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Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories
by Kamara

I watched them stretched out on the floor, head to head, and murmuring back and forth in a strange combination of Cybertronium and Earth languages, in their own twin-speak that no one else but them could follow.  They stole furtive glances at me, much the same way I was stealing furtive glances at them, which only reinforced my suspicion that they were up to something.  It was a safe guess; they were always up to something.  They were experts at it, and even more expert at not getting caught.  I was always torn between fear at the latest escapade, amusement at their daring, and sheer awe at their audacity.  They simply amazed me.

My children.  Starwave and Firewave.

I tucked my feet under me in the chair, pretending that I was reading through the files in my datapad, but really watching them.  Plotting or not, quiet moments at home were rare enough to be treasured.  Rain rattled hard against the windows, and I could understand the humans’ fondness for a fireplace.  Not that fire was needed for warmth, but it gave a soothing emotional feel, and I toyed with the idea of asking my mate Divefire to install a fireplace.  He probably would, but would grumble under his breath about me having been on Earth far too long, but his optics would glow at me lovingly, and that was the only thing that would matter.

There.  The twins glanced at me again, in almost a mirror-image unison, Starwave’s purple gaze crossing over Firewave’s green one for a brief instant before sliding to me and quickly meeting each other’s again, before bending their heads close again with a new tone in murmuring.

I let out a soft sigh.  Sooner or later, we were going to be fishing them out of trouble.  Probably a whole lot sooner than later.

They glanced at me again, taking my sigh as an  excuse to look at me directly.  “You okay, Mom?” Firewave asked.

I smiled at them fondly.  The best of myself and Divefire, combined in the two of them.  Starwave with his way of quiet reflection, and Firewave with her way of charging headlong into things, dragging her brother in with her.  Starwave with his expressions that were a disorienting echo of mine, and Firewave with her temper an echo of Diver’s.   Their optics beamed with identical gazes of angelic innocence.

/Oh, we are going to be in /such/ trouble.  Don’t know when, but it’ll probably hit us like a meteor.../

I carefully managed to steer my expression into a stern one.  “What are you two planning?”

Two sets of optics went wide and adoring.  “Nothing,” they chorused.

/Nope.  The size of a planet./  I made a mental note to warn everyone in range that the twins were up to something and went back to my datapad, glancing over the edge of it to check again on the twins.  They paused for a moment, looking at each other in some wordless communication, then went back to whatever it was they were planning, heads bent together.  The light skimmed off their black armor, which had never seen anything more than usual childhood dentings... never any laser scorches or weapon-wounds.  They had never been hungry or gone without repairs.  

/I think we’re doing all right, as parents./

The twins suddenly broke into giggles, with another furtive look over at me.

I winced.  /Except for that part./

Their voices rose slightly, enough for me to make out what they were talking about, and it appeared to be their favorite comic book.  I relaxed a little, settling myself a little deeper in my chair and returning to my report.  The room slipped into the comforting sounds of young voices murmuring and the rain rattling off the window. and I fell back into making my notes.

I looked up again with Firewave suddenly sat up, her head tilted.  “Momma,” she said in a hesitant voice, and I rose to my feet, alarmed by the childish address that she rarely used these days, except when frightened or distressed.  “What is it, darling?”  I asked, going to her.

Her gaze was on the window.  “What’s that noise?”

I had heard such sounds for so many millennia, that my audios had passed them over as normal, even though I hadn’t heard them for several years.  But Firewave had never heard the pound of laser fire or the explosions from artillery outside of a simulation.  

Starwave stood up and went to the window.  “That’s... that’s not just thunder, is it, Mother?”

I crossed the room in several quick steps, Firewave clinging to my hand.  In the distance, I could see the city burning, fire blossoming in sudden explosions and fountaining skyward.

I quickly pulled both of them away from the window.  This building was just out of distance from stray debris from that far away, but I had also seen entire cities engulfed in an attack in minutes, and didn’t want to run that risk.  “You’re right,” I said quickly, “And you were paying good attention, both of you, to realize it.”  As I talked, I led them deeper into the room, away from the other windows, and was just about to activate my radio when the door flew open and Divefire burst in.

