The door slid shut, and Prowl sat down heavily on the berth. "I'm sorry."
Sideswipe looked confused. "Why are you sorry?" He asked, sitting down next to Prowl.
Prowl looked at Sideswipe and lowered his doorwings in a submissive gesture. "I acted possessively and we have not discussed the exclusivity of this relationship. I assumed which I shouldn't have."
Leaning over, Sideswipe kissed the center of Prowl's chevron. "I'm with you. Just you." He then sighed and frowned. "Thing is, I'm the one keeping secrets."
"Secrets?" Prowl asked.
Sideswipe looked away, sadness overtaking his features. "Sunny’s my brother. My twin brother."
Furrowing his brow, Prowl shook his head. "That would have been in the records when you joined. And you don't look like twins. Your base coloring... it's different," Prowl replied in disbelief.
"Not spilt-spark twins, we're fraternal," Sideswipe clarified, looking back up at Prowl.
That revelation changed everything. "You're bonded by creation." Prowl then looked away, unexpectedly disappointed. Not that they'd ever talked about it, or that they'd even survive long enough to be free again, but bonding with Sideswipe someday in the distant future was suddenly no longer a possibility.
"We are, but the bond has been dormant longer than it was active." Sideswipe sighed. "Used to think he was the beginning and end of my whole world. But as time dragged on and things got more desperate in the beginning of the war we started bickering more and more."
Prowl glanced at Sideswipe. Even just in profile, he could see so much sadness coloring his expression.
"Right after we joined up, we had a huge blow out fight. I told him I needed space. Thing is, we spent everyday together. I felt smothered by his presence. I just wanted to work on figuring out who I was, if that makes sense. He took it badly, and refused to talk to me." Sideswipe leaned forward, cradling his helm in his hands. "I love and hate him all at once. Miss and worry about him but at the same time didn't make any effort to see him. I'm a horrible brother."
Reaching over, Prowl gently rubbed Sideswipe's back. This was a force of nature he couldn't stand in the way of. He understood that now. They were created to be with one another and Prowl knew he needed to accept that he would lose Sideswipe to his spark-bonded eventually. Maybe not soon, but it would happen.
"You should try and talk to him. We’re under one roof now and it's important we get along," Prowl said.
Sighing, Sideswipe nodded. "I'll try. He's more of a stubborn glitch than I am, though," Sideswipe replied with a wry smile. He then sat back up and turned to better face Prowl. "No matter what, though, you're the one I need. The one that I want to be with."
Sadly smiling, Prowl nodded.
"Come here." Sideswipe tugged on Prowl.
Letting himself be pulled in close, Prowl pressed a loving kiss to one of the scars before being wrapped up in large protective arms. Sideswipe nuzzled Prowl's chevron, and left little kisses along the top of his helm crest. For whatever time he had left with Sideswipe, Prowl decided he'd relish each moment.
With more mechs to organize, Prowl was busier than he'd been in a long time. They were all in the lab the next day, working on the various projects Ironfist and Shockwave had underway. Ironhide and Sideswipe helped with heavy objects for the drone construction, moving them into place on the building platform. Smokescreen was good with his hands, so he was assigned to assemble some of the internal circuitry. Sunstreaker had been clearly uncomfortable being near Sideswipe, so Prowl had him going through the junk pile with Ironfist looking for anything useful.
"This good for anything?" Sunstreaker asked, holding up a coil of cabling.
"Oh yeah, that's great." Ironfist was being extra cheerful, which Prowl hoped wouldn't annoy Sunstreaker.
Sideswipe kept glancing over at his brother, and Prowl hoped at some point the two would talk. Things couldn't stay this way. Not if they were going to be a functioning team.
"Prowl, I don't think I did this part right," Smokescreen said, frowning at the circuit board he'd been working on.
"Ironfist, could you assist Smokescreen?" Prowl asked.
"Sure thing," Ironfist replied, wading out of the pile of junk.
Prowl stepped into the mountain of salvage about ten paces from Sunstreaker and began to pick through, looking for anything useful. In his peripheral he saw Sunstreaker pick up a long pointed piece of scrap metal. The golden mech then turned, so Prowl couldn't see what he was doing. Before he could puzzle out what Sunstreaker was up to, Sideswipe came running over, shouting.
"Sunny! Don't!" Sideswipe tackled his brother, the crunch of junk echoing in the lab.
