Standing in the main hallway of Zeta’s home, Prowl examined the impossibly large family portrait mounted on the wall. Around him officers scurried past, and Chromedome’s voice echoed as he gave orders for the search. Suddenly, his comm buzzed on his hip, and he pulled it off to read the message.
Nothing in the other houses. No one knows who’s in the composite. -Ironhide
Their search was coming up empty. Prowl frowned at the message, then turned his gaze back to the portrait.
The center of the image had Zeta seated with his three sons standing around him, each one with a hand on their father’s shoulder and their bonded partners standing at their sides. It was the background that held Prowl’s fascination, though. Behind the family group were two flanking lines of the servants for the houses. He leaned in close, scrutinizing the line on the right side. All the servants were looking forward in the image capture, save one. That one was looking at the family. Something about that one was bothering Prowl. He couldn’t place what about it felt strange other than his gaze being off. After a long moment, he lifted his hand and covered the chevron part of that mech’s head.
“Could it be…?” Prowl pulled his datapad of notes from subspace, and opened the composite image. He stared at it, covering the chevron, then looked back up at the strange servant in the family portrait. It was the same face. The coloring and his chevron were completely different, though. What was going on? He took an image capture of the portrait and then sub-spaced his datapad. Perhaps this mech was their suspect, but how would he change his chevron? Changing color was easy enough, but a piece of armor like that was a complicated procedure requiring a medic. This clue offered more questions than answers. First thing, he needed to speak with this servant.
Prowl wandered into the adjoining room where two of Zeta’s servants were sitting and waiting for the search to be over. “Excuse me. I’d appreciate your help in identifying someone out here in the family portrait.”
One servant gave Prowl a dagger-opticked look, but the other got to his feet.
Motioning for the helpful one to follow, they walked out into the hallway. Prowl pointed to the mech he was curious about. “What is his name?”
“Oh, that’s Cloudstorm,” the servant replied, with a funny look. “He used to work here, but he doesn’t anymore. He was Gamma’s servant for a long, long time. Then one day he was just gone.”
“Thank you. That was very helpful,” Prowl replied. Gamma was Zeta’s eldest son, and it was unusual for a servant to be let go after working in a elite family’s home for a long time.
“The Omega family is a good family. Please leave them be, officer,” the servant said, giving Prowl a pleading look.
“I’m simply following the flow of the investigation.” Prowl stepped away and made note of the new suspect’s possible name, glad the search had yielded one possible piece of the puzzle.
He typed a message into his comm to inform everyone the search was complete and to head back to the station. There was work to be done and a suspect to locate.
“Look at this washrack. It’s huge!” Sideswipe stepped into the stall that had enough room for three or four mechs.
Sunstreaker joined him and began to look through the array of cleansers and waxes Prowl had on the inset shelf. “Wow. He’s got some really nice stuff for cleaning up with.” He picked one up and shook his head. “This bottle alone is like 50 credits.”
“Seriously?” Sideswipe looked at his brother with bright optics.
They’d lazed around in Prowl’s berth for a couple hours after he’d left. Made out for a bit, which lead to another round of interfacing. Now they both desperately needed a good wash.
Sideswipe flipped the lever to turn on the water, and the overhead sprayers rained an even layer down over them.
Sunstreaker glanced up and squinted. “Primus, this is like a hotel washrack.”
“Prowl must do pretty well for himself,” Sideswipe commented as he grabbed the bottle from Sunstreaker’s hands.
Snatching it back, Sunstreaker frowned at his brother. “We aren’t using up his most expensive cleanser.”
“Aww. Don’t you wanna try it?” Sideswipe asked with a pout.
“Sure, but maybe some other time. We’re guests here. We should be respectful.” Sunstreaker put the bottle back and picked a more mid-range cleanser out of the grouping, handing it to Sideswipe.
“Ohhh-kay,” Sideswipe said, mock frowning. He then grinned brightly and squirted the cleanser at Sunstreaker.
“Glitch!” Sunstreaker grabbed another bottle and squirted it back at his brother.
Sideswipe laughed, and they exchanged cleanser squirts, chasing around the large stall. Sunstreaker finally caught his brother and pressed him against the metallic wall, capturing his lips in a soft-mouthed kiss.
