[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.

***

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[TFP] Drawn Together

They had missed this ecstasy.

In the Pits, Soundwave had been as much a novelty for his data cables as Sunstreaker and Sideswipe had been for being twins. They were fetishized, used, bought and sold even. Until they all three gained enough fame, power, and skill to defy all but the most well-connected patrons.

Though rumor had it Soundwave had once defied a Senator and said political figure hadn’t dared say otherwise.

They’d been drawn to one another, like calling to like. The twins saw in Soundwave another outlier, another outcast. For all that Soundwave stood at the side of the great Megatronus, he was alone. For everyone knew who Megatronus truly had optics for.

Together, all three soon learned there was no greater ecstasy than acceptance. Together, they were no mere novelties and toys for amusement.

Together, they mattered.

Even when the war separated them, quiet moments were stolen. Faction badges were set aside as were responsibilities.

They moved together – Soundwave pressed between two near-matching frames, their sparks echoing back and forth while he was caught in the middle. His spark throbbed to match the beat, until he felt he was a part of them.

And he returned the favor.

He wrapped them in his cables, kept their frames close to his, and sank his manipulators into their ports. Charge and data crackled through their lines in a blazing bolt of need, as liquid heat seared their systems. He joined their pleasure, all three blending until they pulsed as one.

It was blinding ecstasy and all three soaked it in for as long as they could.

Acceptance. Belonging. One fed into the other, and for a single, blissful moment, they knew peace.

[TFP] Flustered

Optimus had first caught her eye.

But it was Arcee who left her weak in the knees, her heart pounding in her chest and her body slick with sweat. Not to mention the damp between her thighs, soaking her panties.

Arcee led her to Girls Night Out, which became Ladies’ Night In, curled up in what passed for a bed for Cybertronians. Arcee held her, firm and gentle, hot armor pressed to warm flesh, and June quivered with an ecstasy she did not know her body could hold.

There was nothing like being bathed in the glow of Arcee’s optics while she panted and writhed, her nipples firm and tingling, her body painted in sweat. Her moans only seemed to spur Arcee on, as her fingers curled around the blankets Arcee kept for her comfort.

Heat blazed in a focal point between her legs. The slick glide of Arcees fingertip over her clit was heaven, and a hot pressure built and built and built. June spread her thighs, her heels digging into the blanket as she rocked up against the pressure.

“You’re making a mess on your blanket,” Arcee said, her words amused but her tone heavy with the static of lust.

“Oh, hush,” June panted and tipped her head back, her hair clinging stickily to her neck and face. “And please don’t stop.”

Arcee hummed and leaned closer, a gust of ventilation wafting over June’s sweat-soaked skin, making her shiver and goose pimple.

“When you’re this beautiful for me? I’d never.” Arcee touched, ever so gently, the pad of her fingertip nudging against June’s slick folds. The dermal metal was so very warm and pleasant, firm and smooth, and now slick with June’s juices.

June sighed a moan, her heart pounding and her core clenching and her clit throbbing. She licked her lips and arched her back, Arcee’s appreciative gaze like lightning down her spine.

“Are you close?”

“Mmm. Very.” June’s eyelids fluttered. Her face heated.

Arcee’s touch firmed, adding more pressure in little circles. The coil spun, tighter and tighter, until the pleasure burst, and June was flooded with ecstasy.

June gasped as she came, her thighs clamping shut, her hips riding the hard heat of Arcee’s fingers. She trembled, hands clenching the covers, as her inhales came in sharp bursts.

June panted, sweat soaking her body. She heard Arcee purr seconds before she felt herself being lifted from where she’d been reclined over Arcee’s thigh. A hand cupped her body, and June clutched at the blanket, her eyes snapping open. Arcee’s mouth descended on her, and June whimpered, spreading her thighs in welcome.

She still squeaked, however, at the first wet swipe of Arcee’s glossa, so firm and wet and unlike a human’s tongue, save that it still evoked the same bright burst of pleasure in her groin.

“Oh you!” June gasped out a moan, grinding her teeth, as the ecstasy returned in a jolt.

Her hips twitched and danced. Her clit throbbed, swollen and full, as Arcee licked her again. And again.

June writhed, her nipples as hard as little pebbles, the wet sound making her crave even more.

“Unfair!” she gritted out, bucking toward Arcee’s mouth, feet pressing into the blanket, and by proxy, the firm support of Arcee’s palm beneath.

“Not from where I’m standing,” Arcee purred and her lips caressed June’s folds, such a delicate kiss of soft, dermal metal.

June came again, her heart beating so hard it pounded in her ears. Her knuckles ached where she clung to the blankets. Her clit throbbed as she soaked the blanket beneath her rump. She gasped for breath, entire body seizing.

She collapsed back into Arcee’s palm, sweating and panting, dripping onto a blanket now thoroughly soaked with various fluids. Lights danced in her eyes as she reminded herself to breathe, though it was ragged.

Arcee smirked, ever so proud of herself, and licked her lips. “Good?”

“You know it was.” June smiled in return, though it was half-crooked and more dopey than she would have liked. “I only wish I could return the favor.”

A Cybertronian’s lubricants, sadly, were toxic to a human if ingested, and mildly itchy if touched. Whereas a Cybertronian could ingest a human’s fluids with little, if any ill effect, depending on the quantity. Arcee had yet, in all their months of sharing bedspace, to experience any side effects.

Much to Ratchet’s relief.

Arcee stroked a finger down the inside of June’s thigh, toward her knee. “Your creativity more than makes up for it.”

June grinned. “Wheeljack had a hand in assisting us, as I recall.” With Ratchet’s oversight, of course. Ratchet insisted on making sure neither of them would cause harm to the other.

“Hah. I’m not giving him any credit.”

June chuckled and loosened her grip on the blanket. “So you say. But as soon as I can move, I intend to hear you moan for me.” She pushed herself up to her elbows, despite her body feeling heavy and drained. June was not and had never been a selfish lover.

Arcee arched an eyebrow. “If you can move that quickly, I’ve not done my job well.”

“I’m not that delicate!”

Arcee laughed. “Oh, I’m aware.” The tip of her fingers teased through the wet gathered between June’s thighs.

June shivered. “You are incorrigible,” she said as her belly did a little flipflop and her thighs trembled.

“Well, we do have all night,” Arcee purred, cajoling.

June nibbled on her bottom lip as the pleasure stirred again. Yet, she resisted and clamped her thighs shut, denying herself that which Arcee was offering, lest she be distracted.

“No, you minx.” She resisted the urge to shake her finger at Arcee. “I want to see you revved this time.”

Arcee’s optics flashed. She licked her lips and the hair on June’s arms rose, like there was an increase in static charge in the air. She knew, by now, that it was her perception of Arcee’s desire, and she soaked in it.

“Yes, June,” Arcee demurred as she gradually lowered June back to the berth so that she might extract herself from the blankets. “And what’s your accessory of choice today?”

June rose to her feet, sweeping her sweat-streaked hair back behind her shoulders. “Surprise me.”

Arcee’s engine purred, the low growl of it making June’s belly quiver. Wetness gathered between her thighs again, but she put it aside.

She braced herself as Arcee retrieved her chosen accessory and arranged herself upon the berth, her thighs spread invitingly, her concealing panels closed for now. They would open, June knew, upon request. And while it had taken some getting used to at first, June had memorized the sight of Arcee’s equipment by now, and it never failed to make her quiver.

Was it a tenable relationship?

June did not know if she was qualified to answer that question. She knew that Arcee made her happy, and she felt that she satisfied some desire of Arcee’s as well. She knew that the world might view them oddly, but that they were two consenting adults no matter which way you looked at it, and that was what mattered.

She knew that she would never tire of the smile Arcee gave her, or the smirk as she handed over her chosen delight for the evening.

June licked her lips and cast Arcee a smile born from affection, even as the femme’s face took on a pink hue, her respirations becoming audibly faster.

“Now then,” June purred as she strutted across the berth, a sway in her hips that Arcee’s optics followed, her focusing lenses spiraling in and out. “Let’s see how many overloads I can wring out of you.”

Arcee visibly shivered, her armor plates lifting away from her understructure, a show of trust and vulnerability.

“Bring it on,” she said.

June grinned.

Oh, yes.

Optimus had caught her eye in more ways than one.

But it was Arcee who stole her heart.

[TFP] Somewhere Between

//Come Soundwave.//

//It doesn’t have to mean anything.//

//We are simply two officers consoling one another.//

//We were left behind by our dear master, after all.//

//Do you not agree?//

It feels like betrayal.

No.

A lie.

It feels like a slow burn. Like lightning in his lines, charge in his sensornet. It feels like power. Lust. Pleasure. It intoxicates. Invigorates.

Suffocates.

Starscream writhes beneath him, his frame a sinuous wave caught in the grips of ecstasy. Charge crackles from his substructure. His engine purrs and cajoles. His claws slip and slide into seams, hooking on armor plates, keeping Soundwave close.

His ex-vents fog Soundwave’s mask. The sounds he makes echo in Soundwave’s audials. Recorded. Preserved. Saved.

Soundwave records. Always. Sight and sound, emotion and observation. He must present a report to Lord Megatron, when he returns. Yet, Soundwave tells himself to purge the intimate moments. They are irrelevant.

He doesn’t.

His manipulators wrap around Starscream, heavy bindings, tingling where the Seeker’s charge bites him. Electric fire crackles where they are connected, interface cables swaying between them, blue fire dancing along their lengths.

Starscream gasps. He laughs. He purrs, “You’ll join me yet,” and the surge of pleasure doubles in intensity.

Soundwave trembles. This is a battle in which he is outmatched. Where Starscream proves superior.

Too long has Soundwave spent detached, cabled to insentient machinery, chained to the cause. It’s left him unprepared, sensitive to the simple pleasure of touch, to connection to another mech.

//We are in mourning, Soundwave.//

His manipulators shudder. Fire licks through his sensornet.

Starscream looks at him. Smug. Appreciative. Charming.

He strokes taloned fingertips over delicate cables and into vulnerable seams and over his substructure. Soundwave tucks his helm.

He’ll not bare his throat. This is not surrender. He is not on bended knee, optical feed tracing the pointed jut of Starscream’s feet, the sleek rise of his leg. Neither does he tremble in the shadow of quivering wings, or purr under that heavy, volcanic gaze.

Starscream is beneath him, pinned, subdued. He is the one with intake bared.

So why does Soundwave feel as if he is prey?

Starscream arches up, his cockpit chiming against Soundwave’s empty dock. Charge slithers from his port to Soundwave’s. Electric and consuming.

Intoxicating.

Soundwave hungers, and once again, is tempered by the suggestion – betrayal.

Lies.

Lust and need, instead, swallowing him whole. He teeters on the edge, charge snarling in his lines, begging to be unleashed. So heavy, so searing, it hurts. Yet, he clings to it.