Everyone turned their attention to the two now rolling around, struggling to gain control over something in Sunstreaker's hand. Prowl suddenly realized what was happening and started to wade his way over to them.
"Let go!" Sunstreaker yelled, punching Sideswipe hard in the face. "Let me fragging die!"
"No! Stop being such a glitch!" Sideswipe shouted back.
Prowl was no more than three paces away when he watched in horror as they rolled in the scrap pile and a rogue piece of metal impaled Sideswipe, sharp end pushing all the way through and jutting out of his middle.
With wide, terrified optics Prowl stared at the puncture wound for a moment, and everything seeming to slow down around him. Shouts from Sunstreaker, the others all hurrying over. Then he took a deep breath and let the air escape his intakes slowly. He needed to focus. Things sped up again, and Prowl fell into his leadership role quickly handing out orders.
"Ironfist! Comm Shockwave! We need a medic!" Prowl yelled as he reached Sideswipe and shoved Sunstreaker aside.
Sideswipe's whole frame shivered as he fingered the end of metal sticking out of him. "Frag," he whispered.
"No, Sides!" Sunstreaker's anguished cry resonated in the large room. “I’m supposed to die, not you!”
"On your feet Sunstreaker!" Prowl barked, trying to snap him back to reality.
Cerulean optics looked up at Prowl, then Sunstreaker got to his feet and dropped the sharp piece of metal they’d fought over.
"Ironhide, Sunstreaker, we need to lift him off the object and move him to a flat clean area."
They reacted to his orders as if he were Prime himself, each taking a side and lifting Sideswipe free of the sharp metal. They laid him out on a clear patch of floor, and Prowl examined the injury. The hole was relatively small, but he surmised there must be a gash in the side of Sideswipe's fuel tank. It was the only way to account for amount of the energon quickly pooling under him.
"I need something to field patch his tank," Prowl said, pressing his fingers inside the wound to find the rupture he suspected was there.
"Here!" Smokescreen ran over with a tube of super bond. "Maybe this would work?"
"I'll try anything," Prowl said, taking the tube.
He felt a jagged hole in the metal with his fingers, and then pulled them out. He pressed the end of the tube into the wound up against the tank about where he’d felt the injury, squeezing the bond over it, hoping it was enough to stem the bleeding out of his tank. He glanced up at Sideswipe’s face, noticing his optics flickering.
"Don't you dare die on me," Prowl said to Sideswipe.
"Trying not to," Sideswipe weakly replied.
"Sides, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," Sunstreaker said, kneeling down at Sideswipe's head and reaching out to pet his helm.
The door to the lab opened and Shockwave hurried over. "You," he said, pointing to Ironhide. "Carry him and follow me. We'll take my private shuttle to Tremorwave's."
Ironhide frowned at Shockwave but did as he was told, lifting Sideswipe up in his arms and following Shockwave. Prowl hurried after them. He wasn’t leaving Sideswipe’s side until he was ordered to by Shockwave. At the door to the lab, he glanced back at Smokescreen, Ironfist and Sunstreaker. “All of you, return the habitation suite right now.”
They practically jogged through the twisting corridors of the compound and then out one of the side exits. The long walkway ended at a small shuttle. Shockwave opened the side hatch.
“Place him down here,” Shockwave said, pointing with his laser hand at the floor just behind the pilot seat.
Ironhide climbed up and then carefully put Sideswipe down.
“Return to the habitation suites, Ironhide. Be sure no one leaves the area. Prowl, you will ride with us,” Shockwave said as he got up into the shuttle and sat down, initiating the engines.
“What if Sunny tries to off himself while you all are gone?” Ironhide asked as he looked at Prowl.
“He won’t. Not until he knows Sideswipe is alright. Just keep an optic on all of them while we’re away. I’m leaving you in charge,” Prowl replied before climbing up into the shuttle and settling on the floor next to Sideswipe.
Ironhide’s cold expression softened a little as he gazed at Prowl. “You’re different than you used to be.”
Prowl looked up and sadly frowned. “We all are.”
The door to the shuttle lifted up and closed.
Tremorwave greeted them when they landed and Sideswipe was quickly moved inside the odd facility. Prowl and Shockwave stood out of the way as the medic set to work. Sideswipe was first knocked offline, and then hooked up to a fuel drip that bypassed his tanks. His abdomen plating was removed and Tremorwave carefully examined the injury.
