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in our separate worlds (we sleep alone)

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Waking up in immense pain with no memory of how he got where he was wasn’t exactly a novel experience for Wheeljack. Almost the opposite, actually, these days if he managed to go more than a week without blowing something up, there was probably something wrong.  

 

So waking up on his back confused out of his processor wasn’t new. The new part was waking up in something he immediately identified as dirt, with a blue sky above him and a bird sitting on his chassis. Because they didn’t have dirt on Cybertron (not dirt with this composition anyways,) and the sky wasn’t that shade of blue, and this bird was one-hundred percent organic. Which meant he wasn’t on Cybertron.

 

Actually, he was pretty sure he was on Earth.

 

“Great,” Wheeljack muttered, gently shooing the bird away with a digit before shoving himself into an upright position.

 

Immediately a wave of nausea and dizziness swept over his frame, and he dug his digits into the dirt (sand?) beneath him to try and ground himself. What the hell had he been working on before? His long-term memory centers weren’t quite awake enough to be able to tell him, but his short-term memory centers had booted just enough to tell him what had happened right before.

 

He had been in his lab, obviously, because that was where he spent most of his time. And… Starscream had been there. Sort of helping but also just hanging around, he’d finished his meetings for the day and was waiting for Wheeljack to be done so they could go home. And Wheeljack was almost ready to go, but he just had to finish one last thing, and if he left in the middle it could go wrong. He hadn’t left but something had gone wrong anyway, and Starscream had noticed, and he’d shouted Wheeljack’s name right before whatever he was working on exploded and everything went dark.

 

And then he woke up on Earth.

 

That was… well, inconvenient and confusing, though not terribly disastrous. He could just comm for a bridge home. 

 

Or he could, if his comms were working. He wasn’t even getting static when he tried to access them like he usually did when they got damaged, just completely dead air. Like there was nothing to access. 

 

Which was a little unsettling. He still had his commlink, right?

 

A quick internal diagnostic told him yes, he did, as well as his chronometer and GPS and all the other things that weren’t working. He did a quick transformation and was relieved that his t-cog, at least, was not among his malfunctioning components. That would definitely be bad. He transformed back, angling up as he did, so when his plating settled he was on his own two pedes. He could practically hear Starscream calling him dramatic. Which like-- hello?? Pot, kettle. Wheeljack wasn’t the one who jumped off balconies any time he wanted to get out of a conversation.

 

So no commlink, no way of calling home for a bridge back, this was still not a reason to panic. Optimus was on Earth, wasn’t he? He’d settled with a little group of his own. And uh-- what’s-his-face, Starscream’s trinemate-- Thundercracker, he was here too. One of them probably had a way to make a bridge, or a ship, or at least a computer he could borrow. He just had to find them.

 

He looked around at his surroundings. Desert, desert, and-- oh joy-- more desert. At least it wasn’t the sort of desert with the loose kind of sand that he had trouble walking on. There was a lot of dry looking plantlife, low and thorny. No landmarks save for some vague rock formations in the distance. He may not have had a comm or a GPS, but he did still have wheels, so he stretched for a moment before dipping into a transformation and peeling off across the desert towards that previously mentioned rock formation.

 

Idly flipping through radio stations as he drove, he was starting to get the feeling he’d landed in the most “middle of nowhere” place he possibly could have. He managed to pick up a grand total of three stations. One was a voice talking about some “Jesus” character, another played nothing but classical music and was so out of range it was mostly static. He settled on the third, one playing a lot of music he could nail down as “classic rock.” Not his favorite genre out of the choices humans provided, but better than the bland-aft instrumental… whatever. Also better than nothing. He hated silence.

 

Starscream liked to say that was one of the reasons they were such a good match. Wheeljack couldn’t stand silence, and Starscream never stopped talking.

 

Primus, he hoped Starscream was doing okay. That he wasn’t panicking.

 

Ah, who was he kidding, if the seeker hadn’t already worked himself into a tizzy and started ranting at Windblade, Wheeljack would eat his kibble. 

 

The first interruption to his not unpleasant drive came in the form of the sudden feeling of asphalt under his tires as he pulled up onto a street he hadn’t noticed before running onto it. The second interruption was his long-term memory center suddenly booting up and very loudly reminding him of what he’d been working on, the thing that had exploded and made him wake up here on Earth.

 

And oh no everything was so much worse than he thought.

 

Because he hadn’t been working with anything teleportation or spacebridge related like he’d guessed. He’d been working on a device that would allow him to traverse dimensions.

 

On one servo, cool, his theories were right! The multiverse was real, and there really were alternate dimensions out there, and it was possible to travel to them. On the other servo, Wheeljack was very suddenly struck with the realization that he was trapped in an alternate dimension with no way home, no way to contact home, and the last thing anyone had seen of him was disappearing in a cloud of smoke and fire.

 

At least he’d had the foresight to tell Starscream about what he was working on. Hopefully his conjunx would come to the right conclusions about what had happened following his disappearance. And… be able to do something about it.

 

Oh, boy.

 

The third and final and probably most inconvenient interruption was the sudden sound of wheels screeching on pavement and the flare of heat near his tires as he realized he was being shot at.

 

He was being shot at.

 

Immediately snapped out of his musing, he revved his engine and swerved on his tires to drive as far away from the direction the shots had come from as possible. Only to be soundly stopped by the big green truck pulling out in front of him. The big green truck that immediately transformed into a larger green mech and raised a pair of integrated blasters of his own. “Don’t move,” he said.

 

Technically, Wheeljack moved, just enough that he could transform and raise his servos in surrender. “Woah, hey now, don’t shoot!” 

 

The green mech’s optics went wide and his weapons listed to the side as he looked first at Wheeljack’s face, then down at his chest (and presumably the Autobot insignia still emblazoned there, as much as Starscream complained about it), then up at him and over at his finials. Then-- “Wheeljack??”

 

...Huh.

 

Two more vehicles pulled up behind them and transformed, and Wheeljack glanced back long enough to see the yellow and blue mechs standing there before looking back to the green mech, who now seemed more confused than defensive.

 

“What’re you doin’ out here?”

 

“Um,” Wheeljack said, trying very hard to come up with an explanation as to how this mech knew him. It hit him like a punch to the face as his processor came up with alternate dimension, alternate Wheeljack. “I got… lost.”

 

“I don’t know if this is our Wheeljack, Bulk,” the blue two-wheeler said, sporting a pair of blasters of her own. “Look at him. He looks… different, right?”

 

There was a beeping from the yellow mech, and Wheeljack had to take a moment to translate the Cybertronian binary. [“Think it’s another Makeshift situation?”] The capital “M” implied a name, and Wheeljack hoped that whatever “situation” they were talking about wasn’t one that warranted a KOS order.