“Sunny…” Sideswipe practically melted as the kiss broke, dropping the bottle. Lifting his arms, he grasped Sunstreaker by the waist and pulled him closer. “Primus, I want you.”
“I think three times is about all my valve is up for today. It’s kinda sore,” Sunstreaker replied before kissing his way down Sideswipe’s neck and letting his bottle also fall to the floor.
“Then spike me,” Sideswipe replied.
Stilling, Sunstreaker wasn’t sure he’d heard that right.
“If you feel like it,” Sideswipe added, his self-doubt bleeding through his voice.
Straightening, Sunstreaker looked his brother deep in the optics. Water trickled down their frames as they gazed at one another. “I thought that might have been a one time thing,” Sunstreaker finally said.
“Doesn’t have to be,” Sideswipe replied. “I’m yours as much as you’re mine. Right?”
Their dynamic was changing. Sunstreaker wasn’t sure what to think about it. He liked the comfort of how things had been, but at the same time his spike was already surging behind the cover at the mere idea of sinking inside his brother again.
Sideswipe started to look vaguely upset. “Unless you don’t want–”
Interrupting his brother with another kiss, Sunstreaker’s cover snapped back open and he leaned forward to grind his spike against Sideswipe.
Kiss breaking with a soft gasp, Sideswipe’s smile returned. “Hold me up against the wall? ‘Face me until I’m dented?”
Chuckling, Sunstreaker nipped his brother’s nose, then grabbed his leg, hiking it up over his hip. “Never can say no to you. Open up, good-looking.”
With his patented lop-sided grin Sideswipe did as Sunstreaker asked, cover sliding open. Sunstreaker sank his fingers into the dewy valve, twisting and stretching the mesh walls. Sideswipe’s optics grew darker in color and he shivered a little, his plating rattling against the wall behind him.
Sideswipe’s fingers squeezed Sunstreaker’s shoulders and he whined a little. “Stop teasing me.”
Kissing his brother on the cheek, he removed his fingers and guided his spike’s head to nudge just inside the rim of his brother’s valve. With one hand he grasped Sideswipe’s leg tightly against his hip, while the other hand braced his weight against the wall. He then slowly slid inside his brother, relishing the tight heat as pushed in.
“Primus,” Sideswipe breathed. “So full…”
Sunstreaker softly sighed and hummed his agreement. It took all his self control to not just start pounding away, but he held himself there, waiting for his brother to be ready for him. With his brother's valve not having been used as much, it seemed to take longer to stretch and adjust. Sunstreaker experimentally shifted his hips, letting his spike slide partway out and in again a few times.
Fingers digging into Sunstreaker’s shoulders, Sideswipe whimpered. “Go ahead,” he said, his voice thin and airy with desire.
Nuzzling his brother’s neck, Sunstreaker started to slowly thrust, rocking his hips upward. The slick, tight squeeze around his spike made him groan wantonly. He could feel his brother’s body shivering against him as he moaned and whimpered, which was just adding fuel to the fire. He thrust faster and with a little more force, causing Sideswipe’s plating to rattle against the wall.
“Holy frag,” Sideswipe moaned, valve grasping greedily each time Sunstreaker impaled him.
Lost in the moment, Sunstreaker’s optics dimmed as he let the waves of building pleasure push through him, punctuated by his brother’s approving moans. He pressed his face into the crook of Sideswipe’s neck, and began to thrust faster and deeper, chasing down that sweet moment of release.
Sideswipe suddenly gasped as his frame shuddered hard against the wall and he let out a strangled cry of pleasure.
The tight spasming squeeze of that hot valve drew Sunstreaker right over the edge with him. He sank to the hilt, his overload exploding and filling his brother. The pleasure that blossomed from his array caused his entire frame to seize up as he half-moaned and half-cried out against his brother’s throat.
Pressing his weight against Sideswipe, Sunstreaker’s legs were barely keeping him up as he panted softly in the aftermath. Both their bodies caused steam to rise around them from the water hitting their overheated plating. Sunstreaker would have loved to stay buried inside his brother for much longer, but shaky limbs combined with his decompressing spike meant he had to withdraw.
Nearly stumbling backward as he let go of the wall and leg, Sideswipe grabbed him, hugging him close. Sunstreaker wrapped his arms tightly around his brother in return.
