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Prowl looked over all of his datapads one last time. He had finished the work on each of them, finally. So he could upload and relay the information. It had taken the better part of three days to get his desk clear of datawork. All interrupted of course, between the pranks and Wheeljack, Prowl was sure he would never get to enjoy some time off. He sent the data and checked his messages one last time. Satisfied that there was nothing important waiting, he left his office.

He warily made his way for the Ark entrance, certain that someone would stop him, need him to make a decision, need his assistance, plan for the next battle. Yet no one did. The only others he saw were Optimus and Sunstreaker, of all bots, down a side corridor, talking. And he figured he knew just why no one had stopped him.

Then Jazz spotted him, and inwardly Prowl groaned. He would never get away. Interference, interference. Jazz talking equals never shut up. Worse than Bluestreak. Ah, but Jazz and music equals, relatively, quiet Jazz.

"Prowl, man, where ya headed?"

"Out," the tactician tersely replied.

Jazz grinned. "It looks like a great night for a drive, want some company?"

Prowl quickly pulled an audiotape out of subspace. "Well, I was thinking about looking at some of the outlying terrain to come up with a better emergency plan. Extracting Hound from that rock slide would have been much more efficiently accomplished if we had gone over more negotiable ground. Ratchet complained that it had taken much too long to reach him. If the slide had happened further out, in similar terrain, we may have been too late."

Jazz's smile faded. The Datsun knew the last thing the Porsche wanted was to be anywhere near the tactician while he considered tactics or anything remotely similar. Still Prowl felt bad for Jazz. He held up the colorful case in his fingers. "I was thinking you might be interested in the newest Madonna cassette. Perhaps even Blaster might enjoy it?" He would just have to pick up a replacement.

Jazz held out his hand, wriggling his fingers eagerly. "Nah, Blaster hates her."

Prowl dropped the cassette into Jazz's palm.

The saboteur quirked his mouth to one side and he subspaced the case. "Y'know if you didn't want me to go, y'could've just said so." With that he walked away.

The Datsun sighed and took those last few steps to freedom. As soon as his feet hit the packed dirt, he transformed and drove away from the big orange ship.

"Optimus to Prowl."

Prowl put more distance between him and the base. "Prowl here." He couldn't just ignore Prime.

"What's your status, Prowl?"

No matter how much he wanted to. "I am off duty, sir."

Though the line remained open, Prime said nothing for a long moment. When he did finally speak, he sounded surprised. "Enjoy your time off then. Report to me when you return to duty."

"Affirmative." Prowl sat low on his suspension. Prime wouldn't be saying that if he knew just how the Datsun was planning on spending his time.

The sun sat low behind the trees, casting the sky into flames. In turn those flames danced upon the red finish of a lone figure, sitting on a small hill. Prowl stopped and transformed, pausing to admire the sight. An unbidden image of red armor riddled with holes, smoking and sparking rose before his mind's optics. He squashed that particular thought with some difficulty.

The tactician opened a tight link. "You might as well light a beacon, wave a flag and start shouting 'Here I am!'"

A laugh answered him. "Yeah, well any Seeker'd be able to see you , no problem. Even Cliffjumper wouldn't be able to miss you!"

Prowl made his way through the trees and plopped down next to the Lamborghini. Without another word he wrapped Sideswipe up in a crushing hug. Surprised, the melee warrior returned the embrace, though not as desperately.

"Slag, Prowl! What brought that on?" The red twin cocked a grin at the tactician. "You'd almost think it's been over four million years since we'd last been alone together."

The crew of the Ark had awakened only a year ago. They had been kept busy between Megatron, the humans, and rebuilding their army.

"I don't think a single unit has ever seen so much action in such a short period of time." Prowl's door wings drooped slightly. "I surmise I'm not used to seeing you come in so badly wounded so often.

Sideswipe rested his hands on the Datsun's shoulders. "And you have to order me in, is that it?" The Lamborghini kissed Prowl's lips reassuringly. "I'm not holding it against you. You have your job, I have mine. We both knew what the risks were when we signed up for the gig." The Lamborghini laughed. "Although, you signed up way before I came around."

Prowl sighed, leaning his forehead against Sideswipe's shoulder. You just don't get it. Sometimes I wish I was as sparkless and calculating as the rumors paint me. But he did have feelings. He just wasn't allowed to act on them, or he would risk shorting out his battle computer. And here Sideswipe is telling me what I logically already know.

However last week Sideswipe had almost died. Again. If Ironhide hadn't gotten away and radioed the Ark, the Decepticon triplechangers would have had themselves a handsome trophy. Prowl had been the one to select Sideswipe for that mission. Knowing full well the danger he'd been placing both of the soldiers. Prowl also knew that if the same mission came up again, he would choose no differently.

Why couldn't Vector Sigma have let him be soldier material rather than officer?

These were sentiments Prowl couldn't quite put into words. They got muddled in his battle computer, and when he thought too long and hard on them, it threatened to shut down. So he expressed his feelings with kisses upon Sideswipe's lips and neck, in fingers digging into armor plating. Then the desperate kisses turned passionate and Sideswipe eagerly returned them, dancing his own fingers over Prowl's door wings.

Prime would have both their heads if he caught them together. He'd never trust his second-in-command, again. Officers didn't fraternize with the soldiers. No matter how long the war. Or how lonely.

Later, after night had darkened the sky, they lay side by side, passion sated. Sideswipe sighed, rolling his head to look at Prowl. "We really should do this more often."

A laugh rumbled through Prowl's ventilators. "It is really hard finding free time with certain nameless bots pulling childish pranks every time I turn around."

The Lamborghini snickered. "How else would you know I care?"

A smile tugged at the corner of Prowl's lips. "Humans send flowers."

Sideswipe lifted himself onto one elbow, draping his knee over Prowl's thigh. "You want flowers?"

The Datsun eyed the red twin leaning over him, this was Sideswipe he was talking to. "No. No, that's quite alright."

The Lamborghini chortled.

Prowl stroked Sideswipe's cheek. "Thank Sunstreaker for me. He caught Optimus in the corridor."

Sideswipe ran a teasing finger down Prowl's chest plate. "He did it for me, 'cause I return the favor."

Prowl tilted his head, pulling his mouth to one side. "I see."

Then Sideswipe initiated a lustful, passionate kiss, silencing anything the Datsun was going to say.

One day, perhaps Prowl wouldn't have to hide his feelings for this soldier under his command. After this war, when they could both go to a simple life.

Chapter Text

Prowl stared intently at the monitors before him. Was that a blip, or a glitch? He keyed in a rescan of that area. Hands suddenly whirled him around, giving him a glimpse of gold plating. A fist impacted into his cheek structure, snapping his head to the side. He tried to stagger back, but a strong hand held him firm. Two more blows unhinged his jaw, and shattered his left optic.

Rushing fluids in his audio sensors muffled Ironhide's angry voice. The other officers present forced his attacker away. Dizzy with pain, Prowl's hands slipped against the control panel and he fell to his aft. He stood and forced himself to focus on the sleek golden warrior, who was trying to fight off the restraining hands.

"Sunstreaker," he said, his loose jaw slurring the words, "why did you attack an officer?"

Sunstreaker stilled to glare at the second-in-command. "Don't act stupid!"

Ironhide shoved Sunstreaker's shoulder. "Don' talk that way t' Prowl."

Prowl steadied his head from another wave of vertigo. "What are you talking about?"

Acid hissed through those beautiful lips, so like his brother's. "You know what I mean."

"What's going on here?" Prime's voice bellowed through the control room. All heads turned to the Autobot commander. Piercing blue optics swept the mechs, taking in Sunstreaker's heaving form, and paused on Prowl' face No further questions were needed. "Ironhide, take him to the brig." Prime's mask lowered in a scowl. "Sunstreaker, I'll talk to you later. Smokescreen, help Prowl to medical. Jazz, tell me what the slag just happened.

The three relatively undamaged officers moved to obey. Ironhide snarled for Sunstreaker to 'git movin'. Smokescreen steadied Prowl. "You're wavering. Can you walk?"

Prowl nodded, though it made the room swim. He took a step to prove it, albeit an unsteady one. Smokescreen shrugged, but kept a hand on Prowl's elbow.

"Well, Prime, I'm not really sure what happened. Sunstreaker jus' waltzed in here 'n…" Jazz's voice faded as they rounded a corner.

Prowl ignored all the looks he received in the hall, pondering Sunstreaker's words.

The two Enforcers walked through the clear glass doors to the med bay. Ratchet looked up from where he was cleaning his tools.

"Slag! What happened?" The CMO took Prowl from the diversionary tactician.

Prowl gratefully sat on the medical berth Ratchet led him to. He gripped the edge in pain as the medic gently examined his face and moved his jaw.

"This is Sunstreaker's work." Ratchet scowled. "He could have knocked your battle computer out of sync. If he did, I'd have to turn him into a petrorabbit. How do you feel?"

The question caught the tactician off guard. "Dizzy."

"Lie down." Red hands steadied the injured mech. "What'd you do to slag him off?"

Prowl had been trying to figure that out while the medic had been talking. "I'm not entirely sure." He only had an inkling of what might be wrong.

"Maybe you've punished his glitch of a brother one too many times?" Ratchet chortled. He administered a sedative. "Speak of the 'Con."

"Hey Prowl! I heard Sunny dented you real good. What'd you do to fry his circuits."

Prowl's intact optic narrowed at the red twin, a plan formulating. "Sideswipe, you need to learn to keep your immaturity contained."

Sideswipe jerked to a surprised stop. "What?"

"Don't talk back to me. I expect to see you scrubbing the floors of section 23 Delta."

The red twin sputtered. "What! But no one even uses that area anymore."

Prowl managed a one-eyed glare. Come on, Sides, don't argue with me right now. "That doesn't mean it can't be kept clean." The security camera in the area had been offline for a metacycle, but there had been bigger problems to deal with.

Surprise turned to hurt, then to anger. Sideswipe turned and stormed out.

Ratchet paused in prepping for repairs. "I know you're mad at Sunstreaker, but do you really want to get on his bad side."

The tactician shrugged. "It doesn't stop him from pulling pranks now." He'll get me back later anyway. The sedative kicked in and Prowl drowsed off, barely aware of the medic's ministrations.

The door whooshed closed behind him. Down the hall, Sideswipe angrily attacked the floor. Prowl winced as he recalled his words.

The red twin looked up at the sound of the door. When he saw who it was, he snapped his head back down, intent on the surface before him.

Prowl knelt down next to Sideswipe. "Sides." He lifted the warrior's chin to look him in the optic.

Or at least he tried to..

Sideswipe jerked to his feet and stomped away. He knelt down and resumed his attack with the scrub pad.

Prowl watched the red mech for a moment before he sighed. He pulled a scrub pad out of subspace and picked up where the Toughline left off. They both remained silent for a few breems.

Suddenly Sideswipe threw his scrub pad down and glared at Prowl. "Prowl!" The Enforcer looked up from his diligent scrubbing of a particularly bad spot. "Slaggit, I can't stay mad at you when you're looking so fragging sexy over there!"

Prowl's doorwings drew back in surprise. Then a smile flitted across his lips. His chevron lifted a little. "Do you want me to stop?"

Sideswipe rose to his feet, scrub pad forgotten and knelt back down next to Prowl. "Nah, I like it when you make my engine turn over like that." Black fingers caressed the newly-hammered dentlines. "We've got to figure out another way to arrange alone time."

Prowl sighed. "I am working on it. It's just… problematic."

Sideswipe suddenly changed subjects. "What'd you do to get Sunny so mad." Wirelight lips traced the same path as the fingers.

Prowl's fuel pump stuttered as his circuits tingled. He couldn't form an answer for a breem. "Can't talk, when you're doing that," he finally stammered. He groaned, turning his head to capture the taller mech's lips. White hands gripped broad shoulders, and Prowl drew Sideswipe closer.

Sideswipe broke away panting. "Seriously, why's Sunny so mad at you?"

Prowl chuckled. "I was trying to answer you." He sobered. "I was hoping you'd be able to tell me." The tactician sat back and related what Sunstreaker had said. Prowl frowned at Sideswipe from under his chevron. "You don't think…"

Blue optics bled to white as the warrior stared at nothing. Air hissed out of his ventilator. "He knows." The two mechs regarded one another with wide optics.

"Slag," Prowl muttered, glancing away. "It hasn't even been a vorn yet."

A half-smile quirked Sideswipe's lips. "Just how long did you think to hide it from Sunny? What?" Sideswipe winced at his lover's glower. "He's my twin. I didn't think it'd keep this long."

Prowl sighed, nodding. "You don't think he'll… tell… anyone?" Fear quieted his vocalizer.

The red mech frowned, drawing Prowl into his arms, unconsciously possessive. "I hope not," and his optics narrowed in thought, "he wouldn't want to get me in trouble like that."

Prowl patiently waited as the twin thought aloud. It didn't hurt that he enjoyed being this close to Sideswipe. There were decacycles where they didn't dare get too close for fear of being caught. Stellar cycles of lonely recharge, waiting for the right moment. Normally, they could barely talk to each other.

So just being held in arms strong enough to rip apart a triplechanger, and to wrap his own arms around the wide back, brought a thrill to Prowl's processor. And befuddled his battle computer. He wanted to end this conversation and feel Sideswipe's lips on his chassis, to put his own mouth on Sideswipe. Just thinking about it made his fuel surge. His logical self, however realized how their relationship needed more than physical intimacy. He also enjoyed seeing the Prankster with such a serious, thoughtful expression. He enjoyed it as much as he knew Sideswipe enjoyed his smiles.

"He's jealous!" Sideswipe's voice brought the tactician out of his reverie.

Prowl tilted his head at the red mech. "Why? That's illogical."

"He's afraid of anything he thinks will take me away." A scowl darkened the red mech's pleasant face. "Ridiculous!"

"Maybe I should talk to him?"

Sideswipe's optics widened. "I don't know . He can be fragging over-protective. How would you, without anyone finding out, anyway? Red's security cameras are everywhere. And you're notsending him down here! I'll never hear the end of it."

"I'll think of something," Prowl murmured, reaching up to nibble on Sideswipe's jaw.

Suddenly he didn't want to talk anymore.

He rose slightly and pushed the warrior to the floor . He dug his fingers into sensitive seams along the Toughline's armor, eliciting a moan from Sideswipe.

Sideswipe's fingers slipped into the junction between Prowl's doorwings and his back. The tactician panted against the red chestplate, his systems threatening to shut down from sensory overload. The red twin fingered the joints that turned his wings into the doors of his Enforcer form. Prowl arched his back, like an autolion, inviting the fingers to press harder.

He pulled himself up to lock lips with Sideswipe. His legs briefly shorted out, toppling him onto his lover. Static dotted his vision.

Sideswipe nipped at Prowl's helmet., wafting air over his audio sensors. "You okay?" The warrior's engine rumbled both aroused and amused.

"Nn. Don't stop."

Sideswipe didn't.

Chapter Text

Saying that the fight was going badly would have been an understatement. The slag had hit the turbines megacycles ago, and did not look to be improving. Ghostly husks of buildings rose amid the battlefield. Only the contested energon silo remained whole, but not for long if the Decepticons followed normal procedure. Obtain any resource possible; leave none for the enemy. They fought on the upper level of the multi-tiered Praxis Ra. Great metal plates supported what used to be a haven for the wealthy and well to do. War had turned it into as much of a slum as the lowest level.

Sideswipe ducked behind one of the skeleton buildings, wincing as he jarred his leg. Blitzwing and his slagging gyro disruptor rifle. The triple changer had knocked him off balance, allowing one of the cassettes, a slagging cassette, to take a shot at him. He took a moment to look the hole in his thigh over. Internal repairs had already closed the fuel lines in that area, so there was not much energon around it. It did not look as bad as he thought, but it stung like the Inferno. Sideswipe glanced around the corner of the building, and swung back around just as two missiles swept past. He kept his sensors on the projectiles, but peeked around the building again. Astrotrain pelted the meager cover the others crouched behind. His sensors informed him that the tracer missiles had arced back around for him.

A touch on his arm made him jerk around, bringing his weapon to bear. The black and white mech stepped back in surprise. Sideswipe relaxed and smiled at Prowl. "Come to join the party?"

"Your leg?" More concern than his voice allowed etched into the second-in-command's face.

Sideswipe calculated less than two klicks until the missiles hit. "Need to move."

Prowl followed the warrior's gaze. He grabbed Sideswipe's arm and dragged him away, his grip tight with worry.

The explosion knocked them both to the ground. The section of plating they stood on groaned under their feet. More missiles exploded around them and a Seeker trine roared overhead.

"What happened to your jet pack?" Prowl shouted over the noise. They flattened themselves to the ground, as Astrotrain swept past, his lasers blazing.

"Same thing that happened to my leg. Why are they missing us?"

As if in answer, the plating groaned again, shifting. Then the entire thing buckled. The world spun, disorienting Sideswipe. He felt Prowl's hand scrabble for his, but just as suddenly it was ripped away. He tumbled aft over head, slamming into everything imaginable. The secondary plate crumpled under the weight of the first and started a chain reaction all the way down to the tenth level.

Sideswipe went offline.

Lights flickered in bewildering patterns through cracks in the rubble. At least he was not buried very deep. Sideswipe lifted a hand and shoved through the thin layer. Scrap metal tumbled to either side of the red mech. He ran a diagnostic as he scanned the area. Sometime during the fall had had slid off the plate entirely. The top of Praxis Ra no longer sparkled with laser fire and missile trails.

Internal repairs had already started working on small things, like some of the energon leaks. Diagnostics told him that dents and his transformation cogs would need to be tended. Great. There goes fast travel. The fall had trashed his communicator as well, so no backup. His empty launcher lay a few dozen feet away from him. Which would explain the burning in his shoulder. Ow. Fragging glitches in a processor.

Slag. Was Prowl still at the top of the collapsed section? His optics swept around him and he activated his scanners, hoping for something from Prowl.

He found the smaller Enforcer at the edge of the collapsed plates. The lowest corner of the top section stood hundreds of feet above them. "I am so glad you fell down here, Prowl." Sideswipe crouched next to the second-in-command, wincing at the energon still leaking from the tactician. "Prowl?"

Blue optics flash in response.

Sideswipe cast about to see if anyone was around. He leaned over and placed a lingering kiss on Prowl's lips

White hands cupped his audio sensors and gently pushed him away. Prowl's optics flickered on to look around. A smile graced the tactician's lips and he drew Sideswipe back down to finish the kiss. A pleased purr rumbled out of Prowl's engine. "What I'd give to online to this every recharge cycle."

Prowl, sentimental? "You sure you're okay?"

"Headache, but kissing you mlbakes it better."

Did Prowl's vocalizer just glitch? Sideswipe decided it was his audios. He furrowed his brow ridge. "What does a diagnostic scan say?"

Prowl went silent, patterns running on his optics. "Internal repairs are already at work on some of the worst of it. " A frown creased his face. "I'm not getting a reading from my battle computer." Prowl sat up and one of his door wings groaned at the hinges, drooping listlessly. "Transforming's out olf the question."

Sideswipe grinned and draped an arm over the tactician's shoulder. "Looks like it's just you and me one-formers."

Prowl giggled.

Sideswipe rocked back on his heels, staring at his superior. "Prowl?" Concern laced his voice.

"One-formers." Giggle. "I'll have to remember that. Robots, no dilsguise," and Prowl curled into a ball of giggle fits.

Now Sideswipe was getting worried.

He reached out and tugged on Prowl's arm, managing to coax the still giggly tactician to his feet. Sideswipe put a finger on Prowl's lips. "Maybe you should be quiet. We really don't want to attract any unwanted attention to us."

Prowl nodded, and modulated his voice quieter. He slipped a kiss onto the warrior's finger, his frame still shaking with the amused rumble of his engine. "We should get back to base camp. Looks like the fight's olbver."

Sideswipe nodded and Prowl set off at a brisk place. The warrior attempted to follow at the same rate, but faltered when his leg nearly gave. Slag. He'd forgotten about that stupid hole. He called Prowl and the tactician turned.

"Oh." Prowl returned to Sideswipe's side. "I don't know what I wblas thinking. Here," he ducked his chevroned head under Sideswipe's arm. "Lean on me."

Prowl's height, or rather lack of it, made it a little difficult for the arrangement. After jostling about for a few klicks, Sideswipe finally managed a few burning steps. Then the tactician paused again. "Sides," Prowl barely spoke above a whisper, "Wherg arle we going agvain?"

Sideswipe stared down at the tactician shocked into silence.

Prowl and Sideswipe stared at the remains of the camp. It looked like everything had been pulled up in a rush. One tent still stood, its metal roof caved in with the imprint of a hand. Cables lay strewn about the mess of toss outs.

Prowl's doorwings shook as a giggle squeaked out of his vocalize. "Look what happlens when I'm dnot holme. Leave for a cycle anb they lreave a mless. Sparlklings."

Sideswipe eased himself to his aft, holding his injured leg in front of him. "Did any of the medics leave behind any tools?"

Prowl planted his fists on his hips, a stern frown on his lips. "And how am I psl'pposed to tell?" Giggle.

I am so not letting you live this down, Prowlie. "Could you look please?"

The tactician snickered as he rifled through the debris, a disturbing image to the warrior watching him. Suddenly he straightened, toolkit in hand and belted out a drinking song about an Autobot femme captured by a Decepticon warlord. Sideswipe hadn't realized Prowl even knew that lewd song.

"Prowl." Sideswipe hissed.

The song stopped and flickering blue optics turned to the red warrior. A drunken grin curved Prowl's normally down-turned lips into a turbinebat's leer.

Sideswipe finally admitted it to himself. Something was seriously wrong with Prowl.

Sideswipe stretched the kinks out his partially repaired leg, watching as Prowl staggered out of the tent and plopped himself next to the Toughline. Energon still glistened along the tactician's form. That worried Sideswipe, it meant Prowl still had a leak. "So if camp has been struck, where to next?"

Prowl lifted his head and stared in each of the eight directions. He tilted his head in thought. Another giggle bubbled out of his vocalize, "I don't- I can't brlememberer." He sobered. "That's so illogical." Glitching laughter snorted out of his closed lips. "I said illogicibal. Hee hee."

Sideswipe covered his optics, unable to watch the spectacle. Normally it would make his spark sing to see Prowl laughing, but right now, it took all of his will not to strangle his lover. "Would you mind running another diagnostic?"

The tactician got his laughter under control. "I can't. Dielgnoshtiks failed lastibit nightb. I can't bridng them balck online." He grinned at Sideswipe. "I hrthink I neled a bmedic."

"No joke." The warrior got to his feet, testing his leg. "Ready for the long walk back to Iacon?"


Sideswipe kissed Prowl in the middle of his chevron and helped the tactician up. "We'll get you some help soon, sparkles."

Prowl stepped away a pout on his face. "I hate it when you call me that," or at least that is what he normally said. This time his vocalize glitched so badly that it nearly garbled the entire message.

"Slag," Sideswipe hissed. "Do you have any idea what might be wrong with you?"

"A-a-a guee-ee-sss?" The glitch seemed to about face from slurring to repetition. Not normal at all for a hardware problem. "B-b-b-attle clompewther." Very odd.

They walked as they talked, navigating the dark streets of Sunken City Delta. "That doesn't make any sense. I thought your systems froze if something went wrong with your battle computer."

"The-e-e-y do-el. Us-sually." Prowl pulled out a canister and a glowing stick popped out. He glanced to Sideswipe. "Dildju lo-ose yourspop?"

Sideswipe pulled out his energon goodie container and popped one into his mouth. "So, if usually you freeze, what happens only rarely?"

"I-I hlate the-e-ese." Prowl reluctantly ate the goody then he answered the question. "Doeln't re-e-member."

Sideswipe was about to ask why not when the distinctive noise of Seeker engines roared overhead. He shoved Prowl against a decrepit building, hiding the Enforcer's bright colors with his own darker body.

A contented purr rumbled out of Prowl's engine. His arms slipped around the warrior's back. Sideswipe looked down form watching the skies at the feeling of gentle nips on his chestplate. He shuddered at the wonderful feeling of Prowl dragging his fingers down the seams in his back. Prowl then reached up and kissed Sideswipe, his lips traced the strong jaw to nip at the black helmet. "It's been too long."

"Primus, Prowl. You're malfunctioning! You're not thinking clearly and I'm not taking advantage of that." Much as I'd like to. Slag, that Enforcer can sure turn my engine. A sound caught his attention and he clamped a hand over Prowl's mouth, silencing the tactician's reply. A seeker trine passed by overhead. He could not tell if it was the same ones as before or a different set. He did notice that they passed by slower and lower then the last ones. Primus fragging smelting pits of slag.