Starscream slips a talon into a seam, perilously close to a main energon line. Soundwave should be uneasy. Starscream, after all, is treachery personified.

//We only have each other now.//

Soundwave shatters, visor striped in electric grays, his audials filled with static. A binary sound spills from his speakers as Starscream’s voice slithers across their connection.

//You can’t betray what’s been left behind.//

It follows him into darkness until he reboots, splayed atop Starscream. Still online, the Seeker purrs as he strokes Soundwave’s back and arms, an imitation of lover’s affection. They are still connected, the cables limp and warm between them. Starscream’s presence hovers, humored and self-satisfied, observant at the distant edge of Soundwave’s awareness.

//It doesn’t have to mean anything.//

The promise rattles in Soundwave’s processor, and echoes in his memory bank. A promise given when Starscream first invited Soundwave into his berth, and driven by weakness, Soundwave had accepted.

He rests his head on Starscream’s chassis, his manipulators clinging to the Seeker. He knows.

The promise is a lie. One they cannot keep.

Soundwave listens to the spin and hum of Starscream’s spark. He records it, this sound no longer irrelevant.

It feels like betrayal.

He’s no longer capable of knowing which is which.

[TFP] Entitled

“This thing’s a heap of scrap.”

Breakdown grabbed hold of the crumpled bay door and ripped it from the hinges, tossing the mangled panel of metal over his shoulder.

“I’d be surprised if anything survived,” he added, peering into the dark of the battered spacecraft, dimly lit by emergency lights.

Breakdown had a point. The spacecraft hadn’t survived atmospheric entry, bits and pieces of it breaking off and landing all over the area. It was still smoking; the air stank heavily of scorched metal and also, scorched organic material as it had created quite the landing zone. The humans would be here soon enough to investigate, which would draw the Autobots as well.

Megatron planned to be gone long before then.

He turned toward Soundwave.

His third in command inclined his helm, sensors performing a quick sweep, the results of which showed on his faceplate. One life sign, weak but holding steady. A survivor.

“Someone is inside,” Megatron said.

Breakdown shrugged, hefting up his hammer arm. “Must be a Pit of a mech.”

Megatron took it upon himself to enter first. Soundwave brought up the rear, disengaging Laserbeak to scout the area and warn them in advance of arriving Autobots. It wouldn’t take long for Prime to notice the crashing of a Cybertronian spacecraft, even if it was Decepticon in origin.

The spacecraft looked no better inside than it did on the outside. Energy scores on the walls, ceiling, and floors were testament to a furious battle at some point. Hallways were dark, some blocked off completely. The whole craft stank of isolation and abandonment. Even if it hadn’t crashed, Megatron suspected that it did not utilize much, if any of its lighting or atmospheric controls.

They passed a few empty rooms, the silence broken only by the barely perceptible noise of Soundwave’s constant scanning. The craft was deserted, without even the empty frames of offline mechs who might have made the shuttle their home.

They found the pilot on the bridge, a cramped area with only two large chairs and a compact console. Emergency lights glowed weakly, all of the monitors dark and lifeless. The viewing screen had crumpled, one of the spiked protrusions of the ship curving back from the force of the crash and splintering the thick glass.

The mech himself was slumped in the pilot’s seat, hands fallen from the controls though one cable remained connected to the console. He was pinned to the chair by a thick piece of metal, energon dribbling around the wound and pooling on the floor with a quiet drip.

Breakdown made a whistling noise. “He survived that? The thing’s microns from his spark chamber!”

Megatron made a noncommittal noise and circled to the left of the unidentified mech, optics narrowing.

This was no Decepticon.

Golden armor, a warrior’s sleek build, sharp talons meant to gouge and rend. Some kind of energy blade strapped to his back. And slapped on his shoulders were the bright red decals of an Autobot.

Megatron snarled, lipplates pulled back over his denta.

Soundwave sent him a file in a databurst, for identification, but Megatron hadn’t needed it. He would know this mech even if a thousand vorns had passed.

Megatron had a list, a string of designations in the forefront of his processor of mechs and femmes that he had vowed to personally offline. Optimus Prime – Orion Pax – was at the top of this list. There were also several traitors, pompous mechs of high standing, and a couple of defectors who had made him look like a fool.

Sunstreaker was one of those defectors.

“He’s not a Decepticon,” Breakdown said, lifting one of Sunstreaker’s arms and letting it fall, hitting the side of the chair with a dull clang.

“Not anymore,” Megatron replied, spark swirling with fury.

Breakdown looked up at him, single optic dim with confusion. “Ya know him?”

“We’ve been acquainted.” Megatron turned away from the battered frame of the former gladiator, his processor spinning with thoughts. Plans. Ideas. “Bring him along, Breakdown. We should show him the hospitality of the Decepticons.”

“Yes, sir.” Breakdown sounded more than a little gleeful.

Megatron approved.

He would make Sunstreaker suffer. Would tear him to pieces. Slowly. Methodically. Spill energon from the traitor drop by precious drop. Rip out every circuit. Pull off every armor panel. Sunstreaker would die slowly, every last second filled with agony.

The screech of metal against metal echoed in the bridge as Breakdown yanked Sunstreaker free from the pilot’s chair without an ounce of gentleness. If Sunstreaker had been online, the pain would have been excruciating. Pity he wasn’t aware enough to appreciate it.

Soundwave walked alongside Megatron and he knew, without having to ask, that his third in command had many questions.

“The Autobots don’t know he’s here,” Megatron said. “Let’s keep it that way, shall we?”

Soundwave nodded, his facescreen flickering before he began to replay a voice clip. Of Megatron’s own words at that.

“Death will be given to anyone who betrays the Decepticon cause.”

Megatron chuckled darkly. “All in due time, Soundwave. He had potential once. He may still be of some use to us.”

And if not, Megatron would dispose of the traitor personally. Just as he intended to do to Optimus Prime.

~

Sunstreaker onlined to pain. Systems errors streaked across his HUD, letting him know that he was low on energon and coolant, with critical errors stacking up in his processor.

He onlined his optics, rebooted them twice, but the dark remained. He ran diagnostics. They worked, but wherever he was, there was no light. Which meant he wasn’t on the Nightwing anymore. Even after a crash like that, he’d still have reserves or emergency power to draw from.

His ventilations were ragged. He could feel himself spraying fluids with each ex-vent out. Not good. Pain radiated from his helm to his pedes. A strut in his leg was shattered. He couldn’t put much weight on it. Frag.

He was standing.

Sunstreaker twitched, heard the rattling of chains. He jerked his wrists, but they were pinned to the wall above his helm with less than a foot of slack. His pedes were given a similar treatment. He couldn’t move, couldn’t see.

What happened?

He remembered roaming the universe, trying to find signs of any Cybertronians. It had been so long he’d even settle for a Decepticon, if only to end the perpetual monotony.

He couldn’t find the Ark, couldn’t find the Autobots, and most of all, he couldn’t find Sideswipe.

And then?

Sunstreaker groaned, thoughts bouncing messily inside his processor. It was hard to concentrate, hard to connect one line to another. What was wrong with him? Battle damage?

He gritted his denta.

Wandering the universe. And then?

The wormhole. He remembered that. It grabbed the Nightwing, dragged him in, and Sunstreaker didn’t have the talent needed to pilot himself free. The wormhole spat him out somewhere his navs couldn’t immediately identify. Then there was an asteroid or something. It clipped his hull.

He lost an engine.

It became a blur after that.

He remembered hurtling without control. Remembered seeing a planet or two, and then another one, bright in the darkness. He remembered thinking that he was never going to survive planet-fall. There was heat and then… darkness. Here. Wherever here was.

A ping to his fuel tank finally came back. Seventeen percent, barely above minimum. No surprise there. He hadn’t had much to begin with, and if the state of his frame was an indication, he’d been leaking for some time.

He tried to access his comm. Nothing. Either it was broken or had been removed. Judging by his chains, Sunstreaker suspected it was the latter. Not that it mattered. He had no one to contact.

The silence in his spark was even more telling.

Where was he? Surely not among Autobots. Soft-sparked mechs they were, they would have put him in some brightly-lit medbay, attached to monitoring systems, with a medic hovering nearby.

He checked his chronometer. It didn’t help. He had no frame of reference.

Somewhere, in the distance, a door slid open with a hydraulic hiss. Sunstreaker’s helm snapped up, optics swiveling in the direction of the sound.

He heard pedesteps and felt the distant edges of a powerful energy field. Small lights popped on, piercing the gloom.

A tall, spiky frame came into view. Crimson optics set against gunmetal grey plating. A large cannon was strapped to his right forearm.

Megatron.

Sunstreaker stilled.

Any Cybertronian contact would have been preferable to this.

“Are you enjoying your accommodations?” Megatron asked, his voice a fakely pleasant hiss in the heavy silence.

A growl crawled it’s way out of Sunsteaker’s vocalizer. “Eat slag!”

Megatron chuckled, though it lacked amusement. “As polite as ever I see.”

“What do you want, Megatron?”

The Decepticon lord tilted his helm, optics burning brighter. “Considering what happened on our last encounter, it should be fairly obvious.”

His unwavering stare sent a ripple of unease through Sunstreaker’s spark. There was something in Megatron’s gaze, some dark fury, that Sunstreaker had no desire to experience.

Sunstreaker snarled, trying to swallow down rising disquiet. “I should have ripped out your spark when I had the chance.”

Megatron’s talons curled into fists with a quiet creak of tightened hydraulic lines. “Such a mistake won’t be made again, rest assured. Enjoy your stay.”

He said nothing more, turning on a pede and striding from the cell. As he left, so did all of the lights, leaving Sunstreaker trapped in dim and silence.

Except for the drip. The steady drip of his energon trickling from his lines, over his plating, and on to the floor.

~

Knock Out stared into the mirror, watching the unsightly mark on his thigh armor fade away as he rubbed the cloth in careful circles. Over and over, making the plating gleam. The rich silver glistened in the wake of the polish.

His engine gave a little rev of appreciation. Yes, indeed.

Heat pulsed a slow path across his circuits. Knock Out’s lips curled into a smirk, talons of one hand lazily exploring the gap in his pelvic plating. Tracing around the edge of his interface panel. A shiver danced down his backstrut.

His door slid open, Breakdown bursting inside without so much as a request or invitation.
“Knock Out!”

He snarled, grabbing the nearest object that wasn’t tied down, and whirled, hurling it at his so-called partner.

Breakdown ducked, the tin of wax hitting the wall above his head and leaving a dent behind, one to match several others already present.

“Oaf!” Knock Out seethed, all effort made toward arousal swiftly abandoned. “What the frag do you want!”

“Nice to see you, too,” Breakdown said sourly, and invited himself to flop down on Knock Out’s berth. “Aren’t you at all curious about what we found?”

“Found?” He turned back toward the mirror, plating lifted out of irritation. He wasn’t done inspecting himself.

“On the Decepticon shuttle.”

