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thesis of a spark

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Perceptor notices things— it's his job, really.

(And Rodimus endlessly teases him that he has to "perceive" things because it's in his name and nature.)

But it is true— he has to be vigilant in not only his work but also on the battlefield. He touches the glass of his chestplate, remembers when Turmoil had torn a hole in him, and how the Decepticon had jeered at him for not paying attention. The Wreckers kept him honed afterwards, constantly on his guard, always wondering when the next punch or shot was gonna come his way.

So he pays attention to everything.

"See you tonight," Brainstorm says, voice cheerful with a tinge of warm softness. Perceptor does not miss the squeeze he gives Nautica's hand, does not miss the way she smiles back at him, optics fond.

"See you tonight," she echoes as she slips away. She pauses at the doorway, glancing back, "Nightbeat is looking forward to it too, so don't get wrapped up in your work and be late," she warns, wagging a stern finger at him.

"I won't, I won't!"

Perceptor looks back down at his datapad, feeling faintly frustrated for some inexplicable reason. His mind wanders back to his previous thoughts. He pays attention and as it turns out, Brainstorm is a surprisingly charming mech when he's not brooding and cooped up in his lab constantly and arrogantly proclaiming his project to be the next best thing since energon sticks. And as it turns out— Perceptor isn't sure what to make of the new (real?) Brainstorm if he's completely honest.

Personalities are predictable, granted it's only to a certain extent, but Brainstorm? Honestly, Perceptor has never encountered a mech so thoroughly incomprehensible, one who constantly breaks expectations— in good and bad ways both at once.

Brainstorm is self-absorbed, obviously, but he is a genius, and Perceptor knew such since their first meeting. He originally dismissed the jet however, disliking the fact that Brainstorm, though brilliant, was also ridiculously impulsive. He didn't follow standard scientific procedure, didn't follow military protocol, didn't listen to rules or reason. Insatiably curious, Brainstorm lives on the fringe of logical sense, always thinking about the next thing he could create, not caring whether it was ethical or dangerous.

Perceptor wonders, faintly, if most of the bravado and posturing Brainstorm had originally done was just an act intended to distract from his briefcase project. He wonders then— only curious and nothing more— if this charming social butterfly Brainstorm is the real him, the one beneath the mask so to speak.

"You're very social," he comments, words that slip out of his mouth before he can think twice.

"What?"

Perceptor turns his head up to see Brainstorm looking at him, surprised.

"I said you are remarkably social. It seems unlike you."

"I'm hurt, Percy!" Brainstorm declares after a moment, wings fluttering in amusement. "I thought if you could see the genius of my briefcase that you could acknowledge my prowess in other fields. I'm quite adept at socializing thanks to my vast array of knowledge of numerous topics, including but not limited to unnecessary trivia about Springer."

"Springer," Perceptor repeats dryly.

"First Aid is an avid fan." Brainstorm's eyes suddenly light up, bright, foreboding if Perceptor is to be completely honest. The jet leans forward on his feet, and he looks ridiculous angled towards Perceptor when he's halfway across the room still. "You could confirm or deny these, right? Since you knew him personally—"

"I have work to do."

"You always have work to do," Brainstorm whines, wings comically flaring out in a show of petulance. He waves a hand, already acting nonchalant about the affair. "But anyway, to answer your question about my social life—"

"It wasn't a question," Perceptor interrupts, "it was a statement.”

“— I am, as what a human might say, a social butterfly," Brainstorm finishes, unfazed. He poses, hand on his chest, head tilted upwards, wings flaring and fluttering behind him. Before Perceptor can reply and tell him to cease his ridiculous posturing and bluster, Brainstorm's form sags.

"I have limited lab time anyway," he continues after a moment, voice falling a little quieter as he looks away. He shrugs his shoulders, and for the first time since Brainstorm was released from the brig, he looks tired and lost. Perceptor's intakes stall for a moment, and a wave of concern flushes through his field. "And I have no huge project to pore over anymore. I neglected a lot of things over the past few centuries. So, in a way, it's like revisiting the past. Making up for lost time. Ironically enough."

Perceptor clenches his hand tightly around his datapad. "I never said it was bad to be social." And then, quieter, he says, "You deserve time off."

Brainstorm shifts, his field blooming suddenly and Perceptor can feel it brush against his even from halfway across the room. “You should talk, Percy!" There's excitement in it and maybe a little bit of hope, something warm in it Perceptor can't quite put his finger on, but it makes his spark pulse. "You're always working— you ought to take some time off too. Maybe we could go together later for drinks."

"No." Perceptor taps his fingers along the back of his datapad again, rhythmic, steadying. He draws in a careful, measured intake. "I have work to do."

It's easier to deny Brainstorm like he always has, something he has control over rather than giving in to his unpredictable whims. Perceptor wants to stay guarded, because something is stirring inside him, a fondness, and that does not... come easy for him.

"Spoilsport," Brainstorm replies after a moment, and there's a wistfulness to his voice that makes Perceptor want to reconsider his words.

But the jet has already slinked back to his corner of the lab to tinker around with something for his last hour of allotted lab time. Perceptor looks over at him, seeing only the warped outline of his back through the liquid tubes that stand in the middle of the lab.

He knows so little, he thinks, of Brainstorm after all.

 

~*~

 

"Hello, sparkbreak," Nightbeat says, grinning around the rim of his cube.

"Shut up," Brainstorm grumbles. He slides into the booth next to the detective and slumps forward onto the table, placing his forehead against his folded arms. "Comfort me," he mumbles, muffled, into the space between his arms.

He feels Nightbeat pat his shoulder. "No luck?" He hums when Brainstorm pointedly groans as his answer. "Don't fret so much. I think he likes you."

He shoots up in his seat, fixing the detective with a glare. "You 'think'? You're supposed to be good at reading people!” He jabs a finger against Nightbeat’s chest, poking him repeatedly. “The least you could do is tell me if this is all hopeless and I’m a pining idiot.”

“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,” Nightbeat responds and he chuckles at the way Brainstorm squints at him. “Besides, I only use my detective powers for good," he continues, placing his hand over his chest solemnly, posturing in a way that makes Brainstorm cycle his optics.

"That's not what I heard about Cyclonus."

Nightbeat winces before grinning. "Well. It was too fun to resist reading him."

Brainstorm opens his mouth to say something before he’s interrupted by Nautica’s voice. "It's going to be a long night if you look like that," she chortles. He looks up to see her slide a drink across the table towards him. She slips in beside him, hipchecking him lightly as she does. "Hey.”

"Hey," he greets back, leaning against her.

"There, there." She circles her arm around his shoulder, squeezing him against her side. "Drink's on me."

"Was that 'drinks' plural or 'drink's' with an apostrophe?" Brainstorm asks, squinting at her. "The last thing I want is run my funds into the ground while I'm sparkbroken."

"You're always sparkbroken," Nightbeat points out and makes an indignant noise when Nautica smacks him behind Brainstorm's back.

 

~*~

 

"This is unusual," Ratchet says when he sees him. There's concern in his optics as he flickers his gaze over him, no doubt already searching him for injuries or fatigue. "You're unwell?"

"No," Perceptor says after a moment, stilted. He lingers in the doorway of the medbay.

"First Aid and Velocity are both out," Ratchet says, locking his computer as he turns to face him fully. "It's just us, and if you would prefer, we can go to a private examination room."

Perceptor nods, following the doctor back to a quiet room with soundproof doors. He shuts the door behind him, and feels a relieved ex-vent leave him. Ratchet gestures to the medical slab as he sits down in an examination chair. He looks at Perceptor, patient and not rushing him towards speaking.

He settles on the slab, pulls his field tight as he struggles to find the right words. He taps his finger along the edge of the slab, and Ratchet's gaze flickers to it.

"Are you certain you're alright?" he asks after a moment, voice cautious.

"Yes," and his voice sounds tight, even to him. "I apologize for dropping in without warning." A pause, and then, Perceptor opens his mouth, "I did not come for medical advice per se," and a little quieter, "I came to talk to a friend."

Ratchet's eyes light up, bright, relieved. "That alleviates my concern that you're not hiding some deathly illness."

"I don't think I could hide any form of ailment from you if I tried, Chief Medical Officer."

"Flatterer," Ratchet chuckles. He leans forward, catching Perceptor's gaze and holding it. "You need to give yourself breaks, Perceptor. Pace yourself. Brainstorm's ordeal was great stress on everyone, and I imagine it to be difficult to be watching over him now."

"I feel on edge," Perceptor admits.

"Because you don't trust him?"

"No." He sucks in an intake, optics cycling. "Because I do, but I am uncertain as to how to feel about our relationship now. Things are different— he is different— not necessarily in a bad way. Still, I do not know what to expect from him."

Ratchet stares at him, and Perceptor can read the disbelief and confusion in his field. "I wasn’t aware you and Brainstorm were attached."

"We're not,” he says quickly, feeling his field flare out defensively.

Ratchet's eyes dim in the fringes, brighter in the center of his optics, squinting. "Even as a friend rather than your physician, I have little to offer in romantic advice."

"I don't feel that way towards him."

Ratchet fixes him with a look before he stands up. "Your uncertainty stems from a lack of understanding. Take the time to get to know him."

 

~*~

 

"That's not easy," Perceptor commented, more to himself than to the doctor. Brainstorm pushes just enough to be intriguing and pulls away at the right times to remain mysterious and frustrating. And Perceptor doesn't chase mechs.

Ratchet smiled, "Et c'est comme ça."

"'And that's how it is'," he echoed.

Things don't really change.

Perceptor focuses on his own experiments on his side of the lab while Brainstorm is still visited by many different mechs. He's rarely alone and when he is, he's always in motion to a quiet tune. He has a radio playing music soft enough to not disturb Perceptor across the room.

He's visited by the usual suspects— Chromedome, Nautica, Nightbeat— but there are others Perceptor is surprised to see. Whirl is around often, pestering for new toys (guns) to play with and praising Brainstorm when he acquiesces. Swerve swings by a few times a week and their conversations are filled with inside jokes and off-world cinema recommendations. Rung checks in occasionally. His presence alone seems to calm Brainstorm down and they talk in hushed tones, the rapidity of the scientist's speech slowing down to coherency as they talk. First Aid comes by once in awhile, and while he still seems tired, Brainstorm manages to cheer him up with strange tools and toys he gives to the medic as gifts.

"You're coming over for movie night later, right, Stormy?" Rewind asks.

'Stormy', Perceptor thinks to himself. It feels so strange. He's always known that Rewind was friends with the jet by virtue of Chromedome's relationship with him, but to hear him use nicknames and be so familiar with him is another thing entirely.

"You're in charge of treats tonight too," the archivist adds, glancing over his shoulder.

"You're a thief and a crook!" Brainstorm exclaims dramatically, throwing a hand over his chest, fingers covering his autobot badge. "Wheedling me out of all I own, even going so far as to try and make a profit off of my failing energon harvest."

Rewind's visor cycles from bright to dim in amusement. "Mmhm, see you tonight, Stormy."

"See you!"

The lab falls to silence again suddenly as the door hisses shut behind the archivist. It's only quiet for a few moments before Brainstorm is whistling something behind his mask and fiddling with a small TV monitor on his lab desk. He adjusts the volume to something audible but muted enough as usual, to keep from disturbing Perceptor.

Admittedly, Perceptor has better hearing that the average mech, but he's just never told Brainstorm. His hearing isn't as good as Jazz's, a mech with supertuned receptors for stealth, infiltration, and subterfuge, but he's tweaked it since his run in with Turmoil. He can hear the English words in the backdrop, filtered through his translator.

"They feel your methods, your theories are..."

"Spooky? Do you think I'm spooky?"

He looks over to Brainstorm to see him watching the screen while he toys with a gun in his hands, fingers working through the internal mechanisms without needing to look. He doesn't look away from the screen when he talks.

"Is it too loud for you, Percy? I can turn it down."

"No."

There's a moment pause between them, and Perceptor wants to say something, anything—

"Brainstorm," he says, and it comes out sounding a little lost.

The jet looks over, startled. Something warm flickers through his optics before he shrugs his shoulders in a chuckle, turning back to the monitor.

"Relax, Perc," he says, quiet, "I'm not gonna be a nuisance anymore." He reaches over and flicks the mute button on the monitor.

"That isn't what I meant."

Brainstorm stills.

"You're not a nuisance," Perceptor manages.

He fixes him with a look— distrusting, uncertain, hopeful— maybe. Perceptor isn’t sure. Brainstorm has always thrown him off. "I'm not an idiot, Percy."

"I admit," Perceptor says quickly, "I have thought so in the past. I was too impatient and never attempted to understand. Everyone has different processes and I cannot say that you haven't been successful in your scientific endeavors."

That makes Brainstorm's shoulders fall in surprise, his wings twitching behind him as he stares at Perceptor. He feels almost embarrassed suddenly by the intensity of the jet's gaze, but he refuses to look away.

"I was unfair in my judgment of you. And I apologize."

Brainstorm's hands drop to his sides like he's at a loss for words. He looks away and fidgets before he places his gun back onto the lab desk and reaches for the TV monitor.

"You wanna watch?" he asks without looking up at Perceptor. He flicks the volume back on. "It's actually kind of a good show for human cinema."

"Yes," Perceptor says. "I'd like that."

He won't deny it's strange to acquiesce to Brainstorm's requests when he's spent his entire life denying them. But something too warm and fond curls inside of his tanks when Brainstorm's wings bounce in excitement as he snaps his gaze over to Perceptor.

"Rewind dropping by about movie night reminded me to watch this. I promised Nightbeat I'd finish this episode by breaktime so I could give him my 'hashtag review'," he explains, voice fond, fingers curling in air quotes. He fiddles with the volume, turning it up a little louder. "It's all pseudoscience and vaguely supernatural phenomena. I'm not sure if it's your speed."

Perceptor drifts closer, making a noncommittal noise as he directs his attention to the monitor. From what he can gather, it's an older human show judging by the film quality.

"That's the human Nightbeat has a crazy crush for," Brainstorm says conspiratorially, hand cupped on one side of his mask as if whispering. "He's some human detective named Fox Mulder who believes conspiracies are behind every incident they come across. Not unlike our own resident sleuth, I suppose."

"'For the most part, people are not curious except about themselves,'" Perceptor says, feeling his mouth slant up just barely in amusement.

"John Steinbeck. The Winter of Our Discontent," Brainstorm says faintly, seeming both surprised and happy. His wings flutter. "I wasn't aware you liked human literature."

"I was in the Wreckers for quite awhile," he says, looking away. "I pestered Verity Carlo for novels."

"She struck me as a comic book girl."

"She is." Perceptor feels his mouth twitch up in amusement. "To find books for me, she ordered books from a list of assigned literature from college english courses."

"You seem fond of her."

"I am. She's intelligent, brave, and adventurous, but distrusting."

"Ah, but who isn't?" Brainstorm asks, shaking a wrench at him as he nods. "We live in dangerous times. Oh, speaking of, did you know Rodimus and Drift play this human video game called... what was it again..."

This is the Brainstorm he's already familiar with— quickly flitting through distantly related ideas if not outright non-sequiturs. Brainstorm is a truly apt name because he can draw together dozens upon dozens of different methods and viewpoints to power an idea. He's nothing if not mentally resourceful.

"Oh! I remember— it's called Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. They play it together."

"That sounds more like coercion."

"Well, I never said Drift did it willingly."

Brainstorm must be grinning behind his mask because his optics are glowing with humor— and for one moment, Perceptor wants to see his mouth, wants to see his smile.

He looks away. "I suppose I shouldn't distract you from the show you're watching," he says, gesturing to it.

"X-Files," Brainstorm supplies helpfully and his optics flare as he cycles them. "And Percy! You wound me. As if I can't efficiently multitask and do the delightful job of talking to you while also enjoying some interesting cinema."

They talk, actually, for awhile. Perceptor admittedly doesn't know what to make of it— he knew logically that Brainstorm must be, on some level, fun to talk to. That's common sense, deducible from just the amount of friends he has and how he's charmed his way into getting the money and resources from varying people to fund his projects.

Perceptor feels, with a flash of realization and shame, that this is only occurring to him now because he's never talked to Brainstorm before. They've conversed over exchanging tools, arguing over lab space and time, over what inane idea Brainstorm has come up now that he wants help with. But they've never talked.

