchet felt his fuel tank churn with disgust. They were almost immediately under the combat floor.

"The special feature," the officer exclaimed, as though he was showing Ratchet something worth seeing. There was a small crowd of mechs and femmes standing in front of a holding cell, the containment field mimicked glass in that it was totally see through.

Within the cell sat a gorgeous yellow mech. Even sitting, it was clear that this was a tall mech, probably a full helm taller than Ratchet himself. His armour told Ratchet that he was a close quarters fighter, but not a slow one. The frame type was popular in Kaon. The mechs were fast, resilient and slow to tire. This mech twitched periodically. His optics were offline. As Ratchet watched, the yellow gladiator's servos clenched and unclenched and his right leg tensed badly for just a moment.

"Look up at the screen," Hardstrike said, as he pointed up at a screen above the containment field. A red mech of a similar frame type was fighting two heavy-frames on the combat floor. Only one now, as the green and grey heavy-frame fell and stayed down after the red gladiator struck with full force against the back of his neck. Just as Ratchet focused on the screen, the red mech took a hit to his right leg. Another hit, given that the leg was already sparking. A hiss drew Ratchet's attention back to the cell. The yellow mech was clutching his own right leg, as if it hurt. Realization struck Ratchet hard in the spark and the processor.

"Split-sparks," Ratchet murmured with surprise. Such sparks were rare, very rare in fact. How had a pair of split-sparks ended up in the fragging arena?

"Oh look, he won," the grey and blue mech hummed. "We'll take our seats then. It's time for the main event."

"The main event?" The medic asked, momentarily distracted from the horror that such rare sparks were fighting at gladiators in this Pit.

"Now the yellow one fights," Hardstrike explained. His optics were bright with excitement. "They use Sideswipe, the red one, as a warm up. Oh he's a good fighter, and an entertaining one, but he doesn't do the "no holds" matches. That's Sunstreaker. But he's too vicious so they handicap him by making Sideswipe fight first. They feel each other so Sunstreaker might be in perfect form but he hurts."

"That seems... Brutal," Ratchet murmured. He fought hard to keep the disgust from his voice.

"Sunstreaker over powers most of his opponents otherwise," the officer dismissed Ratchet's concerns. "It's not entertaining if it isn't a contest. In the "no holds" matches, anything goes and the combatants often try to deactivate each other. That's what makes Sunstreaker such an entertaining gladiator. Every fight is a fight to the death."

"Primus," Ratchet swore under his intakes. Did no one care that if one of the twins died, the other would follow? It wasn't even like bond-mates where the surviving mate could live if they had the willpower. Split-sparks could not survive the loss of the other half of their spark. They couldn't survive feeling it fade. Bond-mates didn't feel the physical pain and tactile sensations of their mates, not unless they were in the act of hardline interfacing.

Ratchet was ready to bolt. He didn't want to watch the fight; he didn't want to see the beautiful yellow mech deactivate his opponent, or worse be deactivated by his opponent. Then he saw the red brother. Sideswipe was as much a beauty as Sunstreaker. Instead of audial finds, he had sensory horns. Like Ratchet had surmised of the yellow twin, the red one towered a full helm over him. He was fairing his right leg. The gladiator didn't notice Ratchet, or any of the spectators that had crowded around the cell. As the containment field fell and Sunstreaker was ushered out, Sideswipe brushed his shoulder plating against that of his twin. There was a low growl from Sunstreaker, and then the brothers'locked optics.

They were speaking to each other over a relay. All the literature Ratchet had ever read on split-sparks had spoken of a twin relay, not unlike that which formed in bonded sparks. Ratchet wondered if anyone knew the gladiators spoke without speaking.

Were they debtors? Slavery was illegal on Cybertron. Though that didn't stop the black market slave rings in Kaon; Tarns technically had anti-slavery laws written into the city-states law books. Still, debtors could be forced to pay back their debts in the arena and there were rumours that creators and youngling centres both sold combative creations to the arena. A fake debt was all that was needed to trap an innocent mech or femme into forced combat. It wasn't spoken of in Iacon, or in the halls of government. Many members of the senate visited Tarn to enjoy the occasionally bout, as did many of the society's elite from all the city-states. Cybertron's dirty secret.

The medic took his seat and sat stiffly. Before either combatant could throw a punch Ratchet decided that as long as Sunstreaker didn't deactivate in his match, he was going to repair the twins. He doubted it would matter much to either of them, but it would be a penance to Ratchet's spark for witnessing the "games". When the call for the match to begin rang out, Ratchet offlined is optics. The crowd roared with bloodthirsty glee around him. Ratchet's fuel tank convulsed. Primus let this match end before he purged from disgust.