“Glue?” Tremorwave asked, grabbing a tool to scoop out the super bond with.
“He was bleeding out,” Prowl replied. “I didn’t have a proper patching agent.”
“Shockwave, you should have a field repair kit or three placed around your compound,” Tremorwave said as he cleaned up the gooey mess. “I’ll send you off with a few.”
“I hadn’t anticipated this sort of injury occurring, but I appreciate your generosity,” Shockwave replied.
“They aren’t free,” Tremorwave replied, laughing a little. “But I won’t overcharge you.”
Prowl’s gaze focused on those white hands moving with swift efficiency. In his peripheral, he could see on the monitor that Sideswipe’s systems were all stabilizing with the fuel drip.
Shockwave moved over to an empty chair and sat. “How much extra to keep him for the day and smooth the scarring on his plating?”
“What makes you think I’m not busy?” Tremorwave asked, getting his hand held welder out and prepping it.
“I see no other mechs here,” Shockwave replied.
Tremorwave looked over at Shockwave, golden optics narrowing. “You’ve had this one for months and now you want his plating fixed up? Why?”
“Because he’s already here,” Shockwave replied.
“I suppose I could it squeeze him in,” Tremorwave replied with a small smile. He turned the welder on and set to work repairing the hole in Sideswipe’s tank. It didn’t take long. A few passes and little prodding with a flat metal tool, the hole was welded back close. “All set.” Tremorwave turned off the welder and began to clean his tools off with a rag. “Leave him with me overnight and I’ll drop him off once his plating is all smoothed out.”
Shockwave pushed to stand. “Thank you.” He pulled out several credit sticks, and carefully placed them on the foot of the medical berth. “This should cover all your services.”
Prowl quickly calculated how much was there; 10,000 credits.
“Generous,” Tremorwave said with a grin as he picked them up and stuffed them in his subspace pocket. “There’s field repair kits near the front entrance. Take three with you on the way out.”
“Come, Prowl.” Shockwave reached out, touching Prowl’s elbow.
Jerking back from the touch, Prowl’s doorwings flared and he locked gazes with the singular optic. His whole frame trembled with the memory of lying on that low level table and being inappropriately touched.
Shockwave held his hand up in a defensive gesture. “I apologize. I forgot myself for a moment.”
Prowl could feel Tremorwave’s gaze on them, but ignored it as best he could. “We should go,” Prowl quietly replied, before leading the way out of the complex maze of junk-filled rooms.
Shockwave’s benign touch to his elbow had set off a fresh wave of anxiety that was making his fuel tank churn uncomfortably. Prowl was disappointed in himself for being so weak, still. The unseen damage ran deeper than he realized and he had no idea how to get past what happened. Or if that was even possible for him...
Once they were in the shuttle, Prowl took a seat on the floor near the energon stain from Sideswipe and sighed as he stared at it.
Shockwave sat in the pilot seat after stowing the repair kits, then turned the swivel chair to face Prowl. “I am sorry.”
Prowl looked up at him. “I know. I–” He frowned. “–I wasn’t expecting to react like that. I’m sorry, too.”
The golden optics stared at Prowl for a long moment, his hurt almost palpable. “Let’s go home.” Shockwave replied, sadness coloring his voice as he turned his seat forward again and started up the engines.
“You don’t know where he is?” Prowl asked, looking between Ironhide, Smokescreen and Ironfist.
“Came back and he was nowhere to be found,” Ironhide replied.
“He ran out of the lab after you left,” Smokescreen added.
“Did you go looking for him?” Prowl asked.
They all shook their heads.
“Just brought these two back to the suite here, and figured he’d show up eventually,” Ironhide replied.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Prowl sighed. “I’m going to look for him.”
“We can help search for him,” Smokescreen offered.
“No, it’s fine. Just, no one else wander off,” Prowl replied with a frown. “Alright?”
The all nodded.
Walking out of the habitation suites, Prowl started a room by room search that followed the path back toward the lab. In the second to last room, Prowl found Sunstreaker. The golden warrior was sitting with his legs pulled up to his chest in a window seat staring out at the desolate landscape.
Prowl quietly wandered closer.
Sunstreaker didn’t look at him. “He okay?”
“Yes, he will be fine. In fact, Shockwave asked for his plating to be smoothed to remove the scarring. He will be returned sometime tomorrow late in the day,” Prowl replied.
