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Starting Again

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The shopping trip had been somewhat successful. Thundercracker and Ultra Magnus had managed to select a new couch that was more suited for both of their larger frames (the guidelines had stated that this item was required), a two seat dinette, and a couple of plush chairs for each of them with complementary side tables. The few new additions had made the living area appear more lived in.

The new items didn’t get much use the first kilocycle of their co-habitation. Ultra Magnus would leave early in the hours of the morning to his job with the local police division. Thundercracker would wake several joors after and dawdle about until time for himself to head into work. He often stayed late working, going out to events he was covering, then writing up a review for the next day’s report. Ultra Magnus was usually already in recharge when he arrived home. The first few nights the truck had attempted to wait for him to return, but failing and falling into recharge in his new chair. After waking he would attempt to make conversation, but Thundercracker just waved him off as he headed into the wash rack to clean up, and again when he made his way to the berth.

From their balcony Thundercracker could transform and launch himself quickly over the city to the large business building several blocks from the apartment that housed his cubicle. The building was one of the larger buildings to be raised in the city so far. It contained everything that was seeker and aerial focused. From the politicians to specialized custom shops, it had everything that would be of interest to the flyers of Cybertron.

Thundercracker worked on the first floor for the small local newspaper. Not the big paper, the one that covered the big events and news from all around Cybertron, that one was located halfway up the building. His paper focused on small bits of news of Iacon. Thundercracker’s responsibility had been to the arts and entertainment section of the paper.

He had had the pleasure of attending several plays, concerts, and art exhibits over the past decacycle. Attending opening nights, and in some cases being invited to day before showings to provide advertisement and review for the event in the next day’s issue. The job had it’s perks in providing many evenings filled with long nights and pleasant company.

Artisian reviews weren’t his passion, though. Having been on Earth, he had developed an interest in TV drama’s he hadn’t experienced growing up on Cybertron. As squishee as the human race was, they did know how to put on a good show. He and Skywarp would often sneak off on the Nemisis and watch the jerry rigged TV in one of the less used utility closets. Skywarp had enjoyed the brightly colored, animated drawings, called cartoons. They would spend hours laughing at the violence that was portrayed in a humorous way. Often having conversations of how the creatures were never actually harmed or killed in the situations they were placed in.

Thundercracker frowned as he let a memory of one of their common discussions, which was better? The roadrunner or the mouse named Jerry, drift through his processor. Oddly, Earth had given Thundercracker many good memories with Skywarp. Starscream had spent so much time fighting with Megatron, trying to over throw their leader, that it was almost the way it was before the war. Just Skywarp and himself.

He scrubbed at his face. He needed to focus. With his article for tomorrow's paper, about a new art gallery opening this weekend, already submitted and awaiting edits, he was trying to get some writing down for an idea he had for a vid-screen drama. His favorites shows from Earth had been the medical mysteries. Humans were so susceptible to so many illnesses that at times it evaded the human medics and the episodes were spent educating him on different ailments until the correct one was diagnosed. The acting made it seem as if the diagnoses was a surprise, a twist that was unexpected. Thundercracker didn’t always understand it, but he got the general idea and enjoyed the suspense. He wanted to bring something similar to Cybertron. A gruff medic, suffering loads of emotional backstory, and his band of new bright eyed interns struggling to figure out the strange and unusual viruses and codes. He had loads of files on different Cybertronian diseases now. Currently he was researching a particularly nasty micro-scraplet that could slowly eat a mech from the inside out.

His research was interrupted by an incoming call. *Ultra Magnus*, his HUD prompted. Sighing he switched the communicator to his inner coms. His coworkers didn't need to listen in on this conversation.

“Yes.” He snapped as he answered.

“Oh. Uh.” He stumbled slightly to find his wording. “ I hope I'm not interrupting anything.”

“I'm in the middle of important research.” He half lied, “What do you want?”

“I just spoke with Rung, the psychiatrist under the council.” He paused, waiting for an acknowledgment of understanding. But Thundercracker simply scrolled through the article he had been reading. “He, uh, was informing me that you and I are due for our first session with him at the start of the kilocycle. We set up a time, but I wanted to confirm that the time was acceptable for you also.” He read off the day and time.

Thundercracker glanced at his calendar. “That should be fine. As long as it isn't too long. I have work to attend to that evening.”

