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Zira Jun 12th, 2019 (edited) 46 Never
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  1. "Look, I'm telling you, I don't know any mech by the designation of Rockcrusher, and I certainly don't think I'm stupid enough to go off somewhere private with a stranger to talk about him." Optimus bounces Lumina in his arms, trying to get his little sister to settle down, while the strange mech with the glasses adjusts them with a finger and stares him down. All he'd wanted to do was see his sister after his sol at Bootcamp, since she spends most of her time in the daycare service while he trains. He gets one night a decacycle with her, along with four megacycles every evening before he has to report back to his bunk. Sometimes he can sneak another megacycle or so in each sol, but only if Sergeant Kup's feeling particularly lazy, which is almost /never//. So he values his time with her a lot, and this mech, who'd just come up and insisted they needed to speak about a 'Rockcrusher' has not engendered any good feelings with Optimus yet.
  2.  
  3. Clearing his vocal processor, the mech straightens, which Optimus had thought impossible, since the bot's back was already ramrod straight. "Regardless of whether or not you knew of him, he knew of you, for the last vorn at least, after Haydon IV released the information to him. This is a private matter, of course, and it would be best discussed in a more private venue," the mech looks around them at the mostly overcharged bar patrons, tipping back highgrade like it's going out of style.
  4.  
  5. Lumina squeaks and chirps at him, digging her claws into his chestplate. She doesn't like strangers, and rarely uses her language download around them because of it.
  6.  
  7. "I'm plenty fine talking here," Optimus leans back in his booth seat, kissing Lumina on the top of the helm. "Do you want your sippy cube, sweetspark?"
  8.  
  9. "Op-Op no," she rumbles, because she thinks she doesn't need the sippytop, even when she consistently spills all the fuel on herself.
  10.  
  11. The other mech, who hadn't even introduced himself, other than to come up to Optimus with a 'I need to speak with you in private about Rockcrusher, as soon as possible,' squints his optics at him, and pushes his glasses up a bit again. "Surely you wouldn't mind relocating somewhere quieter? This is hardly a good place for a conversation, let alone a sparkling," the bot trails off meaningfully, and Optimus has had it up to here with him already.
  12.  
  13. "Look," he eyes the mech until the bot gives him his name finally, reluctantly, "Shacklebolt, the bots here don't care that I bring Lumina with me, and Tap keeps sippytops stocked behind the bar. So no, I won't be going somewhere else with you. If you have something to say, you'll say it here." Where there are at least five other cadets, even if none of them are from his troop, and two bouncer security mechs who have flirted so hard with him on at least a dozen occasions that he's pretty sure he could just flick his fingers at this other bot and have him tossed /through// the window.
  14.  
  15. Sighing low and forlorn, like he's suffering some great indiginity being forced to talk to a mech at a bar, when /he's// the bot who chose to come up to Optimus here in the first place, Shacklebolt pulls out a thick stack of datapads. "Very well. Rockcrusher offlined two decacycles ago in an unfortunate conflict over some merchandise. In the process of sorting out his estate and will, I discovered that he was not, in fact, without an heir, as we had always assumed."
  16.  
  17. It's Optimus's turn to squint at the bot, because that makes no sense. "Are you saying you think he's related to me somehow?" His creators hadn't really talked about their own creators, and both of them had offlined shortly after Lumina had onlined, so maybe this Rockcrusher is a grandparent, or great-grandparent or uncle or something?
  18.  
  19. "Yes." Shacklebolt turns one pad on with a lazy swipe and pushes it to him. "As you can see for yourself," and Optimus stares blankly at the image captures of a strange, large, rough-looking truckbot holding Steelbolt, his carrier, at his side, "Rockcrusher spent quite a bit of time with your carrier during a visit to Haydon IV. We learned that your CNA results were discovered by one of our staff when you joined the Autobot Commonwealth, and Haydon IV released your shuttle data to him after some effort."
  20.  
  21. There's a CNA comparison report, which Opimus has seen before. He knows what his own coding looks like, and . . . this report claims that Rockcrusher is his /creator//. Not Powerdrive.
  22.  
  23. He knows his servos are shaking slightly as he studies the test results. The idea that his papa isn't his papa makes his spark ache in a way he hates. He can't even ask what it is about, since everyone involved seems to be offline. He forces himself to go on, shoving that firmly into a mental compartment to deal with /later//. He can tell that Shacklebolt will /not// care that a huge chunk of Optimus's world has been kicked down by the foundation.
  24.  
  25. His voice is surprisingly steady as he says, "And I am the only one who inherets, then?"
  26.  
  27. "No," the mech says flatly. "You are to get your bequeths, but the businesses he owned have been taken over by the second in line already, and now I have what your creator-" that word makes his servos shake again, and Lumina clearly doesn't like it, since she smacks the datapad from him.
  28.  
  29. "Op-Op! No!"
  30.  
  31. He chuckles, kissing her temple, and scooping the pad back up, "It's okay, Lumina. I'm just... surprised. Don't worry about me."
  32.  
  33. Lumina hisses at the datapad and then at Shacklebolt across the table. Optimus rubs at his own temple a moment, and then waves a servo at Flicker, the bar's only waiter, who honestly spends most of his time flirting with bots rather than bringing energon to anyone. Still, he's a good mech, and he brings over Lumina's cube, complete with sippytop, on a tray balanced against his hip, so he can pose coyly when he gets to the table. "Hello, darling," the mech purrs at him. "The usual for our little sweetspark today?"
  34.  
  35. "Yes, thank you," Optimus takes the cube and goes to swipe his pad when the other bot does it for him. "I can pay for my own fuel," he growls, but Shacklebolt waves a servo dismissively at him.
  36.  
  37. "It's nothing. I think you underestimate your creator's business empire, and I am more than willing to pay for some fuel to get this business done faster, so I can return there." The mech leans back, pushing his glasses up again. "I'm relatively certain the arrest warrants for me don't apply on Cybertron, but the less time I spend here the better."
  38.  
  39. ... That's not remotely comforting in any way.
  40.  
  41. He glances away from Shacklebolt, and Flicker looks a little /too// interested in the conversation. He carefully gives the cube to Lumina, saying in a slightly strained voice, "I... see. And thank you, Flicker. It looks like one of the newbies is calling for you."
  42.  
  43. Flicker pouts, but can see that it /is// true, a bot who hasn't been here before, clearly thinks he needs to get the only waiter's attention. So Flicker pats Lumina's head, saying, "Well, I'll see you later, cuties. Don't throw this cube, Lumina."
  44.  
  45. Lumina growls softly, pushing away the patting servo, "No pets! Not foxy!"
  46.  
  47. Flicker just laughs, walking off. Refocusing on Shacklebolt, Optimus says, "What did Rockcrusher /do//?"
  48.  
  49. Shacklebolt arches and optic ridge, and suddenly he seems a lot less like a pushy businessmech wanting to get Optimus to sign a contract, and a lot more like someone entirely willing to stab him straight through the spark because Optimus scuffed his polish. "That would be rather telling, and not something we can go into here. Had you agreed to a more private venue, I might have been able to discuss it with you. As it is, you can accept that he ran a very large, very successful business empire, and had thought himself infertile, considering the frequent company of pleasuremechs that he enjoyed. You are his only known sparkling."
  50.  
  51. Optimus helps Lumina grip the sides of her cube, even as she growls at the sippytop. She latches on and sucks, getting her fuel while Optimus tries to figure out just how illegal Rockcrusher's dealings were. Should he refuse any inheritance straight-out, just in case? But . . . Lumina needs more than he can give her. Even if he manages to graduate with scores good enough to get him accepted into the Autobot Elite Academy, he won't be making enough credits for a long time, and he won't be able to put her in the best schools like he wants.
  52.  
  53. And she'll deserve more than a cadet's cramped, single-room apartment after he finishes Bootcamp.
  54.  
  55. He takes a careful invent, and looks at the datapad, flipping through it as he asks, "Do you think he had any others?"
  56.  
  57. Instantly, Shacklebolt becomes less dangerous, relaxing slightly, "No, but even if he did, that would be immaterial." The mech taps a bit on the datapad, "As you can see here, he only cared about you."
  58.  
  59. The note does essentially say how Rockcrusher was gathering information on how to best approach him once Optimus out of Bootcamp. He sets it flat on the table, not willing to go searching through it more. "I see." And part of him is /sad// that he wasn't approached earlier. Even the fact that his papa wasn't just with Powerdrive like he'd thought would have been softened by the fact that he had a papa who /wasn't// dead. But might have beens will only drive him crazy, and he can only stride forward to the best of his ability. "But I would like to know what I am ... getting. I guess."
  60.  
  61. "Of course." The mech pushes the stack of datapads over to him. "The first pad is the summary of your inheritance. The rest contain most of it, and the last pad has the credit transfer information. Simply insert your account information for it to go through."
  62.  
  63. Optimus nods absently, swiping the first pad on. His optics reset twice before he's convinced he's reading it right. "This . . . can't be correct."
  64.  
  65. "Everything in the pads is verified and accurate. Please do not imply that I would bring you faulty documents," Shacklebolt sounds less insulted and more /ready to stab him// for that implication.
  66.  
  67. His servos shake as he puts the pad down for a klik, tipping his own cube of mixed middle and high grade back for a long swallow, to clear his processor. There are /far// too many credits there. It's more than a /Prime// makes in a decavorn of work. More than he's ever thought he might own, and all he has to do is fill in the information on the last pad to get the transfer set up to go through. Then, in a few sols, it'd be his.
  68.  
  69. He can't accept it. It's definitely not legally obtained, and--
  70.  
  71. Lumina chirps and tips her cube back, spilling down energon down her own chest, despite the sippytop. He wipes it up absently.
  72.  
  73. He has to accept it.
  74.  
  75. He offlines his optics, resting his help lightly against Lumina's, and mentally waves a goodbye to his morals. For his sister, who needs care, love, and all the attention possible, he will do this. She's worth everything, even if it hurts him a little inside.
  76.  
  77. He adds the information, and his internal alerts inform him he has just accepted a transfer of funds into his account.
  78.  
  79. ... That wasn't actually physically painful, like he'd thought it would be.
  80.  
  81. Mostly he just feels much safer finacially than he did even three astroseconds ago.
  82.  
  83. Shrugging, he returns his focus to the mech in front of him. "Now, do I need to do anything else?"
  84.  
  85. Shacklebolt taps another of the pads, "Please read through these. While Rockcrusher did not feel it was proper to have you be the heir to the business, not having been trained for it, and unwilling to put a virtual stranger in charge, he thought it best that you get all he could give you.when he was gone. As such, you are now one of the more ... connected bots in the universe."
  86.  
  87. Optimus swipes the pad on and frowns at it, because it's . . .strange? It's the legalized form of an I.O.U., complete with signatures and notarized by a witness. Only the one he's looking at promises a decacycle-long stay at one of three spa-planets, with no advance reservations required. The next on the list is a promise of three crates of Vosian high grade, delivered within a stellar of request. And the next is a promise for pest removal from a three story or less home.
  88.  
  89. What the frag?
  90.  
  91. "What are these?"
  92.  
  93. Shacklebolt chuckles, pushing his glasses up again, "They're promises. Each and every bot who made one of these will fulfill it without fail or face the wrath of our . . . business empire. Your creator chose to give the majority of what he had to you, though certain business-necessary ones were retained by our new leader."
  94.  
  95. He flips through more, and he tilts his head, "Body removal?"
  96.  
  97. Shacklebolt goes still for some reason, and says in a monotone, "Well, not /all// business-necessary ones, then."
  98.  
  99. That is /not// comforting. In fact, not much of what Shacklebolt is saying is comforting, and he kind of wants to read all of this without the mech near him. However, he doesn't want to send the bot away before he has all the information he needs. "... Right." He scrolls through another few favors, asking about one that catches his optic, "What does it mean by shoe fitting?"
  100.  
  101. The bot looks at the favor's wording, "That's from a clothing mandatory planet, including shoes. Most bots need specialty shoes on those planet, and that is a promise to give you and any other bots you bring with perfect pedcovers that will not interfere with your transformations."
  102.  
  103. That's so strange, and Optimus nearly hands the pads back--the credits are plenty, surely--until he comes across a promise for an admission recommendation letter to one of three elite academies on Sarpeidon. And a promise of a certified nannybot's services for one decavorn, on any planet with at least moderate levels of civilization.
  104.  
  105. He could use that for Lumina. Many of these he could use for his sister. So he selfishly tucks them into his subspace, along with the credit pad. He'll have to wait a couple sols for the transfer to authorize, and then those credits will be /his//. No, Lumina's. He'll shunt most of them into a fund for her, and maybe see about investing the portion he keeps for himself.
  106.  
  107. "Now, I would appreciate it if you would sign this pad," Shacklebolt passes it over, "to indicate that you've accepted the inheritance offered to you, and do not intend to press for more later on. It will make my business associates less inclined to try and recruit you, which I'm sure you do not desire."
  108.  
  109. He reads over the contract, making sure it isn't anything that can hurt him or Lumina. It's pretty straight forward, though. It does essientally say what the mech explained, but with the added on that they may find more things that should have been given to him and they will give those to him. All while guarenteeing he will /not// be hurt by it.
  110.  
  111. So he signs it, and give the contract back. "There."
  112.  
  113. The mech stands up, optics dragging along Optimus's frame, "Thank you. I suggest you read through every single IOU owed to you, since you never know when it may come in handy." The mech puts a small business card on the table, "Do feel free to contact me if you need information."
  114.  
  115. From how the bot is looking at him, Optimus is certain that is less an offer for help, and more a hope Optimus will open his valve to the mech. As such, he just nods, and starts putting the pile of datapads in his subspace, saying nothing.
  116.  
  117. Shacklebolt looks put out, but leaves without another word.
  118.  
  119. "Well, Lumina, it looks like we won't have to worry about getting you through good schools later on," he bounces her on his knee and she turns a little to give him the look of pure hate that only a sparkling who's had their fueling interrupted can give.
  120.  
  121. Another mech drops into the booth opposite him, grinning at him. "Your daughter's cute as frag, pretty mech. Takes after you."
  122.  
  123. "My sister," he corrects, and wishes he had some time alone to go over things. For whatever reason, bots on Cybertron are quite taken with the way he looks. And he's far from a virgin, but Optimus likes to consider himself very choosy. Papa Steelbolt had taught him a little about not having shame over using his frame to his advantage, but aside from a few nights with wealthy businessmechs on Haydon IV to earn much needed credits to escape the planet, he doesn't generally. And he's not going to admit to Cybertron that he ever 'resorted to prostitution' because this planet doesn't respect pleasuremechs unless they're in an established brothel, for whatever reason.
  124.  
  125. "Well, she shows your family CNA really strong, then," the mech purrs, looking him up and down. "Can I buy you a drink?"
  126.  
  127. The bot is a cyclebot, as such, is much smaller than him. Not really his type, actually. He'd be vaguely tempted if the bot was his size or larger. He likes other truckbots mostly. As such, he feels no regret saying, "No thank you. I'm just fine."
  128.  
  129. The bot pouts, "You sure? I would love to just talk for awhile. No strings attached."
  130.  
  131. "I'm good, thank you." And he knows the bot likely /would// just talk, not pressing for more. Cybertron is pretty good at that sort of thing, not willing to press, but very willing to hope Optimus will change his mind.
  132.  
  133. The mech slides out of the seat, nodding sadly, "Alright. You and your sister have a good night."
  134.  
  135. Optimus finishes his own cube of mixed fuel and then puts the cube upside down at the edge of the table, the sort of bar shorthand for 'leave me alone please, I don't want any more drinks,' that most bots respect here. He likes this bar for a reason.
  136.  
  137. What is he going to do about his new credits and favors? He should go through them and maybe rent a storage locker somewhere secure for most of them, and keep the best emergency ones in his subspace for use. As for the credits, he'll have to visit an investment and credit mech soon to ask about taxes and what to do with them now that he has them.
  138.  
  139. Though he knows that as soon as the transfer clears, he's going to take Lumina to one of those fancy sparkling spa parlours and have them give her a full detailing, so she can gleam like the princess she is to him.
  140.  
  141. Before long Flicker shows up, picking up the empty cubes and winking at him, "Heading out, Optimus?"
  142.  
  143. He nods, "Yeah, I think so. Going to have to take Lumina back to the sparkling center."
  144.  
  145. Flicker sighs, rubbing Lumina's side, "I wish you didn't have to. She's just so cute, you know."
  146.  
  147. He chuckles, "And she likes you."
  148.  
  149. Lumina huffs at him, "Flicks /nice//, Op Op."
  150.  
  151. "Yes, Flicker is very nice," he says, smiling at her, before handing her the piece of energon taffy he always gives every time they visit. Lumina lets out an audio-piercing shriek before stuffing it in her mouth. At least it's sticky enough that she ends up chewing the entire walk back to the sparkling center, so Optimus won't have repeat of that awful sol where she insulted half of the bots she saw on the way there. Nothing hurts quite like a sparkling looking at you and declaring you 'Ugly-dumb.'
  152.  
  153. He's pretty sure the racecar was /crying// when he ran off.
  154.  
  155. "I hope you come back soon," Flicker hums, resting a servo on Optimus's shoulder for a long moment before backing off. "We always enjoy having you here, Op-Op."
  156.  
  157. He rolls his optics, standing up, "I likely will. You know I like /being// here."
  158.  
  159. Flicker smiles, waving at him, and he heads out.
  160.  
  161. It isn't long before he's at the sparkling care facility, and he reluctantly gives Lumina to the mech at the front. "She should recharge soon," he says, hating how he lets her go.
  162.  
  163. The mech laughs, bouncing her, "Well, even if she doesn't, that's fine. Timber is on, and she loves it!"
  164.  
  165. Lumina squeals, "Timber, Timber!"
  166.  
  167. Optimus takes a step away, carefully not saying anything. While Lumina is distracted, he leaves, spark aching. But he can't let her see him go, since anytime he does, she burst into tears, thinking he's never going to come back.
  168.  
  169. She was still very young when she lost both creators, but some deep part of her spark must remember them kissing her goodbye and then never returning. Naturally, she has separation issues, which are killer with his training schedule.
  170.  
  171. Still, he wouldn't trade this life for the one he'd had before, struggling to make enough credits to keep him fueled, relying on a neighbor to watch Lumina during the sols.
  172.  
  173. And now, with credits like he has, he could theoretically drop out, pay the fees, and live a life here without the training.
  174.  
  175. Not that he intends to. He likes the idea of serving the Autobots in the military.
  176.  
  177. At the /very least//, he will serve out the time on his contract. He hopes to make it to the Academy, but he will survive just fine now if he doesn't make it on his own merits. Suddenly, he no longer has the spectre hovering over him. It's liberating.
  178.  
  179. That's why he gets back to the barracks with a smile on his face, and a light step.
  180.  
  181. Elita whistles at him, looking amused, "What's got you in such a good mood, pretty bot?"
  182.  
  183. He shakes his head, "Later. It's almost lights out. I can tell you after."
  184.  
  185. She's cuddled up with Sentinel, in exactly the manner that gets them an extra twenty transform-ups every morning, but it's not like she's going to ever stop. Sentinel looks him over from his position in her arms, snorting, "He probably found some bot willing to kiss him for megacycles again, Elita."
  186.  
  187. Optimus feels his plating go purple, "You shut up, Sentinel. /You// were the one who gave me pure highgrade when I asked for mixed. It's your fault I ended up like that."
  188.  
  189. "You /enjoyed// it."
  190.  
  191. He huffs, heading to his berth, refusing to talk to them more. While he /did// enjoy it, he never would have done it if he hadn't been overcharged. Which is /not// a reason to forgive Sentinel. In fact, he is lucky he only goes to bars that /will not// allow public interfacing, or Sentinel would have tried to push him into more.
  192.  
  193. But Optimus has gone back to the mech to kiss for awhile, liking how the bot knows they won't go further.
  194.  
  195. He loves kissing, and he's not ashamed of that, but still . . . it had been a bit embarassing to end up draping himself over some poor mech at the bar, begging to be kissed.
  196.  
  197. Optimus offlines his optics determinedly. He'll set up an appointmet with a credit advisor next sol, during his rest time in the evening. Then he'll go through the pads and figure out what to do with it all.
  198.  
  199. --
  200.  
  201. "Well, considering that this is a legal inheritance," the credit advisor across from him pulls up a large display on the table screen between them, "you have the option of paying seven percent up front in taxes, or paying nothing and then fifteen percent each vorn on just the portion you use." The mech swipes to the next display, "As for investments, we can set up a trust fund for your sister, held until she reaches maturity or graduates an advanced Academy, with the credits to be used only for necessities and education costs until that point."
  202.  
  203. Optimus nods, bouncing Lumina on his knee. She doesn't like being here, and has been making it known, chewing violently on the plush Timber he'd picked up for her on the way over.
  204.  
  205. He knows she's been wanting one, and before he couldn't justify buying it. Now that he has the credits, he feels fine giving her a kind of expensive brand toy. Timber toys are never cheap unless they are servomade.
  206.  
  207. "I think I'll pay the seven percent up front." That may or may not be cheaper in the long run, but the idea of fifteen percent on what he's paid already per vorn seems... excessive. And seven percent now means he just has seven percent less of an already absurd amount of credits.
  208.  
  209. The mech looks it over, nodding, "That is what I would have suggested. You'll find more bots choose the second option, and end up paying far more because of it. It also stops your sister's trust fund from being taxed, since you've already paid it."
  210.  
  211. Lumina lets go of the plush to grab at his servo and bites into one of his fingers, her little fangs piercing the metal slightly, but he's so used to sparkling dente that he just ignores it. He'll rub a bit of salve on the bites later and they'll be gone in a sol or so.
  212.  
  213. "I'd like to invest a portion of what I keep for myself," Optimus knows that's the way a lot of businessmechs and noblebots make credits, and it seems like a good way to go, even if he'll have to rely on others to do it for him. He's not got that kind of business-savy processor.
  214.  
  215. "Do you want to choose the businesses to invest in, or get a stock broker?"
  216.  
  217. "Stock broker."
  218.  
  219. The bot starts writing things down in a datapad, "Here is a list of bots you will want to talk to, then. Choose whoever you like best. All of them are good, and are known to double or triple investments."
  220.  
  221. That's a lot of credits. Optimus nods like he understands and frees his finger from Lumina's mouth, to her hissy disapproval. "Thank you. How much do I owe you for the visit?"
  222.  
  223. The mech pushes a pad over, with two prices listed. "The first if you wish to set up the fund and pay the taxes yourself, the second if you would like to me finalize it for you." There's not a big difference between them, so he picks the option that lets the other mech do it, so Optimus doesn't end up committing tax-fraud or something else equally likely when given so many numbers to deal with.
  224.  
  225. The bot smiles, "I'll take care of everything for you. You go talk to those brokers, and choose your favorite. I'll send you the end result before the sol is over."
  226.  
  227. He smiles, bouncing Lumina in his lap, "Thank you."
  228.  
  229. The mech laughs, "You're welcome. I'm just glad you chose me for this. Helping you out is something I'm happy to do."
  230.  
  231. He saw the others here looking at him. This is the only mech with bonding paint, and didn't instantly glance at his interfacing equipment. Frankly, he doesn't /trust// the others not to use his personal information to try to track him down later.
  232.  
  233. Not that they'd be likely to do so. That would be a violation of the privacy laws on Cybertron, but there's always the risk, with bots like that. Bots who think they're above the laws for whatever reason.
  234.  
  235. Optimus smiles at his sister, carrying her out of the office. She's warm and squirmy against him, probably wanting to run around in a park or something more active than just sitting with him. "Would you like to go see the crystal garden, sweetspark?" They usually go to the free one, but there's one for sparklings a few breems away, that lets them sample the crystals safe for them to eat, for a small fee.
  236.  
  237. She chews on the Timber toy thoughtfully, then says "Park!"
  238.  
  239. "We can go to the park instead if you want, but I was hoping you'd want to try some of the crystals in the garden."
  240.  
  241. She gasps, looking at him with wide optics, "Nibbles, Op Op?"
  242.  
  243. He smiles, kissing her helm, "Yes. Things to nibble on."
  244.  
  245. "Gar-den!" She waves her arms excitedly, "Gar-den!"
  246.  
  247. "We'll go to the garden, then," smiling at his sister, Optimus transforms down and magnetizes her to his top. She likes riding on top of him.
  248.  
  249. "Fast!" she demands, smacking her servos against his plating, but Optimus obeys all the normal rules of traffic flow, refusing to dodge around anyone and put his sister at risk. She's his most precious cargo, after all. "Fast, Op Op!"
  250.  