 

“No, Makeshift was a perfect replica.” The blue mech nodded to him. “I can tell this isn’t our Wheeljack.”

 

Briefly, he felt a flicker of pride that he’d guessed correctly about the whole “alternate Wheeljack” thing, then stamped that down with the reasoning of this is so not the time I still don’t know if they’re gonna kill me yet.

 

“Think he’s a spy? A ‘con?” The green one asked.

 

Oh, great. There was really only one situation that would entail that kind of paranoia, or the shortened name for the Decepticons being said with such vitriol. These mechs were still chassis-deep in the war, weren’t they? Damnit. They’d finally gotten peace on Cybertron, he finally stopped feeling like he needed to sleep with a gun next to his berth (it went under the berth instead) and now he was right back in the thick of it. Son of a glitch.

 

“I’m not a Decepticon,” he said. “And my name is Wheeljack, but she’s right, I’m not yours. I can explain what’s going on. Uh, can I put my arms down?”

 

The blue two-wheeler stared at him for a moment, then shrugged and lowered her weapons. “Sure. Don’t try anything, there’s three of us and one of you.” It was a clear enough threat. Wheeljack let his arms rest at his sides.

 

“So you’re not our Jackie?”

 

Jackie? “Um, no. Don’t laugh. I’m actually the Wheeljack from an alternate dimension. Got here because of a… lab accident. Sort of. Giant explosion.” Was it giant? “Might’ve been a normal sized explosion.”

 

The big green mech laughed, lowering his weapons as well, and reached over to clap a servo on Wheeljack’s shoulder. “Sounds like Wheeljack, alright.”

 

Ooh, physical contact with a mech he didn’t know. Great. Moving carefully as not to alert his… conversation… partners(?) he ducked away from the contact, flexing his servos a bit awkwardly. Damn. Damn damn damn. This was all getting very complicated, a lot more complicated than he first thought it would be. He had to find a way to contact home. He had to find a way to contact Starscream. The seeker was gonna do something stupid if he didn’t get word back to Cybertron soon. Windblade would be able to keep him from losing his cool too much, but she only had so much power, especially when Starscream was scared. He did stupid stuff when he was scared.

 

“So what do we call you? Alternate Wheeljack? Wheeljack Two?”

 

“Um, just… Wheeljack…” His comms were disabled, was it just a matter of distance? If he boosted them far enough could he reach a common frequency? Was there anything, especially on Earth, that could reach that far? Was it even distance that could be quantified in any singular dimension? Maybe if he recreated the machine and exploded it again it would send him home??

 

Actually, scratch that last one, that was more likely to just fling him into another another dimension. Which would mean doing this whole thing again, with the blasters and the confusion, which was a waste of time. If it was just a matter of frequency…

 

“Earth to Wheeljack?”

 

A large servo waved in front of his optics.

 

“Hm? What?”

 

The big green mech stood there, looking mildly disturbed. “You were, uh, muttering to yourself.”

 

“Oh. Sorry, that happens when I start thinking too much.” Starscream thought it was cute, until he was trying to work and Wheeljack was still muttering, at which point it became very, very annoying to the seeker. (Primus, he missed him.) “I was thinking about how to get back home.”

 

A pout from the yellow mech, and a disappointed buzz. [“You wanna leave already?”]

 

Wheeljack nodded. “I wasn’t even supposed to get here in the first place. Got people back home who are gonna be worried sick about me just up and disappearing like that.”

 

“Suppose we should bring you to Optimus, then,” the blue mech said, frowning. “He’ll probably be okay with us bringing you into the base.”

 

“You have an Optimus here?”

 

She blinked at him. “You’ve got one where you’re from?”

 

Wheeljack nodded. “Former leader of the Autobots, he was my boss for a while. Good friend.”

 

“Former?”

 

Woops. Hunching his shoulders, he looked away. “I’ll tell you later. Don’t wanna have to explain it more than once. Who else is on your team?”

 

“Mm… Well, I’m Arcee,” the blue mech said, and Wheeljack knew that name. Different color, slightly less violent attitude, but he could definitely see the resemblance in the way she handled herself. The Arcee he knew would be a terrible influence on this one if they ever met. “That’s Bulkhead,” she said, pointing at the green mech, a totally unfamiliar name, “and Bumblebee.”

 

[“Hello!”]

 

Bumblebee?? If this Arcee reminded Wheeljack of his Arcee, this Bumblebee was the complete opposite. Mute, boundlessly cheerful, and (he could almost hear Bee cursing at him) tall , the only similarity was the color scheme. 

 

“And then back at the base we have Optimus and Ratchet, and our Wheeljack sometimes comes by when he feels like it.” Ratchet, another name he knew.

 

“C’mon Arcee, don’t be like that,” Bulkhead said, nudging her side, “Jackie’s a free spirit, you know that.” There was an amount of familiarity in the nickname. Did Bulkhead know this dimension’s version of him?

 

“Let’s just get back to base. You can tell this Wheeljack all about your boyfriend while we drive.” She reached up to tap the side of her helm, and Wheeljack heard the quiet noise of a commlink being opened. “We’re on our way back, Ratchet, and…” she glanced at Wheeljack. “...We’re bringing company.”

 

Wow, that was vague and informal. They didn’t have much command structure here.

 

“So you mentioned… six Autobots here on Earth. What about elsewhere?”

 

Arcee gave him a strange look before transforming and driving off, expecting him to follow. Which he did, at which point Bulkhead and Bumblebee joined them.

 

[There is no “elsewhere,”] Arcee sent the ping over a local channel, which his comms were actually able to pick up. [Save for some individuals here and there who might’ve gotten away when we abandoned Cybertron, we’re it. You’re looking at the last of the Autobots, Wheeljack.] Then she turned off her comm and sped away from them.

 

Wheeljack learned a lot of things on their drive back to the “base.” Most of them about his alternate self. 

 

  1. He and Bulkhead were not actually “boyfriends.”
  2. He was a Wrecker. (This fact was followed by a ten minute tangent of Wheeljack explaining his version of the Wreckers.)
  3. He was nothing like Wheeljack.

 

Well, that last one wasn’t entirely true. They both had a tendency towards explosions. However as Wheeljack’s were mostly accidental as a result of botched experiments, this version’s explosions were almost entirely done on purpose. He was “tough as they come,” by Bulkhead’s words, and Wheeljack was starting to think he wouldn’t like this version of him very much. 

 

-

 

Coming face to face with Optimus again, even if wasn’t the Optimus he knew, was… odd. Especially given that they hadn’t parted on the best of terms, exactly. They were still friends, of course, but… well, Wheeljack had some choice things to say, not all of them nice, and Optimus had plenty of things to say as well. Most of them nice in that embarrassingly patronizing way Optimus always acted when anyone got mad at him. He liked the (former, he supposed) Prime. He really did. They just… disagreed on some points.