My hopes of some kind of accident sagged at his face, tightly shuttered against expression and optics blazing.  “It’s an attack, isn’t it?” I asked helplessly.

He nodded, a short jerk of his head.  It had been over twenty years since the last attack, since the Decepticons had established rule over Earth.  A long time... yet, not so long, considering our life spans.

Starwave gazed up at his father.  “Is it the Autobots again?”

Diver’s face softened slightly and he touched Starwave’s face.  “I’m not sure yet.”  His optics met mine.  “Just like we planned it, hun,” he said softly.  “You’re getting the children out of here.”

We had run through the drill so many times, and I never had questioned it until now.  I caught his arm as he started to turn to the cupboard where we kept the emergency pack with rations and supplies.  “Let me get someone else to take them,” I said quickly.  “I’ll stay with you.”

He shook my hand off.  “There’s no time.”  Then, at my expression, he growled softly, “Cats... there isn’t anyone else I /trust/ with our children.”

I looked down at them, then, both staring up at us with frightened optics.  The warrior in me tried to fight the mother in me... and was clawed down in a surge of wild protectiveness.  “Right,” I said faintly, then habit kicked in, and I clapped my hands.  “Right, kids,” I said with more strength this time.  “Just like we’ve always practiced.”

Diver’s optics glowed at me briefly as he brought the pack and two blankets in.  Starwave glanced at his sister, her optics still wide in fear, and he ducked into their room long enough to bring back her Piclo, a well-loved Cybertronian sized doll of the character Piccalo from Dragonball.  Her love for the show was one she shared with her father, and when she was younger, she wouldn’t go to sleep without her Piclo.  She was just starting to go through the phase of thinking she was too old to have such a toy, but from the way she clung to it when her brother handed it to her, I could tell that she had decided this was not the time to outgrow it.  I gave Starwave a grateful smile as I bent down and wrapped the blanket around him, to protect him against the weather and any debris if the fighting grew closer before I could take off.  Diver followed my movements with Firewave, swinging her up to sit on his shoulders, while I settled Starwave on my hip.  Diver tucked the pack under his arm and quickly guided me out the door.  “Don’t go to the lake,” he said quickly.  “It’s become too public that it’s our home.”

“It has security and weapons,” I protested.

He shook his head.  “You’ve grown too noticeable, love, with your work.  It will be the first place they look.”

I tried another tactic.  “You could take us to Cybertron.”

He gave me another look as he hurried me through the corridor and up the stairs to the roof.  “They’ll be looking for me too.  You’re the one with stealth, Cats.  You have to get them out of here.”  His jaw clenched.  “Besides,” he said tightly, “I’ve worked too long to have this planet torn apart by war again.”

The warrior in me tried to flare in rage.  I had worked slagging hard too, and this planet was my home as much as his, but then the mother in me tightened my arms around my son and clawed the warrior down again.

We reached the roof and Diver swung Firewave down and I set Starwave beside her.  Diver crouched down to look at them levelly.  “Don’t you even think about giving your mother any trouble,” he growled.

They both shook their heads, their gaze not leaving his.  Firewave clutched her Piclo doll to her chest, resting her chin on its head.  Diver gave Starwave one of those male take-care-of-the-femmes looks and Starwave straightened and held his chin up in a gesture that was suddenly painfully like his father’s.  I wasn’t ready to see that expression in my child yet.  

Diver stood and nodded at me to move away.  “Go ahead and transform,” he said gruffly, then caught me before I could take a step, pulling me roughly into his arms and clinging to me.

I pounded lightly on his chest with my fist.  “You aren’t supposed to be going into battle without me,” I cried softly.

He pulled me tighter to him so I couldn’t move.  “You’re always with me, Cats.  Even when you’re planets away, you’re always with me,” he whispered,  “Now, go.  I’ll find you when it’s safe.”

“You won’t even know where we are,” I said wildly.

He leaned back enough to cup my face in his hands and rested his forehead against mine.  “I’ll always be able to find you,” he said hoarsely.  “Always.”

“And forever,” I said faintly.

His face flickered into a smile and he kissed me before pushing me gently away.  “Go on, now.”

