[FoF] Finding Home 05

Fall faded into winter, though Kaon barely had one. It was only a month of true frigid air in the heart of the season with frequent snowfalls blanketing the land in white. If he and Drift went for a flight, it was rarely. They much preferred to stay indoors. There was always plenty to do, alone and together.

Though Perceptor would admit he preferred the latter.

Perceptor was used to being indoors, considering his labwork. He didn’t feel trapped. Drift was a little more antsy and had taken to pacing the corridors when he felt the need to move.

But Drift loved cuddling or snuggling, and Perceptor enjoyed it as well. Sleeping in together became a must. Waking Drift with nuzzles and teasing kisses was less of a rare treat and more of an everyday delight.

Perceptor no longer needed the weight of a sheepskin blanket to soothe his rest, he had the warmth of another harpy body next to his. Drift smelled so sweet, was soft and giving, and he surrendered to pleasure as though no one had ever given him any.

Perceptor had never enjoyed dedicating his attention to another so much. Every little thing seemed to make Drift twitch and sigh. He squirmed when Perceptor kissed him, licked his throat, swept his palms over Drift’s body. He was sweet and tangy when Perceptor applied his mouth.

He’d never taken so much joy in delaying the inevitable. He would fully rut with Drift eventually, but there was no hurry. This slow and steady exploration was pleasure itself.

Perceptor had never known that simply being in someone’s presence was enough to make him feel content. He hadn’t realized how much he could enjoy sharing his space with another. Not until he met Drift.

And Drift was so enthusiastic! He was eager to learn, eager to listen. And while he had little scientific aptitude to seek it out on his own, he loved to read, listen to lectures, and had even sat through Perceptor’s many, many theories and hypotheses without so much as a yawn. Perhaps he didn’t understand them, but he listened intently and asked questions sometimes, to prove he’d been paying attention.

They spent hours making plans, consulting Dr. Jessica as often as they could, figuring out means to reach out to nearby aeries, though subtly. It was impolite to poach, so to speak, from other flocks. But if they left on their own, it was quite acceptable. Drift and Perceptor didn’t intend to directly recruit, but put the word out that there was acceptance in Kaon, if anyone sought it.

Dr. Jessica had a few contacts in other aeries – like Perceptor had been a decade ago – and she agreed to pass on the messages. She’d also spoken with the local governing body on their behalf, who agreed that their eventual residency of the protected forest fell within acceptable use policies. More legal measures would have to be taken later, but with a flock of only two, it could be set aside for now.

Perceptor drew up plans, with Drift’s input, of what modifications could be made to the great tree. He designed rooms and walkways, an open ceiling, a lattice of canopy to protect them. He added balconies and gathering areas, and he made a mental note to show Drift the nearby hot springs. They, too, could be incorporated into the aerie, whenever it came to be.

Excitement grew within Perceptor, like a tiny seed which had finally found the proper soil and bathed in the best sunlight. He hadn’t realized how much he longed for home until Drift’s arrival, and now that there was the slimmest chance to have a flock of their own, he desperately wanted it.

Drift had quite the artistic talent as well. He helped Perceptor modify the plans, adding an artistic flair to areas Perceptor’s good sense had only thought of function.

“A home should be comfortable as well as functional,” Drift had teased as he bumped Perceptor with a shoulder. “We want to invite others, not make it seem like they’ve only found another prison.”

Perceptor had rolled his optics at the tease, but obediently added the decorative trellises to his blueprint. They suited each other well, he and Drift, and with every passing day, that truth became more apparent.

A tiny flicker of hope started to grow. He believed, with all his core, that others would come. His life of loneliness would vanish, eased first by the spark of his core, and then by others. They’d have an aerie, a flock, a family.

One week before the winter solstice, Perceptor took Drift up into the conservatory. They carried an armful of blankets and a woven basket full of drinks and snacks. Tonight would be a very special, if rare, treat.

They built a warm pallet out of the blankets and curled together on the floor, staring up through the windowed dome at a night sky blessedly clear of clouds with nothing to hamper their view. Perceptor lit about a dozen tealight candles to chase away the shadows of the darkened conservatory without the brightness of the overhead lights.

“What are we here for again?” Drift leaned back against Perceptor’s chest, his head tucked under Perceptor’s chin. He noisily munched on a bowl of trail mix, occasionally offering a few candied walnuts to Perceptor’s lips.

Drift guarded the candied nuts ferociously. They were his favorite.
Perceptor chuckled and rubbed his cheek over Drift’s crest. “The Vector Crossing. It’s a meteor shower, and we’re lucky the planet’s rotation allows us a prime view this year.”

“Right.” Drift crunched on a handful of peanuts. Getting him to share would be the real challenge. “Why’s it called the Vector Crossing?”

“It’s based on an old fairytale. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, the one concerning Emperor Vector?” He rubbed a hand along Drift’s side, talons carding through the thinner feathers.

Drift squirmed, his rump cradled against Perceptor’s groin, tail twitching. “Wasn’t he a human?”

“Indeed he was.” Perceptor leaned into the hill of blankets that served as a back rest. His other hand rested on Drift’s belly, softly stroking his featherdown, a slow heat stirring within him. He focused on the story as a distraction.

“Vector ruled over the southern hemisphere, over much of what we know today as Praxus and the surrounding city-states. He was a brilliant physicist, not unlike myself, and he was fascinated with magic.”

Drift scoffed. “Magic doesn’t exist.” He offered a walnut to Perceptor’s lips. How generous of him to share.

“I believe it does.” Perceptor accepted the offer with a little lick to Drift’s fingertip. “It simply doesn’t exist in a state that can be recognized or measured.”

Drift chuckled.

“What?” Perceptor asked with a stroke to Drift’s belly.

“Nothing.” Drift set the bag of trail mix aside – empty, the little glutton – and grabbed the two wine glasses Perceptor had brought instead. “It’s just cute, someone all scientific like you believing in something as insubstantial as magic.”

Perceptor pinched his belly.

Drift squirmed and laughed. “You’re going to make me spill!” he said as he uncorked the bottle. It splashed into the wine glasses without losing a drop, contrary to his warning.

“Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?” Perceptor asked, lips curving into a smile.

“I do.” Drift sipped at his wine and offered the other glass to Perceptor. “What’s Vector have to do with the meteors?”

Perceptor tasted the wine, found it red and sweet, a perfect choice. Though, of course, not as sweet as his companion.

“Vector spent years searching for the source of magic, for proof it existed. He traveled far and wide, climbed mountains, dove into oceans, dug deep into the earth, and followed the most obscure of clues.” He paused for dramatic effect, the hand on Drift’s belly wandering a bit further down his abdomen. “What he found, we’ll never know. One day, he disappeared while on an excavation in the core of Tetrahex. Some say, he vanished in a pillar of fire.”

Drift made a noncommittal noise and shifted Perceptor’s hand a bit lower, so that it lingered just above the heat of his antrum. “And?”

“And the meteor showers showed up the very next year, on the anniversary of Vector’s disappearance,” Perceptor continued. He nuzzled the back of Drift’s head. “Be careful what you wish for, the stories cautioned, else you’ll become your obsession.”

Drift snorted. “So people think Vector became the meteor showers and the meteor showers are magic?”

“It is, after all, a fairy tale.” Perceptor drained his glass and set it aside. He cupped Drift’s face with his free hand, tilting it up to meet his. He brushed their noses together. “They don’t have to make sense.”

“Be better if it did,” Drift murmured.

Perceptor chuckled and pressed a kiss to the tip of his nose before he tilted Drift’s chin up. “Look,” he said, lifting his own gaze. “It’s started.”

Drift settled back against his chest, obediently tipping his head back as the first meteors streaked overhead. There and back again, quick as a flash.

“Wow,” Drift breathed. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Tesaurus was almost always cloudy, you know.”

“It is in a rain shadow, so I am not surprised,” Perceptor murmured. He tilted his head against Drift’s, soaking in the weight of his partner, the warmth of him, the tangy sweet scent which always seemed to easily intoxicate Perceptor.

He wrapped both arms around Drift, one still stroking inches from Drift’s antrum, the other petting the nearest white thigh. Drift was warm against him, getting hotter, and the scent of his arousal filled Perceptor’s nose. Candles flickered as the heating system kicked on, filling the chilly air with a lukewarm breeze and the scent of paraffin and imitation vanilla.

They weren’t anywhere close to as intoxicating as Drift however.

Perceptor nuzzled the back of Drift’s head. He glanced up at the show, every now and again, but his hands were far more interested in Drift’s body. The scent of slick was stronger, and Drift’s thighs had started to part, pushing against the sides of Perceptor’s legs. He rolled his hips, nudging Perceptor’s fingers close, until they barely brushed over the swollen nub of his clit.

Drift made a low noise in his throat, close to a whimper. His hands clutched at Perceptor’s thighs, bracing himself to grind into the cradle of Perceptor’s body. He arched his back, craning his neck.

Drift’s mouth turned hot against the side of Perceptor’s throat. His glossa followed, wet and agile. Perceptor shivered, tightening his embrace, shifting beneath Drift. He was trying very hard to focus on the shower, but he swore Drift’s scent made him dizzy.

“You’re supposed to be watching the meteors,” Perceptor reminded him with a little pinch to Drift’s thigh. He inhaled, dragging in the delicious scent of Drift’s arousal.

Drift chuckled deep in his throat, thick with heat. “How can I when you’ve spent the better part of the evening teasing me?”

“I have not,” Perceptor retorted.

Drift’s hips rose, pushing into Perceptor’s touch. “Oh? What else do you call your fingers inches from where they can do some real good?”

He grabbed Perceptor’s hand around the wrist and pushed it down, until he cupped the entirety of Drift’s featherdown. His nub throbbed hotly against the heel of Perceptor’s hand.

Drift purred and rocked up against Perceptor’s hand, the damp of his folds slicking Perceptor’s palm.

“That’s better,” he said.

“Hedonist,” Perceptor whispered. He captured an ear with his teeth, applying a light pressure.

Drift shivered. He pressed back against Perceptor’s chest, hands sliding up Perceptor’s thighs, talons pricking at his skin. “You started it,” he panted.

Perceptor nuzzled him. “Yes, I did.” He rubbed the pad of his fingers over Drift’s antrum, wetting them in the slick. Drift’s nub pulsed beneath his palm, and he gave it a firm rub.

Drift moaned, thighs spreading wider. “More,” he breathed.

Perceptor swallowed thickly, his core thumping faster. He circled the heel of his palm, and let the pads of his fingers caress Drift’s antrum, dipping carefully into the wet center. Slick immediately spilled sticky-sweet over his fingers, and Drift rippled around him.

“Oh, Percy, please,” Drift pleaded, talons clamping on Perceptor’s thighs, digging in hard enough to make Perceptor wince. He panted, and the hot nudge of his thickening clava pressed to the underside of Perceptor’s arm.

Perceptor groaned and mouthed the side of Drift’s neck. He felt each moan vibrate against his lips. He tasted the quick beat of Drift’s core. He drowned in the scent of his lover’s need.

He curled his free hand around Drift’s nearest leg, pulling it up and over, until it was draped over Perceptor’s own leg, opening him up further. Drift keened and pushed up against his hand, both of them now. Perceptor rubbed one palm over Drift’s clava and the other circled his throbbing nub.

Candles flickered in the edge of his vision, but the rest of his focus was for the hot, squirming mess in his lap. Drift panted audibly, faster and faster. He squirmed, writhing in Perceptor’s lap, tarsals digging into the blankets, his hips pumping up against Perceptor’s hands.

Arousal stabbed hot and hard through Perceptor’s veins. He groaned, his clava emerging in short order, the hot tip grinding against Drift’s rump, sensation magnified by the glossy slide of his feathers. His length pulsed, pre-fluid no doubt sticky against Drift’s rump, the urge to grab Drift’s thighs and rut against him almost overwhelming.

He refrained. He had other ideas.

Perceptor buried his face against Drift’s throat, inhaled his scent, his teeth and tongue nipping at Drift’s neck.

“Let go,” he murmured as Drift soaked Perceptor’s fingers, and his clava grew rigid in Perceptor’s hold, slick beading at the tip. “Come for me, sweet pea.”

And Drift did.

Head tossing back, spine arching, feathers fluttering in a wave. His hands dug into Perceptor’s thighs, sharp enough to draw blood, hips pumping into Perceptor’s hands. His clava throbbed, but didn’t spill, and the flutter of his antrum against Perceptor’s fingers was the testament to his release.

By Adaptus he was beautiful.

Drift sagged in his arms, panting. Perceptor gently grabbed his chin with lubricant damp fingers and tilted Drift’s mouth toward his, stealing his lips for a kiss. Drift ate at his mouth, teeth scraping Perceptor’s lips, his breathing hot and humid.

“We’re alone, right?” he said against Perceptor’s mouth, his voice raspy, his antrum still pulsing wet and hot against Perceptor’s palm.

Perceptor hummed in his throat. He stroked down the side of Drift’s throat. “Yes, of course.”

“And you locked the door?”

“Yes,” Perceptor replied with a gentle caress to Drift’s dripping center.

“Good,” Drift purred and abruptly surged in Perceptor’s arms, disentangling himself as he rolled over and straddled Perceptor’s hips.

His eyes were bright, his lips wet from their kissing. His clava bobbed proudly at the apex of his thighs, and he hovered over Perceptor’s clava, the heat of him achingly close.

“I want you inside me,” Drift said as he rocked his hips, gliding his wetness over Perceptor’s length, teasing him. “Now.”

Perceptor shivered, his palms gentle as they slid from Drift’s thighs to his knees and back again. “Is that so?” He kept his tone light, despite the need throbbing through his veins.

Drift nibbled on his bottom lip. He leaned forward, hands braced on either side of Perceptor’s hips, Perceptor’s clava framed by the vee of his thighs.

“Not that I’m not enjoying our slow and steady pace,” Drift said with a little breathy sound. “But I think we can take it to the next level, don’t you?”

Perceptor cupped Drift’s hips and rolled upward, the head of his clava briefly tasting Drift’s slick. “I am your servant.” Anticipation coiling like a hot coal inside his belly.

“You always know the perfect thing to say.” Heat flashed bright and hungry in Drift’s eyes.

Drift shifted his weight and guided Perceptor to the core of him. He rocked down, taking the head of Perceptor’s clava inside of him. Perceptor’s eyelids fluttered, wet heat enveloping the sensitive crown, before Drift sank a bit further, swallowing half of his length in one roll of his hips.

Drift’s hands buried in the blankets to either side of Perceptor. He groaned low in his throat, head hanging. He licked his lips, and it took all Perceptor had not to pull Drift the rest of the way. He trembled from need, but held back.

This would go at Drift’s pace or not at all. Drift was no untouched, this was neither of their first time, but there was no rush either.

None at all.

They had time aplenty to savor, and Perceptor wanted to memorize everything. The slow dance of Drift’s hips, the inch by inch sink, the way Drift’s face glazed over with pleasure, the flash and burn of the meteors lighting the sky behind him, the flicker of candlelight over Drift’s feathers, painting him in shadows and light.

He was beautiful.

Perceptor stroked him, up his sides, down his hips, over and around his rump. He trembled, clava throbbing, and moaned as Drift swallowed him another precious inch. His head tipped back, sucking his lips through his teeth, pleasure surging through his veins like a flash fire.

“Drift,” he moaned. “Please.”

As if waiting for him to beg, Drift’s entire body gave a shudder. His legs secured around Perceptor’s hips, and he sank down fully, their groins notched together.

White light danced behind Perceptor’s eyes. He clutched to Drift’s hips, clava throbbing, hips rocking upward in tiny bursts as the hot clamps of Drift’s antrum rippled around him. Drift ground down, little circles of his hips, stirring Perceptor inside of him. He gasped through his mouth, body drawn taut with visible pleasure.

Drift tilted forward, his mouth crashing over Perceptor’s. His palms smacked to either side of Perceptor’s shoulders and knocked over the wine glasses. They chimed as they struck the metal floor, but did not break.

He exhaled hot over Perceptor’s lips, the change in position adjusting the angle of Perceptor within him. His hips stuttered, losing rhythm, before picking it up once more.

“Adaptus, you feel so good,” he breathed against Perceptor’s mouth, hips rutting forward, his clava grinding against Perceptor’s abdomen.

“As do you,” Perceptor murmured. One hand cradled Drift’s rump. The other swept up and down Drift’s back. He drew his legs up, bracing his feet against the blanket, so he could thrust up into Drift.

His lover cried out, burying his face in Perceptor’s throat. They rocked together, bodies pressed close, heat building between them. Drift rippled around him, and several intoxicating noises peeled from his throat. His teeth and tongue were hot pinpricks on Perceptor’s neck. He murmured a nonsense string of sounds, his breathy pants hot puffs over Perceptor’s ear.

All thoughts of restraint vanished.

Perceptor’s head tossed back, hand gripping Drift’s rump, grinding their bodies together. He pushed deep into Drift, swallowed by heat, and felt pleasure steal away all trace of coherent thought. It barreled him over, stole his breath, or maybe that was Drift’s mouth, pressed to his, teeth and tongue claiming. He spilled deep inside Drift, the ecstasy seemingly without end, his entire body trembling.

Drift’s mouth on his was hungry. He made a noise of protest, his hips grinding down, as the last tremors of ecstasy left Perceptor.

He hadn’t lasted nearly long enough. But no matter. There was always room for improvement. For now…

Perceptor wrapped his arms around Drift and rolled them over, nearly rolling them both right off the pallet of blankets. Drift made a startled squeak as he splayed across the blankets, his eyes bright with want, his lips swollen and wet. His clava bobbed, rigid and wet with want.

Perceptor’s mouth watered. He dragged his hands to Drift’s hips, slotted himself firmly between Drift’s thighs, and dragged Drift up to his mouth. He licked a long, wet line up Drift’s center, tasting himself among Drift’s slick, his teeth and tongue finding Drift’s rigid nub and giving it a long suckle.

Drift keened, his feet drumming against Perceptor’s back, his spine arching. He fisted the blankets, panting a desperate plea. “P–Perceptor…”

The stutter broke off into another keen as Perceptor slipped the tip of Drift’s clava into his mouth and gave a light suck. Feathers twitched. Drift’s hips danced in his grip, and Perceptor took him deeper, Drift’s pre-come trickling sweet and thick over his tongue. Drift throbbed in his mouth, the smell of his arousal a heady thing.

Perceptor hummed and flexed his fingers on Drift’s rump. He looked up the length of his partner’s body, taking in Drift’s closed eyes, his parted lips, the arousal staining his face a brilliant pink. And then he swallowed Drift to the root, his nose buried against the soft down at Drift’s groin, his chin nudging Drift’s nub.

Drift tensed in Perceptor’s hold before his head tipped back and he came with a wail, spilling hot and sweet down Perceptor’s throat. He gritted his teeth, ripped the blankets with his talons, his heels kicking in against Perceptor’s back. His entire body shook as Perceptor eased off of Drift’s clava, taking his time to savor it, extend his partner’s pleasure.

Drift breathed raggedly, making low sounds in his throat. His eyes fluttered open and he pulled his hands free of the blankets as he slipped from Perceptor’s mouth. He reached for Perceptor, and Perceptor reached back, carefully lowering Drift’s hips so he could crawl up the length of his body.

He nestled his hips between Drift’s thighs, his lips finding Drift’s for a soft and sweet kiss. Drift’s tongue slipped into his mouth, as though eager to taste himself on Perceptor, his hands sweeping up and down Perceptor’s back. His chest heaved with quick breaths, his body expending heat like he had an inner furnace.

Perceptor’s arms shook. He gave in to their weakness and ended the kiss, but only so he could pillow his head on Drift’s chest, listen to the rapid, but returning to normal, throb of Drift’s core.

Comfortable silence slipped into the warm spaces between them, filled only with their breathing. Perceptor’s eyes half-lidded, his ears attuned to Drift’s core beat.

“Do you know what they say about meteors?” Drift asked, his voice vibrating through his chest, sounding much deeper as a result.

Perceptor opened his eyes, watching the flicker of the candlelight create shadows against the wall. “What about them?”

Drift tightened his arms around Perceptor. “In some places, they are called shooting stars. And rumor has it, if you make a wish on one, Adaptus will grant it.”

“Is that so?” Perceptor lifted his head and shifted his weight to his elbows so he could meet Drift’s eyes. “Do you have a wish, Drift?”

A small, soft smile curled Drift’s lips. “I used to. But I don’t anymore.”

“Why is that?”

Drift dug his elbows beneath him, propping his torso up so their faces were mere inches apart. “Because it already came true,” he murmured, and brushed his lips over Perceptor’s. “I found you, didn’t I?”

Perceptor’s core throbbed a sharp shot of affection. “I believe we found each other.” He brushed their noses together before he snagged Drift’s lips for another kiss, this one sweeter and deeper.

He shifted his weight to one elbow and reached down with the other hand, curling his fingers around the nearest thigh. He lifted Drift’s leg over his hip, opening Drift up so that Perceptor could roll their hips together, his stirring clava brushing over the damp between Drift’s thighs.

Drift moaned against his lips and clutched at Perceptor’s shoulders, falling back into the embrace of the blankets as he did so. Perceptor followed after him, bathing his face in sweet kisses, nosing into the delicate area of Drift’s throat. He felt the quickened beat of Drift’s core against his lips, even as he rocked forward, his clava gliding through Drift’s slick.

“May I?” Perceptor asked.

“Please,” Drift breathed and his heel thrummed against Perceptor’s rump, urging him forward. He carded his hands through Perceptor’s feathers, a low purr rising in his chest, vibrating against Perceptor’s lips.

Affection soared through Perceptor’s core. He angled himself to sink into Drift once more, losing himself in the feel of Drift beneath him, the sweet sounds of pleasure, and the echoes of the meteor shower flickering over the walls around them.

A wish come true indeed, Perceptor thought fondly. And then he didn’t think much more.

***

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[RB] Full Throttle

The polite thing about Primes is that they usually call first. Unless they are feeling mischievous for once, and drop in on you completely unannounced, scaring the living daylights out of you and making you spill your coolant everywhere.

“Well,” High Tide says sourly as he shakes coolant off his fingers and sets the now empty cup aside. “Looks like your team finally got that ground bridge going.”

He pulls a cloth out the bin – nice of the humans to give him this fabric, it’s wonderfully absorbent – and mops up his fingers.

Optimus chuckles softly, in that way he does when he’s in a good mood. “To be fair, it has been working for some time,” he says. He comes further into High Tide’s quarters and snags a cloth for himself.

He stoops to clean the coolant from the floor, and High Tide has to bite down on the urge to tell him Primes shouldn’t be janitors. But that’s the way Optimus has always been. Never one to shirk from what needs to be done just because he’s the one doing it.

Instead, High Tide snorts and wipes coolant from his gears. “You like pretending otherwise for the younglings then.” He waggles a freshly wiped finger at Optimus. “Sneaky Prime.”

Optimus looks up at him, optics shining with mirth. “I prefer to consider it a learning experience.” He rises to his full height and lobs the dirtied cloth into a laundry basket.

He doesn’t miss. Of course.

High Tide shakes his head and laughs. “Sure ya do.” He tosses his own cloth into the basket. It catches on the edge and drapes half on the floor. He holds out his arms. “Get over here, ya scallywag. I’ve missed you.”

Optimus comes into his arms, his embrace one of warmth and fervor, delightfully genuine. “It has only been a few short months,” he says against High Tide’s head.

High Tide scoffs. “Say that again after you’ve spent months in the company of a buncha rookies and their squishies.” He gives Optimus a satisfying squeeze before he steps back, the urge to grope one he can barely resist.

Optimus’ optics twinkle with amusement. He cocks his head. “High Tide.”

He recognizes that admonishing tone. Optimus don’t even have to add extra words to it. Feels like getting shamed by his minder, it does.

“I didn’t say they weren’t good youngsters.” High Tide waggles his finger as he turns to draw himself another cup of coolant, and one for Optimus as well. Knowing his Prime, he ain’t taking care of himself like he should, even with Ratchet nagging. “Just that they can wear on an old mech’s patience is all.”

“I will grant you that much,” Optimus concedes. He accepts the coolant with murmured gratitude, and sips at it, his engine giving a soft rev of delight.

Figures. Someone really needs to look after their Prime properly. Maybe Ratchet needs a lesson in badgering to get through to him.

“Ya got another assignment for me?” High Tide asks before he downs his coolant as quick as possible. He’s got the feeling that heat in Optimus’ optics spells a good night for him. He’s going to need it all.

Optimus hums a negative. “No. You are where you can do the most good.”

“Oh. So this is a social call then?”

Optimus’ lips lift into a smile. “I do occasionally like to visit old friends.”

“Mm hm.” High Tide tips the empty cup into a bin for later washing. He leans a hip against the counter. “You’ll never guess who snuck aboard my ship the other night.”

Optimus sips his coolant before he lowers the cup and swirls the contents around. “Hm,” he says. “Heatwave.”

“Blasted Primes,” High Tide says. It’s impossible to get a jump on them.

Optimus chuckles. “Merely a deduction.” He finishes his coolant and sets it aside, glossa flicking quick-like over his lips.

High Tide effects a grump. He folds his arms. “Then can ya deduct what for?”

Optimus moves closer, and High Tide lets him, just like he lets the hand rest on his shoulder and slide slowly down his arm. “Heatwave is older than his companions,” Optimus muses aloud. “Given the excitement they face on a near daily basis, I can.”

High Tide drops his arms, slides into the sizzling heat of Optimus’ field, his hands finding the strong jut of Optimus’ hips. “It’s not right, what it is,” he says with a huff.

Clever Prime fingers caress down High Tide’s arms, dipping into seams and divots, raising sensation in their wake. “What? My deductions or Heatwave?”

High Tide’s aft hits the counter edge behind him. Odd how he doesn’t remember backing toward it. “Oh, that firebot was a delight,” he says as he finds himself hoisted up onto the edge and a Prime notching himself between High Tide’s thighs. “Hotter than the fires he puts out. I’m talking about you, ya old windbag. A mech oughta be able to tease some mystery.”

The counter creaks and groans under his weight. It’s not meant to carry someone as massive as he is. But it’d be even more of a struggle to get Optimus up here, not that it’s where he wants to be apparently. Seems he wants High Tide right here. And High Tide’s inclined to be wherever his Prime wants him to be.

“Then perhaps you should not be so obvious.” Optimus vents heat across High Tide’s frame, his optics a very bright blue in the dim of High Tide’s quarters.

I’m obvious?” High Tide laughs and hooks his ankles behind Optimus’ thighs, dragging him closer with a clang of metal on metal. “That ain’t my hand on my panel.”

Sure enough, there are talented Prime fingers on his abdominal plating, teasing around the seams of the panel concealing his cord array.

“Hm.” Optimus leans in, nuzzling High Tide’s face. “How did that get there?”

High Tide cycles a ventilation, anticipation coiling an electric heat in his lines, his cords jittering in their sockets. “I wonder.” He licks his lips, spark throbbing a faster beat. “There something you looking for, OP?”

A warm palm splays over High Tide’s panel. “I do believe I’ve found it, if you will be so kind as to open for me.”

“Kind,” High Tide echoes, and snorts, though he does obey, moaning immediately as Optimus’ fingers bury themselves in the tangle of High Tide’s cords. “You know, I got another lesson with the younglings tomorrow.”

“I won’t keep you up long,” Optimus assures him, venting warm and wet against High Tide’s intake, his field a pulsing, fiery thing as it tugs on High Tide’s.

A shiver claws up High Tide’s backstrut. He arches toward Optimus, clutching at him, knowing he won’t be able to do anything more with his hands than hang on for the ride.

“Ya never do,” High Tide agrees, optics dimming, the gentle tug-tug of Optimus’ fingers on his cables making him jerk as static charge leaps out from his frame. “Damn Primes.”

“Is that a complaint?” Both hands are buried in High Tide’s cables now, leaving it up to him to keep a hold on Optimus. Which is good, because that’s all he wants to do right now.

“Just an observation, OP.” High Tide works his intake, his engine clicking over into a higher gear. Primus, he’s going to overload without so much as a connection, he can see it now. “Keep doing that.”

Optimus’ fingers slide through his cables like threading wire, and a light tug makes High Tide jolt. “Did you grumble so much with Heatwave?” His field is a hot breath upon High Tide’s armor, and his seams loosen, allowing as much of it to embrace his cables as possible.

“He’s the one did the grumbling.” High Tide hooks his fingers into Optimus’ shoulders, such large things that they are. “Never heard a mech whine so much about a little pleasure. Has no patience, that one.”

“He will learn. We all do eventually.”

Optimus’ hands abandons him, and High Tide swallows down a whimper of dismay. Because in their absence, he hears the click and whirr of Optimus’ own panel opening, and he can’t help but look down and watch the carefully ordered collection of cables snake their way from Optimus’ array. So many. Thrice as many as High Tide’s point of fact.

The sight of them would probably appall the firebot. He’d been so shocked at High Tide’s dozen or so. To see these two dozen spilling out of Optimus’ chassis might have sent him running for the hills, especially as their ends crackle with charge. They move as if they have a mind of their own, snaking forward, seeking out all the bits High Tide can match.

If Optimus is crackling that much, this is going to be a short ride indeed.

High Tide shivers from head to foot.

“I’m thinkin’ I can relate to him now,” High Tide says as Optimus’ cables twist and tangle with his own, more nuzzling than connecting. “Stop toying with me.”

“I am savoring.” Optimus’ vents sound a little strained now, his field molten as it swallows High Tide whole, making him pulse to the same hot beat. “There is a difference.”

“Savor a little less, consume a lot more.” High Tide groans as a couple cables finally connect, sending a wave of charge through his lines, pleasure sparking hot and fierce through his net.

Optimus’ fingers continue to tug and toy, each little pull on Heatwave’s socket like a taunt, as his cables slither around High Tide’s own. “As always, High Tide, you are the epitome of class and courtship.”

