[G1] Fortune Favors 01

It starts with a laser scalpel.

No one sees the little bit grab it but Sunstreaker. It’s over in an instant, a flash, and the bitlet is safe before anyone realizes what happened. Sunstreaker growling to the bit in a strange garbled language is the rust on the oilcake, before he sets the scalpel high out of reach and stomps back to Sideswipe’s side.

He glares at the room as though daring anyone to comment.

No one does.

Grimlock notices. He can’t help but notice. It’s what Dinobots do. They watch. They observe. They notice. They take down details no one else bothers to find important, but a Dinobot knows. They’re used to being in the background, being ignored. They’re used to knowing the secrets no one else knows.

“Aw, he’s just curious,” Wheeljack says once it’s all said and done and Ratchet goes back to examining the mysterious sparkling.

Curious Grimlock’s aft. That sparkling intended to stick the scalpel in Ratchet and make a break for it. He may be little, but he’s more than half-feral, and there’s a look in the bit’s optics Grimlock knows all too well.

He doesn’t trust them. He’s terrified of them. And he’s been alone too long to know what it means to rely on anyone but himself.

Someone abandoned him. Someone had looked at this tiny, helpless sparkling, and cast him out in the wilderness alone. It’s unconscionable. Said aft better hope Grimlock never finds his identity because there’s no punishment strong enough for such a crime.

It had broken his spark, to see the little shape darting in and out of the debris of the city, far too young to be a survivor of the bombardment from millennia past. At first, Grimlock had thought it a spying cassetticon. Swoop had flown in, snatching the little bit up, and immediately, Grimlock had known the truth.

This was a sparkling. And he needed help. So Grimlock did the only thing he could. He brought the little one to his creator, and in doing so, managed to attract the attention of half the Autobot army.

No one’s seen a sparkling in millennia. Most had died during the war, and those who survived, grew up to be warriors, soldiers.

So many start hovering as Ratchet works on the malnourished sparkling that Optimus has to come down shoo them out. Or at least that’s his excuse. Optimus wants to see the bitlet as much as everyone else. He makes everyone leave, and then Optimus lingers as well, blue optics haunted as he focuses on the tiny frame.

Grimlock doesn’t budge. He sends his brothers away to make for more room in the cramped medbay, but he doesn’t budge. They’d found the sparkling. He feels responsible for it. He wants to make sure the bitlet gets the best care, and that the Autobots and their occasionally flexible morals, don’t decide to treat it poorly if it turns out to be the spawn of a Decepticon.

So Grimlock stands back and he watches, and as a result, he’s the only one to catch the intent in the sparkling’s optics. Well, he thinks he’s the only one. Turns out, Sunstreaker notices, too. And he reacts much faster than Grimlock.

He leaps up from his brother’s side, crosses the room in a flash, and snatches both scalpel and sparkling out of thin air. The sparkling hisses and thrashes like a wild animal, until Sunstreaker gives him a little shake and growls at him. It’s some guttural, incomprehensible language but the sparkling immediately goes still and quiet, his optics wide.

Sunstreaker glares for a second more, optics as warm as a chip of ice, and the sparkling stays quiet. Meek. Obedient. Whatever Sunstreaker says is effective. Only then does Sunstreaker hand him back to Ratchet, without a word and seemingly ignorant to the multiple incredulous stares he’s earned.

Sunstreaker retreats.

Ratchet shakes himself, and Wheeljack is the one who tries to downplay the danger of the situation.

“His curiosity needs to stay away from dangerous instruments,” Ratchet grouses, his voice gruff but his hands gentle. He sets the sparkling back on the exam table and continues, perhaps a touch more wary than before.

The sparkling folds his arms and glares at the ground, pouting if Grimlock has to guess.

“How is he, Ratchet?” Optimus asks. If he’s bothered by the attempted maiming, it doesn’t show in his voice or his posture. Though his optics do dim with sympathy for the sparkling.

Well, that’s Optimus. Soft-sparked for the little ones.

Unless the little ones are big, dumb newly-sparked Dinobots.

Ratchet pulls a packet of solid energon from nowhere and hands it to the bit, who snatches it from him and starts gnawing on it immediately. Quickly, too. He gobbles it down as if he’s afraid someone will take it from him.

Little thing like that, Grimlock wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case. The war has driven a lot of mechs from Cybertron, but scavengers still linger. They would have no qualms about stealing from a little one either.

It’s every mech for himself.

“He’ll live,” Ratchet says. “He’s severely malnourished. He’s significantly smaller than he should be given his spark size. His fuel pump barely functions. He’s going to need a complete flush of all his lines, and he definitely needs a bath.”

Optimus leans against the wall, arms folded over his chassis. “Is there any clue as to his identity?”

“He’s a sparkling, Optimus.” Ratchet hands the bitlet another strip of hardened energon. “He’s not wearing a badge. And without sparks for comparison, I don’t know who he belongs to. So unless someone comes looking, I’d say he’s ours now.”

Optimus frowns, his forehead wrinkling. “We’re in the middle of a war, Ratchet. This is no place for a sparkling.”

“It’s not like there’s anywhere else that’s safe,” comes a mutter from the other side of the room.

Grimlock follows the bitter tone to Sideswipe, alert on the berth despite being drugged to the gills, a heavy layer of static bandaging over the hole in his midsection. Sunstreaker sits next to him, pointedly not looking at the little one gnawing on his treat. He’s got a deathgrip on one of Sideswipe’s hands, as though trying to keep his brother alive by sheer willpower alone, not that Sideswipe is currently in danger of offlining.

Wheeljack nods. “Sideswipe has a point.” He tries to wriggle a finger at the bitlet’s belly and nearly gets bit for his troubles. “There’s nowhere we can send him. If you ask me, he’s better off with us. I think the army can handle one sparkling to look after, don’t you?”

Wheeljack’s optics are bright with affection, and Grimlock knows, if Optimus doesn’t agree, he might have a fight on his hands. Wheeljack loves little ones. He’s always wanted sparklings of his own. There’s no way he’d be content with sending the bitlet away to a place that may or may not be safe.

“That would probably be for the best,” Optimus says with an audible sigh. His gaze softens as he looks at the bitlet. “Does he have a name?”

Ratchet shakes his head and sets his datapad aside. “Not an official one.”

“Whirlwind,” Sunstreaker pipes up, though his efforts to ignore them are now proven false. “Whirl for short.”

Ratchet’s orbital ridges lift. Wheeljack chuckles, his indicators flickering through shades of pink.

“I like it,” Wheeljack declares. He wriggles a small wrench at the sparkling, who gives him a thousand-yard stare of boredom. “It suits him.”

“That’s because it’s his name,” Sunstreaker retorts. He rolls his optics and whips a mesh cloth out of subspace, scrubbing at a mark on his arm, one Grimlock had noticed earlier.

The sparkling, in his thrashing haste to escape, had nicked Sunstreaker’s arm. It is barely a scratch for warrior’s armor, and couldn’t have drawn energon, but of course, Sunstreaker takes any mark to his paint personally.

“How do you know?” Ratchet asks.

Sunstreaker ignores him. It’s Sideswipe who sighs and gives them a shaky grin. “Once a street rat, always a street rat,” he chirps. “It’s gutter speak. Pretty much the only thing you can talk if no one ever uploads proper language protocols, you know.”

Optimus straightens, pushing away from the wall. “You understand this language?”

“I don’t know if I’d call it a language, but yeah. Mostly.” Sideswipe shrugs, and then winces as it tugs at the wound on his midsection. He reaches out, nudging his brother with his knuckles. “Help me out here, bro.”

Sunstreaker sighs, much put upon. “It has dialects like any other language,” he says without looking up from the scratch. “It’s not universal.”

“So you can’t understand him?” Ratchet asks as Whirlwind makes a few urgent noises, chomping on the last bit of energon and eying Ratchet as though considering taking a bite out of the medic.

Wheeljack tries to hand him the wrench again. Whirl snatches it up and promptly takes a swipe at Wheeljack, who’s smart enough to lean back at the last moment.

Ratchet turns at the noise, and a wrestling match ensues between two grown mechs and a teeny sparkling. Sunstreaker snorts a laugh, and Sideswipe grins as they manage to mechhandle the wrench away. Or bribe actually as Ratchet hands Whirl another energon chew and like the little survivor he is, Whirl takes lunch over a weapon.

“We can, but you know, it’s not a literal translation or anything.” Sideswipe winces and he must have said something to Sunstreaker over their bond, because Sunstreaker rolls his optics and heaves out of the chair. “We can figure it out though.”

“I am glad to hear it. We could use your help,” Optimus says.

Sideswipe grins, and there’s something practiced in it, something Grimlock recognizes all too well. Put on a front, show you’re not dangerous, prove you’re on their side, again and again, because you’ve too much pride to run away, and you aren’t running into the arms of the other guy either.

Grimlock and his brothers, they’re all in the same boat.

“Whatever you need,” Sideswipe chirps.

Optimus nods slowly. “For now, however, I think it’s best if Whirl stays with Wheeljack and Ratchet. Unless you disagree?” He looks at the aforementioned two, who only need to exchange a glance without words.

They’ve been together so long, they don’t really need them anymore. Grimlock envies his creators for that connection. He wants to have a relationship like that of his own some day. Maybe, if he’s lucky, even a family.

“It’s fine with me,” Wheeljack says with a shrug. He reaches for Whirl, but the sparkling bares his denta and hisses, and Wheeljack decides against it. “Don’t think he likes me very much though.”

Sunstreaker snorts and returns to his stool with a datapad, which he tumbles into Sideswipe’s hands. “He doesn’t like anyone. He’s not going to either.”

“Why is that?” Ratchet asks, head tilted. Of course he won’t understand. He’d been sparked a medic. A talented, gifted medic. He’s never had to want for anything in his functioning.

Grimlock doesn’t hold that against Ratchet. It can’t be helped. But times like these, that lack of experience shows his ignorance.

Sideswipe makes a noise of glee. “You’re so good to me, bro,” he playfully purrs before he shifts his attention to the room at large. “Not trusting people comes with the territory.”

“It is an unfortunate thing,” Optimus says with a tone Grimlock has come to loathe. He calls it Optimus’ Patronizing Pontification tone. “It will be no easy task to care for a sparkling on a military base. We shall do our best to look after him nonetheless.”

“Eh, we’ll manage.” Wheeljack tries to poke Whirlwind in the belly again, and the sparkling squeaks, twisting out of range, grip firm on the energon chew. “We always do.”

Sideswipe and Sunstreaker exchange glances, but Grimlock is the only one to see them do so. They don’t comment. Sideswipe’s attention returns to his datapad. Sunstreaker swipes again at his armor, his optics occasionally straying to Whirl.

Grimlock can’t decide what expression Sunstreaker has. The yellow twin has always been harder to read, not that Sideswipe is an open book either. They both have masks and most of the other Autobots don’t bother to notice.

Then again, most of the other Autobots aren’t Dinobots.

“He’s just one sparkling,” Ratchet says as Whirl makes urgent noises of hunger around the last bite of energon chew in his mouth. “How hard can it be?”

Grimlock snorts.

Sideswipe’s gaze shoots toward him then, the curve of his mouth suggesting amusement. “Yeah,” he says. “He’s just one sparkling.”

“You hush.” Ratchet shakes a scanner at him warningly. “I’ll get to you in a minute.”

Sideswipe chuckles. Needling Ratchet’s always been one of his favorite pasttimes. He looks at Grimlock again, however, his energon blue optics sharp and assessing. Curious, perhaps, as though he’s seeing something for the first time.

Grimlock’s not interacted directly with the twins much. They tend to keep to themselves, same as the Dinobots. Grimlock’s heard enough stories to give him a frame of context, but how true they are, well, that’s up for debate.

Mechs tend to let bias form their opinions after all.

Still…

Grimlock’s thinking about finding out for himself now. He hadn’t expected to find echoes of camaraderie in Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, but he sees it now.

He wants to know more.

~

The ‘Call to Arms’ jerks Sideswipe out of a sound recharge, and away from the comforting warmth of a rare Sunstreaker cuddle. He grumbles as he rolls out of his brother’s arms and promptly tumbles off the bed, landing with a clatter on his bad hip.

“Ow.”

“Graceful as always, Sides,” Sunstreaker murmurs sleepily.

“Shut up and get up, Sunshine.” Sideswipe clambers to his feet, clinging to the side of the berth, blinking recharge out of his optics. “There’s a battle. Hop to it.”

Sunstreaker growls and rolls over, burying his face in the berth. “Check your heads-up again, dumbaft. It’s a security alert.”

Sideswipe stumbles over to their energon stock and pulls out a cube. Oh, Sunny’s right, he realizes. It’s not a ‘Call to Arms’. It’s just an alert. Wait. Not just.

“Rise and shine!” Sideswipe pauses to chug his energon. “Little bit’s missing, Ratch and Jack are on a rampage, and I’ll bet bolts and brackets no one’s looking in the right place.”

“Because no one around here was raised in the gutters,” Sunstreaker mutters, his voice muffled by the pillow.

Sideswipe finishes off the cube, feeling marginally more alert, and returns to the berth. He climbs on and crawls over Sunstreaker, laying across his brother’s back. He ex-vents into Sunstreaker’s neck, mouth teasing against the back of Sunstreaker’s audial.

“Wake up, wake up, wake up,” he chants as he rolls his hips against Sunstreaker’s aft, mimicking their late night activities with an arrhythmic push that’s a shade annoying.

Sunstreaker growls. “Why are you so damn perky in the morning?”

“Because it’s so easy to love you,” Sideswipe says with a laugh. He tickles Sunstreaker’s sides and plants a sloppy kiss on the back of Sunstreaker’s neck.

He dodges the backward swipe Sunstreaker aims at him and scuttles off the berth. “All right, sheesh. I’ll leave some energon out for you, cranky. I’ll go look for Whirl by myself.”

Sunstreaker lifts his head a little, one optic visible. “Why do you care so much about the brat anyway?”

Sideswipe shrugs. “Because no one around here really gets him like we do,” he says. “And you know, no one was there for us. I kind of feel sorry for him.”

Sunstreaker pushes up on his elbows, both optics squinting at Sideswipe. “You want to keep him,” he accuses, surprise running flush through their bond. “Don’t you?”

Heat flushes Sideswipe’s cheeks. “Is that a bad thing?” he demands, indignant. “It’s not like we can have any for ourselves.”

“Yeah but…” Sunstreaker leverages himself into a seated position, looking so sleep rumpled and delectable it’s almost enough to distract Sideswipe. “They’re not gonna let us, Sides. You know that.”

Sideswipe’s spark shrinks into a tiny ball of hurt. “I know. But maybe we can babysit or something.” He shrugs, tries to play nonchalant. “I mean, Ratchet and Wheeljack are pretty busy, and Wheeljack works around some dangerous stuff. They might need help.”

Sunstreaker looks pointedly around the room, gesturing to the weapons on their walls, the detritus on the floor, the video game cords strewn about. “We’re not any safer.”

“We can fix that,” Sideswipe protests. He knows it’s a losing battle.

Sunstreaker sighs. “Yeah, but we can’t fix what we are.” He slides off the berth and toddles toward Sideswipe, pulling him into a hug, and Sideswipe clings to his brother, his twin. Times like this, when he can lean on Sunstreaker’s strength, are rare enough, and Sideswipe can’t help but indulge.

“Seems like we always get the rust end of the deal, don’t we?” Sideswipe mutters.

“On the bright side, we still have each other,” Sunstreaker says.

Sideswipe snorts and pulls back, slanting his lips over Sunstreaker’s in a quick kiss. Well, he intends to make it quick. But as usual, the touch of his brother’s mouth to his becomes something he can’t easily dismiss. Sunstreaker’s like an intoxicant, and Sideswipe always feels like he can’t get enough. Especially since Ratchet had specified no interfacing of any kind last night, and for once, Sideswipe had obeyed.

Sunstreaker presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth and separates them. “Go on. Look for the bit. When you come back, I’m fixing that mess on your chassis.”

Sideswipe rolls his optics. “It’s not my fault Motormaster shot me.”

“Should’ve dodged.” Sunstreaker pats him on the aft and grabs the energon Sideswipe left out for him. The reply had been nonchalant, but his clamped armor and narrowing of the bond speaks otherwise.

They have close calls all the time. This one wasn’t any different. Sunstreaker will get over it. After all, it’s not like he has to worry about outliving Sideswipe, right?

“I’ll remember that next time,” Sideswipe says, and backs toward the door. “See you later, bro.”

Sunstreaker waves over his shoulder, but their bond pulses love, and that’s good enough for Sideswipe. He ducks into the hallway and nearly collides with Bluestreak, who giggles and catches his shoulders so they don’t fall down in a graceless tumble.

“Where’s the fire?” Bluestreak asks as Sideswipe regains his balance.

“Sorry, Blue.” Sideswipe slings an arm over Bluestreak’s shoulder and leans on him. He wouldn’t dare do this with most mechs, but Bluestreak is one of the closest things he and Sunny have to a best friend. “Wasn’t paying attention. I heard there was something of an emergency and thought I’d offer my services.”

Bluestreak hooks an arm around Sideswipe’s waist and pinches a cable on the other side, making Sideswipe squeak. “You want to help look for Whirl?”

“Red’s got the whole base on alert. Figured I might as well, since it’s my day off and all.”

“You’re so sweet.”

“As a fresh-baked rust stick,” Sideswipe agrees.

Bluestreak rolls his optics and rises up, pressing a kiss to Sideswipe’s cheek. “Well, if anyone can find him, I’ll bet you can.” He squeezes Sideswipe’s opposite hip. “You and Sunny busy tonight?”

Sideswipe pats the static mesh on his midsection with his free hand. “You see this? I’m going to be in Sunstreaker’s tender care from dusk until dawn. And I’m not walking out until I’m sparkling-new.”

“Ah, good point.” Bluestreak’s sensory panels flutter. “Maybe I can feign an accident myself, get some of that tender care, too. My paint’s looking a little rough.”

Sideswipe laughs and nuzzles into Bluestreak’s neck. “Aw, baby Blue, you know all you gotta do is ask.”

“I hate that nickname,” Bluestreak grumbles, his nose wrinkling in a most adorable way.

“Not when Jazz says it, I notice.”

Bluestreak squirms out from under his arm, his face blushing pink, and his field tinted with embarrassment. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Jazz has a nickname for everyone, you know. It’s pointless to get him to stop saying anything.” His sensory panels arch high. “Anyway, I’ve got to go look for the sparkling, and you should, too. It’s an emergency.”

Bluestreak skedaddles before Sideswipe can tease him further, and Sideswipe opts not to give chase. He can’t help it. Bluestreak is ever so fun to tease. Even better when Sideswipe can catch Jazz and make him squirm, too. One of these days, Sideswipe’s going to play matchmaker, and it’s going to be adorable.

Now. To find Whirl.

If Sideswipe was a sparkling, brought to an army’s home base, where would he go? Where would he hide? It’s not too difficult to put himself in Whirl’s place. Sideswipe had been there before, though always with Sunstreaker at his side. They’d bounced from foster home to safe zone to hidey-hole, always searching for the best place to catch some rest.

Sideswipe moves through the crowds of searching mechs, all of whom are calling Whirl’s name as they open vent covers and peer under tables and rifle through lockers and search all the obvious hiding spots. No, Whirl won’t be in any of those. In fact, Sideswipe would bet all the creds in his subspace Whirl hasn’t gone far. He’d have taken one look at the broad hallway with its lack of cover and gone diving back into the safety of Ratchet and Wheeljack’s quarters. That is, if he could even get the door open, which Sideswipe doubts.

The door is closed. Locked. Both Wheeljack and Ratchet out searching. It’s nothing a little lock-picking can’t handle, so Sideswipe overrides the door and lets himself inside.

It’s quiet and still. He stands in the center and turns in a slow circle. The air vents are too high for a sparkling to reach. The berthlocker is sealed shut and locked, as is the weapons locker. Smart mechs. There are a couple cabinets at ground level, but there’s one that catches Sideswipe’s optics the most. It’s in the corner, tucked away, looks as if it’s barely used.

Bingo.

“What you doing?”

Sideswipe, to his credit, does not screech as he whirls around, spark pounding in his chassis. It’s just Grimlock, standing in the open doorway, head tilted as he peers curiously at Sideswipe.

“Primus, Grim!” Sideswipe clutches at his chestplate. “You almost gave me a sparkattack!” He staggers playfully. “Don’t sneak up on a mech like that.”

Grimlock’s visor flashes. “Why you in Mama Ratchet and Papa Wheeljack’s room?”

Oh, right.

Sideswipe coughs a ventilation. “Whirl’s gone missing, you know. I’m helping look.”

“They look here.” Grimlock’s weight shifts. “And they been calling for him.” His expression is impossible to read behind mask and visor, but there’s accusation in his tone.

