Warnings: Mech/human sexual situations and mech slash in later chapters. Also warning for slow updater author extraordinaire. Real Life tends to interfere heavily, more often than not.

Author Notes: AU, based off of the 2007 Movie. Pairings: Jazz/Maggie Madsen, Ironhide/Sarah Lennox/William Lennox, Optimus Prime/Ratchet, Bumblebee/Sam, and Barricade/Mikaela.

This story idea started life as a rare pairing, one shot featuring Ironhide/Sarah. Then more characters appeared and asked me to write a story for them, too. Then the characters started appearing in each other's stories, and I finally decided to try and combine all the characters into just one story. They have totally taken over now, and this little fic has continued to grow, and grow, and is still a work in progress.

My thanks to Lady Dragon2 for beta'ing and providing constant (I am NOT kidding) feedback, support, enthusiasm and friendship, especially when I just wanted to tear my hair out and walk away. She is the main reason this is getting posted at all. She simply refused to allow me to give up on it. My heartfelt thanks also to LB82 on DA who read my scribbles, and provided feedback and truly wonderful insights. She has also gifted me with a stunning piece of art inspired by a scene in my fic. When I post that chapter, she'll post the picture on her DA site and I'll link everyone from here. It is amazing... truly. I can never thank her enough.

Disclaimer: As usual, I own nothing. Hasbro has it all.


"What? You want to what?"

The sabouteur patiently repeated his request. His leader stared back at him with a completely befuddled look on his face, and reached up to give the side of his own head a few taps.

"I'm sorry, Jazz. My audials appear to be malfunctioning. It almost sounded like you were asking my permission to initiate mating behaviors with one of the humans."

"No boss, your audials are fine. That's exactly what I'm requestin'. Oh, and Bumblebee would like ta, also."

Prime's jaw servos dropped slightly; his CPU sputtered in disbelief.

:Ratchet, how fast can you get to my office?: Prime commed the CMO urgently through their private link. :I think Jazz's logic processors just failed:

:On my way: the medic replied.

Jazz was looking at him expectantly.

"That's… uuuhhhh…. not possible," Prime finally replied.

Jazz smirked at the large mech and slid a datapad across the desk.

"Sure it is, boss. I looked it up. Check it out for yourself."

Prime picked it up and read it, and his processors promptly went into a stall.

"Primus Below."

He put the datapad down and slowly scrubbed a hand over his faceplates. He'd walked right into that one. And he really should have known better. Jazz was never one to neglect the details of a plan, even one as impossible as this seemed to be. That more than anything else, reassured him that Jazz was really back with them.

He looked up to see the small silver mech watching him again, the glow behind his visor bright, his mouth curving up into that sly, secretive little smile he remembered so well.

"Ratch is on his way here, isn't he?" his Second asked. Prime chuckled and nodded, relaxing back into his chair.

"Couldn't slip that one by you, could I? It's just a precaution. I thought your logic processors had melted there for a moment, then mine almost melted too, so he may as well check us both out."

Jazz laughed, the sound deep and rich and full of life. Prime smiled affectionately at him.

"In case I haven't mentioned it, Jazz, you were missed. Terribly."

Jazz nodded, returning the smile. "Thanks, boss. And yeah, ya've mentioned it, several times now. I missed all of ya, too."

"Do you remember anything?" Prime asked, his optics brightening with curiousity.

A confused look came over the silver mech's face. "I'm not sure. It's kinda hard ta describe… sorta foggy…" He trailed off as Ratchet entered the office and immediately proceeded to run a scan on him.

Jazz pointed to Optimus. "Him too, Ratchet. He told me his processors had a melted feeling."

Ratchet snorted. "And I would blame you entirely for that, Jazz."

"Who me?" Jazz asked innocently. "What'd I do?"

The medic huffed and gave the helmeted head a smack before moving around the desk to where Prime sat. "Please. Don't expect me to fall for that. A new world, a new species, a mech with a new lease on life… the mind boggles at all the trouble you could get into here."

Jazz gave the medic a lopsided grin as he rubbed his helmet. "Gee Ratch, that was practically a love tap compared to what ya usually dish out. I didn't know ya cared."

Ratchet huffed again, but his lips twitched with a smile as he scanned Optimus. "I don't. But I just got you online again, Jazz. I can't afford to undo all my work."

The hum of the scan stopped. "You're both fine. What was so urgent?"

Prime picked up the datapad and handed it to the medic. "Take a look at this and tell me what you think."