As soon as they vanished from sight, Sideswipe dragged Prowl into a building. He was not sure the tactician was up to a battle of any sort. Nor was he really, but he was used to long odds. Sideswipe was not willing to risk Prowl.

The sharp sounds of confident steps echoed in the streets. Sideswipe pulled out his gun, briefly checking its charge. Only half full. He had to make this quick. He glanced at Prowl to make sure the tactician was not in direct line of sight from the door, and noted the tactician's decidedly disquieted face. A quick scan revealed lower than normal temperature in his extremities. Slag, what else could go wrong?

The red mech pressed his back to the door, arming his gun. He listened, and watched the shadows that moved on the wall. He caught a glimpse of conehead shadows and glass cockpits. Then he threw himself around the threshold, opening fire. Lasers pelted his armor in return. His gun died with a subtle whine. He threw himself into their midst, piledrivers replacing his hands and he pounded on their wings, throwing them out of the doorway and into the street.

They howled at him, lashing out with their feet and fists when he got too close for comfort. Sideswipe snarled promises of pain in return. He grabbed one yellow arm, tossing the Decepticon into a wall. The other two took advantage of his brief attention to the yellow Seeker to sweep him off his feet with a smarting blow to his damaged thigh. They fell on him, tearing and denting his armor.

"Get olff hi-i-im," Prowl snarled. There was the characteristic 'pop pop' of Prowl's rifle and both Decepticons leapt to their feet shrieking in pain. Poppoppoppoppoppop. The Seekers transformed and took off, still screaming in pain.

Sideswipe sat up on his elbows to glare at the tactician. "You should have stayed put."

Prowl leaned against the building, visibly shivering. "Who-o-o's the-be syuper'or offic-c-cer?"

The warrior got to his feet and went over to the Enforcer. He put an arm around the tactician's waist, surprised at how cold Prowl was. "Let's go before they bring reinforcements."

Prowl nodded and stumbled along beside Sideswipe, his systems audibly fritzing. They traveled as fast as Sideswipe could push the tactician. The warrior ground his dental plates as he ignored Prowl's soft requests to stop; he was too tired to go on, to just leave him.

Finally Sideswipe had enough and he whipped about to face the shorter mech. He shook Prowl's shoulders, and fixed an angry stare on the tactician. "How can you ask me to do that, Prowl? I can't just leave you. Slaggit, you're still bleeding out, if I leave you, you'll die. Worse, the Decepticons could find you, it'd be too easy for them. I can't leave you. I'm not going to leave you.I refuse to leave you." He wrapped his shaking lover up in a hug, indulging in a momentary kiss. "I love you too much."

Prowl looked away, and conceded with a nod.

"You know if anyone else caught you, you'd both be slagged."

The two mechs jumped, startled out of their processors.

A sleek golden, and slightly worse for the wear, Toughline pulled up next to them and transformed into Sunstreaker's handsome form.

"Sunstreaker!" Sideswipe reached out to bang a hand on his twin's shoulder. "How'd you find us?"

The golden warrior blinked as if his brother should never have asked that question. He slowly turned and pointed the way they would come. "Did you think I'd leave you? Besides it wasn't that hard." A trail of dripped energon glowed in mockery of Sideswipe's attempts to stay hidden. "Where are you going anyway? New camp's that way." The golden twin frowned down at Prowl pointedly.

Sideswipe tightened his grip on the quivering tactician. "Prowl's not doing so hot, bro. He's a real mess."

Sunstreaker scowled thoughtfully at Prowl, his optics shifting as they changed to infrared. "Is he- Is he shaking? What's wrong with him?"

Prowl giggled suddenly, something he had not done for a while-to Sideswipe's relief. "I-I sbtill on-n-line yrrrou know."

"Tell you on the way."

Sunstreaker looked them over for a moment longer before he reached out to take Prowl. "I know you like cuddling with your superior, but it'd be faster if I take him." He gathered the black and white mech into his arms, with more care than he normally showed. "Just don't tell anybody. And you, stop laughing."

Sideswipe looked over at Prowl. Ratchet had been apoplectic, demanding to know just what the warrior had done to the tactician. It seems that the fall had knocked his battle computer offline, which then cascaded to throwing his other systems out of sync, such as his thermal regulator. There was a reason Prowl froze when his computer locked up.

Both of them were supposed to be recharging, but Sideswipe found himself unable to rest, and he saw that Prowl already had a small collection of datapads to peruse. The tactician's door wings twitched and he looked up. A smile lit his face, quickly stifled.

"Shouldn't you be recharging?" the second-in-command asked.

Sideswipe regarded Prowl evenly, brow ridge quirked. "Shouldn't you?" he countered smoothly.

"Need something to occupy that troublesome mind of yours?" Another twitch of the doorwings, a soft rumble of an engine. A hidden message. Say yes.


Prowl looked around and slid off the gurney. He quietly made his way over to the red warrior, careful not to wake any of the other recharging patients. It was a small trek, as Ratchet had not wanted them to start shouting at each other and so separated them as much as he could. Prowl lay a datapad, screen down, on Sideswipe's chest. White fingers surreptitiously brushed down the warrior's forearm to grasp the black hand at the end.

"I expect a full report."

Sideswipe waited until the tactician had slipped back onto his gurney before he peeked at the screen. A time and coordinates was etched across the top of the screen. Strangely enough it was followed by a brief message, all printed so that no one would recognize the script. Prowl never liked to leave messages for his lover, written or verbal, for fear that they would fall into the wrong hands.

I have no idea what I did. Did I make a fool of myself?

Sideswipe set the datapad back down after memorizing those words, and the time for their next rendezvous before he cleared the screen. He looked at Prowl with a knowing smile on his lips and nodded. Twice.

Oh, yes Prowl. You made quite a fool of yourself.

Now how much could he make up, and still have his lover believe it?


Chapter Text

Sideswipe paused at the entrance to the med bay. In his time assigned to Autobot City, he'd come to learn the arrangement of the triage, mostly due to almost always being in the care of the medics. Code Blacks sat in the back, pain dulled with sedatives. Reds were in the middle, actively being worked on. Yellows sat close to the Blacks, perpendicular against the right hand wall. Greens lay against the left hand wall. Whites waited next to the entrance, and out of the way of the doors.

He saw none of the crew of the shuttle anywhere.

His own injuries forgotten, he turned and headed toward the shuttle crash site. He ignored the people calling his name, his mind set on a singular purpose.

He reached the edge of the impact zone and looked down at the smoldering remains.

Where was Ratchet, directing the injured? Where was Ironhide, insisting he was fine? Where was Brawn offering to help move the debris? Primus, where was Prowl?

The sun glinted off his brother's golden armor. Sunstreaker was talking to an upset Hound. He couldn't bask in his brother's distant presence for long. He needed to find Prowl.

Sideswipe started for the shuttle, his fuel pump hammering, echoing the throb of his spark.

"Sideswipe, wait!" Sunstreaker yelled.

But Sideswipe didn't listen. The Protectobots paused in cleaning up to look at the red twin. Their optics slid back to where Sideswipe knew his brother was running up.

Hotshot grabbed Sideswipe's upper arm. "You really shouldn't go in there."

He jerked his arm out of the team leader's grasp and strode up the ramp and into the shuttle.

The smell of burnt wires and half-processed energon assaulted his olfactory sensors.

First Aid straightened from where he worked on Brawn. "Sideswipe, what are you doing here?"

He couldn't make the scene before him compute. "Where's Ratchet?" he finally choked.

The medic's visor dimmed and he silently gestured toward the fore of the shuttle. Tarps covered mech-sized lumps. Sideswipe couldn't get it into his cortex that they were people.

First Aid materialized at his side. "Why aren't you in medical? You're damaged."

Sideswipe gaped at Aid briefly. His optics slid back to the tarps. As if he just needed a second look, he saw a dark grey hand, one that had beaten so many Decepticons, covered in energon.

There under that tarp, a boxy chest and two protrusions like Ratchet's chevron.

His fuel pump threatening to fail, his optics turned to the last tarp. Door panels peeked out of the edges.

"No." Sideswipe's legs nearly gave out as he recognized that profile. He couldn't bring himself to call it Prowl, not yet, he had to be sure. He had to see. Bluestreak and Smokescreen, both of them, they all have that same conformation. It had to be one of them. Had to be. He moved almost without thinking, crumpling to his knees, dragging the tarp off. Shaking, he stared down at the Datsun. His head hurt and he panted as his cooling system couldn't keep up with his overclocked processor. Black fingers caressed the cold, ash grey crown. It couldn't be, but it was: Prowl.

He looked up at the silent medic. "Why aren't you doing something to help them? You're supposed to be Ratchet's slagging protégé. Save them!"

First Aid just stood there, fists clenched at his side, visor dark.

His fuel tanks churned in objection to his overheating system. He curled over Prowl's form, silently begging the tactician for some kind of response.

Aid's hand appeared on his shoulder. "Sideswipe, I know what they meant to you, but-" Sideswipe whirled, his black fingers latching onto the medic's throat.

"Know?" he bellowed, rising to his full, formidable height. First Aid's head pressed against the shuttle's roof. "You know what he meant? How could you? How could you know anything? How could know that I-" His voice cut off in a short burst of static. Millennia of habit kicked in. What did it matter now if he said anything? How could their punishment be any worse than the ache in his spark.

"Let him go, Sideswipe," Hot Spot ordered.

First Aid dropped to the floor with a crash. Sideswipe couldn't take anymore. With a wail he shoved past Hot Spot and threw himself at the ground. His bumper impacted the hard rock as he struggled through his transformation. His wheels fought for purchase and he took off.

Sunstreaker hollered after him, beating back the Protectobots trying to restrain him.

Sideswipe's bottom carriage dragged painfully against the ground as he drove heedless of the rough terrain. He scrambled out of the crater and throttled away from the lifeless husk of his lover.

He couldn't say it. There was nothing they could do to him and he still couldn't say it. Couldn't say that he loved Prowl. He ignored everyone he passed, striking anyone who didn't move out of his way. He blasted static at everyone trying to reach him, and then turned off his communicator. He shuttered himself from his bond to Sunstreaker.

He drove. Away from the shuttle. Away from Metroplex. He drove on the interstate, ignoring the sirens that chased him. Reminded him. Then he turned off, onto a hidden dirt track, where he jolted to his feet and thrust himself into the foliage.

Warnings of low fuel levels flashed across his vision, but he disregarded them, intent on his destination.

He collapsed at the top of a hill, the crest worn bare from previous visits. He curled into himself, his arms wrapped around his head. He covered his optics; he could still see Prowl's still form. He pressed his palms to his audio receivers; he could still hear that Primus-awful silence. He stopped ventilating; the smell of death lingered.

His systems warned of overheating, accompanied by low fluid levels. He shut down unnecessary systems.

He couldn't remember Prowl's smile, only the look of shock imprinted on his face. He couldn't remember that rare laugh that he always sought to bring out, only stillness, only the quiet. He longed for that warm, gentle touch, but his fingers could only feel cold metal.

Armor crumpled under his crushing grip. Shudders racked his frame and a stressed whine rumbled out of his vocalizer. Overtaxed systems heated. He couldn't even yell at Prowl for breaking any promises. They had both agreed never to make any. They were in the middle of a war, it would be illogical.

He'd just never expected to outlive Prowl.

He squeezed his optics shut. Slaggit, Prowl, I'm the fragging warrior. Why did it have to be you?

The diagnostic overlay in his optics warned of imminent stasis lock from overheating.

Arms wrapped around him from behind.

Surprised he brought his optical sensors back online. "Prowl?" Desperate hope made his voice raise a few octaves.

"No, I'm much better looking." Gold hands forced Sideswipe to look up into steel blue optics. "Primus, bro, I didn't want you to go in there. What a welcome home. You're hot…" he murmured, his fingers caressing Sideswipe's face. "Slag, why aren't your ventilators working? You're not that damaged! Don't do this to me, Sides," A frantic call erupted over all frequencies. Arms clutched tightly at the red frame. "Please."

Chapter Text

Sideswipe stood back for a moment to admire his work. Yes, yellow really did bring out steel blue, but it didn't look so good on Tracks. Especially not post-it note yellow. He may not have Sunny's artistic eye, but he figured that a bronzer yellow would go well with the vain mech's optics and his personality, or he could just stick to his normal cobalt. He ensured his 'masterpiece' was still in recharge before he left the lounge. Two pranks in one night. He felt accomplished.

 He tucked his hands behind his back, hiding the evidence of his earlier prank, and made his way to the wash racks. He even paused to chat with a few of his friends along the way. See he could be a nice, civil mech unlike certain Dandelions of Death. He cleaned the evidence of his pranks from his hands, and road dirt from his body.

Arms slid around him from behind, and he felt the twin pinpricks of a chevron. Sideswipe stiffened, optics wide. 'It can't be. He wouldn't dare, not in full view of Red's camera.' The mech behind him nibbled on the edges of the warrior's windshield. His vision darkened as he imagined his lover behind him, doorwings flared in arousal. His cortex turned the rumble of the other mech's engine into a familiar purr. Fingers dug into his abdominal plating and Sideswipe's own engine crooned to life. 'Oh, Primus, I need to get with Prowl.'

Sideswipe leaned back into the shorter mech. Datsun short. Air whispered from his ventilator as he mouthed his lover's name. The exploratory fingers caressed his headlights. Sideswipe moaned, systems heating in response to the sensory input.

'Why not? Prowl will never know. He's here, right now, and you won't get in trouble for it.'

The other mech slid around to press against the warrior's front, chestplate to chestplate. Deft fingers slid into armor seams and warm lips captured the red twin's. Sideswipe kept his optics offline, allowing his fantasy to play in his mind. He found himself leaning into the kiss, responding to the touch. His own hands lifted and he gripped the doorwings he knew were there.


Just like that his fantasy broke. He activated his optics and stared down at the grey Datsun. "Bluestreak." He couldn't quite modulate the disappointment out of his vocalizer. His engine softly puttered out and his circuits cooled.

Bluestreak regarded him with suspicion. "Why weren't your optics on? Was I boring you that much? Because I'm sure I can think of something more exciting if that's the case. I know you hate being bored, it's almost like what the humans call an allergy with you. You just begin itching to do something."

Sideswipe grunted and silenced the gunner with a lustless kiss. Bluestreak responded eagerly, pressing against the red twin, while his fingers resumed their dance over sensitive circuits.

It wouldn't be the first time Sideswipe had a fling with Bluestreak. Prowl had the idea that one way to draw suspicion of any kind off of them was for one of them to have plausible deniability. The tactician calculated that it would look odd if both of them remained completely unattached for an extended period of time. Sideswipe would be the first to admit that Prowl was the bigger mech. He would never have been able to stand idly by, knowing his lover was in the arms of another.

Although those previous times had been with both Prowl's knowledge and permission.

Sideswipe broke away and took a step back. "I can't."

Bluestreak frowned. "Now you can't? You didn't seem to mind a few klicks ago. And I know I'm not the best looking mech, and that I talk a lot, but that never seemed to bother you before."

'Ah Blue, all you need is to be colored black and white and you'd be perfect.' But he couldn't exactly say that. "It's not you Blue, it's me.

The Datsun's doorwings drew back. "You've been watching too much human TV if you think I'm going to believe that. I never thought you liked soap operas anyway. That always seemed more like Blaster, or Hound. You remember how they would always watch those vidcordings of 'Lost without Recharge,' and 'Sparked at the Moment'. I don't think even they ever used such a silly line."

Sideswipe's jaw worked as he tried to think of a smart retort.

"What? Are you thinking about someone else? Smokescreen? Streetwise? I'm here, right now. They aren't." Bluestreak's grip on Sideswipe's waist tightened. He pulled the red twin in for another kiss.

Primus, Blue. Did you read my mind earlier?

A little voice in the back of his cortex, the one that always got him in trouble had to add in, Prowl would understand. It's all in the name cover-up. At the same time, he ached for Prowl, and he couldn't pretend talkative Bluestreak was the quieter, soft-spoken tactician by a long shot. He didn't want to hurt Bluestreak's feelings, but he couldn't bring himself to desire Bluestreak. He indulged in the seductive kiss for only a moment longer before he firmly pulled himself away. "I can't, Bluestreak. I'm sorry."

Sideswipe turned the shower off and walked out, dripping wet. He stomped down the corridors of the Ark and nearly mowed Jazz over, so distracted was he.

"Whoa, Sideswipe." Jazz grinned as he wiped at the wet spots on his chestplate arms and legs. "Ratchet'd have a fit if someone slips an' hurts themselves in one a' yer puddles. Might wanna dry off." Jazz pulled a towel of subspace, though what he was doing with one was beyond the warrior. Sideswipe took the proffered cloth. The saboteur's grin widened, a truly typical Jazz feat, as it never seemed possible, but he always managed it. "Prowl wouldn't be terribly happy if he found out yer leavin' a mess for someone else ta clean up."

Sideswipe paused to stare at the saboteur. Jazz's grin gave away nothing but his amusement. The red twin quickly wiped off the last noticeable drop and shoved the towel into Jazz's hand. He quickly got away from the saboteur. Such an innocent little statement, so why did it send his fuel pump racing with panic. Jazz had the uncanny habit of making Sideswipe insensibly nervous. Like he knew The Secret. How Sideswipe couldn't figure out. He'd have to talk to Prowl, maybe the tactician could think of anything that might have given them away. In the morning. Midnight had come and gone while he was busy.

Sunny already lay in recharge when Sideswipe entered their quarters. He shelved his launcher and climbed onto the top bunk. Sideswipe clasped his hands behind his head and stared at the orange ceiling, settling his systems into recharge. When he shuttered his optics, the feeling of phantom fingers on his chest, and phantom lips on his neck, brought him right back online. His ventilators worked to cool off the heat brought on by his engine suddenly coming to life. Sideswipe laid there, half expecting Bluestreak, or, even better, Prowl, to materialize next to him.

His berth suddenly jolted. "Sides, you'd better not be plugged into yourself up there. I'm trying to recharge here, and I can't if your engine's droning."

Sideswipe harrumphed, but cut his engine off. "You're the one who needs to self-stimulate. I've got mechs jumping me in the wash racks."

The berth jolted again from another vicious kick. "Shut up, bro. At least I don't have nothin' to hide. So who's jumping you in the showers?"

"Well, he's a Datsun."

Sideswipe could almost feel Sunny start in surprise. "He wouldn't dare," the gold twin hissed. "Not under Red's camera, not here in the ark."

Sideswipe grinned to himself, he couldn't quite resist nettling his brother. "You know Red enjoys the show."

An annoyed growl rumbled from Sunstreaker's vocalizer. "All right, smart aft. So who was it- Wait, it was Bluestreak wasn't it? He and Hound were chugging high-grade when I left the lounge." A pause. "Did you?"


Sunstreaker chuckled. "Got yourself all revved up over it though, didn't you? What'd you do imagine it was Prowl?"

"Thought you wanted to recharge Sunny." Sideswipe had no desire to tell his brother just how revved up he'd gotten.

"Slagger. Don't wake me up again."

The red twin could hear his brother's systems cycling down again for recharge. Sideswipe went through the various ways of arranging for a rendezvous with his superior officer, until he finally settled on one. Hopefully the tactician could escape his duties for a few megacycles. Sideswipe still wanted to talk to him about Jazz.

"Jazz ta Prowl."

 Prowl snapped online from a deep recharge. He lay still for a moment as his systems booted up. "Prowl here."

"Sorry ta wake ya, but Gears just found Tracks in th' training room."

Prowl sat up and swung his legs off the berth. He registered the time on his chronometer: 0630. "This is unusual… why?"

Jazz chuckled over the comm. "Th' fact that he's tied up t' th' punchin' bag an' covered in sticky notes."

The second-in-command indulged in a chuckle to himself. "I would rate that as unusual." He stood and strode out of his quarters. "Did he say who did it?" Though he didn't really have to ask. He knew who it was. It had Sideswipe written all over it.

"Ah, c'mon. Y'know why he's the favorite target of our fav'rite pranksters. It's imposs'ble ta wake him, when he's rechargin'. Are y'comin'?"

A frown crossed Prowl's face, although the Porsche couldn't see it. "Jazz, untie him. This isn't a human circus."

"Aww, yer no fun Prowl."

He could already hear Tracks' voice reverberating through the vents. "My sense of fun tends to dissipate in the face of grumpy, sleepy mechs." He pulled up the duty roster. "Ratchet is presumably in recharge. If he wakes up, I'm sending him to you."

"Man, Prowl, that's mean. What'd I do to deserve this?"

Prowl stiffened, his movements growing jerky with contained anger. He cut off the communications. If he responded to that, he'd explode. If he exploded, he risked revealing his secret. He couldn't do that, didn't dare. He stopped at the entrance to the training room to compose himself.

"When I get my hands on that arrogant, stupid Lamborghini, I'll make him wish Ratchet had gotten a hold of him instead. I'm covered in glue. My finish is ruined!"

Jazz barely contained his snickering as he pulled yellow Post-It notes off Tracks' back. The tiny yellow squares littered the ground around the two sports cars.

"Are you saying you saw him do it?" Prowl examined the scene in an attempt to find evidence of the perpetrator. He wasn't surprised to not find any.

Tracks paused in picking at another square to look at the Datsun. "Well, no…" He suddenly stepped forward, prodding a finger at Prowl's chest. "But you know it was him! You're not going to let him get away with this again, are you?"

Prowl tilted his head, his optics continuing their scan of the room. "If we can prove it was him, I'll deal with it."

Tracks shook his fists at the ceiling. "Argh! You know it was him! Who else would pull such a childish stunt?"

Finished with his scan, he turned to the blue warrior. "He is innocent until proven guilty. You know that." He smiled reassuringly. "At least you weren't damaged, this time."

"Not damaged? Didn't you hear me? My finish is ruined, how can I look my best when I'm covered in glue?"

"Hey Huffer!" Jazz called to the minibot who walked into the room. "Why don't you come over here and help Tracks get all these sticky notes off."

Tracks stiffened, shooting Prowl a pleading look.

"My finger joints are all stiff, but I guess I can try." The little minibot pulled one of the yellow papers off Tracks' leg.

Prowl wore his blank face. "I'm going to look at the video feed, there should be something there." The tactician turned and headed out, Huffer's and Tracks' complaints echoing in his receptors.

Jazz slid up beside him, smile in place. "Need some energon? I figured y'musta come straight here and could use a refueling."

Prowl shook his head. "I'll grab it on my way to the command center. Thank you though."

Pounding feet was the only warning Prowl was given. He suddenly found the world spinning, and hands grabbed his arms to steady him. Red flashed before his vision before his optics rebooted themselves. The other mech pressed a crumpled ball of paper into his hands. That single action narrowed the identity of the individual down to one mech.

"Sorry Prowl." Sideswipe waved and continued his dash down the hall.

"Sideswipe, where were you last night?" Turning to block Jazz's view, his doorwings rising in faux ire, Prowl uncurled his fingers.

"Talking with Smokescreen, showered , then I hit the berth." A pause. "Why?"

Seemingly meaningless markings covered the paper, but Prowl picked out a bold curving hump followed by three chevron-shaped lines. The hill, third shift. Most of the crew would be offline in recharge. "I was wondering if you knew anything about Tracks?" Three clicks in the transmission gave agreement to the rendezvous.

"Tracks? What about Tracks?" Came the well-practiced innocence.

Jazz snickered as Prowl flicked his doorwings in annoyance.

"Well, guess y'couldn't expect no better from him."

Prowl shrugged. "Didn't hurt to ask."

"Oh and about th' video feed…" Jazz had Prowl's full attention. "Th' cameras have been fritzing again."

The tactician wanted to do nothing more than bang his head against the wall. There went that idea. Still he could at least try, a shot in the dark, as the humans might say. He swung by the lounge and retrieved a mug of energon for himself, forcing Jazz to get his own.

"Don't you have patrol?" Prowl didn't raise his eyes from the report in his hand.

"Check the roster again."

Prowl paused to glare at the Porsche. "What did you bet about this time?"

"Th' next target. 'Screen thought for sure it'd be Jack's lab."

Prowl rapped his fingertips against the back of the datapad in his hand. He didn't like it when Jazz pulled stunts like that and the saboteur knew it.

"Hey Prowlie, shift's covered, right? Ain't that all that matters?"