Honestly, Sideswipe’s always found the Dinobots hard to communicate with, and Grimlock especially. Not because they’re big, dumb brutes as most people assume. But they are rather insular. Then again, Sideswipe doesn’t have any room to talk. He and Sunstreaker have a world all their own, too.

Sideswipe winks and falls into a playful role, sure to put Grimlock at ease. “Yeah, but I’ll bet not in the right place.” He gestures to the cabinet in the corner. “What if I told you, I’d bet he’s in there. He’s probably made himself a nest, stole some supplies, and he ain’t coming out until the coast is clear.”

Grimlock’s massive arms fold. “Prove it.”

Sideswipe flexes his fingers together, popping his joints. “I’m about to do just that.” He winks and spins toward the cabinet.

He approaches slowly, stepping louder than necessary, just to give the bit warning. He crouches down and eases the nearest door open. Inside, it is dim and shadowy and something hisses at him.

“Oh, he’s in there all right,” Sideswipe murmurs.

He lowers himself further and peers inside. Purple optics glare back at him from the far back corner of the cabinet. There’s a dim glow of energon – someone’s been making himself a nice stash – and pale lines of biolights.

“Hey, Whirl. Whatcha doin’ in there?” Sideswipe asks.

Whirl growls at him and spits a garbled mess of a language. “Go away!”

“Aw, I can’t do that,” Sideswipe replies in kind, or at least an approximation of it. “Need you to come out. Don’t worry. We won’t hurt you. Come out and you can have all the fuel you want. Promise.”

Whirl pushes back further against the far end. “Don’t believe promise.”

Sideswipe spark squeezes with sympathy. “I know.” He sets his hands down, palms open, to show he’s not carrying anything. “You remember my brother, right? Sunstreaker? He talked to you yesterday.”

“Yellow?”

“Yeah, yellow.” Sideswipe grins. He can already hear Sunny bitching that he’s not yellow, he’s metallic citrine thank you very much. “He’s safe, right?”

Whirl inches forward. “Maybe.”

He’s not quite in reach yet, but Sideswipe only needs him to come a bit further, and he grab the bitlet. Though honestly, it’s not like he’s unsafe where he’s at. There’s nothing but meshcloths and spare static bandages stored down here. As far as Sideswipe’s concerned, Whirl can live here until he feels safer.

Everyone else will probably protest.

“Want me to get him?” Sideswipe asks.

He hears the door open, but doesn’t dare look away to see who it is. It’s not Sunstreaker, he knows that much.

“You found him?” That’s Ratchet, sounding suspicious and surprised. He’s also getting closer.

Whirl squeaks and vanishes further back into the cabinet, behind his rampart of mesh cloths. Sideswipe has to swallow down a sigh.

“Yeah, I did, but he might not come out if you crowd him,” Sideswipe hisses over his shoulder. He can’t see Ratchet yet, but Grimlock is still very much there, looming in Sideswipe’s peripheral sensors. Watching. It’s kind of disconcerting.

Well, until he crouches anyway. Far enough from the cabinet not to be a threat to Whirlwind, but close enough that he can tap Sideswipe’s shoulder with something.

“Here,” he grunts.

Sideswipe looks. It’s one of those hard energon bars. The ones Whirl liked yesterday.

“Thanks.” Sideswipe grins and ducks his head to peer into the cabinet again. “Hey, Whirly-bird. I got another one of these for you. Want it?” He wriggles the energon bar and the wrapping crinkles. “Gotta stock up whenever you can, right?”

The bitlet’s engine gives the tiniest rev. “No hurt?”

“Never,” Sideswipe promises.

Whirl inches within reach. “Like me?”

“Yeah.” Sideswipe doesn’t move, doesn’t dare twitch. “Me and Sunny both.”

Whirl pauses as though thinking about it, and then he scuttles out, snatching up the energon bar lightning quick. Fortunately, Sideswipe is fast, too. He scoops Whirl off the ground and tucks the bitlet against his chestplate, while Whirl yowls and hisses and wails.

“You promise!”

“And I’m not hurting you,” Sideswipe retorts with a roll of his optics. He turns toward the room at large, startling a bit at the audience he’s drawn.

Little fingers dig into his seams, Whirl even tries to bite him, but Sideswipe taps him on the nose, and Whirl startles. He blinks up at Sideswipe with a scowl before biting viciously into the energon bar.

“Mean,” he grunts.

“Why isn’t he speaking clearly?” Optimus asks from the doorway. He’s blocking others from coming inside.

Ratchet sighs and scrubs at his forehead. “He won’t let me plug into him. I can’t update his software.”

“He doesn’t trust you,” Sideswipe says.

In his arms, Whirl gnaws on the energon bar and settles, pushing hard against Sideswipe’s armor as though he wants to crawl under it. One foot keeps swinging out, kicking Sideswipe, but it feels petulant more than anything else. At least he’s not fighting anymore.

“Can’t blame him either,” Sideswipe adds as old memories wisp to life in the back of his mind. “Me and Sunny, we didn’t like big mechs either. Especially ones who looked important.”

Ratchet frowns, and his field unfurls, sadness gathering at the edges of it. “Medics should be viewed as universally safe.”

“Yeah, well, they aren’t,” Sideswipe bites out. He gestures to Whirl with his free hand. “I promise you, he’s gonna keep hiding and running away.”

“Until…?” Optimus asks.

Sideswipe shrugs. What else can he do? “Until he feels safe? Until he gets away?” He sighs and looks down at Whirl, his spark aching for the mechlet. “When you’re alone, you learn that’s all you’re ever gonna be.”

Whirl shoves the last of the energon bar into his mouth and looks up at Sideswipe, his cheeks stuffed. “We go now?”

Sideswipe nibbles on his bottom lip. “Well, I do. But you gotta stay, bit.”

Whirl starts squirming. His hands claw at Sideswipe’s armor like he’s trying to climb up his chassis. “No! I go!”

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Ratchet moves closer, and Whirl immediately hisses at him, his fingers digging into Sideswipe’s seam.

Sideswipe’s hold on him tightens. “He wants to stay with me.” He cycles a ventilation and rubs the back of his neck with his free hand. “But that’s impossible.”

“Why?” Grimlock asks, and Sideswipe startles. He’s forgotten the Dinobot leader is here. “Him Whirl like you. Why impossible? You no like him?”

“That’s… I mean… It’s not a good idea, right?” Sideswipe says. He searches for Ratchet and Optimus with his gaze, and find them both thoughtful.

Ratchet thumbs his chin. “He does seem to trust you the most. And you are capable of communicating with him.” His gaze slants to Optimus. “Honestly, Optimus, Wheeljack and I are so swamped, it’s hard to care for a bitlet this small. At least, full-time anyway.”

“But me and Sunny, we’re warriors,” Sideswipe says, not really a protest but a reminder. “If there’s a battle, we gotta be there. We can’t bring him into battle.”

Optimus tilts his head in that way he does when he’s giving deep thought to something. “Is that a protest because you are uninterested, or because you believe that we find you unsuitable candidates?”

Sideswipe works his intake. “Well, we are what we are,” he says evasively. “Not good role models at all.”

“What does Sunstreaker think?” Ratchet asks.

“Sunstreaker thinks that the only ones who are gonna understand Whirlwind is either us, or someone like Jazz,” comes a voice from the hallway as Sideswipe’s spark gives a pulse along their bond.

Optimus half-turns as Sunstreaker ducks under his arm and eases into the room, his mouth set in a scowl but his optics finding Sideswipe’s and softening. He inclines his head – agreement. Whatever Sideswipe decides, Sunstreaker will back him up.

Good old Sunny.

“We’ll look after him, Prime,” Sunstreaker says, his arms folding over his chassis as though daring Optimus or Ratchet to protest. He takes up position beside Sideswipe, forming a united front.

“You’re certain?” Optimus asks. He shifts his weight, his gaze solemn. “It is a heavy task you set before you. I would not want you to undertake a burden if it is more than you can manage.”

Sideswipe curls his other hand around Whirl, and his spark throbs with warmth as Whirl grips his finger tightly. The bitlet trembles in his hold, and he’s too young for Sideswipe to tell if it’s fear or excitement, but it’s probably the latter. There’s a lot going on over his head he can’t possibly understand.

“We can do it,” Sideswipe says.

Love floods across their bond.

“Very well,” Optimus says. “Sideswipe. Sunstreaker. I will leave Whirl in your care. You will be excused from the majority of your duties so only one of you may be on duty at any one time. We will take battles on a case by case basis, and in the event we are forced to evacuate this base, your first priority is to get Whirl to safety. Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” they agree in perfect unison.

“You don’t have to do it alone either, kid,” Ratchet says gruffly. “Wheeljack and I can step in and lend a hand whenever. Maybe one day he’ll even trust us.”

Sideswipe smiles softly. “We’ll work on that.” He looks down at Whirl, poking the bit in the belly and laughing when Whirl takes a swipe at him. “Is he good to go, Ratchet? He’s fixed up, right?”

Ratchet rubs a hand down his face. “Yeah. He’s as healthy as he can be. Just keep feeding him energon. I’ll send you the files, too. See if you can’t get him to agree to an upload.”

“We’ll ask,” Sunstreaker says. “But that’s as far as it goes. You want anything from him, he says yes first.”

“Of course, Sunstreaker,” Ratchet replies. “Whatever makes him comfortable.”

It’s cute, how protective Sunstreaker is over the bit already. Sideswipe had thought Sunny only interested because Sideswipe is, but clearly that’s not the case. He’ll tease Sunstreaker about it later.

Lovingly, of course.

“Can we take him now?” Sideswipe asks as Whirl squirms in his hands and Sideswipe tucks him closer. Mostly to keep him from jumping out of Sideswipe’s hands, hitting the ground, and taking off.

Which is what Sideswipe would have done, if he were Whirl and surrounded by strangers, only a couple of whom were even remotely comprehensible.

Optimus nods.

Ratchet flops a hand. “Yeah. Bring him back in a week and I’ll check him again. I’ll have Wheeljack bring you a box of those energon bars later, too.”

“Thanks!” Sideswipe offers Ratchet a blinding smile and slides through the small crowd for the exit, Sunstreaker so close he’s all but pressed to Sideswipe’s backplate.

They pass Grimlock, who watches them with an unusual scrutiny. Sideswipe can’t put a finger on it, save he doesn’t register threat in the look. He tucks away that little observation to discuss with his twin later, and skedaddles from Ratchet and Wheeljack’s quarters, their new sparkling tucked against his chestplate.

Theirs.

Wow.

***

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[IDW] Circle the Drain

“It’s important that we celebrate your achievements,” Termina had said as she watched Dominug get buffed to perfection, his armor gleaming with an opalescent sheen. “It’s even more important we continue to honor the Ambus name with events such as these.”

As recruitment, it does little to sway Dominus. But he’s heard the warning in her tone, in her words. Behave. Enjoy, even if he has to pretend, and be grateful for the accolades. He is the rising star of the Ambus family. It is part and parcel to his duty.

Dominus loathes parties.

He loathes the noise and the crowds, the pretend smile he plasters on his face, the fake congratulations from other noble families, all eager to brag about their own creations and their own descendants. These parties are just another opportunity to play a game of one-up-manship and Dominus hates that, too.

He succeeded because he has no other choice. Is he proud of the award? Certainly. But he wishes earning such things didn’t mean a meaningless party every time.

Mechs crowd the massive ballroom and the veranda. Overburdened tables creak under the weight of platters piled high with treats, and fancy goblets filled to the rim with expensive engexes of fine vintage. Dominus swears he doesn’t recognize half of the faces in the crowd. Those that are familiar, he wishes he didn’t.

Except Minimus, of course. Dominus is always pleased to see his sibling, something which has been less and less as of late. Minimus has been quite distant, and Dominus has been unable to discern a reason why.

Dominus has been nursing the same glass of engex all night. He needs to keep his wits about him if he has any chance of keeping up with the political undercurrents simmering beneath the surface. There are far too many noble families here for him to be anything but cautious.

He floats from group to group as the hired entertainment for the evening shifts from solemn music, to something more energetic and upbeat, encouraging the already inebriated patrons to move to the dance floor. How many political bondings will be decided tonight? How many accidental sparkings?

He runs into Minimus near the balcony door, his younger brother frowning at the congregation of mechs having too much fun. Minimus has never approved of fun. It’s too much chaos for him.

Granted, Dominus doesn’t enjoy parties either, but at least he knows how to have fun. He thinks, sometimes, that Minimus’ logic chip is too tightly implanted, and there’s no give in his little brother’s spinal strut.

“Minimus, you’re not drinking,” Dominus observes as he moves alongside his brother, who stands at parade rest of all things.

Minimus shakes his head. “No, someone needs to keep a cool processor. You know how these things go.”

“I can’t imagine Termina gave you an assignment like that. Not for a celebration.” Dominus frowns, already composing the query for the house-head.

“I took it upon myself.” Minimus’ optics cut toward him. His facial decoration, a trademark of the Ambus house and only a shade smaller than Dominus’ own, quivers. “You’ll have to forgive me for not celebrating. It seems we have one of these parties every week.”

Dominus sighs and peers out over the crowd. “The House of Ambus is proud of their heir,” he says. “Even if it is superfluous.”

“Ambus has always celebrated perfection. It’s a good thing you’re a prime example of it,” Minimus replies, and there’s a tightness to his tone.

It’s worrisome.

“Mims.” Dominus uses their childhood nickname and leans closer, resting a hand on his brother’s shoulder. He feels the tension in the taut, green armor. “Is everything all right?”

Minimus shakes him off. “I’m fine.”

“You know you can talk to me, right?” Dominus presses. He tucks his hand at his side, reaching out with his field instead.

Minimus rebuffs him. “Of course I do.” His brother slants him a sideways look. “It’s nothing. Don’t you have a party to get back to? There’s an adoring throng out there eager to compliment you.”

“I am not certain I’d call them adoring,” Dominus starts to say, but Minimus sighs and eases another step away.

“I am sorry, Dominus. I think I see Ferris heading for the punch bowl again, and you know how he likes to overindulge.” Minimus smiles but it’s thin at best. “Enjoy your party.”

He’s gone before Dominus can form a rebuttal, or even catch him long enough to pry an answer out of his brother. Perhaps tomorrow Minimus will be more amenable to a talk. Something is clearly bothering him.

And to think, there was a time they used to be so close. They shared everything with one another. Their dreams, their secrets, their hurts. They were inseparable. Strangers used to think them twins.

Now.

Now it’s a story of a broken spark.

Dominus sighs and clutches his engex a little tighter. He glances at his chronometer and despairs. It is too early for him to beg off. Minimus is already gone, vanished into the crowd, and there’s not a friendly face to be found.

He surveys the ballroom before he decides to make another circle of the vast space. He takes a calculated sip of his engex. He’s only finished about half the glass, but if this keeps up, he’ll need another just to keep up appearances. He needs something to do, but getting caught in a group of chatting nobility is the last thing he wants.

Which is of course what happens.

“Dominus, come here child,” Silverspire croons.

Head of the House Argent. Dominus can’t refuse him, even if Silverspire’s voice makes his plating crawl. He knows Silverspire’s been wheedling Termina to join their houses. He’s attempted on several occasions to get Termina to agree to an arranged mating between Dominus and Argent’s heir, Silverwing. Neither Dominus nor Silverwing are interested in this.

In the end, it won’t be either of their choices.

“Lord Silverspire.” Dominus tips his head in a polite, respectful greeting. “I am so glad you could make it tonight.”

“But of course, Dominus Ambus.” Silverspire puffs up like an overpolished turbocat, not an ounce of transport kibble to be found on his frame. “I could not miss seeing you receive such an honor. You’re truly a testament to your house name.”

Funny how his accomplishments are only of worth to the Ambus House, but never of worth to Dominus himself. Everything he does is tied to Ambus. He’s not recognized as Dominus, as himself.

He’s only an Ambus.

“Thank you.” Dominus tips his head and takes a huge drink of his engex. He’s going to need it to get through this conversation. “Are any others from the House Silver here tonight?”

Silverspire barks a laugh and slaps him on the shoulder, gripping tight. “Missing your prospective conjunx, eh?” He gives Dominus a little shake. “No. Silverwing isn’t here. He had other obligations unfortunately. But I’ll let him know you asked.”

Dominus swallows a grimace. “I appreciate it.”

“Anyway, have you met Equalizer?” Silverspire continues, gesturing to the brightly colored mech beside him. He’s been mostly silent thus far.

“I don’t believe I have.” Dominus plasters on his fake smile. “It’s a pleasure, Equalizer.” He offers a hand.

The mech, who is a garish contrast of chartreuse and magenta, grins and grasps Dominus’ hand in a firm shake. “Oh, no. The pleasure is all mine, Dominus Ambus,” he purrs, and pulls Dominus’ hand up to his mouth, brushing his lips over Dominus’ knuckles. “Have you ever been told how handsome you are?”

Dominus retrieves his hand with a bit of effort, resisting the urge to wipe it on his thigh. “My frame was carefully sculpted by the Ambus House. I adhere to their standards of beauty.”

Equalizer chuckles. “Fair enough.” He leans in and winks. “But you know, it’s not about what you’re wearing, so much as it is about how you wear it.”

“How true!” Silverspire laughs loud enough to gather far too much attention. “And I must say, the Ambus House has always had a keen optic for design.”

Dominus drains his engex and hopes it’ll give him an excuse to get out of this conversation. It burns on the way down, settles hot in his tanks, but it’s not enough to burn away this party.

“Oh dear, Dominus,” Equalizer purrs, slipping the empty cube out of Dominus’ hand before he can so much as get the word out. “You’ve run out. Allow me to get another for you.”

He vanishes into the crowd.

“My, I think Equalizer might be sweet on you,” Silverspire remarks as he nudges Dominus with an elbow. “You’re going to break his spark.”

Dominus fights back a sigh. Now he’s stuck here until Equalizer returns, lest he come across as rude to the House Silver. “I do wish to concentrate on my studies and my career right now,” he says. “My work is very important to me.”

“Well, hobbies can often seem like they are as necessary to functioning as actual work,” Silverspire says with a shrug. He gulps his own drink, no doubt the finest vintage Termina had made available.

“It’s not a hobby, it’s my career,” Dominus corrects.

Silverspire shakes his head and gives Dominus a patronizing look. “You are heir to the House Ambus, Dominus. Careers are hobbies until the time comes for you to take Termina’s place.”

Dominus twitches. This has been an argument he’s had with Termina on multiple occasions.

“I have returned!” Equalizer says loudly, bursting into the conversation and thrusting a cube in front of Dominus. “And I’ve found an old friend in the crowd.”

He has another mech by the elbow, and this one is an equally offending shade of paint – orange and white, more of the former than the latter. “Hi, I’m Cork!” he says cheerfully. “I work with Equalizer. Wow, you’re pretty.”

Primus spare him.

Dominus manages a thin smile. “Nice to meet you, Cork. And thank you.” The engex Equalizer brought him looks much stronger than whatever Dominus had previously.

He doesn’t care. He takes a large gulp, welcoming the heat of it, even as it settles heavy in his tanks. He tries to find a way to gracefully exit the conversation.

“Dominus has a younger brother,” Equalizer says as Cork continues to stare at Dominus in a way that makes him uneasy.

“Is he pretty, too?” Cork asks.

Silverspire barks a laugh. “Mech, the whole Ambus line is pretty. Of course Minimus is as well. Both of them are quite the spark-breakers.”

“Is he single?” Cork asks and rises on the tips of his feet, peering over the crowd as though he will find Minimus so he can immediately go proposition him.

Equalizer chuckles. “Cork, he’s an Ambus. He’s way out of your league. And probably already promised to someone.”

“Not as of yet, if I recall,” Silverspire says with a gleam in his optic. “Perhaps if my proposal is rejected, Minimus will be more amenable. What do you think, Dominus?”

He briefly presses his lips together. “I think Minimus can certainly choose for himself. He has that luxury.” Unlike Dominus, who already knows the time he has for freedom is drawing closer and closer to an end. The Ambus House is a noose around his neck, and it’s tightening.

Just like this conversation, as a matter of fact.

He’s trapped. And the more he tries to bow and make his escape, the more they spin the topic into something new. Silverspire has no intention of letting Dominus out of his sight – perhaps afraid one of the other Houses might snatch him and present a better merge proposal.

The engex is his only salvation. It bubbles in his tank, leaves him a little dizzy, and altogether makes it easier to digest the nightmare that is this party.

Equalizer fetches him another cube. Cork hovers closer, and Dominus finds himself inching toward Silverspire if only because he doesn’t like the way Cork looks at him. He wonders if Cork is a few chips short in his processor.

Cork, again, mentions Minimus. “Well, you never know,” he says with a shrug. “Sometimes mechs like to slum it before they get tied down.” He waggles his orbital ridges. “I’m good for a one night stand.”

Equalizer laughs.

