* * *

"This heat is killing me. Think Optimus will let us go for a swim, Bumblebee?" Spike asked as he pulled his shirt off. That incidentally revealed the mass of fading bruises that formed part of a huge handprint across his chest.

Bumblebee didn't think he'd ever seen anything like it. Sure, he'd seen smaller bruises from when Spike or Carly fell, but they had seemed so innocuous. Just damaged blood vessels leaking into the surrounding tissue. Ratchet said the human body naturally repaired them relatively quickly... These looked a little over a week old, but he didn't think his friend had been used as a hostage during the last fight. "Spike, when did you get bruised like that?"

"Huh?" He glanced down at himself, then back up at his friend. "Oh, Thundercracker swatted me during that raid on the solar collectors last week."

"... I didn't even notice." Bumblebee sat down slowly. That really didn't look healthy. It probably wasn't life-threatening, or Sparkplug would have taken his son to a hospital by now. But it could be the surface signs of more serious damage... Primus, he knew how fragile humans were! What had he been thinking, leaving Spike alone during that brawl?

The human slung his shirt over his shoulders. "Nah, you were trying to help Optimus. Besides, it wasn't any worse than I usually get. Doesn't even hurt to breathe."

Bumblebee winced. "Does it... hurt to breathe often?"

Spike shook his head. "Usually only after someone picks me up and squeezes."

"That's been happening a lot lately." Bumblebee leaned forward to get a closer look, trying to resist the urge to touch any of the bruises. The Decepticons had been grabbing Spike a lot lately; Sunstreaker was getting really pissed about having to hold his fire until they could get the human back. Prime wasn't too happy, either. He didn't like it when Megatron tried new things.

"Not really. After the time Megatron crushed my lower ribs, they've been pretty careful."

Bumblebee jerked sharply, his fingers hitting Spike in a glancing blow.

The human winced and put his hand over the spot where the Transformer hit him. "Careful, Bumblebee."

"Sorry, Spike... I just-"

"Yeah, I don't like thinking about that too much, either."

"You just... You squished." He hunched over, putting his head in his hands. "Megatron just squeezed and I could hear everything crunching-"

He felt Spike's warm hand settle on his shoulder. "Bumblebee, shut up."

"But- You were seriously hurt, Spike, and I could barely spend any time with you while you recovered."

"Well, you guys were pretty busy. And since I was banned from going to the Ark and had to enroll in the local high school for the rest of the school year..."

"We didn't spend a lot of time together, I know. But that doesn't make it better." Bumblebee looked up into his friend's face.

"I know." The young man scowled slightly and poked him in the shoulder. "At least you knew I was seriously injured."

He winced at the conversation's change in direction. "Aw, c'mon, Spike, you know why I didn't tell you."

"I had to find out about Motormaster smashing your transmission from Gears," Spike continued.

"Well, Ratchet had already replaced it, and it didn't really seem like that big a deal in retrospect... Nothing worth worrying you over."

Spike crossed his arms and scowled up at him. "There's nothing more fun than having Gears complain about my dad never being around to do repairs anymore, so he had to wait for hours to get his fingers replaced while Ratchet and Hoist fixed you so you could walk again."

"You're going to hold that against me forever, aren't you?"

"Oh yeah."

"If I try to tell you that this is our fight and you shouldn't get involved in battles with the Decepticons...?" Bumblebee asked quietly.

"I'll try to drive you next time we go someplace."

"Right." Bumblebee shook his head. "You know, Spike..."


"If you were an Autobot, you'd make Sunstreaker look sane."

The young man laughed.