It turned out to be easy to escape Hard strike after Sunstreaker's match. The officer went for a cube of high grade in the arena's bar. Ratchet went back down into the underground. His pass allowed him passed the holding cells and into the barracks. Each door bore the name of the resident gladiator, and it only took Ratchet a bream to find the door marked with "The Twins." A nervous flutter from his spark, stilled Ratchet for just a klik. What the slag did he have to be nervous about? Another ticket holder walked passed Ratchet and the medic hunched slightly, trying to hide his faceplates from the other mech. When the coast was clear, Ratchet knocked. The door flew open just a nanosecond later. Sunstreaker filled the doorway.

"We don't want a prostibot," the yellow twin growled as he glared down at Ratchet's largely white frame. Ratchet felt his hackles rise. Prostibot?! That slagger!

"I'm not a prostibot," Ratchet snapped. Temper wouldn't do him any good here, but he couldn't help it. Prostibot? Really? His frame was utilitarian, boxy really and painted white save for the red of his hips and servos, and the black chevron on his helm. It certainly wasn't the flashy paint of a prostibot.

"Fan then," Sunstreaker snarled. The malicious expression further marred faceplates that were cracked and dented. "We don't want your equipment."

"Slagger, I'm a medic," snarled Ratchet and he felt his faceplates burn from both anger and embarrassment. "I'm here to repair you."

"No way would our handler pay for that," the red brother countered from within the room. His tone was less overtly hostile than his twin's but it wasn't overflowing with trust or warmth either.

"I'm not here for credits," the medic insisted while trying to put his temper back in check. Sunstreaker stepped back into into the simple room, Ratchet followed him in and the door slid shut behind him with a distinct click.

"Then why?" Sideswipe asked. The room contained nothing more than a large berth, just one, which Sunstreaker promptly returned to, sprawling next to his red twin. They had clearly been taking stock of their damage. They had removed the armour from Sideswipe's leg, revealing the wires and cables.

"I'm a medic," Ratchet repeated, a little more emphasis on the word medic. "There shouldn't need to be any other reason."

"There has to be," the yellow gladiator countered. "There always is."

"My own conscience then," the medic grumbled. He had the powerful urge to beat that handsome mech over the helm with a wrench. Even with cracked and compressed faceplates he was still an attractive mech. "Is that enough for you?"

"Your first time at the arena?" Sideswipe asked. The realization seemed to make his optics flash a little brighter, warming his silver faceplates. Beautiful. "What, you didn't like what you saw?"

"Yes, and no," Ratchet replied, his voice softer. He vented a quick puff of air.

"The arena isn't cheap," the red brother thought out loud. His optics gleamed along with his twin's as they observed Ratchet. "So why come if you don't like a little spilled energon?"

"It was a reward," explained the frustrated medic. He stood straighter under their intense focus, and dimmed his optics in a glare. "From the officer in charge of my garrison. He didn't ask what I wanted for a reward."

"A softspark then," Sunstreaker muttered. "Fine. Repair us. If that'll help your conscience."

Ratchet glowered at the yellow gladiator but kept his peace. The urge to throw a wrench or two at that pretty helm would pass. Giving into the urge would likely result in spilled energon, namely Ratchet's. He was not feeling that forgiving though; the mech was intentionally caustic, that much was clear. In an act of petulance, Ratchet took a few tools from his subspace compartment, namely a plating regenerator and a few wrenches, ignoring the more antagonistic brother, turned his attention to Sideswipe.

"Do you mind if I plug in and check your diagnostic read outs?" He asked.

"Plug on in," said the red mech, as he moved his right arm up and exposed the port hidden in the seam of his armour. Ratchet withdrew the diagnostic cable from inside his arm and plugged in.

Sideswipe was aching from the compression injuries brought on from plating collapsing over the sensors beneath. The thigh strut of his right leg had a minor crack, along with several shorted wires. Through the cable, Ratchet requested authorization to download painkilling programs.

"I can install stronger programs if you don't want to feel your repairs," Ratchet offered.