"Mulder's conclusions are baseless. The ramblings of a man with no evidence to back his claims."

"Ah, ah, that's the exact charm of this show," Brainstorm says, wagging his finger. "Aristotle: no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness."

"Other than Sculley, he's scorned by his coworkers."

"'Never underestimate spite as a motivator for genius'," Brainstorm says haughtily, chest playing fluffing out and wings fluttering. "Sam Kean from The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements." He grins at the look Perceptor gives him. "It's the title! It's that long! People often call it simply by The Disappearing Spoon though."

"Are you simply going to throw quotes at me until I concede you know more about human literature and culture than I do?"

"No. Yeeeeees... Yes. Maybe."

"You know more about human literature than I do."

"Small victories!" he cheers.

Brainstorm laughs, actually genuinely laughs with shoulders shaking and wings fluttering, and Perceptor finds that he can't help smiling too. His field flares out, warm and soft at the edges as it bumps against Perceptor's field. Perhaps there's something contagious in Brainstorm's cheerful disposition that warrants some more attention from him.

 

~*~

 

Brainstorm sighs as he looks over at Chromedome and Rewind clearly more interested in each other than the movie— Finding Nemo— they're supposed to be watching. Hands wandering, faceplates nuzzled against each other as Rewind giggles and twists around in Chromedome's lap. Tailgate, somehow, managed to drag Cyclonus to movie night with him. The minibot has a modest hand on Cyclonus' thigh and as tame as that is it surprises Brainstorm. Riptide and Bluestreak were invited too, actually, and now that. That is a wild couple.

"Looking lonely, gunmeister," Whirl croons, cackling as he clicks his pincers in front of Brainstorm's face.

He huffs, cycles his optics but doesn't push Whirl off when he obnoxiously leans against his side and drapes a lanky arm around his shoulder. "Who invited you?"

"Ultra Magnus said I should help Nutjob make friends," Tailgate supplies.

"Anyway, I'm not lonely," Brainstorm says defensively, gesturing to Nightbeat who's just returned to the room with engex. Thank god. He’ll be needing that. "I've got my partner in crime."

Nightbeat snickers as he sits down on his other side. "Whirl, huh?"

"Shut up.”

 

~*~

 

Chromedome's visor buzzes, flaring with exasperation. "You really never stop talking about Perceptor."

"Shut me up then," Brainstorm jeers, optics flashing suggestively.

Chromedome suddenly leans towards him, tilting his face like he's going to kiss him with his mask, and Brainstorm backpedals so fast he falls off the stool. The mnemosurgeon laughs behind his mask, and from the ground Brainstorm can see his shoulders shaking with laughter. He actually hears Swerve chuckle too from behind the counter, and feels warm and embarrassed. He scrambles to his feet, rolling his shoulders and flexes his jet wings, glaring at Chromedome who's still snickering.

"You wouldn't have pulled that scrap if Rewind was here," Brainstorm accuses.

Chromedome cycles his visor, still full of amusement and glee. "Yeah, but he's not here, and that was so worth it."

"I'm gonna tell him," Whirl says, peering over Chromedome's shoulder with a wicked glimmer in his optic.

Chromedome's visor flares in alarm.

Brainstorm gets the last laugh after all.

 

~*~

 

"Lonely?"

Perceptor almost sighs, but that would be giving them a reaction. He turns around because he's learned a long time ago the grave mistake of ignoring Drift and Rodimus. The (co)captain looks positively brimming with barely contained mischief, and Drift's optics are brighter than normal, betraying good humor.

"To what do I owe this pleasure?" Perceptor asks dryly, and he keeps his field close and his expression calmly neutral.

"So how's Brainstorm?" Rodimus asks, eyes glimmering, a slight bounce to his frame.

"If you're lonely," Drift says, and his voice, though playful, is also genuine, "you always have us."

"I'd rather die."

"Primus, Percy, I'm sparkbroken!" Rodimus declares, theatrically flourishing one hand into the air as he presses the other one to his chest. He laughs when Drift wraps his arms around his waist from behind him and leans his chin on Rodimus' shoulder between his neck and his towering shoulder vents.

Perceptor bites back the temptation to smile as he watches the two of them. Since Drift came back, Rodimus has since apologized, made amends, and asked the warrior if he would do the honor of being his conjunx endura.

Rodimus elbows Drift playfully when the mech tickles a hand along his waist.

"I sorely regret coming on the Lost Light at times," Perceptor says instead, but he doesn't miss the way both their eyes light up, no doubt recognizing the fondness in his tone.

"Yet you're still here," Drift points out, smiling.

Perceptor resists the urge to cycle his optics, "Yes, perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment."

Maybe he is a little lonely, he realizes faintly, as he entertains the duo for awhile while they reminisce about their Wrecker days and ponder the future of their quest, especially now that they have a map and Thunderclash. Rodimus and Drift are good company, rambunctious and loud and illogical, but sometimes Perceptor appreciates that. He couldn't have run with the Wreckers for as long as he did if he had minded it.

 

~*~

 

Admittedly, Perceptor has been spending a lot of time cooped up in the lab. Not that he doesn't do that usually, but he's spending a lot more time with Brainstorm than he would've expected. They had had some time apart after schedules were shifted around. Brainstorm also had gotten inundated with requests to hang out with various people now that his movement restrictions were loosened slightly. Now though, they’re back to staying in the lab for hours on end.

Perceptor hums to himself as he glances over at said mech. Brainstorm's rubbing at an optic as he leans in close to fiddle with a new gun prototype. His mask is off and although he’s already drank all of his energon, he still has the straw in his mouth. The monitor behind him is playing Ghost Adventures at a muted volume. It's so stereotypically Brainstorm— it makes Perceptor smile a little to himself. The problem is, he's clearly exhausted. His wings are sagging and he keeps bouncing his knee in frustration. He used to leave Brainstorm in peace to struggle over his creations, often thinking it wouldn't be worth his time to help, if the other mech even wanted it.

"Brainstorm," Perceptor hears himself say before he thinks it through.

The jet jolts, as if out of a reverie. He shakes his head, looking bewildered. "What? Is it time to close up lab already?"

"No." Perceptor clears his throat, looking away. "I was going to suggest you take a break. Perhaps we can look at it together later."

Brainstorm drops his wrench. He yelps when it clangs against his foot then suddenly laughs, a sound both nervous and excited. He doesn't say anything right away as he leans down to pick up the wrench, the metal scuffing against the floor. His wings flex, raising up to their normal height as he sits back up. His optics are shock bright, hopeful. That look always gets to him. Perceptor feels struck by the urge to be honest, to yield instead of resist like he always does.

"Do you want to get a drink together?" Brainstorm asks after resetting his vocalizer with an audible click. His tone is deceptively casual, but there's just the barest, almost inaudible skrill of static lacing his voice. He leans against the table again, fiddling with the gun again, but it looks more like something to keep his hands busy. It's odd to see him without his face mask— it's a lot more revealing and open, naturally. Brainstorm's mouth is pursed, nervous looking with bright eyes.

Perceptor's own vocalizer clicks when he opens his mouth. Brainstorm doesn't seem to notice, or if he does, he doesn't react. He's still playing around with the gun. Perceptor resets his vocalizer, pressing a fist to his mouth as he looks away.

"I would not be averse to getting a drink together."

Brainstorm stiffens in his seat before he hops onto his feet, wings fluttering and optics warm, mouth open in a wide grin. Perceptor thinks his spark skips a beat.

"Visages is a bit quieter this time of day—" Brainstorm winces, putting a finger to his lips and grinning sheepishly, "just promise you won't tell Swerve we went there."

"Our secret," Perceptor manages, and he's rewarded with another bright eyed smile.

 

~*~

 

As it turns out, Brainstorm is even more talkative when he's drunk. He's not even drunk so much as he's slightly buzzed. Perceptor supposes he shouldn't be surprised. Brainstorm's words come out fast, not unlike the speed at which Rodimus speaks with when he has fifty million questions to ask all at once about the quantum generator. Perceptor himself has his FIM chip disabled, but he's been drinking slower.

"You know, between you and me," Brainstorm starts, voice a conspiratorial whisper, "my favorite bartender is actually... Blurr. He's really charming, all smiles, really confident, and really pretty."

Perceptor stop-starts. His vocalizer clicks. He feels a flare of— jealousy— and then embarrassment at the realization. Ridiculous, why would he be jealous. Brainstorm's field is open, edges brushing against his own, and it betrays admiration and interest as he continues talking.

"I never really wanted to have a car altmode since I love flying," Brainstorm explains, "but Blurr makes cars look so fun and so good."

"I wasn't aware you were... interested in him that way."

Brainstorm laughs, sudden, "He's totally not my normal type. He's fun though and I can see why Swerve likes him."

Perceptor wants to ask— because he's curious and nothing more— about what Brainstorm's “normal" type is. But then Brainstorm is leaning into him, warm, his field a shock burst of giddiness and affection, and Perceptor’s vents stall.

“You’re so uptight, Perc,” he murmurs, leaning his head on Perceptor’s shoulder. “I wish I knew what you were thinking."

“You could ask,” he manages after a moment. Brainstorm is warm, but not hot; his vents are gently fanning out soft heat against his body. He wonders if anyone in the bar is watching them and suddenly, he hopes they aren’t. Not because he’s embarrassed, but— “Brainstorm,” he breathes, and Brainstorm’s eyes go bright like a solar flare and his frame suddenly sparks with charge.

“You’re like a Gemini,” he laughs suddenly, turning away, and Perceptor wants to pull him back but the moment has already passed. “I never know what to think.”

Perceptor recognizes the word as an Earth term, but he can’t recall what it means. He opens his mouth to ask, but Brainstorm’s wings are suddenly sagging, and his warm field has retracted.

“Sorry. I always talk too much when I drink. Thanks for joining me—“

“I enjoy your company,” Perceptor blurts out, an admission, like a depth charge falling between them.

Brainstorm looks stunned before his posture relaxes. “Good,” he says quietly, after a moment, and Perceptor thinks he must be smiling under his mask. “I’m glad."

 

~*~

 

Brainstorm is back the next day in lab, somehow more cheerful than normal. He's humming the tune to the X-files’ theme when he comes in. He greets Perceptor like normal before sliding into his workspace. Perceptor has so many questions after their talk yesterday, but Brainstorm seems to have put it out of mind. He watches for a few minutes as Brainstorm gets to work. He appears to be on a breakthrough after struggling yesterday, assembling his gun quickly with seemingly no difficulty. He spins the gun around in his hands, nodding self-satisfied to himself. He pulls up a chart on his computer, a giant checklist of— orders, Perceptor realizes with a start. Brainstorm doesn't realize he's accidentally connected his screen to the main projector. Perceptor stares for a second before he shakes his head and turns away, remembering to respect his privacy.

The checklist is for commissioned orders, all sorts of things, from guns to tools to interface arrays. He'd actually heard rumors before of Brainstorm's custom made... sex toys. Again, his audial receptors pick up a lot, sometimes to his benefit and sometimes not. He's heard gossip, murmurs between mechs about Brainstorm's side job of providing safe custom sex toys. Perceptor supposes it doesn't surprise him too much to have that confirmed. Brainstorm is known for sex positivity, especially for MTO mechs. MTOs were built for war and like worker mechs built during the functionist era, they lacked interface arrays that would normally be put in to imitate forged mechs. Even in a relatively nonjudgmental post-war atmosphere, MTOs tended to be embarrassed and anxious asking for interface array installations from doctors. Brainstorm makes sense as an alternate option to the awkwardness of having to talk to Ratchet. The doctor is also surprisingly sex positive, but... well. It doesn't change the fact that Ratchet's icy and sour disposition can be nerve-wracking and off-putting.

Perceptor fumbles with his wrench, nearly dropping it. He wonders if Brainstorm has ever been propositioned by mechs who've commissioned toys and arrays from him.

 

~*~

 

“Who’s that bad boy for?” Nightbeat whistles.

Brainstorm lets out a startled breath, patting his chest. “Consumer confidentiality, Nightbeat. We’ve talked about this." He cycles his optics, turning his attention back to the toy in his hands. "You scared me— I thought Perc was checking back into lab after saying he was done for the day.”

“I thought you worked on your little side job in your room anyway,” Nightbeat slides up to the table, one hand resting on the countertop, the other hand holding some holovid cases.

“Some of the tools I need are here. So whenever Perceptor steps out for lunch or for his patrol shifts, I can work on the stuff here."

His probation period is a bit more lenient now. He's now allowed to be in the lab for half an hour periods unsupervised, time he's been using to catch up on a backload of orders.

“If only they knew what you can get done in thirty minutes,” Nightbeat snickers, kicking him playfully in the shin. “Three dildos. A cheap dildo every ten minutes."

“Hey now, counselor, that is slander," Brainstorm wags a finger at him, shaking his head. "My sex toys are top quality."

"When are you gonna make me one pro bono?" Nightbeat teases, resting an arm on his shoulder.

"Why would I do that when I'm already packing heat?"

"I cannot believe you just said that."

"You love it," Brainstorm counters, popping off his mask to flash a smile at him.

"Hmm, maybe." Nightbeat leans close, smiling. He flicks Brainstorm's forehead as he tosses the holovids down. "Shame we're not a good fit romantically, huh?"

Brainstorm cycles his optics, laughing. "You're not a microscope, buddy, sorry." He sets the toy down though and turns to face Nightbeat, grinning a little mischievously as he presses a hand to his waist.

"Shameless, shameless," Nightbeat chides, shaking his head even as he's grinning back. "Aren't you on the clock? And besides, aren't things with you and Perceptor going well?"

Brainstorm huffs, fingers tracing idle patterns along the lines of Nightbeat's hips. "Well, we're not exclusive if that's what you're asking." He leans close, pressing his forehead to the other's as he takes a breath. "He's weird. I don't know what he's thinking."

"Well, I think he likes you, buddy."

"Shut up and kiss me."

"Okay, that's fair too," Nightbeat concedes, smiling a little. "Someone's a little pushy."

He teases, but he finally leans in to kiss Brainstorm. He sighs into Nightbeat's mouth, kissing him back eagerly. Nightbeat chuckles and nips at him playfully as he presses Brainstorm back against the work counter, hands sliding up and down his waist. They lazily and playfully kiss for a short while before breaking apart.

Nightbeat smiles, smug, "You only like me for my clever mouth."

Brainstorm groans. "That line was terrible. Anyway, yeah, thanks buddy." He presses a kiss to his jaw before turning to look at the holovids on the counter. "What's this?"

Nightbeat hipchecks him, gasping mock scandalized. "Did you forget Nautica, you, and I are scheduled for a Star Trek marathon tonight?"

"Again with the wild accusations, detective." Brainstorm leans his hip into him, laughing. "I didn't forget. I thought you were bringing over season 8 of X-Files."

They talk for a little bit about the shows they've been watching, mostly sci-fi flicks from Earth. Most of the Lost Light has picked up on watching off-world cinema now too. Swerve has been suggesting comedies while Rewind (surprisingly) is a horror movie buff. Chromedome likes old film noir and happy dog movies. Whirl apparently likes something called "anime"— Brainstorm's not sure what it is.

"It's disgusting," Whirl had said gleefully. "Absolute trash. I love it."

They're in the middle of debating some plot points of an X-Files episode when the door to the lab buzzes open. They both pause to look up to see Perceptor standing in the doorway. He seems awkward suddenly, hand clenching and unclenching by his side slowly.

"Pardon me for interrupting. I'm only retrieving something I forgot." He seems stiff and awkward as he turns from them. He strolls over to his side of the lab in hurried shuffle to grab a data pad from the shelf.

Nightbeat winces as the door hisses shut behind Perceptor's clipped footsteps.

"He doesn't seem happy."

"Like I said," Brainstorm says, shrugging a shoulder, trying for nonchalant. He doesn't know why he bothers because nothing gets past Nightbeat. The detective frowns as he continues talking, "He's weird. Geminis, am I right?"

"Hey. Let's just relax for tonight." Nightbeat reaches for the holovids on the counter, grabbing one to hold up to Brainstorm. "You, me, Nautica, and some good old Star Trek."

"Yeah," Brainstorm mutters, looking at the door. "Yeah."