“Glad he’s okay. I didn’t mean for that to happen,” Sunstreaker replied.
“I know you didn’t.” Prowl carefully sat down on the other end of the seat and looked out the window. “Sideswipe told me who you are to one another.”
Sunstreaker frowned and dimmed his optics, but remained silent as he continued to stare outside.
Prowl looked over at Sunstreaker. “I have no illusions that what he feels for me will fade in favor of the bond you share.”
“All the more reason to offline myself permanently,” Sunstreaker replied. “Because he’s happier with you than he ever was with me.”
Prowl sadly frowned. “I doubt that.”
“You have no clue. I always loved him more than he loved me. I was stupid to think one day he’d come around again.” Sunstreaker wrapped his arms around his legs. “Now I’m all fragged up in the head, and we’re collared slaves. I have nothing to give him now. Nothing of who I was is left. Just shadows of how I used to be.”
“We’ve all suffered,” Prowl replied. “Sideswipe, too. But this is a place to work on healing.”
Sunstreaker finally looked at Prowl. “I’m too broken to heal. I fragged Smokescreen the other night because I could. Because I know the part of him that’s most broken is his free will. He’ll do anything anyone asks and I took advantage.” He grimaced. “I’m no better than that fragger, Vortex.”
“You sought comfort, and he gave willingly gave it, I’m sure. Especially after all you went through together,” Prowl replied.
Sunstreaker snorted at that.
“I seek comfort with Sideswipe. That’s how it all started between us. I never imagined it would become what it has. I also had no idea you were his fraternal twin until the other night,” Prowl said.
“I don’t love Smokescreen, and I know he doesn’t love me, either.” Sunstreaker looked at Prowl, deep frown etched on his face. “Do you love Sides?”
His doorwings twitched at the direct question. He and Sideswipe had danced around using that word, and neither had said it to the other. Prowl assumed it was because of their slave lives and lack of true freedom, but now he wondered if the real reason was because Sideswipe already loved someone else.
“Simple question, do you?” Sunstreaker asked, again.
“Yes.” The answer surprised even Prowl, but he knew in his spark that he did. “We’ve never told one another that. I suspect because Sideswipe still loves you very much.”
Sunstreaker looked back out the window. “But I don’t make him happy like you do. I can see it in his face when he looks at you.”
Prowl felt for Sunstreaker. Their post-war life was hard enough without the past coming back to tear them down more. “I saw the look on his face when he ran to stop you. You mean the world to him in a way I’ll never even come close to.”
“So now what? I apologize yet again, tell him I love him, he suddenly decides to stop caring about you and forgive me and then we live happily ever after in this fancy prison?” Sunstreaker asked, looking back at Prowl. “He won’t forgive me. So it doesn’t matter how much you think he still loves me.”
“Why would you think that?” Prowl asked.
“Because I was a complete glitch to him. He was pulling away from me and I did everything I could to hold onto him even tighter and in the end I drove him off by being a pathetic, needy aft.” Sunstreaker dimmed his optics as they became glassy with held back tears. “I fragged up so badly he’s avoided me for practically eons.”
“Or, perhaps the longer the gap of time stretched on, the harder it got for either of you to reach across for the other,” Prowl quietly replied.
Frowning, Sunstreaker looked back at Prowl. “Maybe.”
“I won’t stand in the way. Not to say I will end things with him, but when he’s ready it will end. And then you’ll have eachother,” Prowl said, sadness weighing on his spark. It was the right thing to do. He knew that, but Primus it hurt. “Will you let me do something for you?”
“For me?” Sunstreaker asked, instantly suspicious.
“His plating will be restored and shined. Would you let me tend to your dents, and wax your finish? So you’ll look your best when he returns?” Prowl asked.
“Why would you do that?” Sunstreaker asked.
“It’s just something I’d like to do for you,” Prowl replied. In truth, he wanted Sunstreaker to feel cared for. He could tell it had been a very long time since anyone did anything for him without there being some sort of price attached.
“Whatever,” Sunstreaker replied. “If that’s what you want to do. I guess it would be good to look nice for him.”
Prowl nodded. “Then let’s return to the habitation suites.”
Sunstreaker nodded. “‘Kay.”
Sunstreaker was suspicious of Prowl’s intentions. He only relented because he knew Smokescreen would eventually offer and he didn’t want him doing anything else like that for him. He’d done more than enough at Vortex’s request already.