  251. "We are going fast, sweetspark."
  252.  
  253. She growls, tugging at his seams with her sharp claws. "Fast!"
  254.  
  255. He ignores her, but realizes he probably shouldn't have taken her on the racetrack that one time. Now she always wants top speed, even when it is illegal to do so. But now that he has credits, he may do it more often. It isn't expensive, but little amounts add up. Now he doesn't have to worry as much.
  256.  
  257. It isn't long before they're at the garden, and he is paying to get in. The moment he steps through, he breaks off a tiny bit of a sweet crystal labeled for consumption, and gives it to his sister. "What do you think, Lumina?"
  258.  
  259. Lumina bites down, chomping it with her dente. Crystals aren't the /best// for her right now, because her dente are more sharp than flat, meant for piercing armor for energon rather than grinding up crystals, but ones for sparklings account for that, and it crumbles in her mouth easily. "Yum Op Op!"
  260.  
  261. Dozens of other creators wander around them, holding sparklings, walking beside them, and in one notable case, walking a pair of split-spark twins on a pair of sparkling leashes. Optimus smiles at them and they smile back as their sparklings devour little bits of the fast-growing crystals kept out for them.
  262.  
  263. Lumina shrieks, reaching for the twins, "No! No, no, no!"
  264.  
  265. He blinks at her, "What is wrong, Lumina? THey're just wandering around."
  266.  
  267. She whines, flailing her arms at the twins, who look up at her with wide optics, their papas looking deeply amused. "No! Free! Free hims! No leash! No leash! Nooo!" Lumina sobs a little, reaching for them, "No catcher! No cage!"
  268.  
  269. Purple-faced with embarrassment, Optimus shushes her, tucking her face against his chest, "No, sweetspark, they're not turbofoxes, I promise. Sparkling leashes are okay."
  270.  
  271. "No!" she wails at the top of her vocal frequency, enough to make him wince.
  272.  
  273. "I am /so// sorry," he mutters, staring at the ground as the other mechs come closer. "She loves Timber, and doesn't understand." He rubs a soothing servo over her back, trying to get her to stop crying, because dear Primus, what an overreaction.
  274.  
  275. "It's alright," the taller mech, a cranebot with pretty green optics murmurs. "Why don't we go to the fenced-in playpen, and we'll let Spitfire and Wildride off their leashes, so your sparkling can see that they're alright?"
  276.  
  277.  flushes, "She's my sister. And you don't have to, I understand if you don't." Even if he would /really// prefer that. It would make Lumina stops sobbing and reaching for them.
  278.  
  279. The shorter mech laughs softly, shaking his head, "It's fine! Our little terrors will enjoy running around."
  280.  
  281. He happily follows them to the pen, and is relieved as Lumina instantly calms down the moment the sparklings are off their leashes. The little bots rush over to him, holding up their tiny servos, "Can we hold her?"
  282.  
  283. He looks at the sparklings, then at their papas. At the careful nods, he says, "No running around. You have to sit to hold her."
  284.  
  285. "We will!"
  286.  
  287. They sit down in the crystal sandbox and Optimus very carefully passes Lumina down to them. They're at least twice as big as she is, because she's younger, and they're also just naturally larger models. With a cranebot and a construction digger as creators, it's no wonder they're big sparklings. And it's no wonder they want to run around and be active, enough to warrant a pair of sparkling leashes.
  288.  
  289. Lumina sniffles and touches each of them, putting her servos all over their faces.
  290.  
  291. "Sparklings are adorable, don't you think?" the digger model hums, close enough to Optimus that he can feel the heat of his plating radiating against him. "You're very lucky to have a femme to care for."
  292.  
  293. He nods, watching them. "She's the last I have of my family."
  294.  
  295. The cranebot sits at his other side, patting his back lightly, "She's very cute."
  296.  
  297. Optimus can't help his smile, "She's pushy, is what she is. But she's excited to be here, able to get crystals."
  298.  
  299. "Oh? Are you both crystal fuelers?" The digger looks pleased for some reason. "I make a wonderful crystal cake, if you want to come with us. The sparklings clearly like each other."
  300.  
  301. Oh. /Oh//. He goes purple again, ducking his helm. They're /flirting// with him. They want to take him back home for the night. "I uh, have a pretty strict time I'm expected back in my bunk at the barracks, unfortunately. Lumina has to stay in the sparkling care each night."
  302.  
  303. Both bots' expressions sink, and Optimus wishes he could have said yes. He /likes// larger models, and these bots are nearly twice his size. "Well, perhaps another time?" the cranebot asks, and Optimus gets a com ping, with a contact number and a name. The cranebot's called Highroller, and Optimus has never been with two bots at the same time, so it's so, so tempting to give in.
  304.  
  305. But getting chewed out by Kup and getting a permanent mark on his record for it isn't worth it.
  306.  
  307. But if he has extended time off, he may take them up on it. If he sees them again, anyway. He hopes he can, but there is no certainty. He can just /imagine// them on both sides of him, pressing against him all perfect.
  308.  
  309. He squirms, sending his own ping back to them. "Maybe another time," he agrees.
  310.  
  311. The mechs blink at him, then smile brightly. Highroller runs a servo along his back, ending just above his aft, but clearly willing to go further with any encouragement. The cranebot says, "It really is too bad you have to go back to the barracks. Maybe we could try talking to your Sergeant?"
  312.  
  313. He snorts, "Sergeant Kup will /not// care, and will likely reprimand me if you do anything to try."
  314.  
  315. "Even cadets can request a sol or two of leave now and then," Highroller purrs in his audio, servo gripping his aft then, giving it a firm squeeze before letting go to turn to their sparklings. "Wildride, if I see you shoving crystal sand down your brother's plating again, I will spank you right here."
  316.  
  317. "No, papa! I wasn't!" even as his little servo is full of crystal sand, the other holding Spitfire in place.
  318.  
  319. Spitfire is holding Lumina closely, and whining softly, "Papa! Make him let me go!"
  320.  
  321. Wildride pouts, "He wont' let me hold her! She likes me more!"
  322.  
  323. "No, me!"
  324.  
  325. And it turns into a back and forth that makes him sigh. Getting up, he moves over to them, and scoops Lumina into his arms. "I need to go back to the garden, sparklings. Lumina hasn't been here before, and I want her to try all the crystals she can."
  326.  
  327. Just to spite him, Lumina hisses and makes grabby servos at the twins, "Mine! Mine!" Oh dear Primus, has she gotten to that femme stage where she wants to possess every mech she likes?
  328.  
  329. "No, not yours, sweetspark," he folds her servos down. "You can play with your friends another sol, I promise. Don't you want to see the other crystals and taste them?"
  330.  
  331. Torn between fuel and friends, Lumina makes the choice any sparkling her age makes. "Noms!"
  332.  
  333. He kisses her helm, "With any luck, we'll see them another time."
  334.  
  335. The twins pout, but wave at him as he heads out. He walks past the cranebot and digger, who both carefully touch his frame, making him blush and shiver, unable to stop himself from pressing his aft into whichever servo presses against it. They say their goodbyes, and he heads out to get Lumina all the crystals he can.
  336.  
  337. --
  338.  
  339. Optimus keeps from scowling, since he knows his irritation won't help. But he's /not// happy. His time in the troop is running long, since Ultra Magnus has decided to do an inspection this sol. All Optimus wants to do is get to Lumina, but he is going to be two megacycles late, since Kup demanded everyone get everything in perfect shape, and for them to all shine to perfection.
  340.  
  341. It's slag, is what this is.
  342.  
  343. /Slag//.
  344.  
  345. Looking good for a superior officer is important, but why couldn't he have come earlier in the sol, before they needed to completely repolish to get the dirt and grit of their exertions off?
  346.  
  347. Optimus rubs at his plating, buffing out a small scuff before falling in line with the other cadets when Kup calls them to attention.
  348.  
  349. "Ultra Magnus, sir, here are the recruits I'm tryin' ta make somethin' out of. Couple of 'em might even make it to the Elites, if they try hard enough."
  350.  
  351. Optimus would have puffed up in pride about that less than a stellar ago, but now he's on a tipping point. One where he may just... not do that. Something he knows Kup is suspecting, but his Sergeant isn't calling him on yet.
  352.  
  353. Kup /really// seems to want most of them to go on to be Elites.
  354.  
  355. While Optimus wouldn't be opposed to it, but Lumina would /hate// how much time that will take away from her. She already stresses out from how much time he has to be away as it is. He knows when he gets to the Sparkling Care, she'll be curled up in her sparkling berth, inconsulable. Possibly even shedding her paint from stress again.
  356.  
  357. She worries he will be offline if he's even a klik late. Megacycles are even /worse//.
  358.  
  359. "Thank you, Sergeant Kup," the Magnus replies, and Optimus's spark pulses hard in his chest.
  360.  
  361. Primus below, the mech's voice--
  362.  
  363. "It is an honor to meet with you this sol, cadets. I take great pride in meeting every batch of cadets at least once during their training." The Magnus steps easily, slowly, towards them, looking each of them over in turn.
  364.  
  365. Oh /no//. He's even /bigger// than the vids show. The bot is so large, and so... hot.
  366.  
  367. He forces himself to focus on how Lumina must be going out of her processor with fear. Otherwise he may try cuddling up against the mech in the hope of a sol in the mech's berth. But he can't /have// a sol in anyone's berth. He'd be lucky to have a megacycle, since Lumina worries so much.
  368.  
  369. He's so distracted it takes almost a full klik to realize that the Magnus has stopped in front of him, staring him down. "You look upset, cadet."
  370.  
  371. Going so hot in the faceplates he's sure he's going to melt, Optimus bites his glossa a nanoklik to compose himself and then answers sharply, "Sir, no sir!"
  372.  
  373. A not-so-subtle snort draws his optics up, and he sees Sergeant Kup beside the Magnus. "Bot's probably worried he won't get to see his little sister. You get to stay out as late as the Magnus here keeps you, Cadet Optimus. So don't you worry none."
  374.  
  375. As nice as it is to know that these two megacycles won't be taken from him for his time with Lumina, it still doesn't help how /unhappy// Lumina will be. He'll be spending most of his time in the bar tonight, letting her curl up against his chest and cry to reassure herself he's really there. He was planning on going to the garden, and maybe spend time with Highroller and Breakneck. Those two would have happily let him visit, and maybe have a quickie.
  376.  
  377. But he forces the worry from his voice, even if the tension doens't leave his frame, "Thank you, sir."
  378.  
  379. "You should keep your optics up when you're at attention," the Magnus corrects him, not unkindly, resting a servo on his shoulder, pushing his chin up with a large thumb. It's his overeager imagination that makes him think the Magnus caresses his neck when he pulls his servo back. "My dear friend Kup has told me about you, Optimus."
  380.  
  381. Oh Primus, really? Considering how often Sergeant Kup chews him out for four or five dozen different things, there's no way that's a good thing.
  382.  
  383. Well, he guesses he can kiss that hope to be an Elite goodbye. Kup likely told the Magnus he's irresponsible, and his attention wanders too much for that. Since that's something that happens every single sol. ... Great.
  384.  
  385. Longarm makes a curious sound, and he glances down at the mech, who is trailing behind the Magnus. The security officer walks around him, optics full of scrutiny, "You did very well polishing, cadet."
  386.  
  387. He flushes a bit, kind of happy to hear that. Kup told him he looks like a mess. "Thank you, sir."
  388.  
  389. "Sergeant Kup has indicated that you are quite the tactical thinker," the head of Autobot security states, his voice friendly and even. "Perhaps you would agree to visit HQ sometime for a bit of training? I can always use more talented mechs in my division."
  390.  
  391. Wait, what? "I'm sorry, sir? I don't . . . I haven't even finished bootcamp yet." Belatedly, he adds on, "Sir."
  392.  
  393. "Ah, there's no need for such formalities. My division is much less concerned with such trivialities." Longarm rests a servo on his shoulder, and looks down into his optics, smiling so warm and friendly that Optimus can't help but smile back. "You should come by. Your sister would be welcome, of course."
  394.  
  395. He can feel his spark warm up at that. If he's allowed to bring his sister, he'll be /certain// to do it. And since Kup told the Magnus how hopeless he is, he may as well accept this chance. "I will, sir!"
  396.  
  397. Longarm smiles at him kindly, "I look forward to it, cadet. Maybe tomorrow? I'm sure you'll be busy making sure your sister isn't worried, due to the break in routine."
  398.  
  399. Longarm is /so nice// to him. It's such a wonderful thing, calming him down a great deal. "Yes, sir."
  400.  
  401. "Good, we'll make it an official visit, then." Longarm Prime turns to his Sergeant. "Cadet Optimus will be paying HQ a visit next sol. Please arrange four megacycles in the morning for him to come by with his sister."
  402.  
  403. Primus, he's getting to do it instead of training? Optimus perks up a little, and then wilts, shoulders slumping slightly at Kup's forbidding expression. No way he's going to allow--
  404.  
  405. "Fine. Bright and early, so's you don't completely ruin his sol," Kup grumbles, grabbing one of his nasty cygars to chomp on.
  406.  
  407. He blinks, perking back up. Kup is /allowing// it? Kup never allows /anything//. He smiles, "Thank you, sir!"
  408.  
  409. Kup just grumbles irritably, and Ultra Magnus just gives Longarm a confused look. It's like they are irritated and confused that Longarm wants the bot they're rejecting. He doesn't know what their problems are. Optimus is looking /forward// to maybe getting a great job.
  410.  
  411. "Intelligence isn't the only branch that a cadet with so much promise would prosper in," the Magnus suddenly offers. "A mech with as much raw talent as you possess would excell in the Elite Academy, Optimus."
  412.  
  413. Optimus's jaw drops, and he has to forcibly remind himself to snap his mouth shut. The /Magnus// says he could be an Elite? What has Kup been telling him.
  414.  
  415. The nasty smell of cygar smoke spreads, and Kup snorts, having lit up the awful thing. "It's like I told ya, Magnus. I got some great cadets this go-around, but they gotta stick with it if they wanna go anywhere."
  416.  
  417. /Optimus// is one of those bots? He thought it was Elita and Sentinel mostly! Not /him//! Kup praises Sentinel all the time, and Elita is... well, she's a perfect femme. Who wouldn't want her to be an Elite?
  418.  
  419. While Optimus is constantly chastised, and he always runs off to his sister too early. Kup /hates// how he prioritizes Lumina.
  420.  
  421. But... an Elite? Him?
  422.  
  423. His spark pulses hot in his chest out of happiness. Maybe things /are// better than he worried.
  424.  
  425. "Perhaps you could visit my office next decacycle?" the Magnus offers, and Optimus nearly bites his glossa in half to keep from shouting an emphatic /yes//.
  426.  
  427. "Bot's got better things ta do than waste his sol watchin' you sign datapads, Magnus," Kup grunts. "If'n he wants ta waste it, he can do it on his own time, though."
  428.  
  429. There's no way he's turning down an offer from the Magnus. A chance to see the Elite, maybe even meet a Prime or two--how could any bot refuse that.
  430.  
  431. He looks at Ultra with a bright smile, "I'd love to, sir. In a decacycle."
  432.  
  433. The Magnus gives him a pleased look, "It's a date."
  434.  
  435. He flushes, thankful that the Magnus turns to Sentinel, talking to him about possibly being a Prime. Longarm, however, remains focused on him, saying softly, "I do want you to look your most professional. Consider this a sort of... pseudo-interview, shall we? No resume, but we can talk and show how things work."
  436.  
  437. Smiling shyly, Optimus nods, "Yes, sir."
  438.  
  439. He doesn't have long to feel smug before Kup forces them all back to attention, and Ultra Magnus and Longarm Prime leave, after reassuring themselves that Optimus will visit. It doesn't escape his attention that of all the cadets, he was the only one invited to meet with either of them, let alone /both//.
  440.  
  441. Frag. It's amazing.
  442.  
  443. --
  444.  
  445. Optimus onlines bright and early, before their onlining call, so he can spend a little extra time polishing himself up. He wants to polish Lumina too, and she usually struggles and squirms when he does it, so he knows he needs extra time.
  446.  
  447. When he is almost mirror bright, he hurries off, getting into the sparkling care quickly. The bot at the front blinks at him, "Optimus? What are you doing here /now//?"
  448.  
  449. He can't help how he squirms a bit, too excited to stay still, "I am visiting Security Officer Longarm! He said to show up just as Head Quarters opens, and I am to bring Lumina! It's opening in about two breems, and I want to fuel and shine her!"
  450.  
  451. The mech hops up, "Well, let's go get her, shall we? She's going to be grumpy, you know." He's lead to the berthroom, full of sparkling cribs, "She /hates// being onlined too early."
  452.  
  453. He picks her up, walking out with her still recharging, "That's fine. I still need to be there soon."
  454.  
  455. Shaking his head, the caretaker just goes back to his desk. "It's your funeral, mech."
  456.  
  457. Optimus pulls out a polishing rag and starts rubbing her as he walks, hoping he can get the majority of her frame before she even onlines, but luck is not with him. He's got one arm polished when her optics online and she blinks up at him, confused and upset. "Op Op no. Recharge."
  458.  
  459. "We're visiting a very important mech this sol, sweetspark. Let me polish you."
  460.  
  461. She whines softly, glaring at him, "Op Op, /no//. Recharge." She pauses, blinking irritably as he polishes her. "Op... Op?" She looks up at him, suddenly cautious and hopeful, "Op Op? We... we go /home//?"
  462.  
  463. He can feel his spark break a bit at that, and he stops polishing to kiss her softly, "No, sweetspark. I was told to bring you as I meet the bot who might be my boss."
  464.  
  465. She instantly turns angry, "Op Op! Recharge! No polish! Op Op!"
  466.  
  467. Optimus has to resort to ducking into a public washrack to get her polished, with her fighting him the entire time. The only other bot there gives him the stink-optic, like he's responsible for ruining the mech's sol because of a shrieking sparkling.
  468.  
  469. Finally, she's polished enough not to make Longarm think he's a horrible caretaker, and Optimus bundles her tightly in a mesh cloth he keeps in his subspace, and she goes quiet in his arms, optics falling offline. She's still young enough that bundling works. He fears the sol it doesn't anymore. That sol is going to be full of anger and shrieking. He does not look forward to it. He is scared of that sol.
  470.  
  471. He makes it to the Autobot Head Quarters a little bit after it opens, and hurries to where he sees Longarm opening up the office, "Sir!"
  472.  
  473. Longarm turns looking at him with a smile, "Optimus! Good, good. You're just in time. Normally I'd have to tell you to talk to Cliffjumper, but my secretary is currently on vacation. It's his sol off." The bot looks irritated about this, and it makes Optimus wonder if this was a planned sol off, or if Cliffjumper just decided to use a vacation sol just because he can.
  474.  
  475. He smiles carefully, "Well, I can wait if you need me to, si-"
  476.  
  477. Lumina whines unhappily, her mesh coming loose. She smacks him tiredly, "Op Op! Recharge! Lumina need recharge!"
  478.  
  479. He's about to apologize, but Longarm just chuckles, ushering him in, "Let her recharge, Optimus. I have sparkling berth right in my office. It even has a soundproof oneway bubble. She won't hear a thing, but we can hear her."
  480.  
  481. That's a very curious thing to keep in an office, but it makes sense that a mech as kind as Longarm is might have one there. He'd expected his subordinates to come by with their sparklings occasionally, while they need to have a private conversation. "Thank you, sir."
  482.  
  483. "Please, Optimus, no titles this sol. Unless you're under my direct command, reporting to me, I don't expect them." Longarm gestures at the berth then, "Please, settle your sister down for a well-deserved nap."
  484.  
  485. "Yes, si- ... Longarm." He gently places Lumina in the sparkling berth, kissing her helm as she yawns and instantly drops back into recharge. Turning away, he sits down across from Longarm, the desk between them. "What sort of job were you thinking I'd do well in?"
  486.  
  487. Longarm smiles, leaning back a little, "Well, there are a great deal of jobs I think you'd fit into."
  488.  
  489. Optimus settles in to talk, feeling pleased about how much time he gets to talk, liking how comfortable this office is.
  490.  
  491. There's something just . . pleasant about Longarm Prime. The mech's sweet, and Optimus would be lying if he said he didn't find the mech's frame attractive too. He's got such wide shoulders and the treads on his arms and legs look divine. His color scheme has just enough of a pop of teal to highlight him, and the red helm decoration really draws attention to his perfectly spark-blue optics.
  492.  
  493. "Your sister would have good care here. We have an on-site daycare in every building we run on Cybertron, and we understand that creators want to spend time with their sparklings, so we run a very fair policy. Aside from standard breaks and mealtimes, any extra time spent with a sparkling can be paid back by staying late, coming in an extra sol every other decacycle, or several other methods." Longarm smiles at him, and Optimus smiles back.
  494.  
  495. He isn't even sure how it happens, but before long, he's moving closer and closer. He somehow ends up in the mech's lap, fingers brushing Longarm's chest, quietly talking about some of the benefits of security. How Lumina will be cared for, and that anyone in the security sector has extra care taken in their homes to not be botnapped or hurt.
  496.  
  497. He is leaning in close, his forehead against Longarm's when the bot coughs, "Oh... I... Well."
  498.  
  499. He's suddenly aware of just what he's doing, and freezes, "Oh! Sir! I'm sorry, I-"
  500.  
  501. Longarm's servos squeeze his aft, making him gasp in pleasure, warmth shooting through his frame. The mech says, "Usually I wouldn't say this, Optimus, but you are on my lap." The mech's fingers rub at his valveplating, making him press into the touch. "Would you be interested in this? If not, I understand, and it will go no further."
  502.  
  503. Heat fills his cheeks, but Optimus doesn't look away or down, meeting the bot's optics squarely. "I'm sorry for my behavior, sir, but . . I would love to," he swallows around a dry intake, "do more with you."
  504.  
  505. "More?" Longarm asks in his sweet, steady voice. "You'll have to be clear about what you want. I won't take advantage of a bot beneath me in rank."
  506.  
  507. The mech's so /noble// about it all. Most bots would have tipped him back and started pounding away the moment he said he wanted something! "I . . I want you to /frag// me." Flustered, he continues, "Or, or if you don't want that, I want to suck your spike."
  508.  
  509. Longarm's optics dim, "How about /both// those things? Sucking my spike after I lick your valve, then I frag you so hard you have trouble walking?"
  510.  
  511. He can't really help how his valve clicks open needily at that offer. He /likes// interfacing, and Longarm is so nice about this. Offering to lick him /first//? A lot of the bots he's fragged wouldn't have offered such a thing. He can feel his valve clench needily at the thought of it, "I'd /really// like that."
  512.  
  513. He finds himself gently placed on his back on the desk, Longarm pressing kisses to his inner thighs, "If you change your processor, Optimus, just tell me. I won't be upset."
  514.  
  515. "I'm not going to," he promises, spreading his legs wide, flushing as something falls off the desk. "Frag, I'm sorry."
  516.  
  517. Longarm smiles up at him, licking a slow stripe up his thigh, "It's nothing important, Optimus. Just some reports. They'll be fine." The mech studies his valve for a klik, his smile widening. "You're lovely here, you know? These biolights look so /sweet//," and his glossa follows the trail of them, right to his external node, which the mech takes between his dente with the lightest pressure.
  518.  
  519. Optimus's hips buck a little, close to overload embarrassingly fast from the smallest touch to his node.
  520.  
  521. Longarm gives him a heated look, pressing two gentle fingers against his valve, "Maybe I should overload you a few times first. Would you like that?"
  522.  
  523. He flushes, unable to stop his excited nod, "Please?":
  524.  
  525. In response, Longarm presses his fingers inside of him, and sucks on his node.
  526.  
  527. Optimus bites down on his own palm to stifle the shriek of pleasure as he overloads, the mech's glossa flicking over him steadily. "Mm, pretty mech, don't be quiet. No one can hear you in here, and I like to hear my partners moan."
  528.  
  529. Gasping, Optimus reaches down, pressing a servo to the back of Longarm's helm. "M-more, please!"
  530.  
  531. Longarm chuckles, a sound almost too deep to come from a frame his size, and then the bot dives back in, thick fingers plunging into his needy valve, spreading him wide while the mech teases his node. He loses track of his overloads then, but he knows his thighs are trembling with them by the time Longarm pulls back, faceplates gleaming with lubricant.
  532.  
  533. He tugs the mech up, kissing him and mewling happily as Longarm kisses him back, servos rubbing his frame. When he pulls back, he pants a bit, saying, "I... mmm..." He reaches between them, groping at Longarm's panel, "Let me suck your spike?" Since it was in the list of things to do, and he certainly won't be protesting.