 

~*~

 

Brainstorm stands by his original statement: Perceptor is decidedly weird.

The jet tosses his tool aside into the corner, feeling frustrated. The other scientist has been avoiding him all morning. Sort of. They're in lab together like normal, but Perceptor talks in clipped tones and doesn't look at him for long if he can help it. He's grown distant again, like he used to be. Sometimes he seems like he wants to say something to Brainstorm, but he never does. He wonders if it's because of yesterday, but he and Nightbeat were only talking and Perceptor should be used to seeing that by now. He gets visited all the time by crew members, what makes yesterday any different?

"Are you back to giving me the cold shoulder?" comes out of his mouth before he thinks it through.

Perceptor actually startles. Brainstorm can see him looking at him from the corner of his optic. The scientist looks away for a moment, hand flexing by his side. Brainstorm wishes he just knew what the other mech was thinking. He wishes it was easier. He rubs a hand over his forehead as he shutters his optics off.

"I thought we were getting along, Perc."

"We were. We are," Perceptor amends. "We're not on... bad terms."

"That's depressingly vague," Brainstorm mutters and he's turning to shoot a glare at the other mech, but he stops, catching himself when he sees Perceptor. The other mech looks frazzled— anxious and uncomfortable and confused. "Perc?"

"I apologize," Perceptor says after a moment, tone stiff. He's finally meeting Brainstorm's gaze, mouth set in a serious line. "I haven't been completely honest with you."

"Yeah?"

"Yes."

Perceptor's vocalizer audibly clicks, and Brainstorm suddenly feels a wash of anxiety. What could the other mech have to say that could possibly make him so nervous? There's a twinge of hope in him, but he knows that's stupid. Perceptor is no different than Quark, and it'll just... take him some time to get over him. Hopefully, Perceptor doesn’t do anything stupid like get himself killed and throw Brainstorm into another episode of obsessive regret and self-hate. He almost wants to laugh, his vocalizer clicking with discomfort; it’s not a humorous laugh.

Perceptor exvents. "I apologize for not recognizing your need for privacy with Nightbeat."

Brainstorm stares. His vocalizer buzzes static. Is that what this is about? He knows Perceptor has augmented audial receptors— had he possibly heard when they were joking about messing around yesterday? His tanks fill with dread.

"I. No, we're not... I mean it's sort of... Yeah. It's not like that, but yeah, we're... close."

Perceptor seems confused by his mortified and anxious rambling. "I wasn't trying to pass judgment," he says placatingly.

"No, and I shouldn't. Well. Always have people over in lab anyway."

They're left staring at each other, and Brainstorm feels lost. Him and his stupid, stupid mouth, him and his inability to just tell the mechs he loves that he loves them. Looking at Perceptor across the room is just a reminder of the rifts he made between him and Quark so many millennia ago.

 

~*~

 

Nightbeat and Brainstorm make sense. Perceptor tightens the screw in the board. The detective often makes jokes about being intolerable and "undateable", but it's hard not to see the chemistry he has with Brainstorm. They're both eccentric, bright minded mechs with a penchant for mischief. Brainstorm had said “it’s not like that”, but they must at least be in the process of courting. He wasn't paying attention when he wandered into the lab the other day and found them standing together too close to be friendly. If he wasn't preoccupied thinking about his project, he would've had an audial cocked to make sure he wasn't interrupting Brainstorm. The other mech seemed understandably awkward about the whole affair when he apologized, but there was some hint of disappointment and shame in his voice that Perceptor doesn't understand.

It's not that he stops worrying about it, but it's more that things gradually start going back to normal. It takes a few days, but Brainstorm is back his cheerful, eager self, albeit slightly more restrained, more tempered. He feels a little more distant than he used to be. Perceptor tries not to worry. And he most definitely tries not to dwell on why Brainstorm's feelings towards him suddenly matter so much.

"You're ridiculous," Brainstorm says out loud to the TV screen, optics flaring bright. "I hate Mulder so much sometimes. He's such a loser," he says fondly.

"You really do enjoy that series."

"It's pseudoscience and it's the best kind." Brainstorm says matter-of-factly, waving a finger. "I'm gonna watch Ghost Adventures after." He immediately laughs at the no doubt sour face Perceptor must be making. "It's so bad it's good."

He waves a dismissive hand, the motion fluid and easy going. Perceptor suddenly wants to touch his fingers, find the grooves of transformation seams. He wants to know why Nightbeat— he knows why— but why? He thinks about Brainstorm leaning against his shoulder, recalls it like a phantom weight on his plates.

Perceptor realizes he's only half-listening. He shakes his head to clear his head of buzzing thoughts, different process trees of possibilities, daydreams, half-admitted desires. Brainstorm mistakes his head shaking for exasperated disapproval.

"No fun allowed in Percy’s lab!” he huffs, sounding childish, amused, and disappointed somehow all in one. “Let me know if you ever come around."

“Brainstorm.”

“Hm?” the other mech doesn’t look up, but he’s inclined his head to indicate he’s listening.

“Do you want to… go out for a drink later?” Perceptor manages, voice faltering. He clears his vocalizer with a sharp reset, accompanied by a crackle of static.

Brainstorm blinks, wings shooting up, attentive. “A drink?” He repeats, fumbling with the device in his hands. His fingers slip against it and his thumb clicks in something.

The world sharply reorients as Perceptor feels himself bodily knocked off his feet and dragged across the room. He grunts as he feels his body slam into Brainstorm who yelps. There’s the sound of shattering glass and the clatter of metal on metal as things skid across the floor and bang onto Perceptor’s plates.

Brainstorm’s cursing as he clicks the device in his hand uselessly as the room’s materials settle. Most of them are stuck— magnetized— on Perceptor. He’s glad some of the heavier tools he uses in his side of the lab are bolted down. He’s practically glued into Brainstorm’s side, arms magnetized to the shoulders, hip to hip. His wing is clipping into Perceptor’s shoulder uncomfortably.

“I. That’s strong. Much stronger than I expected,” Brainstorm manages to say after a moment. He’s staring at the device in his hand helplessly. “Ha. Uh. I guess I should’ve rechecked my calculations like you told me to.”

“Is this— is this that three page long formula you asked me about two days ago? I redid all your calculations and told you you were off by two decimals!”

“I should’ve trusted you, I know!” Brainstorm squirms uselessly. “The. The good thing is I’m not stuck. And my tools aren’t all fragged up. The device only magnetized everything from one side.”

“Yes,” Perceptor says dryly, looking over his shoulder at Brainstorm. “How fortunate.”

Brainstorm laughs awkwardly as he scratches his facemask. "I guess I’m totally uninvited to your Sweet Sixteen, huh?” At the bewildered and quizzical look Perceptor shoots him, the jet waves a hand dismissively after putting the device down. “Nothing. Earth euphemism. Sorry about this. I’ll. I’ll fix this.”

Perceptor sighs, but he can't find it in himself to be irritated. "It's fine. You have a way to undo it, yes?"

Brainstorm's chuckle goes up several nervous octaves. "Good question, Percy. As expected of a good scientist— always thinking of the solution beforehand."

Perceptor stares at their magnetized arms. Brainstorm’s wing twitches against his shoulder. He’s starting to realize the problem with this. Every time they turn to look at each other, their faces are inches from each other and their fields are unavoidably tangled. Brainstorm’s optics are bright, his field a flurry of emotions: anxiety and excitement and shame. Perceptor wets his lips. He tries not to think too hard on whether Brainstorm is staring.

"You can't undo this?"

"I'm not saying I can't, per se, but uh, it might take awhile."

"Brainstorm."

"I know! I know, you're always telling me to be careful and plan ahead like a good scientist but uh—"

"Brainstorm."

The jet's wings sag like he's preparing for a lecture. Perceptor sighs through his nose.

"It's fine. It's not the worst predicament you've gotten us into. If we work together, surely we can find a solution before nightfall."

 

~*~

 

They don’t find a solution before nightfall.

 

~*~

 

Rodimus is crying with laughter. He’s doubled over with his hands over his abdominal plates, laughing so hard he’s actually warming up. Some flames are coming out of his shoulder vents and mouth as he giggles. His fans dutifully kick into overdrive as Rodimus breaks into more peals of laughter.

Megatron continues to look at them, head slightly tilted. He’s clearly trying to keep his expression composed, but there’s disbelief in his optics as he stares at them. Perceptor wonders if the former warlord will ever get used to the strange and otherwise unimaginable things that happen daily on the Lost Light.

Ultra Magnus looks concerned, but also disapproving. Perceptor fears the inevitable hour long lecture accompanied by a monotonous voice and lifeless slides with paragraphs of Ultra Magnus’ personally authored code of conduct on them. He’s already putting a hand on his chin like he’s thinking. Perceptor’s tired— exhausted, really, and he just wants to get this over with.

“Sooooo,” Brainstorm says after a few long moments. “Is there a room available?”

Since they were unable to solve their… predicament, they have to recharge, but both of them only have single mech recharge slabs in their rooms. They'll need a larger slab for their stuck-together bodies and one of them will have to use a portable recharge machine. The first thing Perceptor is going to do once he's free from this mess is make double bed recharge slabs. Chromedome and Rewind have been asking for them anyway.

"Ratchet's in a surgery right now," Magnus rumbles thoughtfully. "I debriefed him and he said it seems the simplest way is to remove outer plating from the both of you where you're stuck together. Unfortunately, we do not know if it might disturb your internals. Ratchet wants to look at it himself, but it will have to wait until tomorrow."

"Right," Brainstorm says, "You still didn't answer my question. Is there no room?"

"There is. Magnus will lead you there shortly." Megatron speaks up finally. He looks equally tired with Rodimus still laughing next to him, hand pressed against his arm to hold himself steady as he wheezes. "See to getting rest. We will resolve this tomorrow hopefully."

"Oh, Megs," Rodimus says between giggles, "this 'kind' co-captain act you're working on is so not you."

"Captain," Megatron corrects demurely.

"Co-captain!"

They break into sudden argument on the spot and Ultra Magnus sighs. Perceptor supposes they're all tired.

 

~*~

 

Not how I envisioned our first night sleeping together, Brainstorm almost says before he kills the thought tree in his processor. Primus. All he needs to do is keep his big fat vocalizer silenced for a few hours until they fall asleep. He just needs to not ruin this and make it weirder and more awkward than it already is.

They clumsily manage to get onto the slab and lay down. Brainstorm's wings are uncomfortably pinched by both the bed and Perceptor's body, but he'll make do. He'll be sore tomorrow and his alt mode might be wonky for a day or two, but it's not like that's a huge deal.

He tries to relax. Relaxing. He's capable of doing that, right. He's suddenly completely forgotten all of Drift's mindfulness training when he needed it most.

This is going to be a long night.

"Hey." Brainstorm turns to look over his shoulder. "M'sorry about all of this. I know you don't think I mean it considering how unsafe I always am in lab, but—"

"You don't need to apologize."

He turns to look at him over his shoulder as well, and they both pause when they realize how close their faces are. He took his faceplate off earlier. He could lean over and... he wishes he could kiss him, nip his mouth when Perceptor gives him one of those rare smiles. The other mech's field is warm, surprisingly mellowed out, and pleased.

"Percy?"

Perceptor smiles just barely, and Brainstorm's vocalizer clicks. "Not the most orthodox way to spend time together," he says.

Brainstorm laughs, a nervous sound. There are dozens of process trees in his head about what to say to not frag this up. He opts for, "Birds of a feather literally stick together, huh?"

Perceptor laughs, actually laughs, a deep, rumbling chuckle that Brainstorm can feel against his plating. He tries not to think about how the sound and sensation goes straight to his interface protocols. Perceptor's optics are dim and warm from exhaustion and amusement, his field fluttering still uncharacteristically open as it mingles with Brainstorm's.

"We'll have to work hard tomorrow to fix this," he says after a moment, and it's serious, but his voice is soft, and Brainstorm wonders if he's imagining the fondness in his optics. "I would prefer to avoid a lecture by Ratchet."

"Right. Sound plan. Fix ourselves before Ratchet wrecks us. You think he thinks I'm a lost cause?" he starts rambling, and he can't stop with how Perceptor's optics, unobscured by his sniper scope, is looking at him, tired and warm.

"No."

Brainstorm blinks. "What?"

"You're not a lost cause."

He laughs nervously and flexes his fingers— a mistake because the action brushes against Perceptor's fingers. The other scientist stretches out his fingers again, letting them skim against Brainstorm's in response. He doesn't know what it means, what the barest curve of Perceptor's mouth means. His field doesn't betray too much now, it's relaxed and shallow, a surface level projection, leaving Brainstorm without the ability to read into any complex emotions.

"You should keep your faceplate off," Perceptor says after a long moment before turning away and settling down. "Good recharge, Brainstorm."

 

~*~

 

"I heard," Drift says simply when Perceptor sees him for his morning shift.

The scientist huffs, looking away. "This ship is only good for gossip, mischief, and ill-advised relationships."

Drift looks cheerful. "How did Ratchet's lecture go?"

He stares at him pointedly and Drift laughs.

"That bad, huh?" the warrior leans over, resting an arm on his shoulder. "Well, it's good to see you in one piece. Instead of two."

Perceptor cycles his optics before turning his attention down to his datapad to look over the task list for their shift. He and Brainstorm had woken up and beelined for the lab, determined to fix this problem by themselves. Ratchet, tired, brilliant, and all-too-knowing, was waiting at their lab with arms crossed.

“I expected this from Brainstorm, but Perceptor, you should know better,” he had chided. “We’re going to the medbay so I can fix you two. After that, you’re going to rest for the rest of today. You can resume your normal shifts tomorrow.”

Left with no other options, they obeyed Ratchet’s orders. Admittedly, it was probably for the best. The strain of being attached to Brainstorm with his wing clipping into his shoulder and them constantly having to maneuver around each other and accommodate each other was exhausting, even if it was only for a day. Not to mention… well.

Perceptor can almost feel the phantom sensations of their mingled fields, an inevitable experience with their bodies flush against each other. There was a quiet happiness that pervaded Brainstorm’s field, an ambient and soothing projection that served as a backdrop to their time together. Brainstorm runs warm, a byproduct of having a jet engine. If he concentrates, he can recall the vibrations of Brainstorm’s low-thrumming engine hum along his plating. He supposes he’s surprised that he’s looking upon the experience with amusement rather than irritation as would be normal for him. But dwelling on that… Perceptor supposes it’s not a productive use of his time.

"I'm decidedly done worrying about Brainstorm's antics."

"What did you even do the poor mech? He's been running around frazzled all morning and he doesn't have his faceplate on."

Perceptor catches himself before he says anything, but considering how good Drift is at reading auras and moods, it’s unlikely he can hide anything from the warrior. Instead, he resets his vocalizer and pointedly avoids Drift’s gaze, even though he can sense his amused field brushing against his own.

"Gossip is unbecoming of you."

Drift opens his mouth to say something when the ship’s alarm goes off. Magnus’ pre-recorded alarm notification goes off and his monotone voice comes over the comms.

“Sector 5, Lab, smoke detectors and water sprinklers activated. Members of Sector 5, please respond.”

Perceptor takes off running.

He gets to their lab to find Brainstorm kneeling on the floor outside, vents flushing out smoke, a fire extinguisher in his hands. He looks up when he hears footsteps, wings fluttering, eyes bright.

“Hey, Perc!” he winces, “I know this looks bad, but I promise I didn’t mess anything up on your side of the lab. Oooooh, yikes, I bet Magnus and Ratchet are gonna be really mad at me again....”

He’s rambling, but Perceptor can’t find it in himself to be irritated, only concerned. "You need to be more careful. Are you alright?"

Brainstorm laughs, of all things, still bright-eyed, smudged with soot and chemicals. He’s still talking. "I'm fine! That was so fun. I should've contained the explosion better. Maybe I can do it again without setting the lab on fire."

Perceptor decides to ignore the fact that he was staring at Brainstorm's mouth and didn't hear a single word he said.

 

~*~

 

Perceptor lingers in front of the door to Swerve's, wondering if something has changed, if something soft instead of coherent has burrowed into his thoughts.