"Don't bother," Sideswipe brushed off the offer. Ratchet got to work on his repairs. He examined the fried wires, and poked around the support structures of Sideswipe's damaged leg. The crack was easy enough to weld; the wires took longer to replace. It took over a joor to mend Sideswipe's damaged leg. Only then did Ratchet move on and repair various compressed sensors throughout his frame. Once the internal damage had been repaired, Ratchet banged out the dents in the removed armour and used his regenerator to repair any cracks. Only buffing and painting would smooth out the cosmetic damage, but Ratchet wasn't a detailer.

"Any pain?" Ratchet asked in order to confirm he hadn't missed anything.

"Nope," Sideswipe almost purred. He still ached a bit but his self-repair systems would deal with those little irritations in an orn or so. "You're turn Sunny."

"Don't call me that," the yellow brother ordered with a growl. Ratchet held his diagnostic cable to Sunstreaker and waited. On the surface, Sunstreaker's injuries looked to be limited to compression and cracks to his plating, the worst cracking being on his faceplates. But underneath the surface, how could he know? Sunstreaker took the cable from Ratchet and plugged it into himself.

Numerous sensors in Sunstreaker's chassis were compressed, more than Ratchet had expected. He hadn't watched even one nanosecond of the fight, having offlined his optics before the first attack had been thrown. Compression damage riddled his arms. Some delicate components in his wrist were broken. These were classic self defence injuries. Sunstreaker resisted lowering his firewalls so that Ratchet could install the painkilling programs, but only for a moment.

"Lay down," Ratchet ordered as he disconnected his cable. "I'm going to start with your faceplates, then you're wrist."

It took Ratchet just slightly longer to repair Sunstreaker than it had taken him to repair Sideswipe. Faceplates were delicate, and thin metal. The plating couldn't be removed for repair, and it was loaded with sensors. Using his regenerator, Ratchet raised the compressed plating back up to its proper level and fused the cracks. For Sunstreaker's faceplates, Ratchet was especially thorough, making sure that the cracks left no scars. Ratchet stripped the armour from Sunstreaker's wrist and examined the broken components. They didn't affect the joints mobility, other then by causing pain. If he'd had the parts in his subspace, Ratchet would replaced the components. The best he could do with what he had was glue the components together with an adhesive that would draw Sunstreaker's self-repair systems to the injury and then melt away when the component were truly whole again. After that, it was only a matter of removing the yellow plating, hammering out the dents, and soothing the sensors that covered Sunstreaker's protoform. Five joors had passed by the time Ratchet deemed the repairs of both brothers complete.

"What's your designation?" Sideswipe asked while Ratchet returned his tools to his subspace. The medic stood. It was time to return to his hotel. It was later in the evening than he would have liked but at least he would have a little quiet time before he had to return to the garrison in the morning.


"So that's it?" Sunstreaker asked as Ratchet sat back. The look in the gladiator's pale blue optics made a rush of heat roll over Ratchet's frame. His fans picked up speed, buzzing faintly when Ratchet turned to look at the red twin and saw the same expression of open lust.

"I though you said you didn't want my equipment," Ratchet reminded the very lecherous looking twins.

"Not when we thought you were offering it," Sunstreaker replied. It earned him a sharp clack on his helm from Ratchet's favourite wrench. Sunstreaker snarled and rubbed his helm. Ratchet matched the snarl with a low rumble of his own.

"You're not much of a smooth talker, Sunny," teased the red gladiator. "What Sunny meant to say is we don't like fans."

"Don't call me Sunny," his yellow brother grumbled. He straightened and resumed eyeing Ratchet with clear interest. "But Sides is right. We don't like fans."

"You shouldn't," Ratchet agreed. Why should they like any mech or femme that spent money to watch them fight in forced combat?

The want that seemed to grow in both pairs of optics made Ratchet want to squirm. No one lusted after him. Never mind that Ratchet was old, maybe not ancient, but he was still old, he was also crotchety and completely lacking in social graces. And yet the two young, virile, and powerful gladiators looked like they wanted to jump his circuits.

They didn't wait for him to say yes, or no. The twins each reached out a servo and dragged Ratchet onto the berth, and onto them. Sunstreaker pressed his frame against the left side of Ratchet's chassis and Sideswipe pressed his against the right side of Ratchet's back. Their servos pressed against Ratchet's quickly heating white frame and searched out transformation seams and servo rich sweet spots to draw the first pleasured moans from Ratchet's vocalizer.