  534.  
  535. Longarm pulls back, "My spike is surprisingly large, Optimus. If you think you can't fit it, just tell me."
  536.  
  537. He sits up slowly, languidly. His joints always feel so well oiled and comfortable after enough overloads, and it's been much too long since he's had one not given by his own fingers. Really, it's kind of why he's been so... willing to be touched. Especially by Highroller and Breakneck. After this, he likely won't be so willing to let them grope and fondle him.
  538.  
  539. He gropes at Longarm, "Show me."
  540.  
  541. "Promise not to run," Longarm murmurs, voice wavering a little, and it almost hurts to hear him so unsure, so Optimus kisses him, long and slow, glossa teasing his lipplates.
  542.  
  543. "I would never run. Even if it can't, for some reason, fit, I wouldn't leave you." Optimus is more than willing to lick and use his servos until the mech finds his satisfaction, but a cranebot his size shouldn't have anything he can't handle.
  544.  
  545. Longarm slowly opens up, and his spike is... large. More on par with the size of giant neutrals or Decepticons, actually.  But Optimus has fragged a bot with a spike bigger than this one. It was one of the mechs he fragged to pay to get the frag off Haydon IV.
  546.  
  547. As such, he tugs Longarm close, the bot looking worried, and kisses him, servos caressing the mech's spike. "You're gonna fill me up proper, aren't you?" he purrs, nibbling on Longarm's audios. "No wonder you made that promise to make me unable to walk when you're done."
  548.  
  549. "Most bots can't," Longarm answers simply, groaning a little when he gives his spike a good squeeze. "Frag, Optimus . . . I'm worried I'll hurt you."
  550.  
  551. "You won't," he promises, and shifts up the desk enough to get the bot's spike aligned properly. It's not easy to slide down, getting it inside him, but after he relaxes his frame, the tip pushes in, and the rest is an easy glide. When his pelvic array touches against Longarm's, Optimus groans, helm tossed back. It feels like every mechanoinch of him is filled with spike, like the bot's spike is pressed up against his sparkchamber, it's so fragging deep.
  552.  
  553. Longarm has him lain out on the desk again, kissing and rubbing against him. "You okay, Optimus?" The mech's voice is slightly strained, and he can feel how Longarm keeps jerking his hips a little, clearly wanting to thrust over and over.
  554.  
  555. He squeezes his valve calipers, wrapping his legs around the mech's waist, "Mmm, yes. Frag me. I want you to frag me hard." It's been /so long// since he's been stretched like this. He is going to be so uncomfortable later, but later isn't now, and this will make him more willing to ignore offers. Memories of how this feels will be enough for awhile.
  556.  
  557. He is going to need the mech to frag him /again// after this, though. The idea of a second load of transfluid filling him up makes his hips jerk in anticipation. But he makes sure his anti-sparkling protocols are locked down tight. He's caring for Lumina. Carrying a sparkling, and one sparked by Longarm, is not a smart idea.
  558.  
  559. "So lovely," Longarm purrs in his audio, hips rocking steadily, grinding his spike in deep. "Such a lovely, small truckbot."
  560.  
  561. Optimus would protest, but he /is// smaller than Longarm, and he /loves// being fragged by bigger bots, so he just squeezes his valve tight, rippling it in a way that draws a /growl// from the cranebot. It's been too long since he's had such a big spike, and the next hard thrust in topples him into overload, his frame shaking as his valve spasms, clenching around Longarm's spike. The mech keeps up his steady pace, reaching a servo between them to rub over his external node, triggering another overload, and another, until Optimus is whimpering on the desk, optics offline.
  562.  
  563. The hard pulse of transfluid inside him /knocks him offline//.
  564.  
  565. --
  566.  
  567. "Ah, coming to?" Longarm chuckles, and a servo traces down his hip, making Optimus suddenly aware that there's a datapad wedged uncomfortably underneath him.
  568.  
  569. He sits up, pulling it out and moving it to the side. Once he's more comfortable, he kisses Longarm slowly, rubbing against the mech. "How long was I out?" He tugs the bot's servo so it is away from his hip, and now against his valve.
  570.  
  571. Longarm takes his not subtle at all hint, and starts fingering him, fingers rubbing and touching his nodes, "Mmm, not long, Optimus. Less than a klik."
  572.  
  573. He presses closer, hips thrusting slightly, "Wanna frag me again, then?"
  574.  
  575. The bot blinks, glancing at the door and looking like he's about to refuse, only to pause with a frown. Then the mech is kissing him possessively, pressing him back on the desk, "Well, I don't have any appointments I need to get to, and I'm not going to turn down such an eager offer."
  576.  
  577. He smirks, spreading his legs, "Good."
  578.  
  579. --
  580.  
  581. Really, considering how good his sol had gone, he should have expected it to all go sour.
  582.  
  583. "You have a message and a package waiting at the main desk," one of the bootcamp couriers informs him, before moving on to give a small box to Elita-1. Her creators send her sweets sometimes, which she feeds to Sentinel when he's behaving for her.
  584.  
  585. For the package to not have been delivered right to him, it means it's either high-value or contains some measure of contraband.
  586.  
  587. He's hoping it is just high-value, since contraband means he has /nowhere// to store it safely that won't cost him more money, and he likely won't even use it when he gets out of Bootcamp. High-value means he puts it in his subspace in the hidden areas and ignores it.
  588.  
  589. As such, he heads to the main desk, glad mailcall is /after// training. It also gives him an excuse to escape before Elita can yell at him for coming back walking funny. Optimus does /not// regret fragging Longarm, though. The mech is amazing with his spike, and they both agreed they won't be doing it again.
  590.  
  591. Optimus got what he wanted, and it's clear Longarm did, too.
  592.  
  593. Maybe this is a gift from Longarm? He's heard rumors from some of the other cadets that higher ranked officers sometimes give gifts after a good frag, but--
  594.  
  595. The package is stamped with dozens of inspection labels, which means it's from off-planet. Who would send him anything from off-planet? He doesn't have anyone to send anything, and he hasn't ordered anything either.
  596.  
  597. "Sign for the pad and box please," the bored mailmech drones, pushing a pad over to him.
  598.  
  599. He frowns, "Who is it from?" He signs the datapad reluctantly, a little worried. Not so much that it's unsafe, since nothing unsafe gets through the inspections, but more that it may be something from an old... client.
  600.  
  601. The mech fives him an unimpressed look, and taps on one of the adresses. "Caldoon. Someone must have ordered it from Swindle." The mech scowls at him, clearly thinking /Optimus// ordered it, and just wanted the bot to say it so others knew.
  602.  
  603. Which is stupid, but whatever.
  604.  
  605. He takes the box and datapad, muttering, "Who the Pit ordered from Swindle to give to me?" But he gets out of the line, letting whoever is next to the desk. Carrying it out, he puts it in his subspace, hurrying to pick up Lumina.
  606.  
  607. Soon enough he's in his favorite bar, Lumina sipping on her cube, Flicker winking at him before walking away, and him pulling out the pad to read.
  608.  
  609. 'Dear Optimus of Cybertron,' the pad begins, and Optimus is already put on edge, because anyone who knew him would just use his name, and nothing more.
  610.  
  611. 'Having recently learned of your acquisition of certain favors, I took it upon myself to learn a little more about you. What a surprise it was, to learn that a mech like Rockcrusher had produced such an intelligent, lovely sparkling. This revelation left me in a rather unusual predicament. I have never found myself interested in courtship, for my own empire is vast, and my subordinates talented enough to provide any help I might need.
  612.  
  613. 'Yet, after one sol of learning about you, I found myself impossibly addicted. Nothing would please me more than to be allowed to court you, Optimus. To prove my interest true, I have sent along the traditional courtship gift of Caldoon for a mech with helmfins like yours. It would please me beyond measure to see you wear them as an acceptance of my offer when I call you next sol to discuss our courtship.
  614.  
  615. 'With all the affection of my spark,
  616. Swindle'
  617.  
  618. What. The. Frag.
  619.  
  620. The first thought in his processor is that this pad is a forgery, but there are remarkably few forgeries put to Swindle's name ever, because he's known for being swift and harsh in retribution for it. The second is that Swindle is thinking of a different mech, and somehow got confused, but the use of his name, and the mention of the 'favors' indicates otherwise.
  621.  
  622. He bites his lower lip, rereading it several times, wondering how to even /respond// to this.
  623.  
  624. Well, one thing he can do is just throw the whole thing in his subspace and forget about it. Swindle says he should wear the gifts as /acceptance//, so ignoring them is a clear refusal. He's about to do just that, but he can't actually bring himself to just... ignore it.
  625.  
  626. For all he knows, the mech got him something he will actually wear. Or it could be an insult gift, and be made of terrible materials and clashing colors, so he can throw them back in the bot's face telling him to go away. For all he knows, Swindle is under a favor where he /has// to court Optimus, and this is his way of getting out of it.
  627.  
  628. With that settled and justified, Optimus opens the box.
  629.  
  630. And stares.
  631.  
  632. And stares some more at the delicate arrangement of platinum chains and red and blue gems nestled on soft fabric inside.
  633.  
  634. He lifts it from the fabric, watching the chains and gems tumble down until he can figure out exactly what it is by the shape. It's a helmfin decoration. A net of delicate chains studded with large and small gems, with more dangling down on equally dainty chains. It's the kind of thing a princessmech might wear, or a Queen during a ceremony. He's seen simpler versions of these in costume and jewelry shops, and with crystal gems and basic metals, they range far outside of his budget still.
  635.  
  636. He's positive these are cheap metals or simple crystals. He gives one of the chains a gentle tug, fearful that it might snap, but the metal resists and doesn't even bend.
  637.  
  638. Lumina gasps, "Pretty! Pretty, Op Op! Pretty!"
  639.  
  640. He nods, "It really is." Since... wow. Even if they are cheap gems, the metal is very good, and he wants to wear it. He /wants// to. It absolutely is not an insult gift, and he can't exactly stop himself from starting to put it on his helmfins.
  641.  
  642. His little sister gasps, diving into the empty cube, and yanking out something triumphantly, "Spark!"
  643.  
  644. He flushes, trying to ignore as the others in the bar look over, and grabs the item in her servo. "Yes, spark/ly//. Very sparkly." He looks at the item, and blinks. It's too large to be a ring, and clearly lower quality than what he has, but it is- oh!
  645.  
  646. He unclasps the side of the band of metal, and deftly puts it on Lumina's wrist. The fake gem encrusted bracelet catches all the dim lights in the bar, making Lumina crow in delight.
  647.  
  648. "Spark! Spark!" Lumina cries out triumphantly, wiggling her arm around to make it glitter.
  649.  
  650. Optimus rubs at his optics for a moment, wishing she didn't have such troubles with certain sounds. "Yes, spark/ly//."
  651.  
  652. He arranges the second piece on his other helmfin, then finds the gossamer clasps that hook the pair together, designed to look like a braid of metal along the center top of his helm. He tips his helm back and forth, expecting the dangling gems to move distractingly, but they don't. They have magnetized to his plating as soon as he moved.
  653.  
  654. Optimus sits still for a few nanokliks, and the gems release their hold and dangle freely around his helm again. It's almost as if they're made for a mech that might be expected to fight, to not get in the way, but surely no sets this fancy would have been made that way.
  655.  
  656. Lumina drinks her fuel, looking pleased every time her wrist catches the light. Chuckling, he kisses her helm, and rereads the note again. It seems like Swindle is planning on actually coming to visit on Cybertron, which is weird.
  657.  
  658. He catches Flicker's optic, and the mech comes over, looking deeply impressed, "Oooh, /somebot// got an /admirer//, huh?" The mech taps Lumina's wrist, "When is your sparkling mech group coming, huh, Lumina? Huh? Or am I and Optimus still the only ones?"
  659.  
  660. Optimus chuckles as Lumina growls, his little sister moving away like she thinks Flicker will steal her new shiny decoration. Only to instantly move back when the waiterbot pouts, and shove it at his face, "Spark! Spark, spark, spark!"
  661.  
  662. "You /tease//!" Flicker says, grinning, "Making me think you didn't want me to see your sparkly new bracelet." He tickles her lightly, "It's very pretty, Lumina."
  663.  
  664. "Spark!" she shrieks with laughter, and Flicker kisses the back of her servo, which prompts a swipe of claws at his face that he nimbly dodges.
  665.  
  666. "Really, though, Optimus? Who gave you the gift?" Flicker taps a claw against one of the gems. "If I'm right, and I'm /never// wrong mind you, these are /real//. I didn't think you knew anyone who could afford to give you the kind of gift an /Emperor// gives their mistress."
  667.  
  668. Snorting, Optimus knocks his servo away, "Oh shut up, Flicker. It's from Swindle."
  669.  
  670. "Oh... /wow//..." Flicker murmurs, looking more impressed now. "You have /Swindle// giving you gifts? How'd that happen?"
  671.  
  672. He isn't sure if he wants to get into it or not, but Flicker is a friend. He's never had reason to doubt that Flicker likes him for him, even if the mech only really made friends that first night because of Lumina. Which is fine, since he'd rather people like him because of Lumina than because of other reasons.
  673.  
  674. "I inhereted some things recently, and it seems that one of the things alerted Swindle to who I am. I don't know much more about it."
  675.  
  676. "Well, good luck, Optimus. Nabbing Swindle as a bondmate, or even as a lover, is the best any bot could ever do, I think." Flicker grins at him, "You and little Lumina would be better off than with you as a maybe-someday-Prime."
  677.  
  678. That makes him frown at the bot, "Ultra Magnus himself said I had the potential to be a Prime, though."
  679.  
  680. Flicker's optics go wide, "When did you speak with Ultra Magnus, Optimus?"
  681.  
  682. Ah, yeah, he hadn't mentioned the Magnus or . . . Longarm's interest in him either. "It's not important."
  683.  
  684. Flicker leans against the table, picking up Lumina to cuddle her as she cuddles him back, "I think it is, Optimus. If you have /Ultra Magnus// interested in you in addition to Swindle, then I'm actually a little worried for you."
  685.  
  686. He frowns, "Why?"
  687.  
  688. Flicker lowers his voice, glancing discretely side to side, "What if /Megatron// is interested?" Optimus is about to protest, only for Flicker to hurry on, "You know I'm a neutral, Optimus. I'm not like the Autobots, I don't buy inot the story that /all// the Decepticons are gone. Not when they're crafty enough to have made all the Autobots get /rid// of the Allspark."
  689.  
  690. Optimus doesn't believe that Megatron is gone either. There's too much from the Decepticon Empire to believe it, and too many eye-witness reports of seeing him since then. But why the frag would Megatron even know who Optimus was, let alone be interested?
  691.  
  692. "Swindle must owe a favor," and it sort of hurts to think that maybe he only offered this gift and courtship out of that, but he'll find out soon. "Ultra Magnus was inspecting the troops when he met me, like any other cadet. and he's not /interested// in me. He simply indicated that I had potential, which my Sergeant agreed with."
  693.  
  694. Flicker hums, nodding slowly, "Makes sense. /Still//. If I had the chance, I'd jump for it. From what bots say, Swindle is only interested in two things. Credits and /insanely gorgeous// bots." The mech smiles at him, looking pleased, "And you do fit in that second category."
  695.  
  696. Optimus flushes, shaking his head to hide it, "Don't you /lie//, Flicker! I'm just me."
  697.  
  698. "There's a reason bots flirt with you every sol, Optimus." Flicker pats Lumina's servo when she waves it at him, "Yes, yes, sweetspark, I'll get you some taffy in a klik, I promise." The pretty barmech gestures at Optimus then, "Do you remember that bot who approached you last stellar? The one from Playbot?"
  699.  
  700. Optimus feels his cheeks go purple. "He wasn't from Playbot, that's just a line he uses to pick bots up-"
  701.  
  702. "That was Starfield, their /CEO//, Optimus. The head of their entire company offered you more credits than you'd make as a Prime in a decavorn for two sols of work there. You are gorgeous, trust me."
  703.  
  704. ... Now he kind of wishes he /had// accepted. If he'd known that, he would have happily taken two sols of work, and accepted the censure from Kup. Since, really. Two sols of work, fill up his accounts even more, and just been fine.
  705.  
  706. Unfortunately, he can't actually go do that /now//, since he's pretty sure wearing the gift means he accepts a courtship. And if he's being courted, he's taking it /seriously//. That means no interfacing anyone, no dating anyone who isn't attempting to seriously court him, and no taking protoform pictures for credits.
  707.  
  708. Well, he might if the one courting him encourages him to, and if he feels safe doing it. But from what he heard, Playbot is very professional. He wouldn't even have to show off his spark if he didn't want to, and he doesn't.
  709.  
  710. Some part of him is positive that Swindle won't encourage it, though. Swindle is known for being quite possessive of what he considers /his//, so he wouldn't let bots look at his future mate that way.
  711.  
  712. Oh well, the opportunity is lost now, so long as he's being courted. Which is unlikely to be that long, come to think of it. As soon as Swindle gets a look at the real him, and not whatever pretty picture he might have found, he'll lose interest. Especially if he just wants access to the inheritance that Optimus has gotten.
  713.  
  714. He takes Lumina back from Flicker, saysing, "Well, too late now. I'll live."
  715.  
  716. The mech gives him an amused look, "Well, I expect an invintation to your and Swindle's bonding."
  717.  
  718. He smiles, shaking his head, "It won't happen, but sure. Besides, you're invited to my bonding, no matter /who// I'm with. You already know this." Flicker is too well loved by Lumina to ever exclude, and /he// likes Flicker. The mech is a good friend.
  719.  
  720. "Candy!" Lumina demands, until Flicker gives her the piece of taffy she always gets when they leave.
  721.  
  722. "You spoil her," he sighs, but he can't regret anything that makes her so happy. She was so miserable on Haydon IV, while he was desperately saving credits to get them off the planet. Every smile she gives now makes his spark light up with joy.
  723.  
  724. --
  725.  
  726. "What's this slag," Sergeant Kup rumbles, coming up to Optimus the nanoklik he steps back into bootcamp, like he was waiting for him there. Which he shouldn't have been, seeing as Optimus is still well-within the curfew time. "Who put this on ya? The Magnus? I told that fragger to /wait// before he went and did somethin' like this!"
  727.  
  728. What?
  729.  
  730. Kup stomps around him, "You aren't gonna be tupped by him /again//, you got that, cadet? He's not doing /slag// until I have you out of bootcamp and well on your way to Accademy. I have your reccomendation letter all written up, and just need to add more of what you do as time goes on. You got that?":
  731.  
  732. Optimus stares at Kup, and finally says faintly, "Y-you already have a reccomendation letter for me?"
  733.  
  734. "'O'course I do, Optimus," Kup snaps irritably. "But you /ain't// to be fraggin' the Magnus again, got it?"
  735.  
  736. He flushes, putting his servos on his chest, "I... I haven't at all, sir. I just got a gift from Swindle." He touches his helmfin decorations, "He's courting me." He changes the subject back, "But you really want me in the Accademy? Truly?"
  737.  
  738. Kup's optic twitches, a sign that Optimus has come to understand means he's going to be assigned transformups until his limbs give out. "/Who//? Who's courtin' you?"
  739.  
  740. "Swindle. He sent a letter and a gift, and said he'd call me next sol. I'll listen to his offer, though I'm sure he'll change his mind soon." Optimus sighs softly, "I know why he's offering, and as soon as we settle that issue, he'll be gone."
  741.  
  742. The colorful curses that he hears Kup muttering go right into his 'don't ever say these things around Lumina' file in his processor. After a moment, of that, the mech says, louder this time, "Really? Slaggin' really? Oh Primus, the nanoklik Ultra hears 'bout this, he's gonna go bonkers."
  743.  
  744. He looks at Kup, kind of wishing he could back up a little, but knowing he can't, "Sir?"
  745.  
  746. Kup offlines his optics, taking deep in-vents of his cygar before finally saying, almost reluctantly, "Yer still visitn' Ultra Magnus next decacycle?"
  747.  
  748. He nods, "Yes, sir."
  749.  
  750. Kup scowls at the helmfin decorations, "You'll be wearin' those when you go."
  751.  
  752. "... yes, sir?" It doesn't seem professional, since he's going while talking about being a /Prime//, but Kup knows best.
  753.  
  754. Kup vents out hard, "Don't be surprised if'n he makes you an offer too. Bot's impulsive as all frag. Told him to wait 'til you were a Prime, but if he sees you with another claim, he's gonna wanna make one of his own."
  755.  
  756. Optimus knows his audios are glitching. "I'm sorry, sir, but what? Why would Ultra Magnus make me any offer at all? He's met me one time-"
  757.  
  758. "More'n Swindle has," Kup bites out, the name on his glossa spat out like it disgusts him.
  759.  
  760. "Swindle will stop courting me after the first or second meeting, sir." Since /really//. Optimus isn't that special. Swindle will lose interest, offer to buy whatever favors it is he wants, and then leave. The mech won't want him,
  761.  
  762. Kup gives him a clearly skeptial look, and says, "I'll prep you for courtin' by the Magnus. Let's go, cadet. Time for extra trainin'."
  763.  
  764. He keeps from whining unhappily, and follows the bot after. He /knows// preperation for courting doesn't means lessons in manners. It means so many transformups and laps he starts doing them in recharge.
  765.  
  766. Ugh.
  767.  
  768. --
  769.  
  770. Optimus is too tired to feel twitchy when he sits at the nice cafe that he's meeting Swindle at. He mostly just wants his joints not to ache, and maybe recharge for about three more sols solid. Instead, he has Lumina on his lap while several neutral waiters all fawn over him in excitement.
  771.  
  772. He's only /just// sat down, and he knows for a fact now that this place is either owned by Swindle, or by someone very loyal to Swindle.
  773.  
  774. Not that he's surprised.
  775.  
  776. He's heard at least two of the waitstaff murmuring Swindle's designation, so he knows this place belongs to him or someone he trusts--no other way they'd know. Unless Swindle literally reserved his place here under his own designation.
  777.  
  778. That doesn't seem likely though. He's usually more subtle than that.
  779.  
  780. "Would you like an appetizer while you wait?" a very lovely femme asks him, holding a serving tray against her chest, her posture shy and demure. "We have some sweet crystal samplers this sol that are fresh from our garden."
  781.  
  782. Lumina immediately squeals in excitement, and reaches for the femme, tugging her closer. The waitress looks worried, clearly unsure what to do. Optimus sighs, holding his sister up, saying, "Hold onto her. She doesn't usually see other femmes, so I try to let her be held by them. If you're willing."
  783.  
  784. The femme hesitates again, only to wrap her arms around Lumina and hold her close, arms moving so fast they blur. Lumina's engine purrs as the femme holds her close, and the waitress asks again, "Would you like an appetizer?"
  785.  
  786. He smiles, instantly liking the place better if they treat Lumina so well. "Yes. What is your favorite?"
  787.  
  788. The femme flushes, "I like the femonite, but I know mechs do not, sir. I usually reccomend the sampler because all the crystals are so good, even if they do not come with the femmonite."
  789.  
  790. "I'll take the sampler, then, and a small order of femmonite for Lumina. She's never had any, and since you like it, I think she'd love to try it."
  791.  
  792. The femme blushes scarlet, which stands out nicely against her pale cream plating, "Y-yes. I'll have it out right away, sir." She passes Lumina back to him and darts off. Usually shy femmes like that end up bonded and rarely choose to leave their homes. He wonders what made this one choose a service industry position of all things.
  793.  
  794. "Op Op bad," Lumina growls at him, her little optics squinted at where the femme had disappeared to. "Her come back /now//."
  795.  
  796. Optimus bounces her on his knee, "She'll come back with some fuel for us, sweetspark."
  797.  
  798. "Op Op! Her back /now//!"
  799.  
  800. He taps her lightly on the nose, "Lumina, be good. You know other femmes are the ones who decide, not me." Since he's had /some// femmes refuse, and he would never dream of them being forced to. At least that's a rare occurance, and all but one time because the femme was in a hurry to be someplace. Usually, femmes /make// time if a femme sparkling wants to be held.
  801.  
  802. He has had one mech try to pretend to be a femme to try to hold Lumina, but Lumina can see through that instantly. Which is good, since Optimus found 'her' creepy. Haydon IV is a place he's forever grateful to be away from.
  803.  
  804. "Op Op Op," she growls, the longer form of his name used only when she's really angry with him. He thinks it sounds like little hiccups though, so it never stops putting a smile on his faceplate.
  805.  
  806. "Yes, I know, I'm a terribly mean big brother, I should be put in jail for how horribly I treat you." He pats her helm and shifts her on his lap so she's not as likely to try and make a break for it. She can crawl pretty fast by now, and even take a few wobbly steps.