I transformed quickly, popping my canopy open.  Diver stored the pack inside, then put each of the children in, kissing their foreheads as he did, then pulled my canopy down and made sure it was secure.  He rested his hand on my wing briefly, then stood back out of the way.  I taxied forward and shot off the roof, feeling two sets of noses pressed against my canopy to watch.  As I engaged my stealth engines, I saw a purple flare streaking towards the line of fires.  “There he goes,” Firewave cried excitedly.  In the safety of their mother’s cockpit, the fear was edging off and being replaced by the sense of adventure.  “Dad’ll teach them.”

“Whoever they are,” Starwave added in his soft manner.

“Doesn’t matter who they are,” Firewave announced.  “Dad’ll kick them to the next galaxy, won’t he, Mom?”

“I certainly hope so,” I murmured, then mentally kicked myself.  “Of course, he will,” I said quickly, before any doubts could seep into their minds.  I tried to keep their excitement fueled.  “How do the two of you feel like camping out?”

Firewave bounced in her seat.  “Can we have a campfire and toast marshmallows, like the humans do?”

Starwave shoved his sister good-naturedly.  “Why should we toast marshmallows?  We can’t eat them.”

They launched into sibling bickering then, on whether or not marshmallows would taste good, toasted or not, or if it was something only humans could eat.  Finally Starwave finished the argument with a triumphant, “Besides, we can’t toast marshmallows, ‘cause I helped Father pack the emergency kit, so I know there aren’t any marshmallows in it.”

They fell quiet then, first with the flavor of Firewave trying to think of a way to argue that point, then with the restful silence of having been lulled to sleep by my engines.  In one aspect, the peace was welcome, so I could concentrate on flying silent and monitoring radio communications.  However, it also gave me a chance to fret and waver on the edge of panic for Diver.  It was one thing to be afraid for him when I was there in battle with him.  It was far more worse to be someplace else, letting my mind create possible scenarios.  I wanted to turn back a dozen different times, but each time, I thought of the children asleep in my canopy and kept going.  

I finally began to descend over Europe, and the change in my engines woke Starwave up.  He rubbed at his optics and smacked his sister over the head to wake her up.  She woke up snarling and a tussle nearly broke out, until they remembered where they were, and both noses pressed up against my canopy again.  “Where are we?” Firewave asked.

I smiled to myself.  “Wait a bit, and see if you can guess.”

She grumbled a bit, but I sensed it was only under General Principle, as her nose never left my canopy.  I flew down low and transformed, shifting the children to set one on each hip as I hovered a few feet above the snow to catch my bearings.  Between both of them and the emergency pack, it was a heavy load, and I was tempted to put both of them down, but I was also afraid they’d dart away in excitement, and it was a vast area to be separated in.  Instead, I let my antigravs do the work and coasted along .  Firewave leaned out to watch the snow fall, and I did some quick juggling before I could drop her.  She wrapped her arms around my neck for extra security, nearly bapping me in the face with Piclo in the process.

“It’s just snow,” Starwave said with a touch of disdain.  “You’ve seen it before.”

She reached around behind me to smack him with her doll.

“Don’t even start,” I warned.  “Or I’ll drop you both in the snow.”

They giggled, not believing me in the slightest, but it did temper the squabble before it really began.  I stopped once more to catch my bearings, then angled sharply uphill, and we could see the cave opening through the falling snow.

“I know where we are!” Starwave suddenly said.  “This is where Father brought you when Snipe shot you, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Firewave chimed in.  “That’s that cave where the Autobots attacked you, isn’t it?”

I smiled and answered both questions with a simple “Yes.”  They both squirmed to get loose, but I didn’t put them down until we were a good ways into the cave.  I warned them not to explore too deeply into the cave, and while Firewave bragged that she wasn’t afraid, they both peered suspiciously in the deep shadows.  “These caves go on forever,” I went on, pressing the advantage.  “And my sensors aren’t as good as your father’s.  If you get lost, I might not be able to find you again.”

A small hand slipped into each of mine.

