One week after Starscream emerged from the regen chamber, he stood in the shadow of a building prepped for construction, while a crowd gathered in front of a stage. He stood behind the podium, feeling the weight of hundreds of stares, his wings twitching as they registered the optics watching him from behind as well.
He was not alone on the stage. Bumblebee. Soundwave. Needlenose. Blurr. Even Jazz. All stood behind him. In solidarity. In encouragement.
For this right here, this memorial, was something they could all agree on. No convincing had been involved, unless you counted acquiring the necessary credits from Swindle.
Starscream cycled a ventilation and tried not to revel in the moment. He was here for a somber reason, but he couldn’t deny how good it felt. He held onto control of Cybertron, for all that he shared it with a council now, and he remained their leader. Those looking up at him did so, not with disdain, but with something akin to respect.
And it was glorious.
Starscream forced himself to focus, to bring on the sobriety he needed for this speech. It was one for the archives, if he did say so himself.
It was time.
Starscream lifted his chin and a hand, silently calling for attention. He was given it, a wave of quiet sweeping through the crowd, which had been murmuring to itself. There was a sea of faces in front of him, a sea of color and shapes and faction badges.
All here. Standing as one.
“My fellow Cybertronians,” Starscream began, his vocals easily carrying thanks to the system Soundwave had wired for this occasion. “We stand here today to do something we have allowed ourselves to forget in several long millennia. Traditions we’ve let slide aside in the wake of other matters. Traditions we must recover if we’ve any hope of learning to move forward.”
Starscream rested his hands on the edge of the podium. He let his gaze travel across the crowd, looking into faces familiar and not. He had their attention. Now he had to keep it.
“We assemble today to honor the sparks lost. Specifically, those who perished in the terrorist attacks, but also, to begin building toward remembering those we’ve lost during the course of our war.”
“Over thirty mechs died in Obsidian’s bid to destroy everything we’ve been building. They were Autobots. Decepticons. Neutrals. Badgeless. But they were all killed for the same reason – they believed in a Cybertron that could one day be united. Obsidian sought to destroy that unity, and we showed him otherwise.”
Starscream gestured over his shoulder, first to his left and then to his right. “Thanks to the aid of those we had once outcast, we were able to restore peace and order to our city. As appreciation, the Autobots and the Decepticons both have been allowed to return. And no, I didn’t require that they surrender their badges. For now.”
He leaned forward. This part was important, perhaps more so than anything else. He knew he took a risk allowing the factions to return and with their badges intact. But he had a promise to keep and he didn’t want to risk the repercussions if he didn’t follow through.
“I know for many of them, the badge is more than a faction symbol. It is a feeling of belonging, a sense of unity in one purpose. For many, the badge, the identity is all they ever knew. That is something that cannot be easily set aside. It is my hope that one day, these badges will be willingly cast aside, but to force someone to do so would go against everything our new Cybertron stands for.”
“We have a lot of anger and distrust to work through. We have centuries of war and baggage hanging over us. It won’t be easily overcome and it won’t be quickly forgotten. But it can be done.”
“Let this memorial be the start. Let it help us remember those who were lost in Obsidian’s madness, and let it remind us what we are capable of. That we can be united, that in the end, we aren’t our badges, but our sparks.”
“We are sparks who desperately want to belong, to find a home, to find a purpose apart from the chains that held us back before. We want to be that original vision, the one we all shared, no matter what faction we chose.”
“We can do it. I believe we can do it. Our newly formed Council, of which my esteemed colleagues behind me are a part of, believes we can do it. I hope you can believe it, too.”
Starscream paused to catch a vent. Someone took it upon themselves to start clapping, stomping their pedes, revving their engines.
So this, he realized, was what Megatron felt all those millennia ago when he first started gathering the Decepticons under his banner. This feeling of success, of validation, of respect.
It was addicting.
Starscream smiled, and only self-control kept it from being smug. “All are welcome to pay their respects. To add names to the growing list of those we lost. This memorial is for everyone. For those interested, New Maccadam’s, a haven for all those regardless of faction badges, is holding a reception and grand opening in an hour. Thank you.”
More applause. More cheers.
Starscream bathed in them for the space of several sparkbeats before he forced himself to step back from the podium. The thunderous noise seemed to vibrate through the floor of the stage, and up into his frame.
So this was what victory felt like. And he hadn’t even had to kill Megatron to acquire it.
Starscream turned away from the podium and Blurr was there to greet him. He was smiling, his optics bright with something akin to pride, and there in front of all and sundry, he pulled Starscream into an embrace, chaste though it was. It felt like a claim, a public acknowledgment that they were more than just political partners.
Starscream’s spark fluttered.
“That was great,” Blurr murmured into his audial, giving him a squeeze. “Even better than the rough draft you showed me.”
“Well, you had some good advice,” Starscream replied as Blurr drew back, though taking his hand in the process and squeezing it.
Blurr winked. “I do have some experience with handling crowds, remember?”
He turned to greet Jazz, who had the biggest grin on his face. The former Autobot stuck out his hand, prompting Starscream to shake it with his free one.
“Good speech,” Jazz said with a flash of his visor. “You almost sounded like ya believed it.”
Starscream gritted his denta. Jazz was becoming increasingly irritating as of late. “That’s because I do.”
Jazz’s smirk widened. “Good ta hear.” His fingers slid free of Starscream’s, though not without a lingering, tacky slide of his energy field. “Now I gotta get ta work before my boss fires me.” He winked, and then he was gone.
“What was that about?” Blurr asked, leaning in to his side and lowering his vocals.
“A warning,” Starscream bit out. He squeezed Blurr’s hand and offered him a thin smile. “Shouldn’t you get to your bar? It’s going to open soon.”
“We can go together,” Blurr said firmly. He tugged on Starscream’s hand. “Come on. Let Bumblebee and Needlenose say what they want to say. You can help me finish setting up.”
Starscream chuckled. “Sir, yes, sir.”
Behind him, Bumblebee stepped up to the podium. Prowl was not with him, probably a wiser choice as he remained very divisive among the population in New Iacon.
Starscream had read both Bumblebee and Needlenose’s speech, just as they’d read his. He didn’t need to stick around for them, which were more of the same as his: unity, respect, blah, blah, blah.
He’d rather be helping Blurr.
The grand opening of New Maccadams had turned into a huge, boisterous affair. Mechs had been desperate for some kind of return to normalcy, and Blurr’s bar counted as a part of that.
There was an air of infectious glee surrounding the building, which had been highlighted with bright spotlights and music pumping from outside speakers. Blurr had a DJ for the night as Jazz had turned down the offer to perform live.
Every bar was staffed and fully stocked. Blurr even had a few servers roaming the crowds to speed up the process.
Starscream took up a perch at the central bar on the ground floor, ordered a triple-distilled high grade, and made himself available if Blurr needed anything. It also gave him a great view of Bluestreak, happily serving the customers, and Jazz, circling in Bluestreak’s periphery like some kind of poor stalker.
This, Starscream decided, would be a source of ample amusement in the future.
The atmosphere was one of celebration and unity and Starscream reveled in it. He sipped on his high grade, enjoyed the music, occasionally chatted with mechs as they stopped by to speak with him, and waited for Blurr to ask for his help.
Not that it was needed. Blurr had organized this down to the fine details, and the grand opening went off without a hitch. It was well-staffed, well-supplied, and well-managed.
“You look proud,” Bluestreak said as he stopped by to offer Starscream a refill.
“Do I?” Starscream chuckled and sipped at the sweet drink, his engine purring.
Bluestreak grinned and swiped a rag over the bar, not that it needed to be cleaned. He hadn’t spilled anything all night. “Yeah,” he said. “Happy, too. Guess everything’s working out for once, right?”
Starscream tilted his helm. Bluestreak’s smile was genuine, his expression open and honest.
But that was rather perceptive of him.
Hmm. Perhaps there was a reason Jazz was interested in this mech.
“Yes,” Starscream replied as he carefully rested his glass on the counter. “So it would seem.” He braced his chin on his knuckles, giving Bluestreak a long, calculating look. “You are an interesting mech, Bluestreak.”
He laughed, and it, too, was genuine. “No. Not really. I’m pretty boring actually. Nothing special about me.” He swiped the rag over the counter again before he turned and tossed it into a bin. “Let me know if you need anything else, sir. I’ll keep an audial out for you.”
Bluestreak answered the summons of a patron and left Starscream alone again at the end of the counter. Amusement flooded his spark as he watched the Autobot work, smiling for this customer and smoothly pouring the mech a drink. If he noticed that someone was flirting with him, it didn’t show.
Amused, Starscream sipped at his high grade again.
Interesting mech indeed.
He should have felt exhausted, but instead, a new surge of energy seemed to infect him once the last customer was ushered out and the doors were locked.
Blurr stood there, surveying a very successful grand opening despite the mess left behind, a small smile on his lips, and Starscream felt himself grinning, too. His spark throbbed with a mixture of affection, pride… perhaps even happiness. Though sometimes he feared he didn’t know how to recognize the last.
“What?” Blurr asked once he caught Starscream looking at him.
Starscream shook his helm. “Just thinking.” He slid an arm around Blurr’s waist, tugging the Racer against him. “Congratulations. I’d say that was a rousing achievement.”
Blurr smirked. “We’ll see how successful I am once someone else manages to open a bar. But yes, so far so good. Thank you.” He leaned in close, lips brushing over the curve of Starscream’s jaw. “Congratulations to you, too.”
“For what?” Starscream’s fingers walked up Blurr’s spinal strut until the found the caudal edge of Blurr’s booster mounts.
“The memorial. The peace. The feeling of unity. Take your pick.” Blurr shrugged but it was far from dismissive. “You’re proving everyone wrong, succeeding where they thought you couldn’t, and I don’t know, I think that’s great.”
Starscream’s spark throbbed again. “I… thank you. That means a lot to me.” He didn’t know if he could vocalize how much.
He leaned in closer to Blurr, brushing their lips together. “How tired are you?”
Blurr chuckled against his lips. “Depends on what it is you have in mind.”
“Not cleaning this mess,” Starscream said with a laugh. He tilted his helm, and listened.
Someone had left music playing. And it occurred to him that he’d barely seen Blurr all night, save for in brief glances here and there. Blurr had been so busy, Starscream spent most of the evening chatting up his patrons and his bartenders.
“Dance with me?” Starscream asked.
Blurr’s engine rumbled. He visibly squirmed. “Uh, I don’t really do that.” His faceplate heated, and pinked at the edges.
Starscream cycled his optics. He leaned back, fully taking in Blurr’s expression. Was he… embarrassed? It certainly seemed like it.
“Well, no one’s watching. And if you step on my pedes, I promise not to tell,” he purred, nipping at Blurr’s chin. “Come on. One dance?”
Blurr cycled a ventilation. “I suppose,” he said, with the air of someone being dragged to their doom.
Starscream chuckled at him. He pulled Blurr onto the dance floor, where colorful lights still sprinkled over the ceiling and walls. Someone hadn’t turned them off yet.
All the better.
The song playing was something Starscream hadn’t heard before. It wasn’t Cybertronian in origin; he knew that much. But it was soft and sweet, and had the kind of slow, swaying beat he was looking for.
If he was going to act like a sappy idiot, he might as well make a full production out of it.
Starscream pulled Blurr into his arms and leaned in for a kiss, one that Blurr returned with a little humming purr of satisfaction. His arms draped around Starscream, his energy field like a secondary embrace, flush with affection and delight.
“Mmm. I’m thinking you had something specific you wanted,” Blurr said against his lips. His fingers teased over the edge of Starscream’s wings. “Care to share?”
Starscream’s hands rested on Blurr’s hips, his thumb rubbing circles into the joints and teasing the cables beneath. “Do you trust me?”
Blurr laughed, his forehelm pressing against Starscream’s. “You know, that kind of question usually means you’re about to ask for something really difficult.”
“I know.” Starscream’s glossa swept over his lips. He cycled a ventilation as his spark throbbed faster. “It’s valid, however.”
Blurr’s fingers toyed with his leading wing edge. “I trust you don’t intend to hurt me,” he murmured. “I trust you with my safety. And I’m trusting you with my spark. So yeah. I guess that means I trust you.”
Starscream brushed his nasal ridge over Blurr’s. “Would you spark share with me?”
Blurr’s field rippled with surprise. He leaned back to look into Starscream’s optics, but of disgust or outright denial, there was nothing in his field or expression.
“I don’t mean a full merge,” Starscream rushed to clarify. “Neither of us are ready for that.” His thumbs swept into Blurr’s hip joint again. “A surface share is enough. I know it’s a lot to ask but–”
Starscream blinked. “Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t have agreed if I wasn’t,” Blurr replied and pressed their forehelms together again. His ventilations audibly increased. “Show me that pretty spark, Star.”
“Pretty,” Starscream echoed. “You haven’t even seen it yet.”
“Never seen an ugly one either.” Blurr’s lips brushed over his cheek ridge. “You’re stalling.”
Starscream cycled a ventilation, a tremor vibrating up his spinal strut. He ignored the jagged burst of unwarranted jealousy. Who else’s spark had Blurr seen? It wasn’t any of his business.
“So are you,” he said instead.
Blurr smirked and his chestplates cracked, pale blue sparklight spilling through. Starscream felt the warmth of it against his own armor, and the first tendrils of energy wafted outward, teasing into his seams. He shivered, heat pooling southward, igniting a fire in his groin.
“Your turn,” Blurr said as he rubbed his cheek against Starscream’s.
Starscream’s hands shook where they gripped Blurr’s hip, and he hated himself for it. He hated the fear, the weakness. Spark sharing revealed absolutely nothing, except for the current emotional and processor state. He wouldn’t be opening Blurr to the horrors of his past.
Yet, he hesitated regardless. He wanted it. He feared it. But then, when had he ever run from anything?
Starscream worked his intake and sent the commands to reveal his spark chamber, however minutely. Mechanisms whirred and hissed as primary and secondary armor layers shifted and slid aside, the pale blue of his sparklight peeking through.
Starscream’s ventilations stuttered as every survival instinct screamed at him to close his covers, that he was making himself vulnerable, that Blurr could kill him here and now, and who would blame him? Starscream’s grip tightened, talons scraping against Blurr’s cables, his frame flushing cold.
“I knew it,” Blurr murmured, seemingly oblivious to Starscream’s inner turmoil. He slid back, his mouth sliding down to the seam in Starscream’s chestplate. “Pretty.”
Starscream moaned, and his spark fluttered. He saw the reflections of it against Blurr’s faceplate.
Need roared through his frame. He peeled his hands free of Blurr’s hip joint and grabbed his helm, pulling him up into a kiss. He pressed their frames together, felt the tickle of Blurr’s spark energies, and his own spark responded in kind. It leapt forward in his casing, surging toward the electric warmth Blurr offered.
Their glossa tangled. Blurr moaned, his arms shifting to encircle Starscream around the waist, bringing their chestplates into full contact. Only partially parted, they were kept from a full merge, but the tangling of the first outer ring was enough to send jagged waves of pleasure throughout Starscream’s frame.
Heat and affection seared into Starscream’s spark. There was amusement, awe, surprise, desire and even more affection. Blurr’s emotions were genuine, not a shade of untruth within them.
Starscream deepened the kiss, his field rising up and slamming against Blurr’s. His spark throbbed and pulsed, spinning faster, the branching tendrils knitting firmly with Blurr’s. He pulsed hard, and Blurr responded, electric fire racing between them.
Starscream moaned into the kiss, his spark pulsing faster and faster, charge racing up and down his frame faster than he could track. Electric fire spilled out from his substructure, leaping across the bare distance to spark over Blurr’s armor. The Racer’s engine revved, a low whine rising in his intake.
He drew in shuddery vent after shuddery vent, but it wasn’t enough to combat the heat racing through his frame. His legs trembled, knees wobbling, and he locked his joints to keep from falling, unless it was forward, into Blurr’s embrace. They barely moved, only rocking together, chestplates pressed until there was no space between them, their spark energies tangled together.
Like this, Starscream knew he wasn’t going to last.
Blurr trusted him. Blurr cared for him. Blurr’s spark pulsed against his, eager and hungry and content and full of pleasure.
Against that much desire, Starscream had no defense.
His spark flared as he overloaded, a rhythmic wave of charge that flooded against Blurr’s. He felt Blurr tremble, heard him cry out, as the pleasure doubled back in kind against Starscream when Blurr overloaded as well.
The pleasure seemed to sweep him up and swallow him whole, before spitting him out the other side, wrung and sated. He sagged against Blurr, his forehelm pressing to Blurr’s shoulder, his hands still cupping Blurr’s face. Their sparks were still tangled, the most distant coronas knitted together, but the pulses exchanged were softer, like gentle strokes over the back of his wings.
The music had stopped at some point, Starscream realized. It was now an annoying, pulsing dance beat, and the lights reflected the happy cadence.
“I hate this song,” Blurr muttered as he leaned his helm against Starscream’s. His hands swept up and down Starscream’s back, just as soothing as the light pulses of their spark.
Starscream laughed. It burst out before he could stop it. His hands slid to Blurr’s shoulders and he leaned back, allowing his chestplates to close. Blurr’s did as well, shielding his spark from Starscream’s optics.
It, too, had been beautiful.
“Then why did you program it into the playlist?” Starscream asked.
“It’s popular. Other people like it.” Blurr shrugged. “You know how it is, anything for the customers.”
“Mm.” Starscream made a noncommittal noise. He swept his thumbs inward, stroking over the top of Blurr’s windshield. “Thank you for your trust.”
Blurr’s lips curved into a grin. “If anything, I should be thanking you.” He pressed his forehelm to Starscream’s, giving him nowhere to look but into Blurr’s optics. “Guess that means you like me, hmm?”
“It’s a little more than like,” Starscream said dryly. “I don’t share my berth, my apartment, and my entire building with just anyone, you know.” Or his spark for that matter.
“Maybe someday I can get you to admit what you really feel.” Blurr pressed a quick kiss to the tip of Starscream’s nasal ridge before he drew back, allowing them some cooler ventilating space.
Starscream grinned. “You first.”
Blurr laughed as he eased away, making a beeline for the DJ station and slamming his hand down on the panel. Mercifully, the obnoxious music shut off immediately, though the colorful lights continued to flash.
“Primus, that’s better,” Blurr said with a sigh of relief. He leaned back against the console, boosters and elbows hooked on the edge. “Mess aside, this has been a good day.”
“Careful, you’ll jinx it,” Starscream drawled. He resisted the urge to look over his shoulder for whatever terrible thing might happen next, all because he’d dare to feel happy for a moment.
Blurr smiled at him. “Impossible.” He lifted one hand, crooking a finger at Starscream. “Come here, you. Let’s get started on claiming every surface in my new bar?”
“You sure you’re up to that?” Starscream teased as he found himself drawn to that crooked finger and the even more crooked grin above it. “You look a bit tired there, lover.”
Blurr’s glossa swept over his lips. “I’m sure.”
Starscream’s spark did that flutter-surge thing again. He probably ought to get it looked at or something.
Because Blurr was right. All in all, today had been a pretty good day. Starscream wasn’t used to having those.
He slid into Blurr’s arms and stole his lips for a kiss, pressing him hard against the DJ console. If Blurr wanted to play, then Starscream would. He hummed as he deepened the kiss, fingers sliding into seams for a lingering stroke as Blurr moaned beneath him.
And tomorrow, Starscream decided, tomorrow would be a good day, too.
Nothing could hold him back anymore.
Nothing at all.