Gentleness was the last thing Ratchet would ever have expected from these two. But they were gentle, even tender, as they slowly explored his frame. Ratchet knew he could say no; he had all the time in the world to say no but there was no way in the Pit he ever wanted them to. Pleasure didn't burn through his systems so much as it flowed over them, slowly raising his core temperature. His fan hummed loudly as they picked up speed in a futile attempt to cool Ratchet's frame as charge seeped into every component. Lubricants began seeping from the lining of his valve, though neither Sunstreaker nor Sideswipe had touch the protective panel that shielded Ratchet's interface equipment.

Ratchet searched for hidden bundles of wires within the seams of Sunstreaker's armour. Sideswipe's engine revved against his back in time with Sunstreaker's, which revved against Ratchet's chassis, as Ratchet found a bundle of wires immediately beneath the port he had previously connected his diagnostic cable to. Yes. This was good.

Without exchanging a word, the twins shifted around on the berth so that Ratchet's back was pressed firmly up against Sideswipe's chassis, and Sunstreaker was pressed flush with his chassis. Their engines revved in unison, vibrating through Ratchet's frame. Charge crackled over the three interlocked frames. Ratchet's legs were spread wide as he sat stretched over two sets of well armoured thighs. It was Sideswipe who's servos slid down the sides of Ratchet's chassis, along his spread thighs and over his simply smouldering interface panel. The second Sideswipe touched the panel, it slid open automatically.

Perhaps Ratchet should have been a little embarrassed at how easily the twins had brought him into this hyper aroused and wanton state, but he wasn't. He wanted the digits that ghosted over his spike and teased the slick rim of his valve. He wanted the servos buried in the wiring of his sides and the denta nibbling on his chevron. Every touch, every teasing, maddening touch, Ratchet wanted them all. And he wanted more.

"Primus," Ratchet groaned as his valve was slowly penetrated by one long, elegant digit. It had been a long time, too long really, since Ratchet had even bothered to self-serviced. Sideswipe moaned in appreciation and Sunstreaker growled in Ratchet's audials. A shiver ran down the medic's back struts and straight into his valve resulting in a rush of lubricants as it clung greedily to first one and then two wonderfully long digits.

"You're tight," Sideswipe said in a husky voice. He purred into Ratchet audial, opposite to his brother. "So hot."

Sunstreaker silenced Ratchet's moan with a kiss. The yellow twin devouring every sound. Ratchet bit Sunstreaker's lip plate as the gladiator wrapped one servo around Ratchet's spike and slid the other between Ratchet's spread thighs to join his brother's at Ratchet's valve. Three digits filled him now. Digits from both twins gradually stretched his valve line apart, encouraging the interlocking plates that made up the casing to move apart. Sensor nodes all throughout Ratchet's valve reacted to the shifting of the plates, and the insistent pressure of the invading digits.

Overload hit Ratchet with the force of a city-former as both brother curled their digits with his valve, and Sunstreaker dragged his thumb digit over the node cluster that made up the head of Ratchet's spike. Ratchet arched his helm back, breaking away from the kiss and crying out. His optics went white with pleasure before briefly shorting out as charge crackled over his frame and onto those of his berth partners. He didn't exactly collapse onto Sunstreaker, but he did melt.

His intakes sucked greedy breaths into his frame and Ratchet was momentarily deafened by the loud hum of his fans as they worked to cool his overheated systems. Ratchet was going to say something, though he immediately forgot what and the words transformed into a low, breathy moan as his valve was stretched impossibly wide. He was slack, strut-less from his overload and Ratchet offered no resistance as not one but two thick spikes pressed up and into his valve.

The penetration hurt. It was worse than discomfort but better than pain and it was interwoven with unimaginable ecstasy. Overload had left the nodes in Ratchet's valve especially sensitive. As the spikes pressed up, Ratchet's strut-less frame was allowed to ease down. A fresh wave of lubricants gushed from within Ratchet's valve, coating the spikes and easing their passage as they scraped along every sensor dragging little whimpers and moans of pleasure from Ratchet. It didn't help the plates shift apart but they did shift gradually allowing the twinned spike deeper and deeper. Ratchet shuddered; the twins were tense around him, in him.

"Oh frag," Ratchet swore. The pain was obliterated by a jolt of all encompassing pleasure as a series of sensory nodes were set alight by the twins' spikes. He swore an oath to Primus as the twins bottomed out against the top of his valve. They could not have gone any deeper into his body. Some Cybertronians felt pain or discomfort if the cluster of sensory nodes that surrounded the fluid intake valve that opened and closed to block or to allow transfluids into the reproductive system were compressed. For Ratchet the sensation was more akin to processor blowing ecstasy.