The second-in-command rumbled indecipherable words. Jazz laughed and hooked his arm around Prowl's waist, spinning him merrily. Prowl slapped a hand over the mouth that swooped down for a kiss. Jazz didn't even pause, but released him, grin still in place.

"Well, I'm gonna see if Blaster feels like a com'dy. Y'wouldn't wanna sneak outta work and join us?"

Prowl gulped his energon down and tossed the empty cup at Jazz. He turned on his heel and walked away. His audio receptors caught the sharp smack of Jazz catching the cup.

"Hey now, Prowlie, mechs get in trouble for throwing things." Jazz called after Prowl.

"Privilege of rank," Prowl tossed back.

He turned a corner and nearly ran Sunstreaker over. The two Autobots shared a long look, both warning the other against speaking. Sunstreaker rubbed at a scuff from the impact with Prowl and stalked off.

The tactician watched the golden warrior continue down the hall and let himself relax in the slightest. Sometimes he wondered how things would be if he didn't have to hide his love for Sideswipe. Somehow he doubted Sunstreaker would welcome him with open arms and spark. But at least he wouldn't be pestered by unwanted advances.

Ironhide stood in front of the monitors, arms crossed over his chest.

Prowl flicked his doorwings in surprise. "Where's Red Alert?"

 Ironhide snorted. "Tol' him ter get lost. He hasn't recharged in three days. Tol' him I'd let Ratchet turn him into a toaster if he was caught."

A smile touched Prowl's lips. Red Alert distrusted the CMO, with his constant threats. The Security Officer was convinced Ratchet would follow through one of these days.

"I don't suppose we have footage of the training room from last night?"

Ironhide entered a few commands. "Nope. Sorry thar, Prowl. They weren't working, still aren't."

Prowl narrowed his optics. Why would Smokescreen think someone was going to set a prank in the lab? "Wait, what about Wheeljack's lab?"

Ironhide shook his head. "Not since 'Jack blew them up th' other day. Grapple hasn't had a chance to replace them." The old mech grumbled. "We should move th' lab out to the old medical bunker."

"It's too exposed there. That's why we moved the med bay back inside, remember." Prowl ran calculations through his battle computer.

"Yeah, yeah."

It wouldn't be too hard to do something to Wheeljack's lab. There were enough inventions to cater to the simplest of pranksters, much less the Prankster Prime. The only problem was that many of those inventions had a tendency to…

The Ark shook and rumbled.

… explode.

Ironhide turned wide optics on the tactician. Though the older mech shouldn't be surprised by the occurrence, it happened often enough that even Red Alert was inured to them.

"Chip was helping Wheeljack this mornin'."

Prowl whirled around and charged down the hall, doorwings flared stiffly behind him. "Prowl to Ratchet."

"Get First Aid to slagging do it," came the sleepy snarl. "Wheeljack deserves it if 'Aid crosses wires fixing him."

"Chip was in there as well."

Prowl quietly muted his side of the channel of blistering words that followed.

"First Aid," Ratchet snapped over a general line,"report to Wheeljack's lab." The CMO switched back to private. "I'm on my way."

Smoke, grisly and green, poured from the blackened, partially-opened doorway. A grey hand gripped the edge of one of the doors. Prowl braced his own hands and shoved the doors the rest of the way apart. He caught the inventor as he staggered out of the lab.

His broken vocal indicators sparked, lighting up his charred and wrecked armor. Chunks had been taken out of his shoulder and thighs, exposing broken wires. Wheeljack leaned heavily against Prowl, coughing to clear his ventilators.

In his left hand he cradled the swooning, bloody body of Chip.

"Smoke's noxious," the inventor choked. He put action to words and moved away from the tactician, sliding along the wall and away from his lab.

Prowl paused to glance at the mess inside the lab, and then swept over to support Wheeljack. Not even half a breem later, First Aid appeared and took the human away from Wheeljack.

Ratchet was right behind his apprentice. The CMO glanced at Wheeljack, but his optics focused on Chip.

Wheeljack repeated his warning about the smoke and Ratchet all but dragged them into the med bay. Prowl waited, patient but worried, while Ratchet examined Chip. True to his words, he let First Aid work on Wheeljack. Tools designed especially to treat their small human friends retracted into Ratchet's fingers. An oxygen mask covered the boy's face, and white bandages wrapped his head. The CMO stalked over to glare at his best friend.

"What slagging aft-headed thing were you working on this time?"

Prowl continued to wait, the question had been crackling in his vocalizer since he'd seen Chip in Wheeljack's hand.


Both tactician and the two medics blinked. "Schematics did that?" Ratchet jabbed a finger at the bandages.

"No…" Wheeljack winced as First Aid fiddled too close to still sensitive wires.

"Then what?" Ratchet exploded.

"Spring loaded trap. Is he okay?" Wheeljack suddenly asked, straining to see around the medic's boxy form.

Prowl turned to Ratchet for the other question he wanted answered.

"He almost wasn't. He will be okay, though. Mild concussion, smoke inhalation, poisoning. Luckily I got to him before it became much worse." Ratchet wasn't being egotistic, but truthful. First Aid wouldn't have known what to do about the human besides the most basic of treatments. The junior medic liked the humans well enough, unlike certain golden twins, but tended to disregard their medical needs.

Ratchet eyed the inventor. "So what the slag exploded."

"The weights attached to the net hit my explotivegidget."

Prowl watched as the CMO considered whether he could be still mad at Wheeljack. Normally he would have found the scene amusing, but looking at the little body on the medical berth, he couldn't find anything funny.

And he knew who was to blame. Even if he had no proof.

And that made him furious.

Sideswipe stared up at the stars, twirling a branch in his fingers. He wondered if Prowl was going to renege on his promise to meet out here. When he'd returned from patrol, Prowl had called him into his office. The tactician had very coldly asked about his whereabouts again. It wasn't until after talking to Prowl that he heard about Chip.

 The branches cracked and moaned with the weight of something pressing against them, and Sideswipe turned, gun in hand. Moonlight gleamed off a white chest and helm. Sideswipe put his gun away and reached out to draw the Datsun to him.

Prowl stood there, unresponsive as Sideswipe lavished him with kisses. The warrior ran his fingers up Prowl's back and dug them into the joints of his doorwings. The panels moved, and the white and black mech grabbed at Sideswipe as he sagged. Both of their engines rumbled as Sideswipe pressed his lover to the soft earth. Prowl gripped Sideswipe's arms as the larger mech pressed his fingers under plating to reach sensitive circuits. Yet the Datsun still didn't return the caresses or the kisses. Sideswipe murmured words for his lovers audio's only, capturing his lips in a deep kiss.

A moan rumbled from the Datsun's chest, and one of his white hands traced a line from the red arms up to Sideswipe's face plate. Prowl's fingers gently caressed the warrior's cheek.

Sideswipe nipped at Prowl's lips, and turned his attention on the wires and cables of the other's neck.

Prowl's fingers pressed the red twin's face away.

The two stared at one another, until the black and white mech sat up, forcing Sideswipe to his aft.

"I can't do this, not right now."

Gears ground in frustration as the Lamborghini growled. "Why?"

The tactician shook his head, refusing to look at the warrior. "I can't be your lover, the officer in me is getting in the way."

"What?" Shock doused Sideswipe's purring engine.

Seeming to realize what he had implied, Prowl took one of the red twin's black hands into his own. "Just right now. I'm too mad. I look at you, and all I can see is Chip, bleeding in Wheeljack's hand."

The warrior opened his mouth, denial on his vocalizer.

"Don't. Don't lie to me. Not when we're here as equals." The black and white doorwings drooped. "Why did you have to do that when you knew you were going to request a rendezvous."

"I didn't know." Sideswipe said softly.

Prowl's gaze settled on the red twin.

"Prowl, I'm-"

"If you continue in that circuit, I'm going to drag you down to the brig right now, and slag what anyone thinks."

The red twin sighed. "Can we talk about something else, then?"

Prowl was silent a moment, his doorwings shifting as he considered the warrior. "About?"


Air hissed from the tactician's ventilators, drawing Sideswipe's guilty, wondering optics. "What about Jazz?"

Sideswipe related the disturbing, one-sided conversation he'd had with the saboteur. Sideswipe thought he imagined the brief look of panic on Prowl's face, one that was quickly replaced by a neutral mask. "Prowl, did we give ourselves away? Does Jazz know? Does anyone else know?"

"I'm sure it was simply coincidence."

Sideswipe narrowed his optics. The tactician didn't believe in coincidence, for logic and coincidence didn't mesh very well. "Prowl, is there anything I should know?"

The second-in-command stood and stepped over to Sideswipe. He bent down and placed a kiss on the warrior's cheek. "I love you," he whispered before he straightened and walked away.

"Slaggit, Prowl, that's not answering my question."

"I will answer when I am ready to, not before."

Sideswipe dug his fingers into the dirt packed from their weight. "What the slag is that supposed to mean?"

"Please, just trust me."

The warrior threw himself onto his back, arms spread. Slag, frag, slotted smelting scrap. Prowl was hiding something. The tactician, who hated evasion and omission, was not telling the truth somewhere. And slaggit, he still wanted Prowl.

Chapter Text

Sunny an' me don't have a lot in common. He's a big, burly warrior, relyin' on his strength an' not so much on his cortex. If I trusted only my strength, I'da been dead vorns ago. Sunny's one half of a twinned spark. There's no slaggin' way I understand that. No one can. Sunny's antisocial, an' some might say I'm a social butterfly. I just like to think I'm friendly.

Nevertheless there's one thing we share in common. We both love someone and can't do nothin' about it. His lover is still on Cybertron. I can't even call my interest a lover, 'cause he's spurned every single one'a my advances. Still, Sunny an' I find a strange camaraderie in not being able to have what we most long for. Not that either of us spend every recharge alone. We both find substitutes to tide us over until the cycle we're in our desired's arms.

So when I saw my opportunity, naturally I seized it.

I was monitorin' th' grid while Prowl was working through what went wrong in th' last battle. I didn't quite understand the diagrams he was lookin' at. I knew that somehow th' 'Cons had separated all three of our gestalt teams. Devastator an' Bruticus had both torn up a good majority of our troops, an' the city to boot. Most of th' crew were still in recovery, or working despite their partial repairs. Ratch was fritzin' because he doesn't have th' materials on hand for some of th' repairs, an' has to wait for them. As a result, Prowl was missin' one'a his doorwings, an' I could see him shiftin' ta regain his balance every so often. I think I got off the lightest outta all'a us. I just had a few holes blown through me, all'a them missin' vital circuits and parts.

"Prowl," Prime stepped up behind his second-in-command. I saw in his face somethin' I rarely saw, an' never directed at Prowl. Suspicion. Naturally my nosy self took th' trouble to eavesdrop on their conversation.

Prime's voice dropped a few decibels, but I could still hear him. "I was wondering if you could explain some inconsistencies in your activities."

I love my visor, it lets me tilt my head ever-so-slightly an' observe without bein' observed. Prowl's expression shifted so quickly, I almost thought I imagined his surprise. "I'm not sure I know what you're talking about, Prime." The Datsun pitched his voice low, so I had ta strain t'hear him.

Maybe Prime was havin' the same problem, 'cause he leaned closer. "Are you sure there's nothing I should know about, Prowl?" Trust Prime not t' outright accuse anyone, at least not before they have a chance ta defend or explain themselves.

I saw Prowl struggle to keep his façade. That's when it hit me. Slag, Prowl was hiding something. He was thinkin' about, or probably had been, lying to Prime. An' I knew Prime realized this, and it hurt him. Of all the mechs Prime put his trust in, Prowl was always th' least likely to betray him. He was too by th' book, he'd pob'ly arrest himself first.

"No, Prime," Prowl finally said.

Anger touched our commander's optics an' he pulled a datapad out of subspace an' thrust it into Prowl's white hands. "Then you have a reasonable explanation for why you weren't where you say you were."

Prowl ducked his face out of Prime's sight, hiding under the edge of his helm an' his chevron as he looked the datapad over. Prime couldn't see it, but I could. Prowl's optics widened at what he read an' his face slacked in shock and fright. I could almost see him processing for a reason for whatever it was.

I managed to catch a few dates and times as Prowl scrolled through them. I didn't know what Prowl was hidin', but that didn't mean I couldn't help.

"Aw, man, Prime. I didn't know you was monitorin' our extracurricular activities."

Both of them turned to look at me, both surprised.

"You know where he was?" Prime asked.

Prowlie, man, I hope y' ain't betrayin' us t' th' 'Cons. Of course that was ridiculous. Prowl of all bots? Tch, right and the Dinobots were rocket scientists.

"Sure, like last April, on the…" I made a point of pausing as though to recall the exact date. Prowl's optics widened further, showing the edges of his optical lens. "…twentieth. He was meetin' me fer some alone time. It's hard to find time together here, y'know." I had to hold back a guffaw as Prowl looked on the verge of a crash. Thankfully, I was known to run off without lettin' anyone know. Bad habit for an officer, but good fer Prowl's situation.

Prime drew himself up and blinked down at both of us.

Prowl reached out a hand an' placed it on mine. I could feel th' slight tremor of his fingers from that contact. "You know how hard it is for me to get away from work, Prime. I'm always bringing it to my quarters. It distracts me from Jazz when he'd rather have all my attention."

When Prowl tried to pull his hand out of mine, I wrapped my fingers around his an' brought them up to place a kiss on his knuckles. "'s okay Prowlie, I know you're a busy mech."

Prime shifted with distinct discomfort. "Ah, well, certainly that is nothing to hide, Prowl. I'm sorry, I hadn't realized. How long…?"

I couldn't answer that, 'cause I didn't know how far back we were coverin'.

Thankfully, Prowl did know. "Shortly after we woke here." He placed his other hand on top of mine, giving it a grateful squeeze. "We came so close to permanent deactivation I couldn't bear him dying without knowing how I felt."

"Very good then." Primes' optics brightened in relief. "If you need time off, Prowl, I'm sure we can work something out." Prime put a large hand on our shoulders. "You're not…?"


Ouch, Prowl. Careful there, y'might blow yer cover.

The Datsun glanced at me. "We'll wait until after the war for that. If you could keep it quiet until then, Prime."

"Ah. You don't want to share quarters?"

"That would most certainly give it away, so no, thank you."


I'm sure by the time the war ends, we'll have 'fought' and 'broken up.' Well, not if I have anythin' t' say 'bout that. In th' meantime, I'm gonna t' pump this for all it's worth.

Prime seemed satisfied an' walked back to his office.

I leaned towards Prowl an' nuzzled his cheek , fully aware that Red's cameras had caught all of that. "Least now we don't have t'hide it."

The look he shot me could'a frozen fire. "You know I don't like public displays, Jazz." He caressed my cheek with stiff fingers as he pushed me away. "We'll talk about this tonight in my quarters, love," he whispered in my receiver.

Y' know I'm there Prowl.

My shift ended before his, so I went to spruce myself up. Cleaned. Fresh coat of wax. I think I could'a competed with Sunny an' Tracks. Now, if a certain tactician would notice.

I gave him thirty earth minutes to get off and get some energon. Then I chimed for his attention. The door slid opened an' I stepped into his room.

He kept the lights at a medium brightness, enough t' see by, without being too drainin' on th' reserves. He sat at his desk, starin' at a datapad. I had the feelin' he'd been staring at it a while.

He looked up at me, and it was th' most vulnerable I'd ever seen him.


"I just wanna know somethin', Prowl."

He shifted, optics dim, dreading. "Depends on what it is."

"Y'ain't betraying us t' any 'Cons, are y'?" Thank the Matrix that Red couldn't get permission ta set up cameras in any quarters. Prime considered that a breach of trust.

Prowl relaxed, air sighing out of his vents. "No."

"Y'ain't Megatron's interface toy, or any of th' other 'Cons?"

The tactician drew himself up. "That's ridiculously illogical."

I grinned and continued forward to lean against his desk. "I'd love ta know what I'm covering you for."

I could hear gears grind as Prowl set his jaw. "I'd rather not."

"Well, I ain't gonna force you. Just let me know th' dates an' times."

The Datsun sat back in surprise. "You're willing to continue this?"

"Well, it ain't gonna be free, if that's what you're thinking."

Suspicion narrowed his eyes. "What did you want from me?"

I leaned across the desk and pressed my lips against his. "You."

I'd never seen him move so fast. Still didn't see it this time. Papers flew, the chair clattered to the floor and datapads slid off the desk. Next I saw, he stood with his wingless shoulder pressed against the wall, refusing to look at me. His doorwing shielded his panting mouth.

I straightened and slid after him, reaching out. "Come on, Prowl. I'll get in serious trouble if Prime finds out. So will you." I slipped an arm around him. "Consider it a part of the cover."

He flinched away from me as I kissed his cheek.

"No," he ground out, and turned his head.

"I could always tell Prime that I made a mistake. It's not too late for me to get out light."

If he had laser eyes, I'm sure I'd have two holes burned through me.

I pulled him closer, kissing his unresponsive mouth. He trembled in my arms and I sought to sooth him with caresses and kisses. I could've jumped him then and there, but I wanted him comfortable. So I drew him to his berth

I explored his body with my fingers and lips. 'Screen had shown me how sensitive doorwing joints were. I wanted Prowl to react, to squirm. I slid my hands along his side and plunged my fingers into both junctions, scraping against wires and hinges.

Finally the black and white body jolted and I captured the cry that exploded from his lips.


Ah, to hear him say my name…


I pressed my fingers deeper and his vocalizer crackled with another cry. He arched his back, whimpering, feet sliding against the berth.

He gripped the edge off the berth, refusing to touch me and, when I released his lips, he twisted his head away.

"Jazz, please. Sto-"

I dug my fingers into his wingless side, eliciting a shriek, sure to be heard throughout the Ark.

Someone banged on the door. "Is ev'rythin' all righ' in thar, Prowl?"

Prowl and I looked at one another. I twisted a wire on his left side.

"Fine!" Prowl yelped. "Everything's fne."

"Ya don' sound fine." Concern colored Ironhide's voice.

"You're not helping," the tactician hissed at me, trying to squirm away.

I grinned back. "Can't resist ya." I drew my hand from his winged side and caressed the cables in his neck, playing my lips over them.

"I tripped over something," he shouted at the waiting mech.

"In your quarters?"

"Yes, I had a…hn" His engine finally came to life. "Accident. I had an accident. Made a bit of a mess."

"You did?"

Prowl panted, mouth gaping, optics flickering. It wasn't difficult ta realize that he was close t' overload. "Yes, but I'm fine."

I chortled, tracing the edge of his black accent, enjoying him shaking beneath me.

"A'right. If yer sure." Ironhide's heavy footsteps shuffled away.

I resumed my attentions on his side. "Does it hurt, Prowlie?"

He glared at me, mouth set in a defiant line. With an unbelievable amount of concentration, he cut his engine of. He seemed determined not to enjoy my touch. I'll see about that. I coaxed his engine back over, attacking both door hinges. I'd never heard him squeal before, but I muffled the sound with a passionate kiss. I didn't feel like getting' interrupted again.

"Jazz," he burst, the words catching on his vocalizer, "Sto- Hng!" He bucked as I pressed his hinges.

"Why don't y' act like yer enjoyin it, an' maybe I'll stop." I played my lips over his chestplate, back to the cables on his neck. My fingers scraped their way up to the windshield on his back. His optics flared and he pressed himself away. A restrained cry crackled out of his gaping mouth.

I could feel him shift, and hear the protest of metal as he bent the sides of his berth.

"C'mon, Prowl, I ain't gonna leave y' alone till y' do.," I murmured.

He writhed a few moments and then he attacked me. Metal squealed as he sought to bring my already aroused self into a quick overload.

But I got him first.

He jerked, his systems fritzing. His hand stilled as he reset. I dug my fingers into his injured side, forcing him to react. He whimpered, pitiably, and winced, spent.

"C'mon, Prowlie."

He dragged his hands along sensitive seams. He turned away every time I tried to kiss him. When the world cleared of the static form overload, I found myself on my back.

I could hear air hiss from him as he cycled to cool himself down. He faced the wall, resting on his wingless side. I rolled over and draped an arm over his waist. I hummed happily and nuzzled against his neck.

"Are you satisfied?"

"Hm. Fer now."

"For now," he deadpanned back to me. "Then get off my berth. And out of my quarters."

He turned over and all but threw me out.

I stood outside his door, and a soft glow on my fingers caught my attention. Pink fluid glistened on the fingers I'd dug into Prowl's side. I had ta have been hurtin' him. So, why hadn't he said anythin'?

"I hope you're not deluding yourself that I'll fall aft over cortex for you."

I paused in tryin' t' coax another charge outta him. "Might just take some time. I can wait."

Imagine my surprise when he actually laughed and kicked me out.

I still didn't know what he was hidin' from everyone. A cursory exam of th' records didn't show nothin'. An' our relationship, such as it was, didn't seem ta be goin' nowhere. He asked that I refrain from cuddling up t' him, an' calling him endearing names 'round th' others. I respected that, hopin' t' earn some brownie points on his board. Still I knew he wasn't happy with th' arrangement, but I couldn't give him up so soon.

I lay on my berth, tuned into my internal radio. I was watchin' tv, an' wasn't payin' attention t' the door. I still don't know how I missed it openin'. All I knew was that Prowl was suddenly standing by my berth, staring down at me as though he were even now weighing his decision. He must'a used his security override. Sneaky slagger.

I don' know if my open-armed invitation helped make up his mind or not. He climbed up with me, which is more than he'd ever done. His purring engine belied his dispassionate face. I only managed t' keep my hands t' myself for a little bit, but he was way too tempting. I ran my hands up the bottom of his doorwings. He buried his face in my neck junction, moaning and clutching. It wasn't all that hard, since his engine already thrummed readily, t' convince him ta plug in. Th' heady, double feeling of our hands on one another sent us both into simultaneous overload.

I wondered if this had anything to do with Wheeljack's lab blowin' up. If so, I might have t' see that it happens more often.

All th' ground I thought I'd gained, I realized had never been there when Prowl walked out, without a word, bowed with shame. I doubt th' usually observant tactician even noticed Sunstreaker passing by, though the golden warrior certainly noticed him. He even reset himself in a double take. A disturbing frown crossed his handsome face as he locked optics with me before the door closed.

By this time, th' rumors about 'Prowl and Jazz' were flyin'. I found both of us the subjects of curious looks and whispered conversations. But I kept my promise t' him and never confirmed th' gossip. Prowl had been continuing his disappearance acts. I tried t' follow him once, only t' have Sunstreaker stop me with an intriguing question. How he found me, I don't know. I'm no Mirage, but I can usually avoid bein' noticed when I want to.

The room was lit as it always was, not too dim, nor too bright. Prowl sat at his desk, sorting through datapads. He didn't look at me, even after his doors closed.

"Not right now, Jazz. I have a lot of work to do."

I slunk over to his side. "I could always talk to Optimus about your work."

He paused and glanced at me. Finally with a resigned sigh he stood an' let me drag him to the berth.

As always he turned away from me afterward. I traced my finger down his arm, still trying to process the fact that, in essence, he was mine. Briefly I wondered if I could talk him into spark bonding. I could just 'test the waters,' as th' humans say.

"Hey, sparkles," he went rigid as I leaned into whisper into his receiver, "what would y' say t'-"

He flipped over, his doorwing whapping me in my face. I found myself on th' floor, tryin' t' calibrate my visor. His feet clanged on the floor as he shoved himself off th' berth. He grabbed my arm and hauled me off my aft.

"Don't call me that," he snarled in a voice normally reserved for Decepticons.

"Why?" I asked, dumbfounded. Not like anyone was around t' hear.

"I… hate that name."

He shoved me outta his room and the door hissed between us. I frowned at the orange panel. My sensors tingled and I whipped about to face a golden shoulder.

Sunstreaker loomed over me. I opened my mouth t' apologize when I noticed the expression on Sunny's face. Th' same expression I see out on th' battlefield. Cold, an' full of barely contained fury. He moved, faster than me, an' lifted me off my feet by my throat. I struggled against him uselessly. I reached for my gun, but he grabbed my arm, bending metal with his grip.

He shoved my back into th' wall, apparently not caring that Red's camera's were watchin' us. "So, it's true?"

I decided ta play dumb. "What?"

He tightened his grip. "You and Prowl? Is it true?"

Aw slag. I chose t' just bite th' bullet. No use lyin' now. "Yeah, Sunny. It's true."

He leaned closer t' me, his container of fury cracking at th' edges. "How long?"

Why did Sunny seem so mad? "We started not too long after we woke," I replied with the story Prowl told Prime. "What, nine earth years ago?"