  807.  
  808. The femme returns quickly, looking worried, a single sparkling cube on her tray. She places the cube in front of Lumina, looking worried. "Th-the cooks are gathering the crystals. I can go back and help if you need me to, but..." She trails off, and says, "I... I'll go.. do that... now"  Her shoulders droop, and she looks like she's about to leave.
  809.  
  810. But Optimus holds up Lumina before she can, "Here, how about you hold her before she disowns me for being cruel to you /and// her?"
  811.  
  812. The femme does eagerly, Lumina chirping in excitement and kissing the femme's faceplates. The femme is almost glowing with happiness as his sister says, "Pretty. Lumina love pretty. Mine?"
  813.  
  814. How embarrassing. Optimus sighs, "She's not yours, sweetspark. Bots don't belong to anyone, because freedom is the right of all sentient beings."
  815.  
  816. "Op Op Op," she growls, before nuzzling the waitress, "Mine. Mine-Mine."
  817.  
  818. The femme pets her back, smiling shyly at Optimus. "It's alright, little femmes are like this. She'll mellow some when she gets a little older. I can't be yours, sweetspark," she coos, pulling out a little image capture of some handsome cyclebot. "I'm engaged to Splicer."
  819.  
  820. Lumina squints at the picture and then proclaims loudly, "Ugly-dumb."
  821.  
  822. Thankfully the femme just laughs, shaking her head, "You only say that since /you// want me, little femme. But he is mine, and I am his. He fought lots of other bots to prove how much he loves me, even if I already knew." She lowers he voice, as if confiding a secret, "He lost the fight with my brother, but I didn't care. I chose him over the mech who did win. Splicer is much nicer and truly loves me. He does not want me just to brag. Lord Swindle made /sure// that I got who I actually wanted when the one who won all the fights thought he could demand to bond to me."
  823.  
  824. Optimus would suspect this of being a plant to make him more amendable to Swindle, but he's /never// seen Lumina demand to have a femme before. So this would be one convoluted plan that would never go off if Lumina had just kept hugging the femme instead. Besides, it's clear the femme only has optics for Lumina with this story.
  825.  
  826. Lumina doesn't understand any of it, of course, other than being denied what she wants, so her little face screws up like she's going to cry. Optimus digs a piece of energon taffy out of his subspace and stuff it in her mouth, because he's a terrible bot and not above bribery at all.
  827.  
  828. She chomps down on it, letting out a happy chirp.
  829.  
  830. The waitress smiles at him, one optic-ridge arched, before passing her back to him. "Lord Swindle should be here shortly, sir."
  831.  
  832. He nods, "Thank you."
  833.  
  834. She glances at the sparkling cube, "You should have her try the femmonite, sir. I'm certain she will love it."
  835.  
  836. The cube is full of a crushed crystal and energon slurry, which smells like rotten organic flowers to him. He carefully keeps from making a face, offering a little to his sister when she finishes her candy.
  837.  
  838. Instantly, she gasps, shoves his servos away, and starts to shove servofuls into her mouth, eating it like it is the best thing she's ever had. The waitress smiles at him proudly, "We also have a crystal cake made of it, sir! It is a very good main meal."
  839.  
  840. He looks at the cube and shakes his head, "This will be plenty for her tank. I don't want her to get a tank-ache." She's already slowing a little in her greedy faceplate stuffing, because her tank is small and has to convert a little before she can take a full cube of anything yet.
  841.  
  842. "Just let me know if you change your mind," she murmurs timidly, before leaving to go to the kitchen, probably to get the crystals that Optimus can actually eat.
  843.  
  844. Lumina holds up a fistful of femmonite to him, "Op Op try."
  845.  
  846. Ugh. He smiles and takes the crystal pieces from her, thanking Primus below that his life as a slumbot had made him excellent at sleight of servo, tucking them away in his subspace while making it look like he's eating them. "Yum. Very good, but you can have the rest."
  847.  
  848. Lumina looks pleased, returning to fueling.
  849.  
  850. There's a bit of commotion at the door, and he sees a purple opticked truckbot walk in. The mech is... well, gorgeous, really. He can instantly tell it is Swindle, but the mech is much more handsome than the photos and vidcaptures show. All while being taller than Optimus. Even sitting down, he knows he only comes to chest height on the mech.
  851.  
  852. Which is honestly going to make when the mech /stops// courting him a sad sol. Having some of this bot's consideration is just very ego boosting in a way. The mech is hitting a great deal of the things he likes in a berth partner, so when the courting falls through, he may offer a night in the berth /anyway//.
  853.  
  854. "Optimus," the mech purrs, his voice rich and deep as he offers his servo. When Optimus grasps it, Swindle turns his servo to kiss the back of it, "I am pleased beyond measure that you chose to wear my courtship gift." Swindle's servos are /so big//, and Optimus has to deliberately turn his thoughts away from what those fingers might do in the berthroom.
  855.  
  856. "It's pretty, thank you." Optimus waits until Swindle sits across from him and Lumina to be abrupt. "Why are you courting me? What do I have that you want?"
  857.  
  858. "I thought I made that clear in my note," Swindle says, smiling at him winningly. "It is due to the favors bringing you to my attention. But it is /you// that makes me want to court you." The mech's optics dim, almost seductively, "You look /wonderful//, Optimus. Even more in person than the single vidfile I was shown."
  859.  
  860. He frowns, holding Lumina closer to him, "So... just my looks and my inheritance."
  861.  
  862. Swindle nods once, "I am hoping it will be more than that, Optimus. Already, it is clear you are far more than that. You clearly love your little sister, and from how you sit, you are a military mech." The bot frowns, only to force it away, "I do hope that you understand, should we bond, I would like you to live on my planet." The mech pauses, "/Our// planet."
  863.  
  864. "I wouldn't agree to live on a different planet than my bondmate did." That's not how bondmates ought to live.
  865.  
  866. Lumina stops shoveling fuel into her mouth long enough to look at Swindle and declare loudly, "Mine."
  867.  
  868. The mech arches one optic ridge above his large, beautiful purple optics. "I would be yours, if your brother agrees to bond to me some sol, lovely sparkling."
  869.  
  870. Lumina stares a klik longer and then goes back to fueling without a care in the world.
  871.  
  872. He sighs, only to smile as the waitress comes back with the appetizer. The femme puts it on the table, saying, "Here you are, sir." Then turns to Swindle, her face lighting up, "Lord Swindle! I am so happy to see you again!" She bows quickly, still delighted, "Has... has Splicer come with you this sol?"
  873.  
  874. Swindle chuckles, "He is, yes. He wanted to surprise you, but I think lying about his location is much crueler than ruining the surprise. He'll be at your apartment, so don't dawdle when you're off work in a megacycle."
  875.  
  876. She smiles even wider, "Thank you, Lord Swindle." She blushes, "I mean, would you like a menu? I can bring one to you now, or you can order, sir."
  877.  
  878. "I know what I want," Swindle leans back calmly, servos relaxed on the tabletop. Optimus has to struggle to keep his optics off of them. The bot could wrap his entire servo around Optimus's waist and touch fingers together. "If you like, Optimus, I can order for you, or I can have a menu brought out?"
  879.  
  880. At least the mech asked first. Some bots just ordered fuel for him without even asking what he liked. "As long as it's not too sweet or too bitter, I'll be happy, thank you." He loves sweet fuels, but they're not something he should indulge in on a first date.
  881.  
  882. He knows how he acts when he has an especially good quality sweet. He /can't// not know, since some of his old clients on Haydon IV paid him to fuel for them before fueling off them. He tries to avoid it in public for that reason now.
  883.  
  884. But... he wouldn't argue if later on Swindle has him do it. And he can't help a tiny bit of him hoping that, should they bond, he do that in the berthroom. Turn an experience he kind of ruined into a much more looked forward one. He likes fuelplay. The idea of licking energon off a lover's frame appeals to him a great deal.
  885.  
  886. "Good, then I'll have a cube of your house special high grade, and a high and middle grade mix for Optimus, with sweet crystal crushed on the rim of the cube." Swindle sounds so peaceful and calm, his voice even and steady, pleasant to listen to. "Now, Optimus, I would like to be up-front with you about my intentions. I wish to court you and take you as my royal consort. If we suit eah other, you would help lead my Empire, and enjoy Caldoon as your new home."
  887.  
  888. He really can't fathom why Swindle would want this from him of all mechs. "If I told you I was willing to give or sell the favors I've collected to you directly, would you still make this offer to me?"
  889.  
  890. The mech clearly thinks this over, finally nodding and saying, "Yes. If our courting falls through, I will ask that you still be willing to sell me them. I do not expect you to give me any at all. I currently owe you two favors, but Rockcrusher's old business has a third from me. If this information changes your opinon of the courting, I'd like to know now."
  891.  
  892. Well, since he's pretty sure his papa's old business was shadey as all slag, it does make him worried that Swindle still owes them things. However, having two owed to Optimus doesn't actually matter much to him, other than knowing he won't call them in during the courting.
  893.  
  894. Well, maybe.
  895.  
  896. "What is it you owe me?" Since he doesn't /want// to know what Swindle owes the business.
  897.  
  898. Swindle shrugs easily, "Two minor favors. A one-time discount of twenty-percent on any purchase of under four million credits, and a promise to locate any merchandise desired by you on two separate occasions without a searching fee attached. The one retained by Rockcrusher's company I would prefer to keep to myself, unless we bond."
  899.  
  900. Those are . . pretty big favors for the mech, actually. Swindle is known for never offering a discount of more than /two// percent, and he always charges for finding merchandise he doesn't already own.
  901.  
  902. He cuddles Lumina, offering her one of the crystals, "They don't change my stance on you courting me at all. If you really want to keep trying for my servo, then that's fine." Since he /would// like to see how the mech is on multiple dates. And them being favors not involved in intimate details, means he is still interested in possibly fragging the bot, should the courting fall through.
  903.  
  904. Swindle perks up, looking happy, "Wonderful." The bot pauses, "I do wish to warn you. Should we bond, I will take it very seriously. We could not interface outside of the bond-"'
  905.  
  906. He gasps softly, interrupting, unable to stop himself, "You want a sparkbond?"
  907.  
  908. The mech coughs, "I.... I was going to say out of the bond wihtout permission, but should you take this seriously, I would not refuse a sparkbond. Sparkbonds increase the chance of sparklings, and I would dearly love at least one. Preferably more."
  909.  
  910. Optimus has always wanted a few sparklings, when he was older, of course. Lumina is plenty to handle right now. "I'd expect Lumina to be treated fairly, even though she's not of your coding." He won't settle on any bot that can't respect that his sister is /his// in all the ways that matter.
  911.  
  912. But Swindle just smiles at him, reaching over to put one large servo over his, making his fingers twitch slightly. "Of course. I would have her as one of my heirs, if she's interested, and if not, we would find her something she loves doing."
  913.  
  914. He smiles, his already warm feelings for the mech increasing, "Good." He can't help how his fingers move, and suddenly they're interlacing their fingers, servos held. "I love her dearly."
  915.  
  916. That gets a kind smile, "I can tell. An image I have seen you in have her with you. I will be certain that all our dates include her."
  917.  
  918. His spark pulses happily at that. "I'm certain she will enjoy that. I know she hates being seperated from me." Not that he can blame her, but he's not explaining to Swindle. Not right now.
  919.  
  920. Maybe when they know each other better.
  921.  
  922. "You care for her greatly. She knows that, and doesn't want to lose you." Swindle's thumb rubs over his wrist, and Optimus feels his plating flush with heat. "Now, you know I am neutral. I would expect you to resign the military here if we bond. I am not willing to become an Autobot, or bond with one."
  923.  
  924. Considering that Swindle runs a neutral empire, that's a fair expecation. "If I agree to bond with you, I would resign and give up my faction symbol." He pauses, then has to ask, "But what if the courting lasts /past// the time I start the Accademy? WIll I still be expected to drop out?"
  925.  
  926. Smindle smiles, "The courting will not last that long. I am hoping to bond soon. If you aren't out of bootcamp before our bond, I want you to quit, and I will pay the fees needed for breaking the contract."
  927.  
  928. He'd say that it is too much to ask Swindle to pay, but the bot owns a business empire /and// his own planet. The mech can afford it, and Optimus dropping out would be his fault, anyway.
  929.  
  930. It's a fair trade, to take on the burden of the cost if he wants Optimus to leave Cybertron.
  931.  
  932. "How long do you intend to stay here?"
  933.  
  934. Swindle gives his servo a gentle squeeze, "I intend to stay a decacycle, and then business will unfortunately drag me away. I can safely promise you one date every decacycle, though the exact sol may vary. I would have an answer from you about a bond by the end of the stellar."
  935.  
  936. He smiles, "We can do that." He likely will refuse, since a single stellar is pretty much nothing. But he also wouldn't want to wait a vorn. But he can't argue about this, since it is better to have not wasted any /more// time in bootcamp when he has no reason to use any benefit. He joined the Autobots not just due to the stance on freedom, but because of the free fuel every sol.
  937.  
  938. It was the best place for him with Lumina, unless he wanted to try and find a House in the blue-light district on Haydon IV to work in. Seeing as the life expectancy there tended to be short for slumbots like him, he'd found the Autobots an altogether better option.
  939.  
  940. It was a better future for Lumina as well, and that had been the most important thing to him.
  941.  
  942. Lumina makes grabby servos at the cube of femmonite and Optimus gives her a little more, letting her stuff her face.
  943.  
  944. "I'm glad you'll be taking this seriously, Optimus."
  945.  
  946. He can't stop his pleased grin, "Well, courting is important. I promise that i won't just reject you out of turn." Since it is more than slightly foolish of him, should he do it.
  947.  
  948. "Thank you," Swindle murmurs, rubbing his servo gentley. "Now, how about we get to know each other?"
  949.  
  950. He nods, "Well, I'm not exactly sure what to tell you. I'm certain you know more of me than you'd think, if only because my life isn't a secret. No one even really knows that much about you other than how you have your planet, and have a trading empire."
  951.  
  952. Swindle smiles easily at him, "For you, sweetspark, I'm an open-access datapad. Ask and I will answer, unless the answer puts said empire at risk."
  953.  
  954. That's really unfair, to expect Swindle to just answer anything, so Optimus nods, returning the favor, "You can ask me anything and I'll answer as well. I don't really know any sensitive information to hide anyways." They don't give cadets access to that sort of thing, after all.
  955.  
  956. The smile he gets for that makes his spark pulse a little faster. The mech asks, "What were your plans for the future before I showed up with my courting proposal?"
  957.  
  958. He shakes his head, smiling a little bit, "I want to be a Prime. Mostly because it would prove how I'm more than my origins."
  959.  
  960. "Origins?"
  961.  
  962. He kind of wants to say it is his turn to ask a question, but that wasn't actually something established, unlike the promises to be honest with each other. So he says, "I grew up on Haydon IV. A slumbot." Now to just accept that the hot bot is going to scramble away, making excuses.
  963.  
  964. Instead, Swindle reaches across and takes one of his servos in both of his, making Optimus's spark pulse in his chest. Such big servos. "No bot is a /slumbot//, sweetspark. If your planet chose to deprive its citizens of basic rights, and you still managed to make it this far in life, you're extraordinary. You should take pride in having made it so high."
  965.  
  966. Optimus drops his gaze to the table, unable to meet Swindle's optics. He doesn't want to admit that he made it this far /on his back//. Swindle would surely revile him then. "Thank you."
  967.  
  968. "You are wonderful, Optimus, don't forget that."
  969.  
  970. He keeps flushing, /really// unable to look up. He changes the subject from him to Swindle. "What would you be doing, if I wasn't being courted by you?"
  971.  
  972. "Well, I'd likely be selling things. Maybe exploring some planets to find out if there is anything there I could buy or trade for. It really is too bad you don't have a additional organic tank, or I'd have brought my latest product."
  973.  
  974. He /does// have one, but it isn't even that big. Just the size of his fist, off to the side of his actual tank. "What did you get?" Since Swindle seems very happy with it, and he's curious.
  975.  
  976. "A sucker limb. One species of organics lives on a planet that is about two percent land, and the rest of it is water. Their main food are odd creatures that are almost entirely sucker limbs, and only a head that is more of an eye that has organs inside of it. It is /not// a pleasent creature to look at. However, the sucker limbs are delicious."
  977.  
  978. As a rule, Optimus doesn't enjoy organic fuels. He's appreciative of the tank, which lets him consume things that most bots would get nothing but waste out of, but an organic tank does not translate to an organic glossa, so the flavors rarely transfer. The few organic things he's enjoyed have all been considered 'sweets' by the locals, so Optimus just smiles at Swindle and doesn't offer the information about his tank. "It sounds interesting. I'd ask to see one, but I'm positive if you put it on the table, Lumina would try to eat it."
  979.  
  980. Lumina looks up at her name, sniffs, and then goes backto stuffing herself with the disgusting femme crystal.
  981.  
  982. "I haven't even brought it with me, Optimus. My planet is getting it processed. It's just smarter to have done that first. I /will// be gone from there for a decacycle, afterall." The bot gives him berthroom optics, "i'm hoping I could spend most of the time with you."
  983.  
  984. Optimus is both flattered, and irritated. A bot as important wanting to spend time with his is very kind to his ego, while it is clearly implies Lumina won't be going.
  985.  
  986. However, it is best to double-check. "What about Lumina?"
  987.  
  988. "She is welcome along for most of what I intend to do with you," Swindle's optics dim, his voice a deep rumble that sends a shiver down his backstrut. "She can recharge during the rest, after we get to know each other better."
  989.  
  990. Slag, he really wouldn't mind hopping into the berth with Swindle, but it might give him the wrong impression. Make him think Optimus is already considering a bond to him, when he really just wants to get laid.
  991.  
  992. He's glad he fragged Longarm, or he'd be way more willing to just let the mech try now. But he can keep refusing for longer, at least he hopes so. No interfacing sucks.
  993.  
  994. "I look forward to it," he says.
  995.  
  996. That gets him a pleased look. "Is there any fuel you would really love? I can get it to you for every sol I'm not with you."
  997.  
  998. He blinks, "Oh, uh... I don't need that. It's nine gifts for every one you visit. I assure you that-"
  999.  
  1000. "I want to give you fuels, Optimus. The time we're together is when I will give you the gifts specifically for our courting."
  1001.  
  1002. "I get my fuel from the dispensary at Bootcamp. They won't allow special ones there." Optimus bites his lip, feeling rude for refusing. "But maybe you could buy me a box of energon sweets? If you want, that is. I really like sweets now and then." Way to make it sound like he's some kind of cyberpig, stuffing his face with treats all the time. "Nevermind. It's a stupid thing to ask for."
  1003.  
  1004. Swindle lifts his servo and kisses it. "I'll get you the best sweetboxes credits can buy."
  1005.  
  1006. He is pretty sure his flaceplates are stained purple by now. "I don't need the best candies, either. I'm fine with nothing, even. I just-"
  1007.  
  1008. "The best sweetboxes credits can buy," Swindle repeats. "You have nothing to worry about, sweetspark." The bot blinks, then sits up straighter, "Ah, our fuel is here. Drink up, sweetspark."
  1009.  
  1010. Optimus sips his fuel, enjoying the way the high and middle grade blend rolls over his glossa. It's a good mix. He's always enjoyed simple fuels, though he loves sweet ones. Sweet fuels aren't the best for energy, and they're expensive, so he usually settles on other things. Anything's better than the lowgrade cut with half drone fuel that he survived on for so long. He's aware that his own tank is slightly damaged from it, but he'd been smart enough to cut real fuel in with it, so the damage will heal on its own eventually.
  1011.  
  1012. It just means he's more prone to rust infections right now, which means he's just more careful washing and drying when he gets his turn in the washracks.
  1013.  
  1014. After they slow down their fuling, Swindle asks, "What do you think? Did I make a good choice for you?"
  1015.  
  1016. He nods, "I like it a lot." Not as sweet as he wishes, but he will easily survive it. "How about you? Is it good?"
  1017.  
  1018. "It is. Would you like to taste?" The mech offers his cube, "It's delicious."
  1019.  
  1020. He's tempted, but he also knows if he agrees, Lumina will demand a turn. While he doesn't mind fueling after her, some bots would not. He doesn't know if Swindle is one of them. "I'm fine, thank you."
  1021.  
  1022. Swindle arches an optic ridge at him, "Worried about sharing an indirect kiss?"
  1023.  
  1024. Snorting, Optimus bounces Lumina enough to get her to growl at him. "More worried that you might not want sparkling slobber all over your very nice cube."
  1025.  
  1026. "Op Op /no//." she hisses, swiping at him when he goes to wipe her faceplates, which are covered in femmonite crumbs.
  1027.  
  1028. Sindle looks amused for some reason, "If she wants some, I don't mind."
  1029.  
  1030. He brings one more femmonite crystal to Lumana's mouth. "I could fue-"
  1031.  
  1032. The crystal is slapped from his servo, "Op Op no. No, no, no."
  1033.  
  1034. He sighs, "You're full pretty fast, Lumina. Are sure you don't want more?" While Lumina is pondering that, he holds open his servo, taking the offered cube.
  1035.  
  1036. "No no," she declares, and then blinks up at him with wide, innocent optics, which he knows is a trap. "Candy?"
  1037.  
  1038. Be strong. Do not give in.
  1039.  
  1040. "Sure, sweetspark," Optimus immediately folds like a tinfoil bag and plucks a bit of taffy from his subspace, offering her a half-piece.
  1041.  
  1042. She turns her nose up at it, "/All// candy, Op Op! No half!"
  1043.  
  1044. "Half for now, half for when we get back to the sparkling care center, sweetspark."
  1045.  
  1046. "All!" she insists.
  1047.  
  1048. He forces himself not to look at her, "Half now, half later, or none."
  1049.  
  1050. She gasps, sounding horrified, "Half, Op Op." She doesn't sound or look happy, but he'll take what he can get.
  1051.  
  1052. Giving her half, he sips the fuel Swindle ordered. It's very good, but not as sweet as he'd normally like. Giving it back, he says, "It's nice."
  1053.  
  1054. Swindle looks disappointed, and Optimus makes a note to appreciate what he's offered more next time. "Not to your tastes?"
  1055.  
  1056. "It's very nice, but when I can indulge, I like mine sweeter." Optimus licks a bit of the crushed crystal off the rim of his own cube, because that's the best part, and looks up when Swindle's engine revs faintly.
  1057.  
  1058. It's gratifying to know the mech is attracted to him, but Optimus wasn't trying for seductive right now. He just really loves crystals. More than he probably should, since he is only partially a crystal fueler. Not like bots with full gear dente.
  1059.  
  1060. Lumina huffs, mumbling irritably, "Candy."
  1061.  
  1062. Kissing her helm, he doesn't aknowlege her sulking. If he does, she'll go to full blown tantrum, and no one wants that. Least of all him.
  1063.  
  1064. Tantrums mean having to leave whatever they're doing, to teach Lumina that she doesn't get what she wants from throwing them. She'd thrown screaming fits for the first few stellars they'd been on Cybertron, but since then she's mostly calmed down, having accepted that they aren't going back.
  1065.  
  1066. "I hope I don't offend you when I say that in all my decavorns, I have never seen a bot as lovely as you," Swindle offers, watching him closely.
  1067.  
  1068. He smiles, shaking his head, "Flatterer. You don't need to lie about-"
  1069.  
  1070. "I am honest, Optimus. You are beautiful. If you hadn't attracted me instantly, I would have tried buying the favors first." Swindle's optics drag along his frame, carefully avoiding looking at lumina as the mech looks at him lecherously. "I want very much to have you by my side."
  1071.  
  1072. Which is good, since Optimus would /love// at least one night sharing the berth with the bot. "Something to look forward to," he says before drinking more of his fuel.
  1073.  
  1074. "Something to enjoy often, I would hope," Swindle's smile promises all kinds of filthy, filthy things.
  1075.  
  1076. Maybe next date, he'll order something sweet on purpose and watch Swindle watching him eat it. Optimus isn't above a little teasing, when he's not doing it meanspiritedly. He'll give the mech what he wants at some point, unless they end up hating each other for some reason. In the mean time, it'll be nice to see just how far he can push the mech before /he// ends up shoved up against a wall somewhere, with a leg between his thighs.
  1077.  
  1078. There's a certain pleasure to being pushed around a little, and that's part of why he likes larger models so much.
  1079.  
  1080. They're very good at it, and he's a truckbot. He can easily take rough handling. Unlike some bots can. He feels sort of sorry for the more fragile bots, who need to be very carefully interfaced. Crystal bots who are tougher models always makes him sorry for them. Not that he'd ever tell them. They don't want or need his pity, and he refuses to shove it on them.