A hiss escaped Sideswipe's vocalizer as he pressed his faceplates against the side of Ratchet's helm. His digit dug into the transformation seams at Ratchet's hips. Sunstreaker cursed into the crook of Ratchet's neck. His servos gripped Ratchet's shoulder plating with enough force to leave digit sized dents. Neither brother moved. Their engines revved and their fans vibrated with the force of their rotation. The sensations vibrated through Ratchet's frame. More sparks crackled over the three frames. Ratchet felt the his valve flutter reflexively around the twinned spikes.

No node in his valve remained untouched, uncompressed and agonizing heat began to built anew in his systems. They rocked in him, slow shallow thrusts easing apart the interlocking plates and stretching Ratchet's taut valve. He clenched his valve firmly around the spikes earning him curses from both brothers.

"Move," the medic ordered in a voice that was husky with and tinged with static. "Frag me, damn it."

"Thank Primus," Sunstreaker groaned.

Ratchet wrapped hiss arms around Sunstreaker's neck as the twins eased out of his valve as the same time and Ratchet wriggled, trying to raise his aft and do more than just sit there. He let out a very undignified whine as the spikes slipped almost completely out of his well stretched valve. In one long, steady thrust the twins were buried in the depths of Ratchet valve and he shouted his approval. Nothing had ever felt this good.

The trio's ventilations, and the roar of their overheated systems were almost loud enough to muffled pleasure filled cries, groans and curses. Ratchet rocked back against the twins, his helm flung back now as the twins covered both sides of his neck with love bites. No structural cable was safe from their demanding mouths. His frame was beyond burning now, a white heat blazed through every circuit, eliminating all thought until Ratchet couldn't remember his own name.

His valve spasmed as Ratchet overloaded with an incoherent cry. His lovers kept their languid pace, never rushing, never pounding hard up into Ratchet's spasming valve. They took him gently. Their opponents would never have believe it.

Finally their cries of completion echoed over the loud hum of the roaring fans. The rush of their transfluids filling every crevasse within him, the great charge that erupted from the red and yellow gladiators triggered a third overload in Ratchet. He was spent and could only moans as it licked over his pleasure fried circuits.

When Ratchet awoke from his overload induced recharge, he found himself sprawled over two warm frames. His helm was rested over one twin's, Ratchet guessed Sideswipe's, chassis. He couldn't be bothered to online his optics just yet and remained still as he listened to the soft hum of the spark hidden behind the armour. Ratchet vented a soft gust of air as he ran his self-diagnostics. They had been exceedingly gentle in their interfacing, and though his valve was thoroughly overstretched it was not torn or really damaged in any way. In a few mega-cycles it would shift back to it's normal shape and size. For now Ratchet enjoyed the dull, ache that would serve as a reminder of their thorough 'facing as his valve recovered.

If only his life had turned out how he had envisioned. Ratchet had planned, from early on in his Academy education, to become Chief Medical Officer of Iacon's premier medical institution. Had his life worked out how Ratchet had planned, he would have had the funds to buy Sunstreaker and Sideswipe's contracts, no matter how high the cost might have been. But given how Ratchet's life had worked out, he couldn't have afforded any gladiator's contract.

It was his glossa and his pride that got Ratchet into trouble time and time again. The greatest nail hammered into the coffin of his career had been the first one. Ratchet had seen a medical mistake in the making while working at institution he had dreamed of running. Unable to hold his glossa, Ratchet had called the medic, while not the CMO, he had still been far higher up in seniority than Ratchet had been. He had argued when the senior medic had dismissed his concerns and Ratchet had raged when the patient had expired because he had been right.

Right or wrong, respect for authority had been paramount to this institution and Ratchet's tenure at the institution had ended on the grounds of insolence. After that, though he had not been officially blacklisted, Ratchet had been unable to find a position at any hospital in Iacon, Crystal City, Praxus, or any other city-state with a reasonable reputation. After his exile, only hospitals in Tarns and Kaon would offer him positions. Ratchet had always had standards and had refused, out of principle, to work for slavers, or despots.

That was how he had ended up as any army medic. The Cybertronian government had fewer standards as far as temperament went than the hospitals. Still, Ratchet's glossa had made certain that he was stationed well away from civilization. First the Bedlands bordering Kaon, and now the "in between" bordering Tarns. After vorns of service to the army, Ratchet's temperament had worsened, but his self control had improved. He could, and he would keep his snark to himself long enough to get a posting at a garrison more closely situated to civilized society.

