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Dream of Life- Escapism

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Reality slowly began to dial in around Thundercracker. Pain and the inability to move were the first things to register, quickly followed by memories of fleeing the apartment building with Jazz in his grasp and the shots Skywarp fired at him. Lighting his optics, he glanced at where he’d taken the hits from Skywarp. A gaping hole in his side was currently covered in a crude piece of bolted metal overtop.

Warmth against his other side drew his attention and he shifted his gaze, seeing Mirage sitting in a chair next to his berth, upper body slumped on the berth, pressing against his other side as he recharged. With concerted effort Thundercracker lifted his arm up and gently swept his fingertips down Mirage’s offlined visage. He was so pretty. And Thundercracker knew he so unworthy of his devotion.

After all he’d done and how far he’d fallen from who he wanted to be, Thundercracker felt like a failure. He’d pretended he was starting over, free of his trine once the war ended. But in reality he was still locked into his long ago choice to leave his family to join Starscream and Skywarp. Mirage deserved someone not marred by so much darkness and death.

The light touches to his face woke Mirage. His blue optics lit, and he looked at Thundercracker, shock and relief washing over his face. “Thundercracker, you’re awake!” He sat up, optics bright as he took hold of Thundercracker’s hand between both of his. “Should I got get Tremorwave? Are you in a lot of pain?”

Sadly smiling, Thundercracker shook his head. “Any pain I’m in is deserved.” His voice was filled with more static than he expected, and he winced a little at how rough he sounded.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mirage replied. Scooting forward, he leaned in close, and gently kissed Thundercracker’s lips.

Weakly returning the kiss, his spark twisted in his chest.

Mirage stared deeply into his optics. “I was so terrified I’d lost you.”

“Mirage…” Thundercracker dimmed his optics. “I’m sorry. I was unable to remain pure for you.”

“You did what you had to to survive.” Mirage kissed him again, then pressed their forehelms together. “I don’t fault you for anything you had to do. All that matters is that you’re here with me now.”

“You deserve someone more worthy,” Thundercracker replied, voice almost choking on the words. “I’m… I’m not a good mech. Certainly not good enough for you.”

Pulling back, Mirage frowned at him. “Don’t you dare push me away.”

“You don’t know what I’m capable of,” Thundercracker replied. “The hurt I’ve caused and the pleasure I’ve taken in it.”

“I don’t believe you’d ever be so callous,” Mirage replied resolutely.

Thundercracker felt tears try to surface, but held them back. “They used my body as a playground. I lashed out at Skywarp when Starscream and Megatron would leave us alone. Hurt him, dominated him, humiliated him. I’m as sick and twisted as they are.”

To his surprise, Mirage smiled a little. “You really did those things to Skywarp?”

Thundercracker nodded.

“Is it possible your abuse of that fragger was retribution for what he did to me?” Mirage asked, his amusement at the thought bleeding into his voice.

He hadn’t thought about it in such an overt fashion, but he had thought of Mirage the entire time he’d been trapped there. He also couldn’t deny he’d often looked at Skywarp with deep disgust for what he’d done to Mirage. “Perhaps, unconsciously.”

Mirage kissed him again, this time mouthing his lips and lingering until Thundercracker couldn’t resist and began to return the kiss. Soon their mouths parted and their glossa met and entwined between their linked lips. Resisting how he felt for Mirage was impossible. He adored this mech on a spark-deep level.

As the kiss broke, Thundercracker gazed deeply into the pools of blue focused on him. “Tell me you forgive me. Please.

Mirage pet the side of Thundercracker’s face and nodded. “I forgive you for anything you feel you need to be absolved of.” He smiled warmly. “And I adore you.”

Thundercracker dimmed his optics. “I will do what it takes to redeem my spark to be worthy of you.”

“You are already are, my handsome flier,” Mirage replied.

“I’m a disaster,” Thundercracker replied. “Not sure ‘handsome’ applies right now.”

“You’re alive, and that’s beautiful in my optics.” Mirage carefully crawled up onto the medical berth, and curled up against Thundercracker’s side. “Now rest some more. You have a lot of healing to do,” he said pressing a hand to his cockpit.

Resting his other hand over Mirage’s Thundercracker nodded. “As you command, my lovely companion.”

Everyone had lined up in medbay, each waiting for their turn to have their subspace pockets and internal communicators turned back on. Prowl had gone in first. Bumblebee shifted in his hover chair as he looked at the line ahead of him and Bluestreak. Smokescreen stood with Ironhide behind him, arms wrapped around his middle. Sunstreaker was crouched down petting his insecticon. Sideswipe politely nodded at Ironfist who chattered on about building some kind of forcefield. Skyfire held Red Alert against his side, gently rubbing his smaller companion’s back in an effort to comfort him.