High Tide digs his fingers into Optimus’ armor seams, mostly to brace himself for the storm he knows is coming. Optimus trembles from the effort of holding himself back, easing his charge rather than rushing forward.

There’s always a risk with Primes, that in their haste, they might burn their partner from the inside out.

“This ain’t courting,” High Tide gasps out as three more cables click home, and his entire frame buzzes with the biting charge clawing through their connection. “This is about spilling charge. And right now, I’m demanding everything you got to give.”

“You shall have it, old friend,” Optimus murmurs.

His hands slide to High Tide’s hips, pulls High Tide firmly against him. “Hold on,” Optimus adds.

High Tide moans. He braces himself.

As one, the last six cables slot home, pin to connector, axial to coaxial, plug to port, one after another, click-click-click. Charge surges like a wildfire into High Tide’s lines. His awareness whites out, electric fire bowing his frame. He convulses, caught up in wave after wave of consuming charge, pleasure like a white light bursting behind his optics.

He might have forgotten to ventilate. He certainly doesn’t think. He possibly starts keening, warbling, gasped out sounds of pleasure and need as he claws at Optimus’ shoulders, frame turned inside and out. It’s an onslaught, so much pleasure it’s almost pain.

Armor creaks. He’s bowled over by the flames. Optimus doesn’t so much as ask for High Tide’s charge as he demands it, and High Tide surrenders it all, lets Optimus drink whatever he can. It’s not an exchange of pleasure, it’s a surrender of it, and High Tide drowns.

It’s a wave he can’t bob over, and he’s pulled under, overload falling over him a mere pulse later. He thrashes, dimly hearing the counter creak warningly, even dimmer the sound of Optimus’ gasping his own pleasure, so sweet it makes the overload crest over him again.

And again and again.

His awareness whites out to sweet bursts of charge, bites of it, nibbling on him from the inside out. He’s not sure where one overload ends and another begins. Maybe they aren’t even separate, maybe it’s just one long, never-ending overload.

Ah, High Tide sighs as his engine screams, and he thanks himself for the foresight to drink that coolant, ain’t nothing like being with a Prime.

Then he’s swallowed up by the ecstasy, and thoughts shatter to so much stardust.

~

High Tide onlines in his berth, feeling like he’s gone toe to toe with a combiner and ended up on the wrong end of it. He’s wrung out and dry, exhausted, but his entire frame simmers with the aftermath of one overload too many. It’s the good kind of exhaustion.

It’s dark. But, he realizes belatedly, that’s only because he hasn’t onlined his optics. So he does, and is greeted with the sight of Optimus’ warm smile.

“You’re alive after all,” Optimus teases. He’s sitting on the edge of the berth next to High Tide, looking as fresh as a new weld, shiny and clean.

Meanwhile, High Tide feels like something that got fished out of the gutter.

High Tide cracks a grin. “I’d tell ya to visit more often, but I don’t know how much this old frame can take,” he admits. He pulls himself up, braced against the wall at the head of the berth.

Optimus chuckles. “It’s quite all right, old friend. There are others.” He magics a cube of something and hands it over.

A quick sniff identifies a heady mix of energon and coolant and is that hydraulic fluid? How embarrassing. High Tide must have sprung a leak somewhere. How kind of Optimus not to mention it.

“I’m sure there are,” High Tide grumbles. It’s a tease, however. Optimus is no more his than anyone else’s. He’s a Prime.

Primes belong to no one, and everyone. A fact which surely accounts for some of Ratchet’s grumpiness. It’s hard, loving a Prime. Harder still knowing you can never keep him. Speaking of…

“How is Ratchet holding up these days?” High Tide says pointedly.

“With a cane, to hear him tell it,” Optimus replies with that twinkle in his optic, the rare humor he shows so few.

High Tide barks a laugh. “I’m older than he is, but you’d think he crawled out of the primordial either right after Primus and Unicron themselves.”

Optimus smiles and the curve of it is fond. “He is an old spark, I think. The war has aged him more than any of us.”

“He just needs a few more tumbles is all.” High Tide smirks and sucks down half of the fluid mix Optimus had been so kind to make for him. “And for you to make him a promise.” He gestures to Optimus with his cup. “Mark my words, if there’s any of us that wants to settle, it’s Ratchet.”

“I know.” Sadness flickers into Optimus’ optics. It’s a promise he can’t give Ratchet, and never has there been a more tragic tale than that one.

We won’t even discuss the fizzle that had been Orion Pax and Megatronus.

“Just as you also know you can’t.” High Tide sighs. “It’s a damn shame. He should spend some time with the young’uns. Teach them a thing or two. It’ll do him some good.”

Optimus leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his expression turned inward and thoughtful. “I agree. Perhaps you can tell me how best to convince him.”

High Tide finishes off his cup and sets it aside. He’s not even alarmed to find his fingers shaking. It’s going to take him most of the morning to recover from this. “If you can’t do it, I highly doubt I can.”

“I will present the suggestion nonetheless.” Optimus cycles a quiet ventilation and rises, the creaks and groans of his frame suggesting a weariness more fatigue than age.

“Uh oh. I know that tone. You already gotta leave, I take it?” High Tide’s not even offended. If he hadn’t wanted Optimus to charge him up like this, he’d have said no when Optimus first showed up.

Optimus shakes his head, looking sad and grim. “There is never enough time.” He stares into the distance, through one of the portside windows, seeing without seeing.

High Tide swings his legs over the edge of the berth, gets his feet on the ground. Standing up is going to be the challenge. “Ain’t gotta apologize to me, OP. I like your visits no matter how brief they are. It’s always good to see you.”

Optimus turns and offers a hand, helping High Tide stand, no matter how wobbly his knees are. “And you as well, old friend,” he murmurs, his grip on High Tide’s elbow briefly tightening. “I thank you, High Tide, for your diligence and dedication in looking after Rescue Team Alpha. Your guidance has helped them become what they are.”

“It helps that the firebot’s so pretty,” High Tide teases.

Optimus chuckles, his field sliding flush and warm over High Tide’s, ripe with gratitude and affection. “Yes. That as well.”

High Tide claps him on the shoulder and winks. “I’m only teasing. I kinda like it here, truth be told. It’s nice. Not a bad place to spend your time. Peaceful-like, you know?”

“Indeed.” Optimus takes his hand from High Tide’s elbow, but slowly, as though afraid he might have to catch High Tide again.

All’s well. High Tide can stand and he’s proud of himself for it. But there’s something in Optimus’ tone, in his carriage, that worries High Tide.

“You all right, OP?” he asks.

A small sigh whispers through Optimus’ vents. “I am well enough,” he says, his gaze turning distant again. He moves toward the portside window.

High Tide follows, telling his wobbly knees to obey him. “I’m sensing a ‘but’.”

“But the war has reached a tipping point.” Optimus’ hands lock behind his back, his gaze focused on the horizon. “Megatron has drifted more into madness, and I fear we may see the end soon.”

“The end of the war isn’t a bad thing.”

“No, it is not.” Optimus’ shoulders drift down, but his armor draws taut to his frame, as though in response to a dark thought crossing his processor. “Only the manner in which it ends. I do no not know I will always be here to watch over the team, High Tide.”

Fear tiptoes like a cold wind through High Tide’s spark. “Don’t talk like that. Megatron’s not going to outlive you.”

Optimus turns to face him with a small smile. “Ratchet said the same thing once.”

“Of course he did.” Ratchet’s been in love with Optimus. Always has been, as long as High Tide’s known them. “But I see what you’re saying. You don’t worry about the sparklings here. They’ll be fine. I’ll make sure of it.”

“I know you will, old friend. I am grateful for your assistance in this, and I am relieved to know that whatever happens, the team will be looked after.”

Whatever happens. High Tide doesn’t like the ominous nature of that statement.

He shakes his head. “Nothing’s gonna happen, Optimus. We’re gonna win this, Megatron’s gonna end up where he belongs, and we’re all gonna get to go home.”

If they even have a home to return to. High Tide’s seen pictures of what Cybertron looks like now, a desolate wasteland of battlegrounds. It’ll take centuries, millennia even, to fix what has been destroyed, if that’s even possible.

“Primus willing,” Optimus says with a dip of his head and a soft, sad turn of his lips.

“He doesn’t have anything to do with it.” High Tide gently thumps a hand against Optimus’ chassis, where he knows the matrix nestles against his spark, like a parasite. “We’re all making our own fates.”

“Indeed.” Optimus wraps him up in an embrace, and High Tide admits that he sinks into it.

There’s nothing quite like a hug from his Prime. It is simultaneously balm and comfort. It is the soothe to any ache.

“You know if you have need of an old mech in your battles, you need only call,” High Tide says gruffly, into the crook of Optimus’ intake.

“You are where I need you most, old friend,” Optimus says. He pulls back, rests his hands on High Tide’s shoulder, and looks at him with warmth.

There is something in the look High Tide fears. As if this is the last time he’ll see Optimus. But that can’t be true.

“Fine. If you insist. But then I insist ya come visit more often.” High Tide resists the urge to waggle his finger once more. “I need more adult companionship around here.”

Optimus laughs, and for a moment, he sounds light and carefree, as he so rarely is. “I understand.”

He steps back and gives High Tide a look he can only describe as fond. “Until we meet again.” He reaches out and High Tide clasps his hand.

“Sooner rather than later.”

“Indeed.”

Optimus activates his comm and steps back. “Ratchet, I need a return bridge,” he says.

Moments later, said bridge swirls to life against the back wall of High Tide’s quarters. He expects there to be chaos and destruction, but his ship doesn’t so much as wobble on the waves.

Optimus gives him another enigmatic, parting smile, and then he’s gone, swallowed up by the bridge, whisked off to somewhere else on this planet.

Here and gone again, just like a Prime.

High Tide shakes his head and toddles back to his berth, collapsing onto it with a satisfied grunt. He’ll need as much recharge as he can manage before the younglings show up bright and early. They’ll take all the energy he has and then some, especially since he suspects a certain firebot will send his tagalong away ahead of him, and linger for some ‘extra training’.

High Tide hopes he’ll have the charge to spare then. If not, he’ll certainly hear it from Heatwave.

Wonders never cease.

[FoF] Topsy-Turvy 15

Megatron spotted Rodimus’ red-orange tail disappearing around the corner of the upper atrium, the mostly empty walkways up here home to residential nests, some unclaimed, some occupied.

If it bothered anyone to see their leader racing through the corridors in hot pursuit of his intended, no one spoke up. A few comments trailed in Megatron’s wake – both lewd and encouraging alike – but no one complained. Or perhaps they were saving it for later.

Megatron would worry about such things in the morning. Right now, there was a pretty smol teasing him, always darting ahead, just out of reach, his feathers swishing through the leaves.

Rodimus was more agile than Megatron knew. He grabbed extended branches and growths, clinging to them, leaping from them, always a step ahead. He laughed, bright and carefree, and Megatron’s core throbbed even harder.

He could no more stop himself from chasing Rodimus, than he could stop the heat pulsing through his veins, or the thick throb of need in his groin. Everytime Rodimus jumped, his feathermane flattened, and Megatron’s marks stood out in sharp relief. His twitching tail was a temptation Megatron couldn’t ignore.

He chased, and he stalked, and he waited for his moment.

It came when Rodimus tossed him a cheeky wink and leapt from one branch to another, a larger gap than he’d dared so far.

Megatron pounced, snatching Rodimus out of thin air, a startled squeak spilling out of Rodimus’ mouth as they hit the ground, Megatron rolling to cushion the impact.

“Got you,” he growled as they slid to a stop, ruched up against the wall of the corridor. He pinned Rodimus beneath him, the lithe body rolling up to meet his.

Rodimus looked up at him, breathless, eyes wide and bright. “I guess you did,” he breathed and squirmed. “Now what?”

Megatron groaned, laying more of his weight against the smol, keeping Rodimus trapped. His arms tightened around Rodimus as his clava throbbed, almost daring to peep from its sheath.

“You are threatening my composure,” Megatron admitted.

Rodimus laughed and surged upward, licking the tip of Megatron’s nose. “Good,” he purred and wriggled, his groin rolling up against Megatron’s belly. “But I ask again, my liege. What now?”

Wasn’t it obvious?

Megatron rolled to his feet in one smooth motion and slung Rodimus over his shoulder, pinning him there with a firm hand on Rodimus’ rump. Rodimus squawked his surprise, tail sweeping through the air and nearly smacking Megatron in the face.

“Now we go somewhere I can deal with you without my flock watching,” Megatron said, his face flushed with heat.

They had an audience. Oh, it was maybe only a half-dozen of his flock members, and they all looked approving, but that wasn’t the point. Megatron was Liege. He had to have some semblance of decorum.

“Back to your nest, I hope,” Rodimus said in a gleeful tone, wriggling his rump pointedly.

Megatron gave it a light smack, and Rodimus giggled. Megatron sighed. There would be no punishing this one apparently.

Megatron leapt down a level as Rodimus clutched his back and made a sound of delight. Shows of strength were, apparently, a point of arousal for him, if Megatron had to guess by the clava poking at his shoulder.

His grip on Rodimus’ rump tightened.

He might have run to his nest, the throb in his groin threatening to bare his own clava to all and sundry. Megatron wasn’t a prude, but the idea of walking around his aerie with his clava on display was not ideal.

He almost tore the curtain down from his doorway and fumbled to loosen the knot so it would muffle noises and announce he was too busy to speak with anyone. Rodimus made rocking motions with his hips, grinding his arousal on Megatron’s shoulder.

“Put me down,” he begged. “Please, Megatron. Put me down. You got me. I’m here. And believe me, I’m not going anywhere.”

Megatron stalked toward his nestbed with single-minded focus. Oh, he would put Rodimus down, but right where he wanted him. Right where Rodimus couldn’t squirm away, where Megatron could enjoy every inch of the smol he could lay his lips on. He wanted Rodimus beneath him again, to hear him moan and beg and watch him writhe.

Megatron’s knees wobbled. He almost fell into his nest, but caught himself at the last minute. He waded into the sea of blankets and pillows, kicking aside some those stained from last night. A problem to worry about later.

Megatron slung Rodimus down into the pillows. The smol landed on his back, arms and legs splayed, his feathers fanning out around him. His face was flushed pink, his lips parted invitingly, his eyes wide and bright with arousal.

By Adaptus, he was hard. His clava jutted from his sheath, already dribbling at the tip. Megatron’s mouth watered.

Rodimus was wet, too. His featherdown was dark with slick, and arousal had the folds of his antrum swollen and visible. Megatron’s clava throbbed, seeping at the sight of it, and he wanted nothing more than to sink back into that welcoming heat. He wouldn’t make the same mistake as yesterday however.

No longer untouched Rodimus might be, but he still wasn’t in a shape for Megatron to fall over him like a crazed beast. No matter how loud Megatron’s instincts roared.

Rodimus’ flush deepened. He sucked his bottom lip between his teeth. “You’re just staring at me.”

“Because you’re gorgeous.” Megatron dropped to his knees between Rodimus’ thighs, crawling over the smol until Rodimus was caged beneath him. “Utterly delectable. A delicious treat. I was deciding how I should consume you.”

His hands slid up Rodimus’ arms, slow and gentle, before his fingers curled around Rodimus’ wrists. Not so tight as to hurt, but enough that a testing tug proved fruitless. Rodimus was well and truly caught.

A whimper rose in his throat. He licked his lips, body rolling up against Megatron’s, the head of his clava rutting over Megatron’s belly.

“The things you say,” Rodimus tipped his head back, revealing the long line of his throat, the raw and fresh evidence of Megatron’s marks.

Complete and utter submission.

Arousal roared through Megatron like wildfire. He growled, the echoes of it vibrating through his chest, and he stole Rodimus’ lips for his own. The kiss was less gentle than he intended, but need yawed through him, and more of his weight rested on Rodimus. He moaned into the kiss as the head of his clava rutted over Rodimus’ feathers, the silky-softness of them stirring his arousal more.

Rodimus whined, his thighs bracketing Megatron’s hips, knees pressing in, urging him onward. He wriggled beneath Megatron, grinding against his belly.

“More,” Rodimus gasped as Megatron broke free of his lips, leaving stinging nips over Rodimus’ jaw.

“Wait.” Megatron nudged under Rodimus’ chin, burying his face against Rodimus’ throat, where the sweetest of scents lingered. Where he could feel the pulse of Rodimus’ core against his lips.

Megatron groaned and rolled his hips, grinding his clava against Rodimus, slick staining Rodimus’ feathers. He shifted, just so, and then their clavas collided, hard heat against hard heat.

Rodimus sucked air through his teeth. He gasped, head tilting far back, his throat surrendered to Megatron’s lips.

Need thundered in Megatron’s ears. His grip on Rodimus’ wrists tightened by degrees, bearing Rodimus down into the nest. He ground down, hips rocking and rolling, thrusting against Rodimus in mimicry of claiming him.

Rodimus keened. “Take me!” he pleaded, and the sweet smell of his slick grew even stronger. Megatron could feel it, damp on his feathers, but no.

He would wait. He would taste Rodimus’ pleasure before he took what had been offered. He had self-control. This time, he’d prove it.

He still growled against Rodimus’ throat, let him feel the vibrations of it through his skin. He found an unmarked patch and sank his teeth against it, tasting Rodimus with flicks of his tongue. He exhibited some restraint, however, and continued to avoid the traditional mating spot, and refrained from biting deep enough to scar.

Rodimus gasped, his back arching. His hips juttered against Megatron’s, a rapid and uneven thrust of his clava. Their lengths slid together, jostling for space, slick mingling.

Megatron licked and nibbled, found yet another bare patch that could use his mark. He tasted Rodimus, as he felt every gasp, every moan. His world was nothing but Rodimus’ sweetness, the tickle of Rodimus’ panting exhalations against his crest, the urgent noises vibrating in Rodimus’ throat, against his lips.

The deepest of bites was over the very center of Rodimus’ throat, the hardest place for him to hide. It was a shade too far to the left to be a mating mark. It called to Megatron’s mouth, made him hot and hungry.

He licked his way to it, and then lapped over the marks with a long, wet swipe of his tongue. Rodimus warbled beneath him, spine arching into a parabolic curve, head thrown back. Warmth splattered between their bodies as Rodimus shook and babbled something in a language Megatron didn’t recognize.

Hot slick rubbed over Megatron’s clava. He swore it tingled, and it made Rodimus’ feathers even more sleek. Megatron thrust against him, need boiling in his veins. He stole Rodimus’ lips again, Rodimus panting against his mouth, his thighs quivering around Megatron’s hips.

It took only a handful more thrusts for Megatron to follow Rodimus over the edge. He pressed his forehead to Rodimus’ and groaned as he came, spurt after spurt striping Rodimus’ feathers and mingling with Rodimus’ own spill. Megatron shifted his weight so he wasn’t crushing Rodimus and sucked in several gulps of air.

His entire body trembled, and he was still hard as a rock. One release wasn’t nearly enough to clear his arousal, and given the way Rodimus wriggled beneath him, Rodimus was in the same situation.

“That better not be it,” Rodimus panted as he tugged his wrists free of Megatron’s loosened grip. He slid his hands up Megatron’s chest and over his shoulders. “I still want you inside me.”

“I’ll get there.” Megatron licked over the bites on Rodimus’ neck, wincing to himself. Many were deeper than he intended. Two of them were bleeding. By Adaptus, what was wrong with him.

Rodimus sighed and stroked his tarsals over the back of Megatron’s legs. “Get there faster,” he grumbled.

Megatron chuckled. He pushed off Rodimus and sat back on his heels, admiring the splay of the smol beneath him. Spill indeed decorated Rodimus’ abdomen in glistening streaks. He remained half-hard, his clava damp with moisture, but the slick gathered in his antrum told of his hunger.

Megatron dragged his knuckles down Rodimus’ groin and palmed the pretty smol’s antrum, slick immediately sticking to him. “You’re so wet,” he said, his voice coming out more like a growl.

His clava throbbed as though he hadn’t just found release. The urge to take Rodimus rose up inside of him again, like a tingle in his spine.

Rodimus rolled his hips, riding Megatron’s palm. “And you’re being a tease.” He pouted, lips puffy from Megatron’s kisses. His antrum swelled, clit-nub peeking from the crown of his folds.

Megatron dampened his thumb with Rodimus’ slick and pressed it to that swollen button, circling it lightly. Rodimus inhaled, his hips rolling against Megatron’s hand, his antrum radiating heat.

“You’re not sore?” Megatron asked, in all seriousness. His own pleasure would wait. He wouldn’t hurt Rodimus again, not if he could help it.

Rodimus clawed at the nest covers, grinding harder against Megatron’s hand. “No, I’m not. I swear.” He licked his lips, eyes slitted as they met Megatron’s. “Isn’t it too soon in our relationship for you to make me beg?”

Megatron’s eyebrows lifted. His cupped his hands under Rodimus’ rump. “Who gave you such kinky ideas?”

“That’s my secret to tell,” Rodimus sang with a salacious little grin. His hands landed over Megatron’s, talons digging into the back of Megatron’s hands. “Maybe you can interrogate me with your clava.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Megatron laughed. He sat back on his heels and tugged Rodimus into his lap, the smol flopping against him and bearing him backward. His spine hit the rounded edge of his nest, propping him mostly upright. Rodimus plastered against his front, cradled in the crook of Megatron’s hips.

“Mmm, this is much better.” Rodimus wriggled, planting his antrum right against the rigid heat of Megatron’s clava. “Guess that means sometimes I’m going to have to take what I want.”

“Fortunately, I don’t see a problem with that.” Megatron shifted his legs out from under him, drawing up his knees to support Rodimus from behind, the brightly colored tail flicking aside at the last minute.

He cupped Rodimus’ face, drawing the smol toward him for a kiss. He brushed their lips together, lightly at first, before tracing Rodimus’ lips with the tip of his tongue. Rodimus shivered and rocked down, his slick painting hot and wet over Megatron’s clava.

“If this is romance, I want more of it,” Rodimus murmured. His eyes fluttered shut as he tilted his face up toward Megatron.

“You can have whatever you want, if you’ll stay with me,” Megatron replied.

He pressed little kisses over Rodimus’ face, on his forehead, his temples, the jut of his cheekbones. He decorated the tip of Rodimus’ nose and exhaled hotly into his ears. He licked a long, hot stripe up the midline of Rodimus’ throat before ending at his lips, kissing him deeply.

Rodimus tasted sweet, and he moaned into the kiss, his hands clutching at Megatron’s sides. He slipped down a bit further in Megatron’s lap, his antrum cradling Megatron’s clava with heated invitation.

One Megatron intended to accept.

Megatron cradled Rodimus’ hips and lifted him. He angled himself and eased into Rodimus in one slow, savoring thrust. Megatron moaned, trembling, as he was embraced by rippling heat. Rodimus gasped and arched on top of him, rolling his hips to make Megatron move faster.

Rodimus slung his arms around Megatron’s neck, his knees digging into the nest covers. “More,” he moaned as he lifted and lowered himself, working Megatron deeper, his slick pooling between their bodies.

The scent of him was dizzying. Megatron’s mouth found the crook of neck and shoulder, and then wandered on. He nibbled Rodimus’ collarbone, buried in the tickly, soft feathers of his mane. He inhaled, greedily taking in the berry-sweet scent of Rodimus. His clava throbbed, grinding deeper, Rodimus rippling around him.

He let Rodimus set the pace, and then wondered if he should have, because Rodimus started working his hips, slamming himself faster and faster on Megatron’s clava. He made all these sounds in his throat, little whimpers and gasps, his talons kneading the back of Megatron’s shoulders.

It took all Megatron had not to throw him down into the nest and rut upon him like he were caught in the grips of a mating heat. His clava throbbed, an off beat to the rhythm of Rodimus’ movements.

He was gorgeous like this, caught up in pleasure, going after it with determination, his lower lip caught between his teeth. His eyes were scrunched shut, his face flushed a deeper pink. His crest feathers flared, and the sounds he made rung in Megatron’s ears like little seductive croons.

“By Adaptus, you’re beautiful,” Megatron breathed, because it was truth, and one Rodimus deserved to hear.

He tugged on Rodimus’ ear with his teeth, nuzzling the smol and holding him closer. He cradled Rodimus’ hips, helping him lift and sink onto Megatron’s clava, faster and faster, grinding delightfully deep.

“Take me,” Rodimus babbled as his talons dug in, little pricks in Megatron’s skin, enough to leave marks behind. “Keep me. Oh, please, please.” His head tipped back, spine arching.

He was hot like fire, a blaze to match his feathers. It exuded from him in waves, and the sweet scent of him left Megatron’s head spinning. Or maybe it was the plea in Rodimus’ voice, the way he clung to Megatron like he thought Megatron might leave him any moment.

Megatron’s core throbbed. He pulled Rodimus hard against him, holding the smol tight against his body, grinding deeper into Rodimus, as if trying to mark him on the inside.

“You’re mine,” Megatron said against Rodimus’ throat before he dragged his mouth upward and claimed Rodimus’ lips, leaving little room for confusion.

Mine, mine, mine.

The word echoed in his head; it clawed out of his throat on a growl. It vibrated against Rodimus’ throat where Megatron’s lips found the marks he’d made.

Frag Springer. Frag Iacon. Frag anyone who thought otherwise. Rodimus was his, no matter what it took. No one was taking Rodimus from him.

No one.

Release took him with that thought, perhaps inappropriate, perhaps not. Megatron uttered something guttural against Rodimus’ throat, clutching the smol close as he spilled deep. Pleasure eclipsed all else, leaving him with sensation – hot and wet, tight and clenching, so very sweet and warm.

Talons scraped at his shoulders. Gasps echoed in his ears, puffed over his crest. He heard keening, felt the clutch and tremble of a body against his. Rodimus writhed in his arms, thighs tight against Megatron, and then his antrum rippled. It clutched at Megatron’s clava, milking him for every drop, as Rodimus came as well.

Megatron kissed Rodimus, gentle this time, soft and savoring. They were both panting, both shaking. Rodimus’ desperate clutch eased, his talons retracting from Megatron’s back. He hummed a moan into the kiss, lolling weakly against Megatron.

He was still half-hard, but the need didn’t pound through his veins. It simmered quietly, content to wait or react, depending on his partner. Rodimus made a sleepy purr in his throat and nuzzled Megatron.

“Yours,” he said, breath puffing over Megatron’s lips.

Megatron swallowed thickly. He must have spoken aloud, not that he remembered doing so in the mad rush to ecstasy.

He stroked his hands up and down Rodimus’ sides. “You may yet change your mind, once you see who I am and not the persona you’ve built for me.”

Rodimus snorted. “I know who you are.” He nipped at Megatron’s ear. “But if it makes you feel better to try a little patience, I will.” He twitched his hips, teasing Megatron’s clava within him. “So long as I still get to enjoy this part, too.”

Sassy minx.

Megatron wrapped his arms around Rodimus and tilted, rolling them into the comfort of the nest, his clava slipping free in the process. He’d have to get up to douse the lightning lanterns, but it was early yet for sleep anyway. From here, he could make out the changing colors of the sky as the sun sank below the horizon.

Rodimus wriggled until he sprawled on top of Megatron, tucking his head under Megatron’s chin, his body anchoring Megatron’s in the nest.

“You can enjoy this part, as you so elegantly put it, whenever we both have the time to spare.” Megatron stroked Rodimus’ back, soaking in the scent and heat of him.

He couldn’t remember a time he felt so content. He’d forgotten the simple intimacies. He’d spent so long pushing everyone away to make it easier on himself. He hadn’t realized how much he missed this.

Rodimus chuckled. “Fair enough.” He shifted until more of his body blanketed Megatron’s, his tail forming a brightly colored fan over them. “Mm. Let’s stay like this for a bit.”

“You’ll hear no argument from me.” Megatron’s gaze shifted to the balcony.

The sky itself was striated shades of pink and dark blue. It was lovely. Of course, not nearly as much as the smol in his arms, but perhaps Megatron was biased. He considered getting up to wipe them down, but not even the sticky mess on his groin and belly could convince him to get up right now. He was far too comfortable.

In the morning, Springer and his guard would leave, taking the tension of their presence with them. Megatron knew he wasn’t the only one who would be relieved, though some of his unmated might be disappointed. Of course, should he and Rodimus truly mate, Megatron would have to journey to Iacon eventually.

It was the proper thing to do.

Though that reminded him.

“Rodimus?”

“Hm?”

“What was that with Starscream?”

Rodimus’ tail twitched. “Huh?”

Megatron stroked down his back, ending at his rump, giving it a little pat. “At dinner?”

“Oh. That.” Rodimus chuckled and looked up at Megatron, his lips curled in a bright grin. “You know he’s been spending a lot of time at the university, right?”

“I’m aware.”

Rodimus’ glee could not have been more evident. His crest feathers wriggled. “Well, apparently, there’s some human he likes there. Made himself a friend and everything.”

For a moment, Megatron wasn’t sure he heard his lover correctly. “…What?”

“They’re just friends, but Starscream’s head over heels.” Rodimus laughed and tucked further into Megatron’s neck. “It’s not going to work out, but it’s cute to see him so flustered over the guy. Especially since he’s usually so distant.”

Well, Megatron supposed Kaon accepted all kinds. Starscream might be the first to harbor feelings for a human, but there was a good chance he wouldn’t be the last.

“I see.” Megatron’s hand lingered on Rodimus’ rump, idly stroking the bright swaths of feathers. “You and Starscream are close now. When did that happen?”

“Oh, is that jealousy I detect?” Rodimus shifted until he could tuck his hands under his chin, propping himself up to better see Megatron’s face.

“Merely curiosity.” Megatron lifted his eyebrows, giving Rodimus a pointed look. “I remember when you were convinced I had my eyes on him.”

Rodimus flushed and looked away, his crest flattening. “Yeah, well, I might have jumped to a few conclusions. What can I say? You were giving me mixed signals.”