He's been talking to Brainstorm more and more, and finding it increasingly hard to stay away from him. If anything, he's been slacking off from his work and finding excuses to talk to Brainstorm— to look at him now that he has his mask off most of the day. They don’t talk about that night, tangled fingers, meshed fields, warm plating, the things Perceptor said while sleepy. A half-murmured suggestion for him to keep his mask off.

Perceptor admits he’s been feeling loose-limbed, no longer as guarded and distant as he used to be. The jet’s amiable, loud, obnoxious, charming behavior— admittedly, it’s contagious. The more he thinks about it, the more it makes sense that Brainstorm has so many friends. He brings a certain life to the room, exudes a certain calm and yet excited atmosphere. Perceptor supposes it makes him not very perceptive to have not realized it sooner.

Lost in his thoughts, he almost misses Nightbeat dropping by to remind Brainstorm to come drink and dance at Swerve' party night at the bar later. Perceptor doesn’t even recall what they’re celebrating, but leave it to the Lost Light to demand celebration for every occasion possible.

"You ought to come with," Brainstorm says, arms open wide, welcoming.

"You know I dislike parties," Perceptor replies on reflex, but it’s not convincing, he thinks, with how his tone has been softened after months by Brainstorm’s side.

The jet huffs. "Just think about it at least!" he chides before turning back and talking to Nightbeat.

That leads him to now, with Perceptor still standing in front of the door to Swerve’s bar. The music is so loud, it makes the floor thrum with energy, audible through the thick metal walls. Perceptor turns his audio receptor sensitivity down as he enters the bar. He’s met with a mass of moving bodies, all congregated around the dance floor, with the fringes reserved for mechs conversing— flirting really. The banner, apparently the only one the Lost Light has, has been edited again for the occasion. Perceptor can barely make out the words. He thinks it has something to do with Bluestreak.

He navigates to the bar counter somehow through the horde of mechs. Swerve is chatting with Rewind and Tailgate, the “minibot crew” as Brainstorm calls them, with Whirl hovering nearby. Swerve looks up when he sees Perceptor approaching, his visor lit up and mouth opening in surprise.

“Rare to see you, Percy! What can I do you for?”

“You’re already doing someone,” Whirl snickers, pincers clacking.

Tailgate hipchecks him with a disapproving noise and Whirl squawks as he’s knocked off his seat. Rewind giggles into his drink while Swerve shakes his head, optics cycling.

“Any particular drink in mind?”

Perceptor pauses.

“Something strong.”

Swerve seems surprised, visor flickering a little brighter as he nods and turns to grab some engex from his cabinet. He settles down into one of the few seats still open at the bar counter, feeling out of place. He picks up bits and pieces of the conversations around him.

“Mmhm, you’re sweet…”

“—we’re both sober, so we can take this back to my habsuite, if you want…”

“Brainstorm’s toys? Yeah, they’re good—”

The mention of Brainstorm’s name reminds him he had meant to come here to relax a little before seeing if he could find the other mech. He thanks Swerve for the drink he slides across the table to him, sipping at it absentmindedly as he scans the room, his optic scope modification zooming in and out.

He finds Brainstorm pressed flush against Nightbeat's side in the corner. He's probably a little buzzed or on his way to being there judging by his slightly sluggish movements and flaring optics. He is easily, casually affectionate, Perceptor realizes with a clench of his fist, as he watches Brainstorm rest his head along Nightbeat's shoulder. Perceptor watches as the detective smiles and curls his arm around his shoulder and shakes him gently, playful. Nautica, on his other side, is nursing her drink with a straw while reading her datapad. Her free hand is curled around Brainstorm's, fingers intertwined with his.

"You should go say hi."

Perceptor turns around to see Swerve looking at him, an easy smile on his face, but a knowing look in his visor.

"He's lonely, you know."

"I fail to see how that's the case," he says and gestures in a vague motion. He clenches his hand into a fist as he brings it back down to his side. "He often departs from the lab to be with his...," he trails off, doesn't say sparkmates or conjunx.

He’s not sure where he and Brainstorm stand, where they are relative to where Brainstorm and Nautica and Nightbeat are. His feelings feel illicit. He resets his vocalizer.

Swerve takes his lack of an answer as a sign to not press him. He pats the counter near Perceptor’s hand and flashes him a sympathetic look before turning to some tipsy mechs approaching the counter giggling and asking for more drinks.

“I thought I saw you slip in earlier.”

Perceptor looks up from nursing his drink to see Rodimus lazily sauntering over. The crowd parts for him, some not too shy looks of admiration flashed over their shoulders as he passes. His spoiler is raised, head held high. He has an unshakable, obvious confidence. Perceptor would sooner shoot himself than admit sometimes he’s envious of Rodimus’ ease at commanding attention and affection.

“It appears I can never escape your notice.”

“I’m attentive to my crew, what can I say. Care to dance?" he asks, offering a hand to Perceptor. He's all smiles, typical charm and brag and bluster. Impossible to resist, even with Perceptor's experience.

Perceptor sighs, takes his hand. It certainly feels weird to acquiesce Rodimus when it comes to this. He gets a few surprised looks among those in the crowd who notice, but they're quick to lose interest. Rodimus tends to get what he wants from sheer charm, with sly eyes and coy smiles. The co-captain winks an optic before leaning down to kiss the back of Perceptor's hand and tugging him close to dance.

They sway easily to the music, Perceptor matching Rodimus’ quick steps with ease. The co-captain whistles low, amused and impressed as he maintains the quick pace, a slow dance to the fast speed of dance music. Rodimus is grinning as he spins before pressing close to Perceptor again. "You've really stepped in it now, Percy. Falling for Brainstorm?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Perceptor huffs, pulls his field tight to his armor even though he knows it’s useless. He feels defensive with the way Rodimus' eyes are glinting with mischief, grin wicked. "We are coworkers."

"It's not like the ship has a policy against that," Rodimus challenges, shooting him an amused look, "I'm lax enough with those things."

"I'm not interested in him," Perceptor replies firmly. He tugs Rodimus close by the waist, and the speedster whistles, low and suggestive.

"Careful there, Percy, I'm a taken mech."

"Drift knows I'd rather die than court you."

"Oh! You really are a sniper because that cold statement just pierced me right in my spark. How cruel, Percy," Rodimus croons. "I hope you're not so mean to Brainstorm."

Perceptor dips Rodimus who easily goes with it, backstrut arching in a pretty curve. He reaches out and Perceptor realizes suddenly that Rodimus is trailing fingers up someone's thigh as he comes up from the dip. The scientist looks up to see Drift looking at them, amused.

"Seducing my conjunx, Perceptor?" he asks, huffing a laugh when Rodimus makes grabby hands at him. He leans in, kisses Rodimus on the jaw, amused optics still on Perceptor.

"Hardly."

“Really though,” Rodimus says, leaning against Drift lazily, optics on his hand as he spreads his fingers to look at the transformation seams in them, “think about what I said. You may think I’m too nosy—”

“You are,” Drift and Perceptor say in unison.

“—but I do mean well.”

 

~*~

 

Perceptor takes a shot of some questionably legal, outrageously strong engex. A shot of liquid courage.

 

~*~

 

Brainstorm’s sobered up by the time Perceptor approaches. The jet looks up in surprise from his datapad before his field practically reaches out for Perceptor, warm and excited.

“Whoa! Hey, Perc! I didn’t expect to see you here. Sit down?”

Perceptor does and it feels weird to sit down in a seat that’s still warm from the body sitting here not even ten minutes ago. Brainstorm scoots closer, too close to be friendly, shoulders bumping and knees grazing, and Perceptor isn’t sure what it all means.

“Are you reading?”

Brainstorm laughs, the vibrations of it rippling against Perceptor’s plating where their shoulders touch. “Yeah, I usually get to the party early, get smashed with Nightbeat and Nautica, and then sober up before I go back to my room.” He flicks his thumb on the datapad, scrolling up. “I don’t like going to sleep drunk.”

“Why not?”

Brainstorm shrugs, doesn’t answer. Perceptor suspects the jet himself may not have thought about why.

“Where are the others?”

Brainstorm chuckles again. “Nightbeat was complaining to me the whole night about how he put off watching the last few episodes of Jessica Jones for this party. Him and his detective flicks. He took off to his habsuite early. Nautica said she was getting a drink, but I think she’s caught up talking to Lotty now. Anyway, I was gonna—"

He waves his datapad, turning to face Perceptor, too fast, too sudden. They end up face to face, too close with no space between them. His field is soft and warm, entangled at the surface level with Perceptor's. He smiles a little.

"Hey," he says in a soft, private voice.

Perceptor nearly misses it in the cacophony of noise in the bar. He disables his audio softening protocols and the volume increase borders on processor-aching, but he can hear Brainstorm better like this.

"Hi," he murmurs back.

He feels hyperfocused suddenly, like he can hear the internal clicking and whirring of Brainstorm's plating moving, the quiet thrum of his engine, the rhythmic beat of his spark.

"I can hear your spark," Perceptor says aloud before he catches himself.

Brainstorm's optics flare bright, concerned, "Your augmented audial receptors? Are you okay? Is it too loud— should we leave?"

"It's fine."

There's a pause, a beat between them.

"So you can hear my spark?" Brainstorm asks, voice soft again. "Kinda like Daredevil then."

"Always typical with the human pop culture references,” Perceptor smiles, "Yes. I recall you telling me about that series."

Brainstorm leans close. Their foreheads almost bump. He's as expressive as Perceptor thought he would be under the mask. But even with Brainstorm's face laid bare, he doesn't know what his expression means.

"What does my spark sound like to you?"

"Fast," he answers, vocalizer clicking with a small burst of audible static. He pointedly does not think about how fast his own spark is going.

"Why do you think that is?"

"I'm not sure," Perceptor admits. Brainstorm is warm next to him, and he knows he just doesn't want that to change.

Brainstorm laughs. He leans his head against his shoulder again, arms pressed against each other like when they had been magnetized together. His spark beats loud and fast, his engine thrumming along lazy and content, his field vibrating with energy against his own. Perceptor resets his vocalizer. He wants to say something, but he realizes he doesn't really need to.

He puts his hand down on his thigh, stretching his fingers out absentmindedly. His pinky touches Brainstorm's thigh and for a moment, he considers withdrawing his hand, but he doesn't. Brainstorm turns just barely next to him, and then his hand is on his own thigh too, fingers stretched out. Their hands are almost close enough to touch and Perceptor tries not to think about the sudden ache in his chest. They stay like that for awhile before Brainstorm resets his vocalizer with an audible click before speaking.

"Can I?"

Perceptor licks his lips absentmindedly. "Yes," he says, even though he's not entirely sure what Brainstorm's asking.

The jet presses his hand over Perceptor's, so he turns his hand over. They lace fingers, touch tentative and light as they press their hands together, palm to palm. Brainstorm vents out sharply, like he's been holding his breath. His wings flutter, rippling against the back of Perceptor's shoulder. His spark is loud, fast, an odd staccato rhythm to it, beat by beat. It's the most comforting thing he's heard in a long time, oddly enough.

"Percy," Brainstorm breathes, catching his attention.

He looks up and over to find Brainstorm very close, mouth barely open, optics shock bright and crackling with charge. His field is a tangled depth of emotions that Perceptor feels like he's falling through. There's one vine, one common thread to the tangle of his field, and Perceptor doesn't dare to identify it as affection.

"Brainstorm, I..."

"Brainstorm!"

They both startle at the sound. Brainstorm snaps to attention, looking up to identify where the sound came from. Nautica comes stumbling forward, an arm slung around the back of Velocity's shoulders. The doctor looks apologetic, tightening her own grip on Nautica's waist.

"You are sloshed," Brainstorm says, amused, as he looks at Nautica. "Primus."

He doesn't let go of Perceptor's hand as he talks. He squeezes it tighter, and Perceptor thinks he's thankful for small things.

"Sorry," Velocity says, smiling apologetically. "I was trying to wrangle her out of the party to get her to bed."

Nautica leans against her, laughing, "And you keep telling me you're shy, Lotty!"

Velocity huffs out a sigh, but it sounds fond. "Back to her habsuite. She needs to sleep off all this engex."

"Oh, don't worry," Brainstorm says cheerfully, "she'll be so hungover tomorrow. It'll be fun for the both of us to watch."

Velocity excuses herself, still fondly exasperated as she tugs Nautica along. Brainstorm looks after them for a few moments before they disappear into the crowd again. He squeezes Perceptor's hand again, sparkbeat quickening as he turns back to look at him. His optics are warm, soft, and he speaks in a voice quiet and private, meant only for Perceptor to hear.

"We should get going too." The pads of his fingers press into the back of Perceptor's hand, along the knuckle joints, hovering over transformation seams. "Can I walk you back to your room?"

"Yes," Perceptor answers, and it feels like the only word he knows.

 

~*~

 

They walk quietly in the empty hallways together. They had waded through the party to get out and somewhere in the middle had let go of each other's hands. It almost feels like the moment's been ruined, but Perceptor's still by his side. He's warm and walking shoulder-to-shoulder next to him even in the spacious hallways of the Lost Light.

Brainstorm's briefly glad he's sober for this, for his weird distaste for going to bed drunk. He doubt Perceptor would've approached him if they weren't both sober. The backs of their hands brush for a moment, and Brainstorm almost laughs because the sensation startled him out of his thoughts. He wonders what his spark sounds like to Perceptor, if the other mech can hear all his internal mechanisms clicking and whirring, if he can tell how nervous and affectionate and excited he is, even if he tries to maintain the calm in his field. Their hands brush again.

"Did you like the party?"

Perceptor cocks his head, a habit he has when he's deliberating. It's cute, Brainstorm wonders if he even knows he does it.

"You were there."

Brainstorm's fans almost stall. "I. That I was. Yeah. You were also there."

Perceptor chuckles, shoulders shaking just barely, brushing against Brainstorm's own. He leans suddenly into Brainstorm, knocking him off balance in a playful shove. Brainstorm almost yelps but then he's laughing too. He elbows Perceptor back.

"Careful, Perc, what if you make me fall and I get my beautiful face all mangled?"

"I'm sure Ratchet will have a lot to say to the both of us again if that were to happen," Perceptor huffs, quiet and amused, and Brainstorm flashes him a smile, wonders what it would feel like to muffle Perceptor's soft laughter in a kiss. "Thank you for accompanying me."

Brainstorm pauses, feet scuffing against the floor as he stops. Perceptor is standing in front of him now, looking at him with... Brainstorm's not sure admittedly. They're in front of Perceptor's habsuite and Brainstorm hasn't prepared an excuse for lingering.

"Thanks for letting me," he finally manages to say. "I guess I should head back. Rodimus has a project for us tomorrow, so we'll both need the rest to work on it."

"Yes. I agree."

Neither of them move. Perceptor doesn't reach for the door and Brainstorm doesn't turn to go back down the hallway. Perceptor looks away and Brainstorm resets his vocalizer. This is as best time as any, right?

"Perc, I—" He reaches for him and the other jolts in surprise, but then his optics are on Brainstorm, bright and fond and encouraging. "Percy, I want to..."

His hand finds Perceptor's cheek, half cradling his jaw. He presses his thumb against Perceptor's lower lip, and he parts his mouth for Brainstorm. It's too much, it's not enough— he can't decide. The pad of his thumb is pressing on the inside of Perceptor's lip, rolling it just barely open. The tip of his thumb touches Perceptor's denta.

And then he's leaning forward, into Perceptor's gravitational pull, into their tangled galaxy of a relationship, made up of planets with feelings too heavy in their cores. He murmurs "Percy" adoringly. He smooths his thumb along his lip, fingers tightening on his jaw. There's chatter down the hallway, around the corner, and the moment's broken.

Brainstorm pulls back, feeling startled, wonders if Perceptor can hear how his sparkrate spiked at the sound of others approaching.

"Sweet dreams, Perc," he says quietly, dropping his hand back to his side.

 

~*~

 

Well, if Perceptor's completely honest, he feels terrible.

He went to bed after Brainstorm left yesterday. He means "going to bed" loosely, because he ended up lying awake for a long while, recalling the warm press of Brainstorm's hand on his face, the heated ventilations against his plating. Brainstorm had looked him with plainly obvious adoration, touched him with desire and affection, and spoke in soft, private words for him. He'd leaned forward like he wanted to kiss him, and for the few seconds until that moment was broken, Perceptor had wanted him to as well.