"Nine years?" Despite his calm words, his grip squeezed lines in my neck, cuttin' my power t' my cortex

Then he dropped me, though hi s face thundered with rage, an' he slid a sneering glance toward Prowl's door. His steel blue optics turned back to me, waiting.

Confused, I retreated t' my quarters. Suspicion niggled its way through th' confusion, an' I sat down at my desk an' hacked into secure files. I pulled up th' list Optimus had shoved at Prowl. Then I pulled up duty logs from our time on Earth.

I narrowed th' parameters t' find correlations between Sunstreaker's off time and Prowl's disappearin' acts. It didn't make sense t' me. First of all Sunny would have beat the circuits outta me if he were interfacing with Prowl. Secondly, Sunny had someone, an' was considerably loyal t' that one. Sure he had his flings, but they were just that, flings. He couldn't care less if they interfaced with anyone else. As if it mocked me, the duty roster confirmed that Prowl and Sunstreaker's times didn't match.

I keyed in a change of parameters, replacing Sunstreaker's name with Sideswipe's.

It matched.

Every single time.

I sat there stunned. Prowl an' Sideswipe? I couldn't spark my processor t' those two spending more time than necessary in each other's company.

What a perfect cover-up.

I delved deeper, back t' when we were on Cybertron, as far back as the memory banks went uncorrupted.

Few, very few, were th' times that Prowl's off time didn't coincide with Sideswipe's.

How long have we not noticed them? How long…

Oh slagging Primus.

Sunstreaker knew.

Chapter Text

Sideswipe shoved branches out of his way. He carried a sniping rifle, slung carelessly across his shoulder. The secluded little area he stepped into held a series of targets of varying sizes, set at different distances. A single black and white mech stood at the line marked in the scuffed ground. He held a rifle up to his optics, the butt cushioned against his shoulder tire. He fired off a round of bursts at one set, shifted and fired another burst at the next set.

A grin grew on the red warrior's face. He inched forward, as quietly as vorns of playing pranks had taught him. He reached out his hands, and slid his fingers into a tight grip on the door panels. He yanked the mech off his feet and against his chest. Sideswipe kissed down Prowl's helm, running his fingers over the patrol car's door wings.

Surprised, Prowl jerked away and turned. Sideswipe's grin faded as his lover seemed to shrink from him. Relief tumbled from Prowl's lips in the form of the Lamborghini's name.

"Expecting someone else, sparkles?" The grin returned.

The tactician considered Sideswipe without replying, his normal, guarded look in place. "No." Prowl turned and set the rifle against his shoulder.

Sideswipe stepped forward and nuzzled against Prowl's helm. "You didn't think I'd refuse this invitation did you? Even though you never said anything to me, I'm sure you knew Sunny would. Should we worry about flyers?" Sideswipe glanced skyward, pulling his hands away self-consciously.

"Skyfire and Slingshot are still in for repairs." Prowl opened fire on the targets again. "The Aerialbots and Powerglide are out on patrol until this evening. Blades is assisting with rescue efforts in Central City."

"And with Sunny on the monitors, he'll conveniently 'forget' to watch over here."

"You should know." Recalibrate the rifle, fire at the first target. "He's your brother."

"And you're mad, because…?"

Prowl paused, his doorwings shifting as he turned to glance at the twin. "What makes you think I'm mad?"

Sideswipe stepped up beside Prowl and settled the sniping rifle into shooting position. "Because, you only come out here when you're fragged about something." He selected his targets and fired. He made short work of the row. Sideswipe glanced at the tactician. "This wouldn't have anything to do with those broken fuel lines Ratchet was yelling at you about, would it?" The rifle lowered as Sideswipe's attention shifted to the tactician.

Prowl didn't answer Sideswipe for several klicks. "You've been in the med bay for several days." As if the warrior didn't know that. "I've been worried about you. It's… frustrating not being able to show that."

Sideswipe tilted his head. He laid the rifle on the ground and stepped closer to Prowl. "So how much frustration have you built up, considering how often Sunny and I get trashed."

The blue optics narrowed, never turned to the red twin. "Quite a bit."

Sideswipe forced Prowl to turn to him. He stared into the tactician's optics until Prowl averted his gaze.

"I thought we were over this, Prowl." He pulled the Datsun closer, stimulating his sensory net with gentle caresses. A moan rumbled through Prowl's frame as he leaned into the black hands. Sideswipe rested his helmet against his lover's. "Your duties stress you enough without self-recrimination." He lifted the tactician's chin and captured Prowl's lips in a passionate kiss. "Primus, I want you."

Prowl pulled away, turning around, and snapped the rifle up. Sideswipe dropped his hands with a growl of frustration. "Prowl…"

"I have never been 'over it,' Sideswipe. Never."

Sideswipe rubbed at his audio horns. "I feel like I'm missing something, Prowl. What's bothering you?"

Prowl squeezed the trigger and struck each target dead center. "Optimus," he finally offered.

Sideswipe repeated the name in confusion. He'd never heard the second-in-command say their commander's name with such loathing. "What about Prime?"

Prowl's doorwings drew back. "He asked me where I've been going."

"Aw, slag." Sideswipe sagged. He looked in the direction of the Ark, then back at the tactician.

Prowl changed the rifle's setting, his fingers pressing harder than they needed to.

The red twin drew down his brow ridges. "You figured something out though, right? Prime would have raked us both over the smelting pits otherwise."

Prowl subspaced the rifle and pulled out a different one. "Yes, Sideswipe," weariness dragged over his voice, "I thought of something."

"Anything I should know?" Sideswipe tried to turn the black and white mech to face him, but Prowl resisted.


The warrior snarled and smacked Prowl's gun down. "Primus scrape it Prowl, talk to me. We're in this together. Remember" Prowl sighed and turned his full attention to Sideswipe. "Thank you. Now what's the cover?" Sideswipe couldn't believe his lover was being so evasive.

"I'd rather not talk about it."

"What?" It took all of the Lamborghini's self-control not to pulverize the Datsun.

"Please, just trust me, Sides."

"Fine, but only if you promise that you will tell me before too long."

"I will." They stared at each other until Prowl shifted. "Can I finish this set?"

Sideswipe looked askance. "Yeah, sure. Nice to know I'm such a distraction."

The tactician pulled the rifle up and sighted along its barrel. "You should fire a few more rounds as well."

Sideswipe picked his gun off the ground, grinning. All suspicions lifted at Prowl's promise. They'd had many arguments in their millennia together, some very heated. Back on Cybertron, there were times where they didn't speak for stellar cycles until they cooled their emotion chips. They had too little time together as it was to waste it on harsh words. Trust Prowl to think logically rather than emotionally. Still, Sideswipe had never had to worry about his lover lying to him, and that knowledge put him at ease as he worked through his set.

Fire. Recalibrate. Fire. Mind-numbingly boring. How did Mirage and Bluestreak stand this job. He wasn't a bad shot: his rocket launcher's targeting systems let him pinpoint targets with devastating accuracy, going so far as displaying the approximate blast radius in his optical HUD.

Today he found the black and white mech beside him too distracting. His shots strayed far off center, some missing the target completely. By all appearances Prowl was oblivious to Sideswipe's wanderings. When he kept missing the targets, because he was paying too much attention to the Datsun, he stopped trying.

Prowl remained intent on the targets, lowering the gun only to change the settings. Sideswipe frowned at his lover. He slid up behind Prowl, slipping an arm around the black waist.

"Don't you think you've done enough," he whispered into the tactician's audio receiver.

"If I did, don't you think I would have stopped."

Sideswipe rested his chin on one of Prowl's doorwings. He reached up and began suggestively spinning Prowl's tire back and forth. "Can't I distract you?" he whined playfully.

The tactician didn't even look at the warrior, though his doorwing shrugged. "I don't know. Can you?"

Sideswipe straightened. A challenge? He grinned down at the mech who was pointedly ignoring him. Prowl felt like playing? What a rare occurrence.

First he ghosted his black fingers along the tactician's back, seeking sensitive areas along the top of his car form. He drew whorls along Prowl's windshield, bending to trace his lips carefully along the glass. He slipped his fingers underneath the shell, fondling the roof light on and off. The interior light reflected off the pair of tempting doors sticking out of Prowl's side. Sideswipe turned his attention on Prowl's shoulder tires, ignoring those perfect, shining panels. He traced the tread on first one, than the other tire, reaching around Prowl's doorwings.

Prowl continued his motions, each shot carefully placed. He moved his doorwings out of Sideswipe's way, the only concession he gave the warrior's attentions.

Sideswipe draped an arm over Prowl's shoulder, to reach the tire on the other side. He nibbled at the plain tire rims and moved to attend the tactician's silver neck.

"You're getting in my way," Prowl said in his no-nonsense voice. The light shining on his doorwings flicked off.

"So, it's working." The cheeky twin grinned at the tactician.

Prowl huffed. "No, you're just getting in my way." His optics flashed in a playful wink. "Pest." He pushed Sideswipe out of the way and resumed firing.

Slag you Prowl, I'm going to win this.

Black fingers squealed their way up to grip the edges of the black and white door panels. He plucked at the door handles, enjoying the sound of them slamming back into place. Prowl's doorwings twitched. The Lamborghini rubbed the panel backs, the leather padding soft on his hands.

"Sideswipe…" The muzzle of Prowl's gun wavered.

The red twin slid his hands down into the joints on Prowl's side. "What?"

Though Prowl squeezed the trigger, Sideswipe knew his cortex wasn't on the target as the shot hit the ground a few yards to the left. "That's cheating."

"So?" Sideswipe stroked the hinges, fingering wires. "It works."

Prowl glanced over his shoulder, lowering the gun with a mock-resigned sigh. "Fine. You win." The rifle vanished into a subspace pocket.

Sideswipe leaned closer to kiss Prowl's lips, his fingers curling over the tactician's neck. His voice rumbled with the sound of his engine. "Good it's about time."

They parted long enough for Prowl to turn without hitting Sideswipe with his doorwings. Then they pressed against one another, metal squealing together in a rapturous orchestra. Engines purred in anticipation. Sideswipe dragged his hands over the black and white body, panting as Prowl pried at sensitive seams. Percussive bangs rang in his audios as metal bent under the tactician's careful fingers.

Sideswipe moaned, scraping up and down Prowl's waist, pulling along hypersensitive ridges that tracked balance and pressure. He grabbed Prowl's shoulder tires, squeezing the soft rubber. He pushed Prowl toward the trees, further out of sight of the Ark.

Prowl went along, unresisting, and picked right back up where he left off when Sideswipe finally stopped. He briefly thought of reminding the tactician that they were still close to the Ark, but that thought died as Prowl wrapped his fingers around the latch that held his launcher in place.

The two lovers wrapped each other up, caressing and kissing. They stood, precariously balanced, legs entangled. Fingers scraped and screeched in desperation.

Sideswipe reached up, splaying his hands against the police car's doorwings. He ranged his fingers down to the vulnerable hinges, digging deeper, into wire and tubing.

Prowl whined, and his legs gave out, toppling them both over.

Sideswipe yelped, yanking his hands away and shaking his fingers. "Primus slaggit! Ow!" He flexed his dented digits, wondering how he could explain this to Ratchet. Somehow saying that he jammed them in Prowl's doors didn't seem like a good idea.

White fingers grabbed Sideswipe's hands and Prowl examined the injured fingers with gentle strokes. "Sorry."

"I know they're sensitive, but Primus-ow! Watch it." Sideswipe winced and took his hands back, rubbing along his joints.

Prowl scooted out from under Sideswipe, an uneasy expression on his face.

Sideswipe regarded the tactician with a frown. "Something wrong?"

The black and white mech shrugged, turning to glance toward the Ark. "I guess they're still a little sore from repairs."

"Should Ratchet look at them, and make sure everything's okay?" Sideswipe looked his fingers over, as though he expected them to be covered with energon.

"No… it's fine. Just leave them alone." Prowl kissed the red twin, effectively shutting him up.

The Datsun pushed Sideswipe down, straddling the warrior's hips. He leaned down, tracing a finger along the edges of Sideswipe's pop up headlights. "This way I won't land on your fingers, again."

Sideswipe chuckled, gyrating his hips in a distinctly human fashion. Just to irritate Prowl. The Datsun leaned forward, one finger on Sideswipe's chassis. "Stop that."

The red twin pulled Prowl down for a kiss. "Or else what, Prowl?" he murmured, grinning.

"Or else," Prowl paused and tilted his head in thought, "I'll restrict you from watching any television for a month."

Sideswipe chuckled and nuzzled Prowl's cheek. His hands roamed the black and white body, pausing to attend responsive areas. "How will you manage that? My quarters have a monitor, and so does the rec room."

The tactician's lips pressed against Sideswipe's chest, fingers digging into abdominal plating. "Mine doesn't."

"Aw, but Sunny won't let me sleep over at anyone else's quarters. He needs me there or he can't recharge."

"You're incorrigible, Sides." Prowl's engine revved. He caressed Sideswipe's horns, sending a pleasurable feedback into his receptors.

Sideswipe leaned his head back into the white hands, inviting them to stroke his helmet. He kissed the black arms, panting with desire. His hands traveled up to fondle Prowl's doorwings and finger the joints.

Prowl grabbed Sideswipe's wrists and shoved his hands to the ground. "If you do that again, I'm going to slap handcuffs on you."

Sideswipe couldn't help the grin that broke across his face. "Gonna chain me to the trees, too?"

"Why do I even bother?"

Sideswipe wanted more than caresses and sensory stimulation. He longed for the exchange that interfacing allowed: knowing just what his caresses were doing to the black and white mech, reliving memories. But they couldn't afford to let their guard down that much, it would be too easy for someone to walk up and catch them. Autobot or Decepticon, it would be very bad for them.

Systems overloaded, leaving them both limp. Sideswipe shook the static out of his vision, and ran a finger down Prowl's cheek. The tactician jumped, jerking away. Sideswipe's brow furrowed until Prowl settled himself back down. The red twin cradled an arm around the Datsun and wondered what had his lover so disturbed.

Chapter Text

I see it in his optics on you. In the way his fingers linger on your shoulder. I see it in your optics on him, your fingers brushing his leg. I hear it in the lilt in your voice as you sing his name.

 I know the truth. Deny it to your friends as they joke and tease you about your attempts at attention. You can't hide it from me. I know you too well. And you know what?

I hate him for it.

You have your pick of any member of this unit and you choose the one mech that could cost us everything. Prime takes fraternizing seriously. He could throw you in the brig, or worse strip you of rank and the Autobot insignia. Where would that leave me? I'll go crazy if I can't beat some cons to slag and I'm not insane enough to do it without backup.

Primus, Sideswipe, why? Why? Why Prowl? Why not Bluestreak? Warpath? Tracks? Slaggit even smeltin' little Gears would have been preferable. None of them would have cost us everything.

Those thoughts carried me into the control center. I'm not going to lose Sideswipe to you!

It felt good to see that look of shock cross the tactician's face. Not even when Smokescreen scratched my paint did I deter from my goal.

"Don't act stupid!"

I felt justified, seeing Prowl reel from my blows, from my words. For that I could ignore Ironhide's rough handling.

"What are you talking about?" You can't fool me with that innocent act. I've seen the signs.

"You know what I mean."

I stood in the brig, distracting myself from my anger by grumbling about my paint job. I wasn't really surprised when 5 megacycles later, Ironhide dragged me to Prowl's office.

"Thank you, Ironhide. I'll take it from here."

I leveled a glare at my escort and jerked my shoulder out of the Security Director's grasp. He left, grumbling through his dental plates.

Prowl watched me for a few klicks in silence, his hands clasped on his desk. I knew that look on his face. The contemplative 'what am I going to do with this idiot to make his listen' look. His doorwings stood rigid behind him. I glared defiantly back. Slag to Primus if I was going to say something first.

Prowl stood, his fingers grazing the console on his desk. He came around his desk, hands tucked behind his back. He walked up to me and I took a step back as he stood chest to chest to me. Something cold, calculating and dangerous lay within those azure optics.

"I thought you might like to see the remnants of your handiwork."

I glared down at Prowl. He didn't need to stand so close, I could've seen them just fine from where I stood.

"As you may imagine, Prime and Ironhide are both expecting me to charge you with assault."

Of course.

"However, there are extenuating circumstances that they are not aware of. I will have to give you some kind punishment, for you did strike an officer. How severe will depend on why you saw fit to put dents in my face plate." Prowl backed away, his optics glinting.

I glared at Prowl. If I answered, I'd get Sideswipe in trouble.

"We need to talk, Sunstreaker, and we need to be quick. It won't be long before the camera comes back online."

I tried to wrap my cortex around that. Prowl had taken out the camera in his office.

"You know perfectly well why I did that." I advanced and Prowl dodged my reaching hands. "Why don't you give me a reason not to do it again?" Slag, the cameras were off, so it didn't matter what we said. "Do you realize how much trouble Sideswipe will be in if you get caught?"

The Enforcer's speed surprised me. He swept me around, both of us grunting as we hit the floor. "You don't think I realize the consequences of our actions," he hissed in my audio horn. "You think that I don't know? I have seen Prime abandon mechs for this, stripped of weapons and out in the wastelands."

I shoved myself up with my superior strength and glared at Prowl. "Then why? Why are you putting Sideswipe in danger? Why not one of the other officers? Ultra Magnus? Ratchet? Slag, why not Kup for Primus' sake? You're both boorish enough!"

"It's not just my decision, but Sides' as well. Does your brother's happiness mean nothing to you?"

I threw a fist at the black and white Enforcer. "Of course it does! But how can he be happy constantly hiding how he feels from everyone."

He lightly sidestepped my swing. "I don't suppose you've talked to Sideswipe about that?" Frag Prowl and that cool collected voice of his. "Have you asked him how he feels about this?"

I straighten to glare down at the infuriating little Enforcer. "What could you possible like about him? You're as alike as-"

"Hound and Mirage?"

My optics narrowed. "I was going to say me and Tracks."

He started chuckling. I had never heard him chuckle before. It was kinda… creepy. So was the smile.

"That's actually appropriate." His optics dimmed slightly. "We're more alike than you might imagine."

"You are?"

His stern façade dropped a micron, and the light in his optics softened. "Yes."

I was too shocked to be offended that he dared imply I was anything like Tracks. Still, there was affection, real affection on his face. Dare I might say it, but the slagger might truly love my brother.

Could it be that Sideswipe might actually feel the same?

"I'll talk to Sideswipe," I conceded, "but if you betray him, Prowl, I promise you that you will suffer worse than anything he'll go through."

Prowl's optics hardened. "If that were to happen, then there's nothing you can do that will be worse than knowing that I hurt him." He glanced toward the camera. "Will we be able to count on your help?" He murmured.

"To keep Sides out of trouble, yeah."

He nodded and headed for his desk. Then he began to lay into me about striking him, but without his usual vehemence. Even though he held his doorwings rigid, his appreciation shone in his optics.

Prowl let me off relatively easy, considering. Sideswipe came into our quarters and strode right up to me.


I couldn't help myself. "And?"

He tilted his head, brow ridge lifting. "And?"

I returned the tilt, narrowing my optics. "Prowl?"

He shrugged, an embarrassed smirk on his face. "Prowl."

I threw my hands into the air. "Why?"

He shrugged again, his smile turning helpless. "'Cause."

I frowned and considered him. Finally I shook my head. "Fine."

He rested his hand on my shoulder and his optics softened. "Thanks."

"Sure." Just don't get all squishy on me, bro.

I'd heard the rumors of course: Jazz and Prowl, Prowl and Jazz. I had my suspicions, but I kept them to myself. I wanted nothing more than to beat the rumor out of nosy gossipbots. Sideswipe laughed it off that Jazz would only be so lucky.

 Then I saw Prowl stagger out of Jazz's quarters. He was so worn out that he didn't even notice me. My circuits burned with the desire to strike him. Sideswipe had gone out to meet the slagger earlier that evening, and, even though he never said it, I knew he'd been refused. But the fragging Datsun could go to Jazz and give Jazz what he wouldn't give my brother? I glared at Jazz as the door closed then turned to watch Prowl enter his quarters.

I didn't say anything to Sideswipe, I wanted to make sure of it. Prowl could have stopped by Jazz's quarters for something duty related before recharge. Not likely, but possible.

I watched and waited.

I made every excuse I could think of to linger around the officer's quarters until I saw Jazz step into the hall. Neither he nor the fragging Datsun noticed me, so I caught him and questioned him.

Nine years? Nine slagging years!

I made sure Jazz went into his own quarters before I left the hall, fists clenched. I headed for the washracks to clean the filth that had accumulated on me from hanging around that fragger's door. It didn't help my mood any. Even applying wax to my paint didn't calm me down.

While there I plotted.

Sides wouldn't be back until late into the morning. He and that piece of scrap had several ways of arranging a meeting. A few of them used me.

It was too easy. Prowl readily accepted the invitation.

"Sunstreaker?" I could see the surprise in his fragged impassive face. "Where's Sideswipe?"

 I didn't say anything. I let my fist do the talking. His mandible cracked under my blow. He staggered backward in a grim parody of the day I found he was shagging Sideswipe. But there was no Ironhide, no Smokescreen, no Jazz to stop me this time. He caught my wrist, warding off the next blow.


Well, I can't have you calling for slagging help, now can I? I ripped out his comm link. I knew that he realized I meant business then, and he fought back with all his might. It wasn't enough against my strength. His gun crumpled easily in my grip and dropped to the ground.

I'm sure he didn't think so, but I was careful. I didn't want the sorry slagsucker to die before Sideswipe had a chance at him. He should have known better than to frag with my brother, to douse my brother's spark. Any slight to him, was an insult to me. And this afthead had just ripped out Sideswipe's emotion circuits, leaving only cold wires in their place. I'll be smelted before I let that fragging stand.

I didn't want to talk to the slagger, despite his repeated attempts to get a word in edgewise. It wasn't my place to say anything to him, just beat the circuits out of him. I'll let Sideswipe do the talking, if he's so inclined. Who knows, maybe he won't waste words on this lying piece of scrap. Sometimes my brother has some sense.

The fragger kept trying to get me to stop. A quick blow to his throat silenced his vocalizer, shutting him up. I shredded the doorwings my brother so loved, and I ripped off the proud red chevron he admired. That seemed to take the fight out of Sides' beloved tactician.

He sagged to the ground, air wheezing out of his vents, systems whirring with pain. Glass tumbled out of one of his optics, joining the debris that littered the ground. I kicked him a few times until the light in his optics dimmed.

I'm not completely sparkless, I put out a distress beacon for him and then I transformed and threw dirt on him as I rolled back to base.

"Sideswipe, meet me at the washracks."

I took a wide route, to avoid the Autobots answering the distress signal. I don't give a fragged Seeker Trine about getting thrown in the brig. I expected it. Slag, I expected Prowl to see to it himself, whenever he could stand again, that is. But I had to talk to Sides first!

I ignored the strange looks I received for coming back looking less than my perfect self: energon splatters on my roof and hood, body dented and scratched. I transformed when I reached the washracks and stepped under a sensor activated shower-head.

In one of my hands I held the only trophy I had taken from my enemy. I held a cloth in the other, wiping away the spatter and paint marks.

"I wonder who the poor slagger is that's in trouble. Ha! Ratchet's going to have a field day with his aft!" I looked up when I heard Sideswipe enter, so I didn't miss the grin that faded from his face. "Primus, bro. What happened?"

"Don't worry, I saved Jazz for you."

"What? What are you talking about?" His gaze tracked down to my hand, as though he could read my processor. His optics bleached to white and widened. He reeled away from me, horror-stricken. It sent another surge of hatred toward the slagging Datsun to see that kind of pain on my brother's face.

I tossed my trophy, and he caught it in pure reflex. He stared down at the twisted red metal in his hand before he looked back up at me. "Sunny… what did you do?"


Chapter Text

Prowl waited in the designated area. Trees sheltered him from the road, and a small brook bubbled happily. He worried that the Lamborghini hadn't shown up yet. He was several breems late. He calculated the likelihood of Sideswipe running into a Decepticon-related problem to be a mere 15.723 percent. However, this being Sideswipe, it could just as well be a run-in with the local authorities.

The insistent call of a familiar horn pulled Prowl from the peaceful scenery. A red sports car waited on the side of the road, Autobot insignia prominent on its roof. As soon as Prowl stepped out of the trees, the car turned its wheels and slowly rolled onto the road.


The warrior didn't reply, but revved his engine expectantly.