 

But this wasn’t his Optimus. It was obvious as soon as he looked up at him.

 

“Hello,” this Optimus said, smiling gently as he offered a servo for Wheeljack to shake. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

 

“You too, uh, sir.” It didn’t seem like these mechs were overly proper about much of anything, but it never hurt to err on the side of caution. He took the proffered servo in his own, letting go after a brief moment. Even this minimal amount of contact was less than comfortable. 

 

Optimus didn’t push. Just gave him another gentle smile. “None of that ‘sir’ business, please. Just Optimus is fine.”

 

“Optimus,” Wheeljack said. “You’re different than the one I know.”

 

“Yeah, about that,” Ratchet interrupted, butting into their space and giving Wheeljack a once-over. “Have you refueled since you got here?” However different the other mechs were to the versions of them he recognized, this version seemed very much the same. Even in terms of frame design. Pushy and grumpy and dedicated to his job.

 

“Haven’t had the chance.”

 

“You’ll do that, then, while I give you a diagnostic. Want to make sure you’re not bringing any viruses into our base.”

 

He wasn’t, he’d given himself a diagnostic as soon as he’d woken up, and he could hand over the results, but it was usually safer to just go along with Ratchet’s orders than risk getting on his bad side. Which was how Wheeljack ended up seated on a berth with half a dozen adapters and cables plugged into his chassis. The adapters because half the cables Ratchet was trying to use didn’t have plugs that matched any of his ports. Universal differences. 

 

Ratchet had tried to get him to open his mask and drink the energon cube that had been pushed into his servos, but it only took a quiet explanation for the medic to give up on that and let Wheeljack refuel the way he was used to. Flicking out a modified intake line in his wrist and basically just sticking his hand in the cube until he’d drained as much of the energon as he could take.

 

It was blue. Glowing blue. Not at all the color he was used to, and he was worried for a moment that his systems would reject it, but there was only a slight blip as his internals momentarily struggled to decipher what the hell Wheeljack was putting in his lines. Eventually his processor determined it was, in fact, fuel, and sent it to his tanks rather than making him purge.

 

It wasn’t quite as efficient as the stuff he was used to. Then again, it was doubtful they had stills as high quality as the ones Wheeljack was used to. Which were the ones Starscream used. Damn, he’d gone and gotten spoiled by all the nice things his conjunx got by virtue of being in charge, hadn’t he?

 

“Everything looks fine,” Ratchet muttered, glancing over what looked like a jury-rigged monitor as specs ran across the screen. “Bulkhead’s probably called our Wheeljack to the base to show you off. Gonna be alright with that?”

 

Wheeljack shrugged. “It’ll be fine. So long as we don’t make contact.”

 

The medic sent a curious look his way.

 

Elaborating, Wheeljack continued; “If we touch, there’s a… mm… roughly eighty percent change we’ll either both immediately cease to exist and-slash-or collapse the time-space continuum as a whole. Paradoxes and stuff. It’s a lot of complicated math. I don’t have my notes on me.” They were back home, in his lab, where Starscream was hopefully trying to make sense of them and work on a way to get him home. 

 

“...We’ll be careful, then.” Ratchet began unplugging him from the monitor, and once he was free he stood and flexed his plating. “Optimus will probably want to talk to you a bit more. Don’t keep him waiting.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He would. Not for long, just enough to look over the technology they were packing here (if all of it was the same quality as the medical monitor, he’d have his work cut out for him) and how much of it he could commandeer to try and contact his Cybertron. Which-- actually-- speaking of--

 

“Ratchet?”

 

The medic looked over. “Earlier, Arcee mentioned something about you abandoning Cybertron. What happened there?”

 

That got him a scowl. “What do you think?”

 

“The War.”

 

“Got it in one.”

 

And since they were still here… there was a pretty good chance it hadn’t been fixed. 

 

“What’s your Cybertron like?”

 

There was an almost hopeful look in the medic’s optics. Wheeljack wished, not for the first time, that he was better with social cues. He couldn’t tell if that hope was that Wheeljack’s world had managed to fix their planet, revitalize what they had destroyed in their fighting, or if he hoped Wheeljack’s Cybertron was in a similar state so there was one more mech to share the burden of a dead planet. Starscream would know what to do.

 

Starscream.

 

“I’ll tell you later,” he said. “I have work to do.”

 

-

 

Getting Optimus’s permission to tinker with their computers in an effort to contact his Cybertron was easy. The hard part was actually going about doing the tinkering. 

 

Mostly because halfway through his poking at the underbelly of the machines, there was the roar of an engine and the skidding of wheels and the sound of a transformation and suddenly the base was about ten times louder. And it was that much harder for Wheeljack to focus. He almost got back into it, but loud laughter startled him again and he just gave up on getting anything done for the time being.

 

“So where is the new guy, anyway?” said a thickly accented voice, drawling and sure of itself. He had a disappointing hunch this was the version of himself Ratchet said would be stopping by.

 

Great.

 

He shoved himself out from under the tangle of wires he’d been sifting through, looking around until he spotted the eerily familiar frame standing at Bulkhead’s side. The alternate version of him, looked over, and grinned.

 

And Wheeljack saw it.

 

And that was weird, capital “W,” seeing his own face (with some… minor differences. Wait, Primus, did none of them have noses??? What the frag) looking back at him with much less scarring than he was used to seeing whenever he looked in the mirror. There were still scars, but, well, he had a lower jaw. Which was more than Wheeljack could say.

 

“So, this is the star of the hour,” he looked Wheeljack up and down, but didn’t try to get any closer. Ratchet had probably given him the run-down on why them making contact was a very bad idea. “I dunno, Bulk, I think I’m the better looking of the two of us.”

 

Wheeljack would… respectfully disagree.

 

“I’m Wheeljack. Suppose you already knew that, though, with us bein’ the same mech and all.” His grin widened. If he was a little less, erm… “rugged” looking (though Wheeljack didn’t want to use that word) he would’ve been easily described as sleazy. The better word was “cocky.”

 

Ugh. It was like all the worst personality traits of him and all the worst personality traits of Starscream combined into one mech. And folks asked why they were never planning on having sparklings.

 

Starscream. Starscream, Starscream, focus Wheeljack!!

 

“Yeah. Right. Look, I’ve got work to do, so…” He gestured vaguely, then turned and went back to sitting by the computers without another word. The socializing could wait.

 

The other Wheeljack came over to sit nearby. Or, apparently, it could not wait. Damn. 

 

“What’re you workin’ on, anyways?”

 

“Something that’ll let me call home so I can get the hell out of here.”