The reality is, Perceptor has never done relationships before. Some people have called him coldsparked for it, but it's not something he's felt bothered by.

"You're probably arospec!" Drift had said cheerfully when the topic came up centuries ago, when they were in the Wreckers together. "Maybe demiromantic. It just means it's harder and rarer for you to feel romantic attraction or there needs to be closeness and intimacy before romantic feelings can develop."

His lack of experience in romance is probably what landed him in this disaster of a relationship with Brainstorm. He's spent a long time denying that he has feelings for the other mech, but it's hard to explain elsehow why he's become invested in Brainstorm's hobbies, his likes and dislikes, and where he puts his affection.

But then the only question remains is how to tell the jet he has feelings for him.

Perceptor remains unsure of where he stands with Brainstorm... judging by the way he interacts with Nightbeat and Nautica... well. It's not that he has a problem with Brainstorm being polyamorous, but he doesn't know if he would feel comfortable being in a poly relationship. He knows he doesn't need to like the other members to date Brainstorm, but it still feels wrong when his feelings about romance range from disinterest to mild discomfort.

Perceptor rubs a hand over his face as he paces towards the lab a little earlier than usual. He's not often in the lab until the afternoon because he usually has the early shift on the bridge. Today's his day off for that shift and he's admittedly exhausted, but if he's not going to recharge peacefully, he might as well be productive and work in the lab.

He thumbs in the key code and enters the lab to find Brainstorm already inside. He's on call with someone, asking questions and humming in response as he jots notes down. His voice sounds tinny. Perceptor wonders if he started wearing his face mask again.

"Alright, slow down, buddy," Brainstorm laughs, "we can talk array modifications after I finish this order for you first."

He wasn't paying attention again— if he had listened, he could've picked out the sound of Brainstorm's steady sparkbeat amidst the sound of a TV show playing in the background to the clink and clatter of tools being set down and tossed around.

Perceptor supposes it's not surprising to find Brainstorm here. Both of them view the lab as a sanctuary space that they default to whenever they need something to keep them occupied. He's still stuck in the doorway. He can go back to a cold bed and empty room and a mess of confusing thoughts and feelings. Or he can confront Brainstorm and maybe feel the careful and warm touch of Brainstorm's hand on his plating, hear the private and soft voice he uses only for Perceptor, and feel the affectionate tingle of Brainstorm's field melding with his own.

Brainstorm still hasn't noticed him— too engrossed in his work and phone call. Perceptor makes a decision.

"Brainstorm."

The jet freezes, wings snapping up, startled. He whirls around, a remote control in one hand and a... dildo in the other. He drops the remote and fumbles but manages to keep the dildo in his grip. Perceptor can only guess what Brainstorm's expression must be like under his mask. They stare at each other for a few long moments.

Brainstorm's optics never leave him. "Um. Yeah, I'm still here, Swerve, but listen, I'm— I'm gonna need to call you back later."

There's another pause as Brainstorm presumably hangs up with Swerve. His wings crook awkwardly as they fall from their alert, raised position.

"Percy," Brainstorm starts, a tinge of panic laced in the static of his voice. He waves his free hand around, frantic. "Let me explain myself. I make sex toys for the crew. It's totally legitimate— I got permission from Rodimus and Ratchet certified me—"

"I was already aware."

"Oh." Brainstorm rubs a hand over the back of his neck, looking away as he falters, "I normally try to work on this stuff after hours anyway for— you know— clientele privacy reasons— but also so I wouldn't make you uncomfortable either. I'm chill with all of this, so I help the crew out when they get too embarrassed to ask Ratchet or First Aid about that stuff."

This is not at all what Perceptor wanted to talk about or what they frankly need to talk about after... last night. But he can hear Brainstorm's spark— loud, anxious— and he knows he needs to calm down the other mech first.

He tries for small talk. Maybe a joke. "Is it safe for you to make something that... robust," he pauses, "for Swerve."

Brainstorm laughs, but it sounds self-deprecating, tinny, behind his mask. "Don't worry. I take this stuff seriously. I mean, Primus, you probably don't believe me because I literally blew up the lab last week. And I know you got caught up in that stupid magnet ordeal last time, but the really dangerous stuff? Well, I only test that stuff when I’m alone so I’m only one who can get hurt—"

"What are you saying?" Perceptor cuts in sharply, incredulous, angry on behalf of the other mech. "You matter, Brainstorm, to an incredible amount of people on this ship." He sucks in a sharp intake, leveling his gaze evenly at the jet. "Myself included."

Brainstorm stares at him, and Perceptor notes him cycling his optics in disbelief and confusion before he laughs again, humorless, startled. "You always catch me off guard, Percy, and it's not fair at all.” Brainstorm groans suddenly, wings twitching. "This is so stupid. I'm holding a dildo for Swerve and we're actually having a— a moment."

Music suddenly starts playing as the screen behind Brainstorm lights up with pictures of Nautica and Nightbeat marked together under a group call. He looks incredulous as he turns his gaze up at the screen, mumbling something that sounds like 'of all the times’ and ‘isn’t Naut hung over still’ under his breath. Perceptor feels vaguely guilty that recently he’s been unable to keep his enhanced audio receptors in check. He usually can concentrate well enough to tune people out out of respect for their privacy. Now he understands why Jazz complains at times about not meaning to intrude but picking up conversations and utterances he’s not meant to hear.

Brainstorm’s still staring at the group call logo and glancing back at Perceptor, clearly torn on what to do. Everything is... wrong. He wanted to talk to Brainstorm, be honest about how he’s feeling— how he’s felt, and timing has not been on their side. Perceptor just wants ten minutes, if even that, to say his piece. The group call continues to ring in the background, the jingle quiet in comparison to Brainstorm’s still thundering sparkbeat. The Tell Tale Heart. He feels himself tense, looking down at the ground as he clenches his fists at his side.

"I suppose you should take that. You wouldn't want to keep your sparkmates waiting."

Brainstorm makes a loud noise, vocalizer bursting with static as he whirls around. "What?" he demands. "My sparkmates?"

The group call hangs up automatically from no response. Perceptor's fans stall. Was he mistaken? This whole time was he—

Brainstorm looks bewildered, confused, "Primus. You thought—? You. You actually thought I was dating Nautica and Nightbeat.” He sounds incredulous, but there’s a falter of recognition in his voice as well. “This is my fault. I— I’m not dating them. I’m not dating anyone. I'm single. Can we— Can we talk about this?"

"I. I apologize," Perceptor manages to say. His fans go from stalled out to full blast. He feels mortified. He made assumptions, pushed Brainstorm away, gave him mixed signals when in reality he had had it all wrong. "Yes. We should. We should talk about this."

Brainstorm makes a few vague gestures and stop-starts. He looks lost. Perceptor wishes he would take his mask off.

“I wanted to apologize, first and foremost," he says, catching Brainstorm's attention. The jet's eyes are bright. He doesn't want to disappoint. He’s faintly glad they’re not standing close because he knows his field has spread out and is a muddled mess of dizzying emotions. “I haven’t been easy to deal with my emotional… lackings. I’ve been told I’m not very transparent when it comes to how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking.”

Brainstorm's optics are shock-bright.

“Will you let me say this?” Perceptor asks and Brainstorm nods dumbly.

"I’ve found myself growing... fond of you," Perceptor manages to say quietly, feeling faintly embarrassed when his vocalizer clicks and gives a burst of audible static, "Before everything with Quark... you were friendly but always faintly distant. This you, it's... you're genuine." He can't help his smile, spark quickening at the way Brainstorm's wings twitch at the sight. "It's much more than I expected. It's been good to see you comfortable and relaxed, even though I haven't made it easy."

"Oh." He shakes his head when Perceptor opens his mouth again. "No. No, no, hold on. I just," Brainstorm takes a deep intake, "Gimme a second and. Let me put the dildo away."

Just as he starts to move to do so, the screen lights back up and the group call from Nautica and Nightbeat is ringing again. Brainstorm shouts a curse and an apology as he answers the call. It defaults to speaker.

"I'm busy," Brainstorm hisses, "I'm busy!"

Nautica's groaning comes through on the loud speakers as Nightbeat whistles, amused.

“You don’t have time for poor, hungover Nautica?” Nightbeat teases as Nautica manages a low, vaguely pained laugh in the background.

"I love you guys, but not right now, please."

"You don't love us as much as Percy," Nightbeat points out.

Brainstorm's fans click on at full blast, and though he can only see his back, Perceptor notes the embarrassed spasm of his jet wings and the tension in his shoulders. He makes a strangled noise as he hurriedly mashes the speaker off button. Perceptor can't help but grin to himself and doesn't manage to wipe it away before Brainstorm turns around after switching off all of his comms. He makes a wordless, awkward gesture to the dildo and jogs off to put it someplace safe before he comes back.

He makes a helpless and lost gesture with his hands and Perceptor feels an overwhelming fondness flood through him. He was stupid to not talk to Brainstorm earlier. He was full of excuses as to how he didn't have feelings for the other mech. But looking at Brainstorm now, he feels endlessly fond, embarrassingly affectionate. It's overwhelming, but it's... good, he thinks.

"So can we get. A do-over. On the feelings talk, I mean."

"I think so."

"You know, I didn't think that me working on a dildo early morning would lead to this of all things." He laughs, and the sound is much better this time. No longer self-deprecating, not as self-conscious, warmer, fonder. "Okay, this is gonna be a lot, but. You know how First Aid has cards of the Wreckers and he's a huge fan?" He rubs a hand at the back of his neck, wings fluttering. "Well, I'm a fan too— I mean it's the Wreckers after all. I was kinda a big fan of you because not only were you a brilliant scientist, but you also ran with the Wreckers? That was amazing."

Perceptor clenches and unclenches his hands by his sides. He wants to tell him there's nothing really amazing about him at all. Not when he's been so difficult with Brainstorm in the past few months. "You said 'was a fan'. What changed?"

"Well," Brainstorm laughs a little, self-conscious again, "it's different when you work with the guy you idolize. Brings you back down from space. I just sort of wanted to impress you and be your friend instead of looking up to you all the time." Brainstorm's wings sag and he looks embarrassed. Perceptor wishes he could see his face. "But you never paid any mind and I was always poring over the time travel case anyway."

"It was my mistake to not pay attention to you."

"I still liked you," Brainstorm continues, voice fast, still rambling, "Even with everything with Quark, but I sort of thought— no offense— that Quark was a little more important. And we all know how that chapter of the story turned out," he murmurs, voice getting quieter as he falters.

He pauses, takes a moment to gather his thoughts. Perceptor wants him to take as long as he needs to say this, because it's important.

"It's all stupid and in the past now and honestly, he never saw me like you ended up seeing me." Brainstorm looks up, optics dim, wings lowered. He looks shy, Perceptor thinks. It's still hard to tell with the mask on. "It felt kind of good to be out about all the time travel stuff so I could really be myself. I didn't really know where we stood after that though."

A long silence stretches between them.

"I like you as you are," Perceptor says quietly, "I didn't pay attention before because I knew nothing about you. You are a lot, Brainstorm, and I do not mean that at all in a bad way. I'm envious of your attention to detail and your concern for the crew. You're selfless, and you notice when the other crew members are unhappy and in need of company." He starts pacing towards him, slowly, and his vocalizer clicks when Brainstorm starts moving towards him to meet him halfway. "You're as observant and kind as Rung. I'm not good at this... emotional aspect of being with mechs. I believe it's truly amazing you care so much about everyone."

Brainstorm stares at him before his optics glow warm, and Perceptor is sure he's smiling under his mask. "Thank you. That means a lot."

Perceptor wrings his fingers together, stop-starts. "Could I ask about... Nightbeat? And Nautica?"

Brainstorm scratches at the back of his neck. "Haha, that's awkward. Um. We're all amica endura. But Nightbeat and I have messed around sometimes," he admits. "It's casual, just between friends." He laughs, embarrassed and warm. "And obviously, I haven't... done anything with him for a long time. Just kissed him once that one time, but it's been months."

Perceptor steps closer, slow, careful. "So then, about last night..."

Brainstorm stops. He hesitates before he reaches up and pulls off his mask, and it seems oddly intimate despite everything else that's happened already. He smiles a little, shy, as he fidgets with the mask in his hand. "I wanted to kiss you. I still want to. I just didn't know if it was appropriate, if it was what you wanted, and there were mechs coming down the hall, and I didn't want to embarrass y—"

Perceptor grabs him by the neck and kisses him and Brainstorm drops his mask.

It's not at all the kinda kiss that Perceptor has admittedly thought about having with him. He had wanted it to be soft and slow, deliberate and careful. Instead, it's a little sloppy and desperate, barely more than them clumsily pressing their mouths together and exchanging breaths.

Somehow though, it's not bad, he thinks. Brainstorm's mouth curves into a smile as he presses a hand to Perceptor's waist, and yes, Perceptor thinks this isn't so bad at all. He feels a little awkward when Brainstorm kisses him in earnest, mouth moving a little more deliberate over his own in slowburning kisses. Brainstorm murmurs little adorations into his kisses, quiet and breathless as he says Perceptor's name while squeezing his waist. Their fields are meshing together, pulsing in sync as Perceptor shyly lets Brainstorm feel the affection heavy in his own field. The jet laughs, warm, reaching up to cradle his face with his other hand.

Perceptor breaks away finally after a while, pulling his face back to look at Brainstorm. They're pressed frame-to-frame still, warm where their plating touches.

"If you'll allow me, I'd be interested in courting you," he says softly, and Brainstorm smiles. Perceptor asks anyway, "Would you allow me? I held off because I believed you were already engaged in a relationship."

"Yes!"

"Good," Perceptor starts to pull away slowly, feeling a smile start to curl his lips. "It appears I'll have to make plans for courtship then." He feels emboldened by Brainstorm's smile and offers his hand. "For now, will you join me for morning energon?"

 

~*~

 

Yeah. So they plan to go on dates. It's weird at first, Brainstorm thinks they're both used to just hanging out in lab together. But it's not unpleasant.

They're out at a quiet restaurant while the Lost Light has stopped to refuel. The locals of the planet are organic but they're not unfamiliar with energon or mechanical food and fuel. Perceptor has been quiet since they stepped off the ship, thoughtful. His field has been equally quiet and hard to read— surface level it feels like typical pleasantness.

Brainstorm wonders if his field is as controlled. He feels nervous and still giddy from the whole ordeal. It’s been a few days since they’ve gotten together. They haven’t… well, kissed since the confession. He doesn’t actually mind— their courtship has been slow, just spending time together at fueling times, standing a little closer than they normally would when watching movies together in lab. From what he can tell, this is the first serious relationship for the both of them, so he doesn’t mind taking it slow.

They’re sitting in a booth across from each other, waiting for food. Brainstorm sucks in a breath through his vents and reaches his foot out, tapping it against Perceptor’s ankle. The other mech looks up, surprised.

“What?” he asks, and his tone makes it sound like he’s about to smile. Brainstorm loves it.

“Hi,” Brainstorm says, tapping his foot against him again.

“Hello,” Perceptor replies, and he does smile, just barely.

“How’re you?” Brainstorm asks. It feels cheesy, silly— pointless small talk, but he doesn’t know what else to say.

Perceptor humors him. “Good. You?”

“Good. Better than good actually,” Brainstorm says, unable to help his grin, “because I’m joined by handsome present company.”

Perceptor’s optics brighten and he brings a hand up to cover his smile as he looks away. “That’s… charming. I’m glad you and I had a chance to get out of the lab.”

“Aww, you mean you don’t like our dingy old lab?”

“Of course that’s not it.” Perceptor shakes his head. “We both enjoy the lab as a… safe space, so to speak. But it was nice to…” he pauses, looking for the right words. It’s odd to see Perceptor scattered, “It was nice to get a change of pace.”

They’re both awkward about this, Brainstorm realizes, so maybe he doesn’t need to be so nervous. He feels Perceptor tap his foot to his own ankle under the table, a brush of his field in the touch. A muted, quiet happiness and pleasure. Brainstorm stares at him and Perceptor smiles again, just barely. He offers his hand across the table, outstretched fingers, the back of his hand relaxed on the table’s surface.

“Perhaps we’re both thinking about this too much,” Perceptor says faintly as Brainstorm slides his fingers slowly over the palm of his hand. “I’m simply happy to spend time with you.”