Uncertain as to what Sideswipe was planning, Prowl stepped onto the tar and transformed, the pavement warm beneath his tires. The Lamborghini revved his engine again, and took off, tooting horn beckoning the Datsun to follow. The tactician rumbled a complaint, but followed the other sports car.

They traveled a few miles farther from their meeting place, switching solid pavement for packed dirt. The Datsun winced as rocks and stiff grass scraped at his undercarriage. Where on this planet is Sideswipe taking me? He uselessly wondered.

He balked when he realized they were picking up speed toward a small gathering of humans. He braked and stopped, sliding a little on the dirt. The humans didn't bother him. It was being seen somewhere he shouldn't be, with someone he shouldn't be with. It was the thought of Prime finding out that made him hiss in anger at the Lamborghini.

"Sideswipe, what are you doing?"

The red Lamborghini swung back around, coming to a purring stop in front of the police car. The sloping hood dipped down plaintively. The low bumper glided along Prowl's until it stopped by his tire. The precise control of the warrior didn't even scratch the black paint.

A golden silhouette separated itself from the crowd. A dust cloud traced the vehicle's trail back. Sunstreaker swept around Prowl, and nudged the second-in-command's rear bumper, again gently enough to not leave a mark.

The brothers' message was clear. They were all but begging him to go ahead. Prowl sighed with a whir of his fan. Rocks crunched under his tires as he eased away from the red Lamborghini. Sideswipe made a quick turn and the two Lamborghinis pressed against Prowl's side in appreciation.

The Datsun wondered at Sideswipe's unusual silence. Normally the mischief-maker would be talking, if for no other reason than to taunt his brother.

The twins abruptly switched on their radios, blaring music from their speakers.

"Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?"

He recognized the song. The delinquent members of the crew enjoyed watching the foolish situations the humans got themselves into. The program made Prowl's logic circuits ache.

Prowl followed their silence and squeaked his belt, acknowledging their request. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe pulled away from Prowl, gaining speed as they passed the crowd. The tactician realized they pulled onto a dirt track of some kind that ran a mile and a quarter in diameter. He noticed the humans had pulled out binoculars and other viewing apparatus.

With a thought, his lights flickered to life and his siren wailed. He chased the twins, sliding through the dirt as they executed inhumanly sharp turns. His day to day stress as second-in-command faded with the thrill of perfectly performed maneuvers. He recognized the Lamborghinis' tactics as ones they used in battle against mechs not used to fighting two singular minds.

Brake lights flashed before him and wheels slid in an arc before coming to a complete halt, perpendicular to the oncoming police car. They sat just far enough apart to allow him to slide in, swinging his tail about so that he faced the same direction.

Powerful engines roared to the cheering of the human crowd and the sports cars tore at the dirt, a precise line that wended its way through the arena like a snake. The exhilaration of working with Sideswipe sent excited surges through Prowl's processor. Hs duties on the battlefield often drew him away from the front lines. He rarely had the chance to witness, much less work with his lover.

The two Lamborghinis pulled alongside the Datsun. Prowl's circuits tingled where Sideswipe pressed against him. While Sunstreaker merely guided, Sideswipe teased. Add just enough pressure and mark paint; turn his wheel just so, that it hummed against Prowl's frame. The Lamborghini was excited. Prowl vibrated in response to Sideswipe's eagerness, letting his lover know his own anticipation.

They finished their dance with a series of spectacularly timed spins. The three cars turned three hundred and sixty degrees, over and over. Calculated and controlled the brothers peeled away from the black and white car, leaving the Datsun spinning in place.

He fishtailed his way to where the twins waited, taking the empty gap between them, facing the spectators.

Sideswipe nudged Prowl and fine-tuned engines roared as the set off for the waiting humans. Prowl followed at a slight distance, watching the showoffs bask in the attention. A small group broke away and approached the Datsun. Alcohol clung to them like the purple clouds they dragged with them. The females crooned and pated the sleek white paint, laughing at one thing or another.

"I never thought they'd actually do it. But they did!" one of the males exclaimed.

Prowl didn't have time to ponder those words as Sideswipe pulled up and tooted his horn. He jostled his suspension and moved away from his clinging fans.

Prowl shook off admiring hands and once again followed the Lamborghini. Rather than head for their original meeting place, Sideswipe led him to one of their other hidden spots.

The sound of latches unclasping gave Prowl the only warning of the warrior's intent. He had barely staggered out of transforming before Sideswipe plowed into him.

They rolled on the ground, Prowl yelling senseless things at his excited lover. They tussled until the red twin forced Prowl onto his back, holding his wrists down. Sideswipe caught Prowl's lips in a passionate kiss, engine still roaring. Blue optics burned with the loving words that rolled from the warrior's vocalizer.

Sideswipe resonated with the workings of his engine, spreading pleasure through the tactician's frame wherever they touched. "Primus, Prowl, I'm so hot for you right now."

Prowl's own engine rumbled eagerly, and he panted as he writhed under the red frame. "Let me touch you," he moaned, his vocalizer crackling.

The red twin smirked and nipped at Prowl's cheek guard. "If you touch me, I swear I'll go offline." Metal screeched as they moved against one another: Prowl trying to free his wrists, Sideswipe trying to hold him down. Optics flared, both excited by the small struggle for control. Sideswipe froze, his shutdown audible with a crackle of circuits. His grip on Prowl's hands loosened and the tactician took advantage of Sideswipe's reset to roll the Lamborghini over and get revenge on the red twin. It wasn't too long until he, too, overloaded.

"What was that all about, anyway?" Prowl asked as they snuggled against one another, fingertips brushing light caresses along their frames.

"They didn't think we'd be able to get a cop car out there. Don't worry; they have no idea who you are. We told them you were a Decepticon prisoner."

Prowl paused, his fingers on the warrior's rocket pack. "A what?"

"Well, they won't ever connect you with the Autobots at least." Sideswipe stroked a hand up a black and white doorwing. "Besides, I've always wanted to drive with you like that." His vocalizer dropped a few octaves, the words rumbling through both of them. "Just thinking about it makes me rev." He rolled to his back, unfocused gaze on the sky above.

Prowl chuckled, smile on his face and he moved to draw his lover's attention back to where it belonged.

Chapter Text

Sideswipe curled his fingers around the twisted red chevron with an unbecoming tenderness. He glared at his brother, waiting for an answer.

Sunstreaker paused, his head tilting ever-so-slightly toward the camera. Sideswipe ground his dental plates, but followed the golden Lamborghini out. As soon as the door to their quarters closed, the red Lamborghini crossed his arms expectantly.

Sunstreaker didn't hesitate. His vocalizer crackled with barely suppressed rage, and he gestured in short, jabbing motions. "That lying fragger is 'facing with Jazz behind your back, bro! He's been doing it for nine slagging years!"

Sideswipe's optics narrowed skeptically.

"I'm serious! Jazz said as much himself; I've seen him come out of Jazz's quarters still reeling from overload."

Sideswipe shook his head, tensing, fist clenched around the half-a-chevron in his fingers. "You hurt Prowl?" Sunstreaker nodded. "On Jazz's word?" Again a nod, this time with less certainty and a little more apprehension.

Sideswipe roared and lunged for his twin. They fell to the ground, returning blow for blow. Evenly matched, they dead-locked with their arms tangled, pressing against each other, mouths set in snarls. Sunstreaker yelled at Sideswipe for being a stupid, blind drone to have missed the signs.

"What signs?" A black fist aimed for a punch. It was all Sunstreaker needed to leverage a powerful kick, knocking the red mech off. Sideswipe threw himself at his brother, grappling him back under his pounding fists. "You wouldn't be talking about signs like when you thought he and Magnus were spending too much time together, would you? Or him and Ironhide? Or fragging Prime?"

Sunstreaker caught Sideswipe's wrists and they locked in a near motionless wrestling match, straining to break the other's hold.

"It's no slagging wonder Springer took every mission thrown at him. You're so slotting jealous and possessive!"

That was the final hinge for the golden warrior. Sunstreaker suddenly switched from defensive to offensive, shoving Sideswipe off again. They threw each other against furniture and into the door, until it collapsed under their assault. Their fight carried into the hallway and amidst a circle of feet.

They were pulled apart and thrown against the wall, hands wrenched behind their backs and manacled.

They broke their glare from each other to direct it at the small attachment of armed Autobots, Ironhide at the lead.

"We were just comin' fer Sunstreaker," he drawled, palpable ire on his face and in his voice. "Looks like you can join him, too, Sides."

Sideswipe's optics narrowed and he snarled at the security officer. "Don't call me that."

"Then don't brawl in the hall."

They dragged the twins to their nearly personalized cells.

"Why'd ya do it, Sunstreaker?" Ironhide suddenly asked, pausing in front of the golden warrior's glowing bars.

Sideswipe couldn't see his brother, but recognized the hesitance in the silence.

"The slagsucker deserved it," he finally hissed.

Ironhide scowled fiercely and stormed out.

Sideswipe slumped in the corner, his bound arms scrapping a well-worn path down the wall. He rested his forehead against his knees. He could hear Sunstreaker settle on the other side of the wall.

"He'd tell me. He wouldn't lie. He doesn't lie."

A derisive snort answered the red twin. "Actually he does lie."

Sideswipe lifted his head to direct a glare at the wall behind him.

"He does! For you."

The red shoulders sagged in defeat. Sideswipe had no defense for that.

Sideswipe lay on the gurney, waiting for Ratchet. Apparently his fight with Sunstreaker had wrenched a few cables. He hadn't even felt it until he'd stood to leave.

Right then Ratchet was behind the curtain where Prowl lay.

"Welcome back to the land of moving parts."

Sideswipe automatically homed in on the soft voice that answered. He flinched internally at how weary and in pain Prowl sounded.

"If you're hurting, then say something, slaggit!"

Black fingers curled into fists as the red twin fought the urge to look in on his lover. He didn't think it'd be appreciated. Especially with Prime entering the medbay.

The Autobot Commander glanced at Sideswipe wordlessly, a tilt of his head the only acknowledgement he gave his soldier. Optimus disappeared behind the curtain.

"We were worried about you, Prowl."

Prowl's self-derisive chuckle filtered through the cloth.

"We were wondering if you know why Sunstreaker attacked you?"

Because he's a slagged, suspicious idiot, Sideswipe grumbled to himself.

Sideswipe barely made out Prowl's answer, anxious as he was to know what it was.

"Dragstrip?" Prime sounded as surprised as Sideswipe felt. "Are you certain? Sunstreaker doesn't deny attacking you."

"I know a Decepticon when I see one, Prime," Prowl replied, his voice gaining strength.

"I see…" There came an embarrassed shuffling, then the buzz of a communication frequency being used. Presumably Ironhide had just been instructed to release Sunstreaker. "Jazz was worried when you didn't meet him and we told him you'd been damaged."

… what?

"I've told you that if you need time away from your duties, you just have to ask."

"It's better for me to just leave for a few megacycles."

Authority hardened Prime's voice. "Still, it'd be better for you to keep your meetings to the base for now. Especially if Decepticons are targeting you when you're by yourself out there." Though phrased as a request, Sideswipe recognized an order when he heard one.

"Yes, sir."

Sideswipe stared up at the ceiling, processor buzzing in shock and denial. A cover, it had to be. But Jazz knew. Why would Prowl tell Jazz? What did Prowl hold over the saboteur?

He was barely aware of Prime's farewell or Ratchet standing over him, opening a panel on his leg.

A cover, he told himself over and over again, it had to be.

"Is Prowl… okay?" he heard himself whisper to the medic.

The hands paused. "For all that he looked like slag when he came in. Yeah." Fingers rapped against Sideswipe's chest, drawing the warrior's gaze to Ratchet's scowl. "And don't even think about disturbing him. I took him offline to allow his internal repairs a chance to work."

"Wouldn't process the thought," Sideswipe replied hazily. His optics turned to the curtain and then he offlined them.

A cover, it had to be.

They stood on opposite sides of the room, but knew that the other watched. Prowl stood with Mirage, datapad in hand. His soft voice melded into the general murmur of the room. Sideswipe laughed with Hound and Smokescreen, his second mug of energon in his hand. Sideswipe's attention wasn't completely on Hound's amusing tale. A good portion of his functions leaned toward the Datsun, intaking the soft voice, trying to detect the slightest acknowledgement.

 The tactician had discharged himself from the medbay a few megacycles ago. He promised an apoplectic Ratchet not to do anything more strenuous than sit at his desk and go to the lounge. Prowl had needed to get out. Sideswipe knew Prowl hated being bored as much as he did, and not doing anything was driving him over the side of a cliff. Since Ratchet lacked some of the materials necessary to reconstruct Prowl's doorwings (again), there was no reason for him to remain in the med bay. Prowl teetered uncertainly as he moved, his balance skewed without his panels.

Sideswipe still hadn't had a chance to talk to his lover. He desperately needed the reassurance that Sunstreaker was wrong, and it was all just a cover. Prime's restriction had yet to lift, so Prowl couldn't meet him where it would be safe to talk.

A shadow slipped up behind the tactician. Black hands slid up Prowl's side into the gaps left by Prowl's missing wings. Mirage retreated at the not-so-subtle hint dropped by Jazz's smile. Sideswipe tensed, unnoticed, as all optics turned to the pair. Jazz kissed Prowl's helmet and whispered into the white receiver, his visor hiding his optics, but Sideswipe knew that the Porsche looked his way.

"Gah! Sideswipe!"

Wide optics turned to Hound.

"I don't mind getting dirty, but come on! I had a shower already today."

The red warrior looked down to find a broken cup in his hands. Energon dripped from his fingers.

"Sorry," he muttered, running on automatic as he retrieved a towel and helped clean the energon off the tracker's legs.

When he glanced back at the black and white mechs he found them gone.

"Them?" Smokescreen said, having noticed Sideswipe's glance. "Probably went off for a quick 'face. Between Prowl being injured and Jazz being gone, they're probably uh… like boars in a rut, I think the humans say." Smokescreen laughed, echoed by those close enough to hear the diversionary tactician.

Sideswipe's numb shock faded away, only to be replaced by static-filled anger.

Prowl had lied to him.

Mirage shut his mouth suddenly.

A pair of arms slipped around Prowl's torso and someone nuzzled against his helmet.

Sideswipe? was the first thought that crossed his CPU. Until the fingers pressed painfully into Prowl's side.

Mirage moved away, acting as though he'd decided to without any prompting.

Prowl automatically sought out Sideswipe. The red twin's wide optics focused with singular attention on the tactician. The cup in his hand shattered dropping its contents on Hound's legs.

"Jazz," he hissed at the sabouteur as a kiss was placed on his receiver.

Sideswipe turned at Hound's exclamation. Prowl recognized the hurt in his optics, the betrayal.

"Prowlie," Jazz murmured so low Prowl had to strain to hear, "is it one, or both?"

Prowl's surprised start was interrupted by pain shooting through his sides. He cut his vocalizer off against a pained whine.

"Quarters," he finally said.

"I thought as much."

He cast one last glance toward the Lamborghini before he strode toward his quarters with Jazz in tow. His hand caught the wall to aid his uncertain equilibrium. Jazz stepped up and supported the tactician with a hand under his elbow and an arm around his waist.

Prowl permitted this only because of the cameras he knew tracked their progress. His cortex whirled with a single question. How did Jazz find out? Despite their arrangement, involuntary as it was, Prowl never divulged the truth to Jazz. Maybe just maybe Jazz didn't know or he assumed wrong. That thought was quickly dismissed. There were no other mechs on the base that would have drawn such an assumption. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe found some odd joy in sharing their trysts, but Sideswipe mentioned that Prowl was not his brother's type. Prowl knew that it was more than that: Sunstreaker loathed him, and only tolerated him for Sideswipe's sake. Although it didn't stop them from joking about it, to the tactician's discomfort.

The dim lights in Prowl's quarters brightened to their normal luminescence as soon as they entered. The door shut and Prowl turned to find Jazz frowning at him, his arms crossed over his chest. He waited in expectant silence for a breem, giving Prowl the chance to settle on his couch, to relieve his aching servos and sides.


"I am not sure I comprehend what you're referring to, Jazz," Prowl said evenly.

"It's a real simple question, Prowl. One I'll admit to bein' curious about m'self. D' ya only get one or both?"

Prowl struggled to retain his neutral expression. Jazz represented what the tactician hated most in the cosmos: Chaos. Sideswipe did some … unexpected things, but ultimately both twins were predictable. Jazz, on the hand, never failed to glitch Prowl's processor. Whenever Prowl thought he had the saboteur's patterns laid out properly in his CPU, Jazz would go and do something seemingly opposite.

Prowl could not predict Jazz's response, should he choose to answer the question and confirm the saboteur's suspicion or deny everything. Prowl ran every possibility through his battle computer, but could not separate the correct answer for the desired reaction. He settled on simple truth. "Just one." He did not count that one time long ago on Cybertron. The golden warrior had been overcharged and confused by the tactician's similar shape to a certain gunner. Sunstreaker had also made his feelings on the matter quite clear.

Jazz tucked hi chin down, apparently focused on the orange floor. "How long?"


The usually bright face darkened considerably. "I traced it back t' Cybertron, Prowl. Before th' blackouts." Jazz looked up, taking in the tactician's blank expression. "Longer than that, eh?" The Porsche pressed his lips into a thin line. "Man, Prowlie. If I told Prime that… I don' think ugly would describe it."

Prowl stiffened and panic blossomed in his normally calm cortex. "You… wouldn't." The look on the saboteur's face motivated the tactician forward. He gripped one of the arms crossed over the white bumper. "Please, Jazz."

Jazz uncrossed his arms and pulled the tactician closer. "An' why not? Prime'll think I've been coverin' for ya this whole time. He'll scrap me as bad as you an' Siders." Prowl could hear the grinding of Jazz's dental plates. "Slaggit." Jazz moved away, never really turning his back on the tactician. Prowl watched warily, ignoring the throb of his hinges.

"How does Sideswipe feel about this?"

Prowl blinked in confusion. "About what?"

Jazz paused and looked at the tactician. "He don't know, does he? It was Sunny, wasn't it? Not Dragstrip."

Prowl stared at Jazz as little bits of information connected. That would reasonably explain Sunstreaker's violent… outburst toward the tactician. Oh, Primus, if Sunstreaker already knew, then so did Sideswipe.

"How did Sunstreaker find out?" How did Jazz know Sunstreaker had found out. "You told him," Prowl whispered, following the information to its logical conclusion. Jazz grimaced, confirming his suspicions. "Primus. Oh, Primus, why did you do that Jazz?" Prowl's cortex whirled in a confused jumble as he tried to sort out Jazz's reasons. He had wanted to tell Sideswipe himself, but not without a workable plan of action. He was dimly aware of being led back to his couch.

Whereas Jazz had been an unknown quantity, Prowl knew what Sideswipe's reaction would be. The red warrior had as bad of a temper as his sociopathic brother. Normally it came out in the form of a harmful prank. When it came to being betrayed, though, Prowl realized that he'd get far worse than a simple prank.

"I'm sorry, Prowl. I never meant fer ya t' get hurt," Jazz murmured into the tactician's audio receiver.

Prowl shifted away form the saboteur to bury his face in his hands. "You didn't? But you had no problem blackmailing me, right?"

"That's different, sparkles."

Prowl abruptly stood, stumbling a few steps away from the other mech. "Get out!" the tactician growled.

"I don't know, Prowlie. Y' don't look well."


Jazz stood. "What about-"

"I don't care right now!" Jazz could tell Prime, it didn't matter. Prowl had betrayed Sideswipe. What worse could Optimus do?



The door hissed closed behind the saboteur.

Prowl crawled onto his berth, and curled into a ball of abject misery, haunted by the hurt on Sideswipe's face.

Chapter Text

There is nothing harder than catching Jazz, especially when the slagger expected to be hunted. Sideswipe prowled from room to room searching for the black and white mech. He even searched the immediate grounds with no sign of the Porsche. Sideswipe scuffed at a rock stuck in the ground. He glared at the forest, unable to find the target of his ire. He entered the Ark, heading for the control room, and the communication center therein. Surely Blaster, of all mechs on the base, would know where his best friend was.

Sunstreaker's voice broke through his angry daze. "Sides, where the slag are you? We're supposed to have been on patrol ten breems ago."

"I was trying to find Jazz, bro."

"Well get out here before Prowl finds out you're late."

"Let him say one word to me," Sideswipe snarled back, his already sour mood darkening. But he turned and dropped to his wheels, screeching out to meet his brother.

Feet scattered out of his way. He recognized the winged form of Prowl.

"Sideswipe?" The tactician switched to his vocalizer to cover his comm. "No cars in the Ark." Even as he yelled at Sideswipe, Prowl continued with a quiet request over the comm. channel. "Can we talk?"

Sideswipe ignored both the message and Prowl's shout. Nine years on the fragging green planet and just now he wanted to talk? Oh fragging Pits, no.

If it hadn't been for that slagging glitch saboteur, they'd still happy. Somehow, this had to be Jazz's fault.

Sunstreaker pulled up next to him, pressing closer to lightly tap his side, offering comfort with his touch. The twins dropped their speed to a little faster than was needed on patrol.

"Why Jazz?" Sunstreaker asked suddenly. "It's that lying fragger you should be after. He's the one who betrayed you."

Sideswipe paused in snapping out a retort. Mad as he was, he wanted to put his fists into something, but he was still reluctant to lay a hand on Prowl. He still loved the slagger, after all. Several tens of thousands of vorn of attachment wouldn't just disappear in the course of a human week. "I don't want to hurt Prowl," he finally admitted.

"What are you talking about? He fragging deserves it! This is a load of glitchmice from the Pits." Sunstreaker ground his gears in frustration. "I don't think Jazz has any idea what's going on, and he does not need to find out. He's a smart slagger and he would've been more careful talking to me if he knew about you and Prowl."

Sideswipe considered this. His brother had a point. If Jazz didn't already know, then he didn't need to find out. Sideswipe turned sharply at one of the intersections along their patrol route, his wheels squealing out his anger on the street. But the saboteur had looked in his direction with such a jealously possessive grip on Prowl…

"Fine, bro. I'll talk to the slagger." This was going to end, one way or the other.

Prowl hesitated at the door to his quarters, his hinges twitching with the painful reminder that he still lacked his doorwings. Jazz's delving into the open crevices had helped him none, and he looked forward to curling up in recharge. He analyzed everything in his room, searching for the source of his unease. He ran through his routine from the morning. Did he lay that datapad there before he left? Was that picture askew before? He pulled from his memory files and laid them out against his battle computer several times. Unable to find the anomaly, Prowl completed the final steps into his room and his door hissed close behind him.

 He realized with a start that it had been his sensors that were warning him. He was so accustomed to the sanctity of the officers' quarters that he'd completely ignored the presence that his scanners told him was there. He scrambled away from the looming figure that stepped out of a shadowed corner. He realized why he'd ignored that signature as a hand grabbed his arm, halting his progress.

"Sideswipe? What are you doing here?"

A sneer crossed the Lamborghini's handsome face. "Why? You wouldn't be expecting someone else would you? That would be fragging prime, you know, two 'Cons with one shot.

"No, Sides, I'm not expecting anyone else. Why would I be?" Prowl stiffened in the warrior's hands. He'd never really had any reason to fear his lover, but the chilling look in Sideswipe's optics and the harsh grip on his arm forced him to remember that this was Sunstreaker's brother. Just as violent, just as dangerous. But Prowl had never had any cause to face that side of the red twin. If it hadn't been for the familiar conformation and the red paint, Prowl would have thought himself back in those woods facing a wrathful Sunstreaker.

Sideswipe glowered down at the tactician and squeezed Prowl closer. "Oh, I don't know, Prowl. Maybe someone else black and white?" His vocalizer dropped a few octaves and air hissed out of his vents. "I don't like being made a fool of, Prowl. Even if nobody else knows about it." Sideswipe thrust Prowl away suddenly, and jerked him back just as quickly. Prowl staggered in Sideswipe's grip, his sides aching as he tried to compensate for the warrior's movement.

"Sideswipe, wait! You don't understand-" Prowl hadn't realized that he'd been dragged around his quarters until Sideswipe swung him into the desk. He cut off his vocalizer against a yell. He did not need anyone coming in to investigate, not right now.

"Oh, I understand, all right. Nine slagging years, you and Jazz've been laughing your tailpipes off at me." Sideswipe whipped the tactician around, wrenching his arms back and up. "Well you've had your fun. Now it's my turn, Prowl."

"Nine years?" Cables and gears whined in Prowl's shoulder, pressing painfully on his door hinges. "No. It hasn't been that long-" It was the wrong thing to say as Sideswipe kicked Prowl away.