“Rung assured me that the meeting would be less than a joor. I’ll confirm with him that the time is acceptable.”

“Fine.”

Ultra Magnus cleared his throat on the other side of the line, “Do you have any plans for this evening?” he began. “We haven't spent much time together this kilocycle. I was wondering if you would like to get dinner, maybe some other event afterwards. I'm not sure what at the moment but I'm sure we could find something.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose Thundercracker sighed to himself. He hated this so much. “ No. I don't have anything this evening as of yet.” He silently prayed he would get some sudden assignment. “All I had planned was to go to the grocery store. The energon and additives selection at the apartment is pathetic.”

“We could do that afterwards, if you like. There is a store a short distance from the apartment, and there are several restaurants to choose from in that sector also.”

“Yeah, sure, where ever. I don’t care.” Thundercracker said dismissively.

There was a long pause, Thundercracker double checked his communicator to see if the call had been dropped. “Okay,” Ultra Magnus’ voice finally came. “I’ll meet you outside the apartment then. 1700 alright?”

“Yeah, I’ll meet you there.”

They said their awkward goodbyes and Thundercracker dropped his head to his keyboard, banging against it a few times.

The rest of his cycle was uneventful. He saved several files on the micro-scraplets before his edits came back, finished those and resubmitted, and started planning a plot around the micro-scraplets. He managed a few pages before he noticed mechs meander around and begin their processes of clocking out. It was 1645. He cleared his desk and made sure everything was in order for the next cycle.

He slowly made his way to the floors launch pad. He suddenly wished he had made some friends. Someone who could possibly stop him on his way out and give him a reason to postpone or cancel meeting with Ultra Magnus. But he hadn’t. He mostly kept to himself. Usually heading towards his home with Skywarp and Starscream, he hadn’t had any reason to want contact with others at his work. A few bots waved to him on his way out, but that was the extent of his interaction most cycles with his peers.

He had delayed as much as he could, choosing a slower queue and letting a few others who appeared to be in a hurry to go ahead of him, then flying at a relatively slow pace. He was still 5 kliks early. He stood near the front of their building. Arms across his chest, watching all directions for the mech he was waiting for, he didn’t actually know where the police station was located. He quickly spotted Ultra Magnus down the sidewalk, the huge mech was easily spotted towering over the rest of the crowd.

Thundercracker noticed that he seemed to be talking to someone. Several someones he noticed as the small group got closer. Ratchet, Knockout, Rodimus, and, ugh the saboteur, he couldn’t remember his name. That black and white mech was having a laugh along with Rodimus while Ratchet and Ultra Magnus seemed to be having a more serious conversation. Knockout strolled a few steps behind them all with his arms stretched and bent behind his helm.

Thundercracker felt himself curl in on himself slightly as the group approached. Ultra Magnus had given him a small wave as he stopped in front of the doors, finishing his conversation with the medic. Knockout and the saboteur made their way inside, the decepticon medic catching onto the end of the previous conversation with Rodimus and continued with it inside. Ratchet made optic contact with Thundercracker and gave a small nod, then waved Ultra Magnus off saving the rest of their conversation for later. Ultra Magnus saw him off with a small nod.

“How’s it rollin’ Thundacracka?” a hand smacked his shoulder, causing him to jump.

“Forgotten how to pronounce your “r’s” Rodimus?” He growled at the small fiery mech, shrugging the hand off his shoulder.

“Nah, just being friendly. Mixing it up some. I’m a wiz when it comes to giving out nicknames. Don’t like yours?” The mech pulled a mock pout. “You’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t like it.”

Thundercracker opened his mouth to respond, but another voice interrupted him.

“Quit being a nuisance, Rodimus.” Both mechs turned their attention to Ultra Magnus as he joined them to the side.

The young prime turned his pout to the larger mech. “Aww, common Mags, I was just introducing myself to your boyfriend.” Thundercracker pulled himself in tighter, and Ultra Magnus stiffened at the comment. Rodimus laughed and threw his hands behind his head. “See you two were made for each other!” he proclaimed as he turned away from the two and started towards the street. He turned and waved at them, “See ya tomorrow Magnus!” Then he transformed and quickly disappeared into the rush hour traffic.

Ultra Magnus let out a long deep sigh. “I’m sorry about Rodimus. He’s...well… we’ve asked him to stop giving everyone dumb nicknames and respect the wishes of those who have requested to not be called by them. But, I’m afraid he hasn’t listened to anyone.”