“Mirage seems more like himself,” Bluestreak commented.

Bumblebee glanced at the room where Thundercracker was being kept. Thudnercracker was propped up and the two were playing some kind of board game. “Glad they’re both gonna be okay.”

Bluestreak gently rubbed one of Bumblebee’s broken horns between his fingertips. “We should see if Tremorwave can do some more repairs to you now that Thundercracker and Jazz are doing okay.”

“Only if he’s got time. After all, we’re about to start a war again,” Bumblebee replied. He shrugged a shoulder. “There’s bigger issues going on.”

Bluestreak crouched down next to Bumblebee and poked him in the side. “You’re just as important as anyone else.”

It was still surreal to Bumblebee to have Bluestreak look at him with so much affection. He reached out and trailed his fingers over the red chevron, earning him dimmed, darkened optics. “I’ll ask, but if he doesn’t have time it’s no big deal.”

Bluestreak nodded.

Prowl emerged from the room and looked over the line. “Where’s Jazz?” He asked, seeing he was missing.

“You really want an answer to that?” Ironhide drawled. “Betcha he’s attached to Soundwave’s hip someplace.”

A flicker of annoyance on his face, Prowl nodded to Ironhide. He continued to slowly walk down the line, folding his hands behind his back. “The frequencies of your internal comm units are on secure channels Soundwave designed. Do not openly comm one another. I know we are isolated somewhat out here, but I don’t want to take any chances.”

Everyone nodded at Prowl.

Pausing at the now known brothers, Prowl smiled at them before continuing. “In addition, weapons and rations are being prepped by Ironfist,” he nodded his head to the smaller scientist. “You may go with him once Tremorwave is finished to fill your subspace pockets with the tools you’ll need in the coming days.” Stopping near Bumblebee and Bluestreak, Prowl gazed back at the line of them. “We are going to change this world. Let’s make it for the better. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a wayward second in command to locate.” With that, Prowl swiftly left medbay.

“He seems stressed out,” Bluestreak commented, staring after his fellow Praxian.

“Well, he is trying to take down an entire system put in place by a meglomaniac with a handful of us and a ship. That’s a tall order for anyone to fill,” Bumblebee replied.

“Despite the crazy odds, I think we’re going kick aft and change the world just like Prowl said.” Bluestreak stood back up and smiled.

Bumblebee wanted to tell Bluestreak he found his youth and optimism absolutely adorable but he still felt too self-conscious in front of the others about their budding relationship. Instead, he took hold of Bluestreak’s hand and squeezed it.

“Well, not like we’ve got much left to lose at this point other than each other,” Sunstreaker piped up. “Makes us the unpredictable mechs crazy enough to overthrow everything.”

Ironhide chuckled at that.

“Next victim!” Tremorwave said sauntering out. “I kid, I kid.” He then came to a halt looking directly at Bumblebee. “Oh, I keep forgetting about you! You know what, let’s get some much needed repairs done on you as soon as I finish with the others. Sound good?”

“Sure,” Bumblebee shyly replied.

“We definitely need our rebellion leader back in working order, doc,” Sideswipe said, grinning at Bumblebee.

“Will do,” Tremorwave replied. He then spun around on his heels. “Smokescreen, right? Come with me.” He took Smokescreen by the elbow and led him into the nearby room.

Bumblebee wished he could get smaller than he already was when he saw everyone looking at him. “Don’t forget, it was a failed rebellion,” he muttered.

“Failed or not, you’ve got strong fighting spirit in you. Inspiration for the rest of us,” Skyfire replied.

Bluestreak practically beamed as he gave Bumblebee’s hand still in his grasp a tight squeeze. Bumblebee distracted himself from the optics on him, thinking about using their new comm units to tease Bluestreak with comments about his cute aft.

Tremorwave moved through the line quickly, and before Bumblebee knew it, it was his turn. His comm unit was activated along with his subspace all while Bluestreak stayed behind and watched.

“Alright, now I think fixing your horns should be easy enough, but your legs,” Tremorwave tapped one of Bumblebee’s knees. “Tell me where the sensation stops.” He slid his hand down his leg slowly.

“There,” Bumblebee commented when his hand was about halfway between his knee and pede.

“Really?” Bluestreak replied. “That’s lower than when you woke up.”

“That’s a very good sign, actually,” Tremorwave replied. “Let’s get you in the regen tank for a day or so. I bet it’ll do you a world of good.”