"You're not denying it?" Sideswipe's voice rose, making Prowl's audio receptors ring.

Prowl shut off the pain receptors in his shoulders and ignored the dull ach that left. He pushed himself to his feet, finding himself face to face with the irate twin.

"No, I'm not." Fury blazed in those blue optics. "But if you will just listen…" Prowl never knew what hit him.

He gazed up at the lights in his room, wondering how he ended up on the floor against the wall, until they were blocked by a looming figure. Optics burned from a silver face. He shook, Prowl realized. He was furious and, yet, still holding back.

"Sideswipe," Prowl put as much authority as he could muster into his words. He didn't like to do it when they met, but if someone else walked in right now, he'd have no reasonable explanation for what was happening. "Get out before someone comes." Prowl rolled over and dragged himself upright.

"What the slag does that matter? Everyone knows it's you and Jazz." A pile driver landed dangerously close to Prowl's knee. "What the frag does Sideswipe matter?"

Prowl glared at his lover. He clawed his way up the wall and to his feet. "Don't talk like that."

"And why in the Pits not?" The warrior leaned closer.

"You're not listening, Sideswipe. Go cool your processor and come back when you're willing to listen like a civilized mech." Prowl narrowed his optics at the red twin, taking an unsteady step forward to meet Sideswipe's glower.

Sideswipe leaned away to set his feet apart and cross his arms over his chest. "I ain't goin' anywhere, Prowlie."

White hands balled into fists. "If you don't leave, then I will. You'd better not be here when I return, either." The tactician put action to words, and headed for the door. Two steps away and Sideswipe's voice stopped him mid-step.

"You go through that door and it's over, Prowl."

Every system seized in Prowl's frame. "You're willing to throw away almost thirty thousand vorn because of nine years?" He stared limply at the twin's back.

Sideswipe stood, resolutely facing the wall. "You lied to me, Prowl. You used me. How in the Inferno is that supposed to make me feel?"

Prowl opened his mouth to object, and then clamped it shut. He scowled at the red mech. "When you're ready to talk, you know what to do." Prowl stared at the door, gathering the strength for those last few steps.

"I'm serious, Prowl."

Sideswipe wasn't making this easy on the tactician. "Well, I'm not giving up on you as quickly as you have on me." Motors activated and the door opened.

Then it closed.

Prowl stared at the orange doors, a hollowness filling him where once there'd been such joy. "I'm sorry," he muttered, aware of the futility of his actions. He passed a hand over his face and leaned his chevron against the door. Then he turned and walked away from his quarters and the warrior within.

Prowl quietly worked on his own arm, hunkered down amidst a stack of crates in one of the storage areas. He should have probably seen Ratchet about the damage to his gears, but that would have invited too many unwanted questions. Questions Prowl didn't have an answer for yet. His cortex churned with confusion that prevented him from thinking clearly. He had to think clearly, he had to come up with a solution.

Damn that slagging saboteur.

It was all his fault.

Black hands reached from behind and plucked the tool out of Prowl's fingers. The tactician looked up and the small spark of hope died at the visored face. Jazz worked on Prowl's arm quietly for a few moments before he spoke.

"How can y' stand there an' let him do this t' ya."

Prowl ground his dental plates. "Why?" The tactician winced as Jazz pressed on a sensitive circuit.

"Don't be like that, Prowlie. I'm jus' worried 'bout ya. We both know the twins are violent mechs. What can ya expect?"

"For you to mind your own business." Prowl reached for the repair kit, but Jazz slid it out of the Datsun's reach.

Prowl leveled a glare at the Porsche and rocked himself to his feet, catching his balance with a hand on a nearby crate.

Jazz swept up behind him, holding him steady with a steel grip on his waist. "I ain't done fixing your arm yet, Prowlie."

"I don't want your help , Jazz."

"Ya don't have ta ask fer help, Prowl." Jazz pulled the tactician closer, hugging his torso. "It's what Autobots do."

Prowl threw his head back and laughed. Dry and mirthless, he sank to his knees, pulling Jazz with him. He shook with more than laughter. His fuel tanks churned threatening to purge. Jazz's words made him nauseous, and sent his logic circuits ablaze in confusion.

"It's what," he managed between fits of giggles, "Autobots do."

Fingers turned him to look at a concerned face.

"…What… Autobots… do…"

Sideswipe couldn't help himself. He followed, keeping his distance as Ratchet reamed Jazz up and down for whatever foolish thing he'd done to freeze Prowl's computer. Ratchet carried on the tirade until the doors to the medbay closed between him and the saboteur. Even through the trilythium steel doors his voice rang through, showing the extent of his ire.

He wondered what Ratchet would say when he categorized the full scope of Prowl's damage.

He hadn't been gentle. He knew without seeing the Datsun. His fingers remembered the way Prowl's arms dented. He could still feel Prowl's jaw on his knuckles. He shifted his feet, trying to shake off the sense of stepping on his lover. He hadn't been gentle, even though he had restrained himself. Even though he'd never wanted to hurt him What a reminder that he was Sunstreaker's brother.

Jazz turned to the red twin and he tilted his head, glowering. "Man, it looks like he got sideswiped, don't it?"

Sideswipe narrowed his optics. "Oh ha, ha very funny. I thought he looked a little jazzed out, personally." The warrior leaned his shoulder against the wall. His lips curved into the imitation of a smile. "I hear you and Prowl have been together for nine years now." The pseudo smile disappeared. "Congratulations on hiding it so well."

Jazz shrugged, a smile of his own gracing his lips. "Yeah, well ya don' think yer th' only one good at hidin' things are ya? Prowl's picked up some pretty bad habits from all that time he's spent watchin' yer every move."

The warrior clenched his fists. "If you hurt him…"

Jazz nodded toward the closed med bay doors. "Can't hurt him any worse than he already is, can I?"

"The slagsucker deserved it." Slaggit, now he was even sounding like Sunstreaker.

"Yeah, well the humans have a saying. 'When y' play with fire, y'can only get burnt." Jazz huffed a laugh. "Or somethin' like that. Looks like Prowlie got burned big time, by a very crimson flame, I'd say.

Sideswipe snapped a hand out, snatching at the saboteur. But Jazz was fast. The Porsche faced the Lamborghini a few steps away from where he stood before, still smiling that same damned knowing smirk.

"Now Siders, that ain't very proper of ya, lashing out at an officer, now is it?"

Sideswipe curled his lips into a sneer. The red warrior stepped toward the black and white mech. "Lash out? Why Jazz, whatever do you mean?" He glared at Jazz from under his helmet. "I'm just trying to give you a hug to congratulate you for getting your spark's desire. "

Jazz danced out of Sideswipe's reach again. "Aw, thanks, Siders. I appreciate the sentiment, but duty calls. Don't want to be late, y'know. I got big plans for Prowl an' me." His grin broadened. "Big plans. 'Specially since he won't be needin' to sneak outta the Ark to escape his duties. Am I right?"

Sideswipe lunged for the saboteur, but the damnable mech kept slipping out of his grasp. Damn Jazz. Damn him for figuring things out too slagging easily. Damn Prowl, too. Damn him. Damn him! Damn him!

Jazz slid around the corner and disappeared as easily as Mirage.

Sideswipe shoved a fist into the wall, hissing static out from his vocalizer. Damn himself, he couldn't hate Prowl.

Chapter Text

Irritable wouldn't begin to describe Sideswipe's disposition. He sat on the couch in the quarters he and Sunstreaker shared, angrily mashing the buttons on the Transformer-sized controller in his hands. He had no desire to go to the rec room and hang with his friends. They had even less desire to see him as his sour mood made him as pleasant to be with as Sunstreaker.

His character moved across the screen, pulling out impossibly big weapons to blow up the oncoming enemies. He set his personal imaging processes to replace the enemies with little black and white mechs, occasionally a Porsche, or a Datsun, and even the rare Enforcer or Sleektilt. It gave him some small sense of gratification to blow them up, even if it was just in his cortex.

Sunstreaker stepped into the room, soft towel thrown over his shoulder. Sideswipe blinked and frowned at the over-sized Jazz that stood where his sensors, and his spark, told him his brother was.

"Sides, you're not doing that again, are you? Reset your imagers, or I'll fragging break your optics."

Sideswipe scowled and turned his attention back to the game, resuming the destruction of tacticians and saboteurs.

"This is slotting ridiculous." The golden Lamborghini swung Sideswipe back around to face him.

This time Sideswipe saw Prowl.

He almost reached out to the doorwings. Almost said the tactician's name. Almost jumped his former lover.

It was enough to convince him to go ahead and reset his imaging processor to default.

Sunstreaker eyed Sideswipe, arms crossed over his chest, as if he knew what Sideswipe had been about to do. "That is exactly what I mean when I say this is ridiculous. Go and get your mind off him. Bluestreak's been wondering what's wrong with you, and won't leave me the frag alone." Sunstreaker leaned in. "If you don't leave this room, I'll slagging haul you outside and tie you to the peak just to get you out of here. And since you probably haven't been keeping up to date with the weather, it's raining sheets out there."

Sideswipe glared at Sunstreaker, who glared right back. Finally the red twin stood and flicked off the game, not even bothering to save it and then he stormed out of the room. He cast one last glare over his shoulder at his brother before the door closed between them.

Prowl hated this. He hated Jazz for doing it to him. He hated Sunstreaker for uncovering it too soon. He hated Sideswipe for being an aft-headed fool that didn't listen. He hated that he still loved that slagging idiot. He hated hating him, as illogical as it seemed.

Prowl hated the feel of Jazz pressing up against him; his lips caressing his own. Prowl hated himself for subjecting to the unwanted touches. He hated the other mechs for not minding their own business. He hated that Jazz would wait until they were in a roomful of optics to try and soothe him. Where Prowl couldn't object to the strokes and kisses.

Prowl hated that Jazz chose to do it in front of Sideswipe of all mechs, and forced Prowl to submit to his caresses and kisses. He hated that Sideswipe did nothing, that he could do nothing or risk exposing their affair. He hated that he still hoped, when all he saw was despair.

The Autobots time on Earth had distorted their Cybertronian sense of time. They'd adjusted their schedules to fit in with the humans, to make interactions easier on both parties. These past two decacycles dragged along like a metacycle. The breems spent in Jazz's arms took megacycles.

The saboteur went out of his way to fondle Prowl in front of everybody, especially Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. He wanted everyone to know that Prowl was his.

Neither twin had spoken to Prowl since Sideswipe had ended their relationship. Orders were acknowledged with deepened frowns. Prime and Ironhide wondered why Prowl didn't call them to task for their insubordination.

Prowl had hoped that Jazz would leave him be, but with not-so-subtle hints, he told Prowl that he could still stir up trouble.

So he sat there, waiting for Jazz to release him, or guide him to one of their quarters. He responded only when pressed; his attention riveted on the one he desired.

Sideswipe ignored the two cuddling mechs, but anger burned in his optics. His friends sat just a little bit further from him, unsure of what angered him. He ignored Prowl's quiet attempts to catch his attention, the silent language they'd worked out to convey their affection to one another.

Jazz seemed to notice Prowl's attention had wandered from him.

"Y'seem tired, Prowl. Why don't we go to your quarters?"

Prowl automatically stood and followed the black and white mech through the ship. He delved into memory files of happier vorn. He didn't notice they'd arrived at his door until Jazz roughly shook him out of his reverie.

"Ain't y' listenin', Prowlie? Put in yer access code."

Prowl lifted his hand, and shielded the keypad with a doorwing. Entering the required combination sent a surge of pain through the hollowness of his emotional circuits. He hadn't changed the combination since the day he'd walked out, away from Sideswipe. Anything locked, that he wanted Sideswipe to have access to; he used one of the many conversions of that first decacycle together. A time Prowl still remembered as though it had happened a bare breem ago.


The tactician turned his gaze toward the saboteur, only then noticing that they were in his quarters.

"Y'were thinking of him again, weren't ya?" Black hands curled at Jazz's side.

"I'm always thinking of him now, Jazz." Blue optics narrowed. "It's hard to take one's thought processes off something denied."

Jazz lifted his hands. "Hey, I ain't keepin' Siders fram ya. He's doin' that himself."

Doorwings rose, and flared behind Prowl. "And so you're completely blameless then, are you?" Prowl modulated his vocalizer down, he hadn't meant o yell so loud. "Where do you process that-" Jazz shushed Prowl with a finger over his lips.

"Now, now. Yer gonna make yerself upset. I don' like seein' ya so unhappy."

"Then go! I was happy before you came along. I was happy with Side-"

"Shut up! Shut up about him! I'm sick'a ya talkin' 'bout him. He don' want ya. He tol' ya himself." Jazz waved his hands in sharp, angry motions. "An' now he's makin' ya miserable. Jus' forget about him." The saboteur grabbed Prowl's shoulders. "Yer mine, now. An' I don' wanna hear it."

Prowl looked away, his doorwings drooping.

Primus help him, he didn't know what to do. He didn't know how to get out of this. Without Sideswipe there waiting for him, he didn't think he could bring himself to care.

"I wonder where Jazz is?"

 Sideswipe glared at Bluestreak at the mention of the saboteur. The gunner, completely oblivious of the warrior's glower, prattled on.

"I never thought he'd miss this party. Not when he'd gone through so much trouble to help set it up. He even took Carly out shopping, and she always annoys him when he does that. Of course he had Blaster with him and they got new sound systems, which always make them happy. I'm surprised he and Blaster didn't end up together. He never seemed like Prowl's type. Of course I didn't know Prowl had a type, except maybe Ultra Magnus. Hey Sideswipe, I wonder if Optimus has been able to find him again."

Sideswipe glared around the room, suddenly filled with the inane desire to see his ex-lover. He forced his gaze to the floor, fighting temptation. Bluestreak continued on, jumping from one subject to the next.

"Sides, get to sector 342 now" Sunstreaker's voice roared over his comm. Channel.

Sideswipe stiffened. "I gotta go, Blue."

Bluestreak broke off his rambling, doorwings lifted in surprise. "Really? Why? It's barely begun. Is something wrong?"

Sideswipe squeezed the gunner's shoulder tires and pressed a brief kiss on his lips. "Nah, it's just Sunny. Someone probably threw mud at him or something." The warrior didn't wait for Bluestreak to answer.

Sideswipe took off at a brisk trot, mustering an apologetic smile at those he forced to the side.

"Hey, Sider, where's the fire?" Blaster shouted.

Sideswipe waved the boombox's concern away. "It's just Sunny. I'll be back."

Despite his easy dismissal, something about Sunstreaker's tone set him on edge. As soon he passed the Ark's entrance he transformed and took off. He swept through the small gathering outside and homed in on Sunstreaker's signal. His brother was moving.

Why in the pits wasn't he there already? Slaggit, he'd better not make me miss that party…

The two Lamborghinis arrived at the aptly named 'Dead Mech's Canyon' at the same time. Sideswipe braked as Sunstreaker stumbled to his feet.


Black and white paint dotted Sunstreaker's paint job. It immediately brought to mind his brother's attack on Prowl.

"Not again. You didn't…" Sideswipe hated the fact that he still didn't want to see the tactician hurt.

"You need to talk to him," Sunstreaker snapped.

"Primus, Sunny, what did you do?" Sideswipe heard himself ask, again.

"You're wretched, Sides. You're using fragging Bluestreak as a substitute for Prowl, because they look alike. And don't tell me that's not true. You are miserable. And, honestly as much as I hate him, I don't think Prowl's happy either."

Sideswipe transformed, eyeing the marks all over Sunstreaker. "Sunny, would you stop and make sense. What happened?"

"I… talked… to Jazz." No guilt touched his proud face.

"And will this talk land you in the brig again?"

"Probably." The golden warrior shrugged. "But that's not the point. I think you need to talk Prowl."

Sideswipe shook his head, frowning in confusion. "You went after Jazz, after telling me that it was Prowl who betrayed me."

"Because, you're making me feel wretched. And that slagger's acting too smug for his own good about the whole smelted thing." The vain twin scowled down at his ruined paint job. "It wasn't easy, either. So you slagging well better appreciate it. And go. Talk. To. Prowl."

Sideswipe threw his hands in the air. "As long as you've objected to our relationship, you suddenly want me to make up with him?"

Sunstreaker looked up, and his optics darkened with emotion he rarely expressed outside of the privacy of their quarters. "He makes you happy, bro. I may hate him, but if I can make you happy again, I'll deal with it."

"So why the sudden change in processing. What did Jazz say?"

In fair imitation of the saboteur's voice, Sunstreaker spoke. "I finally found something' t' hold him. What makes y' think I'll give him up so easily."

The brothers stared at one another while Sideswipe ran those words through his logic circuits. His optics widened and his spark sang with the realization.

"It's not Prowl's fault."

Worn brakes squealed as Prowl rolled to a stop. A golden Lamborghini sat on the side of the road, right next to the mech-sized hidden path to one of many rendezvous points. A sense of unease crawled along Prowl's circuits as he recalled the last time he'd come out here. He gunned his engine, unsure whether he should return to base, or trust the twins.


Hope had driven him out here, despite caution's warning. Just like last time, Sunstreaker had delivered the message, as sullen as always. Sideswipe had made no indication that he knew of the arrangement between then and now.

Trust sent him the rest of the way. He gave Sunstreaker a wide berth and though Prowl was aware of the sensors directed at him, the golden twin acted like the tactician wasn't there. Since they had ignored him, at every given opportunity, that message made Prowl conclude that perhaps Sideswipe was finally ready to listen.

If he had been human he would have cried.

He transformed and stepped through the bushes and trees.

Sunstreaker remained where he was, message clear. 'I'll let you talk, but if you cause trouble, I'm coming in.'

Sideswipe sat on the edge of the small embankment at the brook's edge.

The tactician relaxed, relieved to see his lover. He had never stopped thinking of Sideswipe as anything else. He longed to simply sit there and revel in the warrior's company, but he couldn't shake the sense of abandonment he still felt. It held him back and kept him on his feet, ready to move should Sideswipe show aggression, or should Sunstreaker appear.

"Sides," he started when the silence grew unbearable.

"Nine years, Prowl. Why couldn't you tell me?" The warrior didn't turn to look at the tactician.

"If it had really been that long, I would have told you, Sides."

Sideswipe slid a glare over his shoulder. "That's what Jazz said."

"You believed him?" Prowl winced at how sharp that sounded to his audio receptors.

The warrior turned, still sitting on the muddy bank. "Well, I don't know, Prowl. What am I supposed to believe? You are everything to me, and yet you couldn't say a word to me. I had to find out from Sunstreaker. Do you know how that makes me feel?"

Prowl's optics dimmed and he shifted uncomfortably. "I can imagine."

"How long?"

"A metacycle."

Sideswipe scowled. "Why couldn't you tell me?"

Prowl relaxed, his doorwings trembling with relief. Finally, Sideswipe was listening. "I wanted to be able to present a solution with the problem."

Sideswipe's gaze never left the tactician. "You know how I feel about you 'facing with anyone else. Not once have you complained. So, why?"

Prowl hesitated, pride mixed with a fear of sounding incredulous stalled his answer. Sideswipe waited patiently as one and then two breems ticked by. "It was not by choice."

Blue optics narrowed under that black helmet. "What the slag does that mean?" The warrior's voice rose as did his body. Fists clenched in the dirt as he shoved himself to his feet. "How can it not be by choice? Jazz seemed awfully happy for you not to have chosen him." Sideswipe grabbed Prowl's shoulders and shook him. "Talk to me fraggit!"

The tactician's systems heated as the long withheld emotions finally rose to the surface. He shook and his vocalizer hitched against speaking. His optical relays shorted out, blinding him. Guilt crushed him, and grief flailed at his spark.

Cracking branches announced Sunstreaker's arrival. Prowl felt Sideswipe gesture sharply at his brother, before returning his hand to Prowl. The fingers loosened on his arms and Sideswipe spoke in a gentle, coaxing voice. "Talk to me, sparkles."

Unwilling to look at his lover, Prowl turned his gaze to the ground when his optics came back on line. He struggled for the control he usually had. Slow and halting, he spoke.

He started at the beginning and told Sideswipe everything.

Sideswipe didn't move the entire time. Only the fine motors in his face shifted as his frown deepened or he glanced at his brother. His systems heated with anger as Prowl related just what he and Jazz did; anger that Jazz would force Prowl to do anything. Sideswipe shook with restrained fury, itching to hunt down the retro rat and make him pay.

Sunstreaker had come, thinking there'd been a problem when Sideswipe raised his voice. Now he stood with his arms crossed, optics dark and a scowl in place and listened.

The tactician finished and he glanced up at Sideswipe. The black and white frame still shook and his ventilators still whined noisily.

Sideswipe didn't say anything, running Prowl's words through his processor and committing them to a memory file all their own. Finally he looked into his lover's dim optics.

"I'm sorry Sideswipe." Shaking fingers brushed the red chevron. "I lost control of everything. I … didn't…" and the effort it took to say those words cracked his voice, "know what to do."

The red warrior frowned. "You should have told me." Blue optics looked up at the other twin.

Sunstreaker moved back through the woods, understanding. "If you need me, bro. I'm there."

"I know."

Fingers brushed against his cheek, drawing his attention to the tactician. He leaned his face into that touch and the despair lifted from Prowl's optics.

Prowl stroked Sideswipe's face, then his shoulder. His hesitance spoke of an unrelieved fear of rejection. "I wanted to tell you, Sides. There were many times I almost did."

The warrior slid an arm around Prowl's waist, pulling the tactician closer. He hugged Prowl and Prowl wrapped his arms around Sideswipe. The tactician shook, his sorrow unabated. "I was trying to keep you out of the brig, or worse, because you terminated Jazz."

A laugh rumbled out of the warrior's engine. "You slagging, slagging idiot." Despite the words, he spoke in a soft voice. "Don't you trust me?" Sideswipe clung to his errant lover. "Together we can beat this. We'll think of something." Sideswipe rested his forehead against Prowl's chevron. "We always have, and together we always will."

A smile lifted Prowl's mouth for the briefest of moments. "Why are you being so logical about this? That's my job."

Their lips touched timidly, tentatively, as unsure as the first time so long ago. It would take time to undo the harm this had caused. Cybertronians were notoriously long-lived. Time, they had plenty of.

Chapter Text

Steel cables strained with the weight they were commanded to lift. Meter by meter the section of wall rose, accompanied by the whine of a surging vocalizer. Metal scrapped and dragged its way out from under the collapsed wall. Fingers clawed and grasped, pulling Sideswipe's substantial weight.

The red twin twisted, wincing and grunting as he forced his mangled legs over. They lay before him, spurting pink energon.

Prowl set the wall down as carefully as he lifted it, sliding himself down with his own twisted leg out in front of him.

The two mechs regarded each other, both unsure what exactly to make of the situation. Prowl reached over his shoulder to finger the crumpled metal of his doorwings. He winced, easing his doors back. His optics flickered with patterns. He frowned at the result. "Is your communicator working?"

Sideswipe focused on the Enforcer. "Wha-?" He shook his addled cranium clear. "My communicator?" He ran a quick diagnostic on the requested system. "No, it's slag."

Prowl nodded. "I thought as much." The tactician unsubspaced a beacon and activated it with stiff fingers.

Sideswipe moaned. "Great. How long do you think it'll take before they find us?"

Prowl shifted about, trying to get comfortable. "It'll take as long as it takes, I surmise."

"Slotted fragging prime," the warrior groaned.

Prowl's optics slid over the red frame, scrutinizing. "Do you have any other major damage besides your legs?"

Sideswipe pulled up a more intensive diagnostic. Well that's not going to cause a problem. Oh no, not at all. "Well, the good news is I don't have any major circuit damage."

Prowl tilted his head, his mangled chevron casting a disjointed shadow on his helm. "So what is damaged?"

Sideswipe frowned, trust Prowl to spoil any type of fun. "One of my intake's busted. Oh, and my internal repairs are having trouble stemming the flow of energon."

The tactician's optics flashed. "That is a problem. Here, see what you can do with this."

Sideswipe stared in disbelief as Prowl pulled out a redi medkit. "Do you have Prime's trailer in there, too?"

"It's called being prepare, Sideswipe. Perhaps it is a lesson you should learn." Prowl handed Sideswipe the medkit. "I'm sure you know what to do with that."

"Slag off," Sideswipe frowned, "sir."

Prowl cast his own glare at the warrior. Then he sat back and dimmed his optics.

Sideswipe grumbled into the ensuing silence. He quietly clamped the leaking lines in his legs, the flow automatically redirecting itself to avoid clogging his fuel lines. That took him all of a cycle and left him wheezing in pain. Trust pitspawn Prowl to make him tend his own injuries.

Sideswipe managed to stay still for another cycle, a cycle after his leg stopped throbbing. Prowl remained patiently quiet the entire time, contemplating whatever tacticians processed.

His fingers started first, twitching in a restless, rhythm-less beat. He shifted unable to find comfort in any position. He idly picked up one piece of debris after another, carelessly flinging them from him. His mood soured and darkened, his engine growling out his foul temper.

His fingers swept across the ground. He had cleared everything he could lift in the immediate area. His fingers clawed into the concrete floor, digging furrows into the stone. "Slaggit."

"Is there a problem?"

Sideswipe jerked his gaze to the unexpected voice. The tactician had been so quiet that Sideswipe had almost forgotten about him. Prowl regarded him with his ever-present frown in place.

"No." Sideswipe smacked the back of his helmet against the heavy rubble behind him. A sigh grated painfully out of his strained vent.

Rather than return to his quiet processing, Prowl shifted and dragged himself closer.


Sideswipe glared at the second-in-command. "Amused I can't even pull a prank."

Prowl winced as his doorwings drew back. "Actually I hadn't even processed that thought." Prowl sat next to Sideswipe, with still a few meters between them. "I was wondering if you know how to play Firestorm?"

Sideswipe eyed the Enforcer. "Kinda, yeah. I've never played it by the rules though."

Prowl pulled a case out of subspace, its sides etched with complex mathematical designs. He balanced it on one leg and popped the case open.

"You're fragging sure you don't have Prime's trailer in there?"

"Yes Sideswipe," Prowl said with an edge of impatience. He pulled out and unfolded the board , then the second tier.

"You come prepared for a game in the middle of a battle?"

Prowl tilted his head, a smile turning the corners of his lips. "Well, I suppose I forgot to remove it from my subspace before we left." He plucked out and placed the little figures that represented the two armies.

Sideswipe watched Prowl scatter the figurines several times before he moved to help the tactician. "What's wrong with your fingers?"

Prowl continued removing the pieces, and directing Sideswipe in their proper placement. "I suppose I landed on them wrong. I cannot bend them like I should."

"You're not going to yell at me for crashing Downpour into that ledge?"

"No. I believe that having to spend an uncertain amount of time with me is punishment enough."

The flash of Prowl's optics made Sideswipe stiffen. Did Rod-Up-His-Aft Prowl just tell a joke? "I guess it's better you than Red. He'd be panicking at every little noise, even ones I can't hear."

Prowl turned his face, hiding his amusement behind his cheek guard. "At least you wouldn't be bored."

"No… but it'd be either me or Red coming out of this, one of us wouldn't last."

The tactician's optics brightened, though he didn't respond to the threat to another officer. "Why don't you show me the way you play. I'm interested in seeing other ways besides normal regulations. Then I shall show you the proper way of play."

They played through one round, Prowl sweeping through Sideswipe's defense and claiming the Core. Sideswipe reset the board and Prowl taught the slower method of the game. Again he swept through Sideswipe's forces, taking out the Airbarge, although it cost him three of his Ultra Convoys. Sideswipe glared at the board and reset the pieces.

They played in silence, Prowl moving his soldiers to his tactical advantage. Sideswipe watched the pieces sweep around his main force. A few guns and an Airbarge sat elsewhere, seemingly ignored in lieu of the contingent that closed in on the Core. Prowl moved his Guardian one block away from where it guarded the Core and wiped out the warrior's main force. Sideswipe smirked and his Airbarge and guns laid waste to the Guardian and Prowl's surrounding troops. Sideswipe lifted the empty core, triumph written on his face.

"Pity there's no grade for the winner."

Prowl stared at the pieces Sideswipe had 'destroyed.' "That was foolhardy. You couldn't know that I would move the Guardian in such a manner."

Sideswipe set the victory container back down and set up the board for another round. "It's called a gamble, Prowl. Try it some time."

Prowl lifted his gaze to meet Sideswipe's. "It's no wonder you need repairs after every battle. You sacrificed all of your troops…"

It wasn't the last time Sideswipe won against the tactician, but Prowl held his own and countered the unexpected maneuvers a number of times. Ironhide's face, when he finally stumbled across them, would have its own file in Prowl's memory banks. The Security Officer obviously hadn't been expecting to find the Toughline and the Enforcer softly laughing as they countered one another's moves.

Prowl just wished the delinquent would better spend his excess energy in similar pursuits. Surely Hound or Smokescreen wouldn't be adverse to approaching the warrior about future matches. It would keep Sideswipe out of trouble however briefly.

Prowl dimmed his optics, phrasing the report on the battle in his cortex for when he had a chance to lay it out on a datapad.

The medbay doors opened and admitted two sets of noisy feet. Sunstreaker's less than pleasant voice called out to his brother.

"You're a fragging idiot, Sides. What the slag were you thinking taking out Downpour like that?"

Springer laughed, tugging down the fist Sunstreaker shook at the red twin. "Aw, don't you think he's gotten enough, having to spend nearly a megacycle alone with Prowl."

Prowl caught the glance the red warrior threw at him. His doorwings twitched in response. It didn't matter to him what was said. He knew all about the names they called him when they thought he couldn't hear. They failed to take Red Alert's ever watchful surveillance into account. The Security Director often came to him, demanding he take the offenders to task. Prowl didn't really care what was said about him, he was used to it.

He ignored them, only taking into account that Springer's presence meant Ultra Magnus had arrived. He looked forward to a game with the field commander.

Prowl stepped into Prime's office, wondering what had prompted the summons. Ultra Magnus had left only a few cycles ago, taking a few of Prime's soldiers with him.

Optimus turned from the tactical maps behind his desk. He held a hand out to the chair on the other side of his desk.

The tactician sat down, his doorwings brushing the back of the chair. "Is there a problem, Prime?"

"Care to explain the meaning of this?"

Optimus nodded at the monitor on the wall. He tapped a few commands in.

An image appeared. Prowl and Sideswipe faced one another across a Firestorm board. One by one they maneuvered the pieces the prescribed spaces.

"We are playing Firestorm, sir," Prowl ventured. Prime tilted his masked chin down, waiting. Prowl stiffened at the unexpected scrutiny at what he considered an innocuous act. "I am testing a new disciplinary measure." Prime tapped his fingers in the desk. "It's considered a form of punishment by some of our more delinquent individuals to be forced to spend time with myself."

Optimus glanced at the monitor, just in time to catch Sideswipe chortling at some move Prowl had tried. "This is punishment?"

"Testing, sir."

The Autobot Commander turned from the screen. He sighed. "You understand where the problem lies?"

Prowl's door panels squeezed the back of the seat. "Yes, but-"

Prime slapped his hand down on the desk. "There has to be a line, Prowl." Optimus' tone softened. "For your sake, if not the unit's. How can you order a good friend into a dangerous situation? How can you maintain discipline when you are buddies with the offenders?"

Prowl held himself from sagging. Once Prime got started he was as unstoppable as a chain reaction. Prowl waited patiently through prime's lecture.

He knew it was illogical, but there was an intelligent spark underneath that mischievous core. He wanted to draw that potential out. It would make Sideswipe a much better soldier if he could plan out his moves to everyone's advantage.

"I understand, Prime," he said when Optimus finished speaking. "Like I said it was a test, I will not continue with that method."

Prowl didn't use Firestorm as a punishment again. Still Sideswipe continued to get into trouble and Prowl would linger while the warrior did one of many menial tasks. They spoke, mostly teasing each other for previous games, then for maneuvers out on the battlefield. Sideswipe became a good source for feeling out the morale of some of the quieter troops, like Bluestreak and Tracks, who, despite their rather vociferous personalities, never really voiced their opinion on the status of the war.

It took a while for Prowl to peel away the protective layers of the warrior's spark.


The red warrior looked up, his mouth set in a frown. "What?"

"How did your spark become twinned?"

Sometimes when asked for one spark, Vector Sigma would instead give two. It happened so rarely, Prowl was surprised he hadn't found any mention of the Toughlines in any database.

Sideswipe stared ahead, his frown deepening. Prowl turned to leave, certain the secretive twin wouldn't be willing to divulge such personal information, especially when it involved his brother.

"We weren't…"

Prowl paused to look back. "We weren't twinned." His optics brightened and narrowed. "We were split. They were trying to make more units at a faster, more cost-effective rate." Sideswipe paused, his optics focused on distant, by all appearances, unpleasant, memories. "They decided the method was neither quicker, nor cheaper." His gaze dropped to the hand he flexed before him. "They decided the results were unstable," Sideswipe snapped the last word out, his dental plates clicking together.

"You were told this?" Prowl asked, surprised.

"Like we weren't even there," Sideswipe growled.

The tactician frowned, following what he knew of the twins to its logical conclusion. "What did you do?"

"Ever heard of Lab 328?"

He had, actually. "Ah, I see. Well, thank you." Prowl was aware of the warrior's gaze on him as he left.

Sideswipe wasn't quite sure what to make of Prowl's unexpected attention. It made him uncomfortable, but it was not wholly unwelcome. That surprised him. He did not hate or really like any of the officers, they were there, and told him what to do, pointed him and said 'have at it.'

They didn't converse with him. They didn't ask to play rounds of Firestorm or Blind Core. They didn't ask him personal questions.

And he didn't answer them.

Sideswipe found the tactician entering his processor at the most unusual times. It distracted him from whatever task he was currently attending.

Time spent with Smokescreen made him wonder how Prowl would feel against him….

Where'd that come from?

He didn't… Did he?

No. He didn't.

He didn't just want to feel the joints of…

Argh, stop it!

Sideswipe glared up at the bottom of Sunstreaker's bunk. What was going on? This was Prowl , for Primus ' sake. Prowl.Prime would have both their heads if he knew there was the smallest trace of feelings between them.

There weren't any feelings though right?

"Sideswipe stop banging your head against the berth."

The Enforcer next to him added a half-growled, half-muttered agreement. Smokescreen winked on optic on. A frown crossed his silver face, and his blue and white door panel twitched just the slightest. "You should be recharging, Sideswipe. Mandatory, remember."

The red twin frowned back at the other mech. It wasn't like he hadn't tried. But his shut down stalled with thoughts of Prowl. The sound of his voice reaching audios…

Sideswipe turned and kissed the blue and red mech. Anything to distract him from these disturbing thoughts.

Smokescreen shoved him away. "Sideswipe, recharge."

The Toughline scowled and slid off the berth instead. He tromped out of the room, earning another snarl from Sunstreaker, and also drawing one from Springer. He wandered the empty halls, aware of the cameras that traced his every move. He was certain he'd be reprimanded for it, if Red Alert didn't hunt him down. No, that would mean leaving his monitors. He wouldn't do that.

Sideswipe stopped by one of the few windows still unbarred. It looked down into what used to be a sculpted courtyard. Now, it served as one of the training areas. He leaned against the window sill, arms crossed over his chest.

The steady sound of footsteps drew him to his feet. Prowl turned a corner, heading directly for him. His doorwings angled back to mirror the irritation on his face.

"Sideswipe, you're scheduled for recharge, right now."

The warrior scowled at the other mech.

"If you don't return to your quarters and log off for the appropriate amount of time, I will be forced to reprimand you."

Sideswipe stepped up to the smaller mech, looming over him. "Then you'll have to reprimand me, sir."

Prowl stared up at him, arms crossed over his chestplate, although he didn't move back. His stern lips turned down. "Come to my office, Sideswipe."

The Enforcer brushed past the Toughline, his stride purposeful. Sideswipe glared after him, but followed. Great, now you just got yourself in trouble, idiot. That wasn't what he'd intended to do.

Sideswipe plopped into the chair in front of Prowl's desk.

"Why do you insist on testing me, Sideswipe?" Rather than sit in his chair, Prowl stood at Sideswipe's elbow.

The warrior shrugged, looking anywhere but at the tactician.

Prowl's doorwings drooped and he walked around his desk, brushing his fingers against the console. He resumed standing next to Sideswipe, though on his other side. "Sideswipe…"

The warrior looked up when the tactician trailed off. The corners of Prowl's mouth quirked as though he still argued with himself over what he wanted to say. Sideswipe realized that before this strange relationship started, Prowl would always carefully school his expression to stern neutrality.

Prowl's distant optics refocused on the warrior and his lips twitched one last time. "Sideswipe'" he started again, "I believe we are creating a problem, you and I."

Sideswipe frowned then set his expression to careful neutrality. "I-" the smart retort died on his lips. "Are you saying we're going to stop?"

Prowl's doorwings shuddered. "We should stop. We need to stop."

Sideswipe stared at Prowl from under his helmet, the frown finding its way back to his face.

"But I find myself unwilling to give this up," the tactician admitted. "I find you entering my processing at unexpected times." His engine rumbled with amusement.

Sideswipe stiffened. Prowl never showed his amusement, even when a smile touched his lips.

"You have been the cause of more than one shut down of my battle computer. I cannot continue to operate like this, Sideswipe."

"So… are we going to stop?" Sideswipe paused as a thought occurred to him. "Wait, why are we talking about this here?" He stiffened, glancing in alarm at the cameras.

Prowl tilted his gaze toward one camera. "A power surge knocked the cameras offline. The circuits will repair themselves in approximately ten breems."

Sieswipe leaned toward Prowl, wondering if some imposter had taken the tactician's place. "You taking lessons from me?" he whispered, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Prowl smiled, his optics glowing. "When Jazz is here, it's something he does. He hates Red Alert watching him."

"Ah, Jazz. He still stationed here?" Sideswipe leaned back to grin up at Prowl now that he didn't have to worry about suspicious optics.

Prowl's doorwings trembled in amusement. "Occasionally. Currently, he is training Bumblebee, fresh out of the academy. He will be back within the next few decacycles."

"Great, another rookie."

"You were a rookie once, as well, if you recall." Prowl replied. "I would need a sizeable amount of memory space to list your rookie mistakes. And that's without going into any details."

Sideswipe made a face at the tactician's reminder of a time when he'd crashed just as many Autobot fliers as Decepticons. Among so many other errors.

"We have, however, gone off on a tangent, and our time is limited." Prowl paused, a frown of concentration on his face, "I cannot continue to work when unexpected thoughts of you interrupt me so thoroughly. Now the logical conclusion would be to cease our conversations, no matter how pleasant they might be. The best solution would be reassignment, if we could convince Prime that one or the other of us would server better in another unit." Prowl tilted his head, his doorwings drooping. "Perhaps you could seek assignment with Ultra Magnus' unit. That way Sunstreaker would not be so constantly separated from Springer."

Sideswipe winced at the image of those two noisily fighting, and then making up.

Even louder.

Nearly every single metacycle.

"Why can't we just continue on?"

Prowl's optics flashed and his doorwings lifted, belying the frown on his face. "You… would want to?" His doorpanels relaxed and the glow of his optics softened. "I'm relieved."

Sideswipe stood and faced the tactician. "Yeah, well, I've never been much for rules, you know." He smirked down at the black and white mech. "You on the other hand, I'm surprised you've even ran the possibility through your processor."

Prowl tilted his head in a nod. "Like I said, I am loathe to give this up. I deduce that if we suddenly halt this relationship, it will only escalate the problem. " Blue optics flashed in irritation. "I cannot work like that."

"What are you suggesting, then?"

"I cannot think of a more delicate way to put this." Prowl's fingers brushed against the warrior's arms, running lightly up the red plating. "I'm suggesting we escalate the relationship."

Sideswipe jerked away, surprised by the intimate contact.

Prowl's fingers winced away and his arms dropped to his side. "I see. I can understand."

The red twin stared down at the tactician, as Prowl moved to take a seat. He didn't sag in defeat like so many others had when Sideswipe had brushed them to the side.

The warrior had always looked forward to Prowl's conversations. He admitted that a few pranks were pulled just for that. Smokescreen… aw slag… he was using the other tactician because he resembled Prowl. He hadn't noticed the blue and red Enforcer before Prowl.

He really did want to feel the second-in-command against him.


"Prowl... I'm sorry, but you caught me by surprise." He cocked a grin at the black and white mech. "Try that again?"

Prowl 's chevron tilted and the Enforcer walked back over to the warrior. Prowl rested his fingers on the armored plating along Sideswipe's arms. He slid his hands up the twin's shoulders and to Sideswipe's helmet. With a gentle tug, he pulled the red twin nearer.

Lips touched, sliding along each other with a pleasant squeal. Prowl's hands slid down the warrior's chassis, light enough to barely register on Sideswipe's sensory net.

Sideswipe's own hands were anything but still. He ran light caresses along the Enforcer's frame, exploring the contours of the tactician's exterior plating.

They pulled away from each other, engines purring with contentment. They stared at one another for a brief silent moment.

"So, how exactly are we going to work this?"

Prowl pressed closer, pushing Sideswipe back into the chair. "I'll think of something." With more confidence this time, Prowl kissed Sideswipe, leaning over him. He braced his hands on the back of the chair, caging the warrior with his limbs.

Sideswipe reached up and tentatively stroked the Enforcer's tempting doorwing. The tactician's engine revved in response, inviting further exploration of the black and white appendage. The warrior took a firm grip of Prowl's doorwings and pulled the officer completely into his lap.

They explored one another frames, lingering on areas that churned a response from the other's engine, or elicited a moan from a vocalizer.

All too soon, Prowl pulled away, leaving Sideswipe panting and tingling with the vibrations of his engine.

"Time's almost up." The tactician leaned down to once more nuzzle the warrior's neck and kiss his lips.

"You were able to track the time through that?" Sideswipe gasped.

Prowl stepped away, leaning against the edge of his desk. His doorwings trembled and his engine continued its aroused purr. "If we do not wish to be caught, then I must."

Sideswipe pressed himself back into the chair, still panting and his engine nearly roaring. "And you can just stop like that?" His voice held a plaintive whine.

Prowl's optics flashed, and his hands gripped the desk with the sound of twisting metal. "Have to." He chuckled, softly. "Perhaps I should have started sooner." He straightened, and walked around his desk, sitting down. "Now, I still have to discipline you for not recharging when you're scheduled."

Sideswipe gaped at the tactician. Calculated, nearly everything he did was calculated.

The slagger.

Because, by Primus, he wanted more.

Chapter Text

The sun slid down its celestial path, leaching the world of its light. The stars sparkled above, distant suns that traced their own trail across the vast cosmos.

They needed to return to the base.

That would mean leaving the comfort of each other's arms. Sideswipe pulled Prowl closer. There had been times, back on Cybertron, where they would be separated for several metacycles. Two decacycles should have been nothing to them.

And it was all Jazz's fault.

Thoughts of the saboteur came uninvited and tainted Sideswipe's pleasant contemplation.

He turned his mind to the mech beside him. He ran light fingers over the still form, tracing his cheek seams from dark optics to slim mandible. He smoothed his hands over Prowl's doorwings, and caressed his waist.

Their lovemaking had been as desperate as that time after they'd first awakened. Plugged into each other, they let their emotions wash over one another. Desperate to forgive and desperate to forget. Prowl had overloaded, seizing Sideswipe in the same moment. Then the tactician slipped offline.

And scared the spark out of Sideswipe.

Sideswipe had shaken and smacked Prowl, trying to get a response. He'd been ready to call Ratchet, or haul Prowl back to base when the blue optics lit up. The tactician hazily looked around, confusion evident on his face and in his vocalizer. Relieved that his lover hadn't gone permanently offline, Sideswipe coaxed Prowl back into recharge.

The poor mech was worn out, emotionally, mentally, and probably physically. This entire situation had left the tactician drained in so many ways.

Another reason to hate the saboteur.

Sideswipe's chronometer ticked away in his optical display. He sighed and gently shook Prowl online. "We need to get back, sparkles."

"Don' calll mme that," Prowl murmured drowsily.

Sideswipe smiled, embracing the tactician before helping him up. Prowl leaned heavily against Sideswipe's shoulder, shaking his systems online.

"Are you going to be okay?"

"Rather not go back." A sleepy smile crossed Prowl's face as he focused on the warrior.

"Your battle computer isn't fritzing again, is it?" Sideswipe kissed the tactician, quick, affectionate pecks. He still loathed letting go.

"Battle computer's fine. Just tired." Prowl hesitated and his doorwings drooped. "And Jazz is there," he admitted.

A humorless laugh startled Prowl into looking up. "I doubt he'll be up to bothering you. Sunny 'talked' to him earlier today."

Prowl narrowed his optics and Sideswipe could almost hear him boot up the rest of the way.

"He talked me into listening to you."

Prowl smiled and nodded. "Tell him 'thank you' for me."

Sideswipe looked down at their hands, and reluctantly he let go. "Guess I'll see you back at the Ark."

The tactician stared off into the distance. He touched Sideswipe's arm, even though he still had Sideswipe's attention. Serious blue optics focused on the prankster. "I don't want Sunstreaker to get in trouble." He paused and his fingers gripped Sideswipe's arm, as though trying to draw reassurance from the warrior's presence. "I'm going to have to act the part, Sides. Primus." Prowl spat out the last word, glaring over the warrior's shoulder.

Sideswipe stiffened and his engine growled his opinion on that. "I'd rather you not have any thing to do with him." He still couldn't believe that Jazz was responsible for this.

Prowl nodded, his fingers trailing down to squeeze Sideswipe's hand. "I have no choice, Sides."

The warrior scowled. "You're not seriously going to let him continue to fragging rape you."

Prowl looked up, then away, his brow ridge furrowed. "Any suggestions would be welcome."

"Uh…" Sideswipe hadn't expected to be called on so soon. "Slag. Fine. Go ahead." The warrior scowled his continued displeasure.

Prowl jabbed a finger at Sideswipe's chest. "Don't interfere.. Don't even make an appearance." He reached up to kiss the tall warrior. "Would you be able to sneak into my quarters again?

"Yeah. I can do that. When?"

"Before the day cycle starts. If I am in recharge, then shake me online. Until then, consider the problem. You and Jazz process in similar ways."

Sideswipe opened his mouth to object, then shut it at the 'Don't even try' look Prowl shot him.

They stared at each other, loathe to part ways.

Finally Prowl brushed Sideswipe's cheek with his fingertips. "I love you."

Sideswipe caught his hand to place a kiss on his knuckles. "I'm still mad that you didn't tell me, but I love you too."

Sideswipe released his lover's hand and watched the Datsun leave. He flopped onto his back, relief wending its way through his mind.

Prowl soared over the road, his spark and processor as light as air. He ran through his plan again, affirming the likelihood of success. He may not be able to predict Jazz's response, but he knew what Optimus would do with a 88.34 accuracy.

The short recharge with Sideswipe, specifically in Sideswipe's arms, revitalized him in ways he hadn't thought possible. The weight of worry lifted with the knowledge that Sideswipe had forgiven him. He felt very unlike himself, driving at unreasonable speeds, wanting nothing more than to shout to the stars.

The last time he'd felt so illogically joyous, had been back on Cybertron, a long, long time ago. That first time after he and Sideswipe had plugged into each other and delved into one another's memories, their emotions. It was intoxicating as high grade.

He leapt to his feet and promptly smoothed away the smile on his face. He strode into the command center and straight up to Optimus.

"Have you seen Jazz?" He lifted his brow ridge and widened his optics.

Optimus turned, his own optics widening. "He's in the med bay. Where have you been?"

Prowl composed himself. "He was supposed to meet me several cycles ago. Why is he in the med bay?" He kept his doorwings held tensely up.

"Meet?" Prime's optics narrowed. "Didn't I ask you-"

"I cannot give Jazz the attention he deserves here, Prime. My duties are too distracting." He stopped and allowed Prime to make his move.

The Autobot Commander didn't disappoint. "This is the first time, either of you have mentioned it as a problem. It's been two decacycles since my request.

Prowl drooped a little. "We've been unhappy this whole time, surely you've noticed."

"Yes, actually, I have."

The tactician shifted, edging toward the doorway. "Why is he in medical?"

Prime's optics blazed. "He was attacked."

Prowl tensed. "Really?" He threw all the concern he could into his voice. "I'm assuming it was a Decepticon?"

"He collapsed before he could answer." Optimus gently pushed Prowl toward the door. "I'm sure you're worried about him. Ratchet says he's online. Let's go talk to him and find out."

The two mechs walked in companionable silence, Prime's large, brightly colored bulk moved easily around the smaller black and white mech. Then Optimus spoke, his tone soft. "Does it really disturb you to be here?"

"Yes," Prowl replied.