“That’s obvious.” cut Thundercracker. He let himself uncurl slightly, keeping his arms across his chest.

Ultra Magnus cleared his throat. “So, shall we go then?” He asked. “I was thinking maybe we would try Flatcluch’s. I’ve heard many good things about it, and it’s only about a block from the grocery store.” He offered his hand to Thundercracker with his small smile.
Sighing Thundercracker gave up his hand to the other and allowed himself to be led down the sidewalk.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He had heard of Flatcluch’s. It was a more casual restaurant. Supposedly it had good food and good drink.

“So, those mechs you were with,” he asked as he idly played with the rim of his glass, “They coworkers of yours?” He hadn’t wanted to ask, but he was slightly jealous that Ultra Magnus possibly had friends. An outside network to confide in during this situation.

“Yes,” the truck responded humming softly. “At least Rodimus and Jazz. Ratchet and Knockout work at the hospital at the edge of Iacon. They had some business with Optimus and had stopped by before the end of the shift.”

“They all live in the same building as us?”

“All but Rodimus.” he answered adjusting the silverware on his napkin. “Our building was set up for all the couples paired by the conseil. The council mechs thought it would be a good way for us to maintain a type of support network and keep everything convenient. Rung, the psychiatrist, is also set up in that building. Easy access for any … issues that may arise.”

Where he had always left via the balcony when he went out alone, and rushing from the confined space of the elevator to the open outdoors the few times he had to travel with the bot sitting across from him, Thundercracker had’t noticed who lived there also, nor what amenities it housed. He made a mental note that he should look into what else the building held.

“Jazz and Soundwave live down the hall from us.” he continued. “Ratchet and Knockout reside two floors below us.”

Keeping his face as passive as he could, Thundercracker remained silent as he watched the mech fidget with his utensils. The silence made Ultra Magnus even more uncomfortable. His optics darted around the room, searching for something to break the intentional lull in conversation.

He decided to grab for an attempt at small talk. “How has your work been going?” he asked.

Thundercracker refused to be sucked into any conversation that required him to share information about himself. He was going to keep as much distance between the two of them as he possibly could. In response to the question he only shrugged his shoulders, dismissing the topic.

The cables in Ultra Magnus’ jaw and throat twitched. Thundercracker tried to suppress a smirk from twitching onto his face, he was enjoying the larger bots obvious discomfort.

The dinner passed in a similar manner. Ultra Magnus would try to coax Thundercracker into personal conversations, the jet giving only one worded answers or waving them non-verbally away. When the food arrived they ate in a tense silence.

When they finished Thundercracker waited impatiently for the other outside the restaurant. He watched as Ultra Magnus paid for their meals using the credit card the council had given them. The *one* card. The card they were suppose to only use on *them* as a *couple*. He fumed at the thought of wasted use of the new government’s funds.

As the truck had promised the store was a small distance from the restaurant. They awkwardly held hands as they made the short trip. Inside Thundercracker was glad to have the excuse of carrying a shopping basket to remove his hand from Ultra Magnus’. He attempted several times to keep distance between the two of them while he shopped. Ultra Magnus’ stride and attention made it incredibly difficult. He was feeling stifled just being in the mech’s presence.

He had them traveling up and down every aisle. He hadn’t had access to so many different ingredients in such a long time, he wanted to be sure he didn’t miss anything that was new and unfamiliar. Logging the names of interesting items to look up their uses and flavors later. One could never know what could be used to improve a dish.

About half way through the store he started regretting that he hadn’t gotten a buggie, his basket nearly overflowing. It was beginning to get awkward to hold and he struggled to inspect items due to it.

A shock went through is frame. A large hand had settled in the small of his back, fingers gently grazing both of this wings in the process. The sensation froze him in place.

Moving in much to close for the jets liking, Ultra Magnus placed his other hand over his hand holding the basket.

“Allow me to carry this.” the mechs voice drifted smoothly over his audial fin. He gasped, snatching his hand away and up to the object he was holding, clutching it with both hands. The heavy basket dropping into Ultra Magnus’ waiting hand. The mech smiled slightly and stepped away.