The remains of our camp from fifty years ago was still there, such as it was.  Other than the rough bed Diver had made, from steel filched from a human resort, there really wasn’t much. This time, we were much more prepared.   I opened the emergency pack and took out more blankets to spread over the bed, then put the twins down on it, sternly telling them to stay put.  Starwave immediately turned to Firewave and told /her/ to stay put while he rummaged through the pack to find the small generator.  Firewave automatically raised her doll to hit him again, then thought better of it as she poked through the pack herself.  I took the generator from Starwave, thanking him for his help, and he glowed in pride at me.  Being sure not to leave Firewave out, I asked her to take out some of the energy rations for us, and the debate over what to eat took all their attention while I turned on the generator.  It hummed to life with a contented purr, bathing us with a soft light.  I took out another small device from the pack and fussed with it for a few minutes.  

Firewave paused in the midst of setting out energon canisters in a neat row on the bed.  “What’s that?” she asked, pointing at the device and leaning forward for a better look, knocking her canisters over as she did.  Starwave let out a soft sigh of frustration and began setting the canisters up again.

I showed her the device.  “It’s a jamming thingie, so that no one can pick up our readings.”

Starwave rolled his optics, thinking that he was out of my line of sight.  I smiled to myself.  Starwave had his father’s understanding of techie stuff, and he showed a tolerant impatience with my lack of tech skill.

Firewave frowned.  “But won’t that keep Dad from finding us?”

“Naw, you heard him,” Starwave said.  “He’ll always be able to find us.”

Firewave looked reassured and went back to her inventory of the emergency pack, even though they both knew what was in it.  They had been drilled in this often enough that they both could recite the entire contents without stopping for a breath.  However, she pulled out an unfamiliar pouch.  “What’s this?”

Starwave abandoned his canister-stacking and crawled over on the bed to her.  “What’s what?”

“This.”  She held up the pouch.  “Mom?”

I finished programming the device and set it just under the bedframe, where it wouldn’t get kicked by accident.  “Why don’t you open it and see?”

She eagerly pulled it open, with Starwave hurrying her, and they both broke into excited babbling at the sight of the matching video game sets, one in green and one in purple, and the game cartridges with them.  I sighed in relief as they flopped down on their stomachs, each claiming a game.  Soon the cave was filled with tiny electronic sounds and the twins’ laughter and I had a moment’s rest.  I sat on the other end of the bed, leaning against the stone behind me.

I missed Diver so badly it hurt all the way through.  I pulled my knees up to my chest, resting my chin on them, and watched our children play, their voices chiming together softly around the beeps and chirps of the game, and I couldn’t bear the thought that it might just be three of us instead of four.

I closed my optics, turning my head and pressing my forehead against my knees, the pain of missing my mate so deep that I struggled to breathe.

Two small bodies pressed against me, one of them patting my arm.  “Mother?” Starwave said, his voice tiny and lost.  “It will be all right, Mother.  Don’t worry.”

“Yeah,” said Firewave, her voice not much louder than her brother’s.  “It’ll be fine.”

I looked up into their faces, their optics full of concern, and I pulled them into my arms.  They cuddled to me, one against each side, resting their heads on my shoulders.  “Father’s the best there is,” Starwave said proudly.

“Yeah,” Firewave said again. “He even beat Starscream.”

I smiled down at them, kissing each of them on the top of their heads.  /And you have no idea what he went through to do it, either.../  A carefully edited version of that story was one of their favorites.

As if on cue, they both chimed in, begging for the story. I made a show of rolling my optics.  “You two are going to get us in trouble with Megatron,” I said.

“Aw, Uncle Megs won’t care,” Firesong said with a dismissive flick of her hands.

I felt my smile freeze on my face.  “Uncle.... Megs...?” I squeaked.

They looked at me as if I was the densest person in the universe.  “Uncle Megs,” Starwave said as if it should be obvious.

“Please tell me you haven’t called him that to his face,” I begged.

They looked at each other and shrugged in tandem.

I closed my optics and leaned my head back, bapping it lightly on the stone behind me several times.  “What did he do?” I asked, cringing.

Firewave shrugged.  “He laughed.”  She gave me an infinitely patient look.  “He /likes/ us, Mom.”

I whimpered.  The greatest leader of the Decepticons of all time, the Emperor Megatron... and my children call him ‘Uncle Megs.’

“You are bad, bad children, “ I told them.  “Very bad.”  

They looked at each other again, exchanging one of those parents-are-so-stupid expressions, and not believing me any more than I believed myself.  “Just tell the story, Mother,” Starwave said patiently.