 

There was a pout in the other mech’s voice as he spoke; “what, you don’t wanna stick around? Help us kick some ‘con tailpipe? C’mon, it could be fun. I’ll punch ‘em, then you come in, we’ll confuse the scrap out of ‘em. Make ‘em think they’re seein’ double. It’ll be a riot seein’ those slagheads stumblin’ around.”

 

Ugh.

 

“No, I really don’t. I’m not real interested in going back to war after I’ve just managed to get out of it.” Both actual war and political war.

 

Silence. For a moment he foolishly hoped he’d actually gotten the other Wheeljack to go away, but the near-inaudible shifting of plating and the whirr of an engine told him otherwise. He sighed. 

 

“So back in your world,” the other Wheeljack said slowly, and Wheeljack (oh, boy, this was gonna get confusing) tensed, “the war’s over?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Huh.” A solid half a minute of more silence. As short as it was, the brief reprieve from that drawling tone was welcome. Oh, Primus, he didn’t sound like that, did he? No, his processor quickly supplied, he did not. He’d listened to recordings of his own voice taking notes enough times to be sure. Plus if he did, he was pretty sure Starscream would’ve made him get a vocalizer mod a long time ago. “Autobots win?”

 

Pause. He knew enough about interacting to know this could easily go very wrong if he said the wrong thing. “Technically,” he settled for.

 

“And what does that mean?”

 

“It means that from your perspective,” he said, “you’d think they didn’t.”

 

The other Wheeljack left him alone after that.

 

Finally. 

 

-

 

The finished product of all his work with the computers ended up being a mess of wires plugged into Wheeljack’s chassis and the computer’s internals. It probably looked a little barbaric from an outsider perspective, like he was being forcefully interrogated or something. And he had to sit on the floor so the wires weren’t stretched too far. At least the other Autobots had the gentility not to comment on it while he was focusing on what he was doing.

 

What he was doing being attempting to, instead of transporting his whole self to his home dimension, he was just going to try and open a radio link between the two and keep it open. Hopefully long enough to get a signal through.

 

“Alright,” he muttered as the dead air in his commlink flickered to the familiar static that signified a lack of signal. “We’re online.”

 

“Who’re you planning on contacting?” Arcee asked from her spot across the room.

 

There were a lot of people Wheeljack could try and get ahold of, ones who were no doubt worried about him going missing, but the answer was obvious as soon as Arcee asked the question.

 

“My conjunx.”

 

“You have a conjunx??” Bulkhead asked, bewildered. “Who?”

Wheeljack was about to answer, but then the logical part of his processor stormed in and reminded him that in this dimension, the war was still in full swing. And since he hadn’t seen a single accommodation that would imply a flier in these Autobots’ ranks, it was pretty likely the situation with the seekers was similar enough to how it had been in his dimension. So, in drawing all of these conclusions, he was able to draw a final conclusion; Starscream was still a Decepticon here.

 

Which meant unless everyone got really cool about a bunch of stuff really quickly, he was better off not saying a word about just who he was dating.

 

“Oh,” Wheeljack said vaguely, “you wouldn’t recognize the name. I don’t think they have a counterpart here.”

 

There was a painful whining sound from the computer as he connected the final wire, like feedback from a microphone. He winced, hurriedly typing at the keyboard to bring up the comms program. At first the only thing getting through was white noise, but after a bit of nudging at some wires and poking at codes, there was the barest hint of a voice.

 

“Wheeljack!” The voice that came through the computer was staticky, barely audible, but still there. And, apparently, similar enough, because Ratchet looked up sharply at the screen and narrowed his optics. “Wheeljack, come in! Slaggit, can you hear me?” 

 

“Almost,” Wheeljack said, hoping the message got through. “Keep talking. I need to align the frequencies.”

 

“I can’t hear you, so I’m just going to keep talking.” Beneath his faceplate he gave a fond grin. Say what you would about him, Starscream could always be relied upon to be predictable. He kept rambling as Wheeljack knelt closer to the panel in front of him and carefully twisted wires and adjusted numbers as the signal came in clearer and clearer. “You’ve got me and the entire delegation worried sick! Did you know that Windblade and Ironhide accused me of doing something to you when I told them you were missing?? Disloyal fraggers! As though I’ve not done enough to earn their trust yet. I know Windblade was just worried, but seriously, a ‘particle displacement device’?? What even is that? And you should have heard what she said about--”

 

There was a flicker in his commlink as his signature matched up, and Starscream fell silent. Probably because he could tell the connection was through on both ends.

 

“...Wheeljack?”

 

“I’m here,” he said, voice soft. “Sorry it took me so long to call.”

 

“You should be sorry!! Primus, what was I supposed to think? ‘Oh, yeah, by the way, I’m working on a device that can transport me through time and space,’ he says, and then makes it explode. There are some places where explosions are not necessary, Wheeljack!!”

 

Ratchet snorted. “If I haven’t had to say that a million times…”

 

Silence from the other end for a moment. Then-- “Who was that? Who else is listening?”

 

“Oh, um,” he cleared his vocalizer, “Right, so… I might have, uh, made some friends. Sort of new, sort of not.”

 

“You found that dimension’s Autobots, didn’t you.”

 

“Oh, you know me so well, darling.”

 

At his side, Ratchet gave him an incredulous look. It looked like the medic was realizing a lot of things and it also looked like he didn’t really like any of them.

 

“Any we like?”

 

“Well, um, Bumblebee’s here. He’s different than our Bee in a… couple ways.” Not dead, for one, but he hadn’t told this Bee theirs was dead yet and was literally never planning on doing so. “Can’t talk. Bit taller, too. Ratchet’s here. Still a medic.”

 

“Not sure that mech could ever not be a medic. One of those ‘universal constants’ you were talking about.” Pause. “Any we don’t like?”

 

“Well, I can’t say that, because we’re all standing in one room together,” and this version of Arcee, at least, was about as likely to grill him for answers as the version he knew, “but the other ones are a mech named Bulkhead, Arcee, Optimus, and-- oh, they’ve got a version of me, too. Little less science-y, about as explode-y. A Wrecker. Or so he says, anyways.” 

 

An indignant “Hey!” from Parallel Wheeljack’s direction. 

 

Two Wheeljacks, hm?” A suggestive tone slipped into Starscream’s voice. “Fascinating.”

 

Nope. Nope, bad idea. Deflection time. “Oh, and the war is still going on.”

 

Dead. Silence.

 

“...Is it, now.”

 

“Yep.”

 

He’s in charge, isn’t he.”

 

“Yyyep.” As far as Wheeljack knew, anyways.

 

“One moment.” The muffled sound of pedesteps that was followed by distant swearing, as well as the very distinct sound of something being thrown. The other Autobots winced. Wheeljack just sighed. He was going to break something important one of these days if he wasn’t careful. “Apologies for that.”

 

Optimus stepped forward, gesturing Ratchet away, and before Wheeljack could think that maybe this was a bad idea, he spoke; “Your anger implies that you know of the Decepticons’ leader.”