One of the advantages of being trained in the sciences, Prime thought as he watched Ratchet. The medic's processors didn't seem to be stumbling nearly as hard as his had.

"Interesting," the medic commented several times. He finished and handed the datapad back to Prime. "It appears we could use this method to interface with the humans. Very intriguing."

Jazz's grin was pure triumph. "See? Ratch approves."

The medic snorted at that. "I didn't say I approved. I said it was intriguing. In theory. In fact, I think it's a terrible idea."

Prime leaned back in his chair with a gusty sigh of air from his vents.

"I have to agree. To be honest, this is far from the best idea you've ever had, Jazz. The humans are not lab subjects. They are sentient beings and our allies, and you should not be experimenting on them."

"Nah, it won't be like that at all, I swear. I'm gonna ask first."

"I just don't think it's a good idea."

Jazz's visor dimmed a little with disappointment, and Prime felt a twinge of guilt.

"I'm not sayng you can't establish your usual cultural exchanges with selected members of a new species, Jazz. But I think it would be best if you stick with the standard guidelines on this," Prime suggested gently.

"But this falls within their guidelines, and I'm just tryin' ta be flexible here."

Prime and Ratchet looked at each other.

"You're joking,' Ratchet said.

"They have guidelines for this?" Prime asked.

"Yeah, they do. It's all over the Web. All kinds of stories and movies and information about aliens and first contact and all, and quite a few of 'em are about interfacin' with aliens and becomin' mates with 'em."

"Primus Below," Prime muttered again. Ratchet huffed in surprise.

"Amazingly open-minded for a young species, and very atypical, too. Most are too xenophobic at this stage for any kind of contact with other races."

"Right," Jazz nodded, 'my thoughts exactly. Very unusual. I think we owe it to them and ourselves to explore all the differences and figure out what makes them so unique. And we've already established the initial stages of first-contact with them. I'm just aimin' for a really up-close and in-depth version of my usual interspecies cultural exchange project."

"I hardly think this qualifies as a typical first-contact situation, considering our presence was forced on them," Ratchet pointed out.

"Agreed," Optimus added. "And I'm not sure about the in-depth version, Jazz. Just because you can do this, doesn't mean you should. The humans are very fragile, for one thing, and they break quite easily. You might end up hurting one of them without even realizing it. But even more important, they are sentient beings, and they have the right to make their own choices."

"I will ask first, Optimus," Jazz insisted. "Lay it all out for 'em and let 'em make the decision for themselves."

Prime pushed the datapad back towards his Second and regarded him.

"Okay, Jazz. Tell me why." The silver mech opened his mouth, and Prime held a hand up. "Your own personal reasons, Jazz."

Jazz closed his mouth again. His visor dimmed down. There was silence in the office. Prime exchanged a glance with Ratchet. The medic shook his head, as mystified as Prime.

Prime cleared his vocalizer. "Jazz," he began, "if you'd rather-"

The silver mech's soft, deep voice stopped him. "All those endless vorns of war, and then even more vorns spent lookin' for the cube. There was no chance ta stay and explore any of the worlds we searched, no time ta learn about the inhabitants. It was search and move on, as fast as we could."

Jazz's voice grew softer, his accent thickening with emotion.

"Do ya realize how long it's been since I've gotten the chance ta use mah instincts and skills as the alien cultural liaison, Optimus? I felt sometimes like I left a part o' mahself behind on each o' those worlds, I wanted ta stay that badly.

"And then when we first got here, remember how excited I was? A brand new world, with not one culture but thousands of 'em, an' a young race that changed right before mah very optics. And this time, I could stay an' explore an' discover everythin' about them. I was like a starvin' mech let loose on an endless feast.

"But then the war caught up again. We found Sam, then the Allspark, and we finally ended up in Mission City. An' then Megatron found us."

Jazz's frame tensed, quivering. "I lied, Ratchet. I remember everythin' that happened." Prime's jaw clenched. Ratchet hissed out a breath. "I remember Megatron comin', you callin' the retreat, but I saw all those humans, some o' them runnin', some o' them too scared ta move, and I couldn't just watch 'em die. So I stayed. I tried ta buy 'em some time."

Jazz's visor retracted. He looked up into Prime's optics. "I remember every moment of it. I remember the pain. I remember screamin' as he ripped me apart. And I remember my last thought was regret that I would never get the chance ta explore Earth an' the humans an' all their cultures."