He coughed out a vent and an awkward laugh. His eyes darted from the blue mech behind him, now holding his basket of items, to the back of the box he was denting slightly with his grasp. He swallowed dryly as he stared without reading at the text. The graze to his wings had sent a pleasant sensation through his body. An unwanted pleasant sensation. His faceplate heated as he tried to regain his composure.
With the cumbersome basket removed from him he was able to continue his shopping unhindered. He continued to keep his distance as he shopped, only approaching Ultra Magnus when he decided that he wanted an item. At first they attempted to balance items in the already full basket. Eventually, though Ultra Magnus started taking the items and loading them in his arms. If Thundercracker didn’t desperately want all these items he would have been embarrassed at the site of the large truck loaded up with so much, and Ultra Magnus didn’t seem to mind carrying everything.

A joor later they were piling all the items onto a conveyor for check-out. A small gangly mech packed their bags and tallied what they owed. Thundercracker began to gather bags while Ultra Magnus produced their joint card to the mech. He almost dropped a bag when he noticed the card. It wasn’t the same card as the one that had been used for dinner. That one had been a shade of blue close to their own frame colors. This one was glossy black with gold trimming around its boarder.

He gapped at the other mech as he took the card back and came around to pick up the remaining bags.

“What was that?” Thundercracker snapped.

Ultra Magnus looked at him bewildered. “What was what?”

“That card you used. It was different than the one you used at Flatclutch’s.” he pointed out as they exited the store.

The larger mech tensed slightly at the observation, a small bit of color flushing into his cheeks. “Yes. I used different cards at each location.” he answered.

Thundercracker flailed his arms slightly, the bags restricting how high he could move them.

“Well! What’s the difference? One of them had to be the card from the council, what was the other one?” he prodded. He was frustrated at not knowing what had paid for each transaction.

From the side Thundercracker could see a slight frown had set onto the other mechs face. He was clearly uncomfortable, but Thundercracker was not enjoying it this time.

“The card used to purchase our groceries was the card given to us by the council. The one used at the Flatclutch’s is for my own personal account.” confessed Ultra Magnus.

Thundercracker froze in his tracks. His *personal account*? He stuttered from his stupor, “Bu-uhh. Ah. Why hadn’t you said anything? I would have paid my share of the meal. I assumed you were using the council card.” He was frustrated with himself. He should have noticed any sign that the mech had wanted to split the bill, for him to pay his half. He shoulders slumped as he chided himself.

Ultra Magnus has continued walking without him as he admitted his fault. The question made him pause though. He turned his head slightly, looking back at the sagging jet.

“I *wanted* to pay for dinner, Thundercracker.”

“What? “Why?” Thundercracker replied.

It was Ultra Magnus turn to wilt slightly, looking down at the ground in front of him. “You are my partner, Thundercracker. I wanted to … treat? … you.” he admitted awkwardly.

Thundercracker pulled back slightly. No one had ever treated him out before. Even with Skywarp he had been the one paying for their outings. It was weird, this mech doing so without his knowledge. He started walking again, Ultra Magnus fell into step alongside him.

“I can pay you back for the meal.” he said quietly.

“I don’t want you to.”

They reached the doors to their apartment. Ultra Magnus stepped ahead of him and pulled the door open, then stepped back allowing Thundercracker to enter first. As they waited for the lift he turned slightly to the other mech, fixing him with a suspicious look. “What do you want as repayment then?”

The mech was silent until they reached their apartment, again he opened the door and ushered Thundercracker in first. They sat their bags on the counter. Ultra Magnus began pulling items out and finding places to store them. Thundercracker felt his frustration rising, tightly grasping the edge of the counter he asked again. “What do you want as repayment, Ultra Magnus?”

The truck stopped his process of putting things away. He moved to stand next to Thundercracker and stared down at him for a few moments. Thundercracker dreaded the answer to come.

Swallowing dryly Ultra Magnus finally answered. “I want you to accept me. To give me-us-a chance to work in this stressful situation. I know I’m not your ideal mech. But I want you…” he trailed off, rubbing at the back of his neck.

Thundercracker was dumbfounded. He had expected the mech to ask for some kind of sexual favor. What he received wasn’t even close to what he was expecting to hear. All he could do was blink at the other mech for several moments. He was shaken from his stupor when Ultra Magnus cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in front of him. Pulling himself back together he began unpacking his bags.

“Whatever.” was all he could manage as a response.