Warning: more of those sexy gay robots
Wheeljack had thought he'd found the perfect place to sulk alone when heavy footsteps began echoing closer. Of course Bulkhead knew him as well as he knew himself, and it only took half a cycle of him being a no-show for his friend to go searching.
"H-Hey, Jackie, what're ya doing down here?" Bulkhead's massive helm peered over a thick strand of cabling. "You know this is the maintenance shaft for the ground bridge?"
Wheeljack bit back a sarcastic remark; Bulkhead rarely, if ever, deserved the bite he could put out. "Yeah, s'why I picked it. Nice and quiet."
"Oh." Bulkhead paused, one pede dangling mid-step. "I can, uh, come back later?"
"Nah." Wheeljack folded his wings tight against his back, wedging in the corner to make room for his friend. "Always got time for you, Bulk."
Bulkhead smiled happily as he settled in, shoving a few cables out of the way. "So, uh... What's bothering ya?"
Wheeljack shuttered his optics as he leaned back against the smooth metal casing. "Whaddya think?"
"Oh c'mon, Jackie," Bulkhead wheedled, exventing a harsh sigh. "That was vorns ago, back on Cybertron. You still feel the same?"
"I don't change, Bulk," Wheeljack snorted, opening one optic to give the other Wrecker a wry smile. "You know that."
"Okay, so, maybe this is your perfect opportunity," Bulkhead insisted with an encouraging fistbump to Wheeljack's arm. "We're all kinda stuck here for the moment. Maybe it's time you told the commander."
Wheeljack's other optic unshuttered, staring at his friend with a narrowed glare. "You really don't get why I left the Wreckers, do ya?"
Bulkhead froze, then waved his hands in agitation. "'Cause, y'know, your attraction. To Magnus. And you didn't wanna tell him. Right?"
Wheeljack laughed, a sharp bitter sound that made Bulkhead wince. "No. I did tell him. And then I bailed. Couldn't take the way he looked at me after. Like he's looking at me now. He's cold, Bulk. So cold it burns."
"I... Oh. Scrap, Jackie, I didn't know-,"
"You didn't stick around to find out," Wheeljack snapped, then immediately reached over and patted Bulkhead's strut. "Sorry. I ain't angry at you, Bulk. I'm so fragging frustrated I'm gonna take it out on anybody I see. S'why I'm down here."
A tense stillness fell as they independently stared at everywhere but each other, wrapped in their own thoughts for several kliks. Bulkhead finally broke the silence in an abnormally quiet tone.
"What did Magnus say?"
"What do you think?"
"It was... really bad?"
Wheeljack shifted, shaking off a veneer of crumbled dirt and dust. "Really bad," he simply echoed. "Listen, I had one small case of high-grade survive my ship's crash, and I've been saving it for just such an occasion. Wanna join me?"
He watched as Bulkhead's optics lit with eagerness, then dimmed just as quickly. "I promised Miko I'd-,"
Wheeljack held up a hand, shaking his head. "Say no more. You go have a blast with our fella Wrecker. Just means there'll be more for me."
Bulkhead grunted as he wiggled out the almost-too-small space, rolling a shoulder nervously as Wheeljack followed. "Jackie, if I can do anything- You know Optimus would-,"
"Frag, Bulkhead, I've been carryin' this for vorns, I'm used to it," Wheeljack smirked. "No need to get all sappy on me, I'll be just fine. I am fine, and I'll be even better once I got a nice overcharge buzz going."
"...Alright." They walked in tandem toward the nearby hallway, parting as they reached the juncture. "But if you do, Jackie, I'm just a comm away, okay?"
"Yep. Thanks." Wheeljack banged a fist on Bulkhead's arm. "See ya tomorrow." He wandered off in direction of his ship, waving a hand at Bulkhead's enthusiastic goodbye. Once he'd safely rounded the corner, his frame hunched defensively, the forced smile melting into an angry frown.