Tensing a little, Bumblebee looked at Bluestreak. He quickly accessed his new comm link and found a private encrypted frequency to use. He pinged Bluestreak.

:: What’s the matter? :: Bluestreak replied.

:: I don’t want to be apart from you. :: Bumblebee winced a little, realizing how needy that sounded.  

Bluestreak then warmly smiled. :: Who said we’d be apart? I’ll stay with you at the tank just like Mirage did for Thundercracker. ::

Relaxing a little at that, Bumblebee felt his spark flutter. :: You mean the world to me, but you don’t need to do that. ::

:: I’ll stay at the tank side except to go grab energon or if Prowl has something for me to do. No argument, :: Bluestreak replied.

Bumblebee had nothing to say to that, so he nodded and smiled.

Tremorwave wandered out of the room. “If you two are done being googly-opticked at each other, then come with me,” he called out without looking back at them.

Bluestreak leaned down, and kissed Bumblebee sweetly.

“Can you do me one favor?” Bumblebee asked in a hushed voice as Bluestreak pulled away.

“Anything,” Bluestreak replied.

“Walk in front of me?” Bumblebee asked with a grin.

Raising an optic ridge, Bluestreak looked confused. “Why?”

“Wanna ogle your cute aft,” he replied, unable to repress a chuckle.

Bluestreak snorted a laugh. “I did say anything, didn’t I?” Standing at his full height, Bluestreak sauntered off, giving Bumblebee a show as he swayed his hips while walking away.

“The cutest dork ever,” Bumblebee said, following in his chair, giggling to himself.

Prowl rounded the corridor to his main office, intent on using the onboard computer to locate Jazz. At the open doorway he came to a halt.

Sitting at the conference table, Jazz had the table lit up with maps and messy piles of datapads around him as he frowned and typed into one right in front of him.

“Why weren’t you in medbay with the others?” Prowl asked, surprised by the sight as he approached.

“Tremor already turned my comm and pocket on before he discharged me,” Jazz replied, glancing up with one of his patented smiles.

“And what are you doing now?” Prowl asked, looking at the table as he took a seat beside his long time friend.

“Well, been looking at all the data and maps and everything. We need a plan of attack, and knowing you, you’re prolly gonna want to hit Swindle’s compound and the hospital, where our bestie, Megs, is being held,” Jazz replied.

“That is likely, yes,” Prowl said, looking at the maps Jazz had pulled up, including the refinery. “You have a different tact I take it?”

“Well, I think we need to shut down the refinery,” Jazz replied, tapping the map on the table. “Thing is, we want control of the planetwide situation, and the way to do it is through our fuel source. Plus, that’s a whole lotta minibots and outcasts that’ll be raring to fight with us.”

Prowl sat back in his seat, and looked at Jazz. “Your mind is as sharp as ever. More so than mine at the moment it would seem.”

Jazz glanced at Prowl and shook his head. “Nah, you’ve got the weight of leadership hung ‘round your neck right now. I maynot be the brilliant tactician you are, but I know how to run a mission. So lemmie take a little weight off you.”

Prowl was ready to ream Jazz, and here he was helping him. “Thank you, Jazz.” He leaned forward on the table, looking at the maps. “The reports Shockwave was able to get a hold of state Megatron is alive, but unconscious in the medical center and Starscream is alive but crippled as well.”

“Getting near that place is gonna be really hard.” Jazz pulled over the datapad with the report Prowl had been referring to. “Says here there’s armed guards outside and inside. Estimated count forty mechs.” He looked at Prowl. “How accurate do you think the report is?”

“Shockwave had to fire his scavenging crew when he rescued Soundwave. I’d say anything they’ve reported back to him at this point is at a 60% maybe 70% accuracy,” Prowl replied.

“So there might be a hundred of ‘em,” Jazz replied.

“Or ten,” Prowl said with a shrug of his doorwings.

“We need a three pronged attack, and to somehow coordinate with the incoming help.” Jazz shook his head. “This is a huge thing to undertake and there aren’t that many of us.”

“I have full confidence in our abilities.” Prowl laced his fingers together. “My original plan was to send you, Soundwave and Mirage into Swindle’s compound to take out his control board for the collars. Once your team was successful, then the rest of us would infiltrate the medical center and remove Megatron and Starscream from power permanently.” He glanced at the refinery map again. “But, adding the refinery into the plans will spread us quite thin.”

“Wanna hear my crazy idea?” Jazz asked.

Prowl couldn’t help but smile at that. “Sure.”

“Ironfist is gonna make the ship invincible with that second shield, right?” Jazz looked at Prowl, cat-like smile on his lips.

“Yes,” Prowl replied.