Oh, yes. Knock Out seemed to recall something about Soundwave detecting an incoming spacecraft and its subsequent crash. But as Megatron hadn’t called for Knock Out’s medical expertise, he assumed they’d found no survivors. It wasn’t important.

Was that a scratch on his right forearm?

Knock Out leaned closer to the mirror, optics cycling down. Where in the pit had that come from?

“Well, it wasn’t a Decepticon,” Breakdown continued, apparently needing no invitation. “It was an Autobot.”

Knock Out was having difficulty determining why he should care about this tidbit of information. If Breakdown wanted to gossip, he’d have better luck seeking out his sycophantic gaggle of vehicons.

“Did it survive?”

He did. Lord Megatron seemed to know him. He looked seriously fragged off.”

Scratch eradicated, Knock Out scrutinized himself in the mirror. Perfect. He turned back toward his assistant. “That’s hardly new. Lord Megatron is always torqued.”

“This one looked personal though. He usually reserves that kind of fury for Prime.”

Hmm. That was a bit curious. Still, whatever ground their leader’s gears was hardly Knock Out’s concern. So long as Lord Megatron wasn’t aiming his anger at Knock Out, he was content to live and let live.

“And you’re telling me this because…?”

Breakdown shrugged. “I was bored. Thought you would be, too.” He then smirked. “I pulled up the mech’s designation from the database. Former gladiator. Goes by Sunstreaker. Sound familiar to you?”

Knock Out’s gaze jerked sharply toward his assistant. “Gold paint?”

“Thought you’d recognize ‘im.” Breakdown leered and leaned forward, single optic blazing. “He’s down in the brig. Chained up. Helpless.”

The arousal returned. Knock Out ventilated sharply.

“Probably injured. In need of a medic,” Knock Out said with a sly look at his assistant. “It’s my duty to check on his welfare.”

Breakdown barked a laugh. “Yeah. Figured you might say that. Can I watch?”

“On a first date?” Knock Out flicked a hand at Breakdown. “Sir, I’ll have you know I’m a gentlemech.” He winked an optic and headed for the door. “But I’ll take a vid for you.”

~

Time passed.

His self-repair worked fervently. Leaks were patched up so he no longer bled energon everywhere. But his reserves were dry; he was down to thirteen percent.

Thoughts were hazy.

He’d tugged on his chains to no avail. They were strong and he was weak. It had to be more than the energon loss. Megatron must have done something to him. Or more likely, had his pet spy do it. Infected him with some kind of virus. Or sedation program. On top of the stasis cuffs.

Sunstreaker sagged.

He had one consolation. If Megatron was here, then Prime had to be somewhere nearby. If he even cared.

He’d care if it was Sideswipe.

Sunstreaker made a noise of derision.

It didn’t matter. He’d been in a Decepticon spacecraft. The Autobots wouldn’t have known him to be inside it.

There was no rescue.

He was on his own. But how was that any different from the usual? The Autobots seemed content to let him wreak havoc on his own, too.

A sound pierced the silence. Someone was coming. Megatron again?

Sunstreaker lifted his helm, staring as the lights flicked on. Not just emergency lights this time, but the whole cell lighting up. His optics cycled down at the sudden influx of brightness.

“Well, well. If it isn’t my favorite gladiator.”

That was definitely not Megatron.

A red and silver mech cut off the energy bars to the cell and stepped inside. He was smaller than Sunstreaker, and tires indicated a vehicle mode. Sunstreaker didn’t recognize him and couldn’t see a Decepticon symbol anywhere on the mech.

“Who the frag are you?” Sunstreaker demanded, entire frame tensing with unease. He was overly aware of his current vulnerability.

“There’s no need to be afraid, Sunstreaker,” the mech said, coming close enough that Sunstreaker’s olfactory sensor picked up the sweet scent of his expensive wax. “I’m a medic.”

His words were careful, soothing, but his tone was smarmy. Sunstreaker’s plating crawled.

“Hmm, this field patch looks like Breakdown’s work.” The self-proclaimed medic shook his helm, examining the half-sparked weld. “Sloppy as always.”

Sunstreaker jerked in his chains, not that it helped. He was thoroughly fastened to the wall, and he didn’t have the energy to spare. “You didn’t answer my question.”

The medic looked up at him, red optics gleaming with less than reassuring intent. “You’re hardly in a position to be making demands, Sunstreaker,” he all-but-purred. “But I am a mech of impeccable manners.”

He took a step back, gesturing grandly to his own expertly polished chassis. “I am Knock Out, Lord Megatron’s personal medic.”

“Never heard of you,” Sunstreaker said.

The mech didn’t so much as skip a pulse. “No, you wouldn’t have. I don’t have quite the same reputation as a mech of your stature.”

“What the frag do you want?”

Knock Out grinned, the lecherous look spreading across his facial features. “To take advantage of an opportunity that has presented itself. One that was stolen from me so many vorns ago.”

Sunstreaker’s optics spiraled down. “What?”

Knock Out moved closer. One hand pressed to Sunstreaker’s chassis, and a single taloned digit tapped over the coarse weld. “You once had the gall to deny me. Me. A member of Cybertron’s elite and you, a lowly gladiator. I never forgot that humiliation.”

Sunstreaker shuddered, each light tap causing a spark of pain to trickle across his sensornet. “So you’re going to what? Talk me to termination?”

Knock Out laughed, his talon dragging down with an audial-cringing shriek of metal on metal. “Not quite.”

Sunstreaker pressed against the wall, but there was nowhere to go. He glared down at the Decepticon. “Is that supposed to scare me?”

“I don’t want your fear.” Knock Out’s talon scraped through dried energon, making it fleck to the floor. His hand then splayed across Sunstreaker’s ventral plating, tapping a nonsense rhythm. “I want your humiliation. So let me tell you a story.”

Sunstreaker’s HUD flashed with warning. His energon levels reached a critical point. He would need to refuel soon or he’d slip into stasis lock. The last thing he wanted was to be offline around this glitch.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Sunstreaker growled, tugging at his bonds. They rattled, but didn’t budge, firmly latched to the wall.

Knock Out ignored him, pressing closer, but not enough for their plating to make contact. In fact, the only part of him that touched Sunstreaker was the one hand. Taloned fingers continued downward, ghosting over the armor at the apex of Sunstreaker’s thighs before finally cupping his pelvic array.

“Once upon an orn there was a gladiator named Spinout. And not a very good one either,” Knock Out said, his optics burning bright and crimson as he watched Sunstreaker, the sound of a high-performance engine revving loud in the silence. “He won a few battles, but he lost many, many more.”

Sunstreaker’s ventilations hitched. How had Knock Out known his previous designation? No one alive knew that designation anymore!

Knock Out grinned, cocking his helm to the side. “How many times did they get you on your knees? How many times did they pin you down and take you?”

His hand dipped lower, bypassing the panel concealing Sunstreaker’s spike and tapping the one over his port. “How many times did you need your valve replaced, I wonder?” Knock Out asked, tracing the rim of the valve over and over with the tip of his talon. “How many seals did they break?”

Sunstreaker’s tank rolled. “You’re sick!” he spat, dread curdling inside of him.

Those memories were vorns and a lifetime ago. He had no interest in dredging them up, and was certainly not going to confirm Knock Out’s accusations.

Knock Out ignored him, his voice growing eager and thick with arousal. His energy field pulsed with it, rising up and falling over Sunstreaker in a heavy wave.

“The last one,” Knock Out continued, cooling fans kicking on with a loud whirr. “Let’s see. His designation was Double Punch, I believe. He tore Spinout to pieces and still took the time to enjoy his reward.”

Knock Out paused, fingers searching. His optics lit up when he found the manual override, forcing Sunstreaker’s panel to slide aside with a click that was ominously loud in the quiet of the brig. Apparently, the self-proclaimed medic actually did have some medical training.

“I remember watching,” Knock Out said, one talon dipping slowly into Sunstreaker’s valve, as though taking care not to damage, but still interested in exploring. “Watching as Double Punch twisted Spinout’s remaining arm behind his back and pressed him to the ground, right into a puddle of his own spilled energon.”

Warnings flashed again. Sunstreaker ruthlessly overrode them, refusing to let himself fall offline. He could feel the weakness in his limbs, however, the way the majority of his systems refused to respond. He felt numb in most places.

But his valve felt as though it were on fire.

Knock Out’s digits were skilled, knowledgeable, finding and manipulating every sensor in Sunstreaker’s valve. Rubbing them just gently enough to trick Sunstreaker’s frame into thinking this was a good thing and producing a thin trickle of lubricant to ease the way.

Knock Out added a second digit, continuing his disturbing narrative.

“Double Punch didn’t bother with preparation. He just tore off Spinout’s panel, flinging it into the crowd. Crazy mechs they were, fought over it as a souvenir.” Knock Out chuckled, dark and sly. “Spinout was too far gone to even yelp when Double Punch thrust into him. As big as Double Punch was, I’m surprised Spinout survived.”

Three fingers pushed into Sunstreaker’s valve, activating sensors, gliding smoothly in and out thanks to the addition of lubrication. Sunstreaker groaned, trying to resist the steady coil of heat in his systems.

“But he did survive,” Knock Out purred, leaning closer, his energy field buzzing against Sunstreaker’s own weak ripple, pulsing with desire and satisfaction. “And the next time he showed up in the ring, he wasn’t Spinout anymore, he was Sunstreaker.”

Knock Out’s fingers stroked in and out, putting pressure on the anterior node, making Sunstreaker’s hips jerk as the pleasure sent a jolt through his systems. He seeped lubrication, felt it dribbling down his thighs, heard it drip to the floor. His ventilations were hot and heavy, his spike thumping at its panel.

“Sunstreaker was larger, faster, stronger, and he fought with a cruelty that completely belied his earlier matches as Spinout,” Knock Out said, almost conversational were it not for the subject matter. “He was beautiful, broken like everyone else, but beautiful. He won, again and again. Like he finally understood what he’d been built for. What he was worth.”

Energy levels dipped toward stasis. Sunstreaker hung his helm, unable to spare the effort to keep it up, his systems cycling higher and higher toward overload. How he had the energy to spare, he didn’t know.

“Glitch,” Sunstreaker gritted out, his hips lifting to meet each one of Knock Out’s thrusts. His frame, betraying him, eager for that overload dancing just out of reach. “I’m going to—nngh!” He arched as far as the chains would let him, Knock Out’s fingers pressing against a sensor node and sending a sharp burst of charge along it.

“That’s better,” Knock Out murmured. “There’s no need to fight it, Sunstreaker. This is, after all, what you were made to do.”

Sunstreaker groaned, ventilations sharp and staggered. He wanted to fight, hated that he was helpless. Knock Out’s voice echoed in his audials, hypnotizing him.

Knock Out continued, curling his digits, rubbing incessantly over Sunstreaker’s sensors, lubrication dribbling down his hand.

“You were made to serve. To submit. To entertain. So do it.” Knock Out leaned forward, licking a wet stripe up Sunstreaker’s right cheek. “Overload.”

Sunstreaker’s engine revved weakly, whining in the midst of overheat. Resistance shattered in the wake of his overload, his valve cinching down, tightening around Knock Out’s fingers, milking them.

He gritted his denta, locking down his vocalizer, refusing to give Knock Out the pleasure of hearing him shout. His frame betrayed him nonetheless, writhing against the wall, rattling the chains.

“Perfect,” Knock Out said, and the click of an interface hatch opening was too loud in the brig.

Sunstreaker rebooted his optics, looking down to find that Knock Out’s spike had pressurized, seeping a pale transfluid.

Knock Out pulled his fingers from Sunstreaker’s valve with a wet noise, lubricant glistening on his talons. He curled said fingers around his own spike, a visible shudder dancing over his plating.

A hands planted on Sunstreaker’s chestplate, inches from the poorly-welded wound. Knock Out braced himself on Sunstreaker, ex-venting heavily, his taloned fingers stroking his spike, slick with Sunstreaker’s own lubrication. Judging by the sound of his engine, the swamping nature of his energy field, the Decepticon was already close to his own overload.

“Next time,” Knock Out said, his vocals spitting static, “I’ll bring my energon prod.” His optics darkened to a rust red, digits drawing inward on Sunstreaker’s chestplate, scraping off thin curls off paint and metal.

“I’ll put you on your knees,” he added, his optics spiraling in and out, as though he wasn’t quite focused on the here and now but completely absorbed in his fantasy. “Where you belong.”

Sunstreaker growled, but it lacked force. He felt weak as he hung from the chains, memory core pinging him, exhausted processor trying to tag today with images of the past.

Knock Out chuckled darkly, glossa flicking out over his lips, fingers working faster and faster over his spike. Charge crackled along his talons, the heavy tang of lubricant and transfluid thick in the air.

“You’ll probably try to fight me,” Knock Out said, talons kneading constantly on Sunstreaker’s chestplate. “And I’ll enjoy putting you back in your place.”

He leaned closer, near enough that Sunstreaker could feel the Decepticon’s ex-vents against his battered plating.

“Where you were meant to be. At my pedes.”

Knock Out’s talons snapped, piercing the outer layer of Sunstreaker’s chestplate, one gouging a sensor beneath and making Sunstreaker jerk.

“Because – nngh – you’re mine now.”

Knock Out groaned and twitched, digits squeezing down on his spike as he overloaded, transfluid spurting against Sunstreaker’s plating. It dribbled on his pelvic array and seeped into tiny gaps in his plating, dampening the circuits beneath.

Disgust coiled in Sunstreaker’s tank.

“Mmm. That was good.”

Knock Out unlatched his talons and drew back, only to lift his dripping hand and stare at it with a frown. He slapped his hand against Sunstreaker’s chestplate, smearing most of the transfluid across Sunstreaker’s chassis.

“Hmm. You’ve made a mess.”

Sunstreaker’s optics spiraled outward. He yanked at the last vestiges of energy in his frame.

“You sick fragger!” he howled, ignoring the red flashing warnings in his HUD, reminding him of imminent shutdown. “I’m going to rip out your spark!”

“An empty threat if I ever heard one.” Knock Out stepped back, his optics lingering on Sunstreaker’s frame. “You should clean up nicely. Once you earn it.”

Sunstreaker growled, digits curling into angry fists. His processor spun, circuits misfiring. He watched as a countdown popped up in the corner of his HUD, giving him thirty kliks with no possibility of override.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Knock Out said, interface panel sliding shut with a loud snick. “Try not to miss me.”

The last thing Sunstreaker saw was Knock Out’s smirk before his system crashed and the world went completely dark.

~

“Wakey, wakey.”

The voice filtered through to Sunstreaker’s audials. He onlined with a startled huff of his vents, cold water streaking down his armor and into the gaps of his plating. His circuits cringed at the abrupt temperature change. His systems pinged his status automatically: fuel levels at 20%.

The Decepticon had refueled him, but only to just above the minimum.

Sunstreaker fought back a groan, wrists twitching but getting nowhere, still chained to the wall as they were. The same for his pedes. He onlined his audials, and snarled when the fuzzy shape in front of him clarified into the grinning visage of Knock Out.

“Recharge well?” Knock Out asked, all fake-cheer as his palm landed on Sunstreaker’s chestplate, energy field a burr of eager anticipation.

“Rust in the Pit,” Sunstreaker snarled, though it was half-sparked at best. His joints ached, the water caused his sensors to go haywire in an unpleasant manner, and his tanks gurgled at him.

Knock Out chuckled. “There’s so much fire left in you. Good. I like that.”

Sunstreaker’s optics cycled down, but he said nothing, the anger festering inside of him like a bad case of cosmic rust.

“Since you enjoyed our last encounter so much, I thought it only polite to offer my services again.” Knock Out gestured with one hand, fingers curved in a come-hither motion. “I do so despise a flashier paint job than mine. Lucky for you, this is no longer a problem.”

Sunstreaker’s engine revved. He kept his silence. His yelling only seemed to goad the sadistic medic on.

“What? You have nothing to say?” A mock pout curled the Decepticon’s lips. “You were so much more interesting yesterday.”

His digits curled into fists. The trickle of the water was maddening.

Knock Out shook his helm, one hand sliding down Sunstreaker’s chestplate, warm compared to the chill of the water. “Oh, well. I suppose I’ll simply have to make do.”

The hand continued to roam, trekking over Sunstreaker’s plating, dipping into joints and seams, as if taking the Autobot’s measure.

“Whoever designed your rebuild did an excellent job,” the Decepticon purred, optics brightening as his fingers swept over dented and scored armor. “Redundant systems. Double plating. Reinforced joints. You can take a hit and keep on coming. I like that.”

Sunstreaker pushed back against the wall, though it did little to put any distance between himself and his tormentor. “Are you that hard up for an interface?” he snarled as charge crackled from his plating and seeped out from between his seams. “Or is it that not even your fellow ‘Cons want you?”

Knock Out laughed, not a trace of offense in his rippling energy field. “If you were trying to insult me, you’ll have to try harder.” One hand dipped lower, cupping Sunstreaker’s pelvic array. “I seem to remember you enjoying my advances just yesterday.”

“Enjoy is not the term I’d use.”

“Mmm. Now there’s the resistance I was looking for.” Knock Out’s optics brightened as he pressed closer, hot ventilations wafting over Sunstreaker’s plating. Heat emanated from the Decepticon, the low pitch of an idling engine filling the brig.

His fingers found Sunstreaker’s interface, tracing the panels that protected his spike and valve. The fine-tipped digits circled the delicate seams, stimulating the sensors ringing the release mechanism.

Sunstreaker ground his denta, refusing to respond. It felt good, but only in the sense that any sort of proper stimulation would alight his sensors. It didn’t mean he wanted Knock Out anywhere close to his valve.

“You heat up so quickly,” Knock Out murmured, continuing the slow, methodical stroking, enough to cause heat to pool in Sunstreaker’s interface. “Proof positive that this is your primary function. To satisfy your betters. A berth toy for our pleasure.”

Sunstreaker’s engine clunked to life, not out of pleasure, but out of anger. Yet, he kept his silence, letting that speak for himself.

“Don’t you agree?”

Sunstreaker glared, putting as much hatred and loathing behind the brightness of his optics as he was capable.

Knock Out didn’t so much as cycle his optics. “Of course you don’t,” the so-called medic simpered. “But you will soon enough.” He undulated against Sunstreaker, their plating brushing lightly enough to draw charge but not streak paint.

“And as for this…” Knock Out’s fingers curved around the leading edge of Sunstreaker’s interface panel. “Well, you won’t be needing this anymore.”

Sunstreaker’s optics rounded. He sucked in a ventilation, but before he could so much as work up proper vitriol, Knock Out gave a sharp yank, pulling off his panel. Sunstreaker shouted, hips arching away from the wall as pain radiated outward from his pelvic array. Knock Out tossed the panel over his shoulder where it clattered away in the dark.

“Oh. Did that hurt?”

Sunstreaker worked his jaw and mustered up a glare. “Tickled,” he gritted out, the hydraulics in his legs trembling as he unconsciously tried to protect his sensitive components, but the shackles prevented him.

“Then you won’t mind if I take the other one as well.”

A growl rattled in Sunstreaker’s chassis. It did nothing to stop the Decepticon from hooking his digits in the panel protecting his spike and ripping it away. Tepid air wafted over his naked components, doing little to ease the acid-like sting.

“Hmm. I am curious as to what design you carry,” Knock Out said. The pad of his thumb brushed over the head of Sunstreaker’s recessed spike. “No doubt it is as wonderfully crafted as the rest of your frame.”

Sunstreaker shuddered. His hips pushed toward Knock Out’s touch without his permission. Stimulation was stimulation, but it didn’t stop his frame from crawling.

“Flatter me all you want,” he spat, tanks churning in their barely fueled state. “I’m still going to rip your helm off when I get free.”

Knock Out chuckled and stepped back, putting a mere pace between them. “Mmm. Now won’t that be interesting to watch you try.” He put his hands to his chin, optics flicking up and down Sunstreaker’s frame. “Until then, however, we should try and have a little fun, don’t you think?”

He reached for his hip, disengaging a weapon that Sunstreaker cursed himself for not having noticed before. It was, for the most part, innocuous in appearance. A slim metal rod, barely the length of Knock Out’s forearm. But with a flick of his wrist and a touch of his finger, the rod extended until it was Knock Out’s height, electricity crackling from the two-pronged tip.

An energon prod. Wonderful. The fragged sadist had an energon prod.

“I am sure you know what one of these are. They make for decent weapons, if you know how to wield them properly.” Knock Out smirked, casually flicking the prod from hand to hand. “Which of course I do.”

Sunstreaker’s optics cycled down. “Is that supposed to scare me?”

“I suspect you’re too stupid to fear much of anything. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep trying. I have a kink for lost causes.” Electricity sparked and spat at the tip of the prod, activated by a flick of Knock Out’s wrists. “Have I mentioned how strongly built your frame is?”

Sunstreaker ex-vented. This was not going to be pleasant. Torture was nothing new to him. If Knock Out thought a little shock and some rape was going to break him, then obviously he didn’t remember as much of Sunstreaker’s gladiating past as he thought. He’d survived it then and he would survive it now.

The teasing glint left Knock Out’s optics as he twirled the energon prod again before facing Sunstreaker.

“I know you can take some damage,” he said, vocals huskier than before, his energy field radiating eager anticipation. “Let’s see how long it takes before you scream.”

“Never.” Sunstreaker would cut off his vocalizer before he’d allow Knock Out to see him squirm.

Knock Out smirked. “We’ll see.”

He thrust his arm forward, the crackling energy coming into direct contact with Sunstreaker’s chestplate.

It was normally one of his better armored sections. Sunstreaker gritted his denta as searing charge lit across his sensory net. Knock Out had aimed for the weld lines in his chassis, which were a direct course to his substructure.

Sunstreaker grunted, writhing in his chains. His plating scraped against the wall behind him. The odor of scorched circuitry filled the air.

Knock Out laughed and withdrew the prod.

“Now that was enlightening.”

He paced back and forth in front of Sunstreaker as though searching for the best place to attack next.

Sunstreaker’s chassis heaved, ventilations coming in short bursts. It would have been easier to bear if he’d been fully fueled, completely repaired, entirely rested. But the dizziness in his processor seemed to make the pain sharper, the overcharge more intense.

Frag the Decepticon to the Pit and back!

Static crackled and hissed from the prod as Knock Out waved it through the air, a hypnotizing pattern in front of Sunstreaker’s optics.

The prod came close again, charge lessened but still dangerous. The very tip caressed the distant edge of Sunstreaker’s armor, and then dragged down his side, catching on the edge of a lateral seam and leaving scores in his plating. He went rigid, bracing himself against the crackle of electricity as it tunneled under his armor, lighting across his circuits.

Pain. Everything devolved to pain. Sunstreaker couldn’t think about anything else. Systems redlining, HUD screaming warnings at him, the searing agony of circuits overblown and smoking.

Knock Out drew back, and Sunstreaker sagged from sheer relief.

A relief that was very short-lived. The narrow gaps in his pelvic armor, designed to give him better freedom of movement for his legs, were much too tempting. Knock Out struck first one and then the other, ramping up the voltage. Sunstreaker’s lower extremities jerked a strange contortion.

Pain. Nothing but pain. And the sound of Knock Out’s labored ventilations, brought upon by his arousal. The overwhelming push of Knock Out’s energy field battered at Sunstreaker’s own weakened state.

The prod continued its swath of pain, sweeping over Sunstreaker’s pelvic array, snaps of charge tunneling into his interface. His entire frame arched, desperate to get away from the weapon and helpless in the wake of it.

Electricity snapped over Sunstreaker’s armor. The prod poked at his knees, down toward his pedes, seeping into the intricate mechanisms of his ankles.

Arousal pulsed heavily in Knock Out’s energy field. His optics were a bright crimson, his glossa slipping out over his lipplates. Fragging sadist.

The energon prod wandered over Sunstreaker’s armor, causing both damage and agony. Sunstreaker gritted his denta, grunts escaping him. He refused to cry out, to give Knock Out the scream he wanted.

“I honestly can’t decide which is more intoxicating,” Knock Out said, his vocalizer laced with static. “The way you silently resist me, or the challenge of making you scream.”

Knock Out’s interface panel snapped open. He reached down with his free hand, curling his digits around his spike, a shudder visibly wracking his frame. Transfluid seeped from the tip.

“Perhaps it’s both.” Knock Out stroked his spike with measured pulls of his hand.

Sunstreaker cycled his vocalizer, engine revving a distressed rumble. “Do you brag just to hear yourself talk?”

Knock Out’s response was to drag the energon prod over Sunstreaker’s right leg, where a hastily done weld gave way to a special kind of agony. Sunstreaker’s entire frame went rigid as he struggled to keep his response in check, refusing to give Knock Out the pleasure. His systems redlined, warnings popping up left, right, and center.

His leg spasmed, circuits giving out with a smoke-spewing pop. His paint bubbled up and peeled away as Knock Out turned the current up to its maximum potential. Sunstreaker groaned, long and low, an ill sound, spark spinning faster and faster in his chassis.

Knock Out jerked back suddenly. Sunstreaker lost the battle with his hydraulics, every cable going limp, leaving him hanging from the chains in such a way that his shoulders were stressed by the additional weight. Strength bled out of him as his optics flickered, and his systems tried to reset. The scent of charred lines and scorched circuits burnt his nasal ridge, and the disgusting odor of boiled energon joined the stench. He was never going to be pristine again.

“Well.” Knock Out flicked off the energon prod and tossing it aside. “That wasn’t a scream but it’ll do for now.” He stroked his spike again, taking a step closer to Sunstreaker.

His free hand lifted, fingers dragging down Sunstreaker’s faceplate in a parody of a lover’s caress.

It was hard to think, harder to focus, and Sunstreaker couldn’t muster up the energy to jerk his helm from Knock Out’s unwelcome touch. He was exhausted, and his tanks kept pinging back a reading of fifteen percent, barely above functional.

“I did have plans for your valve,” Knock Out said, his hand wandering down and pushing a single digit up into Sunstreaker’s dry valve. “But I’m a bit too impatient for that today, I’m afraid. I’ll have to settle for a substitute.”

What the frag was that supposed to mean?

“Don’t worry,” Knock Out’s touches withdrew as he stepped away. “We’ll get to that soon enough.”

Knock Out headed for the mechanism that controlled Sunstreaker’s restraints. He highly doubted the Decepticon planned on freeing him, a doubt that was proven when whatever Knock Out did loosened the chains but didn’t release the manacles. Slack was given to the restraints on Sunstreaker’s arms, but his legs couldn’t support his weight. He dropped to his knees, biting his glossa on the cry of pain that attempted to break free.

“There. That’s better.” Knock Out’s smug tone filtered through to Sunstreaker’s audials.

It took effort to lift his helm, unsurprised to find the Decepticon standing right in front of him. On his knees, Sunstreaker found himself staring at Knock Out’s spike, transfluid seeping from the tip in eager dribbles.

Sunstreaker growled. “You can’t seriously think I’m going to cooperate.”

One hand wrapped around his spike, Knock Out smirked. “I know you’ll cooperate,” he said, and he leaned closer, free hand grasping Sunstreaker’s face firmly. “If those denta so much as scrape my spike, I’m going to rip yours off. Understood?”

His optics cycled down, glare firming. Cooperate or lose his spike? For all he knew, the Decepticon would yank it off anyway.

Knock Out’s grip tightened, stressing the dermal metal of Sunstreaker’s face. “The chronometer is running, my pretty toy. Do we have an understanding?”

The shudder that rippled across Sunstreaker’s plating was spark deep.

Knock Out inclined his helm. “Good boy,” he said, and caressed Sunstreaker’s face before letting it go. “Now say ahhhh.”

He might not bite the fragger’s spike off, but like the Pit he’d make it easy!

Sunstreaker clamped his mouth shut, the overwhelming scent of transfluid filling his olfactory sensors.

“You’re going to be stubborn about it?” Knock Out grabbed Sunstreaker’s helm. “Have it your way.”

He thrust his hips forward, the head of his spike nudging at Sunstreaker’s mouth, smearing transfluid over his lips. One hand grasped Sunstreaker’s chin again, pushing his thumb up toward Sunstreaker’s mouth, narrow talon slipping between his lip. The dermal lining tore and energon welled free.

Frag, no, he wasn’t going to make it easy.

Knock Out pushed his spike against Sunstreaker’s mouth, pried his lips apart with two sharp talons, and thrust inside with a self-satisfied burst of his energy field.

Sunstreaker’s tanks rolled, his hands pulling into fists. Knock Out didn’t bother with a slow acclimation. He shoved deep, the head of his spike knocking against Sunstreaker’s intake. His olfactory sensors were overladen with the scent of expensive polish, transfluid, and heated metal.

“Yessss,” the Decepticon hissed, fingers flexing on Sunstreaker’s helm as he unhooked a talon from Sunstreaker’s lip. “Not as good as a valve but a decent substitute.”

Did he ever stop talking?

An aroused shiver danced over Knock Out’s plating, which lifted to expel some of the heat emanating from his frame. It wafted over Sunstreaker’s over-sensitized armor, battering against fried sensors and circuits.

Sunstreaker’s glossa was jammed at the base of his mouth. He couldn’t do much more than twitch it against the Decepticon’s spike. Not that he wanted to cooperate, but the sooner he got the Decepticon off, the faster Knock Out would leave him in peace.

He shuttered his optics. He might have to suffer the fragger’s spike in his mouth, but that didn’t mean he had to look at him.

Knock Out grasped his helm in both hands, a huffy ventilation expelling from his frame. “Very nice indeed,” he murmured, and moved his hips in tiny circles, as if trying to paint the inside of Sunstreaker’s mouth with his spike.

A growl of disgust vibrated through Sunstreaker’s chassis.

Amusement rose in the Decepticon’s energy field. His fingers stroked Sunstreaker’s helm, a mockery of a lover’s encouragement.

Knock Out’s laughter burbled up, though it was rasped with static. “Don’t worry. You’ll get to taste your master soon enough.”

Disgust welled up in Sunstreaker’s energy field, which rose up in fits and spurts, heavily dampened by his lack of energy.

Knock Out started to move, sliding out of Sunstreaker’s mouth before pumping his hips forward again. It was a slow, measured rhythm that nonetheless had the Decepticon’s ventilations quickening. Every so often, Knock Out’s spike would bump the back of Sunstreaker’s intake, making his tanks churn.

Sunstreaker felt Knock Out shiver. The way the spike subtly swelled in his mouth, pre-overload transfluid trickled down his intake. The urge to clamp down with his denta came and went, the threat of a rather painful mutilation lingering at the back of his processor.

Knock Out’s thrusts picked up in pace, his fingers clamping down as opposed to stroking, ventilations coming faster and faster. Heat poured off of him, blasting Sunstreaker’s faceplate. He was close, had to be–

He stopped. His engine whined, systems stalled.

“Frag it all to the Pit!” Knock Out snarled and went still, one hand rising to his helm. “This is Knock Out, sir.”

Knock Out huffed a ragged ventilation as he took the call, no doubt responding internally. Sunstreaker could only wait as the spike throbbed in his mouth, and Knock Out’s talons dug deep.

Knock Out’s thrusts returned in earnest.

“He has the absolute worst timing,” Knock Out muttered and pumped his spike in Sunstreaker’s mouth several more times before he stiffened from helm to pede, pushing his spike to the back of Sunstreaker’s intake.

He braced himself as several spurts of hot transfluid hit the softer metal in his intake, the hot metal scent of it filling his olfactory sensors. Knock Out groaned a long and low note, only to suddenly withdraw, the last few spurts streaking across Sunstreaker’s faceplate.

He coughed before he could stop himself, trying to dislodge the cloying globs of transfluid clogging his intake.

“You look better this way. Transfluid suits you,” Knock Out said, giving Sunstreaker’s helm a light pat.

Sunstreaker jerked away, engine churning as it struggled to online. He spat up another clump of transfluid, but it failed to meet the mark, falling short of landing on Knock Out’s pedes. He turned his helm, wiping his face against his arm, but it did him no good. He could still feel the transfluid, tacky on his plating.

“How rude of me, to have to leave you unsatisfied.” Knock Out rooted around in his subspace and produced a rather intimidating object. “This should suffice in my absence.”