“How forward,” Brainstorm says, but it sounds choked behind his giddy laugh.

“I thought it prudent to practice being more forthcoming and honest with my feelings,” Perceptor answers. “I’m aware I’m not the easiest to talk to.”

“That’s okay.” Brainstorm squeezes his hand and smiles when Perceptor squeezes back. “I think we’re gonna be just fine.”

 

~*~

 

“We’ve never talked about music before,” Brainstorm says.

Perceptor looks up from his work to see the other mech with his hand on his chin, thoughtful. “I suppose not,” he agrees. “We often watch off-world cinema together, but do not consume music, whether it’s Cybertronian or off-world music. What brings this up?”

“Well, I dunno,” he says, and it’s a flighty response. He’s fidgeting.

“Brainstorm.”

The mech squirms. He seems embarrassed, but Perceptor can’t fathom why. “I’ve just been thinking, is all. I mean, like, you know how to dance, right?”

“Yes,” Perceptor answers, confused. “What does this have to do with music, Brainstorm?”

Brainstorm takes in a deep breath, setting his tools down to turn to look at Perceptor. He leans back against his lab counter, trying to look casual, even as he’s fidgeting. “This was awhile back, but I saw you dancing with Rodimus at that party at Swerve’s. And it sort of occurred to me I don’t really know what music you like or what music you like to dance to and I guess I’m just wondering if we could ever dance? Sometime?” he continues rambling, frazzled, optics bright and hands flailing.

Perceptor feels his mouth curve in a smile. “Brainstorm.”

The mech stills, looking up at him with hopeful eyes.

He sets down his datapad and shakes his head, amused. He crosses the room to Brainstorm and stops in front of him, offering him a hand. He outstretches his field to brush against Brainstorm’s, letting him feel the reassurance and interest in it. Brainstorm immediately relaxes, the tension diffusing from his stance and field as he smiles and laughs sheepishly. He takes Perceptor’s offered hand, linking their fingers together.

“You didn’t answer my question,” he says. “What kind of music do you like? Rodimus’ ‘phat beats’ as he calls them? Cyclonus’ screaming opera? Tailgate’s lofi chiptunes?”

“What kind of music do you think I like?” Perceptor asks instead.

“Classical music,” Brainstorm admits, tugging on his hand. He steps closer and they start swaying, even though there’s no music. “Soft and grand. Refined. Jazz.” He pauses, a shy smile on his lips. “Computer, turn on music.”

Quiet jazz music comes on in the background. Brainstorm presses his forehead to Perceptor’s, optics offline.

“Is this cheesy?” he asks, keeping his optics off.

Perceptor chuckles, and there’s a crackle of static in the sound. “A bit.”

“Is it bad?” Brainstorm onlines his eyes to look at him.

“No, not at all.” Perceptor squeezes Brainstorm’s hand tighter. “I like it. You’re thoughtful.”

“The term you’re searching for,” he says, eyes bright, “is romantic, Perc.”

Perceptor hums and kisses him, and that ends that conversation quickly enough. Brainstorm kisses him back after a moment of surprise, mouth moving against his own slowly. Perceptor kept it short, pulling back, but then Brainstorm was peppering his mouth with two more brief kisses and then breathing deep as he rests his forehead against his again.

Perceptor chuckles, feeling a flood of fondness and affection rush through him.

“Hi,” Brainstorm says.

“Hello.”

Brainstorm steps back to give Perceptor some room to move. They start swaying again, dancing silently to the music. Neither of them really attempt to do proper steps to the rhythm, instead content to stay close, hands linked, chest to chest as they sway from side to side. Perceptor loses track of time, but after awhile the music stops. Brainstorm sheepishly confesses he only queued up a short playlist for this. But they end up dancing in silence for a bit, just to the soft muted sounds of the lab’s tech whirring in the background, and Perceptor thinks that it’s all just fine.

 

~*~

 

Perceptor stares at the box, currently held out in offering by Rodimus.

“What is this?” he asks, wary, as he takes the box into his hands carefully.

“Relax, Percy.” Rodimus cycles his optics, waving his hand. “It’s not gonna explode.

“You have been known for that.”

Rodimus cackles. “Yeah, well, you’re not Megatron.” He leans a hand on his waist, grinning. “Trust me. You’re my friend and believe or not,” he waggles the fingers of his free hand, “I do care about you. Even if you think I was placed on this ship to cause you eternal torment.”

“Hmm.”

“C’mon, open it!” Rodimus coaxes, eager and bright-eyed. He looks excited, grinning with his field open and joyful. “Promise it’s not a bad gift.”

Perceptor sets down the box and carefully rips open the wrapping paper. With silent amusement, he notes the paper is too tasteful and the present is too well-wrapped to have been done by Rodimus alone. He wonders briefly if Rodimus had Drift help. He sets the paper aside and pulls the top off of the box. Cradled inside against soft packaging material are two sturdy looking black metal cubes. He takes one out by the handle to look at it. It has words engraved on it.

The bold lettering reads “Will You Be My Lab Partner?” with a signature below that says “P”. He glances at the other cube still in the packaging and spies matching lettering, signatured with “B”.

“Matching cubes,” he says after a moment.

Rodimus grins, “Yeah. I carved the mold for the lettering myself. I figured you guys could use cubes anyway because,” he wags a finger at Perceptor and Perceptor has to bite back a smile at the way the co-captain tries to look stern, “you both have terrible eating habits. Keep a mug of energon in the lab.”

“It’s very thoughtful, Rodimus,” he says, and he means it. He sets the cube down carefully, pulling out Brainstorm’s matching one out to put it next to his own. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome!”

“No taunting words?” Perceptor prompts, genuinely surprised. He had expected Rodimus to be elated and smug at the news of his and Brainstorm’s new relationship, but Rodimus has only seemed pleased and happy.

Rodimus cycles his optics. “Did you want me to say ‘I told you so’?” He grins, leaning on Perceptor’s shoulder. “When have I ever been wrong?”

Perceptor opens his mouth.

“Don’t answer that.” Rodimus pulls away, grimacing before he’s back to winking with his typical charm and coyness. He pats Perceptor’s back as he turns to leave. “Tell me what Brainstorm thinks when he sees it. I have to run— got a ‘board meeting’ with Magnus.” He throws his arm up into the air in a flair of theatrics, offlining his optics as he rests the back of his hand over his forehead. “If I die of boredom, remember me as I lived! Promise me you’ll speak well at my eulogy.”

“Yes, I promise.”

Rodimus leaves with a salute and a wink. Perceptor shakes his head to himself, unable to keep his lips from curling up in a small smile. He gets a message from Brainstorm, a quiet jingle alerting him to its arrival.

Your lab or mine? ;)

Perceptor stares at the message before typing one back.

We share one. What do you mean?

nvm, silly joke. anyway im heading over to lab now, got held up talking to nautica about the book i let her borrow last week

Perceptor hums, glancing at the mugs sitting next to each other on his desk. He starts typing a response.

You should hurry. There’s something I want to share with you. Shall we go get morning energon together?

 

~*~

 

"Someone," Brainstorm wiggles his fingers, "is coming over in a bit. Do be a dear, Percy, and don't obliterate him when he enters the door. He's not a threat."

"Is it Rodimus?" Perceptor asks dryly.

"Nope!"

Brainstorm's cheerful answer is well-timed by the door hissing open as Whirl strides in, pincers clicking. Perceptor manages to not make a noise of disbelief as Brainstorm grins at him before waving to their guest. Whirl's feet click against the floor, hips swaying side to side lazily as he slows to a stop in front of Brainstorm.

"Whatcha got for me, cutie?" he asks, peering down at him. "You really do look better without your mask.”

“Aww, thanks.” Brainstorm takes a quick sip of energon from his cube, the gift from Rodimus, before picking up the gun on his work desk. He holds it up with both hands, keeping it level as he offers it to Whirl. "I made you a new gun for your forge day.” He turns his body and the gun away when Whirl reaches for it. “Wait. You have to promise not to shoot Megatron— or anyone really— with it."

Whirl laughs, the sound sharp and jagged. “I’m redeemed, Stormy. Thought we’d been over this.” He picks up the gun carefully with his pincers, turning it over and around to look at it. “Really, though. For my forge day?"

“Mmhm.”

Whirl laughs, again. He clicks the safety on before he hefts the gun up, slotting his optic against the aim sight. "You are the sexiest mech on this ship, you know that?” He lowers the gun, tilting his head as he stares at Brainstorm. “You're so hot."

Brainstorm seems smug and pleased. He folds his arms across his chest, grinning. “Mmhm. Happy forge day, Whirl.”

"Anyway,” Whirl hefts the gun up to rest against his shoulder, “remind me again why I shouldn’t shoot Buckethead with it?"

"Because I told Ultra Magnus to confiscate it and break it right in front of your eyes— er, eye— if you do anything."

"Point taken."

They end up talking for a little longer, with Brainstorm explaining the intricacies of the weapon and how it’s customized to be easier for Whirl to use with his empurata hands. Whirl seems pleased with it. He keeps toying with the gun in his hands, with the safety still on, telling Brainstorm he’s really done by him good this time especially. Perceptor supposes he’ll never understand their friendship. They’re both wild thrill seekers, but that’s all they have in common. Whirl’s good to him though; he’s less wary, less abrasive, more relaxed around Brainstorm. Perceptor guesses he shouldn’t be surprised— Brainstorm has that soothing quality about him. It’s one of the things Perceptor likes about him. Whirl finally excuses himself, humming off-key as his feet click against the floor loudly.

The door hisses shut.

"You keep bad company,” comes out of Perceptor’s mouth before he can think twice.

Brainstorm does seem slightly taken aback. “He’s not terrible. I admit, he’s got a bit of a mouth on him. Kinda. But he’s gotten a lot better.” He pauses, voice a little quieter when he speaks up again. “Are you... jealous?"

Perceptor jolts. He… Yes, he supposes that’s probably it. His field has felt scrambled and garbled with an uncomfortable, heavy feeling in his tanks since Whirl commented on finding Brainstorm ‘cute’ without his mask. He resets his vocalizer, setting down his tools to turn to Brainstorm properly.

“I apologize, it seems I was. I know there’s no need to be.”

Brainstorm smiles a little apologetically at him. “It’s okay. Kinda flattering actually.” He paces over to Perceptor’s side, leaning against the counter. “You do know you’re like my first serious relationship, right?” he asks, his voice soft and private. He rubs at the back of his neck. Perceptor leans into his field periphery, feels Brainstorm’s anxiety and affection. He smiles sheepishly back at the jet, sliding a hand across the counter to offer to him. Brainstorm takes it, smiling brighter this time, looking relieved.

“I apologize again,” Perceptor says softly. “I do know that.”

“There’s not much to tell outside of Quark,” Brainstorm says. “We’ve talked about how Nightbeat and I had kinda… you know, that friends with benefits thing going for awhile.” He looks embarrassed again, a flicker of anxiety in his field. Perceptor sends soothing waves through his own field and Brainstorm looks up to him, grateful. “Thanks, Perc. That’s pretty much it. Though there was Chromedome, but that’s hardly worth mentioning.”

"Chromedome?" Perceptor repeats, surprised.

He cycles his optics, squeezing Perceptor’s hand. "Yeah, I kissed him once." He shrugs, nonchalant. "It was during our time on Kimia together.”

Perceptor was there on Kimia with him and they had been lab partners for a time back then too. He doesn’t mind finding this out of course— it’s long in the past, but he is confused. Perceptor isn’t sure how he could've missed a relationship happening during Kimia where if anyone let anything slip, Swerve would've told everyone else about it by the next day. He looks up at Brainstorm, questioningly and before he can ask Brainstorm to elaborate, the mech continues.

"It was before Chromedome and Rewind started officially dating— early days of Kimia."

Brainstorm sighs as he recalls how that whole... fiasco started.

"You know," Brainstorm says, leaning close to the taller mech, "you're pretty cute."

"I get that a lot," Chromedome replies easily, not looking up from his datapad right away. He rolls his shoulders before tilting his head to meet his gaze. "No amount of flattery is going to get me to cover your shift, Brainstorm."

"Pfft." He waves a hand and grins when Chromedome twitches at the sound, irritated and curious. "Who says I want you to cover my shift? Why don't we just both totally blow off Prowl's orders and do something fun instead?"

While the idea of pissing off his ex-sparkmate is no doubt appealing to Chromedome, judging by the way his visor flares with interest, his field also projects faint incredulousness at his suggestion. Chromedome stares at him. "Fun," he repeats. "You're actually flirting with me."

"Can't a mech ambiguously flirt with their friend, coworker, and potential future sparkmate?" Brainstorm waggles his fingers and winks an optic. Chromedome only offers an amused look back, waiting for his theatrics to finish so he can get to the point. "Fine. You're not even my usual type."

"Type?"

"Microscopes."

"Wow," Chromedome says, drawling out the 'w' sound. "Really."

"They're very cute, you know."

Chromedome snorts, leaning a hip against the table as he folds his arms across his chest. "It's not like Perceptor is taken."

"It's also," Brainstorm shakes a pen at him, "not as though he's interested in me. I'm too volatile, too morally reprehensible, too fun for his tastes."

"Hmm." Chromedome tilts his head at him. "So you decided to settle for less?"

"You're anything but less," Brainstorm says, jabbing a finger at him accusatorily, "and you know that. If you must know, it's because you at least tolerate me, I think, and I find your dry wit cute."

"Charming." Chromedome glances at the clock, marking them for another two hours on shift. “Maybe I’ll take you up on that, if only to piss off Prowl.”

Brainstorm laughs as he tells the next part of the story, detailing to Perceptor how they ended up going out for a couple dates, not as anything exclusive, but just to have fun and keep each other company. The fifth date they had they ended up trying for a kiss. Brainstorm recalls how it had been awkward with his faceplate removed. Chromedome’s faceplate isn’t removable, after all. They’d both felt weird after the affair and decided to return to being friends and not complicating their relationship with physical intimacy.

“And that’s all there really is to tell!” Brainstorm finishes, laughing sheepishly. “Told you. I don’t have much going on in the romance department.”

“I don’t mind your lack of experience,” Perceptor says. “I haven’t really any either.”

There were a few courtships, way long ago before the war, but nothing worth mentioning. Brainstorm’s looking at him with warm eyes though, and Perceptor squeezes his hand.

“What is it?”

“It’s cheesy,” Brainstorm hums, leaning forward to press his forehead against Perceptor’s. “But I guess that means we get to learn together how to navigate this.”

 

~*~

 

Admittedly, Brainstorm admits to getting a bit bolder now that they’ve been dating for awhile. He’s more likely to initiate things, handholding, kissing, suggestions for dates. And he’s a lot less shy about trying out his ridiculous collection of science pick up lines, guaranteed to be cringe worthy and cheesy. Nightbeat and Nautica both begged him to stop when he tested them out on the two of them.

Brainstorm holds up the shock baton he’s just finished, breathing out an excited sigh. “Percy, et voilà, I did it!”

Perceptor looks up from his side of the lab, his mug halfway raised to his mouth. He smiles into his cup. “Good work, Brainstorm. I knew you would figure out that equation if you stopped avoiding it.”

“I wasn’t avoiding it,” Brainstorm whines petulantly. “I was just tabling it for another time!”

Perceptor makes an amused noise, but doesn’t answer him.

“Anyway, Percy, please! Look at me!” The jet waves his hand and the baton theatrically. He successfully catches his sparkmate’s attention. He twirls the baton, resetting his vocalizer with an audible click as he bows. “You should give me a try. I think you’ll find me… electrifying.”

Perceptor stares at him. “Yes, well. You are literally capable of electrifying me right now.”

Okay, so maybe he needs to work on his lines more. He could be more obvious, maybe. Brainstorm keeps firing terrible pick up lines and hitting on Percy over the course of the week. The lines are all a bit racy, but he trusts Perceptor to tell him if he’s uncomfortable with anything. They’ve both been good at communicating boundaries and comfort levels since they got together.

The next day, Brainstorm leans against Perceptor’s lab desk, hip cocked against the counter, arms folded across his chest.

“Percy, it’s not the size of the vector that matters,” he says, voice low and suggestive, “but how you deliver the force.”