He stood still in a washrack stall while Prowl used the dent remover on the damage to his upper chestplate. Prowl was completely business like, focused on his task the same way he’d focus on datapads of information. He liked how Prowl’s doorwings twitched behind him, and could see why his brother was attracted to him. He moved with grace. Every step deliberate. No wasted motion. Plus, Praxians were generally nice to look at.
Smokescreen was cute, and sexy as frag when he wanted to be, where as Prowl was a beauty. His brother had pretty good taste.
Prowl’s doorwings lifted a little as he pressed a hand to Sunstreaker’s chest to feel for any less conspicuous denting. “Your plating is warming,” he said, ice blue optics’ gaze lifting.
“Sorry.” Sunstreaker grimaced. “Can’t help it. Trained to turn on easy.”
Sadness flitted over Prowl’s face.
“Won’t try anything. If that’s what you’re worried about,” Sunstreaker said with a frown.
“I’m not worried about that.” Prowl set the dent remover on the stall floor, and picked up a chamois and can of wax. “I’m just sorry you suffered so much.”
“It was easier being a pleasure drone with holes for Motormaster,” Sunstreaker said as the chamois began to work the wax over his plating. He relaxed a little with the rhythmic circular strokes of the cloth. “Being drugged up makes it all blurry and hurt less.”
“Vortex didn’t drug you?” Prowl asked, pushing the cloth down Sunstreaker’s arm making the same little circles.
“Detoxed me. Cleaned me up. Wanted arm candy for showing off,” Sunstreaker replied, optics dimming at the pleasant sensation of being waxed by hand.
“Megatron does like seeing us as glimmering accessories for his officers,” Prowl replied.
Sunstreaker snapped out of his semi-trance at that, and frowned. “Wait, Shockwave takes you around like that? I didn’t think you ever left this place.”
“Not normally,” Prowl replied, shifting to Sunstreaker’s other arm. “But I was taken to a meeting not too long ago.”
“A meeting with Megatron?” Sunstreaker prompted.
Prowl glanced at Sunstreaker. “Yes.”
Sunstreaker held Prowl’s gaze. “He shoved his stupid spike down my throat. What’d he do to you?"
Prowl fidgeted slightly. “He forced Shockwave to touch me, then forced myself and Jazz to perform with Red Alert,” he quietly replied as he looked away and resumed waxing.
Sunstreaker didn’t think Prowl had been abused. He’s been so sure that he lived in this place kept safe within the walls. He had no idea that he’d been used, too. That Shockwave had– “Sorry that happened to you. And Jazz, too. I’ve seen Red around enough to know he’s glitched out of his head, though.”
“I found his behavior... disturbing,” Prowl replied with an undercurrent of sadness.
“I find my apathy for Megatron using my face for his pleasure disturbing. I didn’t even care when it happened.” Sunstreaker sighed. "Vortex kept me on edge all the time. Never knew what he'd do next. One second he'd tell me he liked how defiant I was, the next I'd be shoved in the torture closet as punishment for disobeying. Somehow that made what Megatron did seem like nothing really."
Prowl had stopped waxing. He was gazing at Sunstreaker, sympathy and regret overtaking his handsome features.
Sunstreaker narrowed his optics and frowned. "Don't need your pity.”
With one hand, Prowl reached up and cupped Sunstreaker's face. "I failed you. I can't apologize enough for that."
Did Prowl really think he was responsible? Sunstreaker shook his head. "You didn't put this collar on me. Rape me. Abuse me. Besides, I was fragged in the processor before we all watched Optimus die. You're not responsible for what happened to any of us."
Withdrawing his hand, Prowl dimmed his optics. “It was my job to keep you all as safe as possible. I distanced myself in order to remain cold and calculating in my strategies. It’s only now that I see how important it is to connect with those I’m protecting. I used to see it as a weakness in Optimus, but in my time here looking after even a handful of you I see how wrong I was. We are a team, a strong unit so long as we care for one another and respect each other.”
“Takes losing everything to know what’s most important,” Sunstreaker softly murmured. “Like I did with Sides.”
Prowl nodded and resumed waxing, pushing the chamois across Sunstreaker’s chest. “It’s not too late to mend things.”
“I’m better at breaking things, than fixing them,” Sunstreaker replied, sadly frowning.
Smiling a little, Prowl paused and gazed up at him. “It’s never too late to learn how to fix things. Just need to be willing to learn.”