Silverspire shakes his head. “You are quite confident, Cork. But I assure you, Minimus will not be interested. He’s very… law oriented, is that not right, Dominus?”

“It is.” Dominus fiddles with his third cup of engex. “Minimus idolizes jurisprudence. You can’t hardly find him without his nose buried in some datapad or judicial proceedings vid.”

“Ah, the boring type,” Equalizer says. “Sorry, my friend. I don’t think he’s going to have much interest in you.” He slaps Cork on the back.

Honestly, Dominus isn’t sure Minimus has interest in anything beyond his textbooks and his studies and his aspirations. He’s not sure of anything when it comes to his brother, especially lately. Minimus has been so distant. They don’t spend half as much time together as they used to, and they share nothing of their dreams or their troubles.

Dominus knows that as siblings grow older, they sometimes grow apart, but it still weighs heavy on his spark. Minimus used to be his very best friend. Whatever happened?

“Aww.” Cork slumps. “That’s a shame.”

Dominus snorts behind his engex.

The party drags on.

Dominus remains trapped, finding solace only in his engex. He doesn’t know how long he would have stood there, conversation washing over and through him, Cork inching closer and closer until Dominus is crowded near Silverspire.

At once, there is a ruckus on the other side of the room.

Minimus must have failed in getting Ferris away from the punch bowl, because the heir to the House Largus has just tackled one of House Rouge’s soldiers. Other partygoers shriek and scuttle away from the scuffle. Ambus guards wade into the fray, and Termina appears out of nowhere to bring sanity to the madness.

It’s all so… pointless.

A wave of fatigue strikes Dominus. He sways on his feet, his thoughts running through a cotton filter. A hand on his elbow steadies him, keeps him from careening to the floor.

“Dominus, are you all right?” Equalizer asks, his voice laced with concern.

Dominus eases out of his grip, an odd chill racing through his armor where Equalizer had touched him. “I am. Thank you.” He manages a thin smile. “But I think you’ll all have to excuse me. I had quite the early morning, and the engex is stronger than I thought.”

“Aw,” Cork whines and slumps his shoulders. “I was hoping to entice you into a dance.”

Dominus shakes his head, and hates how it makes him dizzy. “Perhaps next time.” He tips his head politely. “Thank you all for the conversation and for attending this celebration. Please continue to enjoy the party.”

“Of course.” Silverspire smiles patiently. “Do get some rest, Dominus. We’d hate for you to catch ill.”

“Thank you.”

They let him go this time. Finally.

Dominus drops his empty engex cube off with a server and heads straight for his private suite. He finds Minimus along the way, frowning over a datapad. He’s tucked in a corner away from the dancing and the drinking and anything resembling fun. Brooding, perhaps, over the fact he’d been unable to prevent Ferris from causing trouble.

“Mims, I’m heading to recharge.” Dominus’ foot catches on nothing, and he stumbles.

Minimus blinks at him. “Are you drunk?”

“Of course not. I’ve barely had anything.” Dominus waves him off and catches himself on the wall. “But clearly it was a bad idea to consume any kind of intoxicant while I’m operating on so little recharge.”

“But the party is for you.” Minimus straightens, his frown echoing the disapproval that would likely be on Termina’s face as well. “You can’t leave.”

Dominus shakes his head. “I must. I am far too tired to be of use to anyone right now. Make my apologies to Termina for me?”

Minimus works his jaw before he sighs and looks down at his datapad. “Very well. You’ll do as you want anyway. She knows that.”

There it is again. His tone hints of something being wrong, but his words say nothing. Even his field is closed to Dominus’ without allowing a hint of interpretation.

Dominus steps back to leave, but he pauses. “Mims, are you busy tomorrow evening?”

“I’m always busy.”

“But tomorrow specifically?”

Minimus cycles a ventilation and lifts his gaze. “There’s nothing that can’t wait. Why?”

“Can we talk?” Dominus asks. He wonders if the hope bleeding through his spark is clear on his face. “I thought we might have dinner. Perhaps play a round of Quatra?”

Minimus’ optics flicker. His mustache twitches. “Fine,” he says at length. He focuses on his datapad again. “Now go recharge. You look like you’re about to fall over.”

Dominus smiles and decides not to push his luck. He leaves Minimus be.

He keeps to the wall and the periphery of the party, hoping not to be noticed and pulled into another conversation. That he needs the wall to stay upright might also be true.

He makes it to the exit without incident and pushes through the double doors into the main hallway. The doors thunk shut behind him, reducing the noise of the party to almost nothing. It feels like his suite is miles away, and Dominus drags his feet, his vents slowing, fatigue clawing at his limbs.

It’s strange. He’s never felt this tired before. And his thoughts seem to be slower. Had he truly imbibed more than he thought? He tries to think back to his consumption. He remembers two drinks distinctly, not nearly enough to inebriate. The night, however, is starting to blur.

Dominus stumbles. On any other day, he would have been able to catch himself. But not today. His hand misses the wall, and he’s going to make a fool of himself by landing on his face on the floor.

Someone catches his arm and steadies him.

“Whoa there,” a pleasant voice says, emerging from a mech much taller than Dominus, with polished gray armor. “Had a bit too much to drink, I gather?”

“I do believe so. Thank you.” Dominus straightens, leaning heavily into the mech’s support. He rubs his forehead, an ache building behind his optics.

Dominus peers up at his savior. “You are familiar,” he says. He’s seen this mech drifting through the party, but always at a distance. “I’m sorry, but I can’t place your designation.”

“It’s Lore. I’m one of Equalizer’s associates.” Lore smiles, and smiles should always be pleasant, but there’s something about Lore’s that isn’t. “You seem to be struggling a bit. Might I be of service?”

Dominus, for the life of him, can’t figure out why this might be a bad idea. “That would be wonderful, thank you. I don’t know why I’m so off balance.”

“Pleasure to be of service.” Lore hooks an arm around Dominus’ frame and takes most of the burden of his weight. “Working together, I think we can get there in no time.”

“I apologize in advance if I pass out on you,” Dominus says as they start down the hall, moving much faster than Dominus had on his own.

The walls blur, lights turning into a harsh stream of brightness. Down one corridor and then another, and he realizes he’s not giving Lore any instructions. Lore seems to know precisely where to go. Perhaps he’d asked a servant?

Dominus’ processor spins. He can’t remember if they passed a servant.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Lore says, and his voice sounds as though it’s coming from a long tunnel. “There’s no fear of that.”

Whatever does he mean? Dominus hasn’t the foggiest. Because now he’s standing – or listing against Lore – in front of his bedroom. The door slides open without him touching the panel. That, too, is odd.

Before Dominus can question it, Lore whisks him inside. A spark of logic breaks through the fog. Something uneasy crawls up Dominus’ spinal strut because his room is dim, and he distinctly remembers leaving the shutters open and his desk lamp on at the very least. It should be bright enough to see by, but instead it’s shadowy and dark.

“Wha–”

Lore shoves him forward, toward the berth, and Dominus stumbles. He tries to get his feet beneath him, but he’s still dizzy.

“What are you doing?” he demands.

Hands snatch him out of the dark. Dominus tries to fight back, but a wave of vertigo sweeps over him.

He moans as he lists and two pairs of hands lift him up, toss him onto his berth. He lands on his back, head spinning, limbs feeling numb. He tries to roll over, off the berth, and kicks out at the dark figures with uncoordinated feet. His vision washes with static, except for the gleam of biolights – Lore’s and someone else’s. They’re a smear of color, too many to identify.

They grab his hands, wrapping something tight around his wrists, pulling his hands above his head. It pulls at his shoulders, holds him firmly. They must have lashed the binding down, because he can’t lower his arms, no matter how much he tugs.

“Stop it!” Dominus struggles.

Hands grab his ankles, treating them to the same as his wrists, only they are bound to opposite corners of the berth, spreading his legs wide. Terror throbs through Dominus’ spark. He thrashes on the berth and immediately tries his comm.

Nothing. Static. They’ve got a signal dampener.

“Let me go!” Dominus yanks on his limbs as hard as he can, hears metal creak and groan, but not budge. His vents labor for the next cycle, energy draining out of him as though it’s being siphoned. “Release me at once!”

A large hand grips his jaw, fingers digging into his cheeks, prying his mouth open. Dominus whips his head left and right, or tries to, but the hold is too strong. Something bumps against his lips and denta, and then slides into his mouth, nudging against the back of his intake. It’s long and cylindrical with a ridged, rounded head.

It’s a spike. No, no, it can’t be. It’s cold and doesn’t hum with an energy field. A false spike? It fills his mouth, makes his intake ripple and gag, stretches his jaw wide. His glossa is pinned to the bottom of his mouth.

The hands leave his face, but the spike is still in his mouth. There’s something tight around his cheeks and the back of his head. Have they tied the spike in place?

Dominus’ head spins. He can’t ventilate, not with the fear squeezing his spark, the spike at the back of his intake. What is this? What’s going on?

The main light clicks on, nearly blinding him. He cycles his optics, reboots them, and the spots clarify from his vision. He counts three, no four mechs scattered around the room. He only recognizes three of them: Lore, Equalizer, and Cork. There’s a purplish mech standing by a large device – is that a camera?

“Nice touch, Cork.” Equalizer leans over Dominus, and flicks the end of the spike-gag. “Using your own spike to gag him? Aren’t you worried he’s going to bite it?”

Cork rolls his optics. “It doesn’t work like that, idiot.”

Dominus makes a muffled noise of protest. They ignore him.

The door opens again, and for a minute, Dominus thinks it’s a rescue. That someone saw him leaving with a strange mech and called for help.

Instead, one more mech walks inside, a dull gray-blue with an opalescent visor. Dominus doesn’t recognize this one, but he’s frowning as he casts a quick glance through the room.

“Is everything ready, Playback?” he asks in a sharp clip.

The mech by the camera gives him a thumbs up. “Yes, sir.” He taps himself on the temple. “I even have the portable unit prepped just in case.”

“Everyone else?” the new mech asks. He hasn’t even looked at Dominus yet.

“Yes, sir,” Equalizer and Cork say in unison.

“Yes, Fallout,” Lore replies.

Ready for what? Dominus fears he already knows.

Fallout crosses the room and stands beside Dominus’ berth, opposite of Equalizer. His gaze rakes across Dominus, from his bindings, to his gag, and there’s something assessing in it. Something evil.

“Good.” Fallout rests a palm on Dominus’ abdomen and drags it down, toward his groin. “Our commissioner is paying a lot of shanix for this, so we owe them a good show.”

Dominus squirms, tries to twist his hips away from Fallout, but there’s nowhere for him go. He jerks again on his bindings, but his protests fall on deaf audials. Whatever they’re here for, whatever they’re getting paid for, these mechs have no common decency. They don’t care about his protests, his comfort, anything.

He should save his strength. Keep his optics open for an avenue of escape. Keep pinging his comms and sending out demands for help. Surely something will get through. Someone should come check on him. He left so early! Termina must be coming to fuss at him about it.

He need only endure.

Playback moves back behind his camera. Lore sits at the head of the berth near Dominus, out of sight. Cork stalks around the berth like a restless turbowolf stalking a petrorabbit. Equalizer loiters in the background, watching. And Fallout… he settles at the base of the berth, between Dominus’ thighs.

His hands slide up the inside of Dominus’ thighs, his visor gleaming. “Open up for me, Dominus,” he says, in a sickly sweet tone. “You really want to make this easy for us, I promise.”

Dominus shakes his head. If he could snap his legs closed, he would.

“Come now.” Fallback strokes his fingers over Dominus’ closed array, his intentions clear. “If we have to do it for you, it won’t be pleasant.”

“It will be for me,” Lore croons above Dominus. One of his hands curl around the top of Dominus’ head, stroking it. “You know I love this part.”

“He truly does,” Fallout says. He leans forward, venting hot and wet over Dominus’ groin. “So are you going to make it easy?”

Dominus glares as much as he is capable.

Fallout sighs. “I didn’t think so.” He looks up at Lore and nods.

Lore chuckles, dark and excited. “I love it when they’re stubborn.”

Dominus hears a weird noise, like a thin vibroblade emerging from a hilt. Lore’s hand cups Dominus’ head, lifting it away from the berth, and his other hand feels along the back of Dominus’ neck. His fingers are gentle, for all that they poke and prod, seeking something.

Dominus tenses. Fear curdles in his belly. He jerks as something abruptly sinks through the thin armor on his head and into his processor. It doesn’t hurt, not like pain, but the sudden sensation of an alien presence makes him queasy.

He moans into the gag, his tanks rippling. He can track the presence’s progress as it effortlessly slides into his processor, into his central command, and leaves a sticky sensation behind. It pours like oil through the very sense of him and seeps all the way to his motor controls.

“Oh, you’re barely protected at all,” Lore moans, and his field pushes at Dominus with lust. “You’d think an Ambus heir would have better firewalls, but you’re so open to me.”

“Hurry up,” Equalizer says.

“Hush, you. This is an art,” Lore purrs.

Dominus jerks as something clicks in his processor, and a sick feeling washes through his internals. It echoes a click elsewhere, and the panel concealing his interface array slides open. His frame betrays him.

“Much obliged, Lore,” says Fallout and he sweeps his fingers over Dominus’ valve and spike panel, only for his face to light with glee. “Well, well, well, what do we have here?”

Cork leans in over his shoulder, and he lets out a squeal. “We’re so lucky!” he exclaims. “The Ambus brat is still sealed.”

“Everywhere?” Equalizer asks, and the hunger in his optics turns darker, deeper, like some sparkeater pulled from a storybook.

Dominus shutters his optics so he doesn’t have to see their lust.

Lore’s fingers scrub hard over Dominus’ panels, and though Dominus tries to twitch away, it’s futile. “Yes.” He laughs. “For someone I thought would have had his share of partners, this is a surprise indeed. No wonder Arrhythmia couldn’t entice him.”

Arrhythmia? The sweet two-wheeler he met a couple weeks ago? Is he connected to these five as well?

“Good news for us,” Cork says.

There’s a loud creak, and then the harsh slap of metal on metal.
“Back off,” Fallout snaps. “You know how this works, Cork.”

“Awww, you’re so stingy,” Cork whines.

Dominus unshutters his optics against his better judgment. Fallout has scooted down the end of the berth, kneeling between Dominus’ calves, his face inches from Dominus’ sealed valve. He grabs Dominus’ hips, cradling them, before he leans forward and licks a wet swipe up Dominus’ valve seal.

“You can wait your turn,” Equalizer says. His arms are crossed where he leans, and he watches Dominus like a predator might his prey.

Dominus squirms, fear and discomfort doing little to stop the rising tide of pleasure where Fallout is licking him. He seems to know all the nodes to focus on, all the right sensors. He’s focusing on Dominus’ panel seam as his hands stroke and fondle, and lubricant builds behind the seal. His hips are twitching, trying to rock into Fallout’s licks, and his spike thickens and grows behind his other seal.

It asks him if he wants it to extend. Dominus responds in the negative. For now, the presence in his processor is still, loitering, as if waiting to strike.

Fallout’s oral attention moves to his spike panel. He licks around it, forms a suction with his mouth, until Cork leans in to take his place, and Fallout goes back to Dominus’ valve.

“Come on pretty noble,” Cork says as he sloppily licks over Dominus’ spike seal. “Show us that untouched spike.”

Dominus moans around the gag in his mouth. His interface program asks him, again, if he’d like to extend his spike. He refuses.

“My, you’re stubborn,” Lore says. One hand continues to cup Dominus’ head, but the other cups over his lips, his palm on the end of the spike gagging him.

He gives it a push and the head of the spike grinds against the back of Dominus’ intake. Stars dance in his optical feed as a dull pain radiates through his intake. And then, mercy, as the spike withdraws, sliding across his glossa enough to free his intake. He relaxes for a fraction of a second, before Lore plunges the gag back into his mouth, choking him again.

Dominus whimpers with a crackle of static.

Cork licks his spike seal again, lips sealing around it, forming a suction that excites the sensors, makes another wave of liquid pleasure slide through Dominus’ sensornet. His spike pings him for release; Dominus denies it.

“None of that now,” Lore croons. “We can’t play if you persist on being stubborn.”

He shoves the spike deep, and something in Dominus’ processor gives way under a relentless tide of pressure. He groans as his spike surges through the seal with a sharp slash of pain cascading across his sensor net. He smells the bitter tang of hot energon, his spike stinging as it feels air rushing over the sensitive plating for the first time.

“Thank you Primus for this feast,” Cork exclaims giddily. Or at least Dominus thinks it’s Cork. “I’m so damned lucky.”

Something hot and wet encloses Dominus’ spike. He can’t tell if it feels good or not because the pain is still so sharp, both in his groin and at the back of his intake. His focus wavers, vision crackling. His jaw aches.

There’s so much sensation everywhere. The hot laps against his valve rim and seal. The wet suction around his spike. The sting of a burst seal. The grinding pressure against the back of his intake. The slithering presence in his processor.

“We’re all lucky. We get to teach him everything we know,” another voice comments, and Dominus forces his optics to unshutter. When had he closed them?

He follows the speaker to Equalizer, who’s moved closer, the heel of his palm scrubbing over his own panel, his optics dark and hungry. “Let me have him first, Fallout.”

“The client wants him humiliated, not fragging broken,” Fallout hisses, lifting his mouth from Dominus’ valve, his lips and chin wet with lubricant. “Wait your turn.” His hand slips between Dominus’ thighs, and he can feel the pressure of Fallout’s fingers against his seal.

“Fine. Gimme his spike then,” Equalizer insists, and his field pushes into the room, like a hot wave of burning charge, searing against Dominus’ own.

Fear throbs through his spark, fear of what this angry, violent mech is capable of.

Behind the camera, Playback laughs. “You and your fascination with spikes.”

“Shut up, slagger,” Equalizer snarls. He grabs the back of Cork’s head and pulls Cork away from Dominus’ spike, leaving it glistening where it bobs freely. “He’s ready enough. Move.”

Dominus whimpers behind the gag of the spike. Mercifully, Lore has stopped pumping it into his mouth, but it’s still pushed deep, still grinding hard. His intake keeps rippling, trying to expel it, his purge protocols trying and failing to activate.

Cork huffs but moves aside. “You’re so selfish,” he mutters as he slinks back.

“No one asked you,” Equalizer snaps, and he climbs onto the berth, straddling Dominus’ much smaller frame with little effort.

Hot drips of something patter on Dominus’ abdomen and groin. He realizes, to his disgust, that Equalizer’s already bared his valve, and it’s glistening with lubricant. Equalizer even rubs his palm over his valve, spreading the slick around, while his free hand grabs Dominus’ spike.

“Love the bare ones,” Equalizer breathes with nothing short of lust in his tone. His fingers dance up and down Dominus’ unadorned unit. “Swear they’ve got the best slide.”

“Get on with it!” Cork whines.

“Yes,” Fallout says, his vents puffing against Dominus’ valve. “Do hurry.”

“Got no sense of anticipation, either of you,” Equalizer huffs, but he positions himself over Dominus’ spike and sinks down until swollen pleats of his valve rub the head of Dominus’ spike.

He looks up then, catches Dominus’ gaze. “You ready little Ambus?” He licks his lips, sucking the bottom one between his denta. “By the time we’re done with you, there won’t be a bit of you that’s pure.” He laughs, dark and dirty, and then he drops down, valve swallowing Dominus’ spike in one fell swoop.

Dominus groans, his back strut arching, conflicting sensations making him dizzy. Equalizer’s valve is hot and wet, rippling around him, a delicious pleasure against his untouched sensors. But disgust ripples through his tanks, calls for a purge, because he doesn’t want this, he doesn’t want any of this, why won’t they leave him alone?

“Because we got paid, Dominus,” Lore murmurs in his audial, glossa snaking out against it. “We got paid to ruin you.”

“Oh, he hates it,” Equalizer moans as he starts to lift and lower himself with creaks of his knees, riding Dominus’ spike with abandon. “Look at his face, Falls. He hates it so much.”

The wet vanishes from his valve. Dominus can’t relax from relief, however, because fingers take their place, rubbing and nudging at his rim and the swollen pleats. His valve throbs against the seal, and he can feel lubricant pooling against it.

Is it a mercy or a greater humiliation that they are making some attempt at preparing him?

“You’re right.” Fallout peers over Equalizer’s shoulder. One arm wraps around Equalizer’s waist, his fingers slipping down to circle around Equalizer’s plump anterior node.

Equalizer arches into the touch, releasing a guttural moan of pleasure, his hands clawing the air. “Ah, keep doing that,” he moans. He slams down harder on Dominus, the squelch of lubricant an obscene noise.

Pleasure ripples through Dominus’ groin. He whimpers behind his gag, hips twitching, moving up into Equalizer’s valve without his permission. His spike is throbbing, and his sensors are hot from the sensation.