Sunstreaker snarled, pushing back against the wall, but his legs refused to respond. The motor cables had been thoroughly fried by the Decepticon’s prod, frag it! “Keep that thing away from me!”

“My, aren’t you ungrateful.” Knock Out’s smirk widened as he crouched in front of Sunstreaker, unceremoniously sticking his hand between Sunstreaker’s legs.

He twitched his hips, trying to avoid the Decepticon, but it was pointless. The false spike shoved into his valve without any preparation, too thick to be comfortable, and ridged with thick nubs that prodded at the walls of Sunstreaker’s valve. He stifled a grunt.

“Hmm. I suppose I shouldn’t have torn off your panel,” Knock Out murmured, tapping his chin. Another push shoved the toy further, the head of it knocking against a ceiling node. “No matter. Easily fixed.”

Knock Out rose to his pedes, searched the floor, and returned with Sunstreaker’s dented panel in hand. Sunstreaker read his intentions even before Knock Out’s free hand shifted into a micro-welder. Sunstreaker tried to angle his hips away, an impossible venture without use of his legs.

“Ah, ah,” Knock Out said, shaking a finger at him. He crouched once again, reaching for Sunstreaker’s interface. “You want I should miss? Weld something that shouldn’t be welded?”

It wasn’t like he had a choice.

Sunstreaker had thought himself numb. He was quickly proven wrong when Knock Out started to weld, without bothering to sedate him or turn off his pain receptors. Sharp agony coursed through Sunstreaker’s interface, like someone had poured acid over his lines, and a pitiful whine escaped him before he could stop it.

Chains rattled as Sunstreaker yanked on them, helm lolling backward against the wall. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t stop the pathetic churning of his engine.

“There,” Knock Out said, a self-satisfied purr to his energy field. “Good as new. Or close enough.”

Sunstreaker’s processor spun. He couldn’t form words, much less dredge up the energy for a glare. Knock Out’s vocals floated in and out of his audials.

He shifted as much as he was able, and the toy within him shifted as well. The thickness of it rubbed against the lining of his valve, scraping the dry walls.

Knock Out half-turned, optics gleaming with malice. “Oh. Before I forget…”

Sunstreaker’s ventilations gasped, his entire frame bucking as the device in his valve suddenly buzzed to life. Vibrations pulsed across his sensitive components, stimulating the sensors lining his valve. No node was left untouched, burying him in wave after wave of circuit-sizzling charge.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back soon enough.”

Sunstreaker’s servos clenched into fists. He barely noticed when Knock Out left the cell, abandoning him to the onslaught of the device.

~

Knock Out fought off a shiver of unease as he stepped onto the bridge, still smelling of transfluid and overloads. Lord Megatron’s summons had left him no time to clean up. A few stray streaks of gold had unfortunately wandered to his paint. It was a sight most unseemly.

Midday, the bridge was quiet. Then again, it usually was. The Vehicons weren’t one for chatter, at least not where commanding officers could overhear, and Soundwave wasn’t particularly garrulous either. Breakdown was off energon searching planet-side, no one had seen Starscream in quite some time, and Airachnid, well, the less said of her the better.

Which left Lord Megatron, whose very presence was imposing enough, and he wasn’t one for idle conversation either.

At present, he stood with his arms clasped behind his back, energy field a quiescent blanket around his frame. Knock Out was not fooled, however. Lord Megatron could shift from stillness to violence in the space of a sparkbeat.

Better to be on his best behavior.

“You summoned, Lord Megatron?”

The massive bulk of the Decepticon leader turned to acknowledge Knock Out’s arrival. “Do not think that because I haven’t punished you, I do not know about your extracurricular activities in the brig.”

Knock Out pulled up short. Was that warning or chastisement? Just what was he supposed to say to that?

“That being said,” Lord Megatron continued, “what is the status of our guest?”

Somehow, the way he parsed the term ‘guest’ made shivers crawl down Knock Out’s backstrut. “Unsurprisingly uncooperative.”

Lips pulled back into a smirk, revealing the intimidating fangs of Lord Megatron’s denta. “That one will not break so easily.”

Break? Knock Out scoffed internally. He didn’t want Sunstreaker to break. That would take all the fun out of it. Half the entertainment came from watching Sunstreaker resist.

Lord Megatron shifted again, and Knock Out’s optics widened. Previously, his bulk had hidden a smaller monitor on the main console, but now Knock Out could see it in full. The screen was displaying footage of the brig, and the cell containing Sunstreaker. Lord Megatron hadn’t been kidding when he’d said he’d been watching!

“I’ve given you free rein because I don’t care for that mech’s comfort,” Lord Megatron said, his optics falling to the screen. “But rest assured, Knock Out, that if there is nothing left for me to break, I’ll be most displeased.”

Knock Out’s optics trained on the monitor, watching as a silent Sunstreaker twitched and writhed, arms pulling at the chains. His hips jerked back and forth, entire frame trembling, the toy relentless. Heat shot straight to Knock Out’s interface array. Say what he would about Autobots, but their prisoner was certainly a sight for sore optics. Too many flyers on this vessel!

“Knock Out!”

He startled at the near-snarl and hastily executed a bow. “Of course, Lord Megatron. He will not be damaged beyond repair.” He paused, considering. “Incidentally, have you decided the fate of our guest?”

Knock Out really, really hoped that his leader would lose interest and he could keep the Autobot for himself.

A grating laugh resonated in Lord Megatron’s chassis. “All in due time, Knock Out. I am content, for now, watching him squirm.”

Glancing once more at the screen, Knock Out’s lips curved into a smirk. That sentiment he could appreciate for himself.

~

His energy levels were at eleven percent. The taste of transfluid was sticky on his glossa. He couldn’t move his lower extremities, but his frame shifted nonetheless, back and forth, responding to the buzzing device in his valve.

He’d lost count of the number of overloads it had wrung from him. Each more painful than the last, to the point it was no longer pleasure, just agony. A few of the sensors in his valve had long since burned out.

He couldn’t cycle down into recharge. Every time he got close, the toy jerked him out of the sequence, dragging him back to consciousness.

Sunstreaker floated, delirious, trapped between reality and the memory purges cropping up. The roar of the crowd. The feel of the arena beneath his pedes. The thrum of the clapping and stomping. The scent of fresh-spilled energon. The cheering. The taunting.

His pedes hitting scuffed metal. The pain of his missing arm, wires spitting sparks into the open air.

His opponent shoving him down, kicking his legs apart. The humiliation burned through his spark. Hands grasping his thighs, spreading him wide. The blinding pain of the victor slamming into him, punching through his interface panel, spearing his valve.

The contractions as his valve tried to resist the intruder, shoving something too-large into a space too-small.

The humiliation. It burned more than anything, like acid in his spark.

Another overload fizzled and popped through Sunstreaker’s valve. He shuddered, feeling the lubricant dripping from his valve, sliding down his thighs. His vocalizer emitted static, not a scream, but dangerously close to it.

A sound in the silence. Pedesteps.

Sunstreaker’s optics flickered on. Hazy shapes in the shadows coalesced to several mech forms, one he recognized, the rest indistinguishable from each other.

Knock Out grabbed his chin. Sunstreaker didn’t have the wherewithal to resist. His tanks churned on empty.

The Decepticon pried his mouth open and poured a rather generous portion of energon down Sunstreaker’s intake. It was thick and oily, the worst sludge that Sunstreaker wouldn’t even put in a shuttle much less a sapient being. It slunk down his intake and left a gritty aftertaste.

The energon seeped to his tanks, not so much giving him a burst of energy as slowly filtering it to his frame. His levels grew to a paltry thirteen percent, and continued to climb, albeit at a crawl.

Someone spoke. The words were garbled, static to Sunstreaker’s audials. The ground shifted. No. Wait. He was moving.

Hands on his plating. Chains loosened.

Now was the time!

His legs weren’t working.

A pained groan escaped Sunstreaker as his arms fell limp, wrists still encircled but no longer bound above him. His legs wouldn’t obey his commands. His HUD returned error messages. The motor relays had been fried, frag it!

The world spun. His hands slammed against the floor, knees clattering on lubricant-slicked metal. The toy buzzed away, battering his overwrought sensors. Someone manually manipulated his legs, forcing his knees to bend, forcing him to hand and knees. His engine gave a half-sparked rev.

His energy levels stalled at twenty percent.

Sunstreaker rebooted his input systems, audials, optics, everything. When everything came into focus, he wished he hadn’t.

Sunstreaker was surrounded by no less than six Decepticon drones. Standing in front of him was Knock Out, looking thoroughly amused, his energy field buzzing hunger.

“I see that you enjoyed my toy,” Knock Out said and a hand grasped Sunstreaker’s aft. “I brought some others for you to play with.” He made a vague gesture to the drones surrounding them.

Sunstreaker’s fingers dragged scratches into the metal floor beneath him. He tried to speak, but all that emerged was a humiliating burst of static. Frag Knock Out to the Pit!

One of the drones behind him peeled off the sloppily welded plate covering Sunstreaker’s valve. The pain was a nuisance compared to everything else. Sunstreaker barely twitched when a taloned digit probed into his valve, extricating the buzzing device.

The calipers in his valve cycled down, too used to the sensation of being filled, clenching on empty air. More lubricant gushed forth, spilling out of his valve and dribbling to the floor in a noisy squelch.

Sunstreaker felt filthy.

The device was gone, but the fingers returned, two plunging into his valve and pumping in and out, sliding easily thanks to the overflow of lubricant.

“As it turns out,” Knock Out said, shifting aside so that one of the drones could take his place directly in front of Sunstreaker. “I’m not the only one interested in the show you’re about to give us.”

Sunstreaker’s helm whipped up, glaring at the Decepticon.

Knock Out cocked a hip and gestured to the corner, where the light of a camera blinked at them. “You have an admirer.”

The sound of an interface panel snicking open echoed like a gunshot to Sunstreaker’s audials. But it hadn’t come from Knock Out.

He whipped a glance over his shoulder. The drone behind him had unsheathed his spike and guided his unadorned tool to Sunstreaker’s valve.

Sunstreaker wanted to move, screamed the commands to his processor, but again and again, his HUD relayed errors. It was one thing to play shareware to the Decepticon medic. Quite another to be a berthtoy for a drone. Why were they equipped with spikes anyway?

The drone pushed into him, slow and methodical, a slick slide that was careful to alight several sensors around the rim, untouched by the glitched toy. Sunstreaker swallowed down a pathetic moan, his helm hanging.

A hand grasped his chin, lifting his helm again. Sunstreaker’s optics flickered, looking up into the blank band of another drone. Without a faceplate, with only the barest nudge of an energy field, it was like staring at a machine.

The grip was firm, unyielding. Another panel snicked aside, a spike jutting toward Sunstreaker’s mouth.

“Don’t make me remind you of the rules,” Knock Out said from somewhere beyond Sunstreaker’s sight. “So much as dent his spike, and I’ll yank yours off.”

As if to prove his point, one of the drones grabbed Sunstreaker’s spike, squeezing it. His hips jerked at the unexpected stimulation.

They crowded around him.

The one in his valve started a measured rhythm, in and out, pushing hard against the deepest wall of Sunstreaker’s valve.

The other probed at his face, digits forcing Sunstreaker’s mouth open, pushing his spike inside. The drone’s tool was cool on Sunstreaker’s glossa, so different from a fully-sparked mech. His spike was also unadorned, a smooth slide into Sunstreaker’s mouth, pushing toward his intake.

Behind him, the drone withdrew.

In front of him, the drone thrust.

Behind him, the drone shoved.

In front of him, the drone receded.

He felt suspended between them, aching arms trembling, numb legs locked into place. His spark was leaden in his chassis, his tanks ticking toward twenty-two percent. Whatever sludge Knock Out fed him refueled him at an agonizing pace.

The hand on his spike started to stroke and arouse Sunstreaker’s systems. He’d thought himself numb to it, but only his valve seemed uninterested. His spike, however, was pressurized and eager.

“I think I’ll keep you,” Knock Out said, again from beyond Sunstreaker’s direct sight. “I could use a new berth toy.”

Sunstreaker’s engine revved angrily.

Knock Out laughed. “If you’d prefer, I could let Lord Megatron have you. But he has a nasty habit of breaking his toys, and that would be such a waste of good shareware.”

The drone overloaded into Sunstreaker’s valve, a weak blast of transfluid that mingled with the lubricant coating his lining. The spike withdrew, air wafting across Sunstreaker’s exposed valve, the mix of sticky liquids oozing out of his valve with wet plops to the floor.

One of the drones jostled his frame. Sunstreaker growled around the spike in his mouth, heard the scrape of metal against metal before hands landed on his hips. Ex-vents ghosted across his ventral armor before the hands pulled him down, splaying his thighs further, the head of a spike nudging the rim of his valve.

Sunstreaker’s elbows wobbled. He drooped, spike sliding out of his mouth, smearing across his cheekplate. His helm dipped, his optics meeting the narrow band of another drone. The cool spike pushed up, sliding into him, quick to replace the one who had already overloaded.

Sunstreaker snapped his optics shut, not that it made a difference. Hands grasped his helm, jerking it up, a spike pushing back into his mouth. It struck the back of his intake with each thrust, jabbing into his mouth with a mindless pursuit toward overload.

Desire slapped Sunstreaker like a physical blow. It couldn’t have come from the drones. He could hear pedesteps pacing around him and he onlined his optics, catching a glimpse of Knock Out, the fragger circling Sunstreaker with measured steps. He was staring, smirking, watching with darkened optics as the drones pounded into Sunstreaker.

“Do you understand yet?” the so-called medic purred, his vocals a throaty hum. “You were built for this, Sunstreaker. And you perform so beautifully.”

Hands once again landed on his aft, smoothing over the thick plating. Fingers dragged down, tracing the rim of his valve. The drone beneath Sunstreaker stilled in his thrusts, shuddering as the finger stroked both the base of the drone’s spike and Sunstreaker’s rim.

Unease filtered into Sunstreaker’s spark. He didn’t have to see the mech behind him to read the intent of that finger. Or the mech it belonged to.

“You’re so slick,” Knock Out commented, vocalizer edging toward static, the lust in his energy field a hot pulse against Sunstreaker’s own. “Dripping, really. I’d wager that this drone’s spike isn’t enough for you.”

Sunstreaker’s engine rumbled, resonating through his chassis.

Knock Out chuckled. “Oh, you’ll get what you want soon enough.”

A panel snicked, overbearingly loud to Sunstreaker’s audials. The finger disappeared but a hand returned to his aft, stroking over to his hip, holding him in place. Beneath him, the drone shuddered, struggling to stay still though the urge to thrust must have been pinging his systems desperately.

The blunt head of a spike pressed against the rim of Sunstreaker’s valve, sliding slickly over the transfluid and lubricant both. Sunstreaker cringed, spark spinning wildly in his chassis, fingers scraping against the floor.

He was trapped, helpless, with no way to stop what was coming next.

Sunstreaker groaned, the vibrations traveling over the spike in his mouth. The drone above him grunted, pumping harder.

The second spike at his valve pushed, prodding insistently, forcing its way inch by terrible inch. Sunstreaker’s frame arched, and he lurched forward, unsteady, servos wildly grasping at the drone in front of him.

He tried to force out the spike with his glossa, throwing his weight forward as much as he was capable, though his legs still refused to obey. His energy levels hovered around twenty-seven percent and that was enough in Sunstreaker’s opinion.

Someone shouted. Hands grasped at him from all directions. More than one battle system hummed to life, the sound of weapons charging a welcome relief from the rhythmic ventilations of an aroused mech.

Two sets of hands grabbed his arms, yanking them back, straining the mechanisms in his shoulder with a painful screech of metal on metal. He gasped a ventilation, the sharp pain rippling through him.

They jerked him backward, nearly upright on his knees, deepening the one spike still settled in his valve.

One of the drones snapped a pair of cuffs around Sunstreaker’s arms just above his elbows, clasping them together behind his back and putting undue pressure on his shoulder joints. He winced, chassis thrust forward, as though offering his spark.

“Ah, ah,” Knock Out chastised with a burr of gears grinding together as he circled around to Sunstreaker’s optical view. “Don’t make me sever all your motor relays now. It’s much better when you can squirm.”

Sunstreaker gathered up his strength for the fiercest glare he could muster, even as the hands returned to his hips, the second spike pressing against his strained valve.

“Frag you!” he snarled, and a pained cry escaped him as the spike pushed through the resistance, forcing into his valve alongside the other.

Knock Out’s optics brightened with lust, his glossa snaking out over his lips. “Mmm. That was a good sound. Got any more for me?”

Static erupted from Sunstreaker’s vocalizer. His helm hung, his valve spasming, clenching tightly on the impossible width shoved into it. There was plenty of lubricant, but the walls of his valve were stretched to the max. Capacity warnings flashed on his HUD, but it wasn’t as though he could do anything about it.

He tensed from helm to pede, couldn’t force himself to relax, and the hands grasping his hips trembled. The drone let out a heavy and hot ventilation. Beneath him, the drone shuddered, a binary click of need falling from its vocalizer.

Two pairs of hands grasped Sunstreaker’s hips. Beneath him, the drone gave a tentative push, shifting the pressure of the spikes within Sunstreaker’s valve. His ventilations hitched. It was too much, far too much!

“If you’d give in, you might even enjoy yourself,” Knock Out crooned, stepping forward and caressing Sunstreaker’s faceplate with his digits.

Sunstreaker jerked his helm away. It was all the freedom of movement he had left.

Knock Out laughed. “Suit yourself.”

From his peripheral vision, Sunstreaker watched the medic step back and gesture openly at Sunstreaker. “He’s all yours, boys. Make it a good show.”

Permission given, the drones wasted no time in taking advantage.

The two spikes in his valve started to move, counterpoint, one thrusting, the other withdrawing. Sunstreaker clamped his mouth shut, ground his denta together, swallowing down every pained sound that tried to escape. Half-numb sensors responded to the onslaught, some of them sparking to life.

His entire frame pitched and heaved at the force of their thrusts, but the two pairs of hands kept him in place.

A hand grasped his face, forcing his helm to turn, forcing him to face another spike, which pushed into his mouth with no prelude.

Sunstreaker felt Knock Out watching him, the lust in the Decepticon’s energy field a heavy blanket in the room. Hatred boiled up in Sunstreaker’s spark, his frame trembling from the force of it.

Pain and fury and disgust, it all churned nastily inside of him. He could feel every minute shift of the spikes in his valve, the tepid huffs of every drone’s ventilation. The splatter of transfluid on his plating as one of the drones overloaded over his chassis, globs clinging to his chestplate.

Sunstreaker’s hands formed fists, the sharpened tips digging into his own plating, haptic sensors screaming their anger.

The drone overloaded into his mouth, transfluid pouring down his intake.

One of the drones spilled transfluid into his valve. Sunstreaker didn’t have so much as a klik for respite before another drone was there, filling him again, two spikes pushing and shoving and filling his valve.

Knock Out watched, engine revving, hand on his own spike, delighting in the show.

Sunstreaker growled internally.

The Decepticon would make a mistake. And when he did, Sunstreaker would get free, and then he’d rip the slagging sadist’s spark from his chassis. Feed him his own spike first, maybe. Whatever it took to make the rage feel satisfied.

He was not going to break. Sunstreaker would slag well prove it.

Knock Out’s days were numbered.

[TFP] Good Enough II

It started with a ping to his comm in the middle of the night, one Ratchet knew he should ignore, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. Not now, not in the past, and certainly not in the future.

He roused himself from his berth, avoided the mirrors so he didn’t have to acknowledge his own shame, and scraped a hand down his faceplate. He didn’t want to contemplate the weight of his actions. He pushed it down, far down, to be retrieved later, after the fact.

For now, there’s only this.

He slipped out of his habsuite, out of his fancy apartment, and into the dark of night-cycle, where the streetlights were dim, giving the illusion of night. Cybertron didn’t have a sun right now, but they pretended where they must.

The ping had a location woven into the noise, one Ratchet had long since been taught to decipher. They didn’t need to be so secretive, not yet, but it’s good practice. The time would come, Ratchet suspected, when this wouldn’t be so easy.

Or maybe finding each other wouldn’t be the hard part. It would be everything else.

It’s a gritty motel in a gritty part of the city where mecha rented rooms by the hour. For business.

Ratchet frowned. Mecha shouldn’t be reduced to that kind of business, but such was the world they lived in. Energon got scarcer and scarcer, and more than twice, Ratchet had caught the shambling noise of a shuffling Empty in a passing alley.

He hurried. He opted for the spiraling ramp rather than the rattling lift, though there were no lights save those on his chassis. He ignored the chill up his backstrut from the dark.

Surely his companion felt at home here. It could not be so different from the Pits.

Several levels up, multiple doors down, and Ratchet rapped his knuckles on a rusty flap of metal at the end of the hall. A place this dilapidated didn’t have call buttons.

The door rattled open, and Ratchet hurried inside before someone saw him, not because he was ashamed, but because he stuck out like a patch of rust. He was clean, he was bright, and his arms were stamped with medic glyphs. He looked like he was made of credits, like he didn’t belong.

Compared to the mecha down here with nothing to share and nothing to lose, they’d be right.

“Next time, I pick the rendezvous,” Ratchet grumped as the door rattled back shut behind him. His backplate prickled.

A raspy laugh echoed from behind him. “Ratchet afraid?”

He snorted a ventilation. “Hardly.”

Ratchet turned in a slow circle, his optics flicking top to bottom, as they always did, when he met with Soundwave again. He looked for damage, for injuries, for half-afted attempts at welds and patches. Pit-medics were the worst kind of scavengers and butchers, and Ratchet would be damned if he left Soundwave this evening with so much as an infected scrape.

This time, there were none. Soundwave’s armor gleamed with a coat of fresh wax – he must have won his most recent match. Said clean treatment was often a reward for victory.

“But I know you have better taste than this,” Ratchet finally finished as his scans came up positive as well. Tension eased out of his frame.

Soundwave’s hand lifted, spindly fingers tracing the curve of Ratchet’s face. “That I do.”

Ratchet’s face heated. He buried it with a scowl. “Don’t you start romancing me. I know what I am.”

Soundwave laughed again. “As do I.” He leaned close, looming without effort, and pressing their forehelms together.

His field buzzed against Ratchet’s, ripe with desire and amusement both, but beneath them, respect as well. His ex-vents caressed Ratchet’s frame as Soundwave slowly drew them together, not that any force was needed. Ratchet wanted to touch Soundwave, wanted to feel the press of that glossy armor against his own – as rough and pitted as it was.

Right now, Soundwave outshone him.

It was easy, terribly easy, to sink into the embrace. To the warmth of Soundwave’s arms and the tickle of his fingertips, gliding into Ratchet’s transformation seams and stroking the web of cables beneath. His struts tingled, lines buzzing with static.

A gasp escaped Ratchet before he could stop it. His knees wobbled. He felt new-forged all over again, and the pleasure eclipsed the ache. His processor spun. He abandoned the guilt, and the thoughts of the hab-suite he’d abandoned to come here.

Ratchet’s hands were no less busy. This close, he could not resist touching. The sound his fingers made – dragging gently over smooth as liquid armor – resonated in his audials. He found every connector, empty of symbiote, and caressed the ports, charge snapping out to bite at his fingertips.

Soundwave shuddered over and around him. Charge rose, spicy and sharp, as Ratchet tasted it on his glossa. Or perhaps it was the scent of the wax, growing stronger as Soundwave’s armor heated.

“Don’t you have a berth?” Ratchet asked as his knees wobbled and only Soundwave’s arms, the delicate grip of cables wound about him, kept him upright.

Soundwave dragged their helms together, a soft susurrous of sensation. “Ratchet would prefer?” he asked as his fingertips danced down Ratchet’s backstrut, as though memorizing each individual plate.

“Of course I would,” Ratchet forced out, if only to conceal the moan that bubbled up in his vocalizer. “I’m not getting any younger.”

Fingertips curled around the back of his helm. Data cables tightened their grip. Soundwave’s field swallowed him whole. It was dizzying, to be so possessed. He wondered how Megatronus could not see this passion, this depth. He wondered how he’d gotten so lucky to taste it.

“As you wish.”

Ratchet’s spark throbbed as Soundwave swept him up, as if he were some delicate mech and not a heavy, sturdy medic. He clung to Soundwave, the pleasure intoxicating, and the care even more so.

He ignored the dust of the berth beneath them. Soundwave had taken care to cover the rusted slab of metal with a clean cover, but there was no concealing the filth. But that was what they had to do.

Ratchet grasped Soundwave’s helm, dragging his mouth around the edge of Soundwave’s faceplate, ex-venting bursts of damp heat that fogged the transteel. He felt Soundwave’s amusement, their field ruched together so intimately.

Soundwave settled over him, warmth and mass, their legs tangled, his datacables twisting and churning beneath them. But no more so than the charge, leaping out from Ratchet’s substructure to dance with the static sparks erupting from beneath Soundwave’s armor.

Their chestplates collided, and Ratchet swore he could feel the sturdy spin of Soundwave’s spark. Large and dense, capable of sustaining the needs of himself, as well as his symbiotes.

Ratchet had seen it only the once, glimpses of beauty through cracked armor as a mech had gotten a lucky shot, and paid for it with his life. Soundwave walked away from that match with more glory on his shoulders, and the peek of his sparklight had haunted Ratchet’s recharge for orns afterward.

Soundwave pressed against him, harder, greater need in his field. His fingers pushed deeper, tangling in cables, stroking the struts beneath. Ratchet arched, the clash of their plating together impossible to resist.

Miss me? Ratchet wanted to ask. But he knew better.

Megatronus had won a match today. He’d stood, glorious and triumphant above his peers, a god like the name he’d taken, his optics glowing with delight. And there, ready to congratulate, had been Orion.

Always Orion.

Ratchet’s vocalizer crackled static, and Soundwave’s helm pressed to his. Ratchet breathed a kiss against the faceplate, his ex-vents coming sharper, quicker. His frame trembled, bursting heat, his field finally yielding to Soundwave’s. He held himself back only because the strength of the oncoming need demanded surrender.

A surrender Ratchet gave.

He held Soundwave against him, his spark throbbing, as pleasure eclipsed all else. His cooling fans stuttered to life, charge erupting from beneath his armor, lighting the dim of the room. He shuddered, gasping for vents, rocking up against Soundwave. The sound that came from his chassis was as much pleasure as it was pain.

One which Soundwave echoed.

His cables tightened around Ratchet, like an embrace, and he pressed close, as though the only safety to be found existed beneath Ratchet’s armor. His spark pulsed – Ratchet counted the faster oscillations, felt the wave of heat bursting from Soundwave’s vents.

He curled an arm around Soundwave, his fingers seeking out the port on his backstrut, where Ravage docked. He knew he’d found it when Soundwave shivered. When a low whine rose in Soundwave’s engine. He trembled, field a hungry thing against Ratchet’s own.

“I’ll catch you,” Ratchet murmured, and his fingers teased the tines of the connector, ignoring the bite of charge that nipped back.

Something tore, the berth cover perhaps, as Soundwave’s engine rumbled. He pressed down on Ratchet, hard enough for his armor to creak, and overload burst over Soundwave. A wave of electric fire crackled over his armor, the plating lifting and falling in a steady wave.

He was beautiful.

Ratchet stroked him gently, through the aftershocks, as he’d promised he would do. Those few seconds of lost control, of surrender, were always the hardest. Pleasure, to Soundwave, was as much ecstasy as it was pain.

The noise, he’d explained. The noise always crept in, during those scant moments of surrender.

Soundwave sank against him, nearly limp, but pressed to as much of Ratchet as was physically possible given their size difference. His field and frame hummed a discordant tune.

“Still with me?” Ratchet murmured.

“Affirmative.”

Ratchet chuckled softly. “Did I fry your processor?”

Soundwave shifted, helm lifting enough that he could see Ratchet’s face, and Ratchet could see a hint of optics behind the transsteel of his mask. “Ratchet very skilled.”

Heat stole into his faceplate. “Yeah, well, you’re not so bad yourself.”

Soundwave’s field pulsed against his, warm and affectionate. It was all too easy to bathe in it, to indulge, to tell himself a lie. This was his, it could be his, if only he didn’t love someone else.

“You want me to stay?” Ratchet asked.

Soundwave pressed their forehelms together. “Affirmative,” he murmured, barely above a whisper. “Tonight, only.”

Only.

It had yet to be only.

Ratchet understood nonetheless.

Always Orion. Little wonder Soundwave was here then.

“I suppose I can stand to be a pillow again,” Ratchet said, trying to lighten the mood. It was, as always, like fighting against the dark.

Soundwave hummed low in his chassis, his response non-verbal, but a response nonetheless. His field wrapped around Ratchet as firmly as their tangled embrace. As though he soaked in the comfort Ratchet had to offer.

It started with a ping.

It always started with a ping. Whether from one or the other.

Ratchet came every time. Because he understood that ache. That agonizing pain.

He stroked his hand down Soundwave’s back, listening to the quiet ticks and hums of a frame that became increasingly familiar to him.

Yes.

He understand that pain all too well.

[TFP] The World Spins Madly On

It’s a moment.

A flash.

Betrayal. Sparkache. He should have known. He should have known.

And then darkness. Only, it wasn’t darkness. Neither was it cold. There was warmth and light, a distant light, one that grew closer. He was floating. Not in the sense he was falling, but in the sense he no longer held any mass.

It was the lack of pain that clued him in.

Dreadwing had been knocked into stasis before. He’d been injured enough that only a regeneration chamber saved his spark and frame. Both times had been a cloying dark, a suffocating black mass that he felt he could never escape.

This was different. Welcoming.

He touched feet on solid ground, knees slightly bent to soften the landing. He was on Cybertron, he thought. Miles of endless expanse stretched in front of him. In the distance, mountains. The Manganese Mountains? Too early to tell.

He didn’t know where he was. Only that it was empty. So empty. There was a sun in the sky, two suns. And Luna-One. It hung there like a gem. Close enough to touch.

Dreadwing looked down. His frame was whole and hale. There was no sign of Megatron’s betrayal. His plating shone. He had no weapons, not a one. But his transformation cog was functional. He would transform and go anywhere.

He didn’t know where he could go. Or where he wanted to go.

He pressed his hand to his chestplate, felt the strong hum of his spark beneath. So strong, yet it shouldn’t be. The ache of loss remained.

Dreadwing bowed his helm. Dimmed his optics. His free hand curled into a fist, talons biting into his palm.

Skyquake.

“All you had to do was ask.”

Dreadwing’s helm snapped up. His optics brightened as he whirled.

There. Within arm’s reach. As whole and bright as Dreadwing himself. Unarmed, but not lesser for it.

Dreadwing’s spark pulsed. It tugged him toward the olivine frame, familiar marks etched into wings that were a match for his own.

Marks, not a badge. Not a claim. There were no factions here. There didn’t need to be. All that remained were the marks they shared, family glyphs that marked them as one.

“You look confused, brother,” Skyquake said with that damnable smirk of his. One that never ceased to infuriate Dreadwing.

Skyquake was so cocky. Always so cocky. Thought nothing could touch him. He’d been wrong.

“Don’t you know where you are?”

Dreadwing’s ventilations stuttered.

“I traveled across galaxies,” he started as he moved toward his brother, frame drawing him more than anything else. There was a need, and it yawed through the echoes of his spark chamber. “I felt your death across the universe. And you have the gall, even now, to taunt me.”

Skyquake spread his hands. “What are older brothers for?” That damnable smirk did things to him.

Dreadwing ached.

He ached and there was no cure for it save Skyquake and the moment he was within reach, he grabbed his brother, his twin. He pulled Skyquake close like he hadn’t done in ages, their frames colliding, chestplates coming into ringing contact.

“Brother mine,” Dreadwing murmured, embrace so strong his talons left scratches in Skyquake’s dorsal armor.

Skyquake deigned to return the hold, when he’d always been the first to decline before. He pressed the side of his helm to Dreadwing’s. “Spark of my spark,” he rumbled. “Welcome home.”

Dreadwing’s lips pulled upward, the closest thing to a smile he’d had in millennia.

It was good to be home.