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(Interlude) Sideswipe - Going to the Smelter

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                It became quickly apparent that recharging with Ratchet was second only to recharging with his brother. Sideswipe didn’t always get that long stretch of sleep like he had the first time, but he definitely averaged double what he managed with one night stands. He might be able to get more but sometimes he stayed awake on purpose, just so he could relish the feel of Ratchet’s arm over his waist or the slow and steady pulse of Ratchet’s spark.

                Sideswipe made sure to immerse himself completely in those moments. Sunstreaker would want to examine every single detail once he arrived.

                Sighing, Sideswipe rolled over and buried his face in Ratchet’s pillow. His spark ached constantly now, an ever present reminder that his twin was half a planet away. Sleeping next to Ratchet abated the pain somewhat, but it returned threefold when they separated. When Ratchet left first for a shift, Sideswipe liked to linger in his berth, cuddling beneath the warm blanket. Ratchet had said he didn’t mind and it helped ease the return back to being on his own again.

                Barely ten minutes after Ratchet had left, Sideswipe heard the lock click and his head shot up in excitement. Maybe Ratchet wasn’t needed in Medical, maybe he was coming back to bed, maybe…

                Maybe it was Wheeljack coming back from his own shift.

                “Hi, Sideswipe!” Wheeljack said cheerfully, dumping an armful of mechanical bits onto his desk. “Ratchet already gone?”

                “Hey, ‘Jack. Yeah, he left a little bit ago. He said I could stay, but if you want me to head out…” Sideswipe said, only to be stopped by a wave of Wheeljack’s hand.

                “Naw, you’re fine. I’m gonna take a nap and then I have some stuff to fiddle with,” Wheeljack said, gesturing to the pile.

                “What’s the project?” Sideswipe asked idly, identifying what looked like some sort of propulsion system. Definitely didn’t look like a weapon anyway. He knew what the innards of most hand-held weapons looked like from long experience.

                “Jet pack. Epsilon squad leader said something the other day about lack of aerial support so I was thinking about what we could do to make up for the lack of fliers,” Wheeljack said. He picked up a small exhaust pipe and turned it around in his hands for a moment before putting it back with a shrug. “Not sure I can make one that would be all that effective, but it’s something to do in my downtime.”

                “Huh. Cool. You ever get a working model, I’ll try it out,” Sideswipe promised, imagining it. Shooting up into the sky, firing down onto the ‘cons. Maybe even intercepting Seekers mid- air – it had a certain appeal.

                “Great! I’ll keep that in mind! Always need volunteers,” Wheeljack said cheerfully. “Hey, while I have you here, got a question for you.”

                “Shoot,” Sideswipe said, still a little distracted by all the ways he could use a jet pack. How high would he be able go? And more importantly, how fast?

                “What are your intentions with Ratchet?”

                All of a sudden, Sideswipe came crashing back down to the ground. He pushed himself upright, blinking in surprise at Wheeljack. “My intent… oh. Oh! Is this a smelter talk? I’ve never actually gotten one of those before! Well, you don’t have to worry, I don’t have any intentions at the moment.”

                Wheeljack arched an orbital ridge and crossed his arms over his chest. Even with the blast mask, he looked skeptical. “Oh, really?”

                “Really,” Sideswipe said earnestly. “Look, what do you know about twins?”

                “Not much,” Wheeljack admitted after a pause. “I’ve actually met two pairs before you – but they were never interested in anyone else but each other.”

                Sideswipe felt his lips quirk up on side. “Yeah, we’re weird, we know. We get told it all the time. And I love Sunny with my whole spark, but I also like branching out sometimes. We both do. It makes coming back to each other that much better.”

                “…is it true that about your brother and Megatron?” Wheeljack asked curiously, his arms dropping back down to his sides.

                “Yup. He was definitely a looker, but kind of a pretentious aft,” Sideswipe confided. “When I started seeing Kickstart, Sunstreaker thought he was a snob. I thought Picks was an idiot; Sunny thought Axelift was creepy… and on and on. We’ve never agreed on anyone else before… except Ratchet.”

                “Hm. Did you meet him at the same time?” Wheeljack asked, slowly moving over to his berth and sitting down on it. Which was definitely better than the almost belligerent stance he had previously adopted. Sideswipe could take Wheeljack in a sparkbeat, but he was important to Ratchet, so Sideswipe wanted to be friends if they could.

                “Sunny did first, actually. I got slagged and when I was brought into the Medical Bay Ratchet was working in, he apparently dropped everything and made me a priority. Medics don’t usually do that,” Sideswipe said wryly. “It caught Sunny’s attention. Enough for me to want to check him out. And when I did… I liked what I saw.”

                Wheeljack nodded absently, his gaze shifting to the floor for a moment. “There’s a lot to like, I’ll give you that. But he’s very young, Sideswipe,” he cautioned. “You’re nearly five times his age.”

                Sideswipe nodded, not surprised that Wheeljack had done a little research on them. Wasn’t as if Sideswipe hadn’t done his own on Wheeljack. “We know. Which is why we’ve been moving slow. But he’s an adult. Still capable of making his own decisions.”

                “Seeing your name on a casualty list nearly broke him,” Wheeljack said, his helm fins flashing a slow, dark magenta. “And you said that you enjoy being with others because you like coming back to Sunstreaker. Is that what’s going to happen with Ratchet? The two of you are going to have a fling with him and then… what? Discard him?”

                Sideswipe shifted, leaning up against the wall with the blanket pooled into his lap. He was slightly irritated that he had to explain himself to Wheeljack, but he knew the other mech was only looking out for Ratchet. And Ratchet deserved to have people looking out for him, so Sideswipe did his best to not let the irritation show.