I settled into a more comfortable  position, the children burrowing against me.  “I wasn’t even there for that part,” I said.  “You really should have your father tell this story.”

Firewave snorted softly.  “He’d turn it into a lesson.”

I hid my smile as I snagged one of the blankets and draped it around the three of us.  “All right.  Now this goes back to when /Megatron/...”  and I deliberately emphasized the name and the children giggled.  “... first met Nightbird.”

“And he fell in love with her!’ Firewave jumped in.

“’Cause she was such a good warrior,” Starwave said, not wanting to be outdone.

“Who’s telling this story?” I asked in amusement, and they giggled again, snuggling closer.  “Now, there were several Decepticons who were uncertain about Nightbird.  They didn’t think she could possibly be as good as they were, because they didn’t think she was Cybertronian.”

“Especially Starscream.”  Starwave wrinkled his nose.  “How come?”

I hesitated a second.  This was always the tricky part, paring the story down past the politics, both family and governmental.  I tried to keep it to terms that were both safe and that young children could understand.  “He was afraid that Megatron would like Nightbird better than him, and maybe even give her his command.”

“That’s silly,” Firewave said, with child-like disdain.  “Lady Bird isn’t even a jet.  How could she take an Air Commander position?”

I brushed my cheek against the top of her head.  “Sometimes, dear... people just don’t think straight when they are afraid.”

She humphed, wrapping her end of the blanket more tightly around herself.  “I still think it’s silly.”

/Ah, my daughter.  This is hardly the time to tell you that most of the Decepticon Earth troops weren’t thinking straight during that time./  I helped her tuck the blanket, then checked Starwave to make sure he had an equal part of the warmth.  He was regarding me with thoughtful optics, and I wondered how much he understood what I was not saying.  Certainly more than his sister, who was still grumbling.  She nudged me.  “Don’t stop, Mom.”

“Megatron gave Nightbird a chance to prove herself to the other Decepticons,” I went on.  “All by herself, she infiltrated the Ark, to steal a piece of technology from the Autobots.”

“What kind of technology?” Firewave asked.

Starwave shook his head.  “Better ask Father,” he said.

I tickled his side gently.  “Watch it, you.  Just for that, maybe I should just send the two of you to bed to wait for your father to finish the story.”

Firewave immediately cuffed her brother, who took it, grinning.  “It was a chip that would produce a huge amount of energy,” he said.

“Oh.”  Firewave settled back down.  “And she fought off all the Autobots, didn’t she?”

I smiled down at her.  “Yes, she did.”

“I bet you could have done that, Mother,” Starwave said loyally.

I laughed softly.  “I’m glad I never had to try.”

Firewave looked up at me.  “Did /you/ ever have to prove yourself, like Lady Bird did?”

My mind blanked for a second, and I covered it by kissing her head and fussing with the blanket.  “One story at a time, huh?  So Lady Nightbird fought her way back out of the Ark with the World Energy Chip... which was what it was called,” and I tickled Starwave again.  He laughed and managed to pull away from my fingers and press closer to me at the same time.  “But there were too many Autobots surrounding her, and she was nearly captured.  Megatron ordered a rescue, and we all went in after her.”

Both were now leaning against me, caught up in the story.  “You and Daddy both?” Firewave asked.

I smiled.  “Yes.  Me and your Daddy both.”

“But not Starscream,” Starwave said, the thoughtful look on his face again.

“No,” I said.  “Starscream had argued with Megatron.  He followed us, though, and just as Nightbird had managed to escape, he shot her.”

Both sets of optics were wide.  “And then Father went after Starscream,” Starwave said eagerly.

“Many of us went after Starscream,” I told them.  “Megatron ordered us to.  Some of us even managed to wound Starscream.  But there was good reason why Starscream was the pride of the Academy.  He quickly outdistanced everyone except your father.  And even he was hard put to keep up with Starscream.  He chased him into Earth’s orbit and back again, and when he caught up to Starscream, he opened fire.  Starscream was taken by surprise, because he never thought anyone could possibly be faster than him.  He was quicker than your father, more agile, and he twisted away from all of your father’s shots.  Starscream tried many tricks to slip away, but your father’s sheer speed countered each of his attempts.  Then your father transformed and drew his sword and flew straight at Starscream.  Starscream tried to flee again, but he was tiring and had been wounded earlier, and was unable to shake your father.  He turned and fired again, shooting your father down into the ocean.  Your father rose back out of the waves, blazing mad, but he had already won.  He had not only out-chased Starscream, but had held him at bay long enough for reinforcements to arrive.”