Sideswipe chuckled and kissed a helm fin. “You need more practice ‘facing against a wall. Are your leg joints all loose?”
“Yeah,” Sunstreaker admitted with a shy smile.
“Frag, stop being so cute,” Sideswipe said, optics shining with adoration.
“Stop being a sexy slagger,” Sunstreaker replied as he nipped at his brother’s lower lip.
Sideswipe laughed. “Ha! That’ll never happen!”
“Good,” Sunstreaker replied, smiling. He nuzzled his brother’s cheek. He couldn't imagine a life without his brother being the center of it. They'd always been close, but things between them had gotten more intimate since arriving in Praxus. Pressing a loving kiss to his brother's perfect lips, Sunstreaker felt his very spark flutter with all the love he felt for this one mech. Leaning back, he gazed at Sideswipe. "Love you."
Sideswipe smiled brightly. "Love you more."
Somewhat overwhelmed with more emotion than he was used to letting himself feel, Sunstreaker broke the long gaze and looked around the wash rack. “We should really clean up, then make sure we leave Prowl’s place nice.”
Sideswipe hummed softly and hugged Sunstreaker tight for a moment. “Anything you want.”
After a short search of the records, Prowl pulled up Cloudstorm's information. A mech with a clean record, Cloudstorm had been a legacy servant of the Omega family; his father and father's father both having served the family. To be abruptly fired made no sense.
Prowl dug around at related public files, trying to figure out the ‘why’ behind his dismissal. Had he been caught killing by the family? Let go to hide the connection? A small yellow flag on Cloudstorm's file indicated he'd been admitted to the central medical facility for a major procedure. Clicking the flag, Prowl was unable to view the restricted file even with his level of access. Strange.
Growling his frustration, he downloaded Cloudstorm's current address and pinged Chromedome to come with him for the interview.
Peering into Prowl’s office moments later, Chromedome gave a quizzical look. “Got something?”
Prowl stood. “A lead. You’ll come with me to interview a person of interest.”
Chromedome’s visor brightened. “But we didn’t find anything at the Omega property...right?”
Rounding his desk, he handed off the datapad with Cloudstorm’s information and then walked down the hall toward the lift. “As I said, I have a person of interest to interview.”
Taking a few jogged steps to catch up, Chromedome held up the pad. “This mech is sky blue and the chevron is all wrong.”
“Look at his face, then look at the composite,” Prowl replied.
Chromedome flipped between the two images on the datapad. “Same face?” He looked at Prowl. “How is he changing his chevron then? Or was your cousin mistaken?”
They stepped onto the lift. “We have many questions to ask of this mech. Hopefully, we will finally find some answers.”
The building Cloudstorm currently lived in was a modest apartment house in a very nice neighborhood. Prowl rang the buzzer and then they both waited.
:: Hello? :: came a disembodied voice from the intercom.
“My name is Prowl and I’m here with my colleague, Chromedome. We are enforcers who are looking to speak with Cloudstorm,” Prowl replied.
There was a long beat of silence.
:: Come up. Fifth floor. :: The door slid open for them.
They walked up the five flights of stairs and at the last landing were greeted by an open doorway. Prowl lead the way as they entered the apartment. Cloudstorm was sitting on the couch, sky blue in color with the same chevron as what he’d seen in the portrait.
Cloudstorm stood as they entered and smiled. “What can I do for you, officers?”
Chromedome elbowed Prowl. “Can’t be him,” he whispered.
Prowl ignored the whisper. “There have been some recent crimes we’re investigating. Would you be willing to speak with us?” He asked politely. He knew in his gut this mech had answers, but needed to tread lightly. The nicer they were about this, the more they could hopefully learn.
“Of course,” Cloudstorm replied. “Please, have a seat.”
They all sat down, and Prowl made sure to lower his doorwings slightly to show he had no aggressive intentions. “First, I would like to inform you I performed a background check. You were employed with the Omega family for your entire life then suddenly terminated. It’s unusual for a servant in an elite household such as yourself to be fired. Could you tell me why you were asked to leave?”
“Because I was sparked,” Cloudstorm answered.
The yellow flag on his record for treatment in the medical center was now explained. “You’re a legacy servant, raised on the Omega estates by your parents who were also servants. Why would your being sparked be cause for dismissal?”