                “No. I mean, I can’t say that it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows, but Sunny and I are in it for the long haul. Ratch is smart and talented and feisty, plus his frame is just…” Sideswipe made a clicking sound in the back of his throat, knowing his expression was going a little dreamy as he recalled Ratchet’s wide chest and hips, his cherry red aft and hands, so pretty against all that white. He shook himself out of the brief fantasy and continued on.

                “… but he’s also painfully idealistic, cranky when he doesn’t get enough recharge or fuel, and really damn stubborn. We’ve seen the negatives as well as the positives and we still want him,” Sideswipe said bluntly. “We want him for forever.”

                Having him between them when Ratchet had had the cyberflu had sealed the deal for them. It had felt right, like the final bit of plating falling into place after a long sequence of transformation. Ratchet was an integral frame piece that Sideswipe and Sunstreaker hadn’t even known they’d been missing.

                Wheeljack was silent, studying him carefully. Sideswipe considered him in turn. He was nearly as old as Sunstreaker and himself, although Wheeljack’s cheerful attitude made it seem like he was younger. Fiercely intelligent in his own right, with a deviously creative processor that had come up with many products which saved soldiers’ lives on a daily basis. From what Sideswipe had seen, he doted on Ratchet in ways Ratchet never even seemed to notice: warmed fueled cubes in easy reach, a stylus always at the ready, a blanket tossed over Ratchet’s shoulders while he was reading.

                To be honest, Sideswipe had picked up a few ideas just from watching the two of them interact. All in all, Sideswipe approved of Ratchet’s friendship with him.

                “All right…” Wheeljack finally said and relaxed completely. “But you’re not going to start something unless Sunstreaker’s here, right?”

                “Right,” Sideswipe said, nodding. “It’s gotta be both of us, or neither of us. I’m just Ratchet’s friend for now.”

                “That’s good. He needs more friends,” Wheeljack said as Sideswipe scooted to the edge of the bed and placed his pedes on the ground.  

                Sideswipe threw up his hands in exasperated agreement, before beginning to gather the blanket. “Right? He needs to get out more! He doesn’t have to get down at the next party, but something, geez…” he complained, shaking his head.            

                Wheeljack laughed. “One thing at a time, mech. One thing at a time. And hey…”

                Sideswipe looked up from folding the blanket. It was high time he made his exit, but he didn’t want Ratchet coming back later to a rumpled berth. “Yeah?”

                Wheeljack’s gazed hardened and even though Sideswipe knew, absolutely knew he could take him, he still felt a chill run up his back strut.

                “If you hurt him… I’ll stick a microscopic explosive on you. You’re never gonna notice me do it. Your head’s gonna explode one day in battle and it’ll be like you just didn’t duck fast enough. No one’s ever gonna know the difference,” Wheeljack said with utter seriousness.  

                For about thirty seconds, all Sideswipe could do was stare. Then he leapt to his feet, grinning so widely his face hurt.

                “You’re amazing! That… is amazing!” Sideswipe gushed, suddenly no longer irritated. This mech would kill for Ratchet? He had a plan lined up and everything!? Even Sunstreaker would approve of this guy!

                Wheeljack looked taken back. “It… it is?”

                “Yes! I liked you before, but now I know just how far you’ll go for Ratchet and I love it!” Sideswipe bounced over and threw his arms around Wheeljack’s shoulders, the other mech stiffening for a second before relaxing into the embrace.

                “Isn’t smelter talk supposed to result in scaring the guy who is receiving the talk?” Wheeljack asked, his voice muffled as Sideswipe had Wheeljack’s face pressed against his collar fairing.

                Sideswipe released him and stood up, bouncing a little on the heels of his pedes. He was really, really pleased with this development. Wheeljack was exceeding all of his expectations. “I’m totally scared,” he lied. “Hey, you want a nap buddy?”

                Wheeljack’s helm fins ran through a gamut of colors so fast that Sideswipe worried he had broken him for a moment. Then Wheeljack shrugged helplessly and nodded, gesturing at the bed. “Yeah, sure, hop on in.”

                He pushed himself backwards and swung his feet up, Sideswipe quickly clambering in after him. He automatically rolled over, facing outwards from the berth. After a moment’s hesitation, Wheeljack scooted closer and slid his arm over Sideswipe’s waist. Sideswipe closed his optics in pleasure as his back heated from the closeness of Wheeljack’s frame and his spark sensed another. A slightly faster beat than Ratchet’s, not as reassuring as Ratchet’s or Sunstreaker’s, but still… nice.

                And he didn’t even have to interface the guy!

                After a minute, a thought occurred to Sideswipe and his optics onlined again. “Hey… Wheeljack?” he called out.

                “Mm?” Wheeljack’s response was sleepily hummed against Sideswipe’s upper back. “What is it?”

                Aww, that was cute. Wheeljack was comfortable enough with Sideswipe to fall into recharge  practically immediately.

                “Don’t try this with Sunstreaker. He won’t like it nearly as much as I did,” Sideswipe warned. “I’ll pass the sentiment along.”

                “Wasn’t planning on it. I’d heard he was a little psychotic so I thought it was best to do it to you,” Wheeljack said, surprising a laugh out of Sideswipe.

                “We’re both psychotic, ‘Jack; he’s just more likely to punch you outright. I’m the one who’s going to wait a century, switch out your cleaning cleanser for acid, and film it all when your plating dissolves in the shower,” Sideswipe said cheerfully, patting Wheeljack’s hand where it was resting against his abdomen. 

                Wheeljack’s fingers twitched, and Sideswipe smiled out of sight of the other mech. He definitely approved of Wheeljack’s drive and creativity. But it was only fair that Wheeljack knew the lengths Sideswipe would go to if even Wheeljack hurt Ratchet.


~ End