“You’re gonna think I’ve lost it, but I think it’ll work. And we won’t need to rely on incoming help, either,” Jazz replied. He slid the datapad he’d been typing into over to Prowl.

Reading Jazz’s proposed mission specs, Prowl softly chuckled. “Insane enough that it might actually work.” He looked back at his friend. “Let’s take back our homeworld, hm?”

Jazz firmly nodded his agreement. “Freedom for everyone, and no more factions if we do this right.”

“An ideal world once again,” Prowl replied, hoping against all odds they would be able to pull this off.

After a long afternoon of working out the mission details once Shockwave and Soundwave joined him and Jazz, Prowl quietly padded back to his shared quarters. The door opened to Sunstreaker on the floor with Bob over top of him, tube-like tongue whipping out to lick his face. Sideswipe was laughing his aft off on the couch as he watched. Both looked over at Prowl when he stepped inside.

“Welcome back, handsome,” Sideswipe said.

“Thank you.” Prowl’s faceplates heated slightly at the compliment and he quickly deflected the attention away from himself. “How has training your pet gone today?” Prowl asked, smiling down at Sunstreaker.

“Pretty well,” Sunstreaker replied.

“Better than that. Don’t be so modest, Sunny.” Sideswipe sat forward and held out a treat. “Hey, Bob. Sit.”

The insecticon scrambled off Sunstreaker and sat on his hind quarters, wriggling his aft. Sideswipe handed the treat to the tiny second set of hands under its chest, which then shoved the treat into his grated mouth.

“You named him Bob?” Prowl asked.

Sunstreaker sat up and chuckled. “Yeah. That’s what I decided to name him.”

Prowl smiled and shook his head.

Finished with the treat, Bob got up and walked over to Prowl, sniffing his legs.

“Well, he seems fairly tame.” Prowl bent down to pet Bob’s head.

“He’ll be great for fighting when we go take out Megatron for good,” Sunstreaker replied.

“Actually, you two will not be on the team that takes out Megatron,” Prowl admitted as he stood back up and Bob trotted over and sat down next to Sunstreaker on the floor.

“Why not?” Sideswipe asked. They both looked at him with matching looks of disappointment.

Primus, how had Prowl never noticed before being told that were twins? “There’s another just as vitally important mission you two will be on.” Prowl wandered over and sat down next to Sideswipe on the couch.

Petting Bob’s head, Sunstreaker had a brooding, upset look on his face.

“What mission are we gonna be on then?” Sideswipe asked.

“As Jazz pointed out, gaining control of the energon refinery will give us better control over the population of post-war Decepticons,” Prowl replied.

Sunstreaker looked at Prowl and darkly smiled. “So we’re going to the refinery?”

“Yes. You two, Smokescreen, Bluestreak, Ironhide are assigned to retaking the refinery and setting the slaves free once the collars are disabled,” Prowl replied, unsure why Sunstreaker looked almost maniacal at the news of their intended mission.

“What about Bee? You gotta have him come with us,” Sideswipe insisted. “He lead a rebellion in that place and almost died because of it. He deserves to be there.”

Prowl looked at Sideswipe and frowned a little. “He’s unable to walk. How will he fight?”

“Maybe he doesn’t have to.” Sunstreaker laid his hand heavily on Bob’s head. “He can use Bob as protection.”

“Oh yeah, Sunny was teaching him to do that earlier, attack things he said it was okay to.” Sideswipe chuckled. “We were dangling scrap metal on ropes earlier in the lounge. Also? Weirdly, Bob likes to eat scrap metal.”

Bob wriggled his aft, knowing they were talking about him.

“I’ll consider it,” Prowl replied. “I just don’t want any more damage to happening to Bumblebee.”

“He’ll be fine. We’ll all protect him, and Bob will be like extra, extra protection for him,” Sunstreaker replied.

Prowl smiled a little and nodded. “There is something else I wanted to discuss with you both.”

“What’s up?” Sideswipe asked.

“When originally making this relationship arrangement, I asked that the two of you renew and open up your bond to one another.” Prowl had selfish reasons for not pushing the issue again before now, and truth was, his wanting them to reconnect now was just as selfish.

“Yeah, but Prowl, we’ve talked about it. After everything we went through, I don’t know if sharing all that darkness with one another would be helpful, you know?” Sideswipe replied.

Sunstreaker nodded his agreement as he frowned. “Sharing our mind-frags over our sparks seems like a really bad idea.”

Sitting up a little straighter, Prowl decided honesty was the best way to try to convince them. “Bonds give the pair a direct connection to one another, yes?”

They both nodded.