 

A nasty laugh. “All too intimately,” Starscream said. “He’s really still in charge? Such a shame-- even in another dimension, I just can’t manage to kill the piece of scrap. Perhaps my assassination attempts being doomed to fail is another one of those universal constants.” He wasn’t even trying to hide his identity, was he? 

 

Wheeljack winced. The other Autobots gaped, save for Ratchet, who just leveled Wheeljack with a disappointed look. “You could do so much better,” the medic said.

 

There was an offended scoff from the other end of the commlink. “Pardon me, that’s my conjunx you’re speaking to. And I hardly think he could do much better than the supreme leader of Cybertron, don’t you?”

 

Bulkhead gave Wheeljack a horrified look. “You didn’t tell us you came from some kinda dystopia, Wheeljack.”

 

HEY!” Starscream shrieked indignantly. “I’ll have you know that Cybertron is flourishing under my rule. We’re making monumental efforts to rebuild everything that was destroyed during the four million years we spent war-bound. Autobots and Decepticons, as well as those who did not choose a side. I may not know what your world is like, yes, but if it is anything like how ours was, you would all benefit greatly from following my example. We have civility. Justice. Peace , a foreign concept to you, so it seems. We’re not scrounging for resources or constantly fighting for our lives. All this time and you still haven’t managed to end the war. And you’ve gone and brought it to Earth again, haven’t you? For shame, Optimus Prime, for as much as I can never manage to kill Megatron, you can never manage to leave the poor organics out of a feud that never should have been their problem. Nor can you manage to just kill him and be done with it.” 

 

Wheeljack had his head in his hands at this point. He agreed with Starscream, because of course he did, but sometimes he could stand to be a little less defensive and/or confrontational. He really was not making a good first impression on these mechs who already kind of had a bad impression of him before even meeting him. 

 

“Starscream,” he said, actually acknowledging the mech’s designation out loud for the first time since they started having the conversation, successfully cutting off his tirade and making the collective Autobots start staring at him again. “I know you’ve wanted the chance to rant at Optimus for a while, but I am really tired and really want to get home, so can we please stay on topic?”

 

Deep venting, then a sigh. “Right. Of course. My deepest apologies, dear, I may be stressed over your absence, but I know it’s nothing compared to what you must be feeling.”

 

“Okay,” Parallel Wheeljack said, throwing his servos up as he turned his back on the screen, “hearing Screamer call a guy who is technically me dear is too weird. I’m out. You guys have fun.” And he turned and headed further into the base. Bulkhead and Arcee, the latter of whom gave Wheeljack a slightly pitying look, turned and left as well. 

 

“Who’s left?”

 

“Bee, Optimus, and Ratchet.”

 

“Good, the mechs who can get things done without being petty about it. Ratchet, I know you’re about to protest, just try and refrain from doing so until my conjunx is no longer stranded. Do you have access to spacebridge technology?”

 

“Er, no,” Optimus said, clearly still a little thrown off guard by the whole revelation, “but we do have a functional groundbridge.”

 

“Good enough. Wheeljack, I’m going to try and send some schematics.”

 

It took a lot longer than it usually would, a solid minute instead of the usual near instantaneous transfers. The machine looked a lot like Wheeljack’s original design for the cross-dimensional teleporter (as that was probably what Starscream had based it on, since it did technically work) but was supposed to be attached to a preexisting machine rather than act as transport on its own. Pretty sound.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“Should work. How are you planning on getting it to align to the right dimension?”

 

“It’s not so complex. Take a look at the secondary port, bottom right. I’ll make one of my own, attach it to the bridge here, and this will simply make sure the two bridges connect. Do you have the materials?”

 

“I’m sure I can find ‘em.” He narrowed his optics as he sorted through the blueprints. “Got a pretty high energon cost, though. We’re not exactly rolling in it.”

 

“Right, Earth, forgot about that. Can’t you just steal some?”

 

“Probably.” He looked to Optimus. Optimus nodded slowly. “Yes.”

 

“Good, that’s sorted. Any other concerns?”

 

“Mm…” He glanced over at Ratchet, who looked infinitely tired but also totally resigned, as was standard when dealing with Starscream. “We can probably find the rest of the materials here. Should get to work.”

 

“Yes, here too. Wheeljack,” he paused. “...Don’t get killed.”

 

Wheeljack grinned. “Don’t you get killed either.”

 

Without another word, the line closed. There was a fitful burst of static from Wheeljack’s commlink, and it went back to transmitting nothing but dead air. Wheeljack got to work unplugging all the wires from his chassis.

 

Silence followed. For several moments, until Wheeljack eventually spoke; “So, I imagine you have questions.” 

 

“I was not aware you were… in a relationship with a Decepticon,” Optimus said slowly. 

 

“I’m not.” Wheeljack pulled a datapad from his subspace, made a quick list of supplies after cross-referencing the schematics Starscream had sent him, and shoved it at Optimus before he could say anything else. He didn’t feel like explaining the NAILs and the Badgeless right now. Not when he had the first hint that there was a way home since he’d gotten here. “Need all this. I’ve got work to do.”

 

He could feel Ratchet and Optimus’s optics on him as he went over to the workbench in the corner and started drawing out physical copies of the schematics he’d been sent on some blueprint paper he’d had stored in his subspace. They said nothing, though, only turned and left the room, the same way the rest of the Autobots had gone.

 

Most of the rest, anyways.

 

Wheeljack looked over as he felt a presence at his shoulder to see Bumblebee leaning forward, looking over the blueprints he was working on.

 

“Yeah?”

 

[“You mentioned there was a Bumblebee in your world, too. One you liked.”] He beeped the words. [“What’s he like?”]

 

“Well,” Wheeljack said, looking back to his schematics. “He was… brave. Tough. Wanted the best for all of Cybertron, even if he didn’t really know how to go about it. Autobot through and through.”

 

[“Was?”]

 

Scrap.

 

“Um, yeah.” He wasn’t good at this. Never had been. That was partly why he and Starscream got along so well. Neither of them were all that skilled at talking to people, especially about their emotions and stuff. Wheeljack knew science. Engineering and technology, coding and building stuff. He could do that. He had a hunch that anyone who had to tell someone about their dead, alternate-universe counterpart might have a bit of trouble, though. “Yeah, he died. A little while ago.” During that whole mess. Thanks, Shockwave.

 

[“Oh.”]

 

“Sorry.”

 

Bumblebee just shrugged. [“It’s war. I get it.”]

 

“Yeah.” This Bumblebee was… not the same. Not nearly. There were a lot of individual differences Wheeljack could pick out, several just by looking at him, but the most notable (to him, at least) was that this Bee just seemed so much younger than the one he’d known. “He’d have liked you.”

 

The doorwings on Bumblebee’s back twitched up. A shockingly familiar movement. [“Really?”]

 

Wheeljack couldn’t help smiling. “Really.”

 

Bumblebee’s optics scrunched up in a grin. He ducked forward, wrapping his arms around Wheeljack’s chassis in a hug for a brief second, then turned and darted off in the direction Ratchet and Optimus had gone.

 

These mechs were weird.

 

-

 

Wheeljack liked work. It was what he was good at, really. Working and working and working until he dropped then getting up and working some more. It was a skill he’d developed during wartime, when such vigilance had been necessary lest their efforts falter and they fall victim to their enemies. Then the war ended, and Wheeljack didn’t really know how to unlearn something he’d taught himself to do over the course of millions of years, so he just got right back to it. Got himself a lab and a job and worked.

 

A lot of people said he worked too much. Which was probably true, but it was comfortable for him. He liked being able to get lost in his work and not have to focus on anything else.

 

He was deep enough in his work that he missed the thin blue two-wheeler walking past him. He also missed the blue and red big rig that followed her a moment later. He would have missed the entire interaction, in fact, if there hadn’t suddenly been the unfortunately familiar sound of a fist slamming against a wall loud enough to startle Wheeljack out of his focus.

 

“Why are we putting in so much effort to help him, Optimus?”

 

At the barely audible sound of voices, Wheeljack stopped trying to get back into his focus again, pausing in his soldering efforts to try and hear a bit better. Optimus and Arcee, standing in the hallway just outside the main area of the base. They clearly weren’t intending to be heard. Which meant, of course, Wheeljack resumed his work but carefully tuned his audials so he could eavesdrop on them. You didn’t get as far as he had in Starscream’s world without learning to listen in on conversations you weren’t meant to hear.

 

“He’s in cahoots with Starscream, ” Arcee said. “He might as well be a ‘con.”

 

“I understand your personal distaste towards Starscream,” Optimus replied, voice low and as soothing as his own Optimus’s ever was, “but you must remember, the Starscream that this Wheeljack knows and… cares for, is not the Starscream we are familiar with. He is not the Starscream that sent Cliffjumper to the Allspark.”

 

Wheeljack tried not to wince. That explained a good deal.

 

“That doesn’t mean he’s not still a jerk. Why are we helping this guy get back there? Where he can just go and help Screamer hurt more mechs?”

 

“I ask you this, Arcee; what other options do we have?”

 

“We could--”

 

“We could kill him,” Optimus interrupted. Wheeljack tried not to feel as afraid as he kind of was. He didn’t want to believe any iteration of his friend would hurt him, but… well, mechs in war did awful things. “But he still wears that symbol, and we will not stoop so low as to kill a fellow Autobot. Our other option is to simply keep him here, refuse to help him, but I have reason to believe he will simply abandon us to find his own way home. It is clear he cares deeply, for his home and for his conjunx,” Arcee made a vaguely disgusted noise, “and if we do not help I worry what he will do to succeed on his own.”

 

It was a valid concern. Wheeljack was known for his tenacity, especially when it came to science or the mechs he cared about. And this situation included both. Double tenacious.

 

“I still think this is a bad idea.”


“You do not need to help, Arcee. Nor do Bulkhead or our Wheeljack, if I am correct in assuming they feel similarly to you. But Ratchet, Bumblebee, and I will.” A quiet clank. “Your feelings towards the matter are valid. But my mind will not be changed.”

 

Arcee sighed. There were quite pedesteps as she, presumably, left, followed by louder ones that signaled Optimus entering the room.

 

“Wheeljack, I--”

 

Wheeljack set down the soldering iron. “I’m not a Decepticon,” he said quietly, causing Optimus to fall silent. “And neither is Starscream. He left them a while ago. Tore his badges off and made a whole speech about it.” He neglected to mention the part where he’d killed his friend at the same time, that wouldn’t help his case. It had taken a lot of trust for Starscream to tell him the truth about Metalhawk. He wasn’t about to betray that trust. “You guys don’t get it. If this had happened to the old me, back when our war was still going, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it either. But it’s a lot more complicated than you think. It’s not as simple as Autobots versus Decepticons anymore.”

 

Optimus was quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry you overheard that,” he said, voice low. “It wasn’t our intention to speak loud enough that you could hear.” It never was. Nobody had hushed conversations looking for the subject to listen in.

 

“You’re sorry you got caught,” Wheeljack corrected, not looking away from the machine he was working on.

 

“...Yes.” The Prime clasped his hands in front of him, an awkward gesture. “I have not known peace in… a very long time. The idea that there is a Cybertron out there who has managed it, I-- It makes me feel rather… inferior. Guilty. It is my inability that has made our war continue to last as long as it has, while my counterpart was able to bring about peace.”

 

Careful not to touch the live wires, Wheeljack leaned closer, prying the sides of the machine apart in order to get at the internals. Then he paused, stood, and sighed. He couldn’t have this conversation and work at the same time.

 

“You didn’t.”

 

“...What?”

 

“Your counterpart?” Wheeljack looked over at this Optimus, the one that somehow seemed both exceedingly old and infinitely young at the same time. The one that knew how to fight, yet balked in the face of peace. So similar and yet so different to the one he knew. “He might’ve had a hand in stopping the war, but he didn’t have anything to do with making Cybertron peaceful after that. Starscream made it better. Starscream, Bee, and I. Ironhide. Windblade and the other delegates. Your counterpart didn’t bring anything. He ended the war and fragged off into deep space. Left us to clean up his mess.”

 

After long enough without a response, Wheeljack went back to his work. It was several minutes later that Optimus finally spoke; “I see,” he said, voice quiet. “...Thank you for telling me all of  this, Wheeljack. I… it is a comfort.”

 

“Uhuh.” That wire was misaligned. Damnit, he’d just fixed it. Maybe he needed to resolder the component. Or get a little recharge.

 

Recharge could wait. He was so close to getting this done. Then he could recharge, once he was home again and could curl up in his own berth next to a warm and familiar frame. Once he was safe.

 

He didn’t realize he’d been working well into the night and through to the morning until the clearing of a vocalizer behind him brought him out of his hyperfocus.

 

“Yeah?”

 

Ratchet stood behind him, arms crossed and looking wildly unimpressed. “Have you slept? Or refueled since yesterday?”

 

Ah. Wheeljack shrugged. “I’ve almost finished this. I’ll fuel when I’m done.”

 

“Nope,” the medic said, pulling a cube from somewhere and shoving it into his hand. The blue glow still unsettled him a bit, but he could tell himself it was just one of Blurr’s mixed drinks and be fine with it long enough to convince himself to stick a line in it. “You’re gonna stop working and refuel. Now. Doctor’s orders.”

 

Universal constants. Like Ratchet being a grumpy old sack of scrap. “Alright,” Wheeljack said, because sometimes it was just easier to obey than argue. “You can align color coded wires, right?”

 

“I can do complex operations while a mech’s life hangs in the balance. Yes I can align color coded wires.”

 

“Great,” Wheeljack pulled himself up to sit on a free spot on the table and gestured at the mostly-finished device. “That’s what I was doing before.” 

 

Ratchet rolled his optics, but shifted over and leaned down in front of the table anyways. “Eager to get home, huh?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And back to your conjunx, I’d assume.”

 

“Don’t say it like that.” He unlatched the plating on his wrist and carefully pulled out the intake line, dipping it into the cube and waiting for his systems to pick up that he was trying to fuel them again. “You’re saying it the same way half my friends did when I told them. And I don’t like it. Yes, it’s Starscream. Yes, it might be a bad decision in the end, but I don’t give a flying frag. I’m a grown mech and I can make my own damn choices.” He was tired of having these conversations long before now, and that was with mechs who knew him. Being judged by these mechs, who barely knew him and certainly didn’t know his Starscream, was just plain annoying. “Mind your damn business.”

 

A huff from the medic as he narrowed his optics. “I can’t be concerned?”

 

“You’re not being concerned. You’re judging me and my partner without even having met him, based off of a version of him who’s only the same person in name. Am I anything like this world’s Wheeljack?”

 

Hesitating, Ratchet scowled. “You both like blowing things up. But… no. You’re a lot more intellectually inclined than him, and you know how to not be disruptive. You look similar. But you’re different mechs.” It sounded like it hurt him to admit. Prideful. He and Starscream may not be anything like their counterparts, but this Ratchet definitely had quite a few similarities with the one he knew.

 

“I haven’t met this world’s Starscream, but I’ll bet you they’re different mechs too. So stop doing what everyone else does, making assumptions, and mind. Your. Business.

 

“Fine.” He stood. “Your machine’s done. Get the hell out of here.” 

 

Draining the last of the energon, closing his lines, and setting the empty cube on the table, Wheeljack got to his pedes and trotted over to look at the machine. Everything was at least aligned correctly. “Afraid it’s not that simple. But I’m doing my best.”

 

He wanted to get home as much as everyone else wanted him to.

 

-

 

The building of the machine, especially with his limited supplies, was the hard part of the equation. Supposedly, hooking it up and opening the bridge was the easy part. That was a matter of connecting three wires and flicking a switch. And then Starscream doing the same on his end. 

 

Wheeljack was pretty sure if he thought about the logistics anymore he was bound to jinx something, so before he could worry about it anymore he hooked up the device to the groundbridge’s main control panel and flicked the switch.

 

It took a full minute for the groundbridge to power on, and it made a concerning humming noise as it did so, but after that minute and without a single explosion, the portal opened, swirling a mix of sickly green and bright blue. The Autobots gathered nearby (which was… all of them, actually, though everyone but Bumblebee and Optimus were standing relatively far away), made a few confused noises.

 

“It’s never done that before,” Arcee muttered.

 

Several moments of nothing. For one sparkbreaking second Wheeljack thought it hadn’t worked. Then there was the familiar clicking of heels on tile, and a vague shape moving through the groundbridge solidified into the mech he knew and loved.

 

His sigh of relief was audible.

 

“Hey, Star,” he said.

 

Starscream had optics only for him, at least for the moment, and strode forward to reach down and pull him up into a strut-bending hug. He settled his head on the seeker’s shoulder. It was kind of nice that this frame didn’t have those protruding vents most of his other ones had, it made it a lot easier for Wheeljack to tuck his head into the crook of his partner’s shoulder. Even with the inconvenient shape of his finials.

 

“Don’t you ever do that again,” Starscream mumbled, voice muffled where his face was buried against Wheeljack’s plating. “You had me worried sick.”

 

“Not planning on it. Sorry for scaring you.”

 

“Yes, you should be.” He set Wheeljack down, though reached down to intertwine their servos, idly stroking his thumb digit. Then he seemed to notice their audience for the first time, looking up and giving them all a distasteful look. “So this is who you’ve been trapped with.”

 

The Autobots stared right back at the seeker. Arcee cleared her throat.

 

“Well, he’s certainly more colorful than the one we know,” Ratchet said, not a single hint that he was at all phased by the situation in his voice. Which, as much as he was pretty sure this Ratchet didn’t really like him, that was nice. That at least one of them wasn’t being weird about it. Even if he wasn’t really being kind.

 

Starscream’s wings flared up indignantly, and he bared his teeth. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“I think he means it literally, Star,” Wheeljack said placatingly, setting his free servo on his partner’s chestplate. It had an instant calming effect, as it usually did. “They’ve been helpful. Don’t get mad at them ‘cause you were worried for me.”

 

The seeker pouted, but didn’t snap back, and Wheeljack knew he’d identified the reason for his anger at the Autobots.

 

“So, uh, did you leave the bridge just… sitting there?”

 

“Of course not,” Starscream said with a scoff. “What do you take me for? An idiot? No, I left Windblade in charge of it. Her instructions were ‘make sure it doesn’t turn off and don’t touch any buttons.’ I figured even she could follow orders as simple as those.” Posturing, all of it. Wheeljack knew that if Starscream trusted Windblade enough to delegate actual relevant political work to her, he trusted her enough to keep the portal open long enough for them to get home.

 

“Should probably still hurry home, though,” Wheeljack muttered. “Can’t account for any instabilities that might end up leaving us both stranded here.”

 

“Yeah, don’t wanna get stuck with him along with you .” There was that annoying drawl again.

 

Starscream froze. Wheeljack muttered a quiet “oh, no,” and set his servo back on Starscream’s chassis. “Star,” he said, and when he didn’t get so much as a twitch from the seeker in response, he spoke again; “Starscream. They’re just trying to rile you up.”

 

“Yes, I believe that is the point,” Starscream said, brushing him off and pulling his servo away. “It is working.”

 

Alternate Wheeljack was giving Starscream an unimpressed look. Arcee and Bulkhead, who had been standing at his side, quietly shuffled away. He didn’t notice his backup escaping until Starscream was rapidly approaching and he looked over to find them no longer beside him to help with his arguments.

 

“What-- Hey, guys, c’mon--”

 

A pointed digit jabbing his chest interrupted him. “I have been the elected leader of Cybertron for several years,” Starscream began, and Wheeljack knew there was a tirade in store, “all of which were spent with hardly a moment of rest trying to fix the mess we as a species caused. I know quite well I was not innocent in the war. It is because I know that which has me trying so hard to fix it. What have you done, hm? Besides break things? Ruin your planet beyond habitability? Brought your war to an innocent world? I know your type. You are nothing like my Wheeljack, but I know exactly who you are. High and mighty. Acting like you’re better than the rest. But you know what the difference is between you and me?”