  1081.  
  1082. It's like if a richmech on Haydon IV had pitied him for being a slumbot. Unwanted, unneeded, should leave him the frag alone unless it means he got credits to leave the planet.
  1083.  
  1084. "Are you allergic to anything?"
  1085.  
  1086. The question seems out of nowhere, so it takes Optimus a klik to answer. "Not really, no. At least nothing I've ever tried has upset my tank too much." And he's tried a slagging /ton// of things, thanks to his upbringing and Sergeant Kup. It's Kup's fault that he apparently feels it's necessary to make his cadets consume thousands of things over a few decacycles to see if they react badly to any of it.
  1087.  
  1088. Personally, Optimus thinks Kup just likes watching them suffer. Especially since Optimus is the /only// cadet in the troop that didn't end up purging any of the many and varied organic fuels the bot forced them to try.
  1089.  
  1090. They were still disgusting. All of them. Kup doesn't seem to believe in sweets.
  1091.  
  1092. The fragger.
  1093.  
  1094. "Oh, good," Swindle says, looking and sounding pleased. "It means I can give you all sorts of fuels." The bot pauses, thinking, "What is your Sergeant's opinion on pets?"
  1095.  
  1096. "They aren't allowed." Since why would he allow pets? Kup is all about practicallity.
  1097.  
  1098. "What about those that can be trained to attack?"
  1099.  
  1100. He seems really invested in it, so Optimus offers to talk to Kup about it. "But I can't promise what he'll say. I doubt he'll allow any kind of pet, even an attack one. That's not how his training works."
  1101.  
  1102. Swindle hums, nodding, "I'll do what I can. Don't worry."
  1103.  
  1104. He hopes the mech doesn't try going through the Magnus for it. If what Kup said about the Magnus is true, all that will happen is the Magnus will make Kup allow Optimus to have a pet. But only a pet from the Magnus. Not something he wants.
  1105.  
  1106. It is a bad sign of abuse of power.
  1107.  
  1108. Optimus wishes he could spend more time with Swindle. The mech seems nice. Charming, even. He hasn't hit on Optimus too much, or treated him like he's simply a hot frame and an empty processor, but he's shown his appreciation of both things instead.  It's not something he's used to from bots he's spent any time with.
  1109.  
  1110. Not that he's ever actually dated, really. There was that one thing, with Windracer when he was young, but it hardly even counts because going out to a slum bar for a couple drinks two or three times, with a few kisses after isn't really even dating.
  1111.  
  1112. Lumina reaches for the mech's fuel, "Mine!"
  1113.  
  1114. Sighing, he gives her a crystal, and she takes it instead, eating excitedly. "Sorry," he says. "She doesn't usually try to take someone else's fuel."
  1115.  
  1116. "I don't mind, Optimus. It just shows that she thinks I'm trustworthy. I'm not opposed to such a thing." Swindle reaches into his subspace, pulling out a small storage cube, "Are you willing to take more courting gifts?"
  1117.  
  1118. "It depends on the gift," he answers honestly, because he couldn't take certain things. Things that might put his allegiance to the Autobots at question, while he still lives on Cybertron. Things that might put Lumina at risk. "What do you want to give me?"
  1119.  
  1120. "You look so lovely in the helmfin decorations that I couldn't quite contain myself." Swindle passes him the cube. "These are meant as matching pieces, if you like them."
  1121.  
  1122. Inside are four bits of jewelry and frame ornamentation. "This is too much," he protests, even as his fingers slide over the thick cut of the gems. The ring fits him perfectly, a smooth chunk of glittering red that stands out against his blue servos. There are two matching bracelets, and necklace with a golden yellow pendant hangng down that would sit right over his sparkchamber in length, and probably his favorite piece--a little white crystal carved to look like an organic flower, with a strong sparkling-safe magnet on it.
  1123.  
  1124. He snaps it onto Lumina's helm gently. "Do you like it, sweetspark?"
  1125.  
  1126. Her faceplates scrunch up a little indecisively. She looks close to yanking it off, only to have Swindle hold a mirror up to her, and she gasps at the sight. She touches it in the reflection, and then her helm. "Mine, Op Op."
  1127.  
  1128. He snorts, ignoring how pleased Swindle looks. "Yours, Lumina."
  1129.  
  1130. She nods, and then tries to steal his fuel, "Crystal! More!"
  1131.  
  1132. He pushes the tray with the crystals he ordered closer to her. "Here, sweetspark. Crystals."
  1133.  
  1134. She grabs several, biting into them, only to make a face, shoving them away. "No! Op Op! /Crystals//!"
  1135.  
  1136. "Ah, the femonite, then." He looks around to find the femme, only to see Swindle has already signaled her. When she gets close, he orders more for Lumina.
  1137.  
  1138. "That's a crystal I've never truly understood myself," Swindle sighs, watching her stuff fistfuls in her mouth when the waitress returns in half a klik with more. "When she's older, perhaps we'll introduce her to some of the special varieties we breed on Caldoon, which are more palatable to mechs as well."
  1139.  
  1140. It's a good sign that the mech is thinking of the future. "Perhaps. If I agree to bond to you." Optimus watches a tray of sweets go past to some other bot and has to move his optics away to make it less obvious.
  1141.  
  1142. It seems that didn't work, because he can /tell// Swindle has sent their waitress a text, and the femme comes back almost instantly with a very large slice of crystal cake, and several smaller amounts of sauces and other candies. The cake has a sheet metal rusted turbofox adorning the top, with frosted icing.
  1143.  
  1144. It looks too pretty to fuel on. Especially with the huge chunks of crystal designed for his gear dente to /really// chew on.
  1145.  
  1146. If he eats this here, he's going to /moan//. He knows he will. "This is really too much, Swindle. I couldn't." Optimus slices the fueling fork through it, taking a large piece, because he has zero willpower when it comes to these things. Kup had once spent a megacycle muttering that all the 'fraggin' 'Con's' would have to do to get Optimus to convert on the spot would be to lay a trail of energon candy into one of their recruitment centers.
  1147.  
  1148. He's not entirely wrong, of course.
  1149.  
  1150. He can't help it, it is /too good//. He isn't able to stop himself from taking that first bite, and then a second. He is about to take a third, only to see multiple bots staring at him from other tables. He drops the fork, and wraps his arms around Lumina, shaking a bit.
  1151.  
  1152. Swindle coughs softly, getting his attention, "How about, for our next date, we go to a more... private area? So you don't feel like you have to stop fueling on something you clearly enjoy." Swindle shoots a nasty look at some of the bots who are still leering, and all but one looks embarrassed, stopping. That one left is easily ignored, though, so Optimus focuses on who he's actually on a date with instead. "And we will have this stored for you to fuel on later, when you're on your own with Lumina. I'm certain she would love some, too."
  1153.  
  1154. He smiles, if a little weakly, "That would be nice."
  1155.  
  1156. The mech catches his servo and strokes it gently. "You shouldn't have to be ashamed of enjoying your fuel, sweetspark. There's nothing wrong with liking it as you do." Swindle's optics are so hot they feel like they're burning into him. "Though a private venue would be easier to show my appreciation afterwards, if you're of the right mood."
  1157.  
  1158. Optimus can't help the way his glossa flicks out to catch a stray crumb on his lip, or the flush that rises when Swindle's optics watch the movement. "That . . sounds nice."
  1159.  
  1160. Swindle smiles, "I'll have it arranged for our next date, then. You have nothing to worry about." The mech's fingers remain gentle on his servo, "I have the rest of the sol open, would you like to go to a play, or spend time somewhere else for awhile?"
  1161.  
  1162. He glances at the cake, wanting more, but realizing he can't fuel on it right now. "What do you have in mind?"
  1163.  
  1164. Swindle looks at Lumina, who is finishing the last of the femmonite, "How about a sparkling friendly crystal garden?"
  1165.  
  1166. "She'll eat too much and get grumpy," because she stuffs her tank to bulging, and then gets upset about it. Like it's his fault that she wouldn't listen and kept sneaking fuel, even after he tried to take it away.
  1167.  
  1168. After another considering moment, Swindle offers, "Perhaps a movie, then? I understand that Timber's Grand Adventure is showing, and I just so happen to have tickets."
  1169.  
  1170. He gives the mech an amused look, "'Just so happen,' huh?" He stands up, Lumina in his arms as the waitress hurries over to give them a disposable plate to put the cake on for subspacing. "I think we can do that. Lumina will enjoy it a great deal."
  1171.  
  1172. "It is also a showing that will allow you to fuel, if you want. No one will watch you."
  1173.  
  1174. He puts the cake in his subspace, "Other than you."
  1175.  
  1176. Swindle shrugs, "That's the benefit of having paid for your ticket, and the honor I receive for sitting through a showing of /Timber// with you. Frankly, you should be paying me credits as the other sane adult mech suffering through."
  1177.  
  1178. It's true that Timber is not ideal for grown bots. "How about I eat the cake if you manage to get through to the halfway point without muting your audios?"
  1179.  
  1180. Swindle frowns, and thinks about it, "... Only if you can do the same."
  1181.  
  1182. He laughs softly, adjusting his sister in his arms as they walk out the door. "That's no contest. I can watch any Timber thing, if only to make Lumina happy." He doesn't /enjoy// it, but he can watch it. The good thing about the show is that it is mostly just the colors that are intolerable. The plots, while bland, are watchable. Well, the colors and the music. Everything is /very// repetitive, because it's good for sparklings' processors. Good for giving most adult mechs a song in their processor for a decacycle.
  1183.  
  1184. He's only taken Lumina to two or three movies before ever, because they're expensive, and if he just waits a few stellars, he can get them to rent for a lot cheaper than going to the theater, but Lumina always lights up so much when they go.
  1185.  
  1186. "Just warning you, she's going to try and demand," he carefully spells out the word, "p-u-f-f-e-d energon."
  1187.  
  1188. "I have no objection to getting her some, Optimus."
  1189.  
  1190. He looks at the mech from the side of his optics, "She'll want the largest bucket, and attempt to climb into it."
  1191.  
  1192. "Well, we won't go as far as letting her sit in the bucket, but I can get the largest one for all of us."
  1193.  
  1194. He looks at his sister, who is excitedly looking around, "I'm not going to let her get a tank ache."
  1195.  
  1196. "Whatever size you think best, then. I will get it, Orion. Don't worry about it."
  1197.  
  1198. Swindle seems like the type to spoil a femme terribly. Lumina deserves a good amount of spoiling, but she can't be spoiled rotten, the way noblefemmes often were on Haydon IV. She can't ever forget what it's like to be a normal bot. "We'll get her the /sparkling// size one, and if you're lucky, I might agree to share a small with you." Let their fingers tangle in the puffed energon container. He's heard that can be quite romantic.
  1199.  
  1200. "I should hope to be so lucky," Swindle hums, watching him closely.
  1201.  
  1202. Well, since the mech wants him to fuel on the cake, he may not. He'll see.
  1203.  
  1204. --
  1205.  
  1206. Optimus polishes Lumina as he makes his way to Ultra Magnus's office. His sister keeps pointing at her helm decoration proudly, saying, "Mine, Op Op. It mine."
  1207.  
  1208. He kisses her on the nose, "Yes, I know, sweetspark. But I still need to clean you up. We're meeting the Magnus."
  1209.  
  1210. "Mine." She rubs the crystals, "Mine."
  1211.  
  1212. "Yes, yours. Swindle bought you a very nice gift." Optimus has had to remove most of his own, because Kup threatend to melt them to slag if he caught him wearing them during his training. So he keeps them tucked carefully in a locked box in his subspace most of the time.
  1213.  
  1214. He's chosen to put on one of the red and yellow bracelets this sol, since the Magnus won't even notice it most likely.
  1215.  
  1216. There's a bright red minibot slouched at a desk outside the Magnus's office, and he squints at the visitor's pass that Optimus has magnetized to his chest. It had been waiting when he'd come into Command earlier. "Rank and designation?"
  1217.  
  1218. He straightens up, smiling brightly, "Cadet Optimus, sir."
  1219.  
  1220. The mech glances at his com, scrolling through a few things, "Right." The mech sighs, jabbing a thumb at one of the offices, "Through there. The Magnus is expecting you."
  1221.  
  1222. He adjusts Lumina on his hip, and she tells the red minibot, as she points at her helm decoration, "Mine!"
  1223.  
  1224. Optimus shakes his head, "He wouldn't take it from you, sweetspark."
  1225.  
  1226. The minibot snorts rudely, "Wouldn't look good on me, darling. Enjoy your nap."
  1227.  
  1228. Optimus frowns at the minibot, and then realizes that he's in the same hallway as Longarm Prime's office. Is this bot thinking of Longarm's office, with the recharging berth by mistake? He must be.
  1229.  
  1230. Lumina hisses at him as they go past, "Mine mine mine!"
  1231.  
  1232. She's being awful rude this sol too. "Don't hiss at bots, sweetspark."
  1233.  
  1234. She just grumbles at him, glaring at the minibot until he's out of sight, then switching her target to the Magnus. Before the Magnus can say anything she yells, "It /mine//! Not you's! Mine!"
  1235.  
  1236. He bounces her gently, "Lumina, it is /fine//. The Magnus will not steal your gift. Promise."
  1237.  
  1238. Ultra Magnus looks at him with a confused expression, "Gift?"
  1239.  
  1240. Optimus smiles, sitting down as Lumina clings to him, still glaring at everything. "Ah, Swindle gave her a gift a few sols ago. I think it is because he didn't want her feeling left out due to me getting courting gifts."
  1241.  
  1242. "You're being . . . courted?" the Magnus's previously calm voice has gone frigid, and when Optimus glances up, the mech looks like he's about to interrogate a suspect.
  1243.  
  1244. "Yeah. Swindle's made an offer. He's a neutral, so it's not illegal, I checked." Optimus is aware that he's talking to one of the leaders of the Autobots here, a mech who could likely throw him out on a whim if he wanted. "He's a nice bot. He bought things for my little sister too."
  1245.  
  1246. The mech is only /barely// not frowning, in fact, his face seems to be carved sheetrock for all the expression it has, all while almost screaming distaste. "And is there a /reason// why you are being courted by him?"
  1247.  
  1248. He can refuse to explain, but that will only make him look worse. It isn't like this isn't going to be public knowlege at some point, due to the large number of people his accrued favors affect. So he says calmly, "He is interested in my inheritance. I expect he will be tired of me before long, and then just offer to buy what he wants from what I have."
  1249.  
  1250. That doesn't please the Magnus either. "Is he coercing you into this, Optimus? Swindle is not known for being kind. He's the sort of ruthless mech who might take advantage of a cadet."
  1251.  
  1252. "No, no!" Optimus feels his plating flush a little. The Magnus is so protective of the bots he leads, to worry about him like that. "Swindle has been nothing but a gentlemech so far, and there's no pressure being put on me. I've agreed to let him court me for a stellar, and we'll discuss where we go from there at the end of it." It's a good set-up for bots like them, with other duties and obligations already on their plates.
  1253.  
  1254. The Magnus hums, "And what are your ... expectations of him courting you?"
  1255.  
  1256. "Well, like I said, I am certain he'll get bored and-"
  1257.  
  1258. "No, I mean," the mech almost looks like he's pouting, which is absurd, "of how a bot in courting should act?" The Magnus hurriedly adds, "Just so we know Swindle is acting properly, not taking advantage of you."
  1259.  
  1260. That's a rather odd question, really. Why would the Magnus need to know that? Unless there's some sort of regulation in the Autobot Code about it that Optimus isn't aware of, when revealing such a relationship to a superior officer? He's not about to lie, so he explains, "I don't have many expectations. We've arranged to have a date each decacycle for a stellar. I've agreed to accept gifts from him, as long as they aren't illegal. And-"
  1261.  
  1262. "What sort of . . . intimacies do you intend to allow him?"
  1263.  
  1264. Optimus stares in shock at the mech for a klik, before swallowing around a suddenly dry intake. "I'm sorry?"
  1265.  
  1266. "Are you going to..." The mech glances at Lumina, who holds her helm decoration protectively at the attention, "be intimate with him during the courting? Or is that not allowed, in your courting?"
  1267.  
  1268. He flushes, not really liking the turn this has taken, but he supposes the Magnus has the ... right to ask. Since if a cadet is too distracted to train, it does have an impact on the military. It's like the rules about how bots are not to cheat on their bonded, if they are in the military. The bonded who is not there needs the assurance that the one who is traveling will not stray.
  1269.  
  1270. He coughs, adjusting Lumina's little bracelet, so she feels a little more secure. "I am not the type of bot to interface when being courted, and I have informed Swindle that he is not to interface others while courting me." Lumina knows not to repeat the word 'interface,' if only because she can't actually /say// the word. And possibly because Optimus does not treat it like a filthy word, like some do around sparklings.
  1271.  
  1272. "Ah. And your, hrm, stance on having another bot court you at the same time?" The Magnus leans forward, gazing into his optics directly.
  1273.  
  1274. Optimus can't bring himself to look away, his spark pulsing a little faster. He's misreading the situations, obviously, but some part of him thinks that maybe Ultra Magnus is asking these questions for personal reasons. "There's no one else interested in courting me, sir. The subject did not come up when I spoke with Swindle." It's strange enough to be courted by one bot--the idea of another wanting him bad enough to do that is just unbelievable.
  1275.  
  1276. "But if there were?" the Magnus presses.
  1277.  
  1278. He looks down, Lumina cuddling close to him, her looking distrustfully at the door. He supposes he should answer, even if part of him wants to /insist// that no one else will want to court him. "If there were such a bot, then they would be expected not to interface others, either. And I would have to schedule dates once a decacycle with them." He glances at the Magnus, who looks thoughtful, so he he feels safe adding, "Not that anyone will, sir. I'm just not that important or interesting."
  1279.  
  1280. "You would be very wrong indeed, Optimus," the Magnus rumbles, and reaches across his desk to catch one of Optimus's servos. "I find you /fascinating//. The way Primus reacts to you through me . . I have never felt anything quite like it before." While he's trying to figure out what that means, the Magnus continues, "Your Sergeant has spoken to me so much about you that I feel I half-know you already. I would be honored if you allowed me to see you again to learn more."
  1281.  
  1282. Holy Primus, is the Magnus asking him what he thinks he is? "Sir?" Lumina's squirming, and he focuses on gentling his grip on her. "What do you mean?"
  1283.  
  1284. "I am asking to court you, Optimus. How about a date every," the Magnus hums thoughtfully, "Second sol of the decacycle?"
  1285.  
  1286. Optimus flushes, "Tomorrow, sir?"
  1287.  
  1288. "Yes, I think that will do. It will give me proper time to get you a gift for the courting. One well thought out."
  1289.  
  1290. He glances at the Magnus, then back to Lumina, "If... if that is truly what you wish, sir."
  1291.  
  1292. "Ultra, Optimus. D call me Ultra. We're courting now."
  1293.  
  1294. Biting his lip, he nods, unable to say anything. Part of his spark is elated--he's had a crush on Ultra Magnus for a very long time--he looks so grand in the recruitment posters, and in all the recordings he's seen of the bot. He's known for being a good, kind mech too. But on the other servo, he's terrified. This is the /Magnus//. If he wants something, does Optimus have the right to tell him no? He knows that the /law// says he does, but the law means nothing when there are rank and social gaps as large as the ones between them.
  1295.  
  1296. "Would you like Sergeant Kup as your chaperone for the first five dates, or do you have some other bot you would prefer?" Optimus's confusion at this must have shown, because Ultra Magnus smiles kindly at him and explains. "I hold much power over you as your commanding officer, Optimus. Our first interactions will be watched, to ensure that I do not overstep my bounds with you."
  1297.  
  1298. He smiles, feeling a little better about it. "Kup is fine." Mostly due to how Optimus /knows// Kup will never allow anyone to do anything untoward to him. The mech is so very professional. And now that his Sergeant knows the courting is official, like the bot warned him, Kup will make certain Ultra won't push for more.
  1299.  
  1300. Optimus will need that extra mech between them, or he may just give in. Which isn't fair to Swindle. Swindle asked first, and seems more... genuine than Ultra Magnus. He can see that the mech is ogling him, and now the minibot's comment makes more sense. Lumina /would// be in recharge if they interfaced, afterall.
  1301.  
  1302. ... He kind of wants to punch the minibot for not straight out warning him, but that would be unprofessional. Unfortunately.
  1303.  
  1304. And if he's perfectly honest with himself, were it not for what he has with Swindle, he would have probably gladly let Ultra Magnus tumble him. After all, he'd basically thrown himself at Longarm until the mech gave in and fragged him. The situation is different now.
  1305.  
  1306. "Candy!" Lumina shrieks, ruining the mood, making a grabby fist at a decorative cube filled with what look like hard energon sweets in wrappers, on the edge of the mech's desk. "Candy Op Op!"
  1307.  
  1308. Heat floods his faceplates again, "Those aren't for you, sweetspark. I'm so sorry, Ultra Magnus." He has to bite back the sir, the title beaten into him by his drill Sergeant.
  1309.  
  1310. Ultra chuckles, "If you don't mind, she can have some." The mech is already reaching for the candy, and Optimus can't exactly refuse. It isn't like Lumina doesn't fuel on crystals.
  1311.  
  1312. "If you want to, she is old enough for them."
  1313.  
  1314. Ultra Magnus takes out several candies, unwraps them, and lets Lumina choose one, "Here you are. Which would you like?"
  1315.  
  1316. And, because Lumina is not /that// old, she promptly takes all three of them into her mouth, chewing loudly.
  1317.  
  1318. Optimus sighs, "Sparklings are greedy things, sir."
  1319.  
  1320. "Ultra," the mech corrects again, but he's smiling, the curve of it suiting his faceplates. "I should have expected that. I've always been a bit of a softspark when it comes to sparklings."
  1321.  
  1322. Lumina crunches through the candies with obvious delight,  her optics glowing bright. She's going to be so overcharged and bouncing off the walls later. The sparkling care center is going to want to murder him.
  1323.  
  1324. "She does enjoy candy, s- Ultra." It takes a great deal of effort to bite off the 'Magnus' that instantly wants to follow. He's sure that, as the courting goes on, he will have less trouble. "I should return to bootcamp, sir. ... Ultra."
  1325.  
  1326. The Magnus gives him an amused look, "May I have a kiss before you go?"
  1327.  
  1328. He smiles, shaking his head, "I have not even given Swindle a kiss yet." Standing up, he says, "But, since our first date is tomorrow, I'm sure you will be the first one I kiss." Since, well, he has wanted the Magnus much longer than Swindle. It also gives the mech a nice incentive to be extra charming.
  1329.  
  1330. Ultra chuckles, optics dim, "Something more to look forward to. I will see you tomorrow, Optimus. After Kup releases you from training."
  1331.  
  1332. Optimus nods, and then, a little hesitant, he asks, "Is my sister welcome on this date?" He hates losing even a single evening with her if he doesn't have to. He understands that later dates, even with Swindle, he'll /want// some alone time, but so early on?
  1333.  
  1334. Ultra's optic ridges draw together for a moment, before smoothing out again, "Ah. If you wish to bring her along, please do so. I have a friend on staff at the restaurant I intend to take you to, and they would be happy to make something appropriate for a sparkling."
  1335.  
  1336. "Candy!" Lumina cries, her mouth finally clear of the crunchies she'd been given.
  1337.  
  1338. Ultra laughs, "And candy for afterwards."
  1339.  
  1340. Lumina gasps, then growls softly before snapping, "No! Candy /now//!"
  1341.  
  1342. Sighing, he taps her lightly on the nose, "Lumina, you just had candy. He is talking about tomorrow. Don't worry."
  1343.  
  1344. She keeps glaring at Ultra, while the Magnus just chuckles. "Have a good sol, Optimus. I'll see you for our date."
  1345.  
  1346. He smiles, bouncing his sister lightly, "I look forward to it, sir- Ultra."
  1347.  
  1348. "I'll pick you up from bootcamp," Ultra hums, taking his servo to lightly kiss the back of it. "Rest well tonight, Optimus. May Primus walk in your dreams."
  1349.  
  1350. That brings a smile to his face, and he ducks his helm a bit, "And in yours, my Magnus."
  1351.  
  1352. Lumina hisses softly, "Candy." Followed by, "Mine," with her little claws curling around her helm decoration.
  1353.  
  1354. "Yes, you will have candy," Ultra promises, watching them leave his office.
  1355.  
  1356. The minibot outside leans back and looks him up and down, "Magnus must be tired this sol, huh?"
  1357.  