“With such a connection, I believe you would both become an impossible team to beat in a battle situation. Sharing would give you an advantage, especially in light of the fact that those you will be fighting will have no idea about the secret advantage,” Prowl explained, hoping they would understand why he saw it as advantageous.

The two exchanged looks.

“It’s been eons, Prowl.” Sideswipe frowned a little. “Even if we manage to reopen the bond, and not damage each other in the process of sharing our traumas, who’s to say we’d just pick up where we left off with the bond?”

Prowl smiled a little. “You’re fraternal twins, which means you’re more deeply bonded than any pair of other mechs could ever hope to be. I have no doubt that it would come naturally to both of you, and I think unlocking your shared pain with one another will help you more than you think.”

Sunstreaker scratched the back of Bob’s head as the insecticon settled his head in his lap. “What if things go awry, though? Would you–” he glanced at Sideswipe for a moment, then looked back at Prowl. “Would you stay with us if we tried it?”

“Yeah, I’d feel better if you around,” Sideswipe added.

“I would be honored to witness something so intimate,” Prowl replied. To be asked to watch was unexpected and made him feel very much accepted by both of them. It was a huge stride for the three of them, and showed how comfortable Sunstreaker was finally becoming with them. “When would you two like do this, you think?”

The brothers looked at one another.

Sunstreaker shrugged.

“I guess we could try tomorrow?” Sideswipe asked, then looked at Prowl. “Are you gonna be busy with more planning stuff?”

“Most likely, but I will be happy to return here at a specified time,” Prowl replied.

“Or we could just do it now,” Sunstreaker said.

Right now?” Sideswipe asked.

“What’s putting it off one day going to do?” Sunstreaker frowned. “Maybe we should just get on with it.”

Sideswipe was obviously surprised, but after a moment he nodded. “Alright, now. Let’s just get it over with.”

Unable to help it, Prowl frowned a little at their attitude toward the whole thing, seeing it as a chore to be done. For their own health and safety in the field, though, Prowl wasn’t going to quibble over the details as long as it resulted in what he saw as the best circumstances for them to be going into battle in.

The three went into the berthroom with Bob trotting along behind. Sunstreaker led Bob to a makeshift bed of blankets he’d put in the corner of the room. He gave him another treat and commanded him to stay on his blanket. Bob plopped down and made himself comfortable.

Prowl settled on the end of the berth, allowing the brothers plenty of space in the middle to arrange themselves however they best saw fit.

They looked unsure of themselves as they got onto the berth. To Prowl’s surprise, Sunstreaker took control. He honestly hadn’t pegged Sunstreaker as the dominate of the two before they were all together, but he’d witnessed Sideswipe defer to him several times now.

“Sit crossed legged, but wrap our legs around each other,” Sunstreaker said, sitting in the intended position.

Sideswipe mirrored his brother, and with their legs wrapped around each other their chests could be pressed flush. Sitting up also meant if one or the other needed to pull away it would be much easier access than one lying over the other.

They both sighed with their clear apprehension.

“Prowl, if we look like we’re in distress you’ll pull us apart, right?” Sunstreaker asked, glancing at him.

Prowl nodded assuredly. “I will.”

“Let’s just do it,” Sideswipe said, grimacing.

They each opened their chests, and the light that shimmered between was breathtaking. Prowl stared with bright optics as he watched their sparks reach out for one another without the hesitation they’d shown only moments before.

Sideswipe was terrified, yet the moment their sparks touched all that fear melted away. They’d merged with as much ease as they ever had, two sparks pulsing together in a moment of oneness that was impossible to describe. He felt all of his brother; the pain, the love, the fear, the self-loathing, the hope… All of him.

This was a moment Sunstreaker had dreamed of happening again ever since Sideswipe left him all those eons ago. He reveled in the wholeness this merge offered, sinking into the warmth and light that was his brother. There was pain that hadn’t been there before, but his brother wasn’t afraid. At least not in the same way Sunstreaker was. Despite what he’d been through, coming so close to death, he was still as optimistic as ever.

They clung to one another, forehelms pressed together as they shared their time apart without need for words. Nothing was quite like a connection through sparks. They spoke volumes without a need for single word to be uttered. They’d both suffered and missed their other halves in a deep aching way that this merge now soothed and healed. Prowl had been right. They needed one another like this. They belonged to one another.

Prowl…

With that thought a flurry of attached emotions volleyed over their sparks, and in a fraction of a moment they agreed they needed him as much as they needed one another. The only words they shared were spoken out loud as they turned their dazed optics toward him.

“Prowl is important, we need him with us,” the spoke in unison.