A pleasant buzz of static was circulating Wheeljack's systems as he downed the fifth cube of high-grade fuel. Not nearly enough to knock him into recharge, but he was well on his way. He sent a silent thanks to whoever might be listening for thinking of reinforcing the top storage compartment, or else he'd be completely out of luck. The 'Bots kept a dry base, though he knew Bulkhead could brew a delicious and inexpensive low-grade that would corrode the plating off a few key circuits. He missed it.
He missed all of it, really. War was an ugly thing, but the Wreckers had made it into an art form. Something to look forward to. Certainly, working in the labs before the war had been rewarding, but nothing beat the fierce joy of using his experiments on the field. Blowing up 'Cons, victory binges, celebratory fragging. Being a Wrecker was the best time of his life.
And then Ultra Magnus had gone and ruined it all, the slagger. Wheeljack's hands curled into fists, nearly crushing the sloshing cube.
It hadn't been totally Magnus' fault, Wheeljack mused internally. But he'd definitely been the catalyst, and he always resisted change-
The hanger door opened, heavy tread following immediately on the hollow echo of metal-on-metal. It wasn't Bulkhead; there wasn't the sharp twang that Bulkhead's pedes had. The sound was dense, solid. Wheeljack groaned and leaned back against the charred hull of the Jackhammer as the last mech he ever wanted to see rounded the corner. Ultra Magnus regarded him for a few tense seconds before squatting beside him.
"You're in one of your moods, I see."
Wheeljack snorted, raising his cube in agreement before downing it. It didn't burn as much as the first few had, spreading immediate warmth and another rush of fuzzy static through Wheeljack's sensory net.
With a soft exvent, Ultra Magnus sank into a more comfortable kneeling position. "You rarely indulge in overcharging. You yourself gave several moving speeches about how it contaminated the systems and reflexes for cycles after overcharging."
"Ain't like I got many other choices." Slowly he refilled the cube, frowning as he noted half the high-grade was gone already. "And it's my off-shift. Sir."
"Correct, though there is another choice," Magnus replied steadily. "In this time of necessity, the Wreckers do have a unit once again."
Wheeljack's optics widened briefly before he dissolved into a fit of laughter. "You can- ha ha!- tell Bulk you checked up on me and leave me to my overcharge."
"On the contrary, this gives me a potential opportunity to present a question." Ultra Magnus settled fully on the floor, optics narrowed in concentration.
"Amazing, that almost sounded like you asking for my permission."
Wheeljack tilted his head in mock surprise, earning a deeper frown from the commander. "Fine, what the frag. Hit me."
"Though you are not currently on duty, I suggest you watch your language."
Wheeljack gave a lopsided grin, gesturing clumsily at him. "Like that's ever stopped me."
"I distinctly remember." Ultra Magnus cycled a deep intake, shoulders rolling as he straightened fussily. "How did I fail you as a commander?"
Wheeljack blinked stupidly, his grip tightening on his cube. "What?"
"When you left the Wreckers, our last conversation implied you thought I was an unfit commander."
Stunned, Wheeljack nearly lost his hold on the high-grade. After all these vorns of regretting and justifying their parting argument... and Magnus thought it was over leadership. Wheeljack teetered as he pushed himself to sit up, returning Ultra Magnus' glare with extra heat.
"You don't have a clue!" Wheeljack snapped. "Even after all this time you've had to process it-!"
"That is why I asked," Ultra Magnus replied coolly. "I do not appreciate your aggressive tone."
"I don't appreciate your stupidity!"
Ultra Magnus leaned forward, deftly plucking the cube from Wheeljack's grasp and setting it well out of reach. "I will overlook your gratuitous insubordination for the moment. If my skills as your commanding officer were not the cause, what was? What 'more' we're you referring to?"
A myriad range of emotions swept through Wheeljack, each overlaid with the weight of pain and regret that stretched through their history. His jaw was clenched tight as he managed to hiss, "How about I reset that argument for you, sir, and see if you can't figure it out."
Ultra Magnus moved to reply, but the Wrecker cut him short.