  1358. He gives the mech a cold look, "The Magnus is /courting// me now." He ignores how the bot gapes at him, and walks out, holding Lumina close. She just hisses at the mech over his shoulder, making a swipe at a racecar as they pass him.
  1359.  
  1360. --
  1361.  
  1362. Optimus feels kind of tired as Kup walks with him out of bootcamp. Kup grumbles, "At least he's being /respectable//."
  1363.  
  1364. Optimus shakes his head, "The Magnus is a gentlemech, Ser-"
  1365.  
  1366. "When I'm yer chaperone, ya just use my name. Got it?"
  1367.  
  1368. Mentally shrugging, he says, "Yes, Kup."
  1369.  
  1370. "Good. Now don't go usin' it in trainin', or I'll have to whup your aft in front of everyone." Kup may look and act older than he likely is, but he's one Pit of a fighter, and ruthless about his tactics too. "Ultra better prove he's thinkin' with his processor and not his spike, or I'll knock some sense inta him too."
  1371.  
  1372. "Do you . . . know Ultra Magnus very well, then?" Optimus asks, trying to start a conversation while they wait for Ultra to arrive.
  1373.  
  1374. Snorting, Kup pulls out a cygar, lighting it. Optimus wrinkles his nose at the smell, but Kup breathes the smoke out, ignoring him. "Pit yeah, I know him. Bot ends up sobbing overcharged on my sofa at least once a stellar."
  1375.  
  1376. That sounds /really weird//. And actually doesn't speak well of the mech as a prospective bonding partner. He'll give the Magnus the benefit of the doubt, though. Maybe the crying is because of not being able to be with someone he likes a lot.
  1377.  
  1378. And that will be easily solved by having a proper bonded.
  1379.  
  1380. ... And Ultra wants /him//! He's very lucky to be courted like this. It will be very wonderful.
  1381.  
  1382. But he must remain controlled. It isn't fair to Swindle, when he gives the Magnus such a huge headstart. Swindle asked him /first//, and that is important to keep in mind.
  1383.  
  1384. They're stepping off the training grounds and to the street when Ultra comes up to him, and scoops Optimus right into his arms, nuzzling his neck. He's so shocked, he just kind of stares at the mech, unsure how to respond to such a bold move.
  1385.  
  1386. "Optimus," the mech vents out, hot air against his neck cabling. "I thought of you all sol. My memories cannot stand up against the reality of you."
  1387.  
  1388. Flushed, Optimus shifts in his arms a bit, "Th-thank you, Ultra Magnus. I thought of you as well. May I ask where you're planning on taking me?"
  1389.  
  1390. The Magnus puts him down, his optics sparkling. "That would be telling, Optimus. I intend to surprise you."
  1391.  
  1392. Kup snorts, "Yeah, I bet I c'n guess where we're goin', you showoff aft."
  1393.  
  1394. He's curious, but he can accept a surprise. Smiling, he says, "Well, let's go get Lumina, and we can go to the place you're taking me."
  1395.  
  1396. Ultra's face has a flash of an expression he can't identify because it's gone almost instantly, replaced by a bright smile. "Of course. I'm sure the sparkling care center will be excited I'm there visiting for a bit."
  1397.  
  1398. He smiles, sliding out of the Magnus's arm, "Do you often visit them?"
  1399.  
  1400. "No, I don't. I usually leave them be. The point of the sparkling care is to not be too overwhelmed by Primus, and my energies are very synched with our god." Ultra sighs, "I do wish I could spend more time around sparklings though. They're good for the spark, and such a pleasure to spend time with."
  1401.  
  1402. Bots that dislike sparklings will always be baffling as frag to Optimus. He respects that they exist, but doesn't understand them at all. Maybe he'd feel different without Lumina around, but he loves all sparklings, so probably not.
  1403.  
  1404. The Magnus offers him his arm, which Optimus hesitantly rests his servos on, letting the mech escort him down the street like some noblebot's heir. It honestly makes him feel a little giddy. Optimus is no noblebot, but being treated like one is... wonderful. So much nicer than being spat on, or just looked at for his frame.
  1405.  
  1406. Kup grumbles behind them, but walks at the same pace.
  1407.  
  1408. Before long, they're at the sparkling care facility, and Optimus scoops Lumina into his arms. She tucks against him, saying softly, "Op Op... home?"
  1409.  
  1410. He inspects her, frowning, "Lumina, where is your helm decoration?"
  1411.  
  1412. The caretaker on duty sighs, taking down a storage cube, and saying, "Sorry about that. One of the older sparklings kept trying to steal it. He was punished, but I put it in here so he wouldn't keep trying for it."
  1413.  
  1414. This is why he wishes his family was still online, or that he could afford a private sparkling care worker, but that would also require that he own an apartment. Even with the credits he obtained as his inheritance, there's not enough to do that, if he wants Lumina to have a good amount for herself later on. At least, he doesn't feel he should spend them that way now, if he wants to be smart with them.
  1415.  
  1416. "Did she claw him?" She usually scratches anyone she's upset with pretty good.
  1417.  
  1418. The mech shakes his head, "No. I caught the mech just as he took it, and she didn't attack because I stepped in before it could get that far."
  1419.  
  1420. Well, that's good. He doesn't want to worry about a creator demanding he pay medical fees if she attacks their sparkling. Even if that sparkling is a filthy thief who takes things from a femme, and /deserves// her retaliation. Not that he can say it aloud.
  1421.  
  1422. "Thank you," he says instead, putting the helm decoration back on her. "There, Lumina. Isn't that better?"
  1423.  
  1424. She stays curled against him, saying unhappily, "Op Op, Lumina go home."
  1425.  
  1426. It breaks his spark to see her so unhappy. It's been happining more often, and he just... He doesn't know what to do.
  1427.  
  1428. Maybe he should dip into the IOU's soon. There's that nannybot IOU he saw. Maybe there's one for an apartment or a house or something.
  1429.  
  1430. Ultra Magnus rests a servo on the small of his back, "I'm certain it won't happen again, caretaker."
  1431.  
  1432. The bot stares at the Magnus for a klik and then nods, like he's unsure why the bot's here, "Of course not, sir. The sparklings always behave much better after they've been disciplined fairly. He won't try to take things from her again."
  1433.  
  1434. Optimus kisses her helm, and they walk out. They transform, Lumina magnetized to his armor, and before long, they're at a much too fancy resturant.
  1435.  
  1436. He holds his sister in his arms, saying nervously, "I... I'm not polished enough for The World's End, s- Ultra. I'm still dusty and dented from training earlier."
  1437.  
  1438. "Don't worry, Optimus. You will be perfectly fine."
  1439.  
  1440. He shifts a little, tugging out a polishing cloth, "I /really// can't just go in like this."
  1441.  
  1442. "Don't bother," Kup snorts, pushing him forward, stealing the cloth from his servos. "Magnus here don't understand what us normal bots gotta do to get into a place like this. Bot's got a table in a private room always available for him."
  1443.  
  1444. He'd heard rumors about that, but thought there was no way they could have been true. Surely that private room would be booked all the time?
  1445.  
  1446. He shakes a bit as Ultra takes the arm he's not holding Lumina with, and leads him in. The bot in the front looks at Optimus and Kup, takes a quick in-vent, then says, "Ah, Ultra Magnus. This is your date and... chaperone?"
  1447.  
  1448. Ultra smiles, "Yes, along with Optimus's sister. As I said."
  1449.  
  1450. The mech nods, leading them along, "Very good, sir. Right this way."
  1451.  
  1452. Optimus's tank twists as they're lead past multiple bots, who all /stare// at him. He feels /really bad// right now, since he is filthy and very dented. He's not sure /how// Kup is just walking with them, not seeming to have a care in the world while chomping his cygar.
  1453.  
  1454. "Your table," the mech graciously shows them into a small, private room. Two walls are metal and stone, and two are smoky glass, allowing them to see the general outlines of the rest of the restaurant, while giving them privacy inside. Lush potted crystals decorate the room, along with a few pieces of art on the walls he doesn't recognize, but can tell are expensive.
  1455.  
  1456. Ultra pulls his seat out for him, but Optimus sits down only after he places Lumina in the little booster seat-chair they've put at the table for her. She frowns at it, slapping her servos against the tray a few times.
  1457.  
  1458. Ultra chuckles, sitting down across from him, but next to her. "She's very cute, Optimus."
  1459.  
  1460. Lumina perks up at that, "Lumina /cute//?"
  1461.  
  1462. Optimus keeps silent, a little curious how Ultra is going to respond to this. Since he knows she knows what cute is, but it seems she's fishing for compliments right now. And the Magnus doesn't disappoint, saying, "Yes, you are /incredibly// cute, Lumina."
  1463.  
  1464. She blinks at the Magnus, saying, "Lumina cute, get /candy//?"
  1465.  
  1466. Chuckling, the Magnus reaches over to pat her servo. "Lumina will get candy after she has her fuel, I promise."
  1467.  
  1468. That's not what she wants to hear, so she hisses at him and slaps at his servo until he pulls it back.
  1469.  
  1470. The bot that brought them into the room pulls out a coloring pad from his subspace and puts it on the tray in front of Lumina. "Something to entertain the little femme while she waits for fuel?"
  1471.  
  1472. Lumina sniffs and then chirps happily when the pad lights up with a picture of Timber, ready to be colored.
  1473.  
  1474. Ultra chuckles, looking pleased. "Should we order now, or will it be a waiter this time?"
  1475.  
  1476. The mech says, "A waiter will be with you shortly, sir." Then turns, walking away.
  1477.  
  1478. Kup snorts, "You've been here too often if you sometimes don't have a waiter take your order, Ultra."
  1479.  
  1480. Ultra waves a servo dismissively, "It is usually when I come alone. But sometimes it isn't that busy, and he wants something to do otherwise."
  1481.  
  1482. Optimus is pretty sure that's not true. The World's End is busy, and has a reservation list that is a several decavorn wait. It is only bad luck or bad planning when a bot misses their reservation.
  1483.  
  1484. "Spoiled brat," Kup mutters under his vents, and flicks his cygar a little, knocking some ash to the ground.
  1485.  
  1486. Feeling like he's on a little firmer ground now, Optimus glares at him, "Don't smoke around Lumina, please." Cygar chemicals aren't good for developing sparklings. He read it on a forum.
  1487.  
  1488. Kup snorts and takes another drag, before snuffing it out on the arm of his chair. "Fine, fine. It ain't like it's gonna do her no harm. Cygar smoke don't cause no harm second-hand."
  1489.  
  1490. That he /does not// believe, but he won't argue about it as long as Kup doesn't do it around Lumina. If Kup wants to ruin his insides with the things, Optimus won't argue, but he won't allow it with his little sister.
  1491.  
  1492. Ultra says, "So, Optimus, how was your sol?"
  1493.  
  1494. He smiles, "I had a fairly good sol. I wasn't the best in training, but-"
  1495.  
  1496. "He ran face first inta the ground when Earthhog crashed inta him," Kup interrupts, looking bored. "'S why his helm's got a dent in the brim."
  1497.  
  1498. He flushes, shrinking a bit, "I should have polished."
  1499.  
  1500. "You look lovely, I promise," Ultra Magnus soothes, turning a frown at Kup. "Did you punish him for harming another cadet?"
  1501.  
  1502. Kup snorts again, leaning back, looking like he's one klik from resting his peds on the table, which honest-to-Primus will give Optimus a /spark attack// of horror in this fine place. "Took too long ta stop laughin' at the pair of them tangled up in the mud. Earthhog wants ta berth Optimus real bad, so he was apologizin' and darn near cryin' before I even said a word."
  1503.  
  1504. "Kup," Optimus hisses, kicking at him under the table.
  1505.  
  1506. Kup ignores him, going on, "When he found out Optimus is bein' /courted// by two other bots, Earthhog was even /more// despondant. What was it he said, Optimus? Somethin' like how he'd never find lo-"
  1507.  
  1508. "Kup," he only barely doesn't yell, his cheeks and possibly entire facial plating bright purple in embarassment, "He was /exaggerating//."
  1509.  
  1510. Kup, the fragger, just continues on while grinning meanly at the Magnus, "He said he'd /never// find love, and he'll offline of a broken spark because he can't compete."
  1511.  
  1512. Ultra Magnus just /shrugs//. "I'm sure he'll find some bot some sol, but he's correct that he stands no chance in this matter. Optimus is-"
  1513.  
  1514. "Look!" Lumina demands sharply, thrusting her coloring pad in front of Optimus. "Timber!"
  1515.  
  1516. She's chosen to color Timber a neon green color with purple polka-dots. "Yes, that's a very good likeness, Lumina. He looks just like Timber does in real life." Some abomination of bright colors. Primus, for all Optimus knows, maybe Timber was painted that way in some episode or movie or some other Pit-forsaken spin-off she'd seen.
  1517.  
  1518. Lumina looks pleased at that, then focuses on Kup, who is staring in confusion at her art. "Lumina do /good//?"
  1519.  
  1520. Kup flounders for words, "Uh.. yeah. Um... Yeh did /great//."
  1521.  
  1522. Lumina, in typical sparkling fashion, flickers her optics adorably, "Lumina deserve candies?"
  1523.  
  1524. Before Kup can fumble for his subspace, Optimus says, "Sweetspark, we're going to get you /fuel//. Sweet fuels." Because he can see there is a femme section on this menu, even if there are no prices, and he is ordering her the abomination of a femmonite cake.
  1525.  
  1526. This is a date, and Ultra Magnus will hopefully pay for his fuel. There's no way he can afford the things here. A small part of his processor points out that he /can// afford it now, with his inheritance, but he's too frugal and smart to waste credits on that. And the bots he let interface him on Haydon IV always paid for his meals if they went some place together. Ultra should do that as well, if he's the one inviting Optimus out.
  1527.  
  1528. "Op Op ugly-dumb," Lumina hisses at him, because she's not getting her way. It's hard to remember sometimes just how sweet she can be when she's not throwing tantrums. Supposedly it gets easier after a few more vorns.
  1529.  
  1530. He looks her in the optics, "So Lumina doesn't /want// femmonite cake?"
  1531.  
  1532. She frowns, thinking, "Y-yummies?"
  1533.  
  1534. He nods, "The crystal that femme reccomended for you in a cake. Don't you want that?"
  1535.  
  1536. She gasps, "Op Op! Give cakey!"
  1537.  
  1538. "Cake," he corrects instantly, since adding an extra sylable can sometimes be fixed. It will mean a new word in her vocabulary to demand of him, but he's all about helping her talk.
  1539.  
  1540. "Cakey," she says, glaring. When he just raises an optic ridge at her, she scowls, "Cake."
  1541.  
  1542. "Yes, I'll get you a slice of cake," because he's not getting her an entire cake, she'll just purge it all right back up, and then be upset that her fuel escaped her sore tank. He lifts his optics to find Ultra Magnus watching him with a fond smile, which makes him blush a little, suddenly self-conscious. It's rather rude of him to spend so much time with his sister when the other mech's courting him, but she's such a big part of his ilfe. "What would you recommend I get, Ultra Magnus, sir?"
  1543.  
  1544. Chuckling, Ultra shakes his head, "Anything you desire will be good here, Optimus. My preference is to bitter fuels and rusts, but I imagine yours will be quite different."
  1545.  
  1546. He has to keep from sticking his glossa out at the very idea. "Ah, no. I don't like bitter and rust." He looks at the menu, and thinks about it, "How about the sweet crystal energon?" It has a nice mix of sweet and flavorful crystals, covered in a good quality energon.
  1547.  
  1548. Kup mutters something he misses, since Ultra says to Optimus, in a louder voice, "That sounds good." Ultra /then// glares at Kup, "And we know you'll be getting the gelled energon."
  1549.  
  1550. Gelled energon is so boring, but maybe they do something fancy with it here. Optimus never had the time or supplies to do the fancy gel piping that some of the vendors at festivals did, but he's pretty sure he could at least make the basic flowers that he'd watched during some festival, clinging to a businessmech's arm the entire time. The bot had wanted to show off his 'pretty' date for the sol, so Optimus had been draped in a fancy robe that had been /soft// against his plating, and he'd gotten to try a variety of sweets.
  1551.  
  1552. "Mech don't need your sass, Ultra," Kup grumbles, slouching in his chair so much that Optimus is afraid he's going to slide right out of it and onto the floor soon. "Yer payin', so yer buyin' me my favorite."
  1553.  
  1554. Ultra snifffs dismissively, about ot say something, but Lumina says sharply, looking irritated, "Lumina /hungry//, Op Op."
  1555.  
  1556. He sighs, "I know, sweetspark. The waiter hasn't shown up yet, though."
  1557.  
  1558. Ultra coughs, "He'll be here very soon. Don't worry."
  1559.  
  1560. Lumina growls, chewing irritably on the corner of the datapad, "Lumina hungry. Lumina get candies and cake."
  1561.  
  1562. Optimus reaches over to pet her helm, scratching at the edge where he knows she likes best, to help calm her down. She lets out a little sparkling purr and nuzzles his servo.
  1563.  
  1564. "You're so good with her," Ultra observes, smiling at him again. "Do you plan on having sparklings of your own? I do hope so. I've always dreamt of having a few with my future mate." The wicked look his optics promises all the /fun// of making those sparklings together too.
  1565.  
  1566. "Well, yes, but Lumina is my sister, and she is very important to me," since that sparkle says nothing about keeping Lumina close and loved. It feels more like Ultra wants him there and for it to just be the both of them. "A large family is something I'd like, but I need my family I already have to be with me, too."
  1567.  
  1568. "Well, of course," Ultra says, smiling at him, but something about it seems... He's not sure. He grasps for what he's trying to figure out, only for it to slip away. It must not be important, since if it were, Primus would point it out. Ultra is the /Magnus//.
  1569.  
  1570. Primus would make sure Ultra isn't doing anything incorrect.
  1571.  
  1572. It almost seems like Ultra's optics are glowing a bit brighter than normal? That's usually a sign of illness, but the mech seems fine, and it must have been a trick of the light, because the next time he looks, they look normal.
  1573.  
  1574. His thoughts are interupted by the waiter arriving to take their orders. The mech doesn't write anything down--he's too good at his job to need a pad for that kind of work. Optimus had never needed one at any of the bars he'd helped at, or in any of the lower business fuel-stops that would hire him part time.
  1575.  
  1576. The mech does, however, smile when Optimus orders the femmonite cake slice, "Ah, perhaps a sparkling cake? It comes with a timber toy, take home collectable cube with sparkling color changing sides, and has a specialty sippy top for the cube."
  1577.  
  1578. He kind of wants to refuse, since that sounds pricy, but Ultra says, "Oh, yes. Lumina can have that. If she has the room for /more// than that, we'll see about getting her a slice, but I don't think she will."
  1579.  
  1580. He smiles, nodding, "Yes, that does sound good."
  1581.  
  1582. The mech smiles back and takes his leave, promising to be back soon with their fuel. Optimus watches him go and flips to a new image on Lumina's coloring pad, this time of some fanciful winged-mech riding a sleipnir.
  1583.  
  1584. "Op Op," Lumina declares, and starts coloring the fairy-mech in his colors.
  1585.  
  1586. Well, he's pretty sure his colors aren't quite that /neon//, but it's a loving attempt on her part at least.
  1587.  
  1588. Ultra chuckles, "Don't you think this blue is more his color?" Ultra points to one that actually matches Optimus's colors.
  1589.  
  1590. Lumina slaps Ultra's servo away, "Op Op, no!" She looks at him, then over at Ultra, "No!"
  1591.  
  1592. Optimus sighs, "He's just suggesting, sweetling. You go ahead and keep coloring how you like best."
  1593.  
  1594. She glares at Ultra again, but starts coloring again, tilting the datapad a bit just so Ultra /can't// see it. Of course, Optimus /can//, and he sighs a little when she starts coloring the sleipnir the exact same shades of purple and tan as Swindle. He probably wouldn't appreciate being made into a sleipnir in a sparkling's coloring pad, but it's probably her way at being 'mean' to Ultra Magnus for insulting her color choices. Coloring something in someone else's colors.
  1595.  
  1596. "She's gonna be spoiled," Kup warns him, like he always does. Optimus ignores him, like he always does, in turn.
  1597.  
  1598. Lumina looks over at Kup, then Optimus watchest her make a cyberfly in Kup's colors. He can't tell is she's trying ot insult or just likes Kup at the moment. It is hard to tell with sparklings.
  1599.  
  1600. He doesn't know what goes on in Lumina's processor.
  1601.  
  1602. Ultra gets his attention, saying, "So, Optimus, what are your plans after bootcamp?"
  1603.  
  1604. "Ah," he scrambles to get his thoughts in order, because he doesn't really have solid plans anymore. Now that he has enough credits and favors, the military is not his /only// path to success. Sure, he thinks he would /love// that kind of duty and work, but he can't be selfish with a sparkling to care for. Lumina comes first in his life, and the life of an Elite, in training or practice, wouldn't suit her. Maybe if he was bonded, and she had someone else to watch her while he was gone, but he's not, so the point is moot. "I'm not sure. I will need to look at my options more before I decide."
  1605.  
  1606. Some sneaky selfish part of himself wants to shout that he'll be bonded and a stay-at-home creator, but the realistic part of his spark knows that's not going to happen. Even if it did, he wouldn't be satisfied doing nothing but taking care of his own sparklings after he'd had a couple of them. He would want to help with his mate's business, or want to pick up some other job, even if only part-time, to keep busy. Idleness isn't something he can handle.
  1607.  
  1608. Ultra Magnus and Swindle will both grow tired of courting him soon. The only reason they're probably even interested is because they haven't had a chance to whet their appetites and frag him yet. After he lets them berth him, they'll go their own ways again.
  1609.  
  1610. He plans on finishing bootcamp, of course.
  1611.  
  1612. Other than that? Nothing really solid.
  1613.  
  1614. Kup grumbles, "He's goin' ta the academy afterwards."
  1615.  
  1616. Ultra perks up, "Is this true?" The bot doesn't wait for him to respond, saying, instantly, "Wonderful! You'll make an amazing Prime. Or a Minor, if you want to remain a sergeant and train recruits."
  1617.  
  1618. He feels like that Minor comment was just tacked on for some reason, and he struggling to figure out why. It doesn't help that Lumina mumbles, "Hungy."
  1619.  
  1620. "I know, sweetspark," he soothes. "They'll be here with fuel soon. Just you-" He perks up with the door opens, and smiles, "See? Here's the fuel."
  1621.  
  1622. The waiter puts a cube of fuel and a small plate of rust-bombs in front of Ultra, a very plain, boring gelled energon in front of Kup, and then gives a little dramatic twirl before putting Lumina's special cake in front of her, on her sparkling chair tray. "Our chefs made their /best// cake for you, precious femme." But her optics are fixated on the squishy Timber toy he sets beside it all.
  1623.  
  1624. She looks over at Optimus, "Op-Op, mine?"
  1625.  
  1626. Well, maybe some of those sharing lessons at the daycare have been working. "Yes, that toy is yours, sweetspark." With a shrill shriek, she lunges and grabs it, squishing it so hard that the poor representation of Timber deforms in her servo. She stares at it and relaxes her grip and it goes back to normal, until she squeezes again. Optimus shakes his head at her antics and smiles as the waiter puts his fuel in front of him.
  1627.  
  1628. The sweet middle grade looks delicious, with the crystals crushed around the rim, and the small sweet tray beside it looks even better. He'll have to try not to behave inappopriately while enjoying those here.
  1629.  
  1630. "Thank you," he says, and the waiter just smiles at him before taking off. However, he /thinks// the mech winks at him just before the door closes. He cna't be sure.
  1631.  
  1632. Ultra eats a rustbomb, then says, "Lumina, don't you want to fuel on your cake?"
  1633.  
  1634. Since Lumina is making tiny sparkling chirps as she makes the toy hop around, it is clear she has forgotten her hunger. Reminding her isn't the smartest choice at the moment, as Optimus knows, and is evidenced by her hissing at Ultra then returning back to playing with the toy.
  1635.  
  1636. Optimus pretends to muffle a cough to hide his smile, and then takes a sip of his fuel, optics offlining a moment to enjoy the sweet flavor of it, and the way the crystals melt against his glossa. A big wet crunching noise makes him online his optics again, and he arches and optic ridge at his sister, who has lodged her toy halfway into her cake slice. "Was Timber hungry?"
  1637.  
  1638. She stares at him with big, innocent optics that he knows are a lie by this point in his life, but he still falls for at least half the time. "So hungry."
  1639.  
  1640. He hums softly, "Well, is he eating it all, and you're drinking the energon," he nudges the sparkling cube that makes the energon look a bizare orange, "or are you sharing the fuel with Timber?"
  1641.  