Shocked, Prowl’s mouth gaped slightly, his doorwings quivering slightly at their merged message. Suddenly they both sharply gasped and moaned, overload from their spark merge clearly taking hold. As it passed, their sparks quickly retreated and they fell sideways, bodies tangled.

Prowl quickly hopped to his feet and rounded to the head of the berth, gently touching each of their helms. They’d offlined from the overload, but they weren’t overheated. Still stunned by their words, he carefully sat down on the edge of the berth staring at them. He’d spent most of the war feeling more and more detached and unwanted by anyone he was around, his position forcing him to make decisions that were often times unpopular. To have these two state they needed him touched at something deep inside his own spark. “I need you both, too,” he softly murmured, knowing that his time with Sideswipe had helped soften his hard edges, and being forced to reach out to Sunstreaker had stretched his ability to empathize. They'd changed him, and now he wanted to help give them a world to live in again.

...

"So what 'cha up to?" Jazz asked, lifting one of Soundwave's arms up so he could settle on his lap. He stared at the computer screen of the console, trying to figure out what his love was currently encrypting.

Unflappable as always, Soundwave paused long enough for Jazz to get comfortable then resumed his work. "Message for incoming army as scripted by Prowl must be encrypted."

"But how will they be able to break it?" Jazz frowned at the screen.

"Blaster is their communications officer. He will recognize the encryption," Soundwave replied. "He wrote it."

Jazz chuckled at that, leaning against Soundwave. "You're almost as clever as me."

"We are equally intelligent in differing areas of expertise," Soundwave replied.

Turning his head to look up at Soundwave he grinned. "That was a joke, but thanks for the compliment."

Soundwave let his mask retract, revealing a small smile. "I simply stated the truth."

Glancing back at the screen, Jazz smirked. "Blaster, huh?" He reached forward for the keys on the console and Soundwave paused what he was doing. It sort of amazed him how easily they acted in tandem. It was that or Soundwave had a secret mind-reading ability. He quickly scrolled through a side window, accessing his music files. "Here. Can you attach this to the message? So it'll play when opened?"

Fingers resumed their task as Soundwave nodded once and pulled the music track over to his encryption code and continued. After a couple more minutes, Soundwave was done. "Musical track attached."

"You're the best," Jazz replied. He then squirmed around in Soundwave's lap until he was facing him with his legs straddling the larger span of hips. "You deserve a reward."

Tipping his head up, Jazz pressed a kiss to exposed lips. Soundwave's hands pet over his plating as he returned the kiss which soon deepened.

"Ahem."

The kiss broke, and Jazz sheepishly smiled at their visitor on the command deck, Shockwave. "What's up?"

"I'd rather not comment on that. This is hardly an appropriate location for your romantic pursuits," Shockwave replied.

"Apologies," Soundwave replied, though he made no move to remove Jazz from his lap.

"I was actually looking for Prowl. I thought he'd be here," Shockwave replied.

"Nope. You try his new comm?" Jazz asked.

"He has a busy tone set at the moment," Shockwave replied.

"In all likelihood he is occupied with the twin warriors," Soundwave replied.

Shockwave seemed to deflate slightly at that. "I see."

“Was there somethin’ we could do for you?” Jazz asked, unsure what to think about the fact that Shockwave was still so obviously pining after Prowl.

“No, it can wait.” Shockwave then bowed his head. “I’ll stop by tomorrow in the morning. If you could just let him know I was looking for him?”

“Sure thing,” Jazz replied.

Shockwave quickly disappeared, and Jazz frowned.

“Why are you upset?” Soundwave asked, brushing his thumb over Jazz’s pouted lip.

“Just wonderin’ when that mech will finally stop chasing after something he’s not gonna get,” Jazz replied with a shrug.

Soundwave kissed Jazz’s cheek, then lingered to nuzzle him. “Shockwave prizes logic above all. Prowl is a very fitting match in theory.”

“In reality Prowl needs those two idiots to help ground him, though,” Jazz quietly replied. “Maybe Shockwave needs someone more emotional to pursue, too.”

Soundwave pulled back and smiled as he nodded. “Your capacity for emotion exceeds mine, and together we find balance.”

Jazz flashed a grin. “Opposites attract and all that, yeah.” He sweetly kissed Soundwave, reveling in the intoxicating way this mech always made him feel. Beyond addicted, he needed this mech like he needed energon pumping in his lines. He could hardly wait until they’d overthrown Megaton for good. For the first time ever, he was seeing life in longer terms than what he’d be doing the next day. He saw a life, a home with this mech and his annoying cassettes, and that thought made him deliriously happy.