Prime's own optics dimmed with guilt. He rose from his chair and went to the window and stood staring out. Jazz's pain-filled voice continued behind him.

"All these thousands of vorns of fightin' an' searchin' an' fightin' again. I need somethin' more, Optimus, somethin' besides war and death. I checked all the records we had. This is somethin' that's never been done before, a relationship like this with another species. I need this, Optimus; I need this chance ta explore somethin' new an' different, before the war starts up again, before I offline permanently. I need this chance ta stop an' rest an' actually live."

Prime stood gazing out the window for several more minutes before he turned back to Jazz. The silver mech's visor was back in place. He was looking at the datapads in his hands.

"If I agree to this, Jazz, I would expect you and Bumblebee to make yourselves aware of the humans'… sensitivities, regarding what you're attempting here. They may be small organics, but they have feelings the same as we do."

The saboteur looked up hopefully, his visor brightening. "Of course, Optimus. Explorin' all the ins-and-outs of an alien culture is one of the things I do best. I'm gonna take this real slow, and be very careful. That way there'll be no surprises, and no one's gonna get hurt. I promise."

"Very well, then. You are to oversee Bumblebee and relay all the necessary information and warnings to him as well. You are not to proceed without the explicit permission of whichever human agrees to this. And I do mean explicit. The last thing I need is an interspecies incident while I'm trying to work out a treaty with the humans. Are we clear, Jazz?"

"Like a crystal, boss," his Second assured him, and Prime couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Jazz so eager, happy and excited about anything. "And try not ta worry. I've got my AI workin' overtime plannin' everythin'. I've even got a potential candidate all picked out."

"Ah. And who would that be?"

"Our newest recruit, Maggie Madsen."

Ratchet rolled his optics. "The one who fell over your foot trying to get away from Prime? Oh, she sounds promising."

Jazz's smile was confident. "She just prefers a smaller size is all. She's been watchin' me. I know she's interested."

"She's only been here a month," Prime cautioned him.

"We're already friends, Optimus. That's an important first step."

Prime looked at Ratchet. The medic shook his head and stood to leave.

"Well, if they get broken, don't expect me to fix them."

Prime's raised an optic ridge. "They're under your care, too, Ratchet," he reproved mildly.

The medic flashed him an irritated look.

:You wouldn't deny Jazz anything right now, would you?: Ratchet grumbled through their private link.

:Could you?: Prime asked wryly. :In all the long vorns we've been fighting, he's never once asked for anything, then he sacrifices himself without a second thought to buy everyone else time to get away from Megatron. That was my fault, I should have been there fighting Megatron, not him. I got there too late, and he was already gone. His re-sparking is nothing less than a miracle. Now he finally comes to me with a request, something just for himself, and who am I to deny him?:

The medic's own optic ridge quirked up. :'Something just for himself.' How ironic, coming from you, Optimus:

Prime's look was puzzled. :I don't understand:

Ratchet sighed. :Never mind. I'll take care of the humans:

Prime nodded and turned to Jazz. "You may begin your project at your own discretion. But remember, the humans have feelings too. Don't hurt them, Jazz," he warned.

"And if I catch so much as a hint that you or Bumblebee have damaged or broken them somehow, you'll have me to answer to, as well," Ratchet added.

"No worries, boss, Ratch. I got it all covered." Jazz stood up to leave, his smile equal parts relief and elation. He stopped at the door, turning back to look at Prime. "Thanks, Optimus," he said quietly. "This means a lot ta me."

Prime's answering smile was warm; his blue optics deep-hued with affection. "You're welcome, Jazz. Next time, don't wait so long to ask for something you really want."

Jazz chuckled. "Gotcha. I'm gonna get all my requests in before I off-line again. Thanks again, and you too, Ratch." His smile slipped a little when he looked at the medic, who was looking at Prime. He murmured his thanks again and left, shutting the door behind him.

"Thank you for your input on this, Ratchet, and I appreciate your willingness-" Prime broke off at the frustrated sound from the medic. "What? Is something wrong?"

"'Don't wait so long.' Are you doing this on purpose, Optimus, or is the irony really lost on you?"

"Doing what on purpose?" Prime asked, confused. "I don't understand."

The medic's look was stony. "Of course you don't." He stalked to the door and paused. "Jazz is right. We're all tired, worn down by this endless conflict. We need something more, something that means life, not death. But you'll just bury yourself in your work, the same as you always do."

The door slammed shut and Prime stared at it in shock, his audials ringing with the reverberations.

Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think. :)