Cloudstorm glanced down at his folded hands in his lap and sadly smiled. “Because the life inside me was created with Gamma, Zeta’s eldest son.” He looked back up. “We were in love and the sparking was an accident.”
“So wait, you got knocked up by the elite son of the family you served and then they kicked you out?” Chromedome asked.
“Yes,” Cloudstorm replied.
“And the resulting sparkling? You raised him?” Prowl asked.
Sadness swept the features of Cloudstorm’s face. “After the sparkling separation, the Omega family took him away from me and I was fired. Zeta filled my credit account with more credits than I could ever use and I was told I’d never see my own sparkling or Gamma again.”
Prowl deeply frowned. “Do you know what the sparkling’s ultimate fate was?”
Cloudstorm gazed at Prowl. “He was sent away to a boarding academy, and raised there. Never allowed to see me, and never allowed to set foot on the Omega family property. A few years ago he appeared at my door as a full adult. After so much time, though, our relationship is rocky at best. He comes to see me now and again, but–” He dimmed his optics and looked away from Prowl. “He has been deeply wounded by the circumstances of his creation.”
Chromedome lifted up the datapad with the composite. “Is this him?”
Cloudstorm stared at the image, then nodded. “He’s the murderer, isn’t he. The one killing elites around the city?”
“It’s looking like a possibility,” Prowl replied.
Cloudstorm took hold of the datapad and ran his fingers over the composite image. “He’s a mech without a world to belong to. Angry and mentally stunted from never knowing his own creators. Zeta is the one that twisted his mind with his choice to hide his illegitimate grandson.”
“What is his name?” Prowl asked in a gentle tone.
“He wasn’t allowed to take an Omega name, so I named him Galvex. That was my creator’s name.” Cloudstorm handed the datapad back to Chromedome, optics extra glossy with held back tears.
“If he comes by here, please let us know,” Prowl said, pulling out his information card and handing it to Cloudstorm.
“Of course,” Cloudstorm replied.
The information on Galvex was entered into the wanted suspect system. His image and name distributed to all the local energon bars and clubs in hopes of finding him. All they could do now was wait and hope that he’d be seen and reported.
To be disowned and hidden away from his creators had to be traumatic. He knew being raised by his uncle after his creators passed left a scar deep and wide inside him. The same could be said for the twins, being abandoned by their creators, too. Prowl felt a measure of sympathy for this murderer, which he found disconcerting. He preferred evil in the world to exist in black and white terms, and this bordered on grey.
“So these twins, tell me ‘bout them,” Ironhide said.
Prowl looked up from his drink, drawn out of his thoughts. “What would you like to know?”
“Everything,” Ironhide said with a laugh. “All I know ‘bout them is what they looked like in holding. And by the way, they’re a pair of lookers.” Ironhide winked an optic.
Smiling a little, Prowl fingered his glass. “They’re fraternal twins, from Kaon originally. They have really good sparks despite the hard life they’ve lead. They’re also very young.”
“Fraternal?” Ironhide got a pensive look on his face and then took a swig of his drink.
“Yes. Why do you say it like it’s a bad thing?” Prowl asked.
Ironhide chuckled. “It’s not a bad thing. I have a buddy that dated a fraternal pair. They’re a lot different than split sparked. Two totally different mechs with different likes.”
“I’d noticed that. It’s a bit tricky finding a middle ground for outings,” Prowl replied, remembering how bored Sideswipe had been at the detailing parlour.
“My buddy ended up taking them out on separate dates. It went a long way toward getting to know ‘em both better,” Ironhide said with a half-smile.
“Is your friend still with them?” Prowl asked.
“Frag yeah. I went to their public bonding ceremony,” Ironhide replied.
“Separate dates,” Prowl murmured as he gazed at his drink. “They’re so close, I don’t know if they’d agree to something like that.”
“Thing is, they’re basically a bonded couple. If you’re really serious about more than just a good time, you’re gonna need to woo them,” Ironhide said with a more serious tone in his voice. “And you don’t strike me as the type interested in just gettin’ his jollies.”
Prowl looked up at Ironhide. “I don’t do anything lightly. You of all mechs know that.”
A smile spread across Ironhide’s lips. “Yeah, I know.”
“I find my own past trips me up at moments with them,” Prowl admitted as he looked back down at his energon for a moment. “They’ve shown amazing patience with me.”