Ratchet checked his chronometer and groaned. It was late in the night cycle and he needed to return to his hotel. As pleasant as it was to dose over the frames of his gladiator lovers, he would be meeting Hard Strike in the morning to make the return journey to the garrison. He couldn't stay with the twins overnight. It was a shame, Ratchet had forgotten how he enjoyed recharging against another frame.

Sideswipe had been his cushion, Ratchet noted when he online his optics, and slowly shifted into a sitting position. The twins must have been recharging too, given the dozy, and vaguely irritated looks he garnered from both brothers. Sunstreaker reached, and tried to coax Ratchet back down, back to recharge but the white medic resisted.

"I have to go," he explained. "I leave for the garrison in the morning."

"Too bad," the yellow twin murmured, still half in recharge. "Any chance you'll come back?"

"If I can," Ratchet's reply was tinged with regret. "On my next leave, if I can get the funds."

"Thanks for repairing us," the red twin said. Before Ratchet could slip off the berth, Sideswipe dragged him into a searing kiss. "First time in a long time that anyone could be bothered to care."

"Try not to get slagged," it was all Ratchet could think to say.

The guard stationed at the exit from the underground gave Ratchet a knowing smirk as he trudged, brusquely passed. There were scuffs of red and yellow paint marring his own, badly worn white and red paint. At least he wasn't covered in transfluids and lubricants; the twins had been considerate enough to clean him up as Ratchet had recharged. Had they not, Ratchet would have cleaned up before he had left them. But they had been considerate lovers, more caring than Ratchet had ever had, and it had only been for a few brief joors.

Ratchet couldn't meet Hardstrike with the telltale signs of interfacing all over his frame. Instead of sinking into the hotel berth, Ratchet carefully buffed away all the paint transfer from his armour. Taking note of the compressed cables of his necks, Ratchet repaired them quickly. It almost hurt to, though not physically. By the time Ratchet's frame was presentable the sun was rising over Tarns. He considered grabbing a cube before meeting Hard Strike.

"Ratchet," Hardstrike called over the comm. "The commander just commed me. You've received an urgent call back at the garrison. Straight from the Prime."

"The Prime," Ratchet echoed.

"Yes," the mid-armoured officer replied. "We need to get you back to the garrison immediately.

"Yes sir," the stunned medic said. "I'll meet you on the street."

What could the Prime want? It was not Sentinel Prime. Ratchet was not so out of touch that he didn't know that a mech called Optimus Prime now led the government and the Autobot faction that was slipping away from the servos of the senate. Ironhide had told him in a rare comm call. The bodyguard had praised the new Prime's humanity, and had ranted about his stubborn morals. There was no reason for the Prime to contact Ratchet. Wait. Ratchet was Ironhide's next of kin. Had Ironhide been terminated? Could the Prime be contacting Ironhide to give him the deactivation notice? The medic's spark twisted painfully within its casing. He ran for the street and waited impatiently for Hard Strike to arrive.

"You look grim," Hard strike noted as he approached Ratchet.

"I'm next of kin to the Prime's bodyguard," the medic explained in a grim tone.

"Ouch," Hardstrike had the gall to laugh. "Didn't know that or we wouldn't have tried to make it a surprise."

"Eh?" Ratchet made a confused noise. His hackles were rising. "What surprise?"

"The Prime began the process of ordering a transfer for you orns ago," the officer explained lightly. "This trip has really been a good-bye present from the commander. The Prime must have commed to make it official."

"A transfer," Ratchet murmured. This had to have been Ironhide's work, though how he had managed it, Ratchet couldn't guess.

If the Prime was involved, the transfer was most likely going to be to Iacon. Unexpectedly, Ratchet felt his spark constrict at the idea. Iacon was on the other side of the planet from Tarns. It would be harder, far harder for Ratchet to budget a transport to the city-state, let alone the cost of a platinum ticket to the arena. He would have to manage it. Ratchet made a promise to himself as his wheels took him across the border, and out of Tarns. If it took every credit he earned, Ratchet promised himself that he would visit tarns again, and with enough credits to buy the twins' contracts.

Ratchet couldn't have known that it would be a vorn before he returned to Tarns. By the time he returned, the arena, and the rest of the city-state was a smoking ruin.

End Chapter 1

AN: I know, I know. I really needed to have another story on the go, right? It can't be helped. This plotworm got into my hate and would not be denied. These three are my OTP so no surprise there.