Starwave snorted.  “And Striker tried to take all the credit.”

“Striker isn’t that bad,” Firewave insisted.  “I like him.”

Starwave gave her an incredulous look, so like his father’s that I barely stopped myself from laughing outloud.  Instead, I retucked the blanket that had come undone again during the story-telling.   “Credit went to all who merited it,” I said, letting a tone of instruction seep into my voice.

Starwave rolled his optics, but didn’t meet my gaze.

“Anyway,” I said, my tone softening.  “Starscream surrendered and we took him back to Megatron, who was very angry and punished him severely.   Starscream told us that he had not killed Nightbird.  He had only stunned her, and Soundwave knew that he was telling the truth.”

“’Cause Soundwave’s tele...tele...”  Firewave frowned.

“Telepathic,” Starwave supplied.

“What Starwave said.”

“Yes, because Soundwave is telepathic, and would know if anyone tried to lie to him.  Like most parents,” I couldn’t help adding.

They studied me for a long moment, trying to figure out if I was joking or not.

Firewave suddenly giggled.  “And you were angry at Daddy, weren’t you?  For going after Starscream by himself.”

I grumbled a little, more for show than anything else.  

“But there was no one else who could have done it,” Starwave said loyally.

I hugged them both.  “This is true.  And since I was more angry with Starscream, your father was safe from me.  That time.”

“And you helped rescue Lady Bird, didn’t you?” Firewave asked, obviously hoping to coax me into telling another story.

“I did,” I said. “But that’s a story for another evening.”

They whined in protest, but optics were blinking sleepily, and it wasn’t very difficult to get them to lay down, nestled in blankets.  I hummed to them softly until I knew both of them were asleep, then settled myself at the foot of the bed, between my children and the passageway, my sword resting against the side of the bed and my pistol in my lap.  It was probably safe enough that I could sleep.  I had always been a light sleeper, and the sound of anyone coming into the cave or even the sound of one of the twins stirring would wake me.  But every time a closed my optics, I saw the strewn remains of a battlefield, and I’d quickly open them again before my mind started filling it with fragments of black armor.  So instead, I let the night drag by unbearably around me, with one hand resting on the nearest twin, as a silent reassurance that they were near me.

A few hours before dawn, there was the sound of metal scraping against stone.  I shifted slightly, the pistol in my hand, and nearby a small pair of purple optics glowed.  Starwave had inherited my restless sleep patterns.  His gaze met mine and I held my finger to my lips.  He nodded in response in such a slight movement, that if I hadn’t been looking for it, I would not have noticed it.  Then the sound came again and Firewave woke up with a start, blinking and staring around blearily.  Starwave reached for her, but she jumped up and off the bed, running for the passage.  “Daddy!”

I was off the bed just as quickly, scooping her around the waist as she shot by and swinging her behind me in the same movement, and bringing my sword up in front of us and the passageway as Diver came in.  I let my sword fall in relief, and then the three of us bolted to him.   He managed not to fall over as the three of us hit him at once, and he knelt down enough to pull all of us into his arms, clinging to us in silence.  He smelled of laser fire and smoke, and I could feel dents in his armor under my hands, but he was alive and he was here, and I was complete again.

“Are you all right?” I managed to say.

He nodded, and my voice broke the spell that had held the twins quiet.  In a surge of babbling, they swarmed over their father, poking at each new dent and demanding to know how it happened.  Diver managed to fend their questions off and talk to me at the same time.  “No, we don’t know who they were... never got a good look at any of them... that was where I got creased with a shot... they never came out of their fighterships, just nailed the city hard with ordinance... a building hit me there... We didn’t fight them off.  They just... left.  Yes, I know that if it was a ranged fight, your mother should have gone, take that as a lesson not to ignore your firing practice, Cats, will you stop laughing and help me here?”