  1642. She gasps, then gives him an irritated look, "Dumb! Dumb dumb dumb! Mine!" And with that, she shoves the cake in her mouth, Timber plushie laying to the side, frame surprisingly clean. He picks it up, and touches it while she's distracted, and is surprised at /how// clean it is. Like the mess just slides right off. It does, however, still smell very strongly of the femmonite.
  1643.  
  1644. Well, he'll give it a good wipe down before he gives it back to her after the meal, and it should be fine.
  1645.  
  1646. "Spoiled," Kup mutters, but he can't hide the smile on his faceplates. Only truly monstrous bots don't like sparklings, in Optimus's opinion. Sure, some bots might not /want// sparklings to have or raise, but they still /like// them. Then Kup groans inappropriately like some bot's under the table sucking him off when he bites into his gelled energon.
  1647.  
  1648. Optimus watches for a klik with an arched optic ridge--they must use very good high grade fuel to warrant a reaction like that, seeing as most gelled energon is so /bland//.
  1649.  
  1650. He returns to enjoying his own fuel, making sure /not// to do more than hum in pleasure. It is hard, but he manages. It doesn't help how he knew he had to exagerate his already considerable ability to enjoy good sweetfuels when paid to do so. It sort of trained him to be loud when he liked a fuel.
  1651.  
  1652. Ultra asks, "What is it you'd like to do after fuel?"
  1653.  
  1654. "Movie! Timber!" Lumina yells, since she must have realized this is like with Swindle.
  1655.  
  1656. Optimus is /not// going to make the leader of the Autobots /and// his Sergeant sit through a Timber film, because he would die of embarrassment /and// of the outrageous number of trasform ups Kup would require the next sol. "How about a trip to one of the parks instead, Lumina?" At the way her faceplates start to scrunch up, he quickly reminds her, "There was that automated carriage ride we saw the last time, remember? The one that looks like it's pulled by giant silver turbofoxes?"
  1657.  
  1658. "Ride!" she shrieks, because he has not figured out a way to drill indoor and outdoor voices into her processor yet. At least he doesn't seem deficient in that matter, because most of the rest of the sparklings he knows are like that too.
  1659.  
  1660. Ultra chuckles, "A ride in the park sounds very good." The bot flickers his optics at him, "Romantic."
  1661.  
  1662. Kup, the jerk, snorts loudly, I"ll sit between you, then. What chaperone would I be if I let you try anythin' on the first date, Ultra?"
  1663.  
  1664. "The good kind?" Ultra grumbles, looking irritated. "Besides, he'll be holding Lumina, so it's not like I'll be putting my servo-"
  1665.  
  1666. Coughing loudly, Optimus interrupts them, his cheeks hot. It's not like he . . . well, if it weren't for Lumina, he would gladly sit between the two of them and let /both// of them touch him however they wanted, because Kup may be a harsh taskmaster, but he's an attractive mech too. Lumina doesn't need to hear any of this. "I'll sit between you. I'm sure Ultra Magnus will be a gentlemech this evening, Kup."
  1667.  
  1668. "He won't be," Kup informs him instantly. "As such, I'll be sitting between you both. You'll live with it."
  1669.  
  1670. He wants to protest again, but it honestly isn't worth arguing about at this time. Later on in the courting, it will be just fine. He may hire a botsitter for Lumina, and then they can spend private time together.
  1671.  
  1672. Once they truly get to know each other, and it isn't just physical attraction.
  1673.  
  1674. He's... never interfaced a mech he had more than a casual attraction to, so it would be... nice to see what that mental connection is, that bots in love talk about.
  1675.  
  1676. He's fragged bonded bots before, and being shared with a loving couple was very nice.
  1677.  
  1678. And he would be lying if he claimed that the idea of interfacing Ultra Magnus wasn't /very pleasant//. The mech has to have a /big// spike, and Optimus has always loved that in a partner. Which makes him wonder, actually-
  1679.  
  1680. "So, I discussed this with Swindle, but . . . if we were to bond, Ultra Magnus, we would be exclusive to each other?"
  1681.  
  1682. Ultra's optic twitches a very tiny amount, so little that if he hadn't been looking for it he wouldn't have seen it. "Yes and no. I could easily promise loyalty to my bondmate when /I// am in control of my frame, but as Magnus," he sighs, "Primus does occasionally seize control of me, and I have very little choice in the matter then."
  1683.  
  1684. He'd call the mech a liar, but the one festival he's been to with Lumina had the Magnus wandering around with white optics, a bright blue glow, and calling various truckbots to him. He'd have gone, but... Lumina.
  1685.  
  1686. He is certain, should Swindle and Ultra get into an arguement over him - which is a certainty if they are at all serious about him - that is a fact that will be thrown right in Ultra's face. He notes in his processor that he should come up with something about it to break up anything that happens, but it isn't a large note. Swindle and Ultra will frag him about twice, if that, and go on their way.
  1687.  
  1688. Maybe more, honestly. Optimus knows he's a good frag, and even better with his mouth. He might keep their attention up to a stellar, if he pleases them well enough. No one knows better than Optimus that he's not bonding material, though. He comes from the slums, has few real marketable skills aside from in the berthroom, and he has a sibling he has to care for. Not exactly anything a bot wants from a bondmate, really. What use would he be in a bonding? He'd make a better mistress.
  1689.  
  1690. "Yeah, Primus /does// take ya, ya oaf, but it's /you// that keeps those pretty bots the next sol or two," Kup grumbles.
  1691.  
  1692. Optimus scowls, "You won't be doing that when we're courting, of course."
  1693.  
  1694. Ultra coughs, "Of course." However, Optimus can /tell// that the Magnus is reluctant about that, and faintly irritated. Well, /too damned bad//. If Ultra doesn't want to be courting him, well...
  1695.  
  1696. "If you do, then the courting is off. I will assume any bots staying after a festival are a sign that you're breaking the courting, and act accordingly."
  1697.  
  1698. That gets a scowl, but Ultra says, "Understood. I won't have any bots stay after Primus leaves me."
  1699.  
  1700. He gets the impression he'll need to make /sure// of that. A glance at Kup shows the mech agrees, so Optimus will likely get instant permission to go check on Ultra in the morning after.
  1701.  
  1702. "Op Op," Lumina grumbles, because she's not getting enough attention, and pulls her into his arms to hold, wiping crumbs off her faceplates. She chirps angrily at him until he picks up her Timber toy and tucks it into her servos.
  1703.  
  1704. Ultra gets up before him, and offers his arm to Optimus. It's a little awkward shifting Lumina so he can take it, but she settles against his hip. He needs to get a sparkling sling for carrying her, but she's almost too big for it. Then he'll have to figure out if he can get her to wear a sparkling leash without throwing the universe's biggest tantrum.
  1705.  
  1706. Since she hated those twins in leashes, he gets the impression she will be /deeply// upset with him for it. She's very big on freedom, and he can't find it within himself to stopper that in any way.
  1707.  
  1708. There's a reason he went to the Autobots, not the Decepticons or any of the neutral planets. Freedom is.... the most important thing to him. Being able to do what he likes, how he likes. Add in his money now letting him do that, and it is a recipe for being happy.
  1709.  
  1710. Lumina snuggles against his chest and side as he carries her, her frame going slightly heavier and limp the way it does right before she drops into a stasis nap. She'll probably wake up when they reach the park, but it'll give him a little time without her demands to consider Ultra Magnus.
  1711.  
  1712. The mech is very obviously eager to have his frame, that's for sure. Optimus had a number of businessmech clients who behaved that way around him, so he knows. If Ultra were a little less noble, he would probably order Optimus to give Lumina to Kup while he took advantage of Optimus's frame in some alleyway on the way to the park.
  1713.  
  1714. Lumina starts recharging as they make their way out, Ultra nodding at one of the bots there. He can only assume that Ultra has either already paid, or has an arangement to pay at other times. So he walks with Kup and Ultra out the door, feeling better the /instant// they're out of view of the place.
  1715.  
  1716. He no longer minds his dents and dust, while before... well... It wasn't fun.
  1717.  
  1718. The only bots that walk into a place like that looking like he did are well . . . pleasuremechs. And not to disparage that work, because he's done it, and it's mostly good work, it's not something he wants to be associated with anymore. Not on Cybertron at least, where it's looked down on. Only the highest class brothelworkers are viewed with any real respect here.
  1719.  
  1720. "You aren't considering Longarm's offer, are you?" Ultra asks out of the blue, and Optimus has to rearrange his thoughts to answer.
  1721.  
  1722. It's a /good// offer, assuming it was legitimate, and not just a way to frag him. "I might."
  1723.  
  1724. "He'll likely send you far away," Kup grumbles, looking irritated.
  1725.  
  1726. From how the mech liked fragging him, he severely doubts it. He would likely be tugged in close, even if Optimus severely overstepped proper bounds. He was sitting in the mech's /lap//, and flirting. He must have accidentally been channeling his previous jobs, but he can't say he's regretting it.
  1727.  
  1728. Longarm has a properly large spike.
  1729.  
  1730. "Maybe," he says instead.
  1731.  
  1732. He'd be a better secretary than that grumpy red minibot. It wouldn't take him very long to figure out the systems, and he's always been good at time management in his processor, so having actual programs to help would work out even better. It's well-known that most secretarybots end up under their boss's desk at least occasionally, unless either of them are bonded, so no one would question it much if he came out with paint scuffs now and then.
  1733.  
  1734. And the daycare options for his sparkling sister are much better than the Elite program, or some business program outside of the Intelligence branch would offer.
  1735.  
  1736. He'd like the job a lot more, and likely will choose it when Ultra and Swindle decide they're done with him. He'll sell Swindle his favors, and that will be that, after they frag.
  1737.  
  1738. They get to the park, and Lumina blinks online slowly, "Park?"
  1739.  
  1740. He smiles, "Yes, sweetspark. It's the park. Let's look for the ride, shall we?"
  1741.  
  1742. "Turbofox!"
  1743.  
  1744. Optimus nods, knowing that any of the carriage rides could be anywhere in the park, and the ones with turbofoxes might all be in use--they can wait if they are.
  1745.  
  1746. Or, well, Ultra must know how to call them over, because he clearly sends off some kind of message and less than a klik later, one of the turofox carriages comes over, stopping in front of them. This one is meant to hold several large mechs, so there's plenty of space inside, and good secure doors to keep an inquisitve sparkling from tumbling right out.
  1747.  
  1748. The cyclebot hops off without any difficulty, and says cheerfully, "Come on in!" And opens the door for them.
  1749.  
  1750. Optimus smiles, stepping in first with Ultra's help, and then Kup /pushes// Ultra before getting in, finally, Ultra does. The Magnus scowls, "I should have-"
  1751.  
  1752. "No."
  1753.  
  1754. The cyclebot ignores how Ultra and Kup are both clearly texting angrily back and forth, and starts the carriage going as he talks to Optimus, "Cute sparkling. What's her name?"
  1755.  
  1756. He smiles, perking up, since it is clear that he's being excluded from the arguement between Kup and Ultra. "This is my sister Lumina."
  1757.  
  1758. "She's a cute one, takes after her brother," the cyclebot casts a flirtatious smile back at him, before turning his attention to the path ahead. "I figure you'd like the scenic route, little missy?"
  1759.  
  1760. Lumina chirps loudly once before nodding. She understands a lot more words than she can speak, "Turbofoxes!"
  1761.  
  1762. "Well, I can absolutely take us past the petting park if you want, and maybe stop there for a breem if your brother agrees."
  1763.  
  1764. He smiles, "She's going to want a /pet// turbofox if we do that, and I'm in bootcamp while she spends all sol in sparkling care."
  1765.  
  1766. The mech chuckles, looking a little hesitant, "Gives you more reason to come back to the park?" The bot glances over at where Kup and Ultra are /still// arguing. Ultra is even waving his arms.
  1767.  
  1768. "I suppose we can stop for a breem," it'll give him a chance to stretch his legs too. He really doesn't know why Kup's being so determined to sit between them. He has Lumina in the carriage, so the worst Ultra is likely to do is grope a little, and he suffers worse than that from half of his bootcamp peers every sol.
  1769.  
  1770. If he had a credit for every lewd thing a teammate says in his audio about his mouth or aft, he'd own his own planet by this point.
  1771.  
  1772. Lumina points excitedly at the petting zoo they're nearing, "Turbofox! TImber! Timber!" She waves her toy excitedly, as if making her point.
  1773.  
  1774. The cyclebot laughs, "I see you went to the World's End and got the collectible sparkling plush."
  1775.  
  1776. Collectible? He guesses? Anything is collectible. "She loved the femmonite cake."
  1777.  
  1778. The cyclebot makes a face, "I don't know what femmes see in it, but all the more for them, right?" The mech hops to the other side of the carriage, and opens a door on /Optimus's// side, "And If I'd realized you were getting in first, I would have explained, but..." The bot trails off, looking at the still arguing pair.
  1779.  
  1780. He sighs, stepping out, "Yes, of course. Thank you."
  1781.  
  1782. The pair stops arguing long enough for Ultra to push past Kup and get out. "Optimus, forgive our argument. Kup doesn't know when to accept defeat gracefully." He puts on a charming smile, and it actually does warm his frame a little to see it. Ultra is a /very// handsome mech and knows it.
  1783.  
  1784. Optimus nods, but doesn't take the arm offered to him, because he's capable of walking by himself the half-dozen steps to the little petting park. There doesn't seem to be a fee to use it, but he can see treat dispensers all over, and /those// do have charges.
  1785.  
  1786. Lumina wiggles in his arms, trying to toddle off, even if she can't walk that well, and he lengthens his stride to take her. Once he's near the turbofoxes, he sets her on her peds, and she squeals in happiness as several of the little animals excitedly swarm over to lick and sniff her.
  1787.  
  1788. Mostly at her servos, in the hope of fuel, of course.
  1789.  
  1790. "Op Op!" she exclaims loudly, clenching and unclenching her servos. "Candy! Foxy candy!"
  1791.  
  1792. Well, he's not getting out of this for free. "Of course, Lumina." Optimus keeps an optic on her--feral turbofoxes on Haydon IV were rumored to snatch sparklings and run off with them for fuel, but surely these ones were fully tame. They're all rather . .  pudgy. He swipes his pad for one serving of the treats and then carefully tucks the pieces into her servos.
  1793.  
  1794. She squeals in excitement again, and happily gives it all to any of the turbofoxes that sniff and nibble at her hands. He sighs, knowing what is coming, and buys a second serving, which he again tucks in her servos.When this repeats, he's about to inform her she only gets /one// more when Ultra places treats in her servos, saying, "Here. I have more!"
  1795.  
  1796. Lumina giggles excitedly, "Timber love Lumina! Lumina love Timbers! All Timbers!"
  1797.  
  1798. At that word, one of the turbofoxes jumps up and lands on another one's back, and they freeze in place, staring at her. Lumina gasps and points, dropping all the treats on to the ground, and both turbofoxes dart down and gobble them up.
  1799.  
  1800. "Op Op, /Timber//!" That thing they did must have been a trick used on the show at some point, because he's pretty sure his sister is convinced that one of those two foxes is the real Timber now.
  1801.  
  1802. "If you say so, sweetspark. Isn't Timber a /free// turbofox, though?" Not that these can't just leave at any point. They realize they have a good thing going, and aren't going to ruin that.
  1803.  
  1804. She gasps, "Free! Free! Timber free!"
  1805.  
  1806. The turbofoxes clearly have no clue what she's going on about, but /did// hear them saying timber, so that gets another trick, which is rewarded by Lumina throwing more treats down due to Ultra providing them.
  1807.  
  1808. It's no wonder that these turboses are so plump. There must be a good caretaker or two as well, since they gleam with good polish. It would probably be a good job to have, playing with the turbofoxes for megacycles at a time.
  1809.  
  1810. Ultra Magnus rests a servo on Optimus's back, just above his aft. "When we bond, I'll buy a pet turbofox, if you want. I think it would make Lumina happy."
  1811.  
  1812. He smiles, glad Ultra is at least pretending to take this seriously. He /did// explain that he doesn't want the courting to be a joke. The idea of being bonded is so... wonderful, too. He knows it is too soon to ask if Ultra would consider sparkbonding, even if he could excuse it by saying it was brought up by Swindle.
  1813.  
  1814. Ultra said that Primus controls him, and he's seen it happen. A sparkbonding is likely... impossible. Even if it encourages the possibility of more sparklings.
  1815.  
  1816. When the turbofoxes decide that Lumina doesn't have any more treats to give, most of them scamper off, only one or two remaining for belly scratches. It would be good for her to have a pet to play with, until Optimus has a sparkling of his own, so she's not so lonely.
  1817.  
  1818. Of course she has the other sparklings to play with at the daycare, but it's not the same. Optimus thinks he'll look through the favors he's owed. Maybe there's a pet drone available in there--he knows the daycare wouldn't mind having one of those around, and he could take it with him when he left.
  1819.  
  1820. Lumina is murmuring, "Lumina love Timber," as she pats the foxes who are pleased to be pet.
  1821.  
  1822. He says, head tilted, "I think she'd enjoy that a lot."
  1823.  
  1824. Ultra wraps that arm around his waist, rubbing his outter thigh, "Yes. Any other pets you think she'd enjoy?"
  1825.  
  1826. He shakes his head, since he's certain Lumina only has optics for bots and turbofoxes. Mostly femmes and twins.
  1827.  
  1828. As for Optimus himself, he would appreciate a good cleaning drone, but he knows he'd end spoiling it to uselessness within a vorn, so a pet drone from the start would be smartest. It's unlikely he'll end up with that large of a home in any case, so he won't need help with the cleaning.
  1829.  
  1830. If he's lucky, he'll end up with some businessmech, or--he feels his cheeks heat a little--he honestly wouldn't mind being Longarm's mistress, if the mech really is as sweet as he seems.
  1831.  
  1832. Ultra moves, and he can see the mech is about to kiss him, so he reaches up, tapping the mech's mouth, "Ah, no."
  1833.  
  1834. "No?"
  1835.  
  1836. He smiles, "Wait until the /end// of the date, Ultra. Then, yes, we can kiss." He hasn't kissed Swindle yet, but he will allow it next decacycle, when Swindle shows up. And tell the mech that Ultra has this sol of the decacycle set for his courting dates.
  1837.  
  1838. "I will go mad having to wait that long," Ultra murmurs teasingly, his optics hot. The bot's servo cups his cheek and his thumb brushes over Optimus's mouth, making him want nothing more than to take it in his mouth and /suck// properly, showing the bot what teasing really is. "But I suppose it will be worth it. You're worth it."
  1839.  
  1840. Optimus knows his cheeks must be purple from how hot they feel, but he waits until Ultra drops his servo to speak, "Waiting is not a bad thing, Ultra Magnus."
  1841.  
  1842. The mech looks at his mouth, "No... I suppose not."
  1843.  
  1844. He smiles, "I'm gla-"
  1845.  
  1846. "Lumina want pet Timber!" He looks over, and she is reaching for the now leaving turbofoxes. She starts to sniffle, "Lumina love Timber!"
  1847.  
  1848. He scoops her up, kissing her face, "It's okay, it's okay! We can let you pet more, and then we need to leave, sweetspark."
  1849.  
  1850. The carriagemech picks that moment to speak up, and Optimus flushes darker realizing that the bot's been watching him and Ultra with a considering optic the entire time. "If you go past the gate to the left, there are some turbohounds that she could pet. They're meant to be guard hounds, but they're too tame, so they mostly get petted."
  1851.  
  1852. Perhaps it would get her mind off of the turbofoxes. "That sounds pleasant, thank you."
  1853.  
  1854. The mech nods at him, looking between him and Ultra Magnus.
  1855.  
  1856. Ultra straightens a bit, and moves closer to Optimus, taking his arm and ushering him along. He keeps from rolling his optics, since it seems Ultra wants more time with him alone, and that is fine.
  1857.  
  1858. When they get to the turbohounds, Lumina stiffens for an astrosecond, then yells, "Justice!"
  1859.  
  1860. /Instantly// there are turbohounds barking in excitement all around them, and several all rush over in excitement for petting.
  1861.  
  1862. The turbohounds barely come up to Optimus's knee, so they are in no way, shape, or form the kind of Kaonite Hound that Justice is fashioned after in the show. There's maybe a tiny similarity in the shape of their muzzles, but that's it. He wouldn't let his sister near a Kaonite Hound in any case, since they are /war// hounds, and generally do not do well with sparklings unless they've been raised around them.
  1863.  
  1864. Of course, the rumors claim that Justice himself, one of Megatron's war hounds, saved several sparklings on various battlefields, but that's just hearsay.
  1865.  
  1866. Since Lumina keeps chanting Justice's name, he sets her down carefully, letting her pet the turbohounds. She giggles gleefully, grabbing one and hugging it.
  1867.  
  1868. Ultra chuckles, "That's adorable. Much safer than the actual Justice, too."
  1869.  
  1870. "Well, yes. Those things are /huge//."
  1871.  
  1872. Kaonite Hounds are bigger than many fully grown bots. Megatron's famous pair come up to his hip, which means they'd easily come up to Optimus's chest or shoulders, and they're not even the largest known variety. Guard Hounds can end up nearly double that size.
  1873.  
  1874. "Justice," Lumina chirps, wrapping her arms around the small turbohounds. She'll probably get to the point where she can tell mechanimals apart from each other within the next vorn or so. His little sister is so /smart//. Much smarter than her older brother, who still struggles with basic assignments sometimes.
  1875.  
  1876. Ultra is petting some of the turbohounds now, and it is clear that the animals genuinely prefer sparklings. Since one of the turbohounds gives Ultra a disdainful sniff before returning focus on Lumina. Ultra chuckles, "I know when I'm unwanted."
  1877.  
  1878. Lumina keeps cuddling, and Optimus says, "Well, a choice between a sparkling and a grown bot is no harsh decision in a turbohound's optic, it seems."
  1879.  
  1880. "I feel neglected," Ultra reaches over and takes Optimus's servos in his, pulling him close, so he can wrap an arm around him properly. "There. If I can't have their attention, I at least have yours." Ultra gives him a teasing little wink and Optimus very deliberately does /not// think about the client on Haydon IV that had paid him extra to put on a collar and pretend to be his pet hound for two sols.
  1881.  
  1882. If he's going to do anything like that again, he needs to be bonded first, or his bondmate might assume he does it with everyone.
  1883.  
  1884. Since those were the much more expensive sessions, he doesn't want that to be thought of him at all. He enjoyed them, but he doesn't like the feeling of being... owned. It was him being trapped, unable to move to another place if he wanted to. That's a factor he doesn't like.
  1885.  
  1886. He won't be trapped.
  1887.  
  1888. Lumina looks over at him, "Op Op! Lumina ride Justice! Ride!"
  1889.  
  1890. He glances at the turbohounds, "No, sweetspark. They can't hold your weight." Well, they possibly could, but he's not going to hurt them by accident.
  1891.  
  1892. "Op Op Op," she growls at him, because she must know she's not going to get her way. He had to use his /stern// big brother voice after all.
  1893.  
  1894. Optimus slips from Ultra's hold to pick her up, before she can try to mount the turbohounds by herself, which would only result in dents and crying, he knows it. "Luminaaa," he drawls out the last sound long, "no riding them. They're too small, and you're too /big//. You were just saying what a big, grown-up sparkling you were the other sol, weren't you?"
  1895.  
  1896. Lumina's faceplates scrunch up, like she can't tell if she's being tricked. "/Big//."
  1897.  
  1898. "Exactly," he scoops her up, and she clings to him. "You're /very// big. How about we go back to ride the carriage?"
  1899.  
  1900. "Turbofox?"
  1901.  
  1902. "Yes, that one." At her nod, Optimus smiles at Ultra, and they head out, to the carriage.
  1903.  
  1904. The driver nods at them, letting Optimus in one side, while Kup refuses to move from the middle, and forced Ultra to get in through the other side.
  1905.  
  1906. "You're being ridiculous, Kup," Ultra mutters, but he's not actively fighting with the bot anymore, which is an improvement. "I should have requested someone with /sense// as a chaperone, rather than /you//."
  1907.  
  1908. Kup just snorts, "Ya mean someone who'd let ya have yer way? I think not." He pats Optimus's knee. "I got yer back, mech, don't you worry."
  1909.  
  1910. "RIght," he says, feeling slightly irritated. Ultra is a gentlemech, and won't try anything.
  1911.  
  1912. Lumina says loudly, "Lumina pet turbofox!"
  1913.  
  1914. "Yes, you did," he says, happier. "You pet so many-"
  1915.  
  1916. "Lumina pet turbofox!" She reaches for the front of the carriage.