Perceptor doesn’t look up from his datapad, seeming still distracted by his work. “Yes, Brainstorm, I’m aware. My physics is a bit rusty compared to my quantum mechanics and calculus, but I haven’t forgotten that much yet.”

Hmm. Brainstorm wonders what’s not working. He must need to work on his delivery more if he can't catch Perceptor's attention, let alone make him smile or laugh at the pickup line. More zazz, maybe some more flirtation in his tone, a little suggestiveness in his field, maybe a wink and a smile. Brainstorm shakes his head, realizing he’s been staring at his new prototype’s blueprints for the past ten minutes. He huffs out a sigh. If only he had some innate charm like Rodimus or Chromedome did.

He tries for more straightforward.

“Percy, I’d like to treat you like this equation I’m working on,” he says loudly from his half of the lab. “I’ll slam you into my desk and work on you all night.” He peeks over his shoulder to see how the other has reacted.

Perceptor pauses, setting down his tool. He glances over his shoulder at Brainstorm, meeting his gaze. He seems disapproving. “Are you so needlessly rough with your datapad and stylus? If the problem is frustrating, perhaps you should take a break.”

Okay. Alright. Okay.

 

~*~

 

“No offense,” Nightbeat says, leaning his cheek into his hand and grinning when Brainstorm tells him the fruits (or lack of) of his labor, “but maybe he just doesn’t get it.”

“Percy’s not that dumb,” Brainstorm says defensively. He sighs, staring down at his reflection in his drink. “I’m doing something wrong.”

 

~*~

 

“Are you a carbon sample? Because I want to date you.”

“We’re already dating,” Perceptor pauses, faltering, “Unless there’s been a misunderstanding?”

“No, that’s not—”

 

~*~

 

“Let’s calculate the torque of your mass on my rod.”

“Hmm? Did you say something about Rodimus?”

 

~*~

 

“I wasn’t born to give up.”

“You weren’t born,” Nightbeat points out. “None of us were. We literally reproduce like cabbage patch kids.”

 

~*~

 

Brainstorm’s run out of lines to try over the course of the week. He only has one left, so he has to make it count. He and Perceptor have gotten into the routine of leaving lab together. They close up the lab together and then walk each other to their rooms, usually holding hands. Their habsuites are in different hallways, but in the same sector. It’s always nice— a little bit of time to themselves, a somewhat intimate routine they’ve set up. They’re packing up right now, putting away tools and locking up hazardous materials and any weaponry that’s out. Perceptor finishes first and waits by the door for Brainstorm.

He takes in a deep vent as he clicks the lock on armory before walking over to Perceptor.

The scientist looks at him, seeming amused. “What is it? You look like you want to say something.”

Brainstorm braces a hand on the wall, other hand on his hip. He throws out his best smile at Perceptor, who’s folded his arms across his chest and is looking at him expectantly, lips barely curved in a playful smile.

“You turn my floppy disk into a hard drive.”

“Then perhaps... I should take responsibility,” Perceptor answers, voice low and suggestive, amusement now plainly visible. He steps closer, pressing a hand to Brainstorm’s waist. He tilts his head up towards him, mouth close to Brainstorm’s jaw, eyes bright with humor.

“Oh.”

Perceptor chuckles, drumming his fingers along Brainstorm’s waist. He presses his index finger along a transformation seam and Brainstorm’s fans click on immediately. He doesn’t even have it in him to be embarrassed— all he’s thinking about is how close and warm Perceptor is. His field melds with Brainstorm and there’s a wash of affection, interest, and heat in Perceptor’s field.

“You didn’t think it would work, did you.”

“I. Well. I.”

“I’ll admit,” Perceptor says, smiling, “I was giving you a bit of a hard time. It was… fun to see you flustered and confused.”

Brainstorm whines and Perceptor kisses him for his troubles, brief but firm. He pulls back to look at him in the eyes, tilting his head slightly. His field is still heavy with anticipation against Brainstorm’s own and his optics are shock bright. His hand is warm where it’s still resting on his waist, fingers tight against Brainstorm’s plating.

“All your insinuations of interfacing has made me... curious. I think there are some things I’d like to try with you. And as you know, as a good scientist, any experiment requires... several trials.”

 

~*~

 

They manage to fumble their way back to Perceptor’s habsuite. Hallways aren’t monitored in the habsuite areas of each sector to maintain privacy, but that being said, there’s always people wandering up and down the hallways at this time. It’s after everyone’s shifts, so people are meeting their friends and significant others to go relax, chatting in the hallways and in front of the lounge rooms.

All of this really just means that Brainstorm has to keep his fans from going on full blast while he’s walking with Perceptor down the hallways to his room. Perceptor’s field is heavy against his, still warm with heat and interest and he keeps brushing his fingers against Brainstorm’s hand. Their shoulders bump against each other as they walk.

“You’re tense,” Perceptor comments as they round a corner. He glances over at Brainstorm, a touch of amusement in his expression.

Brainstorm may have to reevaluate his prior beliefs that Perceptor is innocent and sweet, because it’s quickly shaping up to look like the scientist is far more coy and playful than anticipated. Not that Brainstorm is complaining. He resets his vocalizer and keeps his fans’ overdrive functions on lockdown. Not complaining at all.

Perceptor is one of the few mechs who doesn’t have a roommate. The command team of the Lost Light are the ones allowed to have a private habsuite. Perceptor is among them as the Chief Science Officer (something Brainstorm used to be envious of, but that seems all so silly now). Honestly, he’s just grateful they have some privacy. Perceptor types in the door’s keycode and pauses, glancing over his shoulder at Brainstorm.

He smiles a little, hesitating. “Are you alright, Brainstorm? You haven’t said much.”

Brainstorm pauses, looks away and rubs at the back of his neck. “No, it’s nothing, I’m just. I’m nervous. I don’t wanna mess things up.” He turns back to look at Perceptor and it feels like his vocalizer is catching from excess charge. He resets it again and smiles at Perceptor, a little abashed. “FYI, I really, really, really like you, you know.”

Perceptor smiles, pressing a hand to Brainstorm’s chest, over his Autobot badge, over where his spark is thundering in his chest. “I gathered as much.” He rubs a thumb over the Autobot badge, staring there for a moment before he looks up. “You decided to keep your mask off,” he says, thoughtful.

Brainstorm laughs, brief, startled. “Well, there’s a whole host of reasons besides the Decepticon double-agent thing that kept me wearing that mask.”

Perceptor reaches up, pressing his thumb over his lip plates instead and Brainstorm forgets to breathe. “I can’t imagine why.”

Brainstorm kisses his thumb and smiles, because he’s not sure what to say. There’s a lot here— Perceptor, warm and fond, the private and soft words shared between them, Brainstorm’s own millennia-old insecurities.

“What do you want, Brainstorm?” Perceptor asks, quiet, reverent, and it makes Brainstorm’s spark clench with affection.

He reaches past Perceptor to hit the enter key on the door pad, unlocking it. The door hisses open softly, almost inaudible. Somewhere in the hallways behind them, there’s idle chatter, quiet laughter. They stumble in together, clumsy, putting their hands on each other, fans clicking on, mouths pressed together, rushed and awkward, but warm. Perceptor flicks on the light switch as Brainstorm presses him back against the door, leaning over him. It’s always weird to remember he’s slightly taller than the other mech.

Perceptor vents sharply, looking up at him with bright eyes. Brainstorm kisses him again, still clumsy, but better coordinated this time. He clasps his hands along Brainstorm’s waist and kisses him back, glossa sweeping along his lower lip as he dips his fingers into transformation seams. Brainstorm moans into his mouth, shivering when Perceptor keeps swiping his thumb lightly over a sensitive seam.

“Percy,” he breathes out against his mouth. He keeps one arm braced on the door by Perceptor’s face, on the side without his scope. He lowers the other one to skim his fingers down his chest, tracing along the edges of his fortified, glass-covered chassis. He slides his fingers along the seams where his chest would open to reveal his spark without dipping them in.

Perceptor actually squirms, huffing out a heavy vent. “I’d rather you not tease,” he says, looking away. There’s a thread of self-consciousness in his field, behind the eagerness and heat. “I’m feeling rather… impatient.”

Brainstorm manages a weak grin, a burst of charge bursting through his lines at the other mech’s admission. “Well. Then I guess I should move things along.”

He slides his hand down further, to trace along the grooves and seams at his waist, stopping when he reaches the blocky segment of his hips.

“Is this okay?”

“Yes.”

Perceptor leans up to kiss him again as Brainstorm cautiously presses his hand to the seam where Perceptor’s thigh meets his hip joint. He’s warm to the touch, plating starting to crackle slightly with charge, and if he strains, he can hear Perceptor’s fans whirring as fast and loud as his own. His jet engine revs involuntarily, and he doesn’t get the chance to even get properly embarrassed because Perceptor moans from the vibration of it against his plating, and wow, Brainstorm thinks he’s gonna die like this.

Perceptor groans again, slips his hands along his backstrut to drag him closer, until their bodies are flush together. Brainstorm’s vocalizer clicks uselessly as he tries to say something funny, something clever, but he’s got nothing. He grinds his hips against Perceptor and Perceptor moans again, the sound low and muted. He’d always thought Perceptor would be rather quiet in bed, but it’s something altogether to hear him moaning soft and breathless against him.

“Berth,” Perceptor says, and his voice, low and a little ragged with static lacing his words, immediately drags Brainstorm out of his reverie.

“Yes,” Brainstorm says, pulling back to look at him. “Yes. You’re amazing, you know that? Good idea.”

Perceptor stares at him, a little incredulous, a little fond, a half-smile on his lips as Brainstorm grabs his hand and tugs him towards the bed across the room. He turns around when they reach the bed, smiling at Perceptor and squeezing his hand again. His spark must be going at a million miles per hour. He wonders if Perceptor can hear it.

“Hey.”

“Hello,” Perceptor says. His half-smile changes into a smirk, a little more devious. He pushes at Brainstorm lightly, straddling his hips when Brainstorm sits down on the edge of the bed.

“You look like you want something,” Brainstorm says weakly when Perceptor eases his full weight down on his lap.

“I might,” Perceptor teases, murmured against his mouth, breath heavy and warm, his field heady and charged where it’s melded against Brainstorm’s own.

They both get tired of talking though and end up kissing lazily. Brainstorm puts his hands on Perceptor’s waist, holding him steady as he lets himself fall back onto the berth, tugging Perceptor’s weight with him. The scientist pulls back to look at Brainstorm, optics dim with pleasure, as he rolls his hips against him. Brainstorm groans, arches his back a little, and almost whines at the pleased noise Perceptor makes. Charge jumps between their plating as they keep grinding lazily. His HUD is getting inundated with requests to open his panels from the pressure Perceptor’s putting on it.

Perceptor sits up suddenly, shifting to straddle Brainstorm’s hips more properly. He runs his hands down his own stomach, one slipping lower to press over his paneling. He licks his lips, optics going from dim to shock bright.

“May I?” he asks, an oddly polite request.

“Yes?” Brainstorm gasps out, bewildered by the question and hopelessly turned on at the way Perceptor tilts his head at him. “If you’re asking if you can open your plating— please do?”

Perceptor does so almost immediately, a quiet click and whirr and his modesty panels have snapped open. His valve is already slick and wet and his spike pressurizes fast and easy. Brainstorm’s own panelling automatically shifts aside at the sight, and he doesn’t get the chance to be embarrassed because Perceptor’s reaching down to touch himself.

“Oh,” Brainstorm says uselessly.

Perceptor wets his lips, hips twitching as he thumbs at his node lazily and works his fingers up and down along his valve. He presses two fingers on either side of his valve and spreads it before lowering his weight down over Brainstorm’s hips again. He lets his valve press down along the underside of Brainstorm’s spike, slick and hot as he grinds against him lightly.

Perceptor moans a little, putting his hands down on either side of Brainstorm’s waist for leverage to grind. Brainstorm thinks he’s going to short circuit at this rate. He shakily rolls his hips up to meet Perceptor grind for grind, reaching a hand down to close his fingers around Perceptor’s spike loosely. He moans at the feeling, leaning up and kissing Brainstorm for his troubles. Brainstorm whines into his mouth as he works his hand along Perceptor’s spike, tightening his grip and thumbing roughly along the head on every upstroke.

Perceptor’s valve is wet and hot against his spike, his field pulsing heavy with heat and pleasure and Brainstorm’s sure he’s not gonna last like this. He gasps against Perceptor’s jaw, trying to find the right words to ask Perceptor what he wants, but his vocalizer clicks uselessly. His question seems to come across in his field though, because Perceptor sits up a little, taking his weight off of Brainstorm’s spike as they both catch their breath. Perceptor’s scope seems to glow bright. His fans are loud and his venting is heavy as he keeps his eyes on Brainstorm. He reaches down to grab Brainstorm’s hand, guiding it to his valve.

Brainstorm curls his fingers, mouth opening and closing uselessly as his vocalizer spits static. Perceptor’s valve is wet, dripping lubricant over his fingers as he presses them over his opening.

“Spike me?” Perceptor asks softly, tilting his head.

Brainstorm’s going to die.

He groans, straining to sit up to see better, bracing his other arm against the bed with his elbow. He carefully slips a finger into Perceptor, makes a quiet, desperate noise at the way Perceptor’s valve calipers clench around the intrusion. Perceptor makes a soft noise as well, a sharp exvent as he offlines his optics. Brainstorm murmurs his name adoringly as he slips a second finger inside. Perceptor moans and shudders, optics onlining again, bright and sparking with charge. The nodes inside his valve snap charge at Brainstorm’s fingers as he works Perceptor’s valve carefully, making sure to take his time to stretch him properly.

“What?” Brainstorm immediately pauses when he hears Perceptor mumble something. “Is it too much?” He moves to withdraw his fingers, but Perceptor snatches him by the wrist, stopping him.

“I said hurry,” Perceptor says a little louder, eyes averted, a flush of embarrassment and excitement in his field now.

“You’re too much,” Brainstorm laughs, the sound desperate and strained. He pulls his hand back, using both arms now to keep his elbows braced on the bed as Perceptor settles over him.

Perceptor keeps his eyes locked on Brainstorm’s as he guides his spike past his folds carefully. He moans a little, startled and quiet and needy, as he takes his spike slowly, easing his hips down carefully with heavy exvents. His field is almost overwhelming against Brainstorm’s own, filled with affection and desire. There’s something warm in Perceptor’s eyes as he eases into a slow, languid pace, hips rolling steady but firm against Brainstorm’s own.

“I’ve thought about this,” Perceptor admits quietly. He smiles, the curve of his lips a touch shy, a little mischievous too. “Doing this.”

Brainstorm laughs again, startled. “Well. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t also.”

And then they’re both smiling, wide, bright-eyed, affectionate. Perceptor actually laughs a little, the sound brief but warm, and Brainstorm grins as he tugs the other mech down for a kiss. He smiles into Perceptor’s mouth.

This is good— it’s all he's ever asked for.

 

~*~

 

Before they know it, it’s been nearly a year since they got together. Next week will mark their ‘anniversary’, something Rodimus had reminded him of pointedly, barging into the lab during Perceptor’s solo shift. Drift had been trailing behind him, an apologetic smile on his lips as Rodimus theatrically described how Perceptor had to search inside of his spark for the perfect sparkfelt anniversary gift.

It hadn’t occurred to him that the occasion might be so important, but thinking about it for a bit, it certainly made sense that some individuals might really value the date as a symbol of their relationship. He’s a bit stumped actually, as to what to get the jet. There’s little Brainstorm doesn’t seem to have— he likes to buy chintzy little trinkets when they stop at other planets and he gets plenty of gifts from the crew. Just off the top of his head, Perceptor knows he owns a few clocks from Whirl, some paintings from Ten, and a few bottles of… something from Swerve.

“I’m sure he’ll be happy receiving anything from you,” Drift says cheerfully, optics still offline as he meditates. “I would recommend giving him something handmade though. It tends to mean more, I find.”

That’s certainly sound advice, but what could he make? He still has a week to figure out something, so he decides to cover all his bases by just asking Brainstorm’s friends… of which there are many.

Chromedome hums, thoughtful. “He does like to read. He watches a lot of stuff, but from what I can tell he enjoys reading a lot of off-world literature too. But I couldn’t tell you what he’s already read or is interested in reading.”

Whirl tells Perceptor to buy explosives. And while that would no doubt make Brainstorm happy, Perceptor isn’t looking to get their lab blown up again.

Nightbeat lists off TV shows and movies he knows Brainstorm’s watched and enjoyed, suggesting that Perceptor try and get his hands on a physical copy of one of them to gift Brainstorm. Most of the things Brainstorm’s watched has been borrowed from either Nightbeat or Swerve or was streamed through the interstellar wifi. Getting his hands on a physical copy of X-Files’ DVDs from Earth would be near impossible though, considering they are light years away from the Milky Way Galaxy to even begin with.

He invites Nautica out for a drink to talk. She waves and greets him cheerfully at the bar, where she’s been talking to Swerve and Bluestreak.

“Hi Perceptor,” she says, leaning her cheek into her hand with a smile. “Grab a drink and we can move to a booth to talk.”

He’s glad she’s thoughtful enough to suggest that since if they sit at the bar, they’ll be within audial range of Swerve. And Perceptor does want this to be a surprise after all. He orders a drink and joins Nautica at a booth. She sips at her drink through a colorful curly straw, resting her forearms on the table’s surface. Her presence is so soothing, Perceptor realizes, as her field brushes against his in calming waves. It must be why Brainstorm at least always slows down a little when he’s around her.

“It’s sweet you’re doing this for him,” she says, stirring her drink with her straw.

“Do you think so?” Perceptor smiles to himself, looking down at his drink. “It was implied to be rather standard behavior.”

“It is, but,” Nautica leans forward, eyes bright, “I think it means a lot that you’ve gone around and asked his friends what you think he’d like most.” She leans a cheek into her hand, tapping a finger against her face as she directs her gaze upwards thoughtfully. “Now to see if I can be helpful in your endeavor… something Brainstorm likes.” She hums, turning her gaze back to him. “You could make him a mixtape? That’s very individualized and personal!”

“Do you have an idea of what music he likes? He and I seldom talk about music,” Perceptor admits, “Brainstorm listens to off-world music and I’m not as familiar with the genres.”

“I can share what he’s told me he likes. Oh, and he recently got into dubstep,” Nautica adds. “Human music. It has a lot of 'wubs' as he calls it,” she explains, making a wiggling, wave gesture with her arm as she does. She laughs at what probably is a look of confusion on Perceptor’s face. “Maybe it’s better if I just show you!”

Nautica pulls up her datapad where she has her music stored. She points out to him which songs were recommended to her by Brainstorm and plays him short clips so he gets an idea of what to look for. It feels a little silly admittedly, the two of them hunched over in the bar in midday, writing down notes and sharing ideas. However, by the time they’re done sharing notes, Perceptor feels a lot better. Nautica sends him copies of the songs they talked about and points him in a direction to find more to fill out this mixtape’s playlist.

“Thank you, Nautica,” he says as he turns his datapad off. “This has been enlightening.”

She reaches over the table and puts her hand over his, catching his attention. She smiles, eyes bright, but her voice is quiet, serious. “You make him happy, you know that, right? You mean the world to him.”

“The feeling is mutual,” he assures her, just as serious.

She stares at him for a few seconds. She finally squeezes his hand before she pulls it back, seeming satisfied. “Good.”

 

~*~

 

Perceptor ends up doing a lot of independent research on music and the aesthetics of making a mixtape. He puts together a long list of songs from all different genres he knows Brainstorm likes— chiptunes, electronic, dubstep, lofi hip hop— and then he mixes them up with some white noise interludes and voice clips from various TV shows. Admittedly, it’s still unfamiliar territory for him since Brainstorm’s interest in music is largely grounded in human customs, but Perceptor does his best to research ideas. He rearranges the tracklist to flow together well, slipping in sounds of the lab workspace, clinking tools, bubbling solutions, the soft tapping of a stylus on a datapad. He wracks his processor for quotes he knows he likes from all the shows he and Brainstorm have watched together.

It takes him actually a few days before he feels totally content with the mixtape in both length and quality. But it certainly feels personal, and having gone through the effort of making it, Perceptor can appreciate how receiving a mixtape could be construed as romantic.

Perceptor wakes up to a message from Brainstorm on the day of their anniversary.

Come to lab! I have a surprise ;)

Perceptor smiles to himself. They’ve both been working independently the past few days, Perceptor on his mixtape project, and Brainstorm presumably on his own gift for him. It’s humorous, really, they haven’t talked at all about what they were actually planning on doing the day of their anniversary, but it seems they’ve both thought about it separately. He tells Brainstorm he’ll be there shortly, pocketing the holo disc mixtape in his subspace before he leaves his habsuite.

And maybe he walks a little faster to lab today.

Perceptor arrives at the lab and has barely stepped through the door when he’s practically tackle-hugged by Brainstorm. He makes a noise of surprise before he realizes it’s just Brainstorm. The jet squeezes him tight, pressing a kiss to his jaw. His field melds with Perceptor’s, a natural meshing that happens easily now. Perceptor’s field receives a blast of bright affection, cheerful excitement, and warm happiness from Brainstorm’s. Perceptor wonders if his field is as transparent to Brainstorm; it’s something he’s been working on since they got together. Judging by the way Brainstorm pulls back to smile at him though, he thinks it’s been a successful effort.

“Hi.”

“Hello.”

They stare at each other for a few moments before Brainstorm’s smile widens into a grin. “It’s our one-year anniversary.”

And as always, his happiness is contagious. “Yes,” Perceptor says, smiling.

Brainstorm takes his hand, squeezing it as he starts walking away, trying to lead Perceptor to something. “C’mere, I want to show you something.”

Perceptor lets Brainstorm guide him to his half of the lab, which now, upon closer inspection, he realizes, is different. Perceptor’s tools and datapads are largely where they left him, but the desk looks more polished and possibly of a different material. Brainstorm stops in front of it, smiling a little nervously.

“I probably should’ve asked you beforehand about this, but I hope you like it.” He puts his hand on the desk. “I fixed up your lab area. The counter is a new alloy— tougher than titanium, so it’s pretty much scratch-resistant. I noticed your area had some scuffs and pockmarks here and there, and I know it bothered you so…,” he trails off a little, eyes bright, an apprehension flickering in his field, his sparkrate fast in Perceptor’s audials.

“It’s very thoughtful,” Perceptor says, catching Brainstorm’s eyes, and the jet seems to calm down a little with that statement.

“Okay, okay, good, I’m glad. There’s, um, there’s more.” He’s still rambling a bit, but the anxiety in his field has lessened. Brainstorm points to some of the heavier tools Perceptor uses. “I know you used to keep them bolted down, but then that made it inconvenient sometimes because then it was a pain if you needed to move them. Um, remember that time we got magnetized together? I ended up putting that… uh, learning experience, we’ll call it, to better use.”

Brainstorm points to a switch on the counter next to the heavy tools.

“So, this switch turns the electromagnet on and off. And it shouldn’t affect either of us— it was a pain, but I figured out how to make the magnet only respond to certain alloys, so I coated the base of your tools with the alloy.”

He points next to a new rack for datapads and as a tool holder.

“Applied the same-ish logic to this new thing. It’s lightly magnetized so your datapads will stand up straight. Tool holder,” he makes a vague gesture towards the rack, “to keep all of your smaller tools organized and easy to access. I know you didn’t like the drawer that used to be here because it was too disorganized.”

He then turns Perceptor’s attention to the new console.

“And I fixed up the console a little. Cosmetics— replaced the old parts, but I worked on the software a little too. It responds to voice command now and it’s hooked up to interstellar wifi. There’s a few other things, but um,” Brainstorm laughs a little, sheepishly rubbing at the back of his head, “I hope you like it? I tried to keep everything you would like in mind for this. I hope I didn’t overstep.”

Thoughtful doesn’t even begin to cover it, Perceptor thinks. Brainstorm put time, effort, and resources into fixing up Perceptor’s desk space for him, but also fixing it in ways he knew Perceptor would appreciate. Ease of use, convenience concepts, while also catering to Perceptor’s need for order and structure in his workspace. It’s incredibly thoughtful.

“Percy?” Brainstorm asks quietly.

“It’s amazing,” Perceptor answers, squeezing his hand, smiling at the jet. “I’m at a loss for words, I must admit. It’s exceedingly thoughtful and personal. I greatly appreciate it, Brainstorm.”

“Oh. Good!” Brainstorm laughs, the sound warm and relieved and pleased. “I’m glad—”

Perceptor kisses him for his troubles, and Brainstorm makes a small noise of surprise before he’s kissing him back, a smile pressed back against Perceptor’s mouth. He pulls back after a moment to press a hand to Brainstorm’s chest to catch his attention. He can feel the faint pulse of Brainstorm’s spark deep inside his plating, can hear how it’s thudding heavy and affectionate. Brainstorm looks at him questioningly.

“What is it?” he asks, voice soft and private.

“I also had a present for you,” Perceptor admits. “Though I’m not sure it measures up well to your gift.”

Brainstorm bumps his forehead against Perceptor’s, squeezing at his arms. Perceptor hums. Brainstorm’s right, perhaps he does think too much, worry too much. He pulls the holo cd from his subspace, holding it up between them. Brainstorm’s optics brighten, curiosity flushing through his field into Perceptor’s.

“What is it?” he asks, taking the cd gently into his hands.

“A mixtape. I was told you quite enjoy music and although it’s something we rarely talk about, I thought you would appreciate a personalized mix.”

Perceptor describes his thought process while he was making the mix, much like how Brainstorm did when he was walking Perceptor through his upgrade ideas for his lab space. Brainstorm stays very quiet through the whole explanation, optics locked onto the object in his hand.

“So it’s filled with love songs, right?” Brainstorm says finally, tone playful, teasing.

“Now, that would be telling,” Perceptor huffs.

Brainstorm laughs. “That’s fair.” He leans forward again, pressing his forehead to Perceptor’s. He takes a deep vent, optics shutting offline as he breathes out. He onlines his optics again and smiles, voice warm and private when he speaks up again. “Thank you, Percy.”

“Of course,” he answers, vocalizer clicking with a small burst of static. Brainstorm smiles at the sound and Perceptor thinks he’s happy, like this. “It was my pleasure.”

 

~*~

 

"Wow," Rodimus says, squinting. He sounds amused, lips just barely curved upward. "He really is small. He's like the size of one of those— ah, what do you call them— those fleshy human new forges."

"Babies," Ratchet supplies, sounding like he already has a headache. He's rubbing a hand over his face.

"Size doesn't matter if you've got technique," Brainstorm counters playfully, complete with fingerguns.

"That's some real talk, Team Rodimus' genius," the co-captain grins, cackling as he offers his finger to Brainstorm.

Brainstorm, now literally the height of an average Cybertronian finger, high fives him by smacking the tip of Rodimus' hand.

Perceptor recalls being across the room, grabbing something from storage when he suddenly heard Brainstorm yelp before a loud explosion filled the room with smoke. He was quick to act to clear the smoke, prepared to deal with a fire or any other explosives. The smoke cleared with Brainstorm seemingly nowhere to be found, but Perceptor's amplified audio receptors picked up the sound of his voice, distant and muted. He ended up finding the jet standing on the ground, waving his hands frantically.

"I bet I'm the size of Megatron's pinky now. Where is he anyway?"

Rodimus snorts. "He's brooding over something again. Magnus was gonna come too but he got tied up in a dispute on the third floor." He waves his hand, optics cycling. "Anyway, he's gonna own your aft later for a full accident report." He squints again, actually sounding concerned this time. "You gonna need help getting back to normal?"

"Nah, with Percy’s help, we should be able to figure out a way to reverse the process easily enough.”

That leads them to the lab where Brainstorm is now coming to terms with the fact that he’s smaller than a datapad stylus and can’t actually do anything by himself. Brainstorm’s sitting down next to the stylus and kicking his feet, frustrated. It feels a little mean considering the circumstances, but Perceptor finds it a little amusing. He leans down to talk to him.

“You won’t be able to do much, it seems. If you could direct me to your notes, I should be able to reverse engineer the methodology and fix you.”

“But I’m an independent mech,” Brainstorm whines.

“I wasn’t aware we weren’t dating anymore.”

Brainstorm huffs, arms folded across his chest. “You’re having fun with this!” he accuses. He flails his arms and twitches his wings in a show of dramatics. “How could you, Percy. Your sparkmate has been reduced to the size of a finger and you’re teasing me!”

Perceptor chuckles, unable to help himself. He reaches up and pushes his finger against Brainstorm’s chest. The jet yelps, trying to get a grip on his finger but failing as he’s gently pushed over.

“I’m being bullied!

Perceptor smiles wide, feeling a little smug. “Perhaps you’ll take my advice next time and be more careful checking your work.”

Despite all his teasing, Perceptor does do his best to work on fixing the problem. Brainstorm shows him his notes which are, unfortunately, horribly messy and disjointed. But that’s par for the course with Brainstorm. Perceptor has to spend time deciphering his notes first before he gets started building the device to reverse the effect. Brainstorm is left with not much to do but wait. He sits on one of the wall shelves he has, swinging his feet petulantly as he watches Perceptor dismantle his minimizer gun (which Ultra Magnus took offense to).

“Perhaps,” Perceptor starts conversationally, “when I turn you back, I’ll take off a few inches so you’re the same height as me.”

Brainstorm yells.

 

~*~

 

Perceptor ends up taking miniature Brainstorm back to his habsuite for a few nights to make sure he doesn’t get crushed while he works on the device. Perceptor made a mini charging station for Brainstorm so he can still recharge while he’s in this small form, even if he grumbles about being like a battery.

“Hey.”

“Hmm?”

Brainstorm’s vocalizer clicks, a sound that would be inaudible if not for Perceptor’s audials. “I mean, this is something that’s been on my mind for awhile anyway, but since I’m here…,” he stop-starts, fumbling with his words.

“Brainstorm,” Perceptor says patiently. He sits up and swings his legs to sit on the edge of the berth, looking at his nightside table where Brainstorm is pacing around. “What is it?”

“I was thinking we could move in together,” Brainstorm blurts out in a rush. “If you don’t mind, I mean. You have this solo habsuite, but there is one extra berth. Or we could make a double sized berth.”

Perceptor smiles, leaning forward to catch Brainstorm’s attention. “I would be amenable to that.”

“Really?” Brainstorm asks, and even as small as he is, the relieved exvent he gives is audible.

“Yes.” Perceptor takes a moment to look around his room, thoughtful. “I should be able to finish the device tomorrow and get you back to normal size. Once that’s done,” he turns his attention back to Brainstorm, “we could see to remodeling the room before you move in.”

“I.” Brainstorm makes a few vague hand gestures, at a loss for words. He puts a hand on the back of his head, staring up at Perceptor. And then he smiles. “Yeah. That sounds like a plan.”

 

~*~

 

They do eventually get everything sorted out. Brainstorm goes back to his normal size (still a few inches taller than Perceptor, which he’s very pleased about) and they make plans to remodel Perceptor’s habsuite together. Altogether, to get the materials needed and to take time out of their schedule to work, it takes a few weeks to finish remodeling the habsuite to be a shared room. They have separate areas in the room for book/datapad space (mostly Perceptor’s) and various trinkets (mostly Brainstorm’s).

Brainstorm props both hands on his hips, surveying the room in its entirety now that they’ve finished decorating and moving his things in. He sticks his glossa out, making a picture frame with his fingers.

“Well, I’d say this is picture perfect.”

Perceptor smiles to himself, amused, as he flicks through his datapads. Brainstorm comes over, nudging him gently with an elbow. Perceptor turns to look at him and Brainstorm presses a chaste kiss to his mouth. He grins, mischievously, tugging insistently at Perceptor’s arm. He huffs, fond, as he lets Brainstorm lead him over to the double sized berth and Brainstorm pulls him down with him.

They both lie still on the bed, fingers still curled around each other’s hands.

At the beginning of all this, Brainstorm had said, “I think we’re gonna be just fine.”

He can feel Brainstorm’s field meshing with his, tired but content, and incredibly happy. He can hear Brainstorm’s spark, measured and calm, next to him.

Brainstorm squeezes his hand.

Perceptor smiles and offlines his optics as he squeezes his hand back.