"I see." Prowl heard the apology, even though it wasn't said. And it hurt Prowl to know how he abused Prime's trust. But Prowl found the pain durable for the spark the red twin had ignited so long ago.

The med bay doors opened to admit them. Ratchet glanced up and closed up the torso panel he worked on. He circled the table as the other two officers approached. His gaze shifted from Prime to Prowl.

"I was wondering how long it'd take for you to get here." The medic's optics turned to Prime.

Optimus moved around Ratchet and touched Jazz's tireless shoulder, "Are you okay there, Jazz?"

The saboteur laughed and winced. "I'll be all righ', once Ratch let's me outta here."

"That's not happening until the day cycle begins, Jazz," Ratchet grumped.

Prowl swept in and lay a hand on the Porsche's chestplate. "Jazz you need to rest and allow your internal repairs to run."

The saboteur stared at the tactician, jaw slowly loosening. He snapped his mouth closed and frowned at Prowl.

"Is there something wrong, Jazz? Prowl?" Optimus suddenly asked.

The two black and white mechs stared at one another a moment longer before Prowl finally spoke. "I was worried when you didn't make the rendezvous." His optics never left the visor before him, completely ignoring the other two mechs in the room.

"The…" Jazz trailed off and air hissed out of his vents. He knew, then, where Prowl had disappeared to. The saboteur pressed his lips together and his body shifted into a tense stillness. "Well, I'm sorry Prowlie. It completely slipped my processor. Guess Sunstreaker must'a completely beat it out of me."

Optimus' voice boomed out, interrupting their staring contest. "Sunstreaker? Sunstreaker did this?

"Ayup. Jus' like he shredded Prowl a couple'a decacycles ago."

Prowl held himself still to keep from reacting to Jazz's statement.

"Prowl, is this true?" Optimus and Ratchet turned to face the tactician.

"No," Prowl said, keeping his voice on a neutral tone. "Jazz is mistaken. It was Dragstrip who assaulted me."

Optimus crossed his arms over his chest. "Is there something going on that I should know about."



Prowl slid a glare toward the saboteur. "Our personal affairs are not Prime's business."

Jazz scowled back. "He might disagree with that."

Prime looked between the two uncertainly.

Prowl stiffened, doorwings rising. Jazz smirked knowingly.

"Prowl's interfacing wi' Sideswipe. That's prob'ly what he was doing when I was attacked."

Silence filled the void after Jazz's words.

Prowl clenched his fist, glaring at Jazz. He managed a tight, incredulous smile for Optimus and then he threw his head back and laughed. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard in awhile Jazz." Prowl had been planning a confrontation like this for vorn upon vorn. Longer than the saboteur could likely guess. "Sideswipe? What would make you think Sideswipe and I could spend more than three breems in a room together, much less alone and in an intimate situation?"

Jazz's scowl deepened.

Prowl removed his hand from Jazz's chest and narrowed his optics at the saboteur. This was also in one of the infinite scenarios he had predicted and planned for, weighing Jazz's chaotic reactions, in an attempt to find a solution to his problem. "You are being petty and jealous of the time I have to spend correcting the twins' actions." His doorwings lowered. "It simply astounds me that you would drag Optimus into our … spat."

Jazz's visor winked off for a brief second, and his frown faded to surprise. Whatever the saboteur might have expected Prowl to do, this had apparently not been it. It gave the tactician some small sense of satisfaction to throw Jazz off.

Prime regarded his second-in-command in silence for a few moments. Air sighed out of his vents and he looked to Jazz. "Do you have any proof, Jazz?"

Ratchet, who had been unusually quiet up to that point, spoke up before the Porsche could open his mouth. "You're not serious, Prime? This is Prowl we're talking about. And Sideswipe of all mechs." Ratchet reconsidered his words. "This is Prowlwith Sideswipe we're talking about."

Prime glanced at Ratchet. "Are you going to retract that accusation, Jazz?"

Jazz looked at Prime and Ratchet and then scowled at Prowl. "No."

"Do you have any proof?"

The saboteur opened his mouth and then shut it with a click. "No, Prime."

"I see." He regarded his officers and sighed again. "Prowl, when you are done here, I'd like to see you in my office."

Prowl's doorwings drooped. "Yes, Prime."

Optimus nodded and trudged out of the med bay. Ratchet glared at the two black and white mechs. "Two breems, and you'd better not be here when I come out."

"One breem will suffice, Ratchet. Jazz needs his rest." Prowl frowned down at the saboteur.

Ratchet shrugged and disappeared into his office.

The two mechs regarded one another, both aware of the camera that caught their every move and listened for their conversation.

"I need a kiss t' get better, Prowl," Jazz's smile twisted into a barely perceptible sneer.

The tactician leaned away, his doorwings sweeping back to emphasize his distaste. "Youneed to rest, Jazz."

Jazz hooked his fingers into the joint between Prowl's chest and his neck cables, and pulled the tactician down. "Y'know, I love ya."

Prowl's doorwings drew back farther. "You have a very peculiar way of showing it."

Jazz's voice dropped to a bare whisper. "How can I compete with your other love?"

Prowl resisted Jazz's weakened attempts to pull him closer, his arms braced on the gurney. "Jazz, there is no competition. There has never been any competition." Prowl broke away from Jazz's grasp and turned away from the saboteur's bereft hand.

"Yer gonna punish Sunny, though, right?"

Prowl paused, resisting the urge to cast one last glare at the meddling saboteur. He continued of the medbay and headed straight for Prime's office.

He ran scenario after scenario through his battle computer. Sixty-four percent of them came back that, without Jazz willing to put forth further evidence, such as admitting he's been lying to Prime this past metacycle, protocol would dictate for Prime to disregard the accusation. Innocent until proven guilty would be his savior, it was the Autobot way.

Optimus looked up when Prowl entered. He held a datapad in his hands. Prowl recognized it as one he'd given his commander a long, long time ago, when Prime had fallen into a deep depression over the state of his troops, the planet, the energon crisis, everything. Prowl had compiled a list of quotes and catergorized them, in his perversely ordered fashion. It was a list he himself looked at to remember why they fought. Although Prowl had organized them for Prime, they'd initially been a gift from Sideswipe. Something Prime did not need to know.

He knew Optimus only looked at the list to find comfort in the empowering words.

Prowl had shaken Prime's confidence.

And it hurt to know that.

Prowl stood before Prime's desk, palms slapped to his thighs to keep his fingers from curling. His doorwings stood rigid behind him as he stood at attention.

Prime sighed, letting the datapad fall from his fingers. "Why would Jazz think that, Prowl?"

Prowl didn't dare relax his posture. "I don't know."

"You don't act like a lovestruck sparkling, Prowl." The two mechs regarded each other coolly.

"I'm hardly a sparkling, Prime."

Optimus leaned forward, hands clasped on the desk before him. "You weren't really worried about Jazz." The accusation lay just below Prime's statement.

Prowl's doorwings shifted. "Jazz is capable of taking care of himself. I normally don't have to worry about him. I value that."

"This is a serious accusation that Jazz has made, Prowl…"

"He has given no proof."

Prime turned his head slightly, eying the tactician. "No, he hasn't and you are innocent until proven guilty. Since there is no proof, I cannot pursue it."

Prowl held himself against relaxing, aware of Prime's continued scrutiny.

"Is there anything you want to tell me, Prowl?"

"No, Prime."

"I see." Optimus reached over and plucked another datapad off one of the teetering piles on his desk. "I've received a communiqué from Ultra Magnus. He's currently coordinating a strategy to send reinforcements over the spacebridge, as well as building materials for Grapple and Hoist's project."

"Reinforcements would be welcome," Prowl replied, accepting the datapad from Prime, his stance relaxing into business as usual. Prime would allow him to arrange punishment detail for Sunstreaker, as usual. That suited the tactician just fine.

The continuous caress of fingers over his headlights and chevron brought Prowl online. A silhouetted form hovered over him, blue light running across his face. It was the horns that did it for Prowl, he strangled a yelp and lashed out a foot.

The voice that cried out in reply was not the jovial visored mech's. His systems coming to full alertness, Prowl noticed the bright color of optics set in the face. Though set on a black helm, he noticed the sharp angle the horns took.


"Oof, yeah. I'm Sideswipe." The warrior lifted himself to his elbows. "Ow, remind me not to get you mad at me." Sideswipe rubbed his chestplate and the scratched paint and dented metal there. "Nasty kick there, Prowl."

The tactician sat up, sheepish grin in place and he reached out a hand to help his lover to his feet. "Sorry, thought you were… someone else."

The scowl showed plainly even in the shadows. "I don't suppose you've actually done that to him?" The red twin slipped onto the berth with Prowl. He wrapped his arms around Prowl's torso, drawing the tactician to his chestplate.

Prowl stiffened in his lover's arms, his doorwings wincing away from Sideswipe. He couldn't help the discomfort that crawled through his systems.

Sideswipe nuzzled against Prowl's neck and windshield, his hands trailed over the tactician's front plates.

The similarity between the arms that held him, and the ones that haunted him, set Prowl on edge. He tensed unconsciously, his hands gripping the edge of his berth. He repeated his lover's name over and over in his processor, fighting the ghost of Jazz that his sub-processors told him was there. Confusion warred with panic, the all-too familiar settings and Sideswipe's immediate visual absence activating memories of Jazz in this room… touching him…

The kisses halted and the caresses stilled. The arms tightened around Prowl's waist. "What?"

Prowl stiffly patted Sideswipe's hands and pulled away from the twin's embrace. He turned to face his lover, which seemed to help his unease.

Sideswipe frowned at Prowl, his optics dimming slightly.

"I'm sorry, it's just" Prowl paused, unable to articulate the emotions that coursed through him. "I don't know," he finally admitted.

Sideswipe shifted, glancing away with a sigh. "Alright, fine. I don't suppose you managed to keep Sunny out of trouble."

"Would I let you down like that, Sideswipe?" Prowl asked in a soft voice.

"Don't know. You haven't exactly been keeping with what I expect of you lately."

Prowl cast his dim optics down and his door panels sagged. He pressed his lips together, and didn't refute the accusation. "His punishment is my decision. I will deal with him as lightly as I can. What was Sunstreaker supposed to be doing?"

"He was off duty. He was supposed to be at the party."

"What reason would Sunstreaker have to attack Jazz?"

Sideswipe, not one to be completely idle for long, stroked and caressed Prowl's white hand. "Jazz is accusing Sunstreaker, then?"

"Naturally, why would he not?"

"Because he's blackmailing you," Sideswipe turned one of the wheels on Prowl's shoulder, playing his fingers into the tread of the rubber. "He's blackmailing you, and would be in just as much trouble if Optimus found it." Sideswipe's optics brightened as he continued. "He's in as deep as we are, because he has been keeping our secret, your secret, for a metacycle. As far as Prime knows, he's been keeping it longer. He's an accomplice, knowingly withholding information when asked for it by a superior officer, in this case Prime." Sideswipe's fingers moved to Prowl's helmet, caressing down the cheek guard, along the edge and up to Prowl's auditory receiver. "I think I know what we can do, sparkles."

Prowl tilted his head, his own fingers lifting to stroke the twin's horns. "You are entirely too knowledgeable about law,delinquent." He lightly tugged on the horns to draw Sideswipe closer.

"I have to," Sideswipe murmured against the Datsun's lips, "if I want to stay ahead of you, sir."

Prowl sidled up to Jazz, trying not to be too obvious about the sidling. He didn't ponder on the logic of it; he didn't need to freeze up at that moment. He was glad Sideswipe wasn't in the room, even if the twin suggested it, he would still hate every astrosecond. Jazz sat at the console, intent on whatever played on the screen. In full view of the rec room, Prowl rested his elbows on Jazz's shoulders.

"Jazz, I have requested that Prime allow us to enjoy this beautiful day."

The saboteur turned his gaze up to the tactician. A suspicious frown turned his lips for the briefest of astroseconds. "Didn't ya have somethin' elsein mind?"

Prowl tilted his head, surprise widening his optics. "Can't I reschedule my duties for you?"

Jazz's visor flashed and he turned around, rising to his feet. He pressed closer to Prowl catching the tactician's shoulders and leaning in. "Why should I do anythin' for ya, Prowlie? Y' don' seem t' appreciate what I do for ya."

Prowl schooled any anger out of his face. "But I'm not asking you to do anything for me, Jazz."

The light behind Jazz's visor dimmed, like the narrowing of optics. "I thought y' were gonna be spendin' more time disciplinin' th' twins," he hissed.

Prowl's doorwings drew back, even as he pressed his impassive lips against the saboteur's own. "Now why would I want to do that when you need my attention, too?"

Jazz leaned away to stare at Prowl. The saboteur's normal jovial grin was nowhere to be found. His visor darkened even further and he pulled Prowl into a kiss. Never mind that the entire room pretended not to watch the two officers. Never mind that Prowl hated any public display. Jazz gripped Prowl's upper shoulder struts, his lips questing for an answer, a response.

"Kiss me back, Prowl."

Prowl forced his hands to uncurl at his sides. "Jazz, please, not here."

"Kiss me back, Prowl. Like y'mean it."

Optics watched, though they pretended not to. Prowl found himself in the same quandary he'd tried to place Jazz in. Having solicited Jazz's time and attention in front of everyone, it would seem as peculiar for him not to respond as it would for Jazz to have refused.

Prowl's doorwings drew back, even as he leaned into the kiss. His systems churned as he moved his lips against the saboteur's. He couldn't bring himself to touch the Porsche.

"C'mon, Prowl, I know y' can do better than that." Jazz released Prowl's shoulder struts and wrapped one arm around the tactician. His other hand delved into Prowl's doorwing joint, eliciting a protesting whine from Prowl's vocalizer. The Porsche moaned in reply, pulling the tactician closer and digging his fingers painfully deeper. "I dunno if I wanna wait till we get outside, Prowlie," Jazz murmured against Prowl's lips, his engine purring, "I don' think I can make it t' either 'a our quarters."

Prowl stiffened, wincing at the assault on his door hinges. The plan would never work if he couldn't draw the saboteur out of the Ark. Jazz bent Prowl's head back, deepening the kiss. The black and white saboteur vibrated against the tactician's chassis.

Prowl shifted, grasping Jazz's elbows as he attempted to squirm away from the black hands. He couldn't simply shove the saboteur away, not without looking suspicious. Why, oh why did Jazz have to be so aggressive now? In front of everybody? Jazz tightened his grip on Prowl, sending sharp pain into the tactician's side from his probing fingers.

"Can't you two take it to one of your rooms? Why do you have to subject us to this?" Gears grumbled, accompanied by murmured 'yeahs' from those around him. The minibot glanced up from the datareader in his hands, mouth set in his normal disagreeable frown.

Jazz pulled away, cycling air rapidly through his ventilators. He still clung to Prowl, though he smirked at their audience. "Aw, sorry. Ya'll know how I can be. Prowlie," and his fingers twitched, scraping wiring and circuitry in the Datsun's sides, "jes' makes me forget myself." His hand withdrew, teasing as it went.

Before the Porsche could grab hold of the Datsun, Prowl slipped his arms over Jazz's shoulder. He leaned back, tilting his head so that he looked up at the jovial mech from under his chevron with a pout. It made him feel odd, having to act like a spoiled sparkling. If he wanted to get the result he desired though, he knew he'd have to play on Jazz's weakness.

"I'd rather go outside and enjoy this beautiful day."

Jazz's fingers twitched where they rested on Prowl's hips. He pulled his mouth to one side. "How can I say no, when yer lookin' at me with those big baby blues." The saboteur pressed another devouring kiss over Prowl's mouth, jabbing his fingers deep into Prowl's sides.

Prowl cycled air, trying to shake the unwanted feel of Jazz pressing against him. The other black and white mech ducked out of the rec room. Prowl gathered himself and followed after the Porsche. A hand on his arm stopped him and he looked down in surprise at Ironhide.

"Y'know, Prowl, I think it's scraps an' rust that of all mechs on the base, Jazz's spark would seek you. Yer the only one who can make him frown like that. Ya don't even love him, do ya?"

Prowl's doorwings twitched, sending twinges into his pain receptors. A quick diagnostic revealed tears in his coolant and fuel lines. Typical. Ratchet was going to blow a fuse. "Were you interested in him?" Prowl asked, pulling his arm out of Ironhide's grasp.

"Wha-? No! I'm jus' sayin' is all."

"I see." Prowl nodded a farewell and stepped out of the rec room. He didn't see Jazz until he proceeded out of the Ark and into the noon sun.

Jazz and Mirage bantered lightly over a datapad, poking and jostling each other. Trust Jazz to bring out the best in the normally reclusive spy. The saboteur treated his small team with all the kindness and openness Prowl had observed in many fleshling creators on this planet. Why, then, did he see fit to torment Prowl?

A hand tugging on his doorwing drew Prowl back to the present. "So, we're outside Prowlie. I don' think you had here in mind, didja?"

Prowl transformed. "No, I did not." He pulled away from the saboteur, listening to the click and whines of the Porsche's transformation.

The tactician drew Jazz farther away from the Ark. Trees lined the road away from the ship, obscuring the massive craft from sight. Reds and gold decorated the leaves, announcing the arrival of autumn.

He sought a particular path that he turned down as soon as they came upon it. Jazz kept lagging farther and farther behind, until he finally rolled to a complete stop.

Prowl stopped, turning his wheels to angle his sensors toward Jazz . "Is something wrong?"

The Porsche shifted to reverse, inching back. "Somethin' ain't right. It's too quiet." Jazz's headlights flashed. "What's goin' on Prowl?"

Prowl transformed, walking back to the Porsche. "I don't know what you're talking about, Jazz. Of course it's quiet; the local wildlife is disturbed by our presence." As he spoke, he transmitted a coded message over a secure frequency.

Jazz surged to his own feet, looking about anxiously. "That ain't- what was that?" His visored gaze turned to Prowl. "Did you just-"

Trees and branches cracked and crashed, interrupting Jazz. The Porsche looked at Prowl in alarm as Sideswipe and Sunstreaker charged out of the underbrush.

The nimble mech slid under Sunstreaker's grasp and right into Sideswipe's.

"Don't hurt him," Prowl said in his most authoritative voice.

The twins paused in wrestling the Porsche to the ground. Their briefly averted optics gave Jazz the chance to throw Sunstreaker off.

"Tell that to him," the red twin hollered, grappling the black and white mech down.

Prowl held a neutral expression as Sideswipe's piledriver smashed into the Porsche's chestplate.

"Jazz, stop struggling."

"Why?" The saboteur aimed a double kick into the red twin's torso. "So these two can finish what Sunstreaker started two days ago?" Jazz shoved himself to his feet, ready to take off.

Sunstreaker plowed into the saboteur, knocking him back to the packed earth in a flurry of leaves. Black, white and gold flashed in a whirling mass of grunts and pained cries. Then crimson joined in the fray, and metal crashed and pounded together.

Prowl waited patiently, wincing internally as he visualized the damage being caused. His doorwings drooped and flared off his shoulders as he so desperately wanted to step in and help, but he stood his ground. He respected, and loved, Sideswipe too much to interfere with him in this.

Sideswipe had asked Prowl to let him handle it, and Prowl agreed to.

He had not expected Sunstreaker's involvement, but he should have known that the golden Lamborghini would never allow his brother to face this alone.

As suddenly as it started, it stopped.

Sunstreaker dragged a quiescent Jazz to his feet, hauling him up with his arms locked behind his back.

Prowl frowned as the saboteur moaned, shaking his head in a daze. His blue optics sought out Sideswipe's, but he said nothing. If this was to work, they would need to portray a united front. The red twin circled the damaged saboteur, like a turbohawk on a wreck.

"Jazz, are you functioning?"

"Nno thanks t' yer," Jazz groaned, his systems surging audibly, "mmbodyguardss."

Sideswipe paused, reaching out to shove the Porsche's shoulder. "What did you expect? 'Oh, hey he's raping Prowl, well we're all Autobots, so it's okay!'" Sideswipe's cheerful mien dropped instantly. "I don't fragging think so."

"I was hopin' we could talk it out." Despite the obvious pain he was in and the sagging of damaged parts, Jazz still managed a smile for the Lamborghini. "It ain't like it's my fault your lover didn't tell you nothin' 'bout what was goin' on."

Prowl stepped forward before Sideswipe could react; the set of his jaw and the tightness of his hands promised nothing gentle for the saboteur. "That is between Sideswipe and myself, and doesn't involve you."

Jazz laughed, pained static filled his vocalizer. "It doesn't, eh? Then why are ya makin' such a big deal outta it?" The visor turned toward Sideswipe. "It's not like Prowl ever really said 'stop.'"

Sideswipe jerked away from Prowl. "Because you wouldn't let him. That's an excuse a Decepticon would use. Hey, you know, maybe you're not Jazz, maybe you are a Decepticon. Because Jazz would never do this."

Jazz quirked a grin. "How do ya know what I will an' won't do? Ya don' see nothin' I don' wantcha t' see."

Sunstreaker shook the saboteur. "He's in fragging special ops. This is what he does."

"Shut up, Sunny, you're not helping here."

Prowl stepped forward, again, before the twins could dissolve into an argument. "We aren't here to discuss your motives, Jazz. We're here to discuss just what is going to happen."

Sideswipe stood next to Prowl, his presence a reassurance to the tactician's spark. The twin glanced at Prowl. "His motives are exactly why we're here, sparkles."

"An' why should I listen t' anythin' you have t' say." Defiant to the end, Jazz leveled a glare at the two lovers.

Prowl frowned. "He may not know what we're saying, but he knows we're transmitting. It does not take a genius to deduce that we're arguing. We do not need to argue in front of him, Sides."

Jazz watched them, a knowing smirk on his face. "Aw, don't let me stop ya. Go ahead an' talk. I'll be here, I ain't goin' anywhere."

Prowl laid a restraining hand on Sideswipe's arm. "Don't. It's what he wants."

The red twin scowled fiercely before his optics flickered briefly. He cupped Prowl's chin with his hand and caught the tactician's lips in a devouring kiss.

Prowl tensed, his doorwings trembling as Sideswipe laid claim to his mouth, crushing him against his flat red chest plate. Sideswipe slipped his fingers into the tactician's hinge crevice, fingering the joints with surprising gentleness compared to his possessive kiss. Prowl's system churned uneasily.

"Sideswipe, if you don't stop, I will hit you." Prowl's optics flashed, and his stance stiffened. He allowed the low growl of his engine to tell Sideswipe just what he thought of that action. "We will be discussing this at a later time, Sideswipe." If it weren't for Jazz watching, he would have laid into the warrior right then..

The Lamborghini's engine grumbled and Sideswipe tweaked a particularly sensitive sensor around Prowl's hinges. Prowl winced as the normally ticklish spot registered pain. The red twin pulled his hands away and released Prowl's lips. The tactician followed Sideswipe's blank stare to his black hands. His fingertips glowed with a pink cast. The blankness disappeared into an angry glare that turned to the saboteur.

"You just keep on hurting him," he snarled.

Jazz twitched, his lips turning down for the briefest of moments. Metal squealed. "He never said nothin'!" he yelped.

Sunstreaker's scowl gave reason to the Porsche's cry; his black fingers dented the saboteur's shoulder struts.

Sideswipe stormed over to slam a piledriver into Jazz's torso plating. "He doesn't say anything! He shouldn't have to!"

"He didn't make a sound in Halifax," Sunstreaker added, his optics locked with his sibling's.

Prowl remained still, patiently waiting for Sideswipe to reign in his temper.

"Halifax?" Confusion flickered in Jazz's visor. "What does that- Oh." The saboteur drooped a little. "I'd forgotten about that. You were there weren't cha?"

"Yeah, well, we hadn't forgotten. Considering it was for our benefit." Sideswipe took his position next to Prowl again. "I guess Sunny's right. What can we expect from someone who'll stand by and watch Starscream-" Sideswipe's vocalizer buzzed, cutting off the sentence. "Factory reject," he burst, pulling Prowl against him.

Prowl wasn't sure who Sideswipe desired to reassure, Prowl, or himself?

Jazz tilted his head. "That long ago, eh Prowl?" He sighed. "I couldn't blow my cover. Prime accepted that. If I had stopped Starscream, he'd'a blown my head off, an' Iacon with it."

Sideswipe tucked Prowl's white helm under his chin. "At least Starscream has the courage to wear the right insignia."

Blue optics flickered in annoyance. "That's enough, both of you." Prowl ducked out from Sideswipe's embrace. "Jazz, we are long overdue for a talk on the status of our relationship."

The saboteur frowned, his measuring glance taking in the three mechs that held him.

"Now then, this is what's going to happen…"