"Just had a tough fight. We pushed the 'Cons back and then some. Against your orders, the Wreckers were celebrating in our newly captured base-,"
"I remember," Ultra Magnus said sharply.
"-And mosta those idiots were getting overcharged on the stockpile of high-grade we confiscated. Not me, though. Why drink when I can frag instead?" Wheeljack exvented harshly. "Especially since you stuck around for once. Primus knows why it had to be you that always itched my plating so bad."
A slight quirk tilted Ultra Magnus' mouth but remained silent.
"And after we'd spent a few joors frying each other's processors, I was layin' there and it just... I knew. Something had been bothering me for a while and I could finally say it. I needed more from you." He glowered as Ultra Magnus' expression remained stony. "You get it this time around?"
"...You found my command of the Wreckers inadequate?"
"No! Well, yeah, but that's not it." Wheeljack slumped, crossing his arms defensively. "You're thicker than the Jackhammer's hull, Primus-,"
"Prehaps if you clearly stated what you mean instead of poorly inferring it, I would understand," Ultra Magnus snapped.
Wheeljack threw his arms wide in frustration. "Casual frags ain't enough, I wanted more- I wanted to bond with you, you bond with me. Is that clear enough?"
"I believe so." Ultra Magnus shifted, his leg struts grating a soft whine against the concrete floor. "You wanted to bond as civilians do?"
Wheeljack snorted, optics rolling skyward. "Ch'yeah."
"There are rules-,"
"Slag the rules!" Wheeljack fumed. "I ain't gonna let some uppity politician in a cozy boardroom dictate who I do and don't bond with. It's my spark, and no one controls it but me. And I was willing to chance giving you mine but you turned it into some- some twisted power play. Fraggit if I'm just a displaced scientist and fraggit if you're my CO; I wanted to be selfish just once and you do the same."
An oppresive silence fell, Wheeljack's words echoing through the hanger and their processors. His overcharge buzz had been burned away by anger, leaving a hollowness that was all too familiar. Muttering a string of curses, Wheeljack pulled himself to his feet and began packing the high-grade to stow away. It wouldn't do him any good now; best to save it for the next time Magnus made him feel like so much scrapmetal with that unfeeling stare of his.
He heard Ultra Magnus stand and firmly kept to his task, praying the commander would simply turn and leave- that's what Magnus did, right? Run from anything remotely resembling emotions while Wheeljack felt everything so acutely-
A heavy hand on his shoulder made Wheeljack freeze.
"Wishing to change the past is an impractical desire, but I wish you had explained this to me then as you have now."
"Not that it'd make any difference," Wheeljack growled, pulling his shoulder from Ultra Magnus' grasp with a sharp wrench.
"It could have," Ultra Magnus replied patiently. "Because I could've told you then what I am going to tell you now. I... cannot give you 'more' while we are still in a warring state. I know it would compromise my ability to think clearly on the battlefield. But if- when the war ceases, Wheeljack, I would be proud and delighted to do so."
Wheeljack turned, banging a fist against an audial. "I must be more overcharged than I thought-,"
"Wheeljack." Possessive hands settled along the Wrecker's chassis, dragging him closer as Ultra Magnus bent to his optic level. "When I am relatively certain bonding with you will not endanger you, I want to."
Cooling fans clicked on, one set quickly following the first. Wheeljack found himself too exhausted to do much but smile wryly. "Yeah, that woulda helped," he admitted.
"Would you have left the Wreckers?" Ultra Magnus asked quietly, thumbing a cord of neck cabling. Wheeljack grunted and pressed into the touch.
Ultra Magnus' optics narrowed. "Will you now?"
"...Probably." Wheeljack sighed as he returned the stare. "I don't like seeing something I can't have everyday. Distracting and depressing."
"Understood." Clever fingers hooked under long-memorized plating, forcing a gasp from the Wrecker. "Then perhaps you will reconsider my offer to take advantage of our coinciding off-shifts."
Wheeljack grinned evilly, grinding the sharp slant of his hips into Ultra Magnus'. "Oh I'll take advantage. Sir."