 

Starscream grinned, all fangs and just as much malice. “I am better. Because I fix things. I don’t just wreck them.” 

 

“So go ahead,” he said, turning and flicking his wings in the Alternate Wheeljack’s face. “Call me a ‘con. Insult me as you will. Spit curses in my direction. You’ll find nothing to say that I’ve not heard before, and nothing that can get under my plating, especially not in that feeble processor of yours. Go ahead and do your worst.

 

Ugh, did he really have to be so dramatic? Wheeljack didn’t want to look like he wasn’t enjoying this, because he wanted to support his conjunx. But Primus , he was halfway internally cringing at Starscream’s antics.

 

“Good enough?” Wheeljack muttered once Starscream had returned to his side.

 

“Could have been better,” the seeker mused, “I didn’t have much time to practice. But it’ll do.”

 

“Great. Can we go?”

 

“I suppose. Anything else you want to say?”

 

There was, actually. He pulled away from Starscream, going to stand before Optimus, and took the mech’s servos. Because as much as this Optimus was like the one he knew, he also wasn’t. He was so much younger, and despite the aloof exterior he presented, Wheeljack could tell there was a kind spark beneath his plating.

 

“Don’t give up, okay?” He said softly, speaking only so the Prime could hear. He looked down at Wheeljack with wide optics. “You aren’t like the Optimus I know, and that’s a good thing. He couldn’t make peace. But I think you can.”

 

Optimus squeezed his servos in return. “Thank you, my friend,” he said. “That… means a great deal.”

 

There. Good enough. He gave Optimus one last nod, then returned to Starscream’s side, slipping his servo into his conjunx’s and holding it tight.

 

“Um, thanks for hosting me, I guess,” Wheeljack said, turning to address the rest of the gathered Autobots. Alternate Wheeljack was looking soundly put off, standing off to the side, but Arcee and Bulkhead looked civil enough. Ratchet was hardly paying attention. Bumblebee was, though, and he gave Wheeljack a cheery wave and a [“Thanks for coming! Stay safe!”] by way of a goodbye.

 

“Hang on, is that Bumblebee?”

 

“Okay, time to go. Don’t any of you cause trouble.” He tightened his grip on Starscream’s servo and dragged him off towards the flickering portal.

 

“Wait, you were serious about him being tall, hang on--”

 

He didn’t look back once.

 

And Windblade did manage to follow directions. She also profusely apologized to Starscream for accusing him as soon as Wheeljack explained what had actually happened.

 

-

 

“Are you really going to try and fix it?”

 

Wheeljack looked over the thoroughly scorched and broken remnants of the machine that had sent him to the other dimension. Honestly, even if he wanted to, he probably wouldn’t be able to fix this one. He’d have to start from scratch, with all new materials. Which would be a pain and a half. He didn’t actually want to fix it, though, so he’d save himself the trouble.

 

The idea of going back to that dimension, where everything was wrong and the people were odd and he was alone, was fantastically unappealing.

 

The rest of the lab was… actually, not much messier than usual. Some new burnt patches in the ceiling and floor, a lot of bits of debris, but that was all pretty standard for the aftermath of one of Wheeljack’s experiments going haywire. 

 

“Nah,” he said, crushing it in one servo to make sure it was as broken as possible and not about to malfunction and sent some poor janitorial drone to another dimension as he tossed it into the waste bin. “Think we’ve explored dimensional travel enough for one lifetime. Gave it the old college try, y’know, and learned some stuff. For instance, alternate versions of people have a tendency towards being massive slagheads--”

 

Starscream laughed, winding his arms around Wheeljack’s shoulders and resting his head against his partner’s own. “We did make some intriguing observations. Did none of them really have noses?”

 

“None of them, Star. It was weird.”

 

“I can imagine.”

 

Wheeljack glanced down at a piece of blackened metal on the ground. It was a bit too far for him to reach without slipping out of Starscream’s hold. Grabbing it could wait.

 

“Is there anything you miss?”

 

He paused. The company, for what little time he’d spent in it, hadn’t been all bad. Arcee had been nice. Bulkhead, if a bit overenthusiastic, had also been nice. It was nice seeing any version of Bee again, even if it wasn’t the one he was used to. He might almost say he preferred the alternate Optimus to the one he knew. The other one just seemed a lot… nicer. He’d used the same adjective a lot. Nice.

 

The other world had been nice. But those few discoveries of constants and differences, the novelty of meeting alternate versions of the mechs he knew, it all hadn’t been worth it, in his opinion. Not worth the panic he’d caused on this end. Not worth the worry on that end. 

 

Starscream had enough on his plate.

 

“Nah,” he answered, tilting his head up and transforming his mask away (once he’d briefly scanned to make sure the lab really was empty) so he could press a one-lipped kiss against Starscream’s jawline. “How could there be? Everything I love is right here.”

 

The seeker huffed, but Wheeljack could tell by the uptick of his fans that he’d liked the sweet words. “Sap,” he muttered, pulling away just long enough to walk around to Wheeljack’s front and pull him into a proper kiss. As proper as they could manage with the lack of a full face on Wheeljack’s end. Starscream never complained, though.

 

Well, he complained about a lot of things. But never about the things Wheeljack couldn’t help.

 

(Starscream had asked, once, if he wanted to get it repaired. Quietly, privately, not one of the grand gestures he usually did when he was trying to get mechs to think him charitable and altruistic. This was just genuine concern, a question asked in the darkness of night when it was just the two of them left in the lab. Starscream had asked, offered to put Wheeljack in contact with a mech he knew. One who did frame reconstruction and could be as secretive as was wanted. He’d even offer to pay for it. Wheeljack had said no, and he hadn’t offered any explanation beyond that, and Starscream never asked again. And that had meant a lot. That was probably about when they started getting closer, if Wheeljack thought about it.)

 

“I really am sorry I worried you,” Wheeljack murmured, pressing further kisses against Starscream’s lips and cheek and the line of his jaw. “I’ll do my damnedest not to do it again in the future.”

 

“I know. And I’m not asking you to stop your science. I know how much you enjoy making things explode,” Starscream said with a quirk of a smile, “just… be careful. I’m not sure what I’d do if I lost you.” This was the side of him mechs either didn’t acknowledge or straight up didn’t believe existed. Wheeljack would mention something kind Starscream did, something genuine. And everyone would assume it a ploy.

 

It was… tiring. 

 

Worth it, though. He didn’t need anyone else to believe him, he didn’t need them to accept anything. He had a mech who loved him dearly, and who he loved in return.

 

“Better just make sure you don’t lose me, then.”

 

Starscream smiled, and pulled him into another kiss, and he knew he was right where he was supposed to be.