  1917.  
  1918. "Ah," he says, realizing what's happening, "no. Those can't be pet, sweetling. They're pulling the carriage, and-"
  1919.  
  1920. "She can ride up front, if you want her to. I don't mind."
  1921.  
  1922. Optimus studies the carriagemech for a long klik, before nodding. "Be careful with her. Lumina's at that age where she tries to escape anyone holding her too long. I don't want her to get hurt."
  1923.  
  1924. The cyclebot winks at him, "I've held hundreds of sparklings of all ages, don't worry. They all like to 'steer' the carriage or pet the mechanical turbofoxes at some point during the ride." He holds out his servos, "I'll even let you hold the reins if you're a good sparkling, Lumina. Will you be good?"
  1925.  
  1926. She gasps, "Yes, yes, yes!"
  1927.  
  1928. With that, he lets her hold her, and settles back into his seat. He turns to talk to Ultra, only to pause and look down at the feeling of something wiggling on against his leg. Suddently, a turbofox pops up, and climbs into Kup's lap. Kup groans, "Not again."
  1929.  
  1930. ".... Again?"
  1931.  
  1932. "These things love me," Kup grumbles. "He musta snuck on while I was nappin'."
  1933.  
  1934. The turbofox looks a bit more mature than most of the ones in the petting park did, and it curls up and settles down right on Kup's lap, tail-tip over its nose. When Kup doesn't do more than huff, the turbofox peers up at him with the biggest, saddest optics that Optimus has only ever seen rivaled on a sparkling, and his Sergeant grumbles and starts stroking its back.
  1935.  
  1936. "I really should buy you a turbofox," Ultra hums, and Kup shoots the Magnus the darkest glare, one that at bootcamp would have meant transform ups until a mech literally couldn't move any longer.
  1937.  
  1938. "Don't you fraggin' dare."
  1939.  
  1940. "Oh, I'm going to do it, unless, of course..."
  1941.  
  1942. Kup glares, "Unless what?"
  1943.  
  1944. "You want to keep that one. You could just have it and-"
  1945.  
  1946. "It likely belongs ta someone. I'll take it in ta get scanned. Iffin' it belongs ta someone, I ain't keepin' it."
  1947.  
  1948. "Yes, of course," Ultra says, smiling, "Just tell me if it does. I want to make sure it makes its way back if they find the owner."
  1949.  
  1950. The fact that the turbofox has no collar or identifying mark on it probably means it's a wild one. Well, Optimus is sure that Kup will be happy to have a pet keep him company. Maybe it'll make him less grumpy when he comes in for early training sols, even. Obviously the mech has no bondmate or long-term lover to keep him satisfied at home.
  1951.  
  1952. "There's plenty of space at the Manor for pets after we bond," Ultra promises Optimus with a smile, mistaking his silence for thoughts about wanting a pet of his own. Not that he'd mind a pet, but they're expensive.
  1953.  
  1954. He nods, "Okay."
  1955.  
  1956. The turbofox growls softly when Ultra moves to pet it, and Kup sighs, "Be better behaved." Weirdly, that does silence the turbofox enough to allow Ultra to pet it, even if it doesn't look pleased.
  1957.  
  1958. Maybe it knows Kup will only keep it if it doesn't try and bite other mechs.
  1959.  
  1960. Thinking about that, he glances up at Lumina, holding onto the reigns of the carriage, which clearly don't have anything to do with steering it, becasue she's flailing them around in every direction and they're still following the gently curving path of the road instead.
  1961.  
  1962. "Is there any chance your turbofox might have turbo-rabies?" It's a common enough infection in wild mechanimals without their vaccinations.
  1963.  
  1964. "It isn't acting erratic," Ultra says, "and there's no warning from Primus how it is dangerous."
  1965.  
  1966. He glances at Kup, who explains, "If something is going to damage the Magnus, Primus is good at warning him. If Ultra ignores that warnin', and he /has// before, then it ain't Primus's fault Ultra's an idiot."
  1967.  
  1968. "Hey!" Ultra says, sounding insulted.
  1969.  
  1970. Waving a servo, Kup ignores him, "He's a fool a good portion of the time, but havin' a sensible bondmate'll probably help with that some sol. Some /distant// sol, since a good courtship takes at least a vorn."
  1971.  
  1972. How old-fashioned. Most modern courtships--not that they were very modern in and of themselves really--took a stellar or two at most. Bots engaged in them usually did it as a formality, often because their families wished them to bond. "Of course."
  1973.  
  1974. He and Swindle agreed it will be about a stellar. It's barely any time, really. But still, he doesn't want a full vorn, or /worse/ a decavorn. He's heard some last that long, and what a nightmare. If that were his timeline, he'd refuse to bond at all, if only on principle.
  1975.  
  1976. As such, it will likely just be a stellar thing for him and Ultra. Something he'll talk about when Kup isn't with them.
  1977.  
  1978. At least they only need a chaperone for the first servoful of dates, or he'd go crazy. Optimus /wants// to touch and be touched by the bots courting him, because that kind of compatibility is important in a bond. He wants a partner he's aroused by, and one that he arouses too. Perhaps if this was a courtship arranged by family, where they would only be together for obligation alone, it would be different, but . . . he's a young mech with healthy appetites.
  1979.  
  1980. Even though Swindle said he'd have Lumina along on every date, Optimus knows that some point along the way he'll want a sol or two just with the other mech. He'll cash in one of those datapad favors maybe, to keep her well-cared for one evening.
  1981.  
  1982. The driver interrupts his musing by placing Lumina in his servos, "Ride's over!" The cyclebot smiles cheerfully, "I'll let you all out."
  1983.  
  1984. He steps out easily, the turbofox hopping out right after him, while it yaps softly up at Lumina. While Kup gets out, he leans down to let Lumina pet the little animal, and Lumina greatly enjoys it to the point of being sad that the turbofox moves to Kup when the older mech steps out.
  1985.  
  1986. Kup glances at Lumina, gives a put upon sigh, scoops the turbofox up, and moves close so that Lumina can keep petting as Orion stands up.
  1987.  
  1988. "It's gettin' late," Kup grumbles, staring directly at Ultra Magnus in challenge. "We oughta start headin' back ta bootcamp, or Optimus's performance next sol ain't gonna look good."
  1989.  
  1990. It's not even starting to get dark yet. Optimus arches an optic ridge at his Sergeant, in a way he would never dare if the mech was playing the role of Sergeant at the time. "I'm sure there's some time for a little more here this sol. There's supposed to be a merry-go-round here, and I think Lumina would like to ride it."
  1991.  
  1992. Ultra nods sharply, "She'll /love// it. We'll be going even if you refuse to, Kup."
  1993.  
  1994. Kup grumbles irritably, but says, "If only for Lumina. You'll be stayin' off it, Ultra."
  1995.  
  1996. "I will n-"
  1997.  
  1998. "Glad you agree," Kup cuts him off before he can complete the sentance. "Let's go, Optimus. Lumina."
  1999.  
  2000. He walks with the bot, keeping stride so Lumina can keep petting the turbofox. "What are you naming your new pet?"
  2001.  
  2002. "I'm not. It isn't mine, it has an owner."
  2003.  
  2004. The turbofox lets out a huff of contentment and turns to lick Kup's faceplates.
  2005.  
  2006. "Not yours, hm?" Optimus hides a smile behind his servo, not wanting to tempt fate /too// much.
  2007.  
  2008. "Shut it," Kup orders gruffly, but he noticeably does /not// stop the turbofox from licking him. Soon he'll name it, probably something gruff and unsuitable, like Killer or Hyperfang, because that sounds like the sort of thing Kup would do with a cute old pet.
  2009.  
  2010. "Lumina love Timber," Lumina says softly, still patting the turbofox.
  2011.  
  2012. The turbofox freezes, then does this weird woofing sort of howl, and stares at Lumina intently.
  2013.  
  2014. Lumina cheers happily, clapping her servos, "Timber!"
  2015.  
  2016. He glances at Kup, and Kup gives him a nasty look, "It ain't Timber."
  2017.  
  2018. "Mmmhmm," he hums, patting Lumina's back.
  2019.  
  2020. If he ends up in a place with enough room, he's going to be doomed to buying or adopting a turbofox, because there's no way Lumina will get through her adolescense without demanding it. Optimus has already accepted that fact. Even having a small space or a busy schedule wouldn't be much of an excuse, because turbofoxes use so little space and spend most of the sol recharging. They're nocturnal animals, though they're up during the sol because that's when they can beg food the easiest in cities.
  2021.  
  2022. They get to the carousel, and Ultra walks with him to pay for Lumina's ride, the Magnus saying, "Go have fun, Lumina."
  2023.  
  2024. Lumina frowns irritably, but perks up when she realizes they're going to the highly decorated ride in front of them, and she points directly at a sleipnir one, "Op Op! Lumina ride!"
  2025.  
  2026. He wants to insist on a different animal, but it is a /fake// sleipnir, so he can't complain. She's allowed to like things, even if they are horrifying monsters. He sets her on its back, and puts on the safety belt. Yes, the majority of her safety is him standing next to her on the ride, but always better to be prepared.
  2027.  
  2028. Lumina squirms in her seat, looking all around them. There are a half-dozen other sparklings on the ride, all mechs, and their creators or nannybots are standing beside them--aside from two older sparklings who are riding alone, trusted to balance and not try to leap off mid-ride like a younger sparkling might.
  2029.  
  2030. "Mine mine," Lumina mutters to herself, craning her neck to look at each and every sparkling she can see. Apparently as the only femme on the ride, she's decided all the mechs are /hers// without question.
  2031.  
  2032. He can't exactly say she's wrong, unforunately. Pretty much any mech would be excited to be her mech, no matter the age. However, Optimus realizes she's young enough to not mind /too much// if he takes her away from them.
  2033.  
  2034. Especially since she hasn't grabbed one of the sparklings and held onto him.
  2035.  
  2036. When she gets a little older, she'll probably start picking out a more permanent group of mechs, after she's sure they aren't going to move or leave again. Hopefully none of their creators will be too obnoxious or annoying, because that means Optimus will end up seeing rather a lot of them, regardless of how he might feel about it. A bot does not break up a true bond between sparklings without a very, very good reason.
  2037.  
  2038. "You look like a princess," he promises her as she flails her servos at the fake reigns of the ride-on sleipnir.
  2039.  
  2040. She laughs in delight at him, and it only gets happier as the carousel moves. She gasps and stares while she moves up and down, the whole ride spinning. She almost tips when she flails in joy, but Optimus keeps a firm grip on her.
  2041.  
  2042. He can see Ultra leaning on the fence meant to keep unwarranted bots out of the ride, and smiles at the mech. Ultra waves, and Lumina sticks her nose up, looking away.
  2043.  
  2044. She's too good to wave at big mechs when there are sparklings around, watching her as much as she's watching them. Most--though not all--mech sparklings would eagerly sign themselves over to a femme in a sparkpulse, especially one as cute and bossy as his little Lumina is. She has to act superior to prove she's the /best// femme for them.
  2045.  
  2046. There were so few femmes in the slums--most ended up with businessmechs or better, so Optimus had never spent any time with them when he was a sparkling himself.
  2047.  
  2048. Lumina is visibly disappointed when the ride ends, and Optimus scoops her up. She whines unhappily as he carries her out, but also turns away when several creators walk near her while holding their mech sparklings, looking eager.
  2049.  
  2050. Optimus doesn't say anything, since he's pretty used to creators doing this, and he knows Lumina doesn't approve of such blatant tactics to gain her affection. She does like being with femmes, mainly.
  2051.  
  2052. "I got your little femme a treat," Ultra Magnus chuckles, holding out a tinfoil bag of-
  2053.  
  2054. "Puff!" Lumina shrieks, digging her little claws into Optimus's seams like she's trying to rip his plating right off. They're tiny though, so all she manages is one tiny energon leak that his own lines seal off right away. "Puff! My puff!"
  2055.  
  2056. She's going to be bouncing off the walls later, but Optimus obediently shifts foward to she can shove her servos into the bag of energon puffs.
  2057.  
  2058. She shoves them in her mouth, and swallows before saying, "Mine!"
  2059.  
  2060. Ultra holds it closer, and she eats more. "Yes," the Magnus says, "all yours." Ultra looks at Optimus, "I was thinking you'd be too full for a snack, but I can get you something, too."
  2061.  
  2062. He shakes his head, "I'm fine. Thank you."
  2063.  
  2064. Honestly, after his life in the slums, Optimus can almost always find the time to eat a little more, or secret some away in his subspace, but he's starting to get used to life here. A life where there /aren't// energon shortages. Neither he nor Lumina have to go a sol without energon here, to ration what they have. There's always fuel. Even if Optimus was some guttermech here, out of his mind on drugs, Lumina would still get fuel.
  2065.  
  2066. It both baffles and amazes him in turns.
  2067.  
  2068. He's broken from his musings by a single energon puff being held in front of his face. "Op Op want?"
  2069.  
  2070. Smiling, he takes the single puff and pops it in his mouth. "Mm. Thank you Lumina, that was very kind of you."
  2071.  
  2072. She grins, and gives him a m essy sparkling kiss on the cheek, "Love my Op Op."
  2073.  
  2074. He taps their foreheads together, "Love you too, Lumina."
  2075.  
  2076. She giggles loudly, and returns to eating. Optimus returns his attention to Ultra, who has a weird look on his face, caring and wanting mixed, the mech saying, "It's wonderful in how clear it is how you care for her, Optimus."
  2077.  
  2078. He flushes, "She /is// my sister."
  2079.  
  2080. "Yes, she is." Ultra Magnus just smiles again, warmer and more sincere this time. "You're good with sparklings. I'm a terrible pushover. You'll have to be the strict creator for our little ones."
  2081.  
  2082. He'd be lying if he said the idea of having sparklings with Ultra Magnus--and the /act// of creating those sparklings--isn't a pleasant thought. "I'm hardly a strict creator." He plants a big kiss on top of Lumina's helm and she chirps angrily at him.
  2083.  
  2084. She is much too into fueling at the moment for more affection. Which is sad, since he'd like to do more. But, he is also kind of glad, since she's sticky on her servos and mouth now.
  2085.  
  2086. "You're better than me," Ultra informs him. "If I see sparklings wanting something, my first thought is getting it for them, even when I should know better."
  2087.  
  2088. "Like what?"
  2089.  
  2090. Ultra coughs, looking anywhere but at him, "I, uh, once got yelled at by a daycare caretaker for bringing weapon toys for the sparklings."
  2091.  
  2092. "Them yelling at you seems drastic, I'm not sure why that-"
  2093.  
  2094. "The weapons actually worked, even if they weren't super strong."
  2095.  
  2096. "Ultra Magnus!" Optimus snaps, because who gives a sparkling /live weapons//? Even weak ones?
  2097.  
  2098. Hanging his helm, Ultra looks like nothing more than a chastised sparkling himself. "I know. I wasn't thinking, and to be fair, Primus had ridden my frame for a solid three sols prior, so I wasn't exactly mentally prepared to face off against all those pleading optics."
  2099.  
  2100. That's still no excuse. "You are /never// giving Lumina anything dangerous."
  2101.  
  2102. "I have no plan to, Optimus. Any presents I get will be run by you first."
  2103.  
  2104. He can tell that's a lie, but also one that Ultra believes at the moment. Later on, Optimus /knows// Ultra will get Lumina something without telling him, while not thinking about running it by him first.
  2105.  
  2106. He sighs, "Thank you." Calling him out on something he hasn't done yet will only hurt their current relationship.
  2107.  
  2108. Some part of him wonders if he'll get to see Primus riding Ultra's frame at some point during this courtship. He knows how alluring the pull was last time, and he'd been distant enough that he hadn't caught the other bot's attention then. Now? Well . . .
  2109.  
  2110. Perhaps those are thoughts better kept to private time in his berth. It is /not// an uncommon fantasy. Pleasuring Primus himself . . .
  2111.  
  2112. Optimus has to physically shake himself a bit to get rid of that thought.
  2113.  
  2114. "Credit for your thoughts?" Ultra asks, looking curious.
  2115.  
  2116. He looks away, trying to hide his blush, "Thinking about later in the courting." He starts walking, "I think it is about time for me to head back to the sparklingcare facility. Afterwards, I need to get back to bootcamp." He glances at the sky, "It /is// getting dark."
  2117.  
  2118. Ultra walks next to him, "I'm looking forward to the future, too, you know. We can discuss it after Lumina is-"
  2119.  
  2120. "That's a discussion for a /later// date, Ultra."
  2121.  
  2122. "My cadet needs his recharge," Kup pushes between them, and Optimus gives his Sergeant a frown for it. He /enjoys// being close to Ultra Magnus. The mech is handsome, strong, and a gentlemech. It's beyond clear that Ultra Magnus wants to frag the Pit out of him, but that's a good thing, since bondmates that want sparklings need to be attracted to each other.
  2123.  
  2124. "Your cadet could recharge in the Manor tonight," Ultra Magnus kindly offers. "It's much closer than bootcamp is, and I have several members of staff who would be eager and willing to watch his sister."
  2125.  
  2126. Kup gives Ultra what must be a nasty look, judging by the Magnus's expression since Optimus can't see it, then snaps, "He ain't. He's comin' to bootcamp, and that's that. You ain't gonna be fra-" The mech glances at Lumina, "Uhh.."
  2127.  
  2128. "Interfacing," Optimus says, feeling amused.
  2129.  
  2130. "You ain't gonna be /interfacin'// him, since that's exactly what you're planin' to do ta him. Don't make me bring Red Alert inta this."
  2131.  
  2132. Ultra scowls, "Red Alert will encourage-"
  2133.  
  2134. "I'll ask her ta put a chasity weld over alla yer equipment. Ya know she'd do it, since she will be told how Optimus wants ta do his courtin'."
  2135.  
  2136. "Primus wouldn't allow it," Ultra shrugs, and then lets out a long sigh, "but I suppose it is rather too soon, no matter how much I would enjoy things to go along those lines this evening." Ultra takes his servo and kisses the back of it, like the gentlemech he is. "I will miss you dearly until the next time I see you."
  2137.  
  2138. "Me too!" Lumina chirps, holding a servo palm-forward to Ultra Magnus.
  2139.  
  2140. The mech smiles wider and takes her tiny servo, kissing her fingertips. "And I will miss you too, Lumina. You watch over your brother for me."
  2141.  
  2142. "Op Op mine!" she says proudly.
  2143.  
  2144. Ultra chuckles, "That he is, sweetspark." The mech turns to Kup, "Now, hold Lumina as I give Optimus his goodbye kiss. We will go our seperate ways afterward."
  2145.  
  2146. "Ya don't need no-" Kup starts, but Optimus /wants// a kiss from his Magnus, who has proven to be a good mech already, so he pushes Lumina into Kup's arms, his sister staring at the Sergeant with big optics.
  2147.  
  2148. "Better," Ultra hums, drawing Optimus up against his frame. The height difference really shows then, and Optimus wants nothing more than to just press against this sturdy frame for the next ten megacycles.
  2149.  
  2150. Ultra kisses him slowly, soft at first, then slips in some glossa. Unfortunately, Kup growls, "Yer /done//," at the moment the glossa is introduced, pulling Optimus away. The mech glares up at Ultra, "Ya got yer kiss, we're goin'."
  2151.  
  2152. "Kup!" Optimus protests, only to be ignored and pulled along.
  2153.  
  2154. Ultra is laughing behind them, finally managing to say, "I'll see you next decacycle, Optimus."
  2155.  
  2156. Kup tries to pass Lumina off into Optimus's arms, but apparently with the turbofox having draped itself over Kup's shoulders like a scarf, she's far more interested in his Sergeant instead, and won't be passed off. "Timber."
  2157.  
  2158. "He ain't Timber," Kup grumbles, and the turbofox licks one of his audios before settling back down. "You gotta learn that if ya give the Magnus a mechano-inch, he's gonna claim a mile instead, Optimus."
  2159.  
  2160. He gives Kup a dry look, "He's courting me, Kup. He's allowed some liberties, and I am-"
  2161.  
  2162. "He ain't gonna bond ta ya. I know that sla- that trashmech better than you, Optimus. Trust me on this."
  2163.  
  2164. He rolls his optics, "I already realized this. He and Swindle are going to get tired of me, I will sell Swindle his favors back, and then I'll live in safety someplace on Cybertron. Possibly become a Prime, if I'm lucky."
  2165.  
  2166. After a klik or two of walking, he realizes he can feel Kup watching him, so he glances over, and the look he's getting isn't something he knows how to decipher.
  2167.  
  2168. "What?"
  2169.  
  2170. Kup sighs, "Ain't neither of them gonna get /tired// of you, mech. Ultra ain't the bonding type. He'd be happier to keep ya as a-" he looks own at Lumina in his arms and snaps his mouth shut.
  2171.  
  2172. "I'm no one's berthbot," he says flatly. Lumina knows the words, and some of the connotations behind it. Such things were very common discussion topics on Haydon IV. He knew the word and how it was not a good thing when he was Lumina's age. His papas warning him to stay hidden and away from nobles.
  2173.  
  2174. Lumina was more vulnerable to that possibility than him, so he had to do his best. And he /succeeded//, damn it.
  2175.  
  2176. Lumina scowls at Kup, "Not a berthbot. /My// Op Op."
  2177.  
  2178. Kup openly gapes at her for a klik, before shaking his head. "You shouldn't know that word."
  2179.  
  2180. "But she does, and while I am sure I could have a good life as a Prime, I would leave in a sparkpulse if it meant becoming that for the Magnus." Swindle seems like a good enough mech. After he sells his favors, he could ask about emigrating to Caldoon. The only downside is that it's rumored that bots don't get to /leave// the planet without his permission either. Still, it's not like he's planned on a life of interstellar travel, so he wouldn't mind.
  2181.  
  2182. Kup repeats himself softly, looking sadly at Lumina, "You shouldn't know that word."
  2183.  
  2184. "Kup, we're slumbots-"
  2185.  
  2186. "No!" Kup glares at him, "No usin' that word on yerself, ya got me? Ya ain't useless or broken or anythin' else, ya got it?" Kup taps his forehead on Lumina's, "You, too, sweetling. Ya got it? Yer a strong bot who just happened ta be onlined in poverty."
  2187.  
  2188. Lumina does not know enough of those words for it to make sense for her, so she just squints at Kup before deciding she wants Optimus again, holding her arms out with a chirp. Optimus takes her back and kisses her helm, pleased to be reassured that he still rates more as big brother than a turbofox does in her scale of affection. "I know my own worth, Kup." Quite literally in fact, considering the work he'd done to escape Haydon IV. "Have you ever considered that I might enjoy the attentions of the mechs courting me?"
  2189.  
  2190. Optimus has no intention of being some bot's long-term or short-term fragtoy, but if Swindle or Ultra Magnus offered to set him up as a proper mistress? He would be hard-pressed to say no, even with the favors he now owns, and the credits. That's a good, secure position for several decavorns at least, in a good home for Lumina.
  2191.  
  2192. Kup scowls, "Yer /allowed//, but ya can't let Ultra take it at /his// pace. He gonna keep pushin' and pushin' when he got now right ta do so. I don't know about Swindle, but Ultra /claims// ta be honorable when he's no such thing. He'll take advantage of ya iffin' he thinks he c'n get away with it. Ya /saw// him offerin' ta have ya sleep in the Manor. Never accept that."
  2193.  
  2194. He raises an optic ridge, "I'll accept when I decide it is time, Kup."
  2195.  
  2196. "Yer makin' a mistake," Kup warns him, all irritation in his voice.
  2197.  
  2198. Shrugging, Optimus arranges Lumina against his shoulder, his sister starting to get drowsy from the long sol. "It's my mistake to make, then." Kup wouldn't be saying this if he realized that Optimus had played the literal part of a whore before. He certainly wouldn't be chaperoning a date, when the mech he's watching has no honor left to protect.
  2199.  
  2200. Kup doesn't say anything, and they transform to get Lumina back to sparkling care.
  2201.  
  2202. When they et there, he hands over the recharging Lumina, tucks the Timber plush back into his subspace and heads out. When he's out, Kup hands him the sparkling cube from World's End, saying, "Right, ya forgot this. It's pretty collectable and valuable, mech."
  2203.  
  2204. Lumina will probably enjoy using it, if he takes it to the bar with him when he takes her out. "Thank you."
  2205.  
  2206. Kup ex-vents long and slow, then stares at him another klik or so. "I ain't about ta let him frag ya next date either, but after that, if'n you want it, I'll bring Lumina back here ta the sparkling care center. Ultra may say he's got staff ta watch a bitlet, but ain't none of them had any practice in it lately."
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