I rescued him by peeling a twin off him.  Without stopping to see which one it was, I put the child down and scooted it away with a pat on its rump.  Diver hauled the remaining twin clinging to his back over his shoulder and flipped it around to set it down with the same scooting pat.  “Go on, now,” he said.  “Let me talk to your mother.”

And with that, he roughly pulled me to him again.  I slipped my arms around him and burrowed my face in his throat.

“Eww, they’re gonna be mushy,” Firewave said in disgust.

I stepped back enough to touch Diver’s face with a silent promise for later.  He felt the words through my fingertips and turned his face enough to kiss them.

“Why should that bother you?” Starwave said with a light sneer.  “You’re the one who likes Striker.  You’ve probably got cooties from him already.”

Firewave squawked and cuffed him, and they fell into a wildly tussling mess.

Diver’s jaw fell open and he gave me a pleading look.  “Tell me I didn’t just hear what I think I heard.”

I grinned.  “All right.  You didn’t hear it.”

He gave me a gentle shove that somehow just pulled me closer, and we moved to sit on the edge of the bed, watching the children wrestling.  I rested my head on his shoulder, rubbing one hand up and down his back, not asking any questions, just waiting.

“The ships had no insignias,” he finally said in a soft voice, pitched below the children’s.  “No way of telling if they were Autobots, or humans, or someone else.  They came in, hit hard, and just left.  I can’t even say we beat them off, because I just couldn’t tell.”

“How bad was the damage?” I asked, now that he had started.

He shook his head.  “Reports aren’t in yet.”  He smiled slightly.  “Megatron gave me leave to come find you and the twins.”

“Yes,” I said.  “I’ve heard he likes the twins.”

Something gave it away in the tone of my voice, and he looked at me sharply.  “What did they do?”

In spite of it all, I couldn’t help a soft chuckle.  “Uncle Megs.”

He closed his optics as his mind ran that over a few times.  I wondered if his visual image was similar to what mine had been.  “He misses Ruse,” I murmured.

“They’re certainly living up to her image,” he grunted.

A twin rolled by.  With a mother’s instinct, I tucked my feet up out of the way and the twin went on to crash into Diver’s leg.  He looked down, and Firewave grinned up at him from her upside-down position.  “Daddy, Mom told us the Starscream story again.”

He reached down and untangled her and she dove back at her brother, squealing and laughing.  Diver watched her go with a small smile.  “Although technically, I didn’t do much more than chase the Greatest Screamer back down to Earth so everyone could shoot at him.”

“And in your children’s view, that means you won.”

He smirked.  “Ah, yes... Hero worship of their father...”

I leaned against him.  “When can we go back?”

His smile faded.  “Cats, I don’t know how safe it is.”

I didn’t answer.  /All I’ve wanted, is just for my family to be safe./

As if he heard the words, he lifted my hand and kissed my fingers again.  

“Maybe,” I hesitated.  “Maybe we should send the children back to Cybertron.  They’d be safer there, wouldn’t they?”

He shrugged.  “Unless it’s the Autobots rising up again.  In which case, Cybertron isn’t any safer than here.   And anyway, who would we trust enough with our children?”  Then he gave a wry grin.  “And who could control them?”

I brushed my fingers over his side and he caught them again.  “Cats, if they ever find out I’m ticklish,” he growled, “I’ll lose all authority over them.”

I thought that over, realized he was right and managed to keep my smile hidden.  He saw it in my optics, though and glowed at me briefly, and I rested against him again.

“I think,” I murmured, “that I have to be back at the city.  I’m the spokesperson there, and if I run, the humans will take that as a sign that we’re dumping them.  And having the children there will reinforce that we’re here to stay.”

He arched a brow at me.  “Are you willing to risk our children to make a statement?”

A surge of anger washed through me.  “Than what do you suggest?” I snapped.

He slowly shook his head.  “I don’t know, Cats,” he said softly.  “I just don’t know.”

My anger washed away as abruptly as it had come.

The twins had fallen asleep in a snarled mess of arms and legs.  We picked them up and carried them back to the bed without them waking.  The excitement had finally worn them completely out.  I tucked Starwave in, kissing his forehead, as Diver did the same to his daughter.  

Then the two of us settled ourselves at the foot of the bed and stood guard over our children.  The best parts of both of us.


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