“They sound like keepers,” Ironhide replied.
“I believe so,” Prowl said, smiling as he gazed at his colleague and friend.
Standing outside a local energon bar, Sideswipe kept an optic peeled as he and Sunstreaker waited for Prowl. Going out two nights in a row like this had to mean things were getting serious now. His mind then wandered to earlier, thinking about their morning ‘facing, watching Prowl sink into his brother–
“Huh?” Sideswipe looked over at his brother leaned up against the wall of a building.
“I was talking to you, but you’re in outer space.” Sunstreaker replied as he raised an optic ridge. “Lemmie guess, replaying this morning again?”
Grinning, Sideswipe sauntered back over to his brother and lightly drew a finger down his gleaming golden chest plate. “He looked so fragging hot buried inside you.” Leaning in, he nuzzled one of his brother’s headfins. “And you were hotter than ever, too,” he said in a heady, whispered voice.
Despite the dagger-opticked look he got, Sideswipe also saw his brother’s frame shiver a little at his words.
“And I get to watch this time,” Sunstreaker replied, optics darkening a little.
“Yeah you do,” Sideswipe said. Unable to resist the urge to kiss his brother, he leaned in and their mouths met in an intense soft-mouthed kiss.
He loved Sunstreaker so much. More often than not, the love inside his spark felt like it was spilling over the edges, as if his body couldn’t contain it all, leaking out with lustful words and stolen touches. But it was more than just his brother’s body he wanted. This love was so intense sometimes he almost felt like he wanted to crawl into Sunstreaker’s frame to be as close as possible. He’d actually always felt like that, even when they were younger.
The kiss broke with a soft gasp from their lips. Sideswipe stared into the darkened pools of cerulean that were his brother’s optics.
“I don’t want to interrupt.”
Sideswipe glanced over and felt his spark surge again, but in a different way than how it reacted to his brother. It spun faster and felt lighter whenever he laid optics on Prowl. “Nah, just getting Sunny wound up.”
Prowl shyly smiled. “I see that.”
Sunstreaker looked embarrassed and punched Sideswipe hard in the abdomen, making him grunt. “Shut up, glitch!”
Sideswipe loved teasing his brother almost as much he loved ‘facing him. Flashing a grin at Sunstreaker he had no shame. “Don’t want Prowl to know just how easily I can melt your joints?”
“I said shut up!” Sunstreaker raised his arm to punch him again, but white hands reached out and took hold of each of their hands, preventing any more punches from flying.
Prowl looked between them. “You two argue over the strangest things.”
“Sides just likes teasing me,” Sunstreaker said with a petulant frown.
“What can I say? It’s fun,” Sideswipe replied with a proud smile. “Besides, he pulls his punches with me.”
“And he never knows when to stop,” Sunstreaker replied, raising an optic ridge at Sideswipe.
Whether all that stuff about their sparks was true or not about having a third member to balance them, Sideswipe knew one thing for sure: no one else on the whole planet could calm his brother down like that other than Prowl. Not even him. Though, he rarely tried to calm his brother. Mostly he liked riling him up and then ‘facing him. Still, it made Prowl all the more special.
“Well, how about we head inside, hm?” Prowl said, smiling at them.
Sideswipe liked that Prowl smiled around them now, something he hadn’t done at first. “Sure. But we’re buying this time.”
“Yeah, you keep treating us. Let us treat you,” Sunstreaker added.
Prowl’s doorwings fluttered very subtly as he nodded. “I’d like that very much.”
Leading the way, Sideswipe entered the energon bar first, and they were seated at a circular table in the corner. The music and atmosphere was raucous and fun. The kind of place Sideswipe loved. A waiter walked up shortly after they sat down and took their orders. Sideswipe settled into his seat, gaze wandering the scene.
Two tables over he spied a pair of twins, probably split spark by their looks. The mech they were with slid a decorated box across the table. The two opened it, and their faces lit up as they each took out what looked like broaches. The mech they were with then reached across the table and carefully attached the magnetized back to each of them.
“Traditionally the mech that courts a twin pair will present gifts once things progress,” Prowl said, touching Sideswipe’s arm.
“Really?” Sideswipe glanced at him, his spark surging all over again as he looked into his pretty light blue optics.
“Weird,” Sunstreaker said, still watching the interaction.
Prowl looked at his brother, and Sideswipe frowned. He loved his brother, but he could be such a buzz kill sometimes.
“What's odd about it?” Prowl asked. “An outsider is courting the pair to join them.” Prowl made it sound like the most logical thing to happen.
“Buying someone off to love them?” Sunstreaker asked with a small frown.
Prowl reached over and took hold of Sunstreaker’s hand. “Not at all. Giving gifts is an expression of adoration. And the gifts don’t even need to be materialistic. It’s about showing with actions how deeply one mech feels for another.”
Sideswipe smiled at Prowl, and couldn’t resist leaning over to gently kiss his cheek. They’d never known a spark as open and kind as his was. “You’re so cute.”
“Guess I’m used to most mechs wanting something in return,” Sunstreaker replied, looking back at the other table.
“You wanted to treat me this evening. It’s the same sort of thing,” Prowl said as he gave Sunstreaker’s hand a squeeze.
And just like that, Prowl had prevented his brother from spiraling into a ranty, cranky mood. Sunstreaker glanced back at Prowl with bright optics, then he leaned over and kissed Prowl’s other cheek. “Promise that you’ll let us ‘court’ you as much as you court us, though,” he said.
Prowl nodded and smiled again.
With a huge grin, Sideswipe stole a grope of one of Prowl’s doorwings, earning him a bright opticked look.
“Sides, stop trying to feel him up in public. You wanna grope someone, do it to me,” Sunstreaker said, with a half-smile.
“Don’t tempt me!” Sideswipe laughed, and reached under the table to trail his fingers up his brother’s leg.
“You two are incorrigible,” Prowl said, looking amused.
“Wait ‘til later,” Sideswipe replied with a definite rumble to his voice.
“You’re assuming he’s inviting us over again,” Sunstreaker said.
The waiter returned and placed their ordered drinks down. After he left, Prowl picked up his energon and looked between the two of them. “I certainly hope you both plan on coming home with me.”
“Are you flirting with us?” Sideswipe said, chuckling. “Or teasing?”
“I seem to remember promising it would be your turn next,” Prowl said, glancing at Sideswipe. “And I always keep my promises.”
“Frag, you’re amazing, Prowl,” Sideswipe replied, brightly grinning.
Sunstreaker laughed and took a swig of his drink.
They fit together in a way that felt so comfortable. Sideswipe had been suspicious of anyone and everyone back in Rodion, and even in Kaon. But here he felt safe. Being with Prowl was a large part of why. He could see them all together for a long time to come. And considering he used to live day to day with a fuel tank running on empty more often than not, this was a significant and wonderful change. To actually think they had a future for once felt pretty fragging good.
“And where did’ya see him?” Ironhide asked, making notes as he interviewed a witness.
“He was sitting alone at the end of bar. He looked just like the composite in warning bulletin, but I didn’t see that until I went on break,” the waiter said. “Our boss posted it in the break room, and the minute I saw it I knew it was him. So I came right back out front and he was gone.”
Ironhide frowned and nodded. “If you didn’t see him leave, do you know if any of your coworkers might’ve?”
The waiter shook his head. “Thing is, he’s one of those types you just sort of ignore, you know? Only reason I even noticed him at all was because he was staring at another table of mechs.”
“Who was at the table?” Ironhide asked. Stalking his victims fit with the case file. If he could figure out who was at the table maybe they could warn them.
“Black and white Praxian with these two large mechs. One was red the other yellow and they were very good-looking but clearly not from Praxus. That mech at the bar kept looking over at them, like he might know them or something,” the waiter replied with a half-frown.
Lowering his datapad, Ironhide frowned. “Was the Praxian an enforcer?”
The waiter’s nose scrunched up as he tried to remember. “Oh, wait, yeah. He had the symbols on his arms.”
The suspect was watching Prowl? Ironhide had a bad feeling suddenly wash through him. Prowl was an elite dating non-elites and now the suspect was seen tailing him? “When you came out from in back had the party of mechs also left?”
“Yep. They’d already left, too.” The waiter looked concerned. “What is it?”
“You’ll have to excuse me.” Ironhide pulled his communicator off his hip and quickly sent Prowl a message:
The suspect was seen at the energon bar you were just at with the twins. Be vigilant. I’m nearby and going to meet you at your place.