Shockwave stepped off the ship and started to cross the hangar to the stairwell to return the main part of the compound. Things were coming together well. The plans they were setting into motion were solid, and he had no doubt they were going to take back their homeworld.

A part of him still ached, though. He’d hoped that in time Prowl would see him as an equal worthy of more than their colleague-style relationship. Perhaps if he’d not touched Prowl the way he had in the meeting with Megatron things could’ve progressed that way. It was an action he knew in his spark he needed to take in order to protect Prowl, but one that cost him dearly on a personal level.

“Sir! Wait a second!”

Shockwave came a stop, glancing at Ironfist running his direction with something in his hands.

“Hey, sorry. I just, I was unpacking my lab on the ship and I found this. I fixed it and forgot to give it to you.” Ironfist held out a small ornate box.

Gently taking it with his one hand, Shockwave canted his head slightly. “Hello, Ironfist.”

Ironfist’s optics curved, indicating his hidden smile benath his blast mask. “Hello, sir.” He then focused on the box in his hand. “I hope you like it. I know you’ve got a collection of them.”

“Is this a hologram box?” Shockwave replied, his delight at the prospect bleeding into his voice.

“Yeah. A really nice one, too. I’ll show you.” Ironfist carefully pulled back the lid of the small, decorated box, revealing a running turbofox hologram.

“Beautiful,” Shockwave replied, enthralled with the small trinket from their golden age. He looked at Ironfist, wishing he could show the smile he felt inside. "Thank you."

"Sure thing," Ironfist replied.

Gently squeezing the box so the lid shut, Shockwave dimmed his optic as he looked at the etched box cover.

“You okay?” Ironfist asked. “I mean, it’s just, you seem… I dunno…”

Looking back at the small scientist, Shockwave nodded. “I am looking forward to ending this all once and for all. I suppose lately I have been reflecting on how I found myself on this path, though.”

Ironfist looked like he wanted to say something, but snapped his mouth shut and rubbed his hands on his hips nervously. After a moment he finally spoke, though. “Well, things will work out. I have faith in you and Prowl.”

“You have been as much of an asset as any of us, Ironfist.” Shockwave then bowed his head slightly. “I need to go up and see if there’s any further news from the city. I will speak with you and the others later, I’m sure. And thank you again.”

“Yeah, okay. See you,” Ironfist replied.

Shockwave quickly left the hangar, and as he started up the stairs, he held the small trinket to his chest. “This path may set some things right, but cannot put it all back to how it was,” he sullenly murmured to himself.

Ironfist wandered into medbay and leaned into the doorway of the CMO’s office. “Got a sec?”

Tremorwave glanced up from his computer console and shrugged. “Sure. What’s up?”

Stepping inside, Ironfist caught a glimpse of what looked like First Aid’s medical file. From what he saw, it looked like Tremorwave was running scenarios for returning his second’s ability to walk, including external devices. Not wanting to seem nosy, Ironfist quickly looked back at Tremorwave. “So, I was curious what you knew about empurata?”

With a disgusted look, Tremorwave scowled. “You mean other than it’s a barbaric, horrible miscarriage of medical science used for political means?”

Ironfist sheepishly shrank in on himself. “Well, yeah. I, uh, I was just curious if it was possible to reverse it?”

Tremorwave leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin. “You know, I never thought about it before. I suppose it is possible. It would be as intense a process in reverse, though. Quite painful, and the recovery would take time...”

“Would you want to try it on a willing subject?” Ironfist asked.

Lighting up at that, Tremorwave suddenly grinned. “Don’t tell me your owner said he wants his head back, has he?”

Biting his lip behind his mask in response, Ironfist shook his head. “He’s not my owner. Is that what you still really think of us? That we’re a bunch of slaves?”

Tremorwave’s smile instantly faded. “No! I-ah, it’s just force of habit,” he said shaking his head. He then leaned forward against his desk. “I didn’t mean it how it sounded. If I really thought that about you all, would I be here?”

“I don’t know. I don’t much about you, honestly. Other than you were a Decepticon, and that the repairs I’ve seen you perform show you’re an expert medic. Which is why I was asking about reversing empurata in the first place,” Ironfist replied.

“All you really need to know about me is that I do what I have to survive. The symbol I wore in the war, my choice to be here, it’s all about being on the winning side. That’s the Primus’ honest truth,” Tremorwave replied. “As far as reverse empurata, yeah, I can probably do it. I just need a willing participant and their original schematics for their removed parts. Not something we have time or resources for at the moment, though.”

Ironfist nodded. “Good to know. And thanks for being honest.”

Tremorwave sharply nodded.

In two more days, they would be implementing Prowl’s orders and taking back their planet. Red Alert laid curled up against Skyfire in their quarters in the dark unable to recharge as he thought about the implications of what they were about to try to do. The lack of thrum from Skyfire meant he was still awake, too.

Ever since the medication they’d been drugged with worked it’s way out of their systems they’d been physically affectionate, but not interfaced. Red Alert dimmed his optics, remembering how it felt to be touched like that by Inferno, then compared to his more recent interactions with Skyfire. They both were so gentle with him. Loving in the way they touched and treated him, and not just in the berth, either. Red Alert had hoped that maybe the pain from losing Inferno would fade, but in truth it felt sharper than ever, especially in Skyfire’s presence. He reminded him so much of Inferno it made his spark feel like it was going to tear itself apart from grief sometimes.

“Skyfire?” Red Alert asked in a hushed voice.

“Yes?” Skyfire replied.

Fingering the white plating near him, Red Alert dimmed his optics. “Are you worried about what will happen?”

“I trust in Prowl’s plans,” Skyfire replied.

“No, I mean. What if we do it? What if we really overthrow Megatron once and for all? Then what will happen?” Red Alert shifted, looking up at the dimly lit blue optics gazing at him in the darkness.

“I suppose we will rebuild. Set up a hopefully more functional government. That kind of thing,” Skyfire carefully replied.

“And you and me?” Red Alert asked in a smaller voice.

“I would be happy to remain at your side, but ultimately I leave that up to you.” Skyfire gently squeezed Red Alert against him.

“Do you... love me?” Red Alert was genuinely curious.

“I–” Skyfire looked away. “I don’t know how to answer that.”

“Why not?” Pushing up onto his elbows, Red Alert looked at Skyfire’s barely lit face in the darkness of the room, searching for the truth of this mech’s feelings. “You either love me or don’t.”

After a moment of hesitation, Skyfire softly sighed air from his intakes. “Yes.”

Somewhat surprised, Red Alert canted his head. “You love me despite the fact I can’t love you back?”

Skyfire look almost stricken at the question. “I…” He grimaced. “Yes.”

“You and Ironfist would be so much better suited for each other. Definitely less painful than being trapped with me.” Red Alert sank back down, resting chin on Skyfire’s chest.

With the backs of his large fingers, Skyfire touched Red Alert’s cheek. “It hurts that I cannot be what you desire most. I want so much to fill that void inside you, but it’s not  my place. I am not, and I will never be what you lost. That said, the pain I may endure is nothing compared to what you must feel and at least this way you aren’t all alone.”

Red Alert felt tears suddenly surface on his optics. “I want to love you,” he whispered. “I want it so much.” And that was the truth he’d been avoiding speaking, even inside his own mind. There was a part of him that wished he’d never bonded to Inferno so he could have Skyfire instead. “I’m not fit for anyone to have. I wasn’t even good enough for Inferno…” Tears spilled with his guilty confession, and he shivered as he started to cry.

Skyfire turned on the berth, wrapping Red Alert up in his large arms and holding him close as he started to sob yet again. It felt like he’d never stop crying for his loss. That the only escape for this pain would be death. Despite his promise to Inferno, he was finding harder and harder to exist like this.

“I have thought about all this a lot, Red,” Skyfire said, voice as even and calm as it had ever been. “I asked the medic about it, too–”

Red Alert tried to reign in his crying. “Asked… what?”

"I was curious if a new bond might help you," Skyfire quietly replied.

Optics brightened at that, and Red Alert flattened his hands against Skyfire's cockpit chest he was curled up against. "You love me that much?"

Skyfire kissed one of his helm horns. "Of course."

"What did Tremorwave say?" Red Alert asked, tearing up again but for a different reason, overwhelmed by how much this mech cared for him.

"He said it would help stabilize your emotions with a second spark there to help carry the burden of loss," Skyfire explained.

Red Alert pressed his face into the crook of Skyfire's neck. "I could never do that to you," he said in a hushed voice.

"But I would happily do it, if you wanted." Skyfire nuzzled a helm horn. "And whether you choose that path with me or not, I'll stay at your side as long as you'll have me."

More tears escaped. Red Alert never imagined he'd find one mech that would love him enough for a bond, let alone two. "I-I can't answer you now."

"You don't need to," Skyfire replied. "Just something to consider if you wanted a future life with me in it."

"I'll think about it," Red Alert said, hating how fragile he was but at the same time amazed by the selflessness of this mech holding him. He quietly cried until he was too tired to remain online. Snuggling against Skyfire his sobs faded and he relaxed. He was safe in every way in this mech's arms and eternally grateful for Starscream's choice to bring them together. "I do love you," he whispered just before he slipped offline.