Above him, Lore chuckles and starts toying with the end of the gag again, pumping it in and out of Dominus’ mouth to the same rhythm as Equalizer’s hips.

“Oh yeah,” Equalizer pants as the slick noises of Fallout fondling him matches the obscene squelch of his valve around Dominus’ spike. He leans back against Fallout, glossa sweeping over his lips. “I’m going to ride this thing all the way to overload.”

Dominus groans behind his gag, his visual feed filling with static. He twitches beneath them, intake rippling with the threat of purge, pleasure shooting like lightning through his sensornet, while his tank churns with nausea.

Lore hums a laugh. “Let’s just dial that up a bit, shall we?”

Dominus screams as the bursts of pleasure turns to white-hot surges of it. He thrashes, his spike jerking, his valve throbbing with denied sensation.

They’re going to kill him, he despairs.

“Oh no, little Ambus. Not yet,” Lore whispers and pushes the gag deep, until Dominus’ lips almost close around the end of it. “There are some things worse than death.”

~

By the time Minimus arranges for the last severely inebriated partygoer to go home in a transport, it’s so late as to be early. The previous cycle has officially crossed over into the next one, and Minimus is both exhausted and annoyed. This should have been Dominus’ task. He should have been here to make sure his guests left the premises, to thank them for coming, to soak in the last echoes of praise.

“Tell your brother he’s a fine example of a mech.”

“Dominus will make a fantastic heir.”

“He’s so talented.”

It’s enough to rankle.

It’s not that Minimus isn’t proud of Dominus, because he is. He knows how hard his elder brother works, and he knows the burden that awaits Dominus in the future. It just bothers him that everyone tends to forget Minimus exists. That he’s always just a shade lesser than Dominus. Near-perfect scores rather than perfect. And always, always, not good enough. A pale imitation.

Minimus sighs and surveys the ballroom. It and the surrounding corridors are a mess. Nobility, he’s noticed, is never one for being polite and clean. Why bother when servants take care of the mess, yes? Granted, the Ambus House has servants as well, but both Minimus and Dominus were taught to respect the property of others.

Spills of engex sit tackily on the floor. Two of the tablecloths are ripped. It looks like a hoard of empties went through the treat trays, leaving crumbs and half-consumed bits in their wake. Half of the decorative streamers hang in rips from the ceiling, torn from their housings.

There ought to be a law.

Minimus sweeps his hand over his head and trudges back to his own quarters, across the hall from his brother’s. Dominus doesn’t respond to a querying ping, so he truly must be recharging. Termina is going to lecture him for sure tomorrow. It’s a form of disrespect to leave a party in your honor. Though Termina will probably find some way to excuse Dominus’ behavior. He is, after all, the golden heir.

If he’s truly ill…

Minimus hesitates outside his sibling’s door, hand raised to knock or ping. After a moment, he turns away and vanishes into his own room. If Dominus doesn’t emerge for morning meeting, Minimus will send one of the on-call medics in to check on him. He can’t think of anything severe Dominus might have contracted. Surely his brother is in no danger.

Minimus doesn’t bother with lights. He flops onto his berth facefirst and stretches out across the massive surface. In his reducible form, he doesn’t take up much space, which leaves him more surface to occupy. His one indulgence, this berth.

It’s been a long night. Tomorrow will be even longer, with Termina eager to congratulate Dominus on the success of his celebration. And probably the stack of merging proposals no doubt decorating the Head’s desk. All of which Dominus will refuse of course. Still holding out for that special someone, as though he has any choice in the matter.

He hasn’t realized it yet.

No Ambus ever has much of a choice.

~

Equalizer is vocal and unashamed of it. He braces one hand on Dominus’ abdomen and slams down on Dominus’ spike, panting and moaning and gasping with pleasure. His other hand strips his spike, chasing his pleasure with single minded determination.

“Frag but he’s good,” Equalizer moans.

“Your love of spike will never cease to amuse me,” Lore says.

Fallout laughs from behind Equalizer. “Puts on a good show though,” he says, and his fingers rub more firmly on Equalizer’s nub, rolling and squeezing it between his fingertips.

“He sounds like a pleasurebot,” Lore says.

“S-shut up,” Equalizer stutters and grinds down on Dominus’ spike, the head of it pressing hard against Equalizer’s valve ceiling.

Cork laughs and bounces up beside Dominus. He leans over, peering at Dominus’ face, like one might a mechanimal at the zoo. He cocks his head to the side.

“Think I’ll take this back now,” he says, and grabs the end of the spike gagging Dominus. He pulls it in a yank with no regard for Dominus’ comfort.

His intake ripples. His purge protocols rise up, his tank clenching, and it’s only Lore’s firm grip on his processor that keeps him from actually purging. Dominus sputters, intake aching as he coughs, swearing he can taste energon on his glossa. His jaw aches. Closing it isn’t any better.

His vents heave. His thoughts spin.

Something hot and wet splatters on his chest and belly.

“Yessss,” Equalizer hisses as he slams down on Dominus’ spike, grinding hard, his valve clenching tight around Dominus’ spike. Overload. He’s actually finding completion on Dominus’ spike.

Two more spurts stripe the air. One lands on Dominus’ face, over his lips. The stench of transfluid fills his nose. He tastes it on the tip of his glossa. Nausea roils through him.

“I’ll never understand you,” Fallout says as he slides his hand from around Equalizer, fingers wet with Equalizer’s lubricant. “Getting off on spike that much.”

Equalizer rises up on his knees, bobbing his aft at Fallout. “You just need a good spiking to see where I’m coming from.”

“No, thanks.”

“Hey, pay attention to me.” Cork slaps Dominus on the cheek, forcing him to look at the orange and white mech. “It’s my turn to play.”

Dominus licks his dry lips, but his vocalizer won’t activate, save to spill a staticky groan.

“Eh, close enough.” Cork clambers onto the berth and straddles Dominus’ chassis. His panels are open, valve leaving a wet streak on Dominus’ chest, his spike panel oddly concave, with a screw-like interior.

The reason why becomes clear when Cork takes the spike they’d been using as a gag and slides it into the slot. With several twists and a click, it notches into place, pressurizing fully, pre-fluid beading at the tip.

“Nice, huh?” Cork says. He grips the end of his spike, and paints Dominus’ lips with the head of it. “Came up with the mod myself. Lets me be all kindsa creative.”

Stop.

The word screams at the back of Dominus’ processor, but his vocalizer only produces static. There’s a manic gleam in Cork’s optics, his lips stretched wide in a grin. He rubs the head of his spike all over Dominus’ face, smearing it with pre-fluid, spreading around Equalizer’s spill.

Dominus jerks his head left and right, trying to avoid the dripping length, but Cork is too persistent, and Lore’s grip on his head too firm.

“You just gonna watch, Lore?” Cork asks as he nudges the head of his spike firmly against Dominus’ mouth, making his lips shiny with pre-fluid.

“I was actually thinking I might participate,” Lore says with a hum.

Dominus’ spike slips free of Equalizer’s valve. He feels cold air seep over his soaked length, and his spike twitches, still throbbing with denied pleasure.

“Participate?” Fallout’s voice emerges from somewhere below Dominus, and it must be his fingers applying a steady, circling pressure over Dominus’ valve seal.

“I could go for some valve right now,” Lore says.

Dominus jerks as the connection retracts from his processor, like someone yanking free a handful of thin needles.

Core giggles madly and rolls his hips, pushing his spike into Dominus’ mouth in the same motion. He grips Dominus’ head with both hands, his spike plunging forward earnestly, worse than when it had been the spike alone. Each thrust is forceful, bruising his intake.

Dominus thrashes, yanking on his bonds, making choked noises around the spike. Purge threatens to rise all over again, moistening his mouth. Oral lubricant bubbles up around his lips, drips down into his intake.

“Is that right?” Fallout asks, on the edge of Dominus’ awareness.

“Mm. You’ll see.”

The berth dips again. Cork leans forward, hips thrusting hard, hands yanking Dominus onto his spike, deeper and deeper. There’s a mad cant to his optics, his denta gritted and bared, pre-fluid seeping down Dominus’ intake.

Suddenly, Cork yanks on his head, pushing so deep Dominus’ nose presses against his spike housing. His spike slides all the way into Dominus’ intake, forcing his secondary ventilation system to kick into action. His vision goes gray, his intake convulsing.

“What the frag?” Cork gasps as he curls over Dominus’ mouth, hips making little humping motions.

“I said I wanted valve. I didn’t say it would be the Ambus brat’s,” Lore replies.

Cork jerks forward again, like someone is thrusting into him and forcing him into Dominus in turn.

“A little warning next time, fragger!” Cork snarls, but pleasure ripples through his field. He humps Dominus’ face, not even bothering to withdraw.

Darkness surrounds Dominus. It takes him too long to realize he’s shuttered his optics. He doesn’t have the wherewithal to open them again. Besides, all he can see is Cork’s groin, and the thick plating of it bumping his lips, bruising them against his denta.

Cork snarls a curse, but then it devolves into a whoop of glee. “You feel that?” he asks, fingers squeezing against Dominus’ head. “Feel that pressure on your glossa? That’s me, little Ambus. That’s my knot.”

Dominus can’t do anything more than gurgle. But he can feel it, the growing mass against his glossa, pushing it down into his oral cavity, stretching his jaw wider and wider. Cork isn’t thrusting now so much as he’s grinding into Dominus, over and over, that thickness at the base of his spike growing larger and larger.

Cork gasps a laugh. “Love me a valve,” he says. “But for knotting, nothing beats a mouth, you know?”

“You talk too much,” Lore says, and Cork jerks forward as if Lore has just thrust hard into him.

Pain radiates through Dominus’ intake and mouth. His optics grow hot. Stress warnings light up his HUD with bright orange and red caution lights. His system tells him to remove the obstacle, and he can’t.

He can’t.

Dominus makes a choked noise. His arms jerk. They’re fragging harder on top of him now, Lore shoving into Cork and forcing Cork to grind into Dominus’ mouth. He tastes energon as much as he tastes transfluid. His focus crackles until only snippets of awareness poke through the agony. He can’t ventilation, can barely move, all he knows is the pain and the shame.

A new touch at his valve stirs Dominus from the gray. His focus draws southward, where something much larger and blunter presses against his valve seal. It applies a firm pressure, not enough to break the seal, but definitely tangible.

“Get a close up of this, Playback,” says Fallout. Dominus knows their voices at least. He’s sure they’ll haunt his night purges for decades to follow. If he even survives this.

“Sir, yes, sir.” Playback sounds gleeful. His voice also sounds closer.

There’s a grip on Dominus’ thighs. The pressure against his valve gets stronger. Then it retreats, and for a moment, Dominus dares to hope.

That’s when Fallout thrusts into him in a sharp, quick jab, breaking his seal in an instant. Jagged pain lances through Dominus’ groin. He screams static around the spike sealing his mouth, the knot stretching his jaw. He goes stiff from head to foot, spark strobing a violent pattern of panic.

Someone’s laughing, he thinks. His frame keeps juttering, jerking, as they frag him like he’s a toy, a doll for their amusement.

“I’ll warm him up for you,” Fallout grunts. He falls into a steady rhythm, plunging forward without pause, despite the pained clutch of Dominus’ valve.

There’s no moment to get used to it, no moment to catch a vent. It’s just pain. Agonizing, searing pain. There’s not even pleasure in it. Or if there is, he can’t tell.

Fallout assaults him, harder and faster.

Cork squeezes his head, his spike thickened in Dominus’ mouth, pinning him around the knotted length.

Lore frags Cork with abandon, pulling and pushing Cork against Dominus’ face, his heated vents blasting down against Dominus.

It’s a blur. A mad blur of agony.

Cork overloads first. If Dominus can even call it an overload. He can feel the pump of Cork’s spike over his glossa. He can feel the thick spurts of transfluid filling up his intake faster than he can swallow. More and more of it. So much that it backflows, filling every nook and cranny of his mouth, squeezing past the seam of his lips and Cork’s spike.

More liquid splatters on Dominus’ chestplate. It slides hot and sticky into his seams, congealing into globs. He doesn’t know where it’s coming from, he doesn’t care.

The spike plunges into his valve again and again, slamming against his swollen rim, driving away any hint of pleasure. Something hot and wet brushes over his spike before someone swallows him. They must have. They’re licking and sucking, denta dragging over desperate sensors.

Dominus shudders as he overloads, more agony than pleasure, thin streams of transfluid spilling into someone’s mouth. He hears a laugh as they let his spike slip free, the last spurt of his release spattering on one of his thighs. And then the mouth comes back, a different one, cooler like they’ve swallowed liquid nitrogen. Lips suckle at him with hard pulls, and Dominus screams into the transfluid drowning him.

It hurts, hurts, hurts, stop, stop, someone please make them stop.

Cork jerks his spike free, and Dominus coughs up globs and globs of transfluid, vents whining and intake convulsing. He can’t seem to catch an oral ventilation. His vision whites out with static.

Cork climbs off his chassis with a satisfied sound. He plays with the transfluid decorating Dominus’ face, smearing it all around. He laughs.

“What are you two trying to do? Suck him dry?” he asks.

Someone chuckles. “Well, he likes it so much, figure we’re doing him a favor,” Equalizer says in a nasty tone.

Searing heat splatters inside Dominus’ valve, burning as it splashes over his bruised nodes. Fallout plunges deep into him, grinding so hard it squeezes his anterior node in an unpleasant way. The pinch of it stings, but it’s just another pain to a litany of them.

Fallout removes his spike, leaving his spill seeping from Dominus’ valve. He smirks, and Dominus stares hazily at him, unsure what the sudden spark of sadism in his optic means. He strikes, faster than lightning, his palm smacking against Dominus’ valve, palm hitting his swollen anterior node.

Dominus’ backstrut arches. He manages a thin, shrill cry from his staticky vocalizer. His valve burns, his node feels as though it’s been set aflame.

“There,” Fallout says as he steps back. “I warmed him up for you.”

Dominus groans.

Playback takes Fallout’s place. “Good,” he says as he slides into Dominus’ valve, the wet push of his thick spike nauseatingly obscene. “You know I like them messy.” His optics brighten, optical lenses cycling in and out.

Dominus realizes, to his horror, that Playback has an internal recording system as well. Rewind has a very similar system, though he has an external one as well, for better quality films. Playback must be recording close ups of Dominus’ torture for whoever their commissioners are.

Dominus doesn’t know what’s worse. That someone paid them to do this to him, or that they’re filming it, and Primus only knows where copies of those recordings are going to go.

That worry is too fleeing, however. It’s a distant concern. Because Playback is fragging him, slow and deep, like he plans on taking his time about it. He’s rolling and pinching Dominus’ node between his fingers, vents rattling and gasping, lust so heavy in his field it’s choking.

Lore’s needles slide back into Dominus’ processor – when had he gotten near Dominus’ head? – and the pain suddenly melts into liquid pleasure. Heat, heat, ecstasy. Dominus gurgles a cry as he overloads.

His valve clenches down, tight around Playback’s spike, and the purplish mech hisses a cry of delight, his fingers digging into Dominus’ hip seams.

“He’s even messier now,” Playback pants. “Do it again.”

Lore laughs, dark and malicious. “With pleasure,” he purrs.

His needles dig deeper. Dominus’ vision whites out. His frame convulses. He doesn’t know if it’s pleasure or pain, but his spike jerks out a thin stream of transfluid and his valve ripples again. Charge crackles like lightning through his lines. His vocalizer stutters until a thin wail breaks free.

He frantically activates his comm, even though he knows all he’s going to get is static. He pings Minimus, Rewind, Termina, the house soldiers… He shouts and screams for help. He begs for someone to save him.

It isn’t until they start laughing that Dominus realizes some of his pleading has been aloud, in broken, staticky sounds. He garbles. He whines. He chokes on transfluid. The stench suffocates him.

His valve screams into another overload, but his spike remains rigid, swollen and seeping with pre-fluid. Equalizer climbs back on top of him, licking his lips, his valve dripping lubricant as he pumps his spike with abandon.

Playback grunts through an overload, filling Dominus with even more transfluid, painting his insides all the way up to his ceiling node. His spike withdraws, grating over every last one of Dominus’ nodes, and he whimpers.

Another body takes Playback’s place. Dominus can’t see who. It doesn’t matter. It’s another spike slamming into him, almost violently. It’s Equalizer still on top of him, enthusiastically grinding Dominus’ spike into his valve. Lore’s giggling as he wriggles his needles in Dominus’ processor, effortlessly manipulating his frame to enjoy or loathe their attentions.

He can’t see Playback’s camera, but he can feel its dispassionate gaze. The shame of it courses hot and heavy through his lines.

No one’s answering his calls for help. No one’s going to save him. He’s all alone.

There’s no one to stop the spike in his valve, the calipers around his spike, the fingers in his brain, the fingers on his mouth, pushing past his lips, gagging him. His assailants are talking, their voices a blur of agony. They’re laughing, and another overload tears through Dominus’ valve as his spike stays stubbornly pressurized, so swollen it aches and feels as though it’s going to explode.

“Get comfortable, little Ambus,” Lore murmurs into his audial, a parody of a lover’s caress in the way he tilts their cheeks together. “We get to have you all to ourselves all night.”

Dominus moans brokenly. His optics are unshuttered but he can’t see anything. He can’t feel anything but a rolling pulse of pain. Darkness creeps in at the edges of his awareness, and there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to escape.

It’s a small favor, he thinks, that they probably aren’t going to kill him.

But this.

He doesn’t know if he wants to survive it.

~

All is quiet and still in the House of Ambus. That, in itself, is not unusual.

Rewind can’t find Dominus. That’s the part which strikes him as odd. He’s the one who showed up late for their scheduled work shift. If anything, he expects Dominus to be standing outside his office, arms crossed, one foot tapping impatiently. He’ll have that firm glare, his mustache quivering, and Rewind should be in the middle of apologizing for his tardiness.

Dominus is not in his office. Odd. Because Dominus doesn’t know how to be anything but punctual. Late is not a word that has ever existed in his vocabulary.

Rewind knows there was a party last night. It’s no excuse. Dominus doesn’t overindulge and even if he had, he still won’t allow it to interfere with his work. Nothing is allowed to interfere. Not even… romance.

None of the servants have seen him. At least, none of the ones who would answer Rewind’s queries. Some still didn’t take too kindly to a disposable running around, much less a datastick. Without Dominus to ensure their polite behavior, they feel free to be rude.

The only place Dominus would be if not in his office would be his room. Perhaps he truly did sleep in. He could be sick, Rewind guesses. That might account for his lateness.

A weird something claws at Rewind’s backstrut. Especially when Dominus’ door comes into view. The panel glows a baleful red, like it’s been locked from the inside, which is unusual enough. But the lock itself looks to have been tampered with. There are scratch marks around the casing, and what even looks like a burn. What the frag is going on?

He immediately tries pinging Dominus, but he gets sent straight to the mail system. He’s told to leave a message. A direct ping gives him only static.

Rewind’s vents stall.

Dominus is the heir to the House Ambus. He’s a very valuable target, if one were so inclined. Rewind knows there are plenty who are inclined and have the funds to pull off such a thing.

He whirls and throws himself at Minimus’ door, pounding on it and pinging Dominus’ younger brother insistently. Minimus is like Dominus, an early riser. He should already be online. And he is, because he flings the door open, optics wide.

“Why are you making so much noise?” Minimus demands.

“Something’s wrong with Dominus. He’s not responding to my pings,” Rewind babbles. He makes a grab for Minimus’ arm, tries to drag him out of the room. “Look!” He points at Dominus’ tampered door panel.

Minimus’ face drains of color. “It did not look like that last night,” he says in a dark tone. He reaches for his comm, and his field goes sickly. “He’s not answering. All I’m getting is static.”

Rewind’s spark leaps into his intake. He can’t breathe.

He claws at Dominus’ door panel, trying to rip it off. “Call for help,” he demands as the panel starts to crack. “I’m going to see if I can’t get this door open.”

“Right. Right, of course.” Minimus stumbles, his back hitting the wall, and within seconds, alarms ring through Ambus Manor, loud enough to make Rewind’s audials crackle and his sensors go haywire.

He pries off the main panel and starts ripping out circuits, wiring, anything that might force the door to open. His fingers shake, his vents whirr. Minimus is pale and trembling behind him, his gaze locked on the door, his lips pressed together. He’s not being much help.

Rewind has a fistful of wires in his hand by the time security comes pounding around the corner. It’s Minimus who grabs him by the shoulder, pulls him out of the way of the three large mechs, built like tanks. They break down the door as if it’s made of tissue paper, and that’s when Rewind’s processor starts screaming. He gasps, drops to his knees, hears Minimus echo him, sway and hit the wall.

No, Rewind’s not the one screaming. Dominus is. He’s shouting for help, he’s begging for it, on all channels, on all frequencies. Rewind gasps as sparks fill his visor and his audials throb from the imagined decibels of it. His comms crackle and die, mercifully cutting off the agony, but he swears it’s still echoing in his processor.