“And for that I apologize.” Megatron nuzzled him and Rodimus shivered. “I will do my best to be forthright from now on.”

“I appreciate that.” Rodimus sighed and sank against Megatron. “Mm. I’m hungry. I skipped eating my dinner for this, you know.”

“You could clean up and return to the dining hall.”

Rodimus huffed a laugh. “Or I could not clean up and we can see how quickly Springer turns into a volcano when I flounce in there covered in your marks and your spill.”

Megatron groaned and let his head fall back into the pillows. “You are going to be quite troublesome. I can see it already.”

“Mmm. All the trouble you need.” Rodimus nipped the bottom of Megatron’s chin before he rested his head on Megatron’s chest. “And a whole lot more, too.”

“Indeed.”

Megatron continued to pet Rodimus, enjoying the quiet intimacy of the moment. They’d get up soon enough, to clean, to nibble, perhaps to taste one another again. But for now, it could just be this.

And if he was lucky, he could have this forever.

~

Morning came, and Megatron woke slowly. Luxuriously almost. He had a warm body tucked up against his. Drooling into his throat, truth be told, and a fresh wind came in through the open balcony, carrying with it the scent of sweet bread. His nest was bright – too bright, he’d left the lightning lanterns aglow. If he strained his hearing, he could catch the sounds of his flock starting their daily routines.

Unlike yesterday, Soundwave was not standing over Megatron with bad news. In fact, Soundwave was nowhere to be seen.

He must have decided letting Megatron wake on his own was the wisest course of action. Given how much noise they must have been making last night, Megatron was not surprised.

Rodimus could be quite vocal in expressing his pleasure.

Megatron warmed thinking about it. Once the initial hesitation faded, Rodimus had been noisy indeed. He’d had no issues begging and pleading for more, and he surrendered to pleasure so beautifully. Megatron had not been able to resist him, and they’d rutted long into the night, until exhaustion took them both.

Even now, they were filthy, but Megatron couldn’t bring himself to care. His nest carried the scent of their coupling, and lost feathers littered the bedding. But Rodimus was snuggled up tight against him, quietly snoring, and Megatron couldn’t remember a time he felt so content. He wondered if he ever had.

Rodimus started to stir, squirming where he lay. “Mmm, is it morning already?” he asked, his tone sleepy, without opening his eyes.

Megatron chuckled and nuzzled the top of his head. “I think it’s been morning for several hours.”

“It’s not truly morning until I open my eyes.” Rodimus snickered. He buried his face against Megatron’s chest, his addition emerging muffled, “We can just stay in the nest today, right?”

“Wrong.” Megatron stroked Rodimus’ back, chuckling as Rodimus purred and arched into the petting. “The phalanx is leaving today, and as Liege, I must be present to see them off. It wouldn’t hurt for you to put in an appearance as well.”

Rodimus sighed. His left hand kneaded Megatron’s belly. “Your responsibilities keep getting in the way of my snuggle time.”

“They’re going to be your responsibilities soon enough.”

Rodimus groaned and wriggled around on top of Megatron. “I know, but does it have to be right away? Can’t I just enjoy the moment?”

Megatron laughed and curled his hands under Rodimus, bodily lifting the smol away from him, lest he be tempted to pin Rodimus into the pillows and have his way with him.

Again.

“Not, at least, this morning.” Megatron set Rodimus down on the edge of the nest, more or less free of the temptation of pillows and blankets. “And unfortunately, we don’t have time for a soak, so a quick wipedown it is.”

Rodimus’ bottom lip poked out in a pout. “I was looking forward to you spoiling me.”

Megatron’s hands smoothed down Rodimus’ thighs, teasing around his knees. “There will be time for that. I’m not going anywhere, Rodimus. There’s no need to rush.”

Pink tinted the skin around Rodimus’ nose. “I’m not rushing,” he grumbled and climbed to his feet with a huffy swish of his feathers. “It’s just that you have a habit of changing your mind, and I still don’t know what to expect from you.”

Rodimus turned away from him, heading straight for the washbasin. Megatron had only caught a glimpse of his expression, the anxiety written into it. He couldn’t blame Rodimus for feeling insecure. They’d spent many, many months dancing around one another, with Megatron’s behavior on a constant waffle.

Megatron climbed out of the nest, sparing the messiness of it only a second’s glance. He would tend to that later. Or he would return and miraculously find clean bedding and fluffed pillows. He never knew who Soundwave bribed and or convinced to keep Megatron’s nest spotless, and perhaps it was better he didn’t.

As Rodimus scrubbed at himself with jerky, almost self-punishing motions, Megatron perused his fruit basket and pulled out something he thought Rodimus would like. For himself, he grabbed an apple, and ate it in three large bites. He joined Rodimus, the smol staring hard at his abdomen as he wiped away the last evidence of their coupling.

“I’m sorry,” Megatron said, offering the ripe plum as a gesture of peace. “You’re right. I haven’t been very clear in the past, but that will be different from now on. You have my word.”

Rodimus sighed and dabbed the cloth in the basin. He turned toward Megatron and swiped at his abdomen with quick, efficient strokes.

“You don’t have to apologize,” he said, eyes downcast and completely focused on his work. “This is just me being selfish. Surprise! I actually only think about myself a lot.”

He grinned, but it was half-hearted and crooked.

Megatron tucked a knuckle under Rodimus’ chin, tilting his face upward so Megatron could see his eyes. “Wanting private time with your lover is not selfish. If it were up to me, we truly would stay in this nest all afternoon.” He stroked the underside of Rodimus’ jaw. “I have craved your attention as well.”

Heat flushed Rodimus’ cheeks. “Oh.” His tail brushed the ground with a swish-swish. “Then I guess the sooner we see Springer and the rest off, the sooner we can come back?” His crest canted forward, betraying his eagerness.

Megatron leaned down and brushed his lips over Rodimus’. “That would be my assumption.”

“Oh, you big tease.” Rodimus sucked in a huge breath and stepped out of range. He offered the cloth with one hand, while he snatched the plum free with the other. “Clean up,” he said, waving the cloth pointedly. “We’re needed elsewhere.”

It was hard not to be amused, so Megatron didn’t bother to hide it. He accepted the cloth and set to wiping himself down while Rodimus gobbled up the plum and then went to pillage Megatron’s fruit basket. It was an oddly comfortable and domestic moment, and Megatron’s core pinged when he realized it was one he might enjoy again and again.

“Ready?” Rodimus asked after he’d devoured two handfuls of candied nuts, another plum, and a few slices of bread, all from Megatron’s basket.

Megatron gave himself – and Rodimus – one last glance before deeming them presentable. They couldn’t hide that they’d spent the last night rutting, not with all those marks on Rodimus’ throat, but it would have to do.

“Let’s go.”

Outside his nest, the hustle and bustle of his flock going about their business filled the air. There was no hubbub of noise from the central atrium, however. In fact, when Megatron approached the edge and looked down, there was no crowd surrounding Springer and his guards. Soundwave was present, the younger twins each occupying a shoulder, as he oversaw their preparations. A few other members of the Kaon flock lurked as well .

“I guess it is late,” Rodimus commented as he scrubbed the back of his head.

“They look like they are ready to leave,” Megatron said.

Bags sat at every guard’s feet. They were armored and weaponed up. One of them, Ironfist he thought, had the Iaconian flag in hand. Twin Twist hovered near the exit, bouncing on the heels of his feet, as though the most eager to depart.

Rodimus grinned. “Springer is probably worried that if they stay any longer, Pyro won’t leave.” He pointed to the edge of the cluster of Iaconian guards.

Sure enough, there Pyro was, and he was deep in conversation with Pipes, who had a bright grin and twitchy feathers. He leaned forward, interest clear across his face. They were very close for two harpies who were strangers. Megatron wondered if Pyro and Pipes had slept in separate beds last night.

Somehow, he doubted it.

“Well, he’s most welcome, should he decide to stay. I’ll bet Pipes wouldn’t mind.” Megatron’s gaze caught another familiar face, and swallowed down a sigh.

Judging by the massive hug Sandstorm was giving Drift, the Iaconian swordwielder had not spent the night alone either. Honestly. Did those two have no shame? Couldn’t they keep it in their featherdown for once?

Rodimus stood on the edge, his tail swishing back and forth behind him. He peered over his shoulder, eyebrows lifted. “Steal too many of his flock and my sire might protest.”

“Then maybe he should work harder to keep them.” Megatron snorted, and gestured to the atrium below. “Shall we?”

They stepped off the edge, leaping to the ground floor below. They landed unnoticed at first, with most of the Iaconian guard facing away from them.

Rodimus grabbed his hand, tangling their fingers together. “You and me,” he said as he snuggled against Megatron’s side, however briefly. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good for you, boss.”

Megatron half-turned as Frenzy appeared behind him, strutting around until he faced them with a smug little smirk. His hands were tucked behind his back as he bobbed on his heels, looking like a cat with a bowl of cream.

“Actually surprised to see you out of your nest,” Frenzy added with a waggle of his eyebrows and a salacious wink.

Megatron sighed.

Some of us understand the meaning of responsibility,” Rodimus retorted hotly.

Frenzy rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me fragging the boss is gonna make you boring now, hot shot. Me and Rum were just startin’ to like you.”

Megatron pinched the bridge of his nose. “How are our visitors?” he asked, desperate to change the subject before Frenzy caused a scene. Or worse, Rodimus did.

“Supplied and ready to depart.”

Soundwave stepped up behind his adopted brother, placing a hand on Frenzy’s shoulder. Beneath the weight of it, Frenzy stiffened and had the grace to look guilty. “Waiting on Rodimus Minor first.”

“You can just call me Rodimus. No titles,” Rodimus said.

“Noted.” Soundwave dipped his head to acknowledge the request. His hand subtly tightened on Frenzy’s shoulder. “Frenzy.”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it, bro.” Frenzy twisted out from under Soundwave’s hand and spun on his tarsals.

He sketched a messy salute to Soundwave, despite knowing his brother couldn’t see it, and scampered off. To what task, Megatron did not know. He assumed if it was important enough, Soundwave would let him know later.

Soundwave wore a mask and couldn’t possibly pull off smug, and yet somehow, that was exactly what he did as he half-turned and gestured to the cluster of Iaconians. “Captain Springer waits.”

“Let’s get this over with,” Rodimus said with a sigh. He tugged on Megatron’s hand and strode forward, shoulders back with all the confidence a princeling should bear.

Springer was the first to notice them. Perhaps his Rodimus instincts had warned him, because he turned and spotted them before they could get a word of greeting out.

“Rodimus. His tone was surprisingly warm. His feathers fluttered around his face, his armor chiming as he moved. “Good morning.”

“And to you, captain.” Rodimus’ hand tightened around Megatron’s, as if trying to prove a point. “All ready for your journey?”

“The Kaonites have been very generous with their supplies.” Springer paused, his eyes flicking from Rodimus to Megatron and back again. Megatron, for his part, chose to stay silent. He’d let Rodimus handle this. “My prince, as you sure this is what you want?”

“Sure as the next beat of my core,” Rodimus declared.

Megatron’s core throbbed harder. He squeezed Rodimus’ hand back, a silent way of showing how he felt. The urge to take Rodimus in his arms grew again. Rodimus had yet to cease surprising him.

Springer sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face, the sigh of a guardian defeated by his charge’s sheer honesty. Megatron had been in that position once before, when Orion had pulled him aside and finally confessed everything about Shockwave, about Kaon, and about his desires to leave.

“Then I’ll pass the message along to Ultra Magnus.”

“Thanks, Springer.” Rodimus loosed his fingers from Megatron’s and stepped forward, throwing his arms around his guardian in a big hug. “I knew I could count on you.”

“Always, bit. Always.” Springer tilted his head against Rodimus’, however brief, before he stepped out of the hug. He turned his attention to Megatron, eyes hard and demanding. “You’ll take care of my prince.”

It wasn’t a request.

“To my last breath.”

“Good.” Springer’s hand rested on Rodimus’ shoulder before it slid down, and he gave his princeling a little push toward Megatron. “I’d hate to return with an army.”

No, he wouldn’t. Megatron had a feeling Springer would lead an invasion with glee.

Megatron tipped his head. “Kaon stands ready to welcome Iaconian visitors. Feel free to do so at any time.” He smiled, and if it showed a lot of teeth, well, that was the point.

Try me, Megatron suggested.

Springer replied in kind. “How friendly of you.”

“Captain, we should go,” Top Spin stepped up to Springer’s side.

Top Spin tilted his head in Pyro’s direction, and Springer followed the tilt. He scowled when he caught sight of his soldier, and Megatron suspected Pyro was in for quite the lecture. Not that he was doing anything untoward, but Megatron doubted Springer approved of any of his guards falling for a lowly Kaonite.

“You’re right.” Springer turned back toward Rodimus and placed his hand over his core, tipping his head at an angle. “Good luck, my prince. I hope we see you soon.”

He left, barking out an order that had Pyro startling and slinking back toward the rest of his companions. In his absence, Pipes’ feathers drooped and shoulders slumped.

Top Spin, however, lingered. He grinned warmly at Rodimus, and abruptly tugged the princeling into his arms.

“Congrats, kiddo,” he said, hauling Rodimus up into a hug that lifted him clear off the ground. Rodimus squeaked. “I’m so proud of you and so glad you’re happy.”

“At least someone is,” Rodimus grumbled before he was set back down on his feet. He smoothed his hands over his body, tucking in a few stray feathers.

“Give him time. He’ll come around.” Top Spin ruffled Rodimus’ crest, much to Rodimus’ scowl. “In his eyes, you’re still a bitlet.”

Rodimus rolled his eyes and ducked out from under Top Spin’s hand, frantically trying to card his feathers back into place. “I’m older than him.”

“Yeah, well, he’s an old soul.” Top Spin tweaked Rodimus’ nose with a laugh, and Rodimus huffed and stomped his foot.

Megatron got the feeling this was a usual game for the two of them, as Rodimus’ irritation seemed reflexive rather than genuine.

“Be good, kiddo,” Top Spin added. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Rodimus laughed and tilted his head back, baring his throat. “Too late.” He smugly gestured to the marks, his feathermane flattening to better show them off.

“Top Spin!”

That growl had been Springer, and while it was enough to startle Laserbeak on Soundwave’s shoulder, Top Spin didn’t flinch.

“Oops. Guess it’s time go.” Top Spin winked and whirled away, sauntering toward his captain with a whistle on his lips. “Coming, Captain!”

Rodimus moved back to Megatron’s side as the Iaconian Elite Guard phalanx marched out of Kaon, perfectly in formation, the flutters of their flag the last to be seen. They left without a backward glance, but Megatron was still sure it wasn’t the last they’d see of the Iaconians. Not with Rodimus still here.

“Ravage to ensure they leave,” Soundwave murmured from Megatron’s other side. He reached up to pat Laserbeak, soothing her ruffled feathers from Springer’s earlier shout.

“Good.”

Rodimus frowned. “You don’t trust them?” he asked, but at least he didn’t sound offended about it.

Megatron rested a hand on his lover’s shoulder. “I think if you were my prince, I’d have a hard time letting you go,” he said. “You say that Springer and I are alike, and so I’m following my instincts. I know what I would do.”

“You want to make sure I stay,” Rodimus said with a small smile, a hopeful one, like the cant of his feathers, the way he moved even closer.

“I thought that was obvious.”

“Maybe I like hearing you say it.” Rodimus moved in front of him, pressing closer, his crest flattening down as though he were uncertain. “Do it again.”

An easy task.

Megatron cupped Rodimus’ face gently, as though he were something easily broken. He tilted Rodimus up to look at him, taking in the contours of Rodimus’ face, the blue of his eyes, the soft blush spreading over Rodimus’ cheeks.

“I want you to stay,” Megatron murmured, because it was truth, and he did not care if Soundwave heard him, or if his flock saw him admitting it here and now. “I want to court you, to keep you, to mate you, if you’ll have me.”

Rodimus’ breathing hitched. His tongue flicked across his lips. “Kiss me,” he urged, his hands grasping at Megatron’s side, talons digging in.

“For my consort, anything.”

Megatron bent down, sealing his mouth over Rodimus’, tasting the mingled sweetness of their breakfast, and the heat of Rodimus on his lips.

Springer had gone, and Rodimus was still here.

It was the easiest promise Megatron had ever made.

***

[FoF] Topsy-Turvy 12

Something a lot like anxiety settled on Megatron’s shoulders. It quivered in his core, made his breathing quicken, and his hands tremble. He pulled Hot Rod into the privacy of his nest, and closed the heavy tapestry, praying they would not be disturbed. This was a secret Megatron did not want shared.

In the stillness, silence descended. It was a moment of truth. So Megatron braced himself and drew in a slow, careful breath. He turned toward Rodimus, mentally reviewing what he meant to say, only for Rodimus to suddenly throw his arms over Megatron’s shoulders and drag him into reach. Hot Rod’s tongue pushed into his mouth as he pressed against Megatron, molding their bodies together.

Megatron loosed a startled sound into the kiss, desire rising to the forefront, determined to chase away the anxiety of the moment. He greedily inhaled Rodimus’ scent, wrapping his arms around the smol’s body and holding Rodimus tight against him. If this was going to be the last he ever tasted Hot Rod, well, he was going to indulge for all it was worth.

He deepened the kiss and closed his eyes. Rodimus’ scent surrounded him, hot and sweet and hungry. The smol was warm as he squirmed against Megatron’s front. He warbled in his throat, tangling their tongues together.

Rodimus broke off the kiss to nip at Megatron’s lower lip. “That was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,” he breathed, his eyes bright pools of blue. “I never thought… you always…” He broke off, breathing hitched. “You really meant it, didn’t you?”

Megatron reluctantly lowered Rodimus to the floor. It took the same effort to unwind his arms from Rodimus and loosen Rodimus’ arms from his shoulders. He kept the Iacon prince’s hands in his, however, relishing in the warmth of Rodimus’ grip.

He wondered how long he’d be able to keep it.

“I did,” Megatron said. He swallowed over a lump in his throat, savoring the taste of Rodimus on his tongue. He’d never forget it, he was sure. “I also meant it when I said there are things you need to know before you decide if I’m the mate you want.”

Hot Rod’s eyebrows drew down. “Why wouldn’t you be?”

Megatron sighed and pulled Hot Rod away from the door. He didn’t want to be anywhere someone might overhear his greatest shame.

“There’s a reason I’ve not taken a mate or a lover, even after Orion mated Shockwave and that avenue was closed to me,” Megatron started, a flush of cold running through his veins. He couldn’t remember a time he’d felt so nervous.

Shame heated his face, and disquiet knotted his internals. “I am… I don’t… I can’t…” He trailed off, frustration rumbling in his chest.

He couldn’t even bring himself to say it. He was a coward of the worst kind.

Hot Rod frowned. “Look, if you’re not attracted to me or something, just say it. I mean, you could have said that a long time ago without coming up with all kinds of excuses. If you don’t want me, okay, I get that. I can take a hint.”

Megatron shook his head. “If I didn’t want you, I wouldn’t have taken you last night. This isn’t about that.” He pushed the heel of his palm against his forehead. “I’ve always wanted you, Hot Rod. I just knew it couldn’t mean anything, and I didn’t want to put myself in the position of being rejected.”

Instead, he’d given that pain to Hot Rod and anyone else who ever dared show an interest. Fortunately, only Hot Rod had been so determined to linger, when all others had given up on their temporary desire.

“Okay. Then why?”

Megatron dropped his hand and looked at the smol he wished to mate. Hot Rod who was a prince of Iacon, Rodimus Minor, and certainly deserved better than some broken Crystal City reject. As Springer had so aptly called him.

Megatron drew in a long breath.

No.

He was Liege of Kaon. He was strong and mighty and loved by his flock. He could handle rejection. It would not break him.

“Because I am incapable of siring or carrying,” Megatron answered.

The words sounded odd aloud. They made him flinch. It was like admitting it aloud made the truth all the more real, reminding him of the opportunity they’d taken from him and the position he would have had to surrender. He’d left Crystal City because he thought he couldn’t be happy there, and then made all the same mistakes in Kaon. He’d brought the shame with him, when he could have left it behind.

Megatron sighed and stared hard at the far wall, a safer view than whatever disgust surely darkened Rodimus’ face. “I don’t know why. The physicians suspect I was born this way. It doesn’t matter, I suppose. There’s nothing they can do. As a mate, I’m worthless.”

“I don’t understand.”

Worse that Hot Rod sounded genuinely confused.

Megatron gnawed on the inside of his cheek. He drew on a well of patience he didn’t know he possessed. Was Hot Rod trying to be cruel?

“You turned me down because you can’t produce fledglings?” Hot Rod continued, his tone raising in pitch. “But that’s… that’s ridiculous! Who cares? Why is that the one thing that’s important?”

Megatron stared at him. “It’s basic instinct,” he replied and now it was his turn to be confused. “What am I to defend if not a nest? Or my mate and my fledglings? I lost a position in Orion’s guard because of it!”

“Then they’re idiots because you are clearly the best one for the job, virility or not.” Hot Rod rolled his eyes. “And then you brought that Crystal City nonsense here with you. To Kaon. To Liege Megatron’s flock of acceptance. Do you even hear yourself right now?”

Megatron gaped at him. This was a Hot Rod he hadn’t known existed. This responsible, knowledged Hot Rod who could look up at him with both rationality and affection.

Hot Rod sighed and cupped Megatron’s face gently. “Listen, I chose you because of who you are, not the fledglings you can give me, which by the way, I don’t even want.” He paused to offer a wry grin. “In case you haven’t noticed, as much as I like the little ones, I don’t go sparkly-eyed over them.”

“I noticed.” Megatron cracked a soft smile. “I assumed you’d grow out of it.”

Hot Rod scoffed again. “Grow out of it? How young do you think I am?” He brought Megatron’s face closer and brushed the tips of their noses together. “I want you as my mate. I want you to take me, to claim me, to make me yours.”

Megatron’s breathing hitched. He swallowed thickly, heat pooling throughout his body. He rested his hands on Hot Rod’s hips, feeling the heat of the smol beneath the fluff of his feathers. He wanted to believe in this.

“Your sire would disapprove.” It was weak, so weak, a last-ditch effort to escape from a rejection he still feared.

But in this, Rodimus was stronger than him.

“Yeah, well, it’s not his choice to make.” Hot Rod pressed a soft kiss to Megatron’s lips. “And if you think I’m going to walk away because of him, clearly you don’t know me at all.”

Megatron pulled Hot Rod into his arms. “You are stubborn and persistent,” he said as he pressed their foreheads together. “I underestimated you. I won’t make that mistake again.”

“Good,” Hot Rod breathed. “Does that mean you’re going to mate me?” He rolled his hips, pushing hard against Megatron’s front.

Megatron chuckled and nuzzled his way down to Hot Rod’s neck, where he mouthed at the marks from their rut last night. “I think it is too soon for that.” He cupped Hot Rod’s rump, giving it a light squeeze. “But I will no longer run away from you. So long as you tell me some truths that I’m owed as well.”

Hot Rod groaned and clutched at Megatron’s chest, his talons digging in with light pricks. “Right now? When we’re getting to the good part?”

“Yes, right now.” Megatron nipped at Hot Rod’s chin, forcing himself to ignore the tempting sweetness of Hot Rod’s mouth. “Why did you leave Iacon?”

Hot Rod squirmed. “Do we really have to talk about that?”

Megatron returned one hand to the relative safety of Hot Rod’s hips. “Yes.” He caught a knuckle under Hot Rod’s chin, tilting the smol’s face toward his. “You put my flock in danger, Hot Rod. I deserve to know why.”

“Rodimus,” he corrected, and his face darkened with a blush. “I mean, if you want to call me by my actual name.”

Megatron conceded. “I’ll call you whichever you prefer, but that’s avoiding the question.”

Rodimus’ shoulders sagged, his crest feathers drooping. “I know. It’s just that… everyone is here for a reason. They’re escaping something. They were searching for somewhere to belong.” He looked away, since he couldn’t turn his head. “I left Iacon because I was bored. Because I was looking for something I couldn’t find there. I wanted the strongest, and I knew I wouldn’t find him in Iacon.”

“That’s still a reason.”

“Yeah, but not a good one.” Rodimus sighed and looked at Megatron again, though his eyes lacked their usual brightness. “I was happy in Iacon, a little isolated and lonely maybe, but I was treated well. I didn’t have any reasons to complain. And then I came here and pretty much everyone else escaped their own flocks in some way or another, and I don’t know… I just feel selfish.”

Megatron stroked the back of his knuckle over Rodimus’ cheek. “We all have our reasons. Kaon is a sanctuary, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a requirement.” He chuckled lightly. “And I have to admit, a part of me is honored you left to find the best, and decided it was me.”

Rodimus’ face heated beneath his finger. “Well, you know, there’s a lot to like about you.” He sucked his bottom lip between his teeth and tilted his head into Megatron’s touch. “You take in everybody, and you look out for everyone, and you care for everyone no matter what role they have in the flock. If you’re not the best, I don’t know who else could be.”

Megatron’s core throbbed at the frank confession. Temptation won. He pressed his lips to Rodimus’, keeping the kiss gentle, savoring. It flashed heat through his body nonetheless, as his clava remembered all too well how it had felt to be within Rodimus last night.

Rodimus made a small sound in his throat, a cross between whimper and moan. He pushed harder against Megatron, trying to deepen the kiss, his tongue plunging into Megatron’s mouth.

Megatron held the princeling closer, until there was no space between them. Hunger clawed through him, his clava threatening to emerge. He conjured up several memories of Rodimus and savored the sweet kiss. He wanted nothing more than to pin Rodimus down again, to fill the wet heat of Rodimus’ antrum, and to clamp his teeth on Rodimus’ throat in permanent claim.

He wanted to mark Rodimus as his, so when morning came and Captain Springer continued to be an annoyance, he would have no wing with which to fly. Rodimus would be Megatron’s and not even Ultra Magnus could whisk him away.

He wanted to, but right now, Megatron wouldn’t. He and Rodimus needed to build a bridge before they could risk crossing the canyon.

Megatron eased out of the kiss, ignoring the warble of need in Rodimus’ throat, and cupped the smol’s face. He pressed their foreheads together so they shared breath between them.

“I am glad that you never gave up on me.”

Rodimus shivered and rolled his body hard against Megatron’s. “I am nothing if not determined, my liege.” His hands scraped down Megatron’s front. “But if you are not to mate me yet, will you at least rut with me? Mark me? Stake a claim?” His movements became more urgent with each breathless request.

Desire twisted into a knot within Megatron.

He kissed Rodimus’ forehead and left a trail of kisses down the center of Rodimus’ face. He swore that Rodimus smelled of berries and the summer breeze. It made his internals tighten with need. Megatron growled as he tilted Rodimus’ head back and mouthed at his throat. Rodimus’ pulse fluttered against his lips, strong and rapid.

“There are other matters that demand my attention,” Megatron murmured as he pressed a gentle kiss to Rodimus’ throat before he scraped his teeth over the barely visible marks he’d left the night before.

Rodimus arched against him. “And I, your mate-to-be, don’t count?” His voice had the edge of sly humor and false offense in it hinting of his royal upbringing.

Megatron chuckled and gripped the lithe smol’s hips to pull Rodimus against him. Legs wrapped around his waist. Their featherdown met, grinding together, exchanging damp between them. Rodimus’ clava began to emerge, leaving a wet streak on Megatron’s featherdown.

“Very well.” Megatron lost the battle against his own need. “But then we both have responsibilities to meet and you have explanations to give.”

“Fair enough.” Rodimus tossed his head back and cried out as he rubbed harder against Megatron’s featherdown. Slick leaked from his antrum, heat flooding outward. “Just take me already, and we can talk politics all you want later. Please.”

Megatron growled and stumbled toward his nest, lowering Rodimus into it and climbing over him, blanketing Rodimus with his body. “All I want?”

Rodimus squirmed, spine arching, thighs trembling around Megatron’s hips. “Anything,” he cried, throat bared, slick dampening Megatron’s featherdown and painting the head of his clava.

“You may regret offering me such,” Megatron said against Rodimus’ throat, over the marks of his previous bites.

Rodimus moaned. “More?” He clutched at Megatron’s shoulders, rutting against him, purring with need.

“Whatever you wish,” Megatron murmured and dragged his lips to Rodimus’ ear. “My consort,” he purred.

Rodimus shivered against him, whimpering low in his throat. Megatron tightened his hold on Rodimus’ hips, hips firmly notched between Rodimus’ thighs, his clava teasing the damp folds.

Rodimus canted his hips invitingly, his talons raking over Megatron’s shoulders. He moaned, tongue sweeping over his lips. He was an invitation Megatron couldn’t resist. Swallowing thickly, Megatron rolled his hips, sliding deep into Rodimus, his clava slowly enveloped in silken heat.

Rodimus keened, pleasure flushing his face a pretty pink. His plumage lifted all at once, his thighs wrapping hard around Megatron’s waist. His head tipped back and back, baring the vulnerability of his throat, and Megatron’s mouth watered.

H latched his teeth onto Rodimus’ throat, as his hips snapped out and back in again, thrusting deeper. Rodimus’ antrum rippled around him, clenching and unclenching as though trying to drag him into a mating lock. It wasn’t uncommon for a newly tried smol to react in this matter. Even if it was pointless. Outside of mating season, there would be no hatchlings.

Then again, there wouldn’t be any for them anyway.

Megatron released Rodimus’ throat, ignoring the smol’s whimper of disappointment. His hips juttered forward, his clava throbbing. He wanted so badly to mark Rodimus as his forever, to latch his teeth onto Rodimus’ neck and bite deep enough to scar.

It was hard to resist, and Megatron did not know that he could. He forced his pace to slow before he eased out of Rodimus.

“Why are you stopping?” Rodimus demanded. He arched up, the damp of his feather down calling for Megatron’s clava.

“Reasons.” Megatron grabbed Rodimus’ hips and turned him onto his front.

Rodimus squawked, struggling to get his hands beneath him. He flicked his tail out of the way, revealing the quivering folds of his antrum. Megatron had a moment of debate, where his mouth watered, and his clava throbbed, before the need to rut won the battle.

Megatron nudged a knee between Rodimus’ thighs, grasped his hips, and pulled Rodimus back onto his clava. Another growl echoed in his chest as he was swallowed by the gripping heat. Rodimus’ throat was thus harder to reach, reducing temptation.

It wasn’t a perfect solution. He’d have to leave Rodimus in this bed for that, but it would remind him to be careful.

Rodimus tossed his head back. “Never mind,” he panted as he pawed at the blankets, talons kneading the fabric. “This is good, too.”

Megatron chuckled. He kept one grip on Rodimus’ hip, but his other hand crept forward, fingers tangling in the softer curls of Rodimus’ plumage. He leaned over Rodimus’ back, and felt his clava shift within Rodimus, sliding over previously untouched territory.

Rodimus shuddered from head to toe. His antrum squeezed down, and he gasped out a moan.

“I thought you might like it.” Megatron curled over and around Rodimus, until he could look into the smol’s face and get a clear view of the heat of desperation in Rodimus’ eyes.

The smol whimpered, fluid pulsing out of his antrum and slicking the feathers between them. He panted, sharp and desperate.

“You are stunning,” Megatron whispered. He brushed his lips over Rodimus’ forehead, his cheeks, his nose. He rolled his clava in and out of Rodimus’ antrum, a slow and steady pace to drive the smol wild with want. “It’s a miracle I kept my talons off you for so long.”

Rodimus’ eyelids fluttered. His tongue flicked over his lips. “Your willpower… is impressive,” he said with a little laugh.

Megatron chuckled and captured Rodimus’ lips, his tongue sliding into Rodimus’ mouth as though to claim. Upside-down, the kiss took on a whole new texture, and Rodimus shook beneath him. His antrum rippled and squeezed faster, his hips moving back against Megatron in increasingly urgent motions.

He was already close. Which was good, because Megatron felt himself teetering on the edge of release. Rodimus’ scent filled his nose, soaking him to his core, stirring up the need throbbing through his veins.

He rocked harder into Rodimus, shifted his weight, and curled an arm around Rodimus’ body. The pads of his fingers briefly skirted over Rodimus’ clava, making the smol buck into his hands and moan, until the tip of his thumb found Rodimus’ nub. He rubbed it in a firm circle, and a warble rose out of Rodimus’ throat.

“More,” Rodimus panted, his rump pushing hard into the cradle of Megatron’s groin. “Please, Megatron.”

He nuzzled the crook of Rodimus’ neck, savoring the frantic flutter of Rodimus’ corebeat. His lips grazed a warm and wet path around Rodimus’ ear, breathing in deep of the smol’s sweet scent. “Anything you want.” He rubbed harder, thrusting into Rodimus as he manipulated the plump, throbbing nub.

Rodimus gasped out a laugh. “I’m pretty greedy,” he moaned, pushing harder into Megatron’s thrusts, his antrum rippling with hunger.

“So am I,” Megatron growled, his fingers sticky with Rodimus’ slick as he rubbed and caressed that nub. “I want your pleasure. I want to feel you come around me. I want to hear you moan for me.”

A low whine slipped out of Rodimus’ mouth. “T-take it,” he stuttered, back arching into the curve of Megatron’s body, his talons rending the fabric beneath his hands.

“I won’t have to.” Megatron slid his palm up the length of Rodimus’ clava, rubbing the head of it into the curve of his hand. Rodimus made a choked sound, thrusting into his palm. “Because you’re going to give it to me.”

His mouth found the back of Rodimus’ neck. The smol whimpered, pushing back against him as if begging.

Megatron’s mouth watered. He nibbled on the back of Rodimus’ neck before the squeeze of Rodimus’ antrum drove him to bite. Not hard, not enough to scar, but enough to hold Rodimus in place.

Rodimus keened, rump grinding against Megatron’s groin, pushing Megatron deep. He stroked his palm down Rodimus’ clava one last time before finding his nub and pressing against it, fingers slippery and the nub throbbing hungrily.

Rodimus made a choked sound as release wracked his body with tremors. He trembled in Megatron’s grasp, whining his pleasure.

Megatron growled against the back of Rodimus’ neck, trying to hold to self-control, but was helpless to the pleasure as he was dragged into his own ecstasy, lost to the feel of Rodimus beneath him.

Mine, Megatron thought. Mine to keep, mine to claim, mine to have.

His teeth tightened, ever so fractionally. Rodimus gasped, another smaller orgasm making his antrum flutter and tighten around Megatron’s clava as he filled Rodimus with his spill. He shifted his hand to Rodimus’ belly, holding the smol against him, as his hips ground against Rodimus, clava emptying spurt after spurt into Rodimus.

The pleasure whited everything out for several wonderful seconds, until Megatron crashed back into his own body. Rodimus whimpered beneath him. He pushed into the cradle of Megatron’s body, visibly trembling.

Megatron tightened his grip around Rodimus’ middle as he sat back on his heels, gently releasing his teeth from where they’d locked around the back of Rodimus’ neck. He licked the marks. He’d drawn blood, but not too much. He hadn’t mangled Rodimus at least.

Rodimus lolled against him, limp as he fell into Megatron’s arms, his head resting on Megatron’s shoulder. Megatron’s softening clava slipped free as he shifted until he was seated. He turned Rodimus in his arms, cradling the smol in his lap. He cupped Rodimus’ face with one hand and brought their lips together for a soft kiss, the taste of it sweet on his tongue.

He nuzzled Rodimus, his core throbbing hard and hopeful. If he was lucky, they could get through this. They could form a relationship. Perhaps someday, Megatron would be brave enough to ask, and Rodimus would still care for him and say ‘yes’.

“Mmm. Can’t we just stay like this for the rest of today?” Rodimus asked as he carded his fingers through Megatron’s feathermane.

Megatron pressed his head to Rodimus’, sliding a hand down Rodimus’ back. “You know why we can’t.”

“Thought I might ask anyway.” He tried to bury his face in Megatron’s chest. “I finally got what I want and here he comes, ruining it.”

Megatron assumed he meant Springer.

“There’s nothing ruined. Only responsibilities that must be handled first,” Megatron corrected. Desire still simmered in his body, but he had mastered himself for years. He could certainly do so now. Even if Rodimus curled in his lap like a delectable treat.

Rodimus sighed. “Responsibilities. And here I thought I escaped those.”

Megatron chuckled and stroked Rodimus’ back again, the smol arching into his caresses like a feline seeking affection. “You do realize if we fully mate and you become liege-consort, you will have all those responsibilities you left behind?”

“Fortunately, I still have my training. I also don’t mind if it’s with you. And here in Kaon. Things are better here.” Rodimus started to purr, his body going even more limp, as though he intended to take a nap right in Megatron’s lap.

“I won’t argue with you there.” Megatron closed his eyes and allowed himself to indulge in this moment. “Though I still wonder why you chose me.”

“I thought I answered that.”

“Vaguely.”

Rodimus kneaded his talons against Megatron’s chest. “I can’t explain it. All I know is that I left Iacon because I was looking for something, and when I got here, I found it in you.”

That was unexpectedly romantic. It reminded Megatron a lot of Bulkhead as well. Bulkhead was convinced that romance would find him. That he had a soulmate out there, and he didn’t know who or where they were, but as soon as he saw them, he’d know they were meant to be. There would be a feeling, a zing as he called it. Apparently, his whole flock believed in the zing so strongly they wouldn’t mate without it.

Which might have been the reason their population was on the decline.

Megatron turned his face against Rodimus’ crown, inhaling his sweet scent. “For what it’s worth, I’ve always been charmed by you. I let my own insecurities get in the way of accepting your courtship.”

“That and the fact you still love Orion.”

A sigh slipped free. “I do,” Megatron admitted. “But I’m starting to realize that it is a different kind of love. It is an ideal, I think, of what I always thought love should be. And even after Shockwave, I clung to it because loving Orion was safe. I knew it would never be reciprocated.”

“Whereas I’m dangerous.”

Megatron chuckled. “So to speak.”

“I’m about as dangerous as a wet mesh cloth, but I see your point.” Rodimus shifted so he could look up at Megatron. “Speaking of responsibilities, I’m going to have to talk to Springer.”

A cold shock cut through the warmth of the moment. “Of course. We should clean up and do that now.”

Megatron lifted Rodimus, setting him on his own feet, and stood as well. Their groins were liberally splattered with fluids, and while Megatron would rather he laid Rodimus down and licked him clean, perhaps now wasn’t the time to get either of them started again.

“I should talk to him alone,” Rodimus said, his talons curling and uncurling against the woven branches of the floor.

Megatron cast him a sharp look. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Rodimus held up his hands. “Look, Springer’s never going to believe I’m here and want to stay by my own choice if you’re there, looming over my shoulder like some kind of slaver or owner.” His shoulders straightened, pulling that mantle of royalty all over again.

“If you go alone, how do I know he’s not going to toss you over his shoulder and forcefully return you home?” Megatron demanded. Unease rippled through his body, along with an undercurrent of fear. To lose Rodimus so soon after accepting him…

Rodimus shook his head. “He won’t do that.”

“You’re certain?”

“Yes.” Rodimus moved to Megatron’s washbasin, pulling another cloth from the rack. He’d have more laundry in the future, Megatron mused. “Orion and I are a lot alike. Springer is to me, what you were to Orion.”

Megatron folded his arms. “So he’s your personal guardian?”

Rodimus dampened the cloth and wiped at his body, half-turned as though trying to gain some privacy. “He’s only a few mating seasons younger than me. Except he’s warrior caste. His whole life, he’s only known one thing, that his duty is to protect me. I snuck out of Iacon under his watch, and he’d only just taken over the captaincy from my previous guardian. Youngest ever to do that, by the way.” Rodimus actually sounded proud of his guardian. “So finding me has been a matter of honor.”

“And even with that, you don’t think he’ll drag you back?”

“I trust him.” Rodimus gave him a soft smile. “I know he’s rude and aggressive, but he’s not really like that. It’s just because he was worried.” He dipped the rag in the water again, squeezing out the excess. “Once he sees I’m happy, and I willingly made this choice, it’ll be different.”

Megatron scrubbed at his face. “Would that I had your faith.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “There will be guards at the main entrance and outside the door nevertheless. I don’t intend to lose you unless you intend to leave.”

“Which I don’t.” Rodimus sauntered close, but only to offer Megatron a damp rag. “Not now that I finally have want I want.” He rose on the tips of his feet as if to kiss Megatron, but was still too short to reach.

Megatron acquiesced to bend down and close the distance between them, brushing his lips over Rodimus’. Every kiss begged for more, and only self-control kept him from sweeping Rodimus in his arms and taking him back to the bed.

“I’d still much rather stay here in this room, kissing you,” Rodimus said against his lips.

Megatron chuckled. “Those damn responsibilities.” He stole one more kiss before he tore himself away from Rodimus, accepting the offer of a wet rag to clean himself. “My flock will have many questions, and I’m sure they are unnerved.”

“They trust you. Whatever you say will calm them down.” Rodimus grinned, though it wasn’t as confident as Megatron thought it would be.

“I certainly hope so.” Megatron tossed the dirtied cloth into the laundry bin. “Let’s go. I think we’ve had more than enough private time.”

Rodimus’ lips formed a cute pout. “There will never be enough,” he purred, but he took Megatron’s hand in his, tangling their fingers together.

Together, they left the security of Megatron’s nest to face the responsibilities waiting for them. Megatron wasn’t sure what to expect, but several harpies lurking outside his door was not one of them. It was a wee bit embarrassing, actually, considering the noise he and Rodimus had been making.

Soundwave wasn’t a surprise.

Starscream, leaning against the wall almost out of view, was.

Rodimus squeezed Megatron’s hand. “Pretty sure he’s here for me. I’ll be right back.” He let go and jogged toward Starscream, leaving Megatron alone with Soundwave.

What was that about?

Megatron knew Hot Rod and Starscream had gotten close. Just as he knew Hot Rod had taken to sleeping in Starscream’s nest as part of his rotation. But Hot Rod had also never been taken. Were he and Starscream together or not? Was it a casual thing?

Soundwave made a wordless noise, drawing his attention. Buzzsaw currently sat on his shoulder, half-dozing as he leaned into Soundwave’s neck. “Captain Springer and guards resting in guest chambers.”

“Good.” Megatron turned away from Rodimus and Starscream, their conversation too quiet to hear across the distance. “Were they cooperative?”

“Yes.”

Also, good. Maybe Rodimus was right to believe in Springer. Maybe the captain could be trusted.

“Did you know our mysterious group was an elite guard phalanx?” Megatron asked as he gave his Speaker a long look. He trusted Soundwave implicitly, but his Speaker had a habit of withholding information as part of some scheme for Megatron’s own good.

Buzzsaw stirred, blinking sleepily at Megatron. “Brother knows everything,” he said with a slow drawl. “Including that they weren’t a threat.”

Megatron rumbled in his chest, though he knew better than to offer anything but a warning to his second. “You knew they were coming for Hot Rod because you knew he was Rodimus. You recognized the flag from Grimlock’s description.”

Soundwave nodded. “Affirmative.” He tilted his head, visor turned in Rodimus’ direction. “The secret was Hot Rod’s to keep.”

Of course it was. Sometimes, Soundwave could be downright frustrating. Not that Megatron could fault him for it. It was Megatron’s own rule after all. If Soundwave had deemed Springer’s unit not to be a threat, then they certainly weren’t.

At least, not to Megatron’s flock. To Megatron’s happiness, well, that was another matter entirely.

Megatron sighed. “You’ve always known Hot Rod was Rodimus, yet you encouraged me to mate with him.”

“All members of Kaon flock are entitled to a clean slate,” Soundwave said, his voice raspier than usual. “To be judged for who, not what they are.” He grimaced, the pads of his fingers rubbing over his throat beneath the edge of the mask.

In other words, Minor Rodimus’ status was irrelevant. What mattered was how Megatron felt about Hot Rod aka Rodimus, and whether or not he wanted to pursue a relationship with the beautiful smol. Which he did.

“What about the flock?” Megatron asked, because Soundwave was right of course. He was always right. Sometimes, it was downright frustrating. “Is anyone angry? Upset? Unsettled?”

“Curious,” Buzzsaw chirped. Pale yellow feathers ruffled. He tucked his face behind the edge of his brother’s mask.

“Not everyone present for Elite Guard arrival. Many unaware they’re here. Others speculative, but none afraid. Trust in Liege’s leadership,” Soundwave added with a dip of his head.

Well, that was a relief.

“I do intend to explain later.” Megatron exhaled softly. “As much as I can give without betraying anyone’s confidence, at least. Much of it is up to Rodimus to declare.”

Speaking of…

Rodimus bounced back up to them, all smiles and bright feathers. “Well, that went better than I thought,” he chirped. His crest canted forward, tail swishing jauntily across the ground.

“What went better?” Megatron peered over Rodimus’ shoulder, but Starscream was gone.

“Is that jealousy I detect?” Rodimus laughed and snuggled up into Megatron’s side. “And no, he was just a little mad that I never told him who I was. He also wanted to congratulate me about you.”

“I’m not jealous,” Megatron said.

Rodimus snorted. “Sure you’re not.” He burrowed into Megatron’s side, smelling sweet and pliant.

Megatron wanted nothing more than to take Rodimus into his nest and spend the rest of the day making him squirm with pleasure. After finally allowing himself to have what he wanted, to be thwarted by circumstance was aggravating.

Damn responsibilities.

“Soundwave will escort you to speak with Captain Springer,” Megatron said with a meaningful look in his Speaker’s direction. There was no one he trusted more to look after his lover. “He’ll make sure there’s a guard outside. Just in case.”

Rodimus sighed and knocked a light fist against Megatron’s chest, below his plumage. “I’ve told you there’s nothing to worry about. Springer’s not going to do anything.”

“Be that as it may, for my own peace of mind, I’d be more comfortable with a guard. Maximus, I think.” Megatron tapped his chin. “He’s big, intimidating, and difficult to rile. He should be able to handle Captain Springer’s aggressiveness without causing a political incident.”

Rodimus groaned, slumping against Megatron’s chest. “Fine. If you insist.”

“I do.”

Rodimus slipped away from Megatron and loosed an aggrieved sigh. “Lucky that I find how protective you are so charming.” He grinned, his plumage fluttering around his face in an unfairly beguiling manner.

He was more himself now, Megatron realized. There was an air of something around Rodimus, as if a cloak of confidence had settled around his shoulders. It wasn’t the outrageous flirtatious persona he’d always had before, but something else. Something deeper.

It was intoxicating.

“Well, I’d better go calm Springer down. He’s probably ranting and working himself into a righteous froth. Honestly, Spin’s a saint for being able to put up with that without punching him.”

“Spin?”

“Top Spin. Springer’s second. Actually older, but you wouldn’t be able to guess that by the way they act.” Rodimus drew back further and swept a hand over his crest, making his feathers stand on end. He looked down his body as if in one final check for evidence of their coupling. “They’re both going to nanny me.”

Despite himself, Megatron smiled. Rodimus sounded annoyed, but fond. More than that, he sounded unconcerned. He had no fears about Captain Springer, and no worries he’d be dragged away. Megatron would trust in his confidence.

“Soundwave will accompany you,” Megatron said. “I’ll tend to my flock in the meantime. Good luck, Rodimus.”

His mate-to-be winked. “No worries, darling. This is one thing I know how to handle.” He looked up at Soundwave with a grin. “Shall we?”

Soundwave made a noise and gestured for Rodimus to precede him. Buzzsaw twittered a laugh and scuttled over his brother’s head to sit on his other shoulder, closer to Rodimus.

“Tell me about Iacon,” he asked as his long tail swished back and forth where it hung over Soundwave’s shoulder and down his back. “Is it pretty? Is it big? Is it shiny? Do you have blueberries?”

Rodimus laughed as they walked away. “Yes to all of that, Buzz. But it’s not as fun as being here in Kaon. There are a lot more rules to follow.”

Buzzsaw had always been one of the more curious of Soundwave’s siblings. His quiet reserve hid an intense longing to travel, but Soundwave worried he might not be capable of it. He and Laserbeak were small, even for smols. Fully grown, Megatron guessed they would barely rise to Soundwave’s waist.

Soundwave suspected they might actually be of the pygmy race of harpies. Considering they were too young when they were taken from their parents and in the custody of humans when found, it was still too soon to be sure. Either way, Soundwave would never allow the twins to travel anywhere on their own.

It simply wasn’t safe.

Megatron rolled his shoulders and turned around. He had responsibilities after all. He needed to check on his flock. He needed to reassure those who might be uncertain. He had to make sure Springer’s unit wasn’t wandering around causing trouble. He needed to go see Orion and check in on all the hatchlings.

He had much work to do.

Spending more time with Rodimus would have to wait.

****

 

[FoF] Topsy-Turvy 10

It took five hours and thirty-three exhausting, tense minutes for Terradive and Rotor’s egg to hatch once the first crack started. The little hatchling fought to break free, frightening his parents with every push and crack. They clutched each other and watched with bated breath, struggling not to help while Megatron struggled not to physically restrain them.

Ratchet reassured them constantly, but the fear in their eyes was palpable. They’d already lost so many. Not this one, too. Not again.

A dark ball of fluff with bright green eyes finally clawed his way free of the shell, making weak chirping sounds and reaching for something familiar. Terradive was the first to scoop him up, gooey mess and all, cooing as he held the little one up to his cheek. Rotor wrapped around him like a second pair of wings. The hatchling made louder, more robust chirps.

“He’s going to be strong,” Ratchet commented with a sigh that could only be relief. He’d been as anxious for Rotor and Terradive’s hatchling as they had been.

“His name is Skyshadow.” Rotor brushed the pad of his thumb over the hatchling’s head, his expression soft and warm. “After my grandsire.”

“A good name,” Megatron said. “Very good. Congratulations. He’s beautiful.”

A pang of jealousy was quickly swallowed. It had no place here. Megatron might never have a hatchling of his own, but that was no reason to be envious. Did he not have an entire flock to look after? Did they not help one another raise their young? It was more than enough. To crave anything else was greedy.

Megatron excused himself, leaving Ratchet behind to offer instructions in the care and feeding of their little blessing. It was up to Megatron to share the news with the rest of the flock.

Excitement filled the aerie. The first hatchling of the season! And two more to come! Every addition to their flock was to be celebrated, especially the little ones.

Glee came in far too many flavors. There was talk of festivity, smaller than the Welcoming but equally engaging. The meal preppers chattered to each other about treats and small bites. The brewers shared conspiratorial looks.

Megatron didn’t bother to try and tone down the fervor. They were a small flock, a small aerie. Any reason to celebrate was a good one. Especially this particular reason. Little by little, his flock grew in number. He was grateful to Adaptus for such a blessing.

Radiance and Windfall’s egg hatched a day later, after a thirty-five minute struggle that was nearly a record for shortest hatching. The current record was held by Sunspot, who’d hatched so quickly, Sunstorm wondered if his little one had teleported out of the shell, so eager he’d been to greet the world.

An energetic and brightly colored hatchling stumbled out of his shell, already chirping noisily and wriggling his barely functional arms. Short fluff already displayed the hints of the rainbow like coloration the hatchling would later bloom. He would be smol by birth for sure. But whatever else he’d like to be remained to be seen.

Radiance and Windfall were utterly delighted, even as they shared an understanding glance. To have a child so energetic out of the shell, they were sure to be kept on their toes in the future. Their little one would be a handful and a half.

“His name is Nova.” Radiance cupped the squirming hatchling in his hands, his little mouth open wide as he announced a hunger he felt no one was addressing fast enough.

“Thank Adaptus we’ll have help,” Windfall breathed as he hurriedly mashed a paste of water and berries and thin rice. “I can already tell he’s going to be the work of three hatchlings at once.”

Megatron laughed. “You’re probably right. But never fear. You have an entire aerie out there, eager to greet your little one and lend a hand whenever you need it.”

Windfall and Radiance cast him identical, grateful looks before their clicking hatchling demanded their attention once more. Nova started wriggling in his carrier’s hand. Such advanced movement so soon! They had a little prodigy, didn’t they?

Megatron excused himself, announced the new hatching to his flock, and watched the excitement double in intensity. Windfall and Radiance wanted to observe the traditions of their home aerie. They preferred the two-week period of isolation to bond with their hatchling and minimal contact with the flock.

Megatron intended to honor their wishes. Though he suspected they’d break long before the two weeks were up. Nova would ensure that.

Megatron chuckled to himself.

The only holdout was Orion and Shockwave’s egglet. Which meant the hatching could start any hour now.

They only had to wait. But not for long, as it turned out.

When the first crack showed, the entire aerie went into a frenzy of activity. The ground floor was cleared out, tables were dragged in and food was spread out across them, all prepared for the last celebration of this year’s mating season. For Skyshadow, for Nova, and for Shockwave and Orion’s unnamed egglet, currently hatching.

Megatron left his flock to it, Soundwave nominally in charge with Hot Rod present to oversee, acting in Orion’s stead. With Soundwave’s siblings delivering messages and shepherding the party organizers, Megatron had nothing to worry about. The festivities were in good hands.

He could go where he was most needed, sitting beside an anxious Orion and Shockwave as they watched their little one struggle to free himself from the confines of his shell. They hovered around the egg, Orion having to hold himself back from physically assisting the hatchling. Megatron sat a little further away, still present, but too far to interfere with the hatchling’s bonding to his parents.

It also kept him out of direct sight of Orion and Shockwave, as Megatron wrestled with his own feelings. This moment was one of joy and sorrow, as if it was the final stitch in a tapestry of love that left Megatron on the outside, while Orion and Shockwave were woven together forever.

Megatron had never held any illusions of stealing Orion from Shockwave. He’d never intended to try. Orion was happy with Shockwave, and the thought had never crossed his mind to disrupt that. Orion’s happiness had been the only thing Megatron had truly wanted without question.

But this.

This right here.

This was the reason he’d never tried courting Orion, even before Shockwave entered the picture, when he thought there might have been the slightest chance Orion might love him in return. This was the reason he held back from taking the remotest chance Orion might reciprocate his feelings. This, right here, was the one thing he couldn’t give Orion, the reason he couldn’t confess, why he’d never given Orion an opportunity to reject him. This beautiful, wonderful new life currently trying to free himself of his shell.

It was agonizing to watch the spread of each tiny crack. To hear the scrabble and struggle of the little one within. To see a peek of a small talon and watch the egg roll and wobble in place, secure in a cradle of cloth.

A tiny hand burst free, little talons curled as a piece of shell fell away. More cracks ran around the circumference. The egg rocked some more as hands fumbled around, pushing away bits and pieces of shell until finally, a head emerged, feathers slicked down and covered in goo. The bit’s mouth opened, a scraggly cry emerging, and Orion could hold himself back no longer.

He scooped up his hatchling as Shockwave plucked the last bits of shell from their little one’s body. Even covered in goo, Megatron could tell that the hatchling was a vivid blue all over, with small hints of lighter colors to break it up. A smol perhaps? Only time would tell.

Orion cooed at the hatchling, and Shockwave joined in with a low warble. Their bitlet responded in kind, hands grasping without coordination at Orion’s fingers. Love bloomed in Orion’s eyes, echoed in Shockwave’s own. They huddled together, arms around each other, hands cupping their hatchling.

They were the perfect picture of a mated couple, of a happy family. There were all the joy Megatron could have ever wished for Orion and more.

“He’s beautiful,” Megatron said, and swore that the rushing in his ears was only growing louder and louder. There was a lump in his throat, and he prayed Orion and Shockwave chalked the sheen in his eyes up to happiness.

“Thank you,” Orion murmured. He stroked a finger over the little one’s crest. “We haven’t a name yet. I’m waiting for the perfect one.”

Megatron forced shallow breaths to hide the tremors in his breathing. “I’m sure you’ll find it soon enough. Perhaps in one of your books.”

Orion laughed, though it lacked his usual energy. He was exhausted. Carrying often did that to a smol, but it was worse for a bara. They weren’t built for carrying. Especially another bara’s hatchling. He’d laid the egg a week ago, but was slow to recover. Ratchet had reassured them this was normal, but Megatron couldn’t help worrying.

“Congratulations,” Megatron said again, because what else could he say? It was the furthest thing from a lie. “I am very happy for you and now, our flock has one more addition.”

“Yes,” Shockwave agreed. He curled his natural arm around Orion and looking down at their little one. “Another fledgling to join the ranks.”

It would never be long enough.

Megatron backed up a step and thank Adaptus neither of them noticed. They were too enraptured, Orion cooing at his bitlet, Shockwave rumbling a song of comfort and love. Instinct was settling in.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll share the happy news with the flock,” Megatron said, backing up again.

It hurt. It hurt because he was happy for them as much as it pained him, like a knife to the heart, a final blow to dreams he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He’d thought he’d moved on, but all he’d done was linger in agony, unconsciously wishing for something he didn’t deserve.

“We’d be honored.” Shockwave looked up, his unmarred eye bright with sheer joy. “We’d like the three days of privacy, however. And our flockmates might be more inclined to listen if the decree comes from our liege.”

“But of course.” Megatron smiled, his core shrinking into the tightest ball. “Your wish is my command. And that being said, I’ll leave you to it.”

The smallest of frowns flitted over Orion’s lips. “Wait. You’re his godsire. You don’t want to hold him?”

Megatron shook his head and offered a smile, genuinely sincere if not a little sad. “Later,” he murmured. “After you’ve fully bonded. I promise.”

“Good. We want him to know you as well.” Shockwave nuzzled Orion affectionately, still gently cupping his hatchling. “We want him to love you as much as we do.”

“I’m sure he will.” Had his voice cracked? Megatron sincerely hoped not. He dipped his head in a shallow bow. “Congratulations again.”

He turned to go, swallowing over a lump in his throat, well aware that his plumage clung to his body, displaying his growing upset. He needed to leave before they noticed. He needed to–

“Megatron?”

Orion called for him. Megatron could not ignore him. He could never be capable of such a thing.

He turned in the doorway, one hand on the heavy tapestry, and faced them once again. “Yes?”

“Thank you,” Orion said with that brilliant, welcoming smile that so easily brought Megatron to his knees all those years ago.

There was a wealth of responses Megatron could give in return, some of them acceptable, some of them not. Now was not the time for most of them. He knew there would never be a time.

So he simply smiled and nodded. “You’re welcome.”

Megatron escaped before Orion could call for him again. He let the heavy curtain swing shut, affording the mated couple their much-deserved privacy. They needed time to bond with their hatchling without a bunch of nosy harpies getting into their business.

Like this crowd that had gathered outside their door. No less than a half-dozen harpies were clustered in front of their nest, bara and smol alike. Most of them Megatron recognized as having immigrated from Crystal City, like Mirage and Tracks.

“How’s the bitlet?”

“What does he look like?”

“What did they name him?”

Megatron held up a hand, calling for silence. “They wish for privacy as of this moment. They will make the announcement within a few days in accordance with the traditions of Crystal City.” Which they should have all known.

Disappointed groans mixed with annoyed clicks but the crowd dispersed. Mirage lingered, trying to peek behind the curtain, but Megatron coughed and stared until the former spy ducked his head sheepishly. He murmured an apology and slunk away. Such a passion for hatchlings, that one. Orion and Shockwave better look out, lest Mirage try and adopt their little one to go with his horde.

Megatron breathed a sigh of relief. He knew he should probably join the celebration that an enthusiastic Rung had arranged in the atrium, but his core wasn’t in it. He really wanted to be alone. He wanted to be somewhere he didn’t have to pretend.

He went back to his nest.

It was dim, most of the lightning lanterns powered down. He bypassed everything and headed straight to the balcony. Unlike the others, he didn’t have a railing. Why would he need one? His nest would never house fledglings. He wouldn’t have to worry about the young ones falling to their deaths. He stepped out onto the ledge made of carefully woven branches, only to draw to a halt.

His balcony was already occupied.

Megatron swallowed a sigh at the bundle of bright red and orange feathers. He should have known, given Hot Rod’s propensity to show up when and wherever he pleased. He thought they’d moved passed this. Given the number of times they argued, he’d thought enough was clear.

Megatron shook his head, dispensing with politeness. He didn’t have the energy to deal with Hot Rod this evening. He didn’t have the emotional strength to argue or chase away a desire he couldn’t pursue.

“Not tonight, Hot Rod.” He seated himself on the balcony edge, allowing his feet to dangle freely.

A little push and he could freefall until he caught himself. For a few, blissful seconds, he’d be free. It was tempting.

Hot Rod, however, remained standing next to him heedless of Megatron’s irritation. “You’re not at the party,” he observed. His tone was careful, all trace of the flirtatious cant he once carried gone. It was more than a little unnerving, actually.

Megatron never thought he’d miss the days when Hot Rod was a constant annoyance in his life.

“Neither are you.” Megatron looked at him, desire threading a hot path through his veins. Hot Rod truly was gorgeous and any other life, Megatron would have rutted him already, possibly mated him.

He would make someone a fine mate someday.

“There wasn’t anyone there I cared about being with,” Hot Rod said with a shrug, his blue eyes focusing on Megatron with a sharpness he didn’t often show. “And why aren’t you there? Shouldn’t our liege be in attendance?”

Megatron scowled. “I’m quite sure the celebrators don’t need their liege looking over their plumage. I trust everyone to behave themselves.” And if not, he knew for a fact Soundwave was in attendance and sometimes, Soundwave’s presence alone was enough of a deterrent.

No one did the chastising glare better than Soundwave. It came from raising those five hellions he called siblings. Even through the mask, he radiated disapproval.

“That’s not why you didn’t go,” Hot Rod said.

Megatron gave him an askance look. “Well, since you seem to know so much of what I’m thinking, why don’t you tell me why I’m here and not there?”

Hot Rod sat down next to him, warm and close enough to touch, his scent wafting to Megatron’s nose and making his instincts sit up and take notice. That he was already upset and longing for comfort did not help matters. Megatron clenched his hands into fists, his talons scraping at his palms, hoping the pain would serve as a distraction.

“Orion told me that you, him, and Soundwave originally came from the same flock,” Hot Rod said as he held Megatron’s gaze. “He’s known you all his life. He considers you a nest-sibling. And outside of Shockwave, you’re the most important person in his life.”

It hurt. By Adaptus, did it hurt. It shouldn’t, to know Orion loved him so, but it was a different flavor of love than the longing that had always turned Megatron’s innards into a nauseating knot of despair and disappointment.

Megatron looked out into the dark night and the spread of the land before him. His nest was on the outer ring, so there was little to block his view. Even the branches and leaves had been trimmed back.

“Yes,” he answered, though Hot Rod hasn’t asked a question. “Orion and I have known each other for a long time. How that is relevant to the party, I don’t–”

“How long have you loved him?”

Megatron startled, his head whipping toward Hot Rod. His breathing quickened, even more so when Hot Rod gave him a sympathetic look and reached out, laying his smaller hand over one of Megatron’s. He was warm, so warm.

“I don’t–”

“I don’t know why you never told him.” Hot Rod leaned closer, his feathers fluffing, his ready-scent like an intoxicating pull on Megatron’s desire. “Even after he mated Shockwave, you didn’t move on. You’re fighting against every instinct you have. Why?”

Megatron swallowed thickly. His instincts railed at him. His body tensed, feathers ruffling up. Heat pooled through him, into his core, and Adaptus, Hot Rod smelled so good. He was so close and so warm, his body language crying out for the claim Megatron’s own body was so desperate to enact.

He should push Hot Rod away. He should leap from the balcony and go for a flight, clear his head. He should do everything except stare at Hot Rod in wordless wonder, stare as Hot Rod leaned closer, his exhalations wet and warm over Megatron’s lips. He was close enough to taste, close enough to grab and nuzzle.

“He’s not the only harpy out there,” Hot Rod murmured, his eyes so big and bright and enticing. “You don’t have to force yourself to be alone.”

Megatron’s breathing hitched. He tried to pull his hand out from under Hot Rod’s, but it felt like there was a lazy heat in his entire body. It was hard enough to say no when Hot Rod was beyond touching distance. It was near impossible to do it now, when all he wanted was that closeness, to hold and be held, to touch and be touched.

He’d gone without for so long he craved it, inside and out, and Hot Rod was here, where he always seemed to be, and Megatron was so fragging tired of being alone.

“You don’t understand,” Megatron began, but Hot Rod squeezed his hand and leaned in so close they shared the same breathing space.

“Try me,” Hot Rod murmured.

His lips slanted over Megatron’s, so soft and sweet. He smelled of nectarines and honeysuckle, like he’d been hanging out in the flower gardens again.

A tremble ran through Megatron as every wall he’d built crumbled around him. It shattered against the onslaught of that gentle kiss and the parting of Hot Rod’s mouth as his tongue swept over Megatron’s lips, a warm and wet entreaty for entrance.

A low purr resonated in Megatron’s chest. He leaned into Hot Rod, and found his free hand rising, cupping the smol’s face before he knew what he was doing. Megatron’s mouth opened, and he offered his tongue in return. Hot Rod moaned and pushed harder against Megatron, their tongues tangling together.

He should stop. Pull away. Put an end to this before he did something he would regret come the morning.

But then Hot Rod cooed in his throat and climbed into Megatron’s lap, the heat of him like a blanket against the chill encapsulating his core. Megatron shuddered with defeat. He gave in to the urge and held Hot Rod tighter. He closed his eyes and deepened the kiss, tasting the hint of sweet fruit on Hot Rod’s tongue. Heat spread from his core and outward.

He’d forgotten the rut could feel like this. He’d forced himself to go without for so long, he’d forgotten the need of it, the way it swept through him and swallowed him whole.

Hot Rod trilled. He released his grip on Megatron’s hand and threw his arms over Megatron’s shoulders, undulating against Megatron. His plumage lifted and spread in a blatant display of invitation and need.

“Take me,” he murmured against Megatron’s lips, a small whine rising in his throat. “Please.”

Megatron’s purr shifted to a growl. He grabbed Hot Rod’s hips and jerked the smol against him, the heat blazing into an inferno. His clava swelled within his sheath, threatening to emerge from his protective fluff.

He wanted Hot Rod. He’d always wanted Hot Rod. Now was no exception. This was wrong. This was so very wrong.

But they kissed again and it felt so right.

Hot Rod needed it as much as Megatron did. As he ground down, rubbing his rump against Megatron’s thighs, the heat of his antrum radiated freely. Pearls of slickening fluid escaped, dripping onto Megatron’s lap, smelling as sweet as Hot Rod himself.

Hot Rod was full of needy heat. His trills shifted to hunger and need, taking on the higher pitch of a fierce craving to be claimed. They rang in Megatron’s ears, echoing all the way down to his groin. Hot Rod’s talons carded through Megatron’s plumage, scratching at his skin beneath, his body moving in stronger, needier rocks against Megatron’s front.

“Claim me,” he murmured, dripping more and more. “Take me. Have me. Please.”

Megatron, bara and liege, could not deny Hot Rod any more than he could deny his own instincts. He needed to rut, to mate, to claim.

He needed Hot Rod.

Megatron broke away from Hot Rod’s mouth, nipping a trail down to the hollow of Hot Rod’s throat, where iridescent crimson feathers glittered at him. He nosed his way through the soft down to the soft flesh beneath and grazed his teeth across Hot Rod’s throat. The smol cried out, spine arching forward, his thighs trembling where they pressed against the outside of Megatron’s.

“Megatron,” Hot Rod gasped, his talons digging into the back of Megatron’s shoulders, light pricks of pain that smacked of need.

Megatron shuddered, his teeth latching onto Hot Rod’s throat, biting down enough Hot Rod could feel the pressure without breaking the skin. Hard enough Hot Rod would know who he was with, could recognize he was being claimed.

Hot Rod sucked in a harsh breath, a whistle through clenched teeth. His entire body jerked before he went still, and Megatron could feel the motion of his throat as he swallowed.

“B-bed?” he stuttered in request, his tailfeathers twitching with barely held restraint. The vibrations buzzed against Megatron’s mouth.

Megatron hummed approval and loosened his teeth, lifting his lips back to Hot Rod’s. He kissed the smol deeply, his tongue sweeping into Hot Rod’s mouth in a claiming kiss. Hot Rod keened and rubbed against him, dripping more pre-fluid down onto Megatron’s lap.

“If I take you to my bed, you will not leave by morning,” Megatron growled against Hot Rod’s mouth, forcing the bleary-gazed smol to look into his eyes. “Do you understand?”

Hot Rod’s tongue swept across his lips. His talons raked against Megatron’s shoulder. “Do I feel like I intend to object?” he breathed as he rolled his hips, the very tip of his unsheathed clava leaving a streak of precome against Megatron’s abdominal feathers.

Megatron growled through his teeth and abruptly rolled them further away from the edge, all but slamming Hot Rod onto his back on the balcony. He caged Hot Rod beneath him and bright crimson and orange feathers splayed with excitement as Hot Rod’s arms and wings pressed flat to the floor – complete submission.

Megatron’s internals tightened. His sheath moistened, all of his arousal gathering southward. Hot Rod was no less affected. His groin was stained with his precome and the gorgeous head of his clava had peeped through his featherdown. Megatron shifted his weight to one arm and reached down with his free hand, rubbing the back of his knuckle against that damp head.

Hot Rod keened, head tossing back and thighs parting for Megatron, inviting him to explore the wet of his antrum.

Megatron dragged his knuckle lower, rolling it against Hot Rod’s warm, throbbing nub. The smol warbled, his mouth opening in a desperate cry as he rocked against Megatron’s knuckle. More slick dribbled free, turning the pale pink of his featherdown a rosier hue. Megatron’s mouth watered, and he knew he could not take Hot Rod to nest without first tasting him.

He maneuvered his way between Hot Rod’s thighs, sliding his hands to Hot Rod’s knees. He curled his talons around the smol’s knees, keeping him wide, before Megatron pulled Hot Rod toward his mouth. The sweet fluid called to him, and Megatron licked a long, stripe over Hot Rod’s dewy center, ending with a flick to the tip of his clava.

The sound that rose from Hot Rod’s throat was pure sin. He panted, hands landing on Megatron’s shoulders, talons digging past feathers to hook into Megatron’s skin.

“Oh, please, please, please,” he chanted, hips rolling up to meet Megatron’s mouth.

Megatron chuckled and exhaled over the swelling folds, his lips closing around the throbbing nub. Hot Rod keened, bucking, and Megatron smiled against him.

Hot Rod was a delight to pleasure. It was a simple thing to press his mouth to Hot Rod, licking into the depths of him for the sweetness of his juices. He looked up, found Hot Rod’s face flushing pink, lips parted to release cries of need. Megatron’s insides tightened with want.

He purred as he licked deeper, feeling the walls flutter around his tongue, heard Hot Rod gasp and felt him tremble. Tickling the backs of Hot Rod’s knees with his talons provoked a soft keen, and a buck of Hot Rod’s hips. Hot Rod pulsed hot and hungry against his lips.

Oh, how he’d miss this simple pleasure.

Megatron mouthed his way to Hot Rod’s nub, pulling it between his lips, applying a soft, suckling pressure. Hot Rod trembled, thighs tensing against Megatron’s palms. His hips bucked and Megatron rose with them, tongue sliding firmly over Hot Rod’s nub, scraping it ever so gently with his teeth.

Hot Rod’s talons dug into Megatron. He tossed his head back, hips canting upward. And then he sang Megatron’s name as he shattered against Megatron’s lips, release sweeping through him in a wave of fluttering plumage.

Megatron looked up the length of his trembling body to see Hot Rod’s teeth clamped on his bottom lip, hard enough to draw a thin bead of blood. Pleasure painted his face a beautiful shade.

He was perfect.

Megatron nuzzled Hot Rod’s antrum, careful to avoid the sensitive nub, as the last flutters of release eased from Hot Rod’s body. He drew back, licking slick from his lips.

Hot Rod’s clava had finally decided to emerge, Megatron noticed. It was as lovely as Hot Rod himself, a slim, tapering length which darkened from gold at the tip to crimson at the base. A pattern of ridges along the center promised delight for whoever was lucky enough to receive it.

Megatron would like to enjoy it some day, if given the chance.

He stroked a hand over Hot Rod’s hip and looked up at him. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured, well aware that Hot Rod’s slick still dampened his face.

Hot Rod drew in a shaky breath. “Thank you,” he said, voice a bit tremulous, his face wonderfully blushed. “For finally noticing, I mean.”

“I’ve always noticed,” Megatron corrected as he carefully shifted his weight, all the better to be in reach of the gorgeous clava so eagerly standing up for him.

Fluid beaded at the tip as if inviting him to sample, smelling as sweet as his antrum. Megatron lapped at it, curling his tongue to savor the flavor. A tart bite of honeysuckle. Was it Hot Rod’s favorite?

“I wouldn’t know it, given your behavior,” Hot Rod replied, though the small whine at the base of his throat belied the retort.

“I was a fool,” Megatron admitted, and took the tip of Hot Rod’s clava into his mouth. Lips and tongue closed about it with a light suction.

Hot Rod shivered and gnawed on his bottom lip again. His hips worked in tiny thrusts, urging his clava deeper. Megatron swallowed, allowing the coned tip to nudge at the back of his throat. Hot Rod was the perfect size for oral, fitting into the shape of Megatron’s mouth as though he’d always belonged there.

Hot Rod even knew to still himself in order not to harm, as Megatron worked his throat around Hot Rod’s clava. He shook from the effort of it, however, and his talons moved to the floor, raking at the woven branches. He throbbed on Megatron’s tongue as more fluid seeped from his antrum, sweet and sticky on his featherdown.

They would both need a soak in the springs after this. Perhaps Megatron would get lucky and they could take one together. Hot Rod would be stunning in the candlelight, the water shimmering on his feathers.

“Megatron,” Hot Rod breathed and Megatron looked up at him, his bottom lip swollen and puffy from his gnawing. “Don’t… But you…”

“Stop?” Megatron provided as he released Hot Rod’s clava, the glossy length bobbing as though in an attempt to entice Megatron’s mouth back to it.

Hot Rod warbled a negative. “No,. I mean, yes. I mean…” He rolled his hips, his thighs pressing in against Megatron’s body. “What about you?”

Megatron kneaded the back of Hot Rod’s knees before guiding Hot Rod’s legs around his waist. His groin now nestled against Megatron’s own, and Megatron rolled his hips, his clava rutting against the inviting damp.

“How considerate of you,” Megatron teased.

He leaned over Hot Rod, nuzzling his cheek against the smaller harpy’s. His lips found Hot Rod’s ear, and he tasted it with a hot exhale. Hot Rod trembled, clutching at him, hips rising up to meet Megatron’s slow, careful grinding.

Megatron’s plumage raised. Need clawed inside of him, demanding he finally take Hot Rod. He should have done this ages ago, he knew. He should have claimed Hot Rod when the beautiful smol first approached him.

He wanted to give in at last. He wanted to pin Hot Rod down, clamp onto his throat, slide into Hot Rod, and finally claim what should have always been his. He wanted for Hot Rod to writhe and warble beneath him, eager and pliant, embracing. He wanted to pleasure the pretty smol until he was limp with release and bathed in sweat, his face aglow with satisfaction.

Megatron growled and clamped on the tip of Hot Rod’s ear with his teeth, a careful pressure that was far from the piercing bite he wanted to lay. Hot Rod keened and arched up against him. He scrabbled at Megatron’s shoulders, dislodging several feathers and leaving furrows in Megatron’s skin. His hips rocked furiously, antrum spilling slick over Megatron’s groin.

He wanted it as much as Megatron did.

It was satisfyingly easy to scoop Hot Rod into his arms, so tiny was the smol in comparison. Hot Rod squawked in surprise, flailing before he sank his claws into Megatron’s back. Their bodies pressed together, Megatron’s clava grinding against Hot Rod’s belly and making him shiver.

“To the bed now?” Hot Rod asked, his tone hopeful as he nuzzled Megatron’s cheek.

“Unless there’s somewhere else you’d rather go,” Megatron replied before he stole Hot Rod’s mouth, tasting the blood on his lips.

Hot Rod moaned, mouth opening to Megatron, letting him claim with lips and tongue. Megatron blindly stumbled inside, toward the pillow-lined hollow of his nest, unwilling to take his lips from Hot Rod’s.

He didn’t stumble into the nest, but it was a near thing. He managed to be gentle as he lay Hot Rod amid the blankets, a place no one else had ever been. That thought filled him with an unexpected heat as he was struck by the notion it was because Hot Rod was the only one who belonged there.

Megatron’s chest rumbled. He kissed Hot Rod again, more fervently, over and over. A lightning-hot inferno blazed within him, and all Megatron could think was claiming Hot Rod. He wanted to fill Hot Rod until the lovely smol cried out in pleasure, until he could think of nothing but Megatron and ecstasy.

The urge to bite Hot Rod’s throat and claim him rose up even stronger. Megatron had to swallow it down, focus on Hot Rod instead. He was lucky. He needed to remember that. Hot Rod was worth so much more. He deserved to be cherished, not taken and discarded by a beast.

Hot Rod keened in his throat, as if agreeing with Megatron’s internal debate.

Megatron broke away from the kiss, his breathing ragged. He gripped Hot Rod’s hips, rolling his own slowly, grinding his clava against Hot Rod’s dewy heat. He looked into blue eyes, bright with need.

“Tell me,” Megatron said, not entirely sure what he wanted to hear, only that he needed Hot Rod to say it.

Hot Rod’s intake bobbed. His hands slid to Megatron’s head, his thumbs pricking at Megatron’s cheeks. Their faces were so close, Megatron could feel the heat of Hot Rod’s exhales.

“Take me,” Hot Rod murmured with a shuddering breath. “In every way you know, my liege. Make me yours.”

Heat flashed through Megatron like a wildfire. He shuddered, eyelids drooping, a ripple running through his feathers.

Yes, that was what he’d needed to hear.

“Please,” Hot Rod groaned and dragged Megatron’s mouth to his, sealing their lips together in a fierce kiss.

Megatron growled, hands tightening on Hot Rod’s hips. He pinned the smol down, fitting himself to the best angle, and obeyed. He filled Hot Rod in a single push, the smol’s head snapping back in a soundless cry. Blazing heat engulfed Megatron, Hot Rod clenching down around him as though trying to lock him inside.

He was so very tight. Almost as though he’d never shared himself. Almost as though this was his first claiming. But that was impossible. That was….

Hot Rod went rigid. His claws sank into Megatron’s shoulders, and he felt the trickle of blood. Hot Rod’s sharp inhale was far too audible, but Megatron pressed his mouth to Hot Rod’s throat, soaking in his sweet scent.

Megatron rumbled. His teeth grazed over Hot Rod’s throat, feeling the vibrations of Hot Rod’s moans. He started to move, slow and deep, instincts surging forward to demand control of the pace. He resisted, but the heat was suffocating, and it had been so long since he’d had another, so long since he felt the warmth of a body beneath him.

He moved faster, hips snapping. He panted, heavy and raw. All he could hear was his own harsh breathing, the rustling of feathers, the frantic pulse of his core, beating in his ears. Pleasure wound within him, tighter and tighter, a tension desperate to snap. He snarled, feeling as though he’d tapped into some bestial side of himself, and latched onto Hot Rod’s throat. He tasted the beat of Hot Rod’s core with his tongue and lips.

A sound filtered through. A thin whining sound. It wasn’t… it wasn’t right.

Megatron blinked. He loosened his teeth and paid attention. Hot Rod was making that noise. Hot Rod was no longer as pliant and giving beneath him. If Megatron had to put name to it, he would call it…

He would call it a name that made an instant flush of ice water dump over his head.

Megatron paused, his clava easing from Hot Rod’s antrum and giving a throb of protest. He forced his claws out of Hot Rod’s hips, and his teeth from Hot Rod’s throat. He pulled back, concern trickling in.

Hot Rod was flushed a light pink and sweat gathered at his forehead. His face was a mask of emotion, as though he was in pain and trying to conceal it, his bottom lip swollen and dotted with blood.

Frag.

His first suspicions were right on the wing.

Megatron cursed himself out from top to bottom and immediately gentled his hold. He shifted his weight so he could cup Hot Rod’s face and sweep a knuckle over his cheek.

“You’re in pain,” he said.

“No, I’m not,” Hot Rod retorted with a lopsided grin. He twitched his hips as though trying to entice Megatron to continue, but he couldn’t hide his wince. “I don’t know what you–”

“Is this your first claiming?” Megatron asked, cutting off what were obvious lies. As much as he enjoyed the feel of Hot Rod, the uneasy fluttering of his antrum was further proof.

Hot Rod’s flush deepened. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and looked away.

Megatron leaned closer, pressing their noses together. He put a little growl into his vocals, though he was more upset with himself than Hot Rod.

“Answer the question, Hot Rod.”

Hot Rod warbled a rolling keen. His crest feathers slicked down, his thighs clamping harder on Megatron’s hips.

“Yes,” he admitted, barely above a whisper.

Guilt slammed into Megatron, and on its heels came surprise, despite his suspicions. He reared back, staring down at the gorgeous smol who could have had his pick of any harpy in Megatron’s flock and no doubt in whichever flock he’d come from.

“Why?” Megatron asked, bewildered.

Hot Rod rolled his eyes and kneaded at Megatron’s back, the scrape of his claws causing a quick bite of pain. “I thought that was obvious,” he said. “I wanted the best. I wouldn’t settle for less.”

Megatron stared. The best? And Hot Rod thought that best was Megatron? But then, he didn’t know the truth, did he? Didn’t know Megatron was damaged, useless as a mate. He couldn’t give Hot Rod anything a proper mate should.

“I don’t–”

Hot Rod shook his head and canted his hips, catching the tip of Megatron’s clava with his damp. “I chose you. I’m glad I did. It doesn’t have to mean anything more than that. You don’t even have to claim me. Just don’t stop.”

There was a rock in Megatron’s throat. “You should have said something.”

“Why? So I could guilt you into agreeing? Frag that!” Hot Rod snorted and flexed his fingers on Megatron’s shoulder. “Rut with me! I’ve waited too damn long for this. Don’t you dare stop!” The last made his voice crackle, and something flashed hot and fierce in his eyes.

Megatron swallowed thickly.

“Very well,” he said and stroked the back of his knuckles over Hot Rod’s cheek. He curled over Hot Rod, pressing his forehead to Hot Rod’s, calming the urgency in his groin, because he would not cause Hot Rod further pain.

“Don’t turn me aside now,” Hot Rod murmured. He tightened his thighs around Megatron’s waist, scraping the back of his legs with his tarsal talons.

“I won’t,” Megatron promised.

He dipped his head and captured Hot Rod’s lips again, though this time he made the kiss gentle and sweet. Savoring. Hot Rod moaned into the mouth, clutching at him, making a needy noise in the back of his throat. His body rose up to meet Megatron’s, still desperate and eager, despite Megatron’s foible.

Megatron was determined to make up for it.

He licked over Hot Rod’s lips and let his mouth wander, dotting little kisses and nips along the curve of Hot Rod’s jaw and down into the vulnerable warmth of his throat. Hot Rod squirmed, thighs pressing inward, hips rocking up in wordless request.

“Please.” Hot Rod keened.

“Shh. All in due time.”

Megatron drew back, gently dragging the palms of his hands down until he held Hot Rod’s hips. He sat back on his heels as his thumbs swept inward, caressing the delicate area surrounding Hot Rod’s heat-swollen antrum and clava.

He was so rigid, the tip pearly with pre-fluid, despite Megatron’s mistake. Slick seeped from his antrum, and his little nub was plump and juicy, eager for Megatron’s lips. He growled quietly and lifted Hot Rod to his mouth, lips gently nuzzling the swollen folds.

Hot Rod made a choked noise, his hands scraping at the pillows and blankets. His head tilted back, baring his throat and the marks Megatron had made. Seeing them filled him with a possessive lust, and he seized Hot Rod’s nub with his lips, licking and suckling at it while Hot Rod writhed in his grip.

Hot Rod’s lips parted in a breathy moan. His eyes became slits of blue fire. “Mate with me,” he panted. “Stop stalling!”

“I am not stalling.” Megatron caressed Hot Rod with the tip of his tongue, drawing another purr and more dribbles of sweet slick. “I am apologizing.” He gently licked, easing his tongue inside Hot Rod, trying to lap away the sting of his abrupt penetration.

Hot Rod’s back arched as he loosed a low keen. A pillow surrendered to the sharpness of his talons, some of Megatron’s molt spilling free of the case.

“A-apology accepted,” he moaned.

Megatron purred against Hot Rod and licked him ever so gently, his own hunger rising as the sweet slick slid into his mouth. He imagined pinning Hot Rod beneath him, licking him to ecstasy over and over again, until Hot Rod was a limp and wrecked puddle of feathers. He could stay here all night, hearing those sweet cries and watching Hot Rod come undone. It would be no hardship at all.

He mouthed the firm little nub, tongue flicking over it, until Hot Rod’s hips rocked to match his rhythm. The sweet taste of him lingered, and Megatron moaned against Hot Rod, licking deeper. He tilted Hot Rod’s hips further, sipping up the steady stream of slick, ignoring the hot pulse of desire tugging at his groin.

“Oh, please.” Hot Rod pawed blindly at Megatron. “You’re forgiven. I need more, Megatron. Please.”

Megatron licked into him again and pressed the gentlest of kisses to Hot Rod’s nub. “Are you sure?” He rubbed his cheek on the inside of Hot Rod’s thigh, looking up the length of the smol’s body.

“Don’t make me beg.” He grasped Megatron’s arms just above his wrists and tugged. “Want you inside me. Please.” His voice was desperate, his hips full of restless energy as they rolled up toward Megatron.

“Then I will do as you wish,” Megatron murmured with a lingering kiss to Hot Rod’s dripping center.

Megatron mouthed his way up Hot Rod’s body, stopping to leave little kisses on his clava, over his belly, at the hollow of Hot Rod’s throat, until he claimed Hot Rod’s mouth again. A moan of relief escaped Hot Rod’s throat, his exhalations scorching and hungry as he gripped at Megatron’s upper arms.

Megatron blanketed Hot Rod with his weight, his wings. He nudged his way back between Hot Rod’s thighs, the swollen head of his clava brushing Hot Rod’s nub and the wet damp of him. Hot Rod made another needy noise, canting his hips upward, begging Megatron take him.

Megatron obliged, easing into Hot Rod as though he had never tasted him. A moan rumbling through his chest as his clava was engulfed in wet heat and Megatron deepened their kiss, his tongue stroking along the inside of Hot Rod’s mouth.

This time, however, he did not lose himself. He focused on Hot Rod’s pleasure, on making the smol cry out with joy, rather than stifle his pain. He rocked his hips, his featherdown rubbing Hot Rod’s nub as the tip of his clava teased that special spot deep within Hot Rod. The smol opened to him, soft and yielding, a keen warbling in his throat.

Hot Rod gave himself to Megatron fully, and Megatron returned that trust with all he could offer. He nibbled his way back to Hot Rod’s throat, soothing his bites with quick licks as Hot Rod wrapped his arms around Megatron’s shoulders. His wings blanketed Megatron’s back like a warm shawl, and he rose up to meet each of Megatron’s thrusts.

They moved in perfect concert, as if they had been together all along and knew of one another’s rhythm. Hot Rod smelled so sweet, and the noises he made forced heat through Megatron’s veins. He dragged his teeth along Hot Rod’s throat and ran his tongue over the impressions left by his earlier bites, feeling Hot Rod swallow against his lips.

Heat rushed over and through Megatron, and release came upon him like a slow tidal wave. Pleasure overtook him as he spilled within Hot Rod, clutching him like Hot Rod was the only thing to keep him afloat. It had been so long since he’d found release by any hand but his own that he felt weak, bobbing helplessly along.

He shivered, body throbbing with aftershocks, and nibbled a path along the featherdown of Hot Rod’s belly, his lips finding the eager pulse of Hot Rod’s clava. He took it into his mouth, laving his tongue across the tip, and drew in the scent of his own spill and Hot Rod’s natural sweetness. Hot Rod’s warble of encouragement was like music.

Megatron suckled Hot Rod through another release, savoring the taste of Hot Rod’s spill, sharper than his slick, but no less appealing. Hot Rod went rigid in his arms, body arrested by pleasure, before he slumped into the nest. His hips moved, rising and falling in slow motion, as though seeking more.

He was lovely. Why had Megatron held himself back from this?

Megatron worked his way back to Hot Rod’s mouth for another deep, lingering kiss. Hot Rod moaned into it, his talons gently scraping at Megatron’s feathers. He shivered with want, smelling deliciously open and ready. He was already urging with his knees, his thighs, trying to get Megatron between them again, wordlessly requesting more.

Megatron couldn’t have this forever, but for tonight, yes? He could indulge for tonight. He could ensure that when Hot Rod left him, it would be with memories of warmth and pleasure, good memories he would never want to forget.

He kissed Hot Rod again, over and over, each more lingering than the last. He stroked his fingers over Hot Rod’s dampness, knuckles teasing along a plump nub. He asked without words if he could have the smol again, and Hot Rod answered with eager keens, his body rolling up to meet Megatron’s touches.

It would not last beyond morning. Megatron couldn’t allow himself to hope for anything more.

But tonight?

Tonight was his to savor.

***

[RB] Ticket to Ride

It was a quiet, calm night. A thin sheet of clouds streamed over the stars, covering the moon, but the sea was still. It was a good night for relaxing.

Which was why High Tide quite clearly picked out the sound of an approaching engine, the distinct click-click-tsche of a transformation, a muttered curse, and the thump-thump-thunk of someone climbing the ladder to get onto his deck.

As he rose from his chamber, High Tide ran through a quick list of everyone his visitor could possibly be, and came up with only one designation that made sense. Optimus, after all, would’ve called first. Primes were polite like that.

A shadow moved about on his deck, a half-afted attempt to creep around. High Tide snorted quietly and flicked on the flood light, illuminating the deck, and catching the bright red miscreant in his tracks.

“Something tells me I’m only gonna need one guess as to why you’re sneaking aboard my ship at this time of night,” High Tide said. “Because I know it isn’t for more lessons.”

Below, Heatwave froze like a cassetticon caught in a spotlight. He scowled, his default expression, but it didn’t hide the spots of warmth in his cheeks.

“Being stealthy isn’t my area of expertise,” he replied, gathering up that attitude High Tide had come to expect from him.

“No, it isn’t.” High Tide snorted and jumped down, landing on the deck with a loud thump. Good thing Servo was with the Blip. “That team of yours, they’re a good bunch.”

Heatwave’s optics narrowed. “Yeah, but–”

“Bunch of sparklings,” High Tide finished, because the kid had a habit of interrupting. Poor manners, that one.

Heatwave’s scowl deepened. “They’re fully capable–”

“Didn’t say they weren’t competent, hotshot,” High Tide interrupted, because Heatwave needed to be knocked down a little. “Just calling it as I see it.” He had an inkling, after all, of what Heatwave wanted. And it had a lot to do with the obvious maturity gap between Heatwave and his younger teammates.

“None of them are adults yet,” Heatwave admitted on the tail end of a sigh.

Ah. That was what High Tide thought.

He barked a laugh. “Hotshot, you barely count as one if you ask me.”

Heatwave’s hands formed fists, his optics narrowing behind his visor. It must have been a habit for him to keep it up, since he obviously didn’t need it at the moment. “If you’re going to mock me, I’m going to leave.”

High Tide tilted his head, looking Heatwave up and down. “You came here, pretty boy,” he pointed out.

“Yeah. And that was a mistake,” the kid growled. His armor flared and ruffled as though he intended to turn around and storm off, yet his feet stayed planted in place.

Wanted it more than his pride could stand apparently. Interesting.

“That temper of yours is going to get you in a heap of trouble someday,” High Tide drawled as he slipped closer to the Rescue Bot. He couldn’t help but admire the planes and angles of the kid’s frame.

He always did like red. Heatwave was brighter than Optimus, maybe a bit too garish for some optics, but High Tide liked it just fine.

Heatwave tracked him, shoulders straight. “Maybe I like trouble,” he said, in that rough-rumble voice of his.

Tasty.

“Hah.” High Tide was close enough to touch now, so he did, gently taking Heatwave’s chin in his fingers and tilting the bot’s head up. “You don’t have any stowaways, do you?”

That Blip had a habit of ending up places he shouldn’t be, entirely by accident of course, but still. High Tide didn’t want any human surprises.

Heatwave vented loudly, but he thumped his windshield pointedly, making a hollow sound. “I’m empty.”

“Good.” High Tide swept a thumb over Heatwave’s lips before he made himself let the kid go. He turned away, heading for the main door. “Come on inside then. Unless you want to finish storming off in a huff. Your choice, tugboat.”

“Don’t call me that,” Heatwave growled.

Stomp, stomp, stomp.

High Tide smirked. Protest loudly the kid might, but he was still following High Tide, which meant his need was outweighing his pride.

High Tide flicked the switch to douse the floodlight as Heatwave joined him in the lift, and it drew them up a level, toward the room High Tide used as his personal quarters. It had all the trappings of home, it did. Big berth, bigger recharge station, a personal console, shelves filled with datapads and vids, a few trophies, a couch, a table and chairs. Wasn’t a bad place to spend one’s time.

“Berth or couch?” High Tide asked as he flicked on the overhead lights, setting them to a level that wasn’t obnoxious, but would still let him admire his potential berthmate.

Heatwave had paused in the middle of the room, looking around like he hadn’t seen a personal hab before. He blinked. “What?”

“I’m giving you a choice, rookie. Since you look so nervous.”

“I’m not–!” Heatwave cut off mid-sentence and looked away, not that it hid the heat glowing in his face. “It’s your room.” His hands formed loose fists again, as though he struggled to hold himself back.

“Couch it is,” High Tide decided. It wasn’t in him to be cruel, but frag if it wasn’t entertaining to to needle the kid.

He flopped onto the couch, settling into it with a hissing vent of relief. Nothing like good old Cybertronian furniture, built for the average mech’s comfort. Beat sitting around in alt-mode like some human’s pet any orn of the cycle.

Heatwave hadn’t moved. Wouldn’t even look at High Tide, despite him patting the couch with obvious invitation. Still a bit indecisive, eh? High Tide supposed he couldn’t blame the kid. They didn’t get along on the best of days, and High Tide wasn’t so vain to think that Heatwave was here because he actually had some attraction. He just didn’t have many other options.

Though the idea of Heatwave approaching Oppie with this kind of proposal put steam in High Tide’s vents. The two of them together? Now that was a pretty picture.

Ah well. That policebot would probably hit maturity before all the others. Maybe then Heatwave could enjoy the one he actually wanted. Until then, nothing wrong with a little charge-venting between allies.

High Tide leaned back into the couch. “Door’s right behind you, if you’ve changed your mind.”

Heatwave’s visor snapped open and he finally looked at High Tide. “What?” He rolled his shoulders, trying to force calm probably. “Can’t you work up a charge anymore, you old rustbucket?”

High Tide smirked. Ah. There was the fire he recognized. Suited Big Red much better than the uncertainty.

“Get over here, and I’ll show you just what this rustbucket can do,” he offered, patting his lap invitingly.

Heatwave stared at him, a cough spilling from his vents. He seemed frozen in place, that confidence gone back behind a shell of indecision. Like dealing with a skittish dweller, he was.

It occurred to High Tide then, that the kid was, well, a kid. And even though he was mature enough for his interface protocols to be giving him several irritating nudges, maybe he’d never had occasion to do anything with them before the war broke out, and he and his crew ended up drifting in stasis.

He peered at Heatwave, eying Big Red up and down as though he could tell from that alone. “You’ve done this before, right?”

Heatwave scowled, an expression better suiting him. “Of course I have,” he growled, and suddenly seemed capable of movement, though it only managed him a few steps closer to High Tide. In tasting range of his field at least. “It’s just… been awhile.”

“Then lucky for you we’re in the same boat.”

A quick how-do-you-do tumble with Optimus didn’t count. Mechs didn’t interface with Primes. They held on for the ride and tried not to drown in the charge.

High Tide patted his lap again. “Come on.”

“Seriously?” Heatwave’s lip curled.

“Well, I could sit on you if that makes you feel better.” High Tide laughed at the absurd mental image. He had more than a few heads on Heatwave, and he subbed a lot more mass than the firebot, too.

Heatwave scowled. He stomped across the room like it was a punishment, and climbed into High Tide’s lap with all the seduction of a malfunctioning dispenser drone.

“There,” he said as he tucked his knees against the cushions of the couch, his aft planted on High Tide’s thighs. “Happy?”

High Tide couldn’t help chuckling. The kid’s attitude was more endearing than it should be.

He rested his hands on Heatwave’s knees and slid his palms slowly up, careful to keep a pace that wouldn’t alarm the kid. The way Heatwave trembled beneath him, he wondered if the firebot would bolt at any moment.

“I’m about to be,” High Tide replied. “And so are you.” He tilted his head and slid his hands up further, thumbs seeking out the panel concealing Heatwave’s array. “Hm, you aren’t standard issue, are you?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Heatwave said.

Well, he was probably sparked right before the war no doubt. Matured in the thick of it. Got his first post right when Orion Pax became Optimus Prime and Megatron’s rage reached no bounds. He was part of the second, maybe third wave before the batch dried up. High Tide reckoned it meant his team was probably part of the last wave ever sparked on Cybertron.

Adorable.

“Then you want to tell me where your cables are, hot shot?” High Tide asked. “I mean, I could go looking for ‘em, but something tells me you don’t want me randomly rooting around in your undercarriage.”

Heatwave rumbled low in his chassis, but he patted his midsection. His front grill split down the middle, and a panel behind it spiraled open. Cables, connectors, and ports came into view, practically shiny new.

High Tide appreciated the view, and let his fingers do a little exploring. He traced the length of a cable, still stiff and smooth from lack of use. Heatwave shivered, a groan rising in his intake, his chassis arching toward High Tide.

“Look at you,” High Tide rumbled. “Barely touched.”

“So?”

“Wasn’t an insult, kid.”

A flush of heat rushed through High Tide’s frame. Anticipation coiled hotly inside of him. His pelvic armor folded back and down, revealing his own array, and Heatwave’s gaze dropped down to it.

He blinked. And blinked again. “What is all that?” he asked, optics wide and bright.

“Live as long as me, hot shot, and you’ll need a few adapters, too.” High Tide chuckled.

What?”

He wasn’t at all surprised that Heatwave was confused. Compared to the firebot’s two sets of port and connector cables, High Tide’s tangle of nearly a dozen different cables probably seemed obscene. Lewd even. But if a mech wanted to ‘face with all kinds, it took all types of lines and all types of wires and all kinds of conductors.

Point of fact, Optimus alone accounted for half of ‘em.

“The more things change, the more things stay the same,” High Tide said. “Don’t worry. You’ll understand when you’re older.” Or maybe he wouldn’t, if Cybertron’s population was as diminished as Oppie feared. “Let’s see what you got.”

High Tide drew out the thickest of Heatwave’s two cables, and Big Red shivered a bit, his field going flush and warm. So cute.

“Oh, a three-pin coaxial, hmm?” High Tide rubbed the conductor between his fingers, and a spark of charge nipped at his fingertips. “Lucky for you, I’ve got a port to match.”

A shudder ran across Heatwave’s armor. “Are you going to start making sense anytime soon, rustbucket?”

High Tide rifled through his own mass of cables until he found the one that would match Heatwave’s. Ironically, it was as shiny new as Heatwave’s.

“Don’t even think it’s been used yet,” he mused aloud.

Heatwave growled. “Are you done playing around?”

“Aren’t you the impatient one?” High Tide said. He fondled the end of Heatwave’s cable and was rewarded with a bright flare of Heatwave’s optics.

And a rather noisy rev of his engine. “I didn’t come here to be mocked!” His field flared as he shifted, as though intending to get up and stomp out.

High Tide tightened his free hand on Heatwave’s thigh. “Sit down, kid. No one’s mocking you and especially not me.”

He rubbed his thumb over Heatwave’s connector cable, teasing into it to brush over the sensitive pins. Charge nipped at the tip of his finger, and Heatwave squirmed in his lip. A shudder ruffled Heatwave’s armor, his field going liquid.

“As I understand it, you came here because you’ve got an itch needs scratching,” High Tide continued as he caught and held Heatwave’s gaze. “And no one on your team can do it for you.”

The firebot’s intake visibly bobbed. His hands lifted, like he didn’t know where to put them, before he finally clutched at High Tide’s side. He made a strangled noise.

“Now, I’m being nice and volunteering.” High Tide pinched Heatwave’s connector and soaked up the quiet moan that escaped him. “So we’re gonna do it my way. Unless you’ve decided you don’t want it anymore. Understand?”

Heatwave rocked in his lap, scooting closer until there were a scant few meters between their frames. His fingers tickled into High Tide’s seams, holding tight, as he vented heat into the air around them.

“Yeah, yeah. I get it,” Heatwave said, and his glossa flicked across his lips. “Just plug in already. I don’t have all night.”

No doubt he didn’t. The way Griffin Rock found itself in all kinds of messes, Heatwave could be called into action at any moment. And then his human would be wondering where his firebot could have gone in the wee hours of the night.

Too amused to be annoyed, High Tide teased Heatwave’s array with his free hand, fingertips brushing over the other ports and cables. He rubbed Heatwave’s coaxial connector between his fingertips, drawing another shiver from Heatwave. Blue optics kept darkening with desire, Heatwave’s field becoming an unrelenting wave of desperation.

Absolutely intoxicating.

High Tide’s fingers shook as he drew his own cable and connected it to Heatwave’s, pins slotting into place with a quiet click. He groaned as Heatwave’s need bowled him over, storming into his system like a hurricane of acid rain.

Primus, but the kid burned hot. He was aptly named.

Heatwave vented orally, and his shoulders hunched forward. He started to rock against High Tide, his hips following the same rhythm as the eager energy pulses across their connection.

“Slow down, kid.” High Tide held Heatwave’s hips, and all he succeeded in doing was tugging the firebot even closer. “Try and enjoy the ride.”

Heatwave panted, and his fingers dug in deeper, pressing against High Tide’s cables. “Slow later.” He shuddered and a wave of charge crackled over his armor. “Need this now.”

He pawed at High Tide’s chassis, one hand hooking on the top of High Tide’s cockpit as if trying to drag him closer. His thighs dug in on the outside of High Tide’s. The pulsing heat came faster and faster across the cables, flooding High Tide’s systems with an unrelenting assault of desire.

“Alright then, tugboat. Take what you need.”

High Tide growled and tightened his grip, almost enough to dent, if Heatwave weren’t so sturdy. He bundled up the charge, and sent it right back across the line. He grinned with satisfaction as Heatwave roared and his backstrut arched, fingers pulling a skreel across High Tide’s armor.

“More,” Heatwave panted. His vents roared, his lips parted, shutters falling over his optics as they squeezed shut.

His cable yanked on High Tide’s charge like he was desperate for it. Like it was an energon infusion for a starved spark. High Tide fed him more, no frills, no coy teasing, just a surge of charge, pulse after pulse.

Heatwave moaned and hunched forward. “S–sorry,” he growled as his thighs trembled and his cables pulled. “I– hnnnn.”

Cascading fire soared through High Tide’s lines. Heatwave writhed on his lap, making quite the pretty picture as his engine thundered. It was all High Tide could do just to hold on, let the poor kid have his first taste of overload in centuries.

Heatwave hooked his hands on High Tide’s coils, gripping them tight enough that his fingers creaked. He buried his face against High Tide’s canopy, ex-vents fogging up the glass.

“That’s it, kid,” High Tide encouraged, tension gripping his frame as he struggled to keep himself under control. “Take it all.”

Heatwave growled and bucked against him. He slurped on High Tide’s charge like it was the sweetest high grade as electric fire erupted over his armor and crackled through their connection, tasting like an enormous fire storm.

It pulled High Tide over, and he shouted his surprise. He crushed Heatwave against his chest as the pleasure wracked his frame, doubling back into the connection he shared with the firebot. Little zaps of electric heat pulsed through High Tide’s lines, his fans whirring madly to dispel heat.

Heatwave slumped against him, venting loudly, his frame trembling. High Tide stroked down his back, the cable swaying between them, charge lightly crackling over their connection.

Until the kid seemed to get some of his attitude back. He pushed himself off High Tide’s chassis and leaned back, flicking his fingers over High Tide’s chassis with a chime of metal on glass.

“Well, would you look at that,” Heatwave drawled with a smug little smirk that had no business turning High Tide’s internals into a knot of need. “I took you with me.”

“I’m not ashamed to say you did.” High Tide was too old to be embarrassed. He slid a hand over Heatwave’s belly, fingers teasing along the edge of his array panel. “Now how about we do this slow and proper? Unless you got somewhere to be?”

Heatwave responded by sending a slow, steady pulse across their connected cables. “Unless there’s an emergency, I got all night.” He leaned forward, challenge in his optics. “If you think you can keep up.”

High Tide chuckled and dragged his fingers down the length of Heatwave’s cable. “I guess we’ll just have to see.”

It was time to learn this tugboat a thing or two. The kind of lesson High Tide was more than happy to give.

***

[TFP] Taking Chances

Knock Out stomped into the communal washroom hoping that the force of his footsteps and the fury in his field would ensure everyone left him the frag alone. He wasn’t in a mood for conversation, for pointed looks from the other self-righteous Autobots, or for another lecture from Ultra Magnus on proper Autobot behavior.

He wanted to be left alone, to clean himself in peace, and grumble if he felt like it, because this aggravation wasn’t going away anytime soon. And frag Ratchet to the Pit and back. Rusted old scrapheap of a medic! Just who did he think he was?

Knock Out muttered subvocally and trudged to the nearest open rack. He slammed a hand on the switch to activate it and ducked under the resulting spray. Peripherally, he noticed that the room was empty, save for one other rack in use. He glanced behind him, just to see who it was – another newly returned Autobot with groping fingers, perhaps?

No, it was just Bumblebee. The yellow scout either hadn’t noticed Knock Out’s arrival or hadn’t cared, because he wasn’t even looking in Knock Out’s direction. Well good. Knock Out didn’t want company anyway.

He snatched one of the communal scrubbers off the hook and glared at the awful state of it. What he wouldn’t give for a private rack and private supplies instead of making do with these… these substandard tools. And standard, bulk solvent?

Knock Out shuddered. It ruined his paint, but he wasn’t afforded the luxury of a purchasing account with the humans yet. Not until he was more trustworthy or some slag. He couldn’t buy his better cleanser on his own until he had those Earth funds.

Frag them all.

“You scrub any harder and you’ll do more harm than good.”

Knock Out whipped a glare over his shoulder. “Yes, I’m aware,” he said, his tone tight as he stared down Bumblebee.

The scout blinked, his optics cycling in and out. “So do I dare offer help or are you gonna bite my head off?” He held up his hands and backed up a step, eying the door.

Knock Out clenched his jaw, debating. Of all the Autobots, Bumblebee was the most tolerable and the closest to what Knock Out could consider a friend. They’d shared meals a few times and carried on pleasant conversation. He was, at least, polite, and didn’t act like Knock Out was going to stab him in the back at any moment or give him a terrible disease.

Wordlessly, Knock Out handed over the scrubber.

Bumblebee grinned and accepted it. “Wanna talk about it?” he asked as he twirled a finger, gesturing for Knock Out to turn back toward the spray.

He did, tires twitching at the idea of baring his back to an Autobot. But if he couldn’t trust Bumblebee, what was the point of defecting?

“… Your Chief Medic is an aft well past his expiration date,” Knock Out gritted out.

The scrubber swept against his back with perfect pressure, scouring away any dirt that might be lingering in the nooks and crannies of Knock Out’s armor.

Bumblebee chuckled. “Chewed you out, huh?”

“He refuses to let me do anything but the most tedious tasks,” Knock Out grumbled and snatched up a meshcloth, swiping it over his arms and chestplate. There was far too much grime here for his comfort.

Ratchet had him cleaning and disinfecting scavenged parts for hours. And then, after that, he’d had to sweep and mop the floor! Dust the cabinets! Alphabetize the outdated textbooks! And, worst of all, empty the waste tanks.

“I’m a fully qualified medic, you know!” Knock Out declared, as if Bumblebee didn’t know. He waved his mesh cloth, spattering soap everywhere. “I am capable of more than just cleaning and organizing.”

“Yeah…” Bumblebee started focusing on Knock Out’s tires, though he was careful with them, probably because he knew how sensitive they could be. “Ratchet’s always been a bit of a control-freak, as Raf would say.”

Knock Out snorted. “Humans.”

“That attitude probably doesn’t help.”

Knock Out spun around and snatched the scrubber from Bumblebee’s hand. “What about his attitude?” he snapped. “How am I the only one at fault here?”

Again, Bumblebee lifted his hands. “I’m just saying, I think you both need to be more patient with each other.”

Knock Out harrumphed and spun back to the spray. He dropped both scrubber and cloth in the bins and switched to rinse. He didn’t feel clean, but it was better than nothing. He couldn’t take care of himself like he used to here. Cybertron was too much of a mess. The grit got everywhere and rust cloaked everything and every once in a while, it rained acid. Honestly, how was a decent mech supposed to keep himself in shape?

“Look, Doc’s hurting, and he’s taking it out on you,” Bumblebee said, because apparently he wasn’t getting Knock Out’s signals to go away. “No, it’s not fair, but just so you know, that’s where he’s coming from.”

Knock Out twisted under the spray, trying to get every bit of suds down the drain. “If he’s in pain, he should do the right thing and repair himself.”

Bumblebee leaned against the wall, out of reach of the mist. “Can’t fix a broken spark,” he said as he folded his arms. “And not even Ratchet can bring back the dead.”

Knock Out snapped off the rinse and stood there dripping, giving Bumblebee a confused look. “We’ve all lost someone. It was war. He needs to get over it.” He snagged a towel and started wiping down his armor.

“This isn’t the kind of loss you get over.” Bumblebee sighed and scrubbed at the floor with the tip of his foot. He watched the water swirl down the drain. “Optimus and Ratchet were close, you know? I’m pretty sure Ratchet loved him.”

Knock Out stared. “They were together?”

“No. Nothing like that. Doesn’t mean Ratch loved him any less though.” Bumblebee dragged a hand down his face, and the first taste of his field was thick with grief. “In another life, maybe they could’ve actually had something, who knows?” He shrugged, but it wasn’t as dismissive as Knock Out suspected he wanted it to be.

Knock Out frowned. He focused on drying his armor, disliking the way his spark shrank and contracted in his chassis. It wasn’t an excuse, and it didn’t forgive Ratchet his ill manner but…

He did remember the despair in Ratchet’s voice. He remembered how Ratchet had argued the longest, how his gaze had turned hollow the moment he realized what Optimus intended to do. Ratchet had been something of a ghost for a time after Optimus’ sacrifice, even temporarily returning to Earth.

When he came back, he was twice as rude as usual, snappish, and short of temper. Everything was a problem, no one could do anything right, least of all Knock Out, and he spent more time on shift than off. Once, Knock Out swore he caught a whiff of high grade as Ratchet passed, but he’d dismissed it.

Surely Ratchet knew better than to participate in patient care while inebriated. Surely.

“So yeah, I’m not saying you should just take the abuse, but maybe if you understand where he’s coming from, you can figure out how to change his mind.”

Knock Out sighed and bent at the waist to dry the last drips from his legs. “Something tells me Ratchet is not one to change his mind lightly. And I am tired of begging for a chance to prove myself.”

“Then stop begging.”

Knock Out straightened and pivoted to face Bumblebee. “What?”

The scout grinned, sly and rakish. “Better to ask forgiveness then wait for permission. Especially when it comes to Ratchet.”

Knock Out found himself grinning, too. “Bumblebee.” He planted his hands on his hips. “Are you telling me to disobey?”

“No, no. Of course not.” Bumblebee leaned forward, his doors canting forward with him, in a cute display of eagerness. “I wouldn’t do that at all. But if I were, it would be because I’m inviting you to play hookey for the rest of the day and come have some fun.”

“Hookey?” Knock Out repeated. He shook his head. “You spent too much time with the humans.” He tossed the towel into the laundry basket. “But what the Pit. Ratchet can’t get any madder at me than he already is. What did you have in mind?”

Bumblebee pushed off the wall and grinned. “Oh, you know. The usual.” He shadowboxed in place, bouncing back and forth on his feet. “Get our rations then go for a drive. A race if you’re up to it. Maybe even check out Illumination.”

“That new bar outside the reach of the command center?” Knock Out rubbed his chin and tilted his head. “Isn’t that being run by the Vehicons?”

“Last I heard. Doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. Who knows? It’s worth a shot, right?” Bumblebee bounced to a stop and folded his arms, his optics cycling wide and bright. He tilted his head, his expression unexpectedly charming. “So. You interested?”

Knock Out debated for all of a few seconds. Honestly, the alternatives were to either return to Ratchet, the medbay, and his list of cleaning responsibilities. Or play ‘hookey’ as Bumblebee said, by hiding out in his room and sulking as he consumed unhealthy amounts of rust sticks while watching imported movies.

“Let’s go,” Knock Out said, and spun toward the door, flicking his upper tires to get the last of the moisture from them. “I deserve to have some fun.”

Bumblebee jogged to catch up with him, and together, they left the washroom. “That’s the spirit.” He fell in step with Knock Out, matching his pace, which was admittedly a bit rapid, betraying his lingering agitation. “Everything else going okay though? Aside from Ratchet, I mean.”

Knock Out shrugged. “As good as it gets, I suppose.”

They passed a handful of Autobots passing in the other direction. Actual Autobots, not former Decepticons or Neutrals. Their badges had the distinct red that identified them as “true” Autobots or whatever. Not like the newly enacted who had a paler, more pink shade to their badges.

Knock Out didn’t wear a badge. It clashed horribly with his paint scheme. He didn’t care how much Ultra Magnus glared at him about it.

The passing Autobots stared. Knock Out ignored them, though the intensity of their stare made his armor itch. He still wasn’t used to the way everyone watched him. He’d never minded the attention when it was appreciation for a sweet alt-mode or a fine paint job. But this kind of attention made him feel dirty.

He didn’t recognize them, but Knock Out knew, they recognized him. There weren’t many defectors running around the city. And as the only place close to habitable on Cybertron, here was where everyone gathered.

Knock Out swallowed a sigh. “And maybe someday, I won’t get glared at just for walking down the hallway like any other mech.”

“No one’s giving you a hard time are they?” Bumblebee asked.

Knock Out just gave him a look, arching an orbital ridge. Really?

Bumblebee chuckled and waved a hand. “Aside from Ratchet, I mean.”

They turned a corner, heading toward the general mess, the scent of different energon blends floating down the hall. They didn’t have a huge variety, what with energon still being so scarce and all, but they made do with what they could. Additives and flavorings helped a lot.

“If you’re asking if someone is bullying me, I wouldn’t know how to answer that.” Knock Out frowned. Oh, sure, there was the usual.

Graffiti occasionally on his door or the wall outside his room. His schedule being changed without informing him otherwise. Anonymous messages sent to his public contact accounts and mails. Once, someone had even rigged a bucket of tacky orange paint outside his room, so that it drenched him the moment he left for his shift.

He’d had to wash it off first, which took ages and left him scraping his undercoat raw in several places. He’d been late to his shift, which had of course prompted a Ratchet lecture, and Ratchet didn’t have time for explanations or excuses.

Other than that, no. There was a distinct lack of direct attacks and violent reactions to him. Nothing went beyond a sneer or a muttered comment or a glare.

Ironically, it wasn’t much different than living with the Decepticons. Though there were times their form of bullying was a lot more… violent.

“Ultra Magnus will listen,” Bumblebee said, and was that concern Knock Out detected in his voice? For a former Decepticon? “He’s strict, but he’s fair. If someone is harassing you, he’d like to know.”

Knock Out shook his head. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.” And Primus forbid he go running to their interim-probably-permanent security officer like a weakling. If he couldn’t handle a little teasing, he’d have never survived in the Decepticons.

Bumblebee frowned. “The point is that you shouldn’t have to.”

“Clearly, you’ve never spent any time in a Decepticon base,” Knock Out muttered as they turned into the mess, and his comment was swallowed up by the noise and bustle of a packed dining hall.

Seriously, every mech not on duty right now had to be in here. Knock Out hadn’t even realized this many had returned to the planet. They were all Autobot in some shape or form, as every Decepticon had been scooped up and summarily imprisoned as a precautionary measure. To the point most Decepticons didn’t dare land.

Unless they were willing to defect, of course. Knock Out supposed he were lucky. He defected before the Autobots started requiring the humiliating ceremonies where former ‘Cons had to publicly denounce Megatron, the Decepticons, and anything else the current Autobot leadership decided was necessary. They had to cast off their brands, either with paint thinner or tossing the physical brand into a smelter.

Publicly.

No wonder so few were willing to defect. If the Autobots were trying to win wayward Cybertronians to their side, they were certainly going about it the wrong way.

Knock Out had caught a few transmissions, warnings to other ‘Cons, telling them to go elsewhere. There were stirrings of resentment, anger. Another war was brewing out there in the starry black, if the Autobots didn’t get their judgmental afts in gear and start realizing the planet wasn’t theirs alone to keep. There wasn’t anywhere else for the Decepticons to go.

Eventually, they’d come back here. En masse, no doubt. Megatron might be gone, but his legacy lived. There would be another.

A few near the door noticed Knock Out. He was treated to the Autobot Trademark Sneer before they returned to their conversation with one another.

For a moment, Knock Out hesitated. But then Bumblebee brushed his arm as he stepped up beside Knock Out, as if offering comfort and solidarity.

“Come on,” he said, gently taking Knock Out’s elbow. “I see a spot in the back. We can grab that table.”

“You sure you don’t mind being seen with me?” Knock Out asked, and sincerely hoped his tone was more snide than pitying. The last thing he needed was Bumblebee only spending time with him out of some idea of charity.

Bumblebee snorted. “I know my own worth. Everyone else can go frag themselves if they want to make a big deal about it.”

The latter he said quite loudly, almost pointedly, and more than a few Autobots hurriedly looked away, ducking their heads, like Bumblebee had chastised them directly. It was kind of nice, Knock Out had to admit. He didn’t need or want a champion, but it never hurt to have someone on his side either.

“Really?” Knock Out smirked. Down, but not out. That was his motto. “That doesn’t sound like a very Optimus Prime thing to say.”

Bumblebee barked a laugh. “Mm. Probably not,” he agreed. “But there was a lot more to Optimus then he realized. If he were here today, he’d probably be appalled by a lot of things we’re doing.”

They arrived at the table, and Knock Out took the seat tucked into the corner, all the better to see a problem and avoid a potential knife in the back. Maybe it wouldn’t happen, but Knock Out hadn’t survived by being reckless.

“Get comfy.” Bumblebee patted the table with another trademark grin. “I’ll get us a drink.”

He was gone before Knock Out could protest, weaving into a crowd that parted ways to welcome him. Knock Out watched him go, not failing to notice that faces were much friendlier to him without his former Decepticon shadow.

Not that Bumblebee seemed perfectly comfortable at the attention. He kept waving off invitations, holding up a hand and shaking his head. Someone patted him on the shoulder, and he smoothly stepped out from under the touch.

Knock Out knew Bumblebee was considered something of a hero to the Autobots at large. Frag, all of the Bots who’d been there for that final battle were revered in some shape or form. They’d practically turned Optimus Prime into the second coming of Primus! It wouldn’t be long now before the statues would start going up, with numerous of Optimus’ more famous speeches etched into plaques at their bases.

Pathetic.

Knock Out pulled out his datapad for something else to look at. He ignored the alert in the corner, informing him he still needed to review the Autobot Charter and take the exam. He’d been ignoring that particular requirement for months now. The damned thing was a thousand pages long.

In fine print.

Knock Out snorted and swept the screen to his sketching app. It had been ages since he’d drawn something, ages still since he had anything worth displaying. But war didn’t make time for pleasantries or creativity. All of his previous works had been destroyed when Crystal City fell.

That was when he’d seen the writing on the wall. When the Decepticons attacked and the Autobots had been helpless to it. He’d known then which side he’d have to join if he wanted to survive. He’d learned what it would, what would be necessary, but survival… that had always been key.

There was nothing he wouldn’t do to survive.

Bumblebee returned, a cube in each hand, and dropped into the booth beside Knock Out, forcing Knock Out to slide over a bit to make room. “We’ve got windfarm-filtered today,” the scout said as he slid the cube over. “Hope you don’t mind a few bugs.”

Knock Out grimaced and peered into his cube. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“I am.” Bumblebee laughed and leaned forward, cupping his hands around the cube. “No insects – or Insecticons – were harmed in the making of this energon.”

Knock Out shuddered. “Don’t remind me of those awful beasts.” He’d had quite enough of Insecticons, thank you very much. They’d always skulked around the Nemesis, and he swore half the time they were stalking him as if they longed to crunch on his struts.

“You don’t have to worry about them. Last I heard, they were still trapped on Earth’s moon with Airachnid, and she’s not capable of interstellar flight.” Bumblebee grinned a very beguiling grin.

Knock Out snorted. “Who says I’m worried?” He arched an orbital ridge and sipped at his cube, which was barely palatable, but better than nothing. Work needed to be done on that synethetic energon post-haste. Their other options weren’t appealing, and they could only mine so much from Earth and other seeded locations.

Of course, it would help if Megatron hadn’t gone off the deep end and destroyed so much of it…

“No one.” Bumblebee winked playfully and tipped his cube back, drinking deeply of it. His doors fluttered as he did so.

If he noticed the way other mechs stared at them, he didn’t act like it. Maybe he was used to the staring, given how Bumblebee was something of a legend among the Autobots. Even before he helped win the war. Rumors of the way he’d stood up to Megatron, at the cost of his vocalizer no less, were always running rampant.

There was no doubt Bumblebee was as brave as they come. Foolish, too. He completely acted against his own self-interest. How could he expect to survive that way? How had he survived?

Then again, Knock Out knew there was a time Bumblebee did not. Where only a fall into the Omega Lock matter had saved his spark.

Yet, he still treated Knock Out to a smile. Kindly. With respect. Given how much the Decepticons had brought him harm, how could he do it?

“Why are you being so nice to me?” Knock Out asked, or blurted rather. His attempt to stay calm and disconnected swirled right down the drain like a clump of grass once stuck in his rims.

And it wasn’t just today either. This wasn’t the first time Bumblebee had invited Knock Out somewhere, or escorted him. This wouldn’t be their first shared meal or friendly conversation.

This wouldn’t be the first time Knock Out had looked at him and wondered ‘what if’?”

Bumblebee cycled his optics. “What?”

“I’m not stupid.” Knock Out frowned and rested his elbows on the table, leaning forward. “Most other people act like I’ve got the cybonic plague. But you don’t. Why?”

“Oh.” Bumblebee shrugged. “It’s what Optimus would’ve done.”

Knock Out refused to allow himself to be disappointed. He didn’t know what else he expected. Of course Bumblebee worshiped Optimus like everyone else around here.

“Ah, so I’m your good deed for now.” Knock Out rolled his optics and sat back, snatching up the energon.

“My very own charity case.” Bumblebee grinned, but there was an edge to it, like he was teasing. Blue optics sparkled in Knock Out’s direction.

Knock Out snorted. He hid behind his cube.

“Or,” Bumblebee continued, and he started fiddling with his own cube, fingers spinning it around and around the table. “Maybe even a friend, if you want one.”

“And here I was thinking we were already,” Knock Out drawled, praying his tone was dismissive, even as his spark gave an odd flutter in his chassis. Had he actually hoped Bumblebee considered him more…?

Impossible.

The cube stopped with a thump and Bumblebee brought it to his lips. “Well, didn’t want to assume.” He tossed his head and the cube back, finishing it in one good gulp. “Would you rather I wasn’t nice?”

Knock Out snorted again. “No, thanks. I get enough of that as it is.” He sipped on his cube and glanced away, almost immediately catching a glare focused his direction.

Was it because he dared to exist? Because he consumed their energon? Because he betrayed the Decepticons or used to be one? Or maybe, just maybe, it was because he was sharing a table with one of the Autobot’s heroes and that just wouldn’t do.

Knock Out almost sent a coarse gesture the mech’s direction, but decided against it at the last moment. With his luck, he’d start some kind of mess hall riot and be blamed for it entirely. Plus, thrown energon and candies and furniture would absolutely ruin his paint job.

A black blur waved in front of his face. Knock Out cycled his optics and looked at Bumblebee again, shaking his head.

“There you are.” Bumblebee chuckled as Knock Out sipped the last of his cube and set the empty container on the table.

“Here I am,” Knock Out agreed. “Unfortunately.”

“Am I such bad company?”

“Not at all. I just dread the thought of going back to the medbay right now.” Knock Out tried and failed to conceal a scowl. He wasn’t in the habit of changing his mind again, but sometimes, Ratchet made things difficult.

Bumblebee leaned into his field of vision. “Then don’t.” His doors waggled. “I was serious when I said let’s go do something fun.”

“Won’t that violate my parole?”

“Parole?” Bumblebee’s orbital ridges lifted. He slid out of the seat and bounced on his heels. “Come on. No one really takes that seriously. Besides, what kind of trouble can you get into if you’re with me?”

“Quite a lot, I’m sure,” Knock Out drawled. He slid out of the booth on the other side, though with less bounce in his step. “I may be persona non grata around here, as they say, but I still get the gossip.”

“Oh? Do they talk about how handsome and charming I am?” Bumblebee’s doors waggled as he moved closer, nudging Knock Out with his elbow. “Or maybe they’re in awe of my speed. I know I can beat you.”

Knock Out reared back, looking down his nose at Bumblebee, though they were of a height. “Oh, that I highly doubt.”

“Wanna bet?”

Knock Out couldn’t ignore a challenge like that. The confidence in Bumblebee’s field was begging to be knocked down several pegs.

“Let’s go,” he said, and spun toward the exit, pushing through the crowd, or maybe it parted for him. Either way, getting out was a lot easier than getting in. “We’ll see who’s faster.”

Bumblebee jogged to catch up, chuckling at Knock Out as he did. “What’re the stakes?”

“You presented the challenge. It’s up to you to offer the stakes,” Knock Out informed him.

“Fair enough.” Bumblebee tapped his chin. “Fine. Loser buys the first round at Illumination.”

Knock Out arched an orbital ridge. “First round?”

“We’re supposed to be having fun, remember?” Bumblebee waggled his orbital ridges which made him look ridiculous, frankly, but somehow, it amused Knock Out anyway.

Knock Out’s tires twitched. “Alright. Loser buys the first round.” He poked Bumblebee in the middle of his chestplate. “Hope you’re ready to shell out the creds.”

~

It didn’t turn out as well as Knock Out could have hoped.

Oh, he gave it his all. He put pedal to the metal and his engine roared and his tires spun across the ground so fast he could have sworn he were flying rather than on solid ground.

But Bumblebee had spent a lot more time out on patrols than Knock Out, and he knew the landscape a dozen times better. He knew how to avoid the potholes and pitfalls and he was far less studious about his paint.

Knock Out didn’t lose entirely.

But he wasn’t the one currently waggling his aft and pumping his fists in the air in complete victory either. Three laps out of five and Bumblebee had left Knock Out in the dust. He must have gotten some kind of modification because his specs certainly didn’t match the speeds he’d displayed.

Or maybe that dip in the Omega Lock material had done more than just bring him back.

Either way, Knock Out tried not to sulk. “It’s unseemly to brag,” he said, failing in his endeavor to be unbothered by his loss.

“Says you.” Bumblebee snorted and clasped his hands behind his back, sauntering closer. “And I believe you owe us a drink.”

“Do you have to look so smug about it?” Despite himself, Knock Out was grinning. He’d had fun and sometimes, he forgot what that felt like.

It had felt so freeing, too. Just driving. Racing. Speeding across the ground. He was not caged, he’s as free as a reformed Decepticon could be, but Knock Out’s actions were always under constant scrutiny. He’d never admit aloud that he felt uneasy on his own at times. Last thing he wanted to do was wander into the wilds for a quick drive. Alone. Without any backup.

He could take care of himself. But there were a lot more Autobots than there were mechs who cared whether Knock Out lived or died. So he’d missed this simple pleasure, of the wind over his armor, and the road beneath his tires, and the roaring-purr of an engine pushed to the limits and more.

“This is not smug.” Bumblebee pointed at his own face and shook his head. “This is pride! And success!”

“It’s smug. You’re smug.” Knock Out palmed Bumblebee’s face and gave him a playful shove away. “Besides, you get out a lot more than I do. It was hardly a fair race. You just wait, next time you’ll be eating my grit.”

Bumblebee laughed and bounced back. “It’s a date then,” he said, without a moment’s hesitation. He brushed dirt from Knock Out’s shoulder, and for some odd reason, that moment of contact sent a wave of warmth up Knock Out’s spinal strut. “But first, I’m thirsty.”

Knock Out swallowed over a lump in his intake. “Thirsty,” he echoed, and tried for a disdainful look. “You spend far too much time on Earth.”

“I’ll take you with me next time. At least then you can’t blame the state of the roads for why you lost to me.” Bumblebee winked, and another jolt of something went straight to Knock Out’s spark. “Besides, if you actually talked to some humans, you might actually like them.”

“I doubt it.” He still remembered their squishy, sweaty bodies inside his trunk, and how they’d sniped at each other.

Primus.

Knock Out shuddered. No, thank you. Humans smelled and excreted and they talked far too much. He preferred the company of other Cybertronians, thank you very much.

Bumblebee chuckled. “There’s still time to change your mind.” He patted Knock Out on the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get that drink.”

He felt enraptured by Bumblebee’s pace, and Knock Out couldn’t put a finger on why. He felt swept along, unable to do more than grumble as they slipped into altmode and headed back into the city proper. Or, the outskirts at least.

Illumination had been cobbled together from the remains of several destroyed buildings rather than waste new materials needed for more important ventures. As a result, the entire outside of it was mismatched in terms of both color and composition. The neon sign had been snatched from Earth and flickered in and out as it buzzed noisily. Music floated from the open windows, along with the distinct undertone of chatter.

Two Vehicons stood at the double-doors in the front, probably bouncers of some kind. They’d lost their Decepticon badges, and had repainted themselves, but there was no mistaking that distinct frame-build.

Knock Out couldn’t blame them. Megatron had used the cold-constructed mechs like cannon fodder, treating them as little more than drones. They looked alike because they were sparked that way, made to be interchangeable and Megatron treated them as such.

So maybe they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the bunch, but they were individuals. Knock Out supposed in this post-war world, they now had a chance to show it off.

Still, he wrinkled his nasal structure. “Are they playing human music?” he asked as words in English finally caught up his audials.

“Yep.” Bumblebee’s doors did that adorable wiggle-twitch thing again. He bounced on his heels, optics brighter.

Oh, Primus.

Knock Out steeled himself for what was quite possibly going to be a terrible time. The music was almost obnoxious, and the smell of too many alt-modes venting in too small of an area struck him in the face before they even stepped through the doors.

“Hey, Silverspot, Runner.” Bumblebee greeted the two Vehicons at the door with a fistbump. Their visors flashed at him – a shade Knock Out had never seen before. “Sounds like some good beats tonight.”

“Got a new DJ,” the pale Vehicon on the left said.

“The crowds have been bigger and better than ever,” the one with racing stripes on the right added, their voices almost identical.

“Sweet.” Bumblebee grinned and reached back, grabbing Knock Out’s hand firmly. “He’s with me, okay?”

And just like that, Knock Out was the sole recipient of their attention, and he wondered just then, if he’d ever repaired these two mechs. He’d only known the Vehicons by their serial numbers – Megatron had wanted it that way. Knock Out knew the Vehicons had more personal names to each other, but he’d never bothered to learn them.

It hadn’t been important.

Knock Out spent most of his time bearing the scrutiny of his fellow Autobots. He’d never once thought about the opinions of those who had been Decepticons beside him. After all, they were dead now. Starscream, Soundwave, Shockwave, Breakdown, Dreadwing, Airachnid – all of them gone, in one way or another. Who was there left to face?

No one but Megatron’s nameless, faceless, interchangeable army of not-drones.

“If you say so, Bee,” the pale Vehicon – Silverspot, Knock Out assumed – said, but his voice projected disapproval and distaste.

“Only because it’s you,” the striped one purred and tilted his head toward the door. “You better keep an optic on him, though. We don’t want no trouble.”

“Aw, Runner, now would I do anything dangerous?” Bumblebee tightened his fingers around Knock Out’s and gave him a tug toward the door. “Later!”

“Have fun!”

Knock Out didn’t make optic contact as he passed. Not because he was afraid, but because he didn’t know what he’d find. Contempt, perhaps. He was no better than Megatron, treating them as disposable, but it hadn’t fit with his credo either. He had to look after himself first.

He had to survive.

The doors slammed shut behind them, and a wash of heat attacked immediately after. Knock Out’s vents seized, his optics spiraling in and out, struggling to focus. It was dim in here, well dim in terms of overhead lighting. But there were flashing lights, spinning lights, streams of bright color spilling all over a central dance floor. Bars along the walls were backlit by lamps, and the glow of dozens of biolights added to the dim.

The floor was a bit tacky beneath his feet. The place was packed with mechs of all shapes and sizes – soldiers, workers, a few civilians who had managed to come back, some of the newsparks who were ready for the world. There were Vehicons and Eradicons, too, recognizable by their frames, but not their colors.

Primus, it was loud.

Bumblebee squeezed his hand and leaned in close. “Drink first!” he hollered to be heard over the music. “Then we dance.”

“I don’t remember agreeing to a dance,” Knock Out said.

Bumblebee ignored him. Or maybe Knock Out hadn’t been loud enough. Either way, he found himself being towed through the crowd, Bumblebee easily clearing a path for them. More than a few mechs called out greetings to him, clapping him on the shoulder, acting all too familiar. Just like those guards.

Knock Out only recognized one face in the crowd– Smokescreen, near the furthest wall, shaking his aft without paying heed to the rhythm of the music. He seemed to be having fun, so Knock Out supposed that was all that mattered.

Bumblebee got them to the nearest bar and Knock Out up next to him, squeezing them both into a space between two clusters of mechs. He signaled for the bartender and flashed Knock Out a grin.

“Time to pay up, doc,” he said.

Knock Out rolled his optics. “Brag a little louder. I don’t think the rest of the bar can hear you yet.”

Bumblebee laughed. “Just pick your poison.”

Knock Out glanced at the menu scratched on a board above the wall. This establishment seemed to serve a little bit of everything, from regular energon to high grade to engexes. It even had an approximation of Iacon wine.

It also only accepted Earth dollars.

Of all the humiliations…

Bumblebee pressed against his side, no doubt accidentally since the crowd was so thick that it soaked up any inch of available space. “What’ll it be?”

Knock Out gnawed on his bottom lip. “I changed my mind,” he said and shook his head. He turned, trying to spot an escape through the crowd. “I should go back to Ratchet after all.”

“Hey.” Bumblebee’s hand grabbed his again, like he had no trouble touching Knock Out when everyone else considered him a plague. “What’s wrong?” All teasing was gone from his voice now.

Knock Out growled at his own behavior. Of course an Autobot couldn’t let things lie. No, he had to be concerned and interested, and he couldn’t just let Knock Out go sulk in a corner, brooding about the unfairness of the universe.

No, Bumblebee was too persistent for that. He wouldn’t shrug and ignore things if Knock Out walked away.

Knock Out sighed a vent. “They only take Earth funds.”

Bumblebee cycled his optics and looked confused. “Yeah, most of the new places around here do. Because we don’t have a cred system yet.”

Earth funds were for luxuries and treats. Right now, Cybertron didn’t need creds because every resident was provided the necessary energon, coolant, and shelter without having to “earn it” so to speak. Earth funds, on the other hand, had to be gained.

Which didn’t mean Knock Out wasn’t earning any. He was quite sure he had a bit of a stockpile. The problem was that he didn’t have access to it at the moment.

“That’s all well and good, but since I still don’t have access to mine, I can’t fill my half of the bet, now can I?” Knock Out demanded. He gave a token tug to his arm. “Now, if you’re done humiliating me for the day, I’d like to go.”

“Is that all?” Bumblebee rolled his optics and pulled Knock Out back toward the bar. “Come on then. It’ll be my treat this time, and as soon as they unlock your accounts, you can treat me twice over. Sound fair?”

Knock Out stared at him. “Why are you being so generous?”

“Because I want to.” Bumblebee gave his arm a little squeeze and then let him go, as though leaving it up to Knock Out’s decision. “Because I want to have a drink and a dance with you, and I don’t want you to leave because high command are taking their sweet time accepting what I already know.”

Knock Out tilted his head. “And that would be…?”

“That you’re one of us,” Bumblebee said as though it were the easiest thing in the world. He then turned to address the bartender – an Eradicon whose narrow-visored gaze was cutting between them. “Hey, Razorwire. Can me and my buddy here get a shot of Toxic Turnover each?”

“Sure thing, Bee.” Razorwire glanced at Knock Out, the light behind his visor flashing briefly, before he turned to fill their order.

Bumblebee flashed a grin over his shoulder, his door tilting down so he could see Knock Out over it. “See? Easy as cake.”

Knock Out sighed and closed the distance between them, the press of the crowd making him collide with Bumblebee’s side. “Come here often, do you?” he drawled, disliking the sudden run of jealousy through his spark.

Bumblebee laughed. “I’m not just a stuffy old Autobot. I know how to have fun.” He rolled his shoulders in a playful shrug. “I’m surprised you haven’t.”

“Places like this usually aren’t my first choice,” Knock Out replied. Not that he had the time to waste on having fun. Ratchet usually kept him busy with the scut work, and Ultra Magnus had him studying to pass his Autobot Code exam.

“Why not?”

Knock Out shrugged. He didn’t have a good answer.

Luckily, Razorwire returned with two shot-sized glasses of something glowing a dangerous, bright green. He set it down in front of Bumblebee, and though he didn’t have a mouth, something in his manner suggested a smirk.

“You two enjoy,” he said.

“Thanks, Razor.” Bumblebee picked up the shots and turned back toward Knock Out, offering him one. “Well? You want it? Or is my charity too much for you?”

Knock Out snorted and accepted the drink. “I suppose that depends on what it’s going to cost me.” He gave the drink a tentative sniff, surprised to find it had a sharp, sweet aroma.

“Hmm.” Bumblebee’s finger rubbed along the tiny cube’s outer edge. “How about a dance then?” He lifted his orbital ridges.

Knock Out laughed before he could stop himself. “It’s cheap enough I suppose. A dance it is.”

Bumblebee lifted his cube and gestured to Knock Out with it. “Bottoms up.” He winked.

Knock Out tapped his cube against Bumblebee’s and together, they tossed the small shot of Toxic Turnover back in one fell swoop. It went down smooth, sweet where it barely splashed over Knock Out’s glossa, and sent a wave of warmth through his tanks.

“Good stuff.” Bumblebee smacked his lips, grabbed the empty cube from Knock Out, and set both on the counter behind him, upside down. He clapped his hands together. “Ready for that dance?”

Knock Out glanced behind him, at the seething crowd, frames twisting and churning to a quick, throbbing beat, words indistinguishable above the bass. He cringed imagining how many mechs would brush against him, scrape his paint, leave him scuffed.

But a deal was a deal…

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” he said.

Bumblebee laughed, suddenly right next to Knock Out, pressed up against him, hand sliding down to tangle their fingers together. “Good. Then let’s go.”

He didn’t wait for an answer. Had a bad habit of not waiting, that one did. Before Knock Out could second guess himself, Bumblebee’s hand tightened around his, and they plunged into the crowd, Bumblebee paving the way. Knock Out stumbled and fought to catch up, drafted along in Bumblebee’s wake, as the scout seemed to be heading straight for the middle of the dance floor.

Only then did Bumblebee let Knock Out go and spin to face him. His doors did a quick up and down motion before he started to move in time to the beat, displaying an amount of grace that was not at all surprising. Knock Out had seen him on the battlefield.

“Don’t just stand there!” Bumblebee shouted, because how else were they going to be heard over the music and the crowd and the multitude of revving engines. “Move!”

Knock Out rolled his optics, but move he did. He listened to the beat for a moment, let it soak in through the floor, rattle through his struts and his hydraulics, thud in time with his spark. He danced, letting the harsh throb of the beat chase away everything else, the anger he felt at Ratchet, at himself, at high command. The irritation he still carried everywhere he went. The indecision.

He offered it all to the music – crass and human in nature though it was – and purged it from his field. Bumblebee was right. He was here to have fun, a concept Knock Out had almost forgotten.

Surviving was not enough. One had to live. And living meant having fun.

Knock Out grinned and threw himself into the music, twisting and writhing, occasionally bumping into other dancers, but it was all right. Everyone out here was bumping into everyone else, and no one seemed bothered by it.

Bumblebee moved closer to him, until they were dancing together, and Knock Out didn’t mind one bit. Dancing with a partner was always better, and my but Bumblebee could move. Could shake his hips, add in some fancy footwork, and Knock Out swore Bumblebee was flirting with him. Casual brushes of his fingertips, the brief press of their frames together – hot and vibrating.

The music shifted, turning less frantic and bouncy, to something energetic and sultry, something that called for a closer encounter.

Knock Out grinned and let himself indulge. When Bumblebee spun closer, Knock Out twisted into his path, let their frames collide. He caught Bumblebee’s gaze and smirked, as black hands found his hips and gave them a tug.

Armor connected, heat to heat, and Knock Out felt the rush of hot vents over his frame. He rolled his hips, grinding against Bumblebee, their frames moving in perfect sync.

Knock Out licked his lips as his engine purred. He dipped, letting Bumblebee’s hands on his hips carry his weight as he leaned back, intending to tease. It worked, if the flash of heat in Bumblebee’s optics was any indication.

It worked on someone else, too.

Thick fingers wrapped around one of Knock Out’s outflung wrists. A strong tug and he stumbled backward, out of Bumblebee’s grip and against a much taller, much broader frame. A whiff of road grit, asphalt, and heavy-duty exhaust identified a construction mech of some kind, and Knock Out shuddered at the mental image of what tacky residue must have streaked up his backside.

“A pretty thing like you needs a bigger dance partner,” someone growled down at him, venting hot and greasy, his massive hand pawing down Knock Out’s front.

Of all the–

Knock Out whipped around, but didn’t get very far with his wrist caught by that claw the mech called a hand. If he’d had his electro prod, this conversation would go very differently.

“Hands off!” he snarled and tried to wrench his wrist free without snapping it in the process.

A black and yellow blur slipped between them, and with a single blow to the construction mech’s inner elbow, Knock Out’s hand was freed from confinement. The mech bellowed and pinned Bumblebee with a glare, and Bumblebee revved his engine.

“The mech said ‘hands off’,” Bumblebee growled, his doors high and rigid, threatening if Knock Out had to guess. “He’s with me.”

Pale yellow optics flicked from Bumblebee to Knock Out and back again. He clutched at his elbow, arm dangling limply. One blow and Bumblebee had either numbed or shattered a hydraulic joint. Impressive.

“Fine,” the brute spat. “Don’t want used goods anyway.” He spun around and stomped into the crowd, which cleared a path for him as though eager to get the negative vibes out of the fun.

“Aft,” Bumblebee muttered, just loud enough for Knock Out to catch before he turned to face Knock Out once more. “You’re not hurt are you?”

Knock Out held up the hand big bruiser had grabbed. “Dented, but nothing I can’t fix myself,” he said as Bumblebee gently took his arm and inspected his wrist as though he were the medic here and not the other way around. “Thanks for the save, hero.”

Bumblebee flashed him a grin. “What? Did you actually want to dance with him?” He threw a thumb over his shoulder, half-turning. “Because I’m sure he didn’t get far. I can call him back.”

Knock Out snorted. “You know that’s not what I meant.” He looked at Bumblebee’s hold on his arm, surprisingly gentle for all the violence he’d implied just moments before. “Besides, you weren’t wrong. Tonight I am yours.”

“Really?” Bumblebee’s hand slid up Knock Out’s arm until it curved around his frame, tugging him close. “Then I guess that makes me the luckiest mech in here,” he purred as their chassis bumped.

Knock Out laughed as Bumblebee’s other hand slid around his waist, not that Knock Out minded. “You’ve had too much to drink.”

“Pfft. My tolerance is better than that. One drink doesn’t even get me buzzed.” He waggled his orbital ridges and spun Knock Out to the beat. “I think it’s just your company that’s got me high.”

Knock Out’s mouth worked for several seconds before he decided laughter was the best response again. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Mm hmm.” Bumblebee leaned in closer, his lips curved in a devilish grin that made Knock Out’s internals squirm. “I don’t need high grade to see how gorgeous you are and that’s the truth.”

Heat stole into Knock Out’s face. He blinked, not expecting the direct compliment, and sort of chuckled, trying to laugh it away. Surely, Bumblebee didn’t mean it. He was just that friendly. Look, he even befriended Decepticons.

“Well, that’s because it’s fairly obvious,” Knock Out drawled, falling back on old habits – overconfidence and conceit.

“That, too.” Bumblebee swayed to the beat, hips twisting, encouraging Knock Out to do the same as the distance between them steadily decreased. “So how long do I get you for then?”

Knock Out made a show of sliding his arms over Bumblebee’s shoulders. He toyed with the mount of one of Bumblebee’s doors. “Hm. Two more drinks and a song, I’d say. Can’t offer myself cheap after all.”

Bumblebee chuckled. “Deal.”

His hands squeezed on Knock Out’s hips before he pulled back from the half-embrace. Knock Out swallowed down the strange jolt of disappointment. But then Bumblebee grabbed his hand, as he seemed so fond of doing, and started towing Knock Out off the dance floor, back to the bar where a gap in the crowd allowed for two empty stools.

Bumblebee wriggled between them and slapped a hand on the bar as if trying to get Razorwire’s attention, while he tugged Knock Out to join him. They squeezed between the stools, their legs tangled, frames pressed tight, and heat made a quick flush through Knock Out’s frame. He didn’t know if the vibrations he felt were from the rumbles of Bumblebee’s engine, or the rapid pulse of the music.

“Another round, Razor!” Bumblebee called as his doors twitched up and down, up and down, not unlike a Seeker’s wings, point of fact.

“You know a lot of Vehicons,” Knock Out commented as he leaned against the bar next to Bumblebee, head tilted so he could keep one optic on the room behind them. He didn’t want to get grabbed like that again.

Bumblebee shrugged. “They’re good bots.”

“Is it because it’s what Optimus would’ve told you to do?” Knock Out asked. Partly because he was curious, and partly because he still wondered if Bumblebee only spent time with him because he thought he was doing the right thing.

Bumblebee arched an orbital ridge. “I don’t mindlessly obey, you know. I can make my own decisions. And that includes spending time with a whole group of mechs who got the slag end of life for reasons that aren’t their fault.”

Razor appeared then, sliding two Toxic Turnovers across the bar to them. “I made it extra spicy,” he said with a flutter of his optical band.

If Knock Out didn’t know better, he’d say the Eradicon was flirtingwith Bumblebee. Who, by the way, only snorted and scooped up the two shots.

“If I fall out again, don’t expect me to pay the towing fee,” he retorted and returned his attention to Knock Out, offering up the shot. “For you.”

Knock Out’s gaze flicked from the shot to Razorwire and back again. Extra spicy? What the frag did that mean?

“It’s not poisoned.” Bumblebee chuckled. “He only meant he added an extra shot of engex for me. Since he knows my tolerance is higher than most.” His free hand patted his abdomen as he gave his engine a rev. “High performance vehicle, you know.” He winked.

Knock Out snorted and accepted the shot. “Oh, I know. Since I am one.” He swirled the concoction around the cube, the bright green shade almost nauseating.

“Yes, you are.” Bumblebee grinned and lifted his cube. “Hmm. To a pair of sexy speedsters on the dance floor.”

Ridiculous.

Knock Out raised his cube anyway. “That no one else can touch,” he added and knocked his cube against Bumblebee’s. “Cheers.”

The second Toxic Turnover went down even easier, like liquid candy, flowing thick and sweet over his glossa. Knock Out couldn’t even taste the extra shot of engex in it, but he definitely felt the buzzy burn as it hit his tanks and sent a rev of energy through his frame. He shivered, tires twitching, heat flushing to his face.

Together, he and Bumblebee set the empty cube upside-down on the bar with a near-synchronized tap.

“Another one, my mechs?” Razorwire asked.

Knock Out startled. He hadn’t realized Razorwire never left. Instead, the Eradicon had lingered and watched them, and now there was an odd cant to the way he held himself.

“I do believe he promised me one more,” Bumblebee said as he playfully flicked one of Knock Out’s tires, setting it into a lazy spin.

The tiny action sent a much larger thrill through Knock Out’s lines. “That I did,” Knock Out replied, sweeping his glossa over his lips. “But just one.”

Bumblebee leaned in close, until Knock Out could taste the Toxic Turnovers on his ex-vents. “Hit your tolerance level, doctor?” he asked. A flick of his finger over the inner rim of Knock Out’s tire set it spinning again.

Knock Out locked optics with Bumblebee, leaning in close enough their lips could brush if only he’d close the distance. “Not a chance,” he purred and drew back before temptation could lead him down a dangerous path.

Bumblebee chuckled. “Good.”

Two more Toxic Turnovers plunked down on the bar counter and nudged their way. Razorwire didn’t stay to chat this time though. Instead, he vanished toward another portion of the bar, where a rowdy trio of mechs were loudly demanding drafts of the cheapest whatever was on tap.

Hmph. Some people had no sense of taste.

Knock Out scooped up his own shot before Bumblebee could hand it to him. It seemed even darker, more turbulent this time. Perhaps it had yet another boost of engex in it.

“Hmm.” Bumblebee held up the cube and admired it in the flashing multicolored lights. “This time I think we should toast to… building bridges.” He grinned as he met Knock Out’s gaze, something pointed in it.

Knock Out worked his intake, spark pounding faster in his chassis. “And making it easier to cross them,” he agreed.

Bumblebee’s optics spiraled wider, the blue brightening in hue. He didn’t look away, not even as they blindly tapped their cubes together and sucked down the shots as quick as possible. Sweet and syrupy, heat in his tank, and Knock Out shivered, the world a swirl of color and noise around him.

“Come on.” Bumblebee discarded the cube behind him, his hand clasping warm around Knock Out’s. “I get one more dance.”

They returned to the dance floor, to the fast beat throbbing all around them, up through the floor and into Knock Out’s frame. He felt warm and relaxed, like he hadn’t in a long time, and even better when Bumblebee didn’t let him go.

They danced together, closer and closer, frames brushing, armor coming into electric contact. It felt like taunt and tease. And Knock Out didn’t fail to notice that others watched them, but it didn’t feel like the judgment of the refueling station. It was appreciation and jealousy.

That’s right, Knock Out wanted to say, smug and proud, he’s here with me.

As if hearing his thoughts, Bumblebee pulled Knock Out in close, spinning him so they were back to front, Bumblebee notching himself between Knock Out’s tires. He nuzzled the back of Knock Out’s neck, his arms sliding loose around Knock Out’s waist.

A thrill ran up Knock Out’s spinal strut.

“This okay?” Bumblebee asked, his ex-vents like teasing puffs over Knock Out’s cables.

Knock Out’s spark pulsed, one that seemed to echo much, much lower. To his poor, neglected interface array, which hadn’t seen any action but his own two hands since his defection.

“If it wasn’t, I’d have said so.” Knock Out punctuated his point with a grind backward, rubbing his aft into the cradle of Bumblebee’s hips.

Bumblebee chuckled, his hands skimming over Knock Out’s abdomen. “You know, you can tell me ‘no’, right?”

“What?” That was kind of a weird segue.

“You don’t have to agree if you’re not interested,” Bumblebee said as his hands returned to the relatively safe area of Knock Out’s hips.

Knock Out’s engine growled. “Of course I know that!” Just what was Bumblebee trying to imply? That Knock Out thought he was some kind of prisoner without a choice?

“So you are interested?” Bumblebee purred, right against his audial, otherwise no way would Knock Out have heard it.

He shivered and slid his hands down Bumblebee’s arms, still grinding against Bumblebee to the beat of the music. “Obviously,” Knock Out drawled and pointedly rubbed his aft against the curve of Bumblebee’s groin. Was it just his imagination or was there definitely a tangible heat?

“Good,” Bumblebee murmured with a hot ex-vent. His hands skimmed back over Knock Out’s abdomen. “Because right now, we’re just two Autobots having a good time.”

Knock Out grinned at the confirmation. He squirmed in Bumblebee’s arms, managing to turn around so that they were face to face, and Bumblebee’s hands were on his hips. Though he nearly smacked Bumblebee with a tire. Ah, the perils of protruding kibble.

“A great time, you mean,” he corrected.

Bumblebee chuckled. “Yeah.” He took one of Knock Out’s hands, tangling their fingers together, as he moved them into a few dance steps Knock Out could easily follow. “Though it’d be a shame if it was only tonight.”

“Wouldn’t it?” Knock Out smirked and moved in step with Bumblebee. He was a fast learner. “I guess we’ll have to see if you earn another.”

Bumblebee’s free hand slid back around his waist, thumb sweeping over a transformation seam and making Knock Out shiver. “Awwww,” he said. “And here I thought I was already putting my best foot forward.”

Bumblebee spun, twirling Knock Out with him, and at the last moment, caught his balance and tilted Knock Out into a dip, all to the rhythm of the music. One foot braced against the floor, the other found its way to sliding alongside Bumblebee’s stabilizing foot. Their faces were inches apart, and Knock Out had a moment where he wanted to be bold.

Bold like he hadn’t been since before his defection.

Knock Out swallowed over a lump in his intake. His vents fluttered. He curled a single hand around the back of Bumblebee’s head, and closed the distance between them, bringing their lips together for an electric kiss. He meant it to be brief, not wanting to pressure, but Bumblebee made a small sound, his fingers pressing in on Knock Out’s back plating, before he pressed onward, and returned the kiss.

His glossa slipped out, tasting the seam of Knock Out’s lips, and he opened to Bumblebee, their glossa meeting in a hot, slick tangle. Knock Out clutched Bumblebee’s shoulder, his knees wobbling. A sharp pant burst from his vents, and his engine kicked into a higher gear. He felt the vibration of Bumblebee’s engine matching his.

And then it was over, far too quickly. Bumblebee drew back, pulling Knock Out completely upright, but he didn’t pull away. His hands lingered on Knock Out’s hips, sweeping up and down, their frames in delicious near-contact. His optics were bright, so very blue, and his glossa ran over his lips like he was savoring their kiss.

“Should I apologize?” Knock Out asked because sometimes, returning a kiss didn’t mean it was wanted in the first place.

“Only for not doing that sooner,” Bumblebee replied with a grin. He gestured out of the crowd with a tilt of his head. “Want to get out of here?”

Knock Out brushed his fingertips over the side of Bumblebee’s intake. “You read my mind.”

It felt natural, this time, for Bumblebee’s hand to slide into his, and for Bumblebee to lead him off the dance floor. Just a small point of contact, and Knock Out’s spark did a foolish triple-pulse. He stared at Bumblebee’s back, at the little upward twitches of his doors – happiness, if Knock Out had to guess.

They didn’t stop by the bar on the way out. Knock Out could only assume Bumblebee had some kind of tab here. They didn’t exit by the front door, either, but by a side door that functioned as a one-way exit.

There was another Eradicon here, probably a door guard, to make sure no one tried to sneak in through the side. His optical band brightened when he saw Bumblebee.

“Hey, Buzzy,” the bright-pink Eradicon with horrible taste in paint said. “Leaving so soon?”

Bumblebee chuckled. “Can you blame me?” He held up his hand, his fingers still interlaced with Knock Out’s as though showing him off.

The Eradicon tilted to the side, looking Knock Out up and down. “Well, you’ve got good taste at least. Have fun, you two.”

“Thanks. I’ll try.” Bumblebee winked and tucked Knock Out against his side.

“Which of us was he even talking to?” Knock Out muttered as he looked over his shoulder. The pink Eradicon was still watching them, though now he leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.

“Probably me. Baron’s got a weird sense of humor.”

Knock Out snorted. Did Bumblebee know every Eradicon and Vehicon in the city by their newly chosen names? Did he only spend time with former Cons? What was his deal?

Out of the club, it was easier to walk side by side. Bumblebee still held his hand; Knock Out had no interest in retrieving it. This felt more like a date now, and a part of him wondered if it hadn’t been Bumblebee’s intention all along. Beyond the press of so many mechs, Knock Out could finally pick out Bumblebee’s field, and the miasma of emotions buried inside of it.

“So,” he started, to break the quiet, not uncomfortable, but definitely taut with the expectation of something. “Do you just have a kink for ex-cons or what?”

Bumblebee’s head turned toward him, and he cycled his optics in and out before he snickered. “I know it seems that way, but no.” He grinned and bumped shoulders with Knock Out. “Got a kink for you though.”

Heat flooded Knock Out’s cheeks, and he couldn’t even blame the engex. He’d long since burned it off. “I’m flattered,” he drawled, trying to grasp onto his composure with increasingly shaky fingers.

“Is that your way of letting me down gently?” Bumblebee asked, his tone light, but the heaviness in his field betrayed his disappointment. There was longing, too. Like he’d just let something he always wanted slip through his fingers.

The rest of the puzzle clicked into place.

Knock Out drew to a halt, tugging on Bumblebee’s hand in the process. The scout turned to look at him, expression blank, but his doors canted upward. Expectant.

He met Bumblebee’s gaze, and tried to search for answers in it, but Bumblebee was too good at keeping secrets. Knock Out would have to ask.

“How long?”

Bumblebee’s weight shifted. “Long enough.”

Knock Out looked at their joined hands, fingers knitted together. Bumblebee had been holding him one way or another all night. He should have realized sooner. Primus, he was an idiot.

“You could’ve said something.”

“Point of fact… not as easy as it sounds.” Bumblebee sighed and scratched at his nose. “You’re not exactly…. Uh….”

“–friendly?” Knock Out supplied. Though he didn’t think that was it. He could be friendly when he wanted!

“I was going with approachable.” Bumblebee chuckled, and his thumb swept over the side of Knock Out’s palm. “But yeah. So you can tell me no, and I swear I’ll walk away. I know how to take rejection gracefully.”

Knock Out’s glossa swept over his lips. “Really?” he asked. “Because that’s not the answer I had in mind.”

Bumblebee’s gaze jerked toward him, optics cycling wide and bright. “Oh?”

Knock Out cycled a vent, steadying himself, and stepped closer. Into Bumblebee’s field and his personal space, until their frames were close enough to sense one another’s heat without touching.

“My hab is only a block from here.” Knock Out squeezed Bumblebee’s hand, praying to whoever would listen he wasn’t making a huge mistake. Loneliness clawed so hard around his spark, a slim trail of hope was all he had left. “Interested?”

Bumblebee’s field flushed with heat, and sent tingles racing across Knock Out’s receptors. “Oh, I’m interested. But–”

“I’m not even tipsy, you’re not my commanding officer, and I know I don’t owe you anything,” Knock Out interrupted, able to guess Bumblebee’s hesitation. He was an Autobot after all.

Knock Out moved closer, until their chestplates brushed, and he dragged his fingers over Bumblebee’s headlights. “Though maybe you owe me a thing or two.”

Bumblebee’s free hand closed around his wrist and pulled it toward his mouth. “Or three,” he murmured as he brushed his lips over the inside of Knock Out’s wrist, holding Knock Out’s gaze the whole time. “Or four.”

Knock Out shivered and worked his intake. They were all but in the middle of the sidewalk. Anyone passing by could see them. Drivers in the street were getting an optic-full. Yes, it was chaste, but Knock Out was a known former Con and Bumblebee was a famous hero. Anonymity didn’t exist for either of them.

“However many you want to owe me,” Knock Out said, and surprised himself with the hitch in his vents. “But in the privacy of my hab.”

Bumblebee chuckled and skimmed his lips over Knock Out’s fingertips. “Exhibition not one of your kinks?”

“Not this kind.” He squeezed Bumblebee’s hand, dropping his voice into a lower register. “I’ll be happy to introduce you to some others though.”

“I’ll hold you to that promise,” Bumblebee purred. “Lead the way, doc.”

No doubt Bumblebee knew the way to Knock Out’s hab. But it was nice of him to pretend otherwise. Or maybe it was yet another way for him to be certain that Knock Out wanted this, wanted him. Either way, Knock Out appreciated the consideration.

His hab wasn’t much to brag about, but at least he could be comforted in knowing no one on Cybertron right now lived in luxury. Habitable buildings were hard to come by, so they squeezed as many mechs into each one as they possibly could. Knock Out had a small loft, composed of a tiny, one-stall washrack, a closet with a berth in it, and a larger main room for any other need he might have.

Like the couch, for instance.

The moment Knock Out let the field-reader identify him and give him access to his own hab, Knock Out intended to head right for the couch. But Bumblebee’s arms wrapped around him, and he found himself pressed against the wall instead, the door closing shut behind them and sealing them away from prying optics.

“You can tell me to stop,” Bumblebee said as he nipped at Knock Out’s jaw, his engine revving, and his frame venting heat in hot waves against Knock Out’s chassis.

Knock Out growled and cupped Bumblebee’s head, pulling the scout toward him for a kiss. A serious one. He tasted Bumblebee’s lips with his glossa before he plunged it into Bumblebee’s mouth, catching hints of their earlier drinks. His own engine revved as Bumblebee pressed harder against him, his tires squishing against the wall, another wave of heat running through his lines.

Courtesy was one thing. Delay was quite another. Knock Out had spent far too long alone. He wanted Bumblebee beneath him now.

He pushed forward, making Bumblebee stumble back. Their lips parted, and Knock Out slid off the wall, toward the main room. Bumblebee followed, like predator stalking prey, his optics darkening from arousal, the heat of it tangible in his field.

A thrill ran through Knock Out’s lines. “Right now, all I want to say is yes,” he said as he backed further and further into the main room, Bumblebee following every step of the way. “Maybe even repeatedly, if you think you can manage it.”

Bumblebee chuckled. “I guess we’ll have to see.”

He caught up to Knock Out, arms going around Knock Out’s waist as he slanted their lips together again. This time, the kiss was more hungry, more forceful, and Knock Out moaned into it. His hands slid over Bumblebee’s shoulders, trapping the yellow mech against him. Scorching heat slithered into his array, spike and valve surging online with a pulse of need through his sensory net.

They stumbled together, the couch right behind Knock Out. He bit at Bumblebee’s lips and felt the Autobot shiver against him, his engine revving louder.

Knock Out smirked and spun, setting Bumblebee off balance. Teetering, all it took was a little push for Bumblebee to fall backward, landing on his aft on the couch. He looked up at Knock Out, startled, and his optics cycled even wider when Knock Out followed him, straddling Bumbleee’s lap.

“You seem to be under the impression that I’m some dainty minibot who needs careful handling.” Knock Out rocked against Bumblebee’s groin, his hands slipping over Bumblebee’s shoulders to tease his door hinges. “That is far from the truth, Autobot.”

Bumblebee groaned. “Careful handling, yes. Dainty, not a chance.” He grasped Knock Out’s hips, pulling Knock Out tighter against him. He braced his feet on the floor and thrust up, their armor sliding together. “Though you are gorgeous.”

“Mm. Flattery will get you everywhere.” Knock Out leaned down, brushing his lips over Bumblebee’s. “And you’re not so bad yourself.” He sealed their mouths together, glossa plunging inside, the tip of it tracing Bumblebee’s denta before Bumblebee’s glossa rose up to meet his.

The couch creaked. It was an old thing, salvaged from the ruins of the city. Knock Out had dragged it here himself, cleaning and scrubbing until it was almost new. Maybe it could handle the weight of two frames, maybe it couldn’t.

Right now, Knock Out was willing to sacrifice it to this very necessary cause.

He ground down harder against Bumblebee, knees digging into the couch. He bit at Bumblebee’s mouth, exventing quick, hot puffs of air. Need coiled inside of him, and it tightened into a hot mass as Bumblebee’s hands slid up his back and pinched at his back tire mounts.

Knock Out shuddered, a bloom of charge tearing across his sensory net. He rolled his hips again, purposefully.

“Are you going to open up, or am I going to have to do this by myself?” Knock Out asked as he nibbled his way down to Bumblebee’s intake, lips and denta tasting an arrangement of delicate cables.

Bumblebee stroked his mounts, making a hot fire dance up Knock Out’s spinal strut. “I dunno. I think you’d put on a pretty sexy show if you did all the work.”

Knock Out bit him.

Bumblebee arched beneath him and laughed, his hands sliding back down to Knock Out’s hips and holding tight. “So that’s a no on the show, then? I can take a hint.”

“Bumblebee, open your panel or so help me Primus I will climb off you and go find my energon prod,” Knock Out hissed against Bumblebee’s cables. His own panel jittered, threatening to open, lubricant welling in his valve and pooling against it.

“Mmm. Love it when you use that tone.” Bumblebee cupped his aft, squeezing tight.

But more than that, the distinct sound of a panel opening echoed from below, and Knock Out felt the wet brush of a spike head against his inner thigh. Finally. So he popped his own panel and lubricant dribbled free.

“Remind me to use it later,” Knock Out said as he dragged his lips back to Bumblebee’s, his mouth brushing over his. “Maybe with some rope and a whip. You could stand to learn some manners.”

Bumblebee groaned and bucked his hips, the head of his spike nudging against Knock Out’s valve rim, exciting the ring of sensors.

Oh. Liked that, did he?

Knock Out smirked and purred into Bumblebee’s audial. “I should pin you down,” he said as he rolled his hips, teasing himself with the slick head of Bumblebee’s spike. “Ride you all night. Make you put on a spike ring so you can’t overload. Until you’re drenched in condensation and desperate for it.”

Bumblebee breathed a curse and clutched at Knock Out’s hips, trying to pull him down. Knock Out relented and sank down enough that Bumblebee’s spike pierced the rim of his valve, but only just.

“You’re killing me here, doc,” Bumblebee groaned and his head tilted back against the top of the couch, his optics bright and hungry.

“That’s what you get, for teasing me all night,” Knock Out retorted, though honestly, he felt like he was teasing himself right now. His calipers were cycling down on nothing, and his nodes kept pinging him with urgency.

His fans spun faster, and his thighs shook from the effort of holding himself up. He nudged closer, until his chestplate pinged against Bumblebee’s.

“I’m sorry then,” Bumblebee murmured and nuzzled Knock Out’s face, his hands sweeping up and down, tracing Knock Out’s seams, mapping out his armor. “Really I am. Won’t you have mercy?”

Knock Out chuckled. “I think I like it when you beg.” He could have teased Bumblebee like this all night, if the need wasn’t clawing at him.

Bumblebee groaned, and his field poured over Knock Out like a boiling oil bath. He all but trembled with his own desire, but he restrained himself. He didn’t push. He didn’t demand. He meant it when he offered Knock Out control.

“You’re so mean.” He nibbled his way to Knock Out’s intake, glossa and denta making hot presses against Knock Out’s cables.

Knock Out shivered, his tires twitching. “But I also know how to be nice,” he murmured and he finally, finally sank down, his valve swallowing up Bumblebee’s spike inch by inch, gliding over every internal node until Bumblebee was fully notched inside of him.

Knock Out sucked in a ventilation, charge leaping out from his nodes and sinking into Bumblebee’s sensors. He trembled as pleasure washed through his frame and sensory net, his valve cycling down tight. Primus, he’d missed this. Such a simple thing, the connection of two mechs together, real charge and not false vibrations or the strained curl of his own fingers.

He rocked his hips, stirring Bumblebee inside of him, until he hit an angle just right and Bumblebee’s spike head ground against his ceiling node. Knock Out gasped and did it again, and again, ecstasy radiating up his spinal strut.

Bumblebee groaned and clutched at Knock Out’s tires, his spike throbbing against Knock Out’s nodes. “Frag,” he breathed against Knock Out’s intake, his ex-vents wet and scorching. “You’re right. I think this is the nicest you’ve ever been to me.”

Knock Out barked out a laugh, despite the arousal building in his lines and sending lighting bursts of pleasure through his net. “You’re ridiculous.” But that didn’t stop him from rocking his hips, harder and faster, riding Bumblebee’s spike for every zap of pleasure it could give him.

His knees dug harder into the couch. It creaked ominously. Bumblebee’s hands tugged at his tire connectors, sending more shocks of need through Knock Out’s system. He shuddered, thighs pressing in on Bumblebee’s, his valve cycling faster and harder. Heat burst in his belly.

He slid his arms over Bumblebee’s shoulders and found his door hinges. His palms skated over the interior of Bumblebee’s door, tracing the far too organic lining and the window controls and the cupholders that were surprisingly free of sticky residue.

Bumblebee sucked in a sharp vent and bucked up against him, curling his arms tighter around Knock Out and pressing their frames together.

“Oh, did I find a sensitive spot?” Knock Out teased as he mapped out the contours of Bumblebee’s doors again. He needed the distraction.

Pleasure was sparking through his array at a fiery pace, and it tangled inside him, like a coil ready to burst. No way would he overload this quickly. It would be just another thing for Bumblebee to be smug about. He had some self-control. Time to use it!

“Maybe I can find another,” Knock Out purred and slanted his lips over Bumblebee’s, eagerly sinking into the kiss.

Bumblebee made a muffled moan against his mouth, but opened to Knock Out, his glossa eagerly joining in. There was a fierceness to it, a desperation, and it made Knock Out’s spark throb and his valve ripple with need.

He rocked faster and faster, grinding down and against Bumblebee, his nodes singing with delight. His vents came in sharp pants, even more so when Bumblebee slipped a hand between their frames and his thumb brushed over the swollen jut of Knock Out’s external sensor cluster.

A jolt ripped up Knock Out’s spinal strut. He gasped into the kiss, grinding down hard, the flare of Bumblebee’s spike head catching on his ceiling node over and over again, to the same rhythm of Bumblebee’s thumb on his node cluster.

“Looks like… I found one,” Bumblebee said into the kiss, his tone smug, but his fans spinning too fast and too loud for him to be anything else but on the edge.

Knock Out moaned and tilted his forehead against Bumblebee’s, knees digging harder into the couch as he lifted and dropped himself. Bumblebee’s spike was hitting all the right places, and pleasure tightened inside of him like an overenergized heating coil.

“S-shut up,” Knock Out panted and moaned when Bumblebee’s free hand moved to his back, sliding up to stroke his secondary vents. His rhythm stuttered, and his valve clenched down hard, locking down on Bumblebee’s spike. Charge snap-crackled through his array.

Knock Out’s fingers clenched on Bumblebee’s doors as he slammed down, grinding his ceiling node on the head of Bumblebee’s spike. Ecstasy coursed through him like a lightning bolt, and he overloaded, hips rocking in arrhythmic glee as his valve rippled and clamped.

Yes. This. This was what he’d been missing. And next time, he’d free his spike, too. He’d grind it against the hot planes of Bumblebee’s abdomen, he’d overload and mark Bumblebee with his spill, claiming the scout for his own.

Knock Out shuddered at the mental image, another wave of pleasure shooting through his sensory net.

Bumblebee groaned and his hands snatched at Knock Out’s hips, holding tight. He bucked up, feet planted against the floor, nearly unseating Knock Out from the force of the thrust. His valve throbbed, still sensitive from overload.

There was a ferocity in Bumblebee’s field now, a hunger in the way it wrapped around Knock Out, holding him tight, pulsing waves of heat. His engine growled, vibrating both of their frames, and his hands gripped Knock Out’s hips like a lifeline. He bucked up again, harder and faster, and Knock Out rode the motion, pleasure rebounding inside of him as he geared up for another overload.

“That’s it,” Knock Out panted, hands curling into Bumblebee’s shoulders, hooked on a transformation seam, holding on for the ride. “Give me more.”

Bumblebee’s engine growled. He tossed his head back, doors flicking hard and sharp against the back of the couch. His spike throbbed, hard and fast, and then Bumblebee groaned, low and deep, rattling right to Knock Out’s core.

His shoulders hunched as another overload struck. His valve rippled and he felt the telltale hot of spurt of transfluid, washing over his nodes. Knock Out shivered as it sent more charge racing through his sensornet, extending the overload.

It was perfect. It was so, so good. It was even better when Bumblebee took hold of his chin and pulled him down into a kiss, sloppy and wet, hot puffs of ex-vents teasing over his dermal net.

Knock Out panted into the kiss, his hips twitching in little rocks, his valve cycling around Bumblebee’s spike. His armor had flared, venting heat, and Bumblebee’s had as well, the air almost steaming around them.

“Did I pass the test?” Bumblebee asked around nipping kisses to Knock Out’s mouth and jaw.

Knock Out managed a staticky chuckle. “I’m not sure. I might need a couple more examples. For the sake of comparison.”

Bumblebee laughed. “Do you have a berth?”

“I have a closet. Same as anyone else.” Knock Out rolled his hips in a little circle, making Bumblebee gasp. “Care to join me in it?”

Bumblebee’s hands curled around his aft, scooping him up with seemingly little effort. Knock Out made an embarrassing noise and tightened his thighs around Bumblebee’s waist as the yellow mech stood up.

“Are you inviting me to stay the night?” Bumblebee asked with a ridiculous waggle of his orbital ridges.

Knock Out crossed his ankles behind Bumblebee’s thighs, his engine giving a quiet rev. Bumblebee’s spike shifted within him, and even half-pressurized, it rubbed over his sensitized nodes in enticing ways.

“Tonight, tomorrow, however long it takes if it means you’ll keep doing that,” Knock Out said as he rocked against Bumblebee’s front, holding on to keep from falling.

Bumblebee groaned and staggered away from the couch. “You’re killing me, doc.”

Knock Out leaned in and nibbled at Bumblebee’s intake. “Mmm. But what a way to go.”

They stumbled into the berth room, which literally only had room for the narrow berth and a small end table with a lamp. Knock Out’s back hit the surface, as plush as he could make it, and he purred as he arched up against Bumblebee, ankles urging Bumblebee to take him again.

“You’re insatiable,” Bumblebee said as he blanketed Knock Out’s frame with his own, knees spreading Knock Out’s thighs wide, his spike firming quickly.

“Like you’ve any room to talk.” Knock Out slid his palms over Bumblebee’s belly, chuckling to himself as he grazed over the erotically placed Autobot badge. “Again,” he demanded.

Bumblebee shivered, his optics blue and bright and hungry. “Whatever you want,” he murmured as he slanted their lips together, mouth hot and sweet.

Knock Out melted into it, vents roaring and engine purring, heat a rapid pulse through his lines.

A part of him hoped it never ended. The other, more rational side to him knew that it couldn’t possibly last. The newly growing Autobot side of him wanted to be optimistic, while his lingering Decepticon tendencies reminded him what he used to be.

He threw it all aside and focused on Bumblebee. Even if this was all he had, he was going to enjoy it while it lasted.

Knock Out lost count of the overloads. One blurred into another. He vaguely remembered the berth protesting beneath them – it was barely large enough for one as it was. He remembered a lot of teasing, a lot of laughing, more pleasure than he could measure.

By the time they collapsed together, vents gasping for relief, their frames a sticky mess, Knock Out’s head spun with the whirlwind his day had taken. Or longer, actually, because he glanced at his chronometer and it was stupidly late.

“Don’t you… have patrol in the morning?” Knock Out managed as he sank into the berth, buried beneath a surprisingly cuddly Bumblebee.

The other mech made a muffled sound from where he’d buried his face in Knock Out’s intake. “I’m going to call out sick.”

“Something tells me Ratchet won’t believe you,” Knock Out drawled. He petted Bumblebee’s back, trying to ignore how the smallness of his closet made the heat they vented nearly unbearable.

“I’ll get a doctor’s note from you.”

Knock Out snorted. “He probably won’t trust that either. No one does.” Did he sound bitter? It was only the truth.

Bumblebee lifted his head, something soft in his gaze. “I do.”

Knock Out worked his intake and looked away, feeling more vulnerable than when he’d been letting Bumblebee frag him all over this berth. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It doesn’t have to.” Bumblebee shrugged and rested his head on Knock Out’s bumper. “Look. It takes a lot of bearings to do what you did, turning your back on the Cons and coming over to our side. Takes even more to stick with it when everyone around you is being a jerk. So yeah. I trust you.”

Knock Out’s spark hammered a faster beat. “Oh. I… thank you.”

“And I promise,” Bumblebee continued with a little wriggle of his doors. “I meant what I said earlier, too. I like you, and I enjoyed tonight, and I’d like to do it again. But I understand if this is all you want, too.”

Silly mech.

Knock Out stroked down Bumblebee’s spinal strut. “You’re not worried about what everyone will say about you?”

Bumblebee snorted. “Nope. If someone’s got a problem with it or you or me, they can come talk to me about it. I have no issues with teaching them a thing or two.” He squirmed and shifted, crossing his arms under his chin so he could look up at Knock Out. “We’re supposed to be different after the war. I want to follow Optimus’ example. And I’m gonna stand up for what’s important.”

Implying that he found Knock Out something important.

Oh, Primus.

Heat colored Knock Out’s cheeks. He didn’t know what to do with that kind of blunt honesty. It was both refreshing and awkward to him.

“But like I said, it’s up to you,” Bumblebee added with a little smile, one that shot straight to Knock Out’s spark. “If you’d rather not deal with the hassle, I understand. You got enough slag on your plate.”

Knock Out worked his intake. “I seem to remember you owe me a rematch,” he said lightly, unwilling yet to admit how badly he wanted this to work. “We can start there.”

Joy soared through Bumblebee’s field before he reined it in. “And dancing afterward?”

Knock Out chuckled. “Yes, that. And hmm, you passed tonight’s test, but a couple more couldn’t hurt.”

Bumblebee unfolded his arms and pushed himself upright, looking down at Knock Out with something like appreciation in his gaze. “I’ll have you know I’ve always been a good student,” he said. “And I plan on finding every last one of your sensitive spots.”

He leaned down, lips tracing the curve of Knock Out’s jaw.

Knock Out shivered. “That sounds like a good goal to me.”

“Me, too,” Bumblebee murmured as his lips found Knock Out’s in a kiss, this time slow and savoring, like he wanted to memorize Knock Out’s taste.

Knock Out wrapped his arms over Bumblebee’s shoulders and surrendered to it. For a day that had started with so much irritation and anger, having it end like this was a miracle. A gift he didn’t think he’d receive.

Maybe there were good points to becoming an Autobot after all.

The future looked brighter already.

***