“Dom…” he groans, and claws his way to his feet.

He staggers into the room, through the massive hole security left behind. The stench hits him then, that of overloads and lubricant and transfluid. Stale energon and despair. He sees the berth, and he sees Dominus on it, limp and unconscious. No, not just unconscious. He’s in stasis. His frame is covered in fluids, his face even more so. His optics are unshuttered but dim. He’s been tied down.

Minimus pushes past him, a strangled cry tearing from his throat. “Dominus!” He throws himself toward the berth before one of the security guards grab him by the midsection, pull him aside. He’s still reaching for his brother, face a mask of anguish, his field so ripe with it Rewind’s head spins.

Rewind staggers back against the wall, his spark squeezing into a tiny knot.

More members of the Ambus household stream into the room. One of them bears the distinct symbol of a medic. Termina Ambus arrives in their wake. A screech of horror still isn’t enough to shake Rewind from his stupor. Why? Who? How? Dominus is so limp, he’s so hurt, they’ve made a ruin of him.

“Oh, Dommy,” Rewind murmurs, sparksick to his very core. What have they done to him? And why?

The questions will haunt him forever, Rewind knows. Even as he prays to Primus Dominus comes out of this alive.

~

The steady beep of the sparkrate monitor is the only reassuring sound Minimus has to cling to right now.

Dominus vents only because of a machine, ensuring his system is cycling properly. His tanks are on an energon drip. He is a roadmap of dents and scrapes, and they’ve been too worried about saving his spark to pay much attention to the state of his paint. A forensics team had been here earlier, taking pictures and samples, but no one’s cleaned him yet. Minimus can’t stop counting the different paint transfers, the dents where fingers have gripped too tightly, the clumps of fluids still caught in his brother’s seams.

Minimus can’t take it any longer. He grabs a box of pre-moistened cloths and dabs carefully at his brother’s armor, wiping away the evidence of his assault. It’s too quiet in here, even with the ventilator and the sparkrate monitor, so he clicks on the vidscreen as well, something to run in the background. Anything to distract him from his thoughts.

“—begun an investigation of our own.”

The familiar voice cuts through Minimus’ musings, makes his spinal strut stiffen. He looks up at the vidscreen, where Termina Ambus is issuing a statement to the press.

“While we have utmost faith in the investigative forces of the Enforcers, there are few who will argue the Ambus family is not without its own talents. We will look into this matter vigorously, and rest assured, we will find the perpetrators responsible for this atrocity,” Termina says, face streaked with fury and voice menacingly calm. “An attack against the heir of the house of Ambus will not be tolerated. The assailants will face judgment. This is a matter of honor, of protecting my heir. The Ambus House will stand strong against this foe. Mark my words.”

The scene cuts away, back to the newsroom and the two reporters, who start discussing Termina’s announcement.

Minimus frowns and returns to wiping down Dominus. He wonders if Termina would have been so upset if it had been Minimus who was attacked. And then he berates himself for being so petty. Dominus is hurt. Minimus can’t resent him for it.

The door to the hospital room opens. Minimus startles and looks up, but it’s only Rewind. He’s clutching a datapad and despite his facemask, his expression is solemn. There’s something in the clamp of his armor, the firm grip on the datapad, that spills ill news.

“How is he?” Rewind asks as he moves to stand on the other side of the berth. His field is thick with concern, and his fingers tremble when he rests one hand on Dominus’ arm.

“Alive.” Minimus leans back, tucking the damp rag against Dominus’ hip, carefully around a few monitoring wires. “It’s just a matter of him waking up now.”

“How long will that take?”

Minimus cycles a ventilation. “That’s up to him.”

“Dom’s strong,” Rewind says. He strokes Dominus’ inner wrist. “He’ll wake up.”

“Of course.” Minimus pauses and looks at Rewind, who hasn’t looked up at him since, and who still clutches the datapad. “What’s wrong?”

Rewind sighs audibly and draws back from Dominus. “I got a ping from the darknet,” he says. “I’m going to send this to Termina but…”

A cold shock slashes through Dominus’ system. “What is it?”

“See for yourself. I warn you, though, it’s graphic.” Rewind offers him the datapad.

Minimus hesitates. How can he not? He may not be as deep in the interweb as Rewind and Dominus, but he knows what kinds of things circulate around the darknet.

“It’s already queued to play,” Rewind says softly.

Minimus braces himself. He grabs the datapad and turns the screen toward him. He sweeps away the screensaver, and sees a video on pause. It’s labeled “Ambus Heir is a Whore For It”.

Minimus’ tank churns. He presses play.

He recognizes Dominus’ room immediately. He recognizes his brother, tied down to the bed. Four mechs crowd around him, their paint obviously photoshopped and their faces fuzzed out, making identification difficult. Dominus is bound, gagged, but the terror in his optics is obvious. The video quality is almost professional.

There’s audio, too. Thankfully, Rewind has it muted. Minimus is glad for it. He doesn’t think he can bear to hear Dominus’ pain.

He flicks off the screen and offlines his optics, hiding the screen against his chest. “It–”

“It’s on every darksite, available for free download, and it’s only a matter of hours before people start making physical copies of it as well,” Rewind says. His vents shudder and he curls his fingers around Dominus’ hand. “And with his attack being public knowledge, everyone’s going to know the video is legitimate.”

Minimus steps back from the berth, clutching the datapad to his chassis. “I’ll—I’ll take this to Termina. You stay here with him.” He edges around the berth, his spark clenching with despair for his berth. “He’s going to need you.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Rewind hops into a chair and threads his fingers through Dominus’. “No matter what happens, I’m here for him.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Minimus’ smile is thin at best. “I’ll be back.”

He doesn’t flee from the room, but it’s a near thing. If only he’d checked on Dominus last night. If only he’d been more curious. If only he hadn’t let his own resentment get in the way. Maybe he could have done something, changed something.

It’s too late to change the past. But he can see if Termina needs any help tracking down these monsters.

There’s no better detective than an Ambus.

[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.

***

[IDW] Get Around This

The meditative lessons start out as an innocent, inoffensive hobby. A way to present himself as harmless to his new crew. He doesn’t expect much from it, and is pleasantly surprised when more than a handful show up to his first class.

Most don’t even snicker. Much.

Drift guides them through the easier of the poses, the moments of silence, and the meditative exercises. He hands out sample bags of incense and energy crystals and copies of his future schedule in case anyone wants to attend further lessons.

After a few months, someone asks him about instructional videos, for the busy mech who misses a lesson or two, or just wants to try it on his own. Drift figures it can’t hurt and tapes a few of the basics, plus a couple routines depending on the desired effect. He sells them, not that he needs the creds, and makes a tidy sum. He tucks his earnings away because he learned that lesson the hard way.

Then Huffer asks if Drift has any alternative remedies for his achy joints, and Drift teaches him a few things the residents of Crystal City taught him. Huffer blabs, as Huffer does, and the next thing Drift knows, he’s got a client list longer than his Great Sword. Every last one of them are interested in methods to treat their aches, pains, and maladies without relying on script chips or welds or replacements.

Or Ratchet’s scathing criticisms.

Ratchet doesn’t seem to mind that some of his patients have hared off to Drift’s unlicensed, alternative practice. Especially when all the whining, hungover mechs start banging on Drift’s door first thing in the morning instead of his.

Drift still refers the serious cases to Ratchet, an actual medic, but if someone wants to treat their rustmite infection with electrolysis instead of a stasis bath complete with Ratchet Lecture™, well, Drift lets them. It helps that they have no problem shoving handfuls of creds into his hands.

He hadn’t set out to be some kind of alternative solutions guru, but that’s what he’s become. His crew likes him better for it, and Drift admits he likes feeling less like the odd mech out, the once-Decepticon just waiting to snap.

The downside is time, or rather, his increased lack of it. With his duties as third in command, his burgeoning relationship with Rodimus, and now this unexpected business, something has to give. He’s taken on far more than he can fit into a schedule already packed to the brim.

It isn’t until Rodimus starts pouting that Drift realizes which of the three obligations he’s unconsciously deemed the ‘least important.’ And by then, he wonders if it might be too late.

~

It’s supposed to be a hobby. Something to pass the time and keep him from thinking about the past so much. Drift slides from one obsession to the next. It’s a thing that Drift does. Rodimus knows this.

He doesn’t expect Drift’s hobby to be anything more than that.

Until it suddenly becomes a Thing™. A Thing that takes Drift’s time and attention away from Rodimus, has him giving both to other members of the crew who aren’t Rodimus. Crew members who wouldn’t have given a damn about Drift before, and still wouldn’t now, except that Drift is suddenly useful and non-threatening.

Rodimus has spent so long urging Drift to put his past behind him, and now he’s having a hard time convincing Drift to even look at the future.

Or at least, a future that seems to have Rodimus in it.

There are only so many missed dates, forgotten moments, promises to return calls that aren’t actually returned, before a mech starts to get desperate.

And sitting here, blowing out candles as the special energon congeals into a sticky, unappetizing clump, Rodimus starts to feel desperate. This is the third time in a row Drift has stood him up, without so much as a comm or a message.

He’s not on shift, Rodimus checked. Which means someone has come to him with their idea of an emergency, and Drift hasn’t learned the meaning of the word ‘no’. Not when he’s trying so hard to get people to like him.

Rodimus growls out a sigh and shoves to his feet, denta grinding so hard he can taste the sparks on his glossa. He misses his lover. He misses laughing. He misses Drift, frag it.

He activates his comm, the anger broiling inside of him, and waits for Drift to pick up. He taps his feet, and switches his weight from one hip to the other, and gets sent to voicemail twice before Drift actually picks up. The gall!

“Rodimus, what’s wrong? Is it an emergency?”

Rodimus grinds his denta again. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” he demands and is proud of himself for managing not to snarl or hiss.

Drift chuckles, like Rodimus is calling to tease him or make a joke. “Of course I do. Why? Is your chronometer broken?”

“No, but yours must be!” Rodimus snaps, and throws his arms into the air, even though Drift can’t see it. “Dinner. Tonight. My place. Does that ring a fragging bell?”

Great. He’s already yelling. There goes his intention to address this in a calm, rational manner. Hah. Who’s he kidding? He’s past the point of being calm.

There’s a moment of silence before Drift hisses a ventilation. “Oh, frag. That was tonight? I’m sorry, Roddy. I had a late appointment and–”

“Save it,” Rodimus bites out, because he’s tired of this. Tired of the excuses and the apologies and the explanations.

Late appointments. It’s always a late appointment. Maybe one he shouldn’t have made in the first place given that they had a date!? One they set a week ago, no less, when Drift’s schedule finally had some room in it for Rodimus.

Drift sighs, sounds faintly irritated. “Look. I’m sorry, okay. I’ll make it up to you. Dinner tomorrow?”

This is starting to sound familiar. Rodimus feels like he can quote Drift’s answers by now, they’re so common. It’s always “I’ll make it up to you” until he forgets that date, too. And the one after that.

Rodimus can’t remember the last time he actually spent extended time with his so-called lover, time that wasn’t interrupted or longer than a stolen frag in a storage closet. It’s always one thing or another, and that one thing is never as important as Rodimus.

Hurt twinges in his spark. He shoves it down and buries it with anger.

“Don’t bother,” Rodimus snaps, and there goes the rest of his patience. “You won’t show up for that either.”

He ends the comm in the middle of Drift’s reply, his spark pounding in his chassis. Rodimus sends any further calls to his voicemail and slumps back into a chair, burying his face in his hands. What the frag is he supposed to do now?

How is he supposed to spend any time with Drift if Drift is always working? Rodimus gets it, he does. Drift is glad people aren’t cringing when he comes near now, and he’s glad they’re actually listening to him, and maybe people are still whispering, but it’s not half as bad as it used to be.

Rodimus gets it.

He’s still not happy about it.

He just wishes Drift would make a little time for Rodimus in his busy schedule.

Wait. Schedule.

Rodimus sits up straight. Maybe it’s time for something non-conventional, a little drastic even.

If Drift doesn’t have time for Rodimus because he’s so busy with his clients, Rodimus will just have to become a client, too. Drift will have to pay attention to him then.

Rodimus scurries over to his console, drops down in the chair, and powers up the main intranet. He spends a few minutes searching for Drift’s Alternative Medicine page, and finds the self-scheduler. He picks the first available slot tomorrow – Hound won’t mind covering for him, right? This is important.

Appointment set, Rodimus flops onto his berth. He might as well recharge since there’s no point in staying awake. Drift’s not coming tonight, and his dinner is ruined.

Tomorrow had better be a better day.

~

Tomorrow is not a better day.

Rodimus shows up for his appointment bright and early. Ultra Magnus would admire his timeliness, that’s how on-time he is. He sits in the chair placed outside the door of the room Drift had appropriated for his office and he waits, optics on his chronometer.

He grins and waves as a few mechs pass him in the hall, giving him confused, startled looks. Frag them. So what if Rodimus has to make an appointment to see his lover? Doesn’t everyone?

The door opens, and Huffer emerges, peering carefully at some instructions printed on plastifilm. He’s muttering to himself and doesn’t even notice Rodimus, too busy scowling at the small print.

“Next!”

Rodimus leaps up from the chair and strolls into Drift’s office, his spoiler at a jaunty tilt on his back. “Good morning!” he chirps.

Drift looks up from his datapad with a frown. “Rodimus, I have a client right now.”

“Yeah. I know. You’re looking at him.” Rodimus flops down on the ridiculously comfy sofa Drift had dragged in here, wriggling to get comfortable. Damn, he needs one of these for his quarters. Seriously.

Drift’s optics narrow. “You made an appointment?”

“How else am I going to see you?” Rodimus lounges across the sofa, stretching his arms over his head, trying to catch the angles of the light to highlight his newly waxed armor. “How does it go?”

He widens his grin and puts on his best, theatrical performance. “Doc, you gotta help me,” he pleads with a wink at Drift. “I’m feeling oh so lonely lately, and I just don’t know what to do.” He slides one hand down his frame and cups his array for emphasis.

He waits for Drift to laugh.

Drift doesn’t.

If anything, he glares at Rodimus, and there’s just a bit of Deadlock behind that glare. “What the frag do you think you’re doing?”

“Whining to you about my troubles. Isn’t that what everyone else does?” Rodimus sits up and slouches in the sofa, slinging his arms across the back of it and spreading his thighs. Can’t help but show off the goods, maybe that’ll entice his lover back.

A low growl emerges from Drift’s engine. “Everyone else has a legitimate reason for being here,” he bites out. “So why are you wasting my time?”

Wasting.

Rodimus mouths the words. Wasting.

He grinds his denta and grips the back of the sofa, feeling the plush fabric beneath his fingertips. “Wasting,” he repeats aloud. “I scheduled this time, you fragger. How can I be wasting it when I went through all the proper avenues and everything!?”

“Someone who actually needs to see me could have used this time, Roddy,” Drift retorts, sounding exasperated and irritated. His finials twitch, optics flashing, and yeah, he’s definitely edging toward Deadlock territory there.

Pfft. Rodimus isn’t afraid of that anymore. Especially not now. He’s too angry to be afraid. No, he’s past angry. He’s furious.

He loses the humor. The act. He frowns.

“Maybe if you actually showed up for a date once in a while, I wouldn’t have to resort to this,” Rodimus snaps.

Drift pinches the bridge of his nasal ridge. “I apologized for that.”

“I’m tired of apologies. They don’t mean anything anymore.” Rodimus chews on his bottom lip, aware that the last came out more of a whine. He hadn’t wanted to sound like a spoiled sparkling, but there he goes anyway.

Frag it.

“I just… damn it. What’s wrong with wanting to see you?” Rodimus demands. He snaps his knees back together and lowers his arms, drawing into himself. “You don’t have time for me anymore.”

Drift leans back in his chair, looking tired and old, like he’s Ratchet or something. He’s been playing this game so long, he’s even fooling himself, isn’t he?

“I have responsibilities,” Drift says. “You should understand that. You’re captain of this ship. You should be just as busy.”

Rodimus’ mouth drops open. Did Drift just… chastise him? For not doing his job?

For a moment, Rodimus has no words. All he can do is splutter, outrage mixing with anger and hurt cresting all of it, until the first thing he spits are words he shouldn’t have.

“Your real job is being third in command of this ship!” Rodimus jumps to his feet, agitation making his plating clamp and flare intermittently. “This stupid stuff is just a hobby! And these mechs you’re so dedicated to? They don’t care about you! All they care about is what you can do for them. They don’t even like you!”

He knows he shouldn’t have said it the moment the words leave his lips. The way the color drains from Drift’s face tells him that. As does the thin line of his mouth as his lips press together. Hurt flares in Drift’s field, before the rest of his emotions are dropped down behind a Decepticon-thick iron wall.

It’s all true. But he shouldn’t have said it. Not that way at least.

“Please leave,” Drift says, his tone tight, his fingers creaking where they grip a stylus. “I have another client soon, and I have to prepare for them.”

“Fine,” Rodimus says, because he’s in too deep so he might as well keep going. His optics are hot, and he simultaneously wants to spill apologies and scream that it’s not his fault, that if Drift only paid him some attention, they wouldn’t be here. “I won’t come back either.”

He storms out, the door rattling open and shut as if obeying his sudden urgency to be far away from Drift. He’s in such a hurry, he nearly collides with Recurve, who’s loitering in the hallway for some reason. It’s not like he has an appointment. Recurve’s not one to believe in that alternative stuff.

“Whoa there,” Recurve says with a laugh as Rodimus brushes past him and stomps down the hall. “What’s the matter with you? Usually mechs walk out of Drift’s office looking like they just won the lottery.”

“Frag off!” Rodimus snarls. And then he can hear Ultra Magnus’ chastisement at the back of his processor.

Captains are polite, Rodimus. Captains respect their crew, Rodimus. Captains don’t use vulgar language, Rodimus. Captains don’t storm down the halls, Rodimus.

Argh.

Rodimus heads straight for Swerve’s. This time of the shift, it’s probably deserted, but it’s not like he wants company. He just wants to drink and bleed off his misery into some high grade.

He grabs the first available seat at the bar, and Swerve wordlessly puts his preferred drink in front of him, maybe scared off by the fury in Rodimus’ field. Usually the little chatterbox has something to say, but not this time. Instead he flounces down to the other end of the bar to flirt (hopelessly) with Skids.

Rodimus sucks down his first drink faster than is wise. Swerve refills it without a word and leaves him to his misery. This one, Rodimus drinks a little slower, the heat in his belly practically ice compared to the heat of anger in his lines. Drift’s words keep echoing in his head, and every time the shame of snapping at Drift crops up, he viciously shoots it down with hurt.

Behind him, the group of mechs at a table laugh. They’re getting louder and louder, and Rodimus has been mostly ignoring them, until he catches a bit of their conversation.

“–seen the way he can bend? Now that’s a racecar I want to ride,” one of them says.

Rodimus’ optics narrow. He half-turns, just enough to see over his shoulder, trying to match face to name.

“Ought to be a law against looking that good,” another one says with a coarse laugh. “Though I hear part of that’s his rebuild in Crystal City. They make ‘em pretty there.”

“You’d have to be pretty, I guess, to survive in the Decepticons,” Idiot Number One comments with a leer. He licks his lips.

Rodimus stiffens. He knows exactly who they’re talking about. Drift, of course. He’s sexy, Rodimus knows that. He’s got a pretty build and a reputation for being easy, not that he is, but rumors like that die hard.

“I spent nearly all my money buying a copy of every volume of those vids,” Idiot Number Two says. He smirks and waggles his orbital ridges. “Best inspirational creds ever.”

“You gotta let me borrow them.”

“Get your own service mags!”

“Well, they’re not wrong,” Swerve says from behind Rodimus, sweeping up his second empty cup with a little laugh. “Get you another, captain? Or maybe you’re after one of those vids they’re talking about, eh? Or aren’t you getting the private show?”

Rodimus snarls and shoots to his feet, the stool clattering as it tips over behind him. “That’s none of your business,” he snaps. “And Drift’s not some… some… some buymech you can all ogle as you please. So just stop it!”

He whirls on a heelstrut and stomps out of Swerve’s. The light buzz from his high grade is gone, burned from his outrage, and what little solace he’d found is gone, too. He’s still angry, now at Drift, now at his crew, now at everything. He doesn’t want to go back to his quarters to sulk, but he doesn’t know what else to do?

How is he supposed to fix things?

This is all Drift’s fault. Drift and his stupid Alternative Medicine nonsense, which is, by the way, illegal and unlicensed. How the frag hasn’t Ultra Magnus shut it down already? Why hasn’t Ratchet?

Wait.

Rodimus skids to a halt in the middle of the corridor and changes direction. Ratchet. If there’s anyone who can get Drift to see reason, it’s Ratchet. Drift’s got a weird deference to Ratchet sometimes, like he thinks of Ratchet as some kind of mentor he doesn’t want to disappoint.

Rodimus doesn’t know the full story behind that. There are still some parts of himself that Drift likes to keep, well, to himself. He’s so close-mouthed! It makes it hard to figure out what he’s thinking. He keeps laughing things off with a smile, like Rodimus can’t tell how much he’s hurting behind it all.

Fragger.

Rodimus seethes as he stomps toward the medbay, ignoring others in the hallway as he passes them. Ultra Magnus would probably chastise him for that, too. He should be friendlier. He should keep his emotions in check. He should be polite. Captain’s don’t stomp, Rodimus.

Nag, nag, nag.

The main entrance to the medbay gives a cheerful chime as Rodimus steps through it. He doesn’t see First Aid anywhere, but he spies Ratchet in his office, perched behind his desk and looking, for all the universe, as though he’s napping. Must be a slow day. No idiots Lobbing in the halls or playing catch with live grenades.

Not that, you know, Rodimus is guilty of either of those or anything.

Rodimus charges through the open door without so much as a by your leave and drops down in the empty chair across from Ratchet’s desk. He makes a very loud huff, stomping his feet on the floor as he does so.

One of Ratchet’s optics online, the other remains dim. It’s kind of creepy. “Strange. You don’t look injured or bleeding,” he says.

Rodimus snorts. “Not on the outside.” He jabs an elbow on the arm of the chair and sets his chin on his knuckles.

Both of Ratchet’s optics online, and he straightens with a languid, creaky stretch. “Trouble in paradise, I presume?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Rodimus mutters and kicks out petulantly. “Do me a favor and exert your authority as Chief Medical Officer. Make Drift shut down his little alternative medicine business.”

Ratchet arches his orbital ridge. “And why would I want to do that?”

“Because I’m the captain, and I told you to.”

It’s Ratchet’s turn to snort. “Right. Because I’m known for obeying your commands without question.” He sags back into his chair with the sort of tired slump of the old and rusting. One hand gives an arrhythmic rap of his fingers. “Besides, what makes you think he’s going to listen to me anyway?”

“He looks up to you,” Rodimus says. “He’ll listen to you.”

Ratchet gives him a long look. “Right.” He rolls his optics and his shoulders both. “We both know that isn’t going to happen. Tough break, kid. It just isn’t up to me.”

“But–”

“Nope!” Ratchet holds up both his hands in a gesture of full-stop. “I’m staying out of this. You want his attention, then talk to him. Don’t come to me.”

Rodimus’ engine revs. “I did talk to him.”

“Actual talking, Rodimus.”

“I used words!” Sure, they were angry words, but they were still words. It’s not his fault Drift doesn’t want to listen to him or pay him any attention.

Ratchet groans and scrubs a palm down his face. He’s got the look he gets when handfuls of the crew show up in his office, hungover and begging for a cure. “Look, Rodimus, I have work to do.”

Rodimus scoffs. “Like what? Another nap?”

Ratchet glares at him through his fingers. “Don’t you have some meteor surfing to do?”

Ah. Point taken. As angry as Rodimus is, it won’t do any good to take it out on Ratchet. If the medic doesn’t want to help, Rodimus can’t make him. Best to retreat while he still can.

“Fine.” Rodimus lurches to his feet and sets his jaw. “I’m going.” He whirls around and stalks out, feeling no more enlightened then when he’d first arrived looking for answers.

There’s no help to be found anywhere.

Rodimus sighs and cycles several ventilations. He doesn’t want to go back to his empty quarters, where the echoes of another failed date still hang in the air. He’s not going to try and comm Drift, that’s pointless. He’s not really interested in company either.

He’s just… just.

Might as well go relieve Hound and finish the rest of his shift. He doesn’t have anything better to do other than his job, and if Drift is going to chastise him about his responsibilities, Rodimus can at least prove that he knows how important they are.

Spoiler drooping, Rodimus trudges toward the bridge.

What a slag-poor excuse for a day.

~

Anger does not make for a calm state of mind. And someone in an aggravated state does not tend to offer intelligent and useful advice.

Drift uses the last of the time from Rodimus’ appointment to meditate, cycling through multiple ventilations, all in an attempt to clear his processor. His irritation with Rodimus is like a horde of miniscraplets nesting under his armor. He wants to shout about it, or pace, but he can’t, because he has another client with another issue to be solved.

This is important, Drift tells himself as he gestures Sidestep inside and tells him to take a seat. The crew doesn’t flinch at him anymore. They actually obey his instructions because he asked and not because they’re too scared not to. This is as important to them as it’s important to him.

Frag Rodimus if he doesn’t understand that.

Except, well, Rodimus has a bit of a point. Yes, Drift has missed a few dates. Not as many as Rodimus claims, but Drift does realize that his relationship with Rodimus has been set on the backburner. There’s only so much time in a day. Drift can only stretch himself so far.

Rodimus has no right to intrude on his time like that!

Drift seethes throughout his entire appointment with Sidestep, and it takes all he has to show Sidestep a friendly, calm face. He ends the meeting early because he can’t concentrate and promptly sends to a message to the next client on his list to reschedule for another time. He’s no good to anyone like this, especially not himself.

He sits behind his desk and rubs his forehead, feeling an ache building behind his optics. Fighting with Rodimus is nothing new. He can be quite temperamental sometimes. Bossy and pushy, too. But this is different.

Maybe because he feels a little bit guilty.

Drift sighs and leans back in the chair.

His comm chirps. He expects it to be Rodimus, but the ident tag reads Ratchet. Which probably means it’s about Rodimus. Because of course.

Drift pinches the bridge of his nose. “What did he do now?” he asks in lieu of a greeting. No need to make small talk. They’re both too busy for that.

“Asked me for something he’s not going to get,” Ratchet replies, sounding tired and craggy, like he’s not getting enough recharge again. “Though I’m thinking you’re not completely innocent here, Dr. Drift.”

Drift twitches. He’s not called himself a medic by any means. He hasn’t earned that title, but some of his clients have been using it as a joke. “Ratchet…”

“So you haven’t missed any dates with Rodimus?”

Ah. Well, he should have known Rodimus would tattle. But come on. He’d apologized for that! What more does Rodimus want?

Ratchet sighs into the comm. “That’s what I thought,” he grumbles, and Drift can practically see the scowl on his face. “Look, kid–”

“I’m older than you,” Drift reminds him.

“Shut up and listen,” Ratchet retorts, which is his way of saying ‘don’t remind me!’. “If you don’t want to be with Rodimus, you need to tell him.”

Drift flinches. His spark squeezes into a tight ball at the mere thought of it. Rodimus gone? That’s not what he wants at all.

“That’s not it,” Drift protests, and tries to tack on an answer, too. But he can’t figure out the proper words. It’s hard to explain.

Ratchet snorts. “Well, from where I’m standing, I can’t tell. Neither can he. So either make some time for him or cut him loose.”

Drift scrubs harder at his forehead. “Ratchet, I’m busy. You know that. You should understand it. I can’t just–”

“Yes, you can, and you know it,” Ratchet cuts him off, his tone heavy with reproach. Drift flinches like he’s been chastised. “Find time for Rodimus or end it, because right now, it’s not working. You need to remember what’s actually important.”

Drift sighs and sags in his chair, half-wishing he could dissolve straight through to the floor and down to the other side. “I don’t want to end it,” he mutters.

“Then find a way to prove otherwise.”

Ratchet ends the call with as much audible irritation as one can manage over a comm. Drift’s processor rings as he shuts off the line. He scrubs a hand down his face, considering Ratchet’s words.

He knows the medic is right. As much as he hadn’t wanted to admit it himself. He can’t keep dropping Rodimus to the bottom of his priority list. Or he’ll lose the one thing he can’t be happy without.

Drift scrubs his face with his hands. He has to do something.

He taps into his online schedule and blocks off the appointments for the rest of the day, and for tomorrow as well. This, right now, is far more important.

~

Hound had been delighted to return to his off-shift. So Rodimus works and tries not to think about everything else. He turns his attention to the ridiculously long list of tasks Ultra Magnus has for him, and attends to quite a few of them: inspections, paperwork, performance evaluations, stock capacity, everything the captain of a vessel should be responsible for.

His shift ends, Ultra Magnus takes over and smiles big and broad when Rodimus hands him a list of all the things he actually did today. If Ultra Magnus could swoon, he’s certainly doing it now, his entire energy field alight from happiness.

He’s so weird sometimes.

Uninterested in returning to his quarters just yet, Rodimus detours to his office and starts to tackle the stack of datapads on his desk. Maybe he’ll earn himself another Ultra Magnus Smile of Appreciation™ for his efforts.

That makes it worth it a little. At least he can do this right.

It’s late when he finally decides to go back to his habsuite. He’s tired, but at least his anger has burnt out into a dull ache of disappointment. There’s no point in getting angry, he realizes. It’s not going to get him anywhere.

Drift is probably right anyway. Rodimus has no business demanding Drift’s time like that. If Drift doesn’t want to make time for him, well, maybe that’s a sign. Maybe Rodimus is the only one invested in this. Maybe this is Drift’s way of letting Rodimus know that it’s over.

A sharp pang rips through Rodimus’ spark. His spoiler droops. He hopes he’s wrong, but given the way Drift has been lately, he dreads that he’s right.

Rodimus sighs and keys himself into his habsuite, lacking a distinct pep in his step. He slips inside, the door sliding shut behind him, and a smoky, tangy scent floats to his olfactory sensors. Rodimus blinks and looks up.

His habsuite is dimly lit, the lights at maybe twenty percent. But there are candles everywhere, their pretend flames flickering in the still air. There’s a light, smoky haze – like that caused by incense, and music is playing from his sound system. Soft music, something without words, and not something Rodimus would have in his own collection.

What in Primus’ name…?

Rodimus eases further into the room and spies a tray of goodies sitting on the desk of his workstation. There are all his favorites, and piles of them, too. His mouth lubricates.

“Welcome home.”

Rodimus startles and slowly turns to see Drift sliding off the bed, a small smile on his lips, empty sheaths clanking at his side. He has his hands clasped behind his back, his head dipped a little.

“This is the part where I say I’m sorry,” Drift continues as Rodimus stares at him, unsure if he’s believing his optics, or if he’s fallen asleep at his desk again, dreaming about the things he misses. “You don’t belong at the bottom of my priority list. You should be at the top. I let myself forget that.”

Rodimus works his intake. He turns in a slow circle, taking in the beautiful set-up all over again. It’s like a date. A really romantic date.

“This is… for me?” he asks, his spark doing that pulse again, and this time, it’s more like hope.

Drift chuckles. “Yeah. It’s for you.” His optics soften as he looks at Rodimus, and there it is, what Rodimus has been missing. “I missed so many dates. So I figured I should start making up for it now.”

Rodimus stares at him for a long moment, emotion bursting in his spark, before his feet carrying him to Drift without conscious decision. He throws his arms over Drift’s shoulders, slamming their mouths together, a soft sigh escaping him as Drift’s arms return the embrace, holding him close.

Their nasal ridges bump, but it takes only a few seconds to find the familiar rhythm, and their mouths slot together. Drift tastes sweet, like he sampled the treats he brought, and his frame is so warm against Rodimus’. His field flirts against Rodimus’ own like a secondary embrace.

Damn, but Rodimus missed this.

“This is good,” Rodimus says as he breaks away from the kiss, pressing his forehead to Drift’s. “It’s a good start, I mean. You owe me a lot more.”

“I know.” Drift’s arms tighten around him, their chestplates pressed so close Rodimus can feel the twirl and dance of Drift’s spark. “And I’m sorry.”

Rodimus rests his head on Drift’s shoulder, soaking in their proximity. “Yeah, I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have said that.” Even if it is true.

“Well, you weren’t wrong.” Drift pulls back, one arm sliding free so that his hand cups Rodimus’ face. “So I thought I might spoil you. As an apology.”

“Really?” Rodimus’ spoiler flicks up. “What kind of spoiling?”

“The best kind.” Drift brushes their noses together before he draws back and tangles their hands together, towing Rodimus toward the couch. “We can watch a movie together. And you get to pick.”

Rodimus laughs as he bounces on the sofa after a gentle push from Drift. Armfuls of pillows have been gathered here, and Rodimus sinks into them with a happy wiggle. Drift joins him after grabbing the tray of treats and the remote for the entertainment console.

“How about a romantic comedy?” Rodimus asks as he snuggles into Drift’s side.

“I knew it.” Drift curls an arm over Rodimus’ shoulder, tucking him close.

Okay, so he’s predictable. So what. He’s supposed to be getting spoiled, right? And this right here is pretty close to perfect. He’s got Drift all to himself, and the room is all dim and cozy, and Drift picks one of his favorite movies without even asking.

Drift sets the remote aside and balances the tray between them, propped up on one of the pillows. He selects one of the glazed cakes from the stack and holds it up against Rodimus’ lips.

“Try this one first,” he says, and Rodimus opens his mouth, lets Drift feed him the sweet treat. His lips linger on Drift’s fingers, glossa swiping away the crumbs and sticky residue of glaze.

The treat is delicious, but better is that Drift continues to feed him, all during the movie. One hand guides treat after treat to Rodimus’ lips, while the other strokes his shoulder and his arm and the edges of his spoiler, anything within reach really. Rodimus’ engine purrs with satisfaction.

The rest of his anger vanishes under a tide of gentle touches and delicious candies. Drift’s field is so firmly wrapped around his, he can’t remember he ever felt abandoned.

He laughs when Drift misses his mouth, getting some of the magnesium powder on his nose.

“Oops.” Drift doesn’t sound very apologetic, not as he leans in and licks the dab of powder away. “My mistake.”

Rodimus chuckles and surges up, stealing Drift’s lips, tasting the sweets on his glossa. He forgets about the movie as he deepens the kiss, his engine purring and heat seeping into his lines. It’s not so much arousal as it is… comfort. Affection. He wants to lie here and enjoy this, closeness and kissing.

It’s different. It’s kind of nice. It doesn’t always have to be about interfacing. That’s just a charming bonus.

“Don’t ignore me again, okay?” Rodimus asks as he nuzzles Drift, his spark warm and full to bursting. He snuggles in against Drift, barely noticing that the movie’s end credits have started to play.

Drift sinks into the couch, dragging Rodimus with him. His hands stroke long patterns down Rodimus’ back and over his shoulder, and Rodimus’ frame relaxes into the gentle touches. It feels so good.

“I won’t,” Drift replies, tilting his head back against Rodimus’ with a soft sigh. “But Roddy, I’m not going to close down either. I like what I’m doing and–”

“I don’t want you to.” Rodimus offlines his optics and rests his head on Drift’s chestplate, listening to the pulse of his spark. It’s easier to be honest when he doesn’t have to look into Drift’s optics. “It’s okay. Really. I understand why you’re doing it. I just want you to make time for me, too.”

“I can do that,” Drift murmurs, his fingers tracking a slow, careful path down Rodimus’ spinal strut, like he’s trying to memorize every ridge and seam.

Rodimus hums his approval. He wriggles, notching himself even more firmly on top of Drift. He counts the beats of Drift’s spark, and listens as the movie’s end credits fade into nothing. He might fall into recharge just like this, his tank full, his frame relaxed, his field embraced.

It’s perfect.

[G1] Feels Like Tonight

Peace and quiet are forever in short supply around the Ark. There’s always something going on, and there’s barely any space as it is, so trying to find an opportunity to be alone is as difficult as keeping his paint immaculate.

Luck, however, is on Sunstreaker’s side. Because Sideswipe is off doing something he’s being particularly secretive about, and Sunstreaker has their shared quarters all to himself. There’s no one in the rooms to either side of theirs, and most of the other Autobots are out doing chores or performing their duties or indulging in their hobbies.

It’s nice and quiet and perfect, and Sunstreaker vents a little sigh as he sinks into the plush couch he and Sideswipe built out of scrap. He mindlessly doodles on one of his sketch pads, nothing in particular, just vague lines and colors to keep his fingers occupied while his processor wanders. He’s got the stereo crooning a soft, wordless tune, and the day honestly couldn’t get any more perfect.

Which is why, of course, the door slides open with a rickety creak, and Sideswipe comes strolling inside, having the audacity to whistle. He’s grinning, a bounce in his step, and while a happy Sideswipe is a handsome Sideswipe, Sunstreaker is disappointed his solitude has come to an end.

There’s something in Sideswipe’s field, in his side of the bond carefully shielded from Sunstreaker, that speaks of mischief. Well, Sunstreaker wants no part of mischief today, thank you very much. He prepares a refusal and has it ready on the tip of his glossa.

Sideswipe hums a happy trio of notes when he spots Sunstreaker and grabs one of the chairs they usually have in front of the game station. He drags it closer, two of the legs scraping over the floor, and plants it in front of Sunstreaker. Backward, of course, because this is Sideswipe.

Sunstreaker’s hackles raise.

“Hey, Sunny?” Sideswipe prompts as he drops down into the chair and rests his arms across the back of it, plopping his chin down on his wrists.

Sunstreaker’s in enough of a good mood that he allows the nickname. Just this once. Though the mischief in Sideswipe’s actions threatens to sour his happiness and curdle it into irritation.

“Hm?”

“You know I love you, right?” Sideswipe says conversationally, and there’s just enough of something in his tone to disprove his innocence.

Sunstreaker scowls. Sometimes, Sideswipe says those kinds of things because he thinks Sunstreaker needs to hear it, and sometimes, Sunstreaker does. It warms his spark and makes him tingly, and then all he wants to do is snuggle Sideswipe for a few hours.

But also, sometimes Sideswipe says it because he’s Up To Something ™ and he’s trying to connive Sunstreaker into playing along. Sunstreaker usually ends up agreeing because he can never resist Sideswipe when he’s being cute and charming and lovable.

“I don’t have time for a prank, Sideswipe,” Sunstreaker says.

“I’m being serious here,” Sideswipe insists, attempting to sound earnest.

It still sounds fake.

Sunstreaker snorts. “Right.” He turns his attention back to his random doodles. You know, there might be something to the geometric lines and empty space. Perhaps if he filled it in with color, it might be worthwhile.

Fingers close around the top of his sketchpad, tilting it down and forcing Sunstreaker’s gaze away from it. “Hey,” he repeats. “I love you.” This time, he manages to sound serious.

Sunstreaker looks at his twin, and Sideswipe looks serious, too. The smile on his lips is soft and genuine. The mischief in his field is gone. So this isn’t about a prank.

“And there’s nothing you could want from me that’ll change that,” Sideswipe adds, so earnest it bleeds from his seams.

Sunstreaker’s optics narrow even as his spark starts a weird off-beat rhythm in his chassis. There’s something going on here, and he’s not sure what it is. He’s also not sure he wants to know.

“Where are you going with this?”

Sideswipe’s fingers slide free of the datapad. He grips the back of the chair and starts to rock back and forth in it. “Me and Ratchet both,” he says cryptically. Sometimes he can take forever to get to a point. Especially if he thinks Sunstreaker is going to react poorly to it. “You can ask us anything.”

“Okay…” Sunstreaker peers at his twin, but can’t figure out what he’s trying to say. Still, he supposes it’s nice to know. Maybe Sideswipe is just in one of those moods where he thinks Sunstreaker needs a reminder about how he feels. Sides just knows these things sometimes. Even before Sunstreaker does.

“Right.” Sideswipe nods like he’s solved some kind of puzzle before one hand scrubs the back of his head. “So, uh, is there anything you want to ask? Me? Us? Together?”

Sunstreaker vents a sigh. Whatever this is, Sideswipe isn’t going to let this go anytime soon, which means the quicker Sunstreaker makes him talk, the quicker he can get back to sketching.

He taps the end of his stylus against the datapad. “Stop fishing and say what you mean, Sideswipe,” he says. “Because I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He’d been enjoying his rare peace and quiet.

Sideswipe drags in a big vent and then blurts out, “Kink!” before he rocks on his chair and his little smile turns into a broader grin. “Specifically a messy one you’re interested in. Not that I peeked or anything, but the last couple of times we merged, I got a whiff, and it keeps getting stronger.”

Heat floods Sunstreaker’s face. If Sideswipe caught on through one of their merges, it must have been one of Sunstreaker’s stronger and more frequent fantasies. The ones he buries deep specifically so his brother and their lover don’t find out. Sunstreaker doesn’t even know if he’s ready to admit them to himself, much less his partners.

He’s afraid of what they’ll say when they find out. He fears what it means about him to admit these… these odd kinks. Oh sure, Ratchet and Sideswipe claim he can ask for anything, but they can’t mean it. Once they find out all the dirty, twisted things occupying Sunstreaker’s fantasies, they’ll change their minds fast. They’ll change how they feel about him, too. They’ll see him for the depraved creature he is.

Sunstreaker frantically searches for a way out of this. He tries to think of a denial – which never works when one of your lovers is the other half of your spark. He tries to think of a misdirection, but he’s spent too much time thinking to brush it off. He’s caught, he knows he is, and the energon in his tank starts to curdle.

Sideswipe rubs the back of his head again. “I told Ratch, by the way, and we’ve been waiting for you to bring it up yourself but…” Sideswipe shrugs, his grin sheepish. “You haven’t.”

“Your point?” Sunstreaker asks, his mouth dry and his intake overtaken by a huge lump.

“We’re willing.” The chair rocks closer, and the touch of Sideswipe’s field to his is both cautious and gentle. “If it’s something you actually want, I mean.”

Which fantasy, Sunstreaker wonders. Which illicit desire had Sideswipe seen? Surely, not the darkest of them, the dirtiest. No way would Sideswipe be that eager.

Sideswipe’s voice drops into a lower register then, one that always makes something tighten inside Sunstreaker and bloom with heat. “We thought, you know, we’d tie you down, maybe get out that vibe you like.” He pauses, glossa sweeping over his lips. “Then we’d go until you were so wet, so covered in us, that you can’t even remember your name.”

Sunstreaker’s ventilations turn shallow. His optics spiral wider as the heat in his face turns into an inferno. He thinks he knows which fantasy Sideswipe saw, and it’s definitely one of the tamer ones, which is a relief. He licks his lips with a dry glossa, however, because now the possibilities are spinning inside of him.

“Does that sound like something you want?” Sideswipe asks, so close now Sunstreaker can feel the wisp of his ex-vents, like hot puffs against his armor.

“Yes,” Sunstreaker manages, through static and a tight intake, fantasies spiraling free inside of him, the idea of so much pleasure racing through his system.

“Awesome!” Sideswipe bounces up from the chair, as full of energy as ever, and brushes his lips over Sunstreaker’s forehead. “Then don’t worry about a thing, bro. Me and Ratch’ll take care of everything.”

Sideswipe’s field is a tickling caress pouring over Sunstreaker’s sensitive derma. “Ratchet and I,” he corrects, but it sounds distant to him, compared to the pounding in his audials.

Ratchet and Sideswipe both. Taking him. Filling him with transfluid. Using him. Over and over and over…

Sideswipe snorts and taps Sunstreaker’s nasal ridge. “You’re adorable,” he says, and with a wiggle of his fingers, strides toward the door. “See you tonight!”

With that, Sideswipe flounces out of the room, leaving Sunstreaker to stew in his arousal and anticipation. No doubt he’s gone to inform Ratchet of their plans for the evening, and all Sunstreaker can do is stare blankly at his doodles. His engine purrs at the mere thought of what his twin has in store for him.

He’s beyond thrilled that they are willing to indulge in one of his fantasies. And it’s a relief Sideswipe hadn’t stumbled into one of the weirder ones. Clearly, he needs to batten the hatches and firm up his firewalls if he’s going to keep those fantasies from his brother. At least until Sunstreaker is willing to admit them anyway.

Tonight is going to be great, Sunstraeker tells himself, and puts down the datapad. He has to be presentable. Which means it’s time for a deep wash, repaint, and wax. His lovers deserve the best from him.

~

In between wax layer three and the final layer, Sunstreaker’s comm pings him with an incoming message. He accepts the mail as he works on his right shinguard, smoothing the wax over and over into his armor until it is a lustrous, touchable gold.

There’s not much to it. The message is from Sideswipe and all it gives it a place – Ratchet’s quarters – and a time. Sunstreaker has an hour to finish his waxing and grab a cube to refuel before he’s supposed to show up.

He’s simultaneously giddy and nervous when the time arrives, and he stands outside the door, shifting from foot to foot. He doesn’t even have to knock because Sideswipe opens the door before he can lift his hand. Spark bonds are a convenient thing.

Sideswipe grins and snatches Sunstreaker, yanking him into the room and into a fierce kiss that tastes of solar-grade and sweet jellies. Sunstreaker stumbles against his twin, hands flailing at nothing, even as he relents, mouth opening to the hungry press of Sideswipe’s glossa. Sunstreaker moans, melting against his twin, optics half-shuttering, only barely registering the noise of the door sliding shut behind him.

Sideswipe’s hands caress his sides before he pulls out of the kiss with a light nip. “Hey, bro,” he says, brushing the tip of his nasal ridge against Sunstreaker’s. “Fancy meeting you here.”

Sunstreaker barks a laugh. Primus, his brother is an idiot. He loves the goof so much.

Movement in his periphery makes Sunstreaker tense, until his threat protocols recognize the blur of white and red paint.

“Welcome to the party,” Ratchet says.

Sunstreaker has a moment before he’s spun out of Sideswipe’s embrace and into Ratchet’s, the medic sealing his lips over Sunstreaker’s in a scorching kiss, taking and claiming all at once.

Sunstreaker outright whimpers, clutching at Ratchet’s shoulders, arousal pooling into a hot throb in his belly. Ratchet’s field is like a dozen tiny fingers stroking over his armor, and Sunstreaker’s spike throbs.

Glossa and denta taste him all at once before Ratchet sets him free. Sunstreaker staggers, like he can’t get his tires beneath him, and then Sideswipe is there, hands on Sunstreaker’s cheeks, tugging him into another delicious kiss. His lips are warm and tender, and more heat seeps into Sunstreaker’s frame.

He sags, knees wobbling, until Ratchet is there behind him, nuzzling the back of his head, hands stroking over his armor. His fingers are light on Sunstreaker’s seams, his palms a soft sweep against gold plating.

Sunstreaker moans, dizzy. He hadn’t expected this. He thought they’d get right to the kink and the fragging. But this feels like they’ve been waiting for him all day and are happy to see him. Like their day isn’t complete until he’s been in their arms.

It’s wonderful.

“You look gorgeous, Sunstreaker,” Ratchet murmurs against the back of his audial, his rough voice resonating through Sunstreaker’s processor.

Sunstreaker hums into the kiss. Sideswipe draws back, leaving little parting licks over Sunstreaker’s lips, grinning with pride at himself.

“You definitely do,” he says, and brushes the tips of their noses together. “Love it when you pretty yourself up for us.”

“I always look good,” Sunstreaker retorts, but it’s hard to hold on to his indignant tone when Sideswipe is looking at him like that. His face heats, and he looks away. “So, uh, now what?”

Ratchet draws away from behind him, leaving Sunstreaker’s back chilly, but only so he can step into view. He twirls something around his fingers, which Sunstreaker can’t identify until they settle with a clank of metal on metal.

“Now we use these, if you want,” he says with a smile wicked enough to rival Sideswipe’s.

His twin can get quite creative, but Ratchet is downright sneaky, and damn good at turning Sideswipe’s little prompts into something debauched and delicious.

Sunstreaker eyes the cuffs with nothing short of lust. If anyone else had suggested it, he’d be out the door in a flash. But he trusts Ratchet, and he definitely trusts Sideswipe, and the idea of putting his trust in their hands, letting them have their wicked way with him, it makes his engine rev.

He manages a nod, his optics glazing over as he imagines what all they’re going to do to him. He has so many fantasies, so many things he wants to experience. He feels like someone’s laid out a buffet of sweets in front of him and told him to have as much as he wants.

“I thought you might,” Ratchet murmurs and takes Sunstreaker’s hand, giving him a light pull toward the berth. “Want to be on your back or your front?”

Ratchet always asks. Every time. Like he knows he needs to. Sideswipe knows, of course, because he can sense the anxiety in Sunstreaker’s spark. But Ratchet has figured it out, and that he’s paid that much attention makes something inside Sunstreaker go warm and liquid.

“Back,” Sunstreaker answers. He wants to be able to see them, to watch their faces.

“Great choice, bro.” Sideswipe appears with another set of cuffs and a few loops of chain. “Now we can see everything, too.”

Heat makes Sunstreaker feel like his face is glowing, but he lets them arrange him on the berth, arousal growing heavier and heavier inside of him. His spike demands to be freed, even as his valve lubricates, fluid pooling against his panel. He waits for the plan and denies both requests.

They guide him onto his back and cuff his wrists, pinning his arms above his head. He’s got enough slack that he could get some inertia and break free if he wants, not that he does. The consideration, however, is welcome.

Sideswipe climbs on the berth, kisses him long and deep, making little noises of delight in his intake. He strokes over Sunstreaker’s belly, teasing into ticklish seams, and Sunstreaker squirms. Idiot. Sideswipe’s always like this.

Ratchet tugs Sunstreaker’s aft to the edge of the berth, his knees dangling freely, until cuffs clamp about his ankles. Sideswipe takes the chance to nuzzle into Sunstreaker’s intake, lips and denta leaving sharp nips that make Sunstreaker squirm. He hears a noise, a low and quiet drone, and realize that it’s him, moaning.

He feels dizzy, their fields pressing against his, filling in the nooks and crannies. It’s more than he could have hoped for.

Chains rattle as they are drawn taut. His legs are pulled open, thighs parted to leave ample room for Sideswipe or Ratchet to fit between them, but there’s enough slack he’s not immobile. He’s spread open for their enjoyment, and his valve throbs at the thought.

Sunstreaker works his intake, his vents spinning faster. Especially as Sideswipe sits him up and wedges a pillow behind his upper back, tilting him so that he can see everything they’re going to do to him.

Ratchet presses a kiss to the inside of his thigh, and Sunstreaker moans. His legs tremble as the hot wash of Ratchet’s ex-vent teases his cables. Fingers flirt over his valve panel, and it takes all Sunstreaker has not to pop open then and there. Anticipation coils inside of him like a blaster prepped to fire.

“There’s one more accessory.” Ratchet straightens, one hand stroking Sunstreaker’s thigh as the other digs around in his subspace. He pulls out a small, circular object and taps Sunstreaker’s spike panel. “This is to make sure that the only way you can overload is through your valve. That okay?”

Sunstreaker’s moan is outright guttural. His hips jutter upward as best they can, though he can’t get any leverage. Oh, yes, please.

“Words, Sunny,” Ratchet reminds him.

Sunstreaker sucks in a heavy vent, tries to focus through the need sluicing charge in his lines. “Yes,” he grinds out and turns his head toward Sideswipe, seeking out a kiss. “Please.”

“Then open up.” Ratchet’s fingers slide over his panel, and Sunstreaker quickly obeys, his spike surging free with embarrassing eagerness.

Or at least he would’ve been embarrassed, if Ratchet hadn’t made an approving noise before fondling Sunstreaker’s spike with obvious appreciation. He rubs a finger over the sensitive crown, teasing the transfluid slit, and Sunstreaker makes a noise in his intake, hips rocking upward.

“You’re so sexy,” Sideswipe murmurs as he nuzzles into Sunstreaker’s intake, breathing hot and humid over his cables. “Love how you just surrender for us.”

Sunstreaker licks his lips. He opens his mouth but all that emerges is a crackle of static as Ratchet carefully and gently eases the cap over Sunstreaker’s spike. A dab of medical glue holds it in place. There must be some kind of circuitry in the cap because Sunstreaker’s spike starts to depressurize, and Ratchet guides it back into his sheath.

“Close up,” Ratchet says.

Sunstreaker obeys with a moan. His spike feels full and heavy behind his panel. Like it’s pressurized to fill every available inch within him, and nothing more. There’s a quiet click as the cap magnetizes to his panel. It won’t be opening anytime soon, not without Ratchet’s help.

Something closer to a whine spills out of Sunstreaker’s intake. His valve throbs harder, panel snapping aside, suddenly desperate for contact. He wants Ratchet inside of him. Or Sideswipe. Or both. He wants something touching his eager nodes, feeding the need gnawing at his spark.

“This isn’t a scene.” Ratchet’s voice tugs Sunstreaker’s awareness back outward, even as his fingers gently stroke around Sunstreaker’s valve rim, teasing the outer sensory clusters. “But if you need us to stop or it gets to be too much, just say so.”

“Like a safeword?” Sunstreaker asks. It’s getting hard to focus with the need pulsing through his synapses.

Ratchet’s fingers keep stroking around his valve, teasing the flexible rim, dancing over his cluster of sensory nodes, making Sunstreaker tingle. “Stop should be enough, but if it makes you feel better to have a safe word, how about daffodil?”

“Because you’re a pretty flower,” Sideswipe purrs with a laugh. His hand smooths over Sunstreaker’s belly, and the stroke of it sends tingles up Sunstreaker’s backstrut. “I like it.”

“Daffodil,” Sunstreaker echoes. His glossa sweeps over his lips as he takes in the sheer want on Ratchet’s face. “If I want you to stop.”

“Yes.” Ratchet’s thumb circles his anterior node slowly, and Sunstreaker’s hips rock into the touch, his entire array throbbing as charge crackles through his lines. “We’re going to frag you, Sunstreaker. Over and over again. We’re going to fill you with our transfluid while you overload so many times, you don’t know where one ends and the other begins. Is that alright?”

Sunstreaker’s head tips back, his mouth open on a gasp. All he can focus on is that steady circling and the pressure building behind it. The sharp bursts of pleasure volleying in his node, and the building need to overload. Sideswipe’s mouth is like fire on his intake, and their fields are a double-embrace he doesn’t want to escape.

“Sunny,” Sideswipe murmurs as he strokes over Sunstreaker’s closed spike panel. “You have to use your words.”

Sunstreaker whines, his hips rocking up into his partner’s touch. “Y-yes,” he gasps out, processor spinning, lubricant steadily seeping from his valve.

“Good,” Ratchet purrs. His hand vanishes from Sunstreaker’s valve, and Sunstreaker whimpers in protest, until he feels the pressure of a spike against his rim.

He gasps an encouragement, hands curling into fists, frame straining toward the grip on his hips, one damp and one not. His thoughts are spinning, spinning, his valve rippling frantically. Ratchet slides into him, hot and firm, so slow, and Sunstreaker keens, backstrut arching, as overload spills over him in a hot, crackling fire.

His noises are swallowed by Sideswipe’s mouth, his brother rubbing against his side, hands everywhere. His valve clutches at Ratchet’s spike, charge rushing out, and he distantly hears Ratchet suck in a vent of delight. The hands on his hips tighten, and Sunstreaker’s spark flares, pleasure making sparks dance in his vision.

Ratchet bottoms out and grinds, the pressure of his array against Sunstreaker’s rim forcing out a moan. Sunstreaker bucks up against Ratchet, and the chains rattle, pleasure simmering inside of him, with no chance to cool from the overload.

“Primus, you’re gorgeous,” Sideswipe murmurs as he rains kisses all over Sunstreaker, his hands stroking and touching, caressing every inch within reach. “Look at you, overloading for us, making all these yummy noises.”

Sunstreaker moans and turns his head, trying to capture Sideswipe’s lip, and Sideswipe obliges, kissing him soft and deep. Ratchet starts to move, his spike gliding in and out of Sunstreaker’s valve, reigniting nodes now sensitive from the first overload. His hands tighten around Sunstreaker’s hips, pushing and pulling him onto Ratchet’s spike, each grind so deep against his ceiling node.

Ratchet’s already thick and hot. Charge crackles around his spike, nipping at Sunstreaker’s internal nodes. He can feel the burning wash of Ratchet’s ex-vents, and the need yawing in Ratchet’s field.

Sunstreaker tries to pull his legs in closer, clamp them around Ratchet’s waist, but the chains bring him up short. He groans at the slight resistance of the chains. He’s not helpless, but he is trapped, and at the mercy of his lovers. The idea is intoxicating because they’re safe.

The crackling wash of Ratchet’s overload is almost a surprise, given Ratchet’s usual stamina. Or maybe it is intentional because of their plans for the evening. Sunstreaker shivers as Ratchet’s transfluid paints his valve, and Sideswipe nips his lips.

“Oh, Ratchet’s done,” he says against Sunstreaker’s lips. “My turn now.”

“Until it’s mine again,” Ratchet says with a little laugh. He withdraws slowly, still firm, his spike dragging long and slow over Sunstreaker’s nodes. “There’s one more accessory we need, too.”

“Yeah, I know.” Sideswipe squirms away from Sunstreaker, leaving him feeling a bit cold and abandoned on the berth, at least until Sideswipe notches between his thighs and moves into Sunstreaker with no fanfare.

“Gonna make you overload quick for me.” Sideswipe leans forward, hands braced to either side of Sunstreaker, hips thrusting in the pace he knows Sunstreaker likes best. His optics are bright and hungry, his glossa sweeping over and over his lips. “Wanna watch you whimper and writhe for me.”

Primus.

Sunstreaker sucks in a heavy vent, his valve quivering. Sideswipe sinks into him fast and deep, with little circular grinds that put a delicious pressure on his outer node. More intoxicating is the wrap of his field, pulsing in tune to his thrusts.

Sunstreaker tries to rise up to meet him, but the cuffs limit his movement. All he can do is squirm, fluids making obscene noises between them, lubricant and transfluid both. Molten heat gathers in his valve, pushing him toward another overload, and a keen rises out of Sunstreaker’s intake.

He pants for ventilation, processor spinning. Sideswipe pushes into him, harder and faster, and then there’s a finger on Sunstreaker’s anterior node. It circles with a firm pressure, dragging all the fire straight to that sensitive sensor cluster. Sunstreaker’s weak to stimulation right there. Always has been.

He tosses his head back, grits his denta. Tries to hold on to his reserve, tries not to overload like some eager youngling recently discovering his array, but it’s impossible. Sideswipe’s field is like fire against his, and Sideswipe’s spike keeps jabbing all those nodes perfectly, and those circles are getting smaller and smaller around his node, until it’s just a hot-white flash of pleasure. A burst of it.

Sunstreaker drowns in his overload, making a noise that can only be described as binary as he shudders through a second overload, his valve spiraling down tight and milking Sideswipe’s spike for all it can give him. His thoughts drift in a haze of ecstasy, and it takes longer to find his frame again, as he sinks back into it, and the sensation of Sideswipe pushing into him faster and faster.

That droning noise is Sideswipe’s voice. His face is creased with delight, his optics hot and bright, lips moving.

“Fuck, you’re too sexy like this,” he’s blabbering, Sideswipe starts resorting to human swears when he gets too aroused. “So gorgeous and sweet. Love the way you feel around me. Love it when you overload like that. Love all of it. Love you.” He groans, thrusting faster and deeper, fingers tangling in the berth covers for leverage.

Sunstreaker’s head spins. All the compliments strike along his processor like little flicks to his anterior node. He clenches, engine revving, valve pulsing with renewed vigor. He’s not even the least bit exhausted, and the feeling of Sideswipe overloading, filling him with more transfluid is intoxicating. The sound Sideswipe makes is guttural and hungry, and he suddenly pulls out, a couple spurts of transfluid striping Sunstreaker’s array and landing hot-wet on his node.

Sunstreaker moans, his thighs trembling. “More,” he pleads, his vision hazy, processor spinning in the best kinds of ways.

“More’s coming,” Ratchet says, appearing between Sunstreaker’s thighs as Sideswipe shuffles away, his spike bobbing pressurized between his thighs, wet with transfluid and lubricant.

Sunstreaker wants to lick him so much right now. His mouth lubricates with the thought of it, Sideswipe sliding into him, so hot and thick, panting heavily, careful as he takes Sunstreaker’s mouth. The taste of his brother on his glossa, the sound of Sideswipe’s pleasure…

Sunstreaker moans, one that changes pitch into a whine as he feels the wet swipe of a glossa over his valve, and the careful touch of fingers on his rim, stroking the sensitive plating around it. He cycles his optics, tries to focus, sees Ratchet’s head between his thighs, and feels the gentle kiss against his anterior node.

Oh, Primus.

Sunstreaker’s head drops back. His spinal strut arches, hips squirming where Ratchet cradles them, as his mouth drops a dozen little kisses over Sunstreaker’s swollen valve. His rim ripples, his interior calipers clutching on nothing, squeezing out trickles of mixed fluids.

The berth dips as Sideswipe hops up onto it, snuggling against Sunstreaker’s side, peppering his intake with kisses.

“You have some of the best ideas, bro,” he says, ex-venting hot and wet, his field eager and charged against Sunstreaker’s. “We’re gonna fill you up so much, you’ll be cleaning us out for weeks.”

Sunstreaker groans.

Sideswipe’s hand slides down his frame, over his chassis and belly, across his groin, and then his fingers are on Sunstreaker’s sensor cluster, giving it a pinch. Sunstreaker growls and arches his hips, a spike sliding into him not soon after, Ratchet’s spike at that, bigger than Sideswipe’s, thicker.

Sunstreaker keens as the spike touches his nodes. Ratchet grabs his hips, tilts them a little, so the ridged crown of his spike can taste those nodes only grazed earlier. It sends a shock of fire through Sunstreaker’s valve.

“I brought you a gift, Sunstreaker,” Ratchet says, his voice and field like little drops of ecstasy to Sunstreaker’s processor. “Your brother’s got it now.”

“Gift?” Sunstreaker repeats, processor spinning too much to make sense of it.

Sideswipe’s hand vanishes from his node, and before Sunstreaker can protest, it returns. And it’s not alone. He’s got something attached to his finger, something that starts buzzing and vibrating on the sensitive plating surrounding Sunstreaker’s anterior cluster.

Oh. Oh, Primus.

Sunstreaker tilts his head back, optics squeezing shut, hips bucking, as overload tackles him like a Combaticon on the battlefield, a full frontal assault that leaves him dazed and shaking on the ground. His entire frame arches, charge lighting up his armor, dancing out from his protoform.

Sideswipe eases off with the vibrator, enough for Sunstreaker to catch a vent. He goes limp on the berth, completely surrendering to their touch, to Sideswipe kissing him – wet and hot and openmouthed – and Ratchet thrusting into him, steadier and faster and deeper, his hands smoothing up and over and around Sunstreaker’s legs.

“You love this, don’t you?” Sideswipe asks, his voice dark and sultry, like secret fantasies and the caverns under Cybertron and the taste of the finest high grade.

“He’s suited for it,” Ratchet says with lust in his tone, like a powerful engine turning over, a blaster rising to full charge. “Pleasure looks good on him.”

“It does. Almost wish everyone could see it, see how beautiful you are,” Sideswipe says against Sunstreaker’s audial. “We’d string you up in the common room, black ropes all around your frame, tied so you can’t move.”

“At our mercy is a good plan,” Ratchet agrees with a grunt. His thrusts deepen, ping something deep inside Sunstreaker that makes him whimper with pleasure.

His thoughts spin, caught up with their voices, the pleasure promised in their words.

“Everybody can watch as we make you overload again and again,” Sideswipe murmurs, his glossa tracing circles over Sunstreaker’s seams. “They’ll want to touch, but we won’t let them. They’ll beg us, and we’ll say no.”

“Because you’re ours,” Ratchet pants, grinding so deep, his spike throbbing, the thick head tapping over Sunstreaker’s ceiling node again and again. “And no one else can have you.”

Sunstreaker moans. The claim sounds fierce, genuine, and it rattles around inside his spark. Sideswipe loves him; Sideswipe is his twin. He doesn’t have a choice. But to want to keep him? To claim him? That’s something entirely free.

“Yes,” Sideswipe hisses, hips rolling, his spike rutting against Sunstreaker’s side. And then the vibrator is back, buzzing happily over Sunstreaker’s anterior node, and he arches again, frame caught by pleasure. “All ours.”

Sunstreaker jolts, overload pouring through him like an electric attack, setting his sensor net ablaze. He chokes out a sound as his fans roar, his valve spiraling down tight around Ratchet’s spike, his hands forming fists. The chains rattle as he thrashes, caught up in the ecstasy, with Sideswipe and Ratchet’s hands to guide him back down.

He’s panting as he collapses onto the berth, condensation slicking his frame. He barely notices that Ratchet has overloaded again, and now the fluids are trickling from his valve, soaking his aft. The room smells of interfacing and lubricant and transfluid. His valve aches for more, rim twitching as Ratchet withdraws, and Sideswipe replaces him.

Sunstreaker moans, head swinging toward Ratchet, the medic against his side now, his lips gentle as they catch Sunstreaker’s for a kiss. He tastes like something sweet and wonderful, and his hands are as clever as Sideswipe’s, gentle as he runs the vibrator over Sunstreaker’s most sensitive places, but on the lowest setting.

“We’re going to keep going,” Ratchet murmurs, a steamy promise against Sunstreaker’s audials. “Until our tanks run dry, and we’re spilling out of you.”

Sunstreaker whimpers, processor going bright with need, his worldview narrowing to this and only this.

It starts to blur together. Overload after overload, Ratchet and Sideswipe alternating, taking turns caressing him and spiking him, until Sunstreaker’s entire frame feels as though it’s one big, sensitive node. Until even the touch of their fingers on his knee or his belly makes him wail with need.

He’s never empty, he’s always full. He’s surrounded by them, claimed by them, taken again and again. The berth is soaked beneath his aft. His frame is on fire, blue charge licking out of his seams to light up the room. He tastes them both on his glossa and in the air, and he wishes he could vocalize how much he wants to lick them, suck them, swallow them.

The words ‘stop’ and ‘daffodil’ never cross his mind. Higher processing goes away, turned to mush. His thighs tremble, and his shoulders ache, and he’s floating on air. He’s loose and sloppy and taken so thoroughly, there’s no question who he belongs to.

Sideswipe. Ratchet. Both. Together.

Together, the key word, because somehow in the haze, they’ve unbound his legs. Someone’s crawled beneath him, behind him, cradling his frame. Sideswipe, he thinks, his arms around Sunstreaker’s chassis, his head tilted against Sunstreaker’s, his words a hot puff of compliments against Sunstreaker’s audial.

He slides up into Sunstreaker, path eased by the copious fluids, and Sunstreaker’s so open, he can only manage a light clench. But it’s okay, because Ratchet’s here, too, between Sunstreaker’s thighs, his hands gentle on Sunstreaker’s knees. Pushing them up and back, opening him up, making room for Ratchet to ease into his valve as well, a tight fit but a good one.

Sunstreaker moans, his head lolling back against Sideswipe’s shoulder, his spark heavy and swollen with affection. They move together, a stretch just shy of pain, but it’s better like this. Better to feel them both at once, Sideswipe behind and Ratchet in front, closing around him, holding him close.

He starts to shake, and it has nothing to do with fear, but everything to do with a rising tide of pleasure. It starts in his feet and works up his frame, rattling through his armor. It starts at his head and flows down, over his intake and shoulders and chassis and belly. It meets in his groin, collides, and tangles into a tighter and tighter knot.

“That’s it,” Sideswipe urges, his hand sliding down, over Sunstreaker’s belly, back to his node, all slippery and swollen, twice the size it should be. “Come on, Sunny. Overload for us, baby. Give us one more. I know you have it in you.”

Sunstreaker whimpers, exhausted and limp, barely able to roll onto their combined spikes, drowning in the ecstasy they offer. Ratchet’s lips press against the curve of his jaw, and Sunstreaker’s mouth opens, inviting him inside, the taste of his glossa so hot and wet and fleeting.

Ratchet nuzzles him, so sweet and encouraging. “You’re so beautiful, Sunstreaker,” he murmurs, and Sunstreaker’s spark flutters.

Sideswipe says it all the time, but he has to, because he’s Sunstreaker’s twin, and his brother, and he loves Sunstreaker. Oh, he believes it, too and Sunstreaker believes him when he says it, but coming from Ratchet, it’s something else entirely. It’s someone saying, I don’t already love you, but I find you beautiful anyway, and it makes Sunstreaker’s spark clench with exhilaration and fear.

“One more overload, Sunny,” Ratchet purrs, and Sunstreaker can’t even be angry for the loathed nickname, not with Ratchet pleading with him. Not with Ratchet’s mouth so hot against his jaw. “One more.”

“One more,” Sideswipe echoes, and they both shove deep, push into him at the same time, filling him to the brim and almost to capacity.

Sunstreaker’s valve convulses. It spirals tight before spilling charge in wave after wave, lighting up his internal nodes and licking over his lover’s spikes. Sunstreaker’s breath catches in his intake as he overloads. It strips away everything, his frame arrested by ecstasy and casting him adrift in a sea of it.

Sunstreaker whites out, his spark dancing. He floats outside his frame, every sensor lit with lightning, every line, every inch of his dermal net until he can’t feel anything but pleasure.

Everything goes wonderfully, deliciously blank, and he forgets there is ever a time he feels worthless, undesired, and unloved. Not when it’s here, so obvious, so very present around him.

By the time he sinks back into his frame and stops floating, the world around him is a different place. Figuratively speaking anyway. Unshuttering his optics takes monumental effort, and his visual feed is filled with gray static at first, until he reboots both it and his auditory feed.

He senses Ratchet and Sideswipe around him immediately. Their hands and lips on his frame, peppering him in gentle kisses and careful swipes of a damp meshcloth. The cuffs and chains are gone, leaving him free to move, not that he thinks he can. Every limb is languid, exhausted, and all he wants to do is lie here and soak it in.

His engine purrs, perfectly content, a sensation he hasn’t felt in a long while. Sunstreaker makes a happy noise and tries to snuggle into the frame nearest to him – a heck of a lot of red, Sideswipe he thinks.

“There you are,” Sideswipe murmurs affectionately, and scrubs his cheek over Sunstreaker’s. “We wondered when you’d come back to us.” There’s a hint of worry in his voice.

“Sorry,” Sunstreaker mumbles through static.

“I told him you were fine,” Ratchet says, exasperated. But his touch is gentle as he wipes down Sunstreaker’s inner thighs in short, efficient strokes. And he sounds relieved, too.

“Felt good,” Sunstreaker manages. He sighs with satisfaction. Ratchet’s so good at this, and the strokes of the cloth are soothing. He could easily fall back into recharge like this.

Until he feels the cloth slide further up, toward his very sticky array, lubricant and transfluid both seeping out of him. Sunstreaker tries to twist his hips away, the motion aborted because of his fatigue, and makes a protesting noise. His face heats with embarrassment.

Ratchet pauses and arches an orbital ridge at him. “You don’t want to be clean?”

“No… not yet,” Sunstreaker admits as he commands his panel to close, trapping their combined spill and his own lubricant inside him. It’ll be a mess to clean later but right now, it’s a reminder.

He curls half onto his side, trying to tuck his face against Sideswipe’s intake so neither of them can see his expression. He doesn’t want to be that clean. He wants… He wants them to be close to him, around him as much as they are inside him.

“Just…” Sunstreaker trails off, unsure how to express himself, and tries to curl into Sideswipe again, weak fingers making an aborted paw at Sideswipe’s armor.

“Hold you?” Sideswipe finishes for him. He curls an arm over Sunstreaker and tugs him closer, half on top of Sideswipe. “I can totally do that. I love when you’re all snuggly.”

“Feels good,” Sunstreaker murmurs and lets himself go limp, completely notched against his twin, close enough that he can feel and sense the beat of his twin’s spark. But his back is cold, and he knows he’s missing something. “Wait. Where’s–”

“Right here.” The berth dips behind Sunstreaker as Ratchet appears from wherever he’d gone – probably disposing of the mesh cloth for now. He slides up behind Sunstreaker, curling against Sunstreaker’s back, draping an arm over his midsection.

He’s squeezed between them, the heat of their frames buzzing against his, their fields embracing him entirely. His processor still floats in that wonderful haze of pleasure, and his spark is a content twirl inside his chassis. His array is deliciously sated, and when he twitches, he can still feel the spike cap.

Eh. They can get it in the morning. Sunstreaker doesn’t want to move. He likes this just the way it is. His twin and their lover petting him, two pairs of hands stroking over his frame soothing and adoring.

He never knew there could be this much bliss in a single moment.

“Told you we’d do it,” Sideswipe murmurs into the peaceful quiet, because he can never abide by silence for long, the brat.

“Shut up,” Sunstreaker grumbles. Always has to throw in an ‘I told you so’.

Ratchet laughs, the sound of it vibrating between Sunstreaker’s shoulders. “Anything for you, Sunny,” he says as he strokes his palm down Sunstreaker’s side, his field adding warm and comfortable pulses.

For once, Sunstreaker actually believes they mean it. Maybe he’s not ready to divulge all the other secret desires just yet, but he thinks he might in the future. Someday.

He’s getting closer to it any rate.

Because they love him. He’s sure of it. All that’s left is to trust it.

***

[IDW] Wide of the Mark

“They target a specific frame type,” Prowl had said as he urged Getaway into the hands of the four-mech team who would alter and adjust Getaway’s frame – paint included. All the better to entice the crew of kidnappers who were like spark-echoes, terrifying the streets of lesser Iacon. “They serve customers who have very specific kinks, and this particular one is the rarest. You’re modified frame will be a sight they can’t resist.”

“And you’re sure Jazz can’t take this mission?” Getaway had asked, hands braced on the doorframe, heels dug into the floor. He might have been resisting. “Jazz’s frame is way better suited.”

Prowl had given him that Look, the one everyone in Spec Ops knew a little too well. The one that meant a table would be flipped because Prowl would neither be dissuaded nor argued with, and woe be unto the mech who decided to push the limits.

“He is needed for pursuit. And though I don’t want to over-inflate your ego, need I remind you that when it comes to escaping impossible situations, there is none better than you,” Prowl had said.

He hadn’t pushed Getaway into the re-fit room, but his look had the physical weight of it. So Getaway had dropped his arms and skulked inside, his mental picture of what the “adjustments” to his frame would entail more than enough to make him cringe. The worst part of going undercover was having to change how you looked.

He had secondary energon storage sacs installed because they were useful, not because they were appealing or sexy or… or… something to be fetishized!

Getaway recalled the conversation now as he sashayed down the street, tossing coy looks to mechs who trundled past, their heads down, exuding disinterest in what Getaway had to sell. Not that these downtrodden, rust-eaten mechs could afford him anyway. Getaway’s persona sought richer clientele, and the swell of his chest, the peek at engorged energon sacs as they jiggled behind the protection of his chest armor, advertised such a thing.

A potential mark walked by, his gleaming paint and high-class enamel suggesting he could afford the kind of look Getaway offered. So he gathered up what remained of his dignity and sidled up to the dark-blue mech.

“Evening, sir. Fancy sharing a cube with a pretty stranger?” Getaway purred, drawing on every lesson involving seduction Jazz had drilled into his processor until his optics swam in his helm.

The mech barked a laugh at him. “Sorry, sweetplate, but you’re not my type.” Blue optics raked Getaway from top to bottom. “A little too soft for my tastes.”

“Soft?” Getaway flirted his fingers over his own clavical strut, drawing attention to the swell of his energon sacs. “But that’s the point.” He cocked a hip, resting his free hand over the dip of his waist. “Curves in all the right places, too.”

The stranger grinned, but there was a sharp edge to it, mockery more than interest. “Like I said, you just aren’t my flavor. Ring me when you earn another two meters and several tons.”

Ah. Big spender liked the big mechs. Pity.

Getaway fluttered his optical shutters. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he murmured, interjecting disappointment into his tone. “You know where to find me if you want something sweet.”

The mech laughed and shook his head. “Thanks, but no thanks.” He flicked his wrist in parting and headed down the walk, still chuckling as though Getaway had told the funniest joke this side of comedy central.

Damn. Not the piece of scum Getaway was looking for.

He cycled a ventilation and scanned the streets again, lower back aching where the change in his pede structure made him walk at an odd angle. He wasn’t a seeker. Why he needed heeled feet without the thrusters to accompany them made absolutely no sense.

“Some mechs just don’t know a fun party when they see one.”

Now that smarmy tone was the kind of thing Getaway had been hunting. He turned slowly, head tilted, armor fluttering around his energon sacs.

“Oh, is that interest I hear?” he cooed as another mech with polished armor approached, a spoiler jauntily sprouting from behind his shoulders, and a cocky look on his face. Racer maybe, or rich enough to be one of their thirsty groupies.

Mech grinned with a mouthful of perfect, even denta. He had a visor, diamond-polished with an iridescent sheen. “The kind that’ll keep the two of us up all night.” He cocked his head and circled Getaway, predator to prey. “Those maxed out?”

Getaway arched his spinal strut, making the energon sacs more prominent. “Not even close, handsome.” He shifted his weight, the heels causing his aft to paint quite the sumptuous picture. “If you’ve got the creds, you can find out just how much.”

“Oh, I’ve got the creds.” The potential customer smirked and paused partially behind Getaway, leaning in and in-venting, as if tasting Getaway’s scent. “Mmm, you aren’t a cheap piece of rust, are you? You’re the real deal. What’s a sweetplate like you walking the street for? Surely you got a patron at home waiting on you.”

Getaway giggled.

Never underestimate how enticing a cute little giggle can be, my mech, Jazz had advised. He was probably glowing with pride right now, listening in as he was. He and the rest of Getaway’s back-up team.

“He couldn’t keep up. So I’m looking for someone with a bit more rev to their engine,” Getaway purred and looked the mark up and down. “Think that someone is you?”

The mech circled in front of Getaway, and his glossa flicked over his lips. “Oh, I do.” He popped a hatch on his right forearm and withdrew a cred-chip, platinum-plating catching a sparkle of sunlight. “Consider this a down-payment.”

He leaned forward, chip pinched between two fingers, before he slid it right into the seam of Getaway’s cleavage, his fingertips copping a light caress as they withdrew.

Getaway tipped his head, coy and offering. “Well, sweetspark. Looks to me like you’re well on your way to a nice night.” He leaned in close, walking his fingertips down the length of the mech’s arm. “My place or yours, hot shot?”

“Mine.” Fingers flirted at the curve of Getaway’s waist. “And you can call me Fallout. Or master.”

Getaway giggled again. Master? Really? How cliché.

“Sounds good to me.” He ex-vented warm and wet into the slightly taller mech’s intake. “The name’s Joyride. And it’s my pleasure to meet you.”

~

“His place” turned out to be a nearby hotel. Either Fallout couldn’t wait to get his hands on his new procurement, if he were a legit customer and not the mark Getaway suspected him to be. Or this local hotel was a front for their illegal dealings, as Prowl had hypothesized some weeks back.

Everything in their research had pointed to the Nuts and Bolts as being a legitimate business. No casual inspections had turned up anything untoward. The structure matched the schematics. The owners passed a very in-depth background check. And yet, mechs had gone missing in the area nearby, often seen going into the hotel but never emerging again, and not seen on the surveillance cameras either.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Getaway ran an internal double-check, making sure both his tracking beacon and two-way internal transmitters were both running smooth as engex.

It was a nice hotel, despite its shady reputation. The door closed and locked behind Getaway’s customer, Fallout. Getaway sent a ping to his team, letting them to know to keep an optic on his tracker, and cocked his hip at his customer.

“So, what can I get you first?” he asked with a flirty lilt to his voice. He dragged his fingers over the seam of his chest armor, where the energon sacs pushed at the edges of his armor. “Full show?”

Fallout rubbed the heel of his palm over his panel. “Actually, I want a taste of that sweet mouth of yours first. Assuming you have one.”

Ah, yes, the mouthguard. Jazz had said it would create a sense of mystery, as if he were giving his customer something special every time he revealed it.

“All the better to swallow you down, master,” Getaway purred and disengaged the locks, setting his mouthplate aside. He licked his lips, his mouth feeling bare and vulnerable. “Shall I drop to my knees?”

Fallout backtracked to the berth and perched on the edge of it, his knees spreading to make room between them as he continued stroking his panel. “Yeah. But where you are now. Crawl to me.”

Getaway would have rolled his optics if that wasn’t a guarantee to break his character. “Oh, an adventurous one I see,” he said as he sank to his knees and crawled forward, putting an extra sway into his aft, aware that it made his energon sacs extra-appealing.

Fallout leaned back on one hand as his panel snicked aside, and his spike emerged, glossy with pre-fluid already, and nothing extravagant to speak of. Blue with a gray twist and a head that had a bit of a hood on it. “We’re just getting started, sweetplate.”

“Yes, we are.” Getaway nudged between Fallout’s knees and ex-vented over the tip of Fallout’s spike. More pre-fluid welled up, dribbling down the side.

A hand rested on the back of his head as Fallout’s other hand held the base of his spike, aiming it toward Getaway’s mouth. Getaway rested his fingers on Fallout’s thighs and leaned in, lapping up the pre-fluid.

It was just oral sex. Nothing he hadn’t done for a job before. So he let his processor wander elsewhere while his mouth performed on auto-pilot.

Lick, lick, suck. A spike was a spike was a spike. Getaway hummed a little as he took Fallout’s spike into his mouth, and Fallout exerted a tiny bit of pressure to the back of his head, urging him even deeper. More pre-fluid slicked his glossa.

Fallout’s hips rocked, fragging into Getaway’s mouth in sharp, quick bursts. He cycled fast ventilations, his fingers kneading the back of Getaway’s head. He felt optics on him and glanced up to see Fallout watching him intently, lips parted, visor a little glazed over.

Hm. Maybe he was just a customer and not a mark after all.

Fallout hissed an expletive, denta gritted and lips pulled back after them. “Damn, you’re good,” he said as he pushed back on Getaway’s head, his spike sliding free of Getaway’s mouth and bobbing against his lips. “But I want to rub over those pretty sacs of yours.”

Getaway licked his lips. “I thought you might.” He rose up on his knees, further loosening the armor half-concealing his energon sacs, letting the heavy orbs spill a little freer.

He leaned forward, and Fallout shivered with a little moan as his spike rubbed over the top of Getaway’s sacs, gliding across the smooth protomesh. He left streaks of pre-fluid behind.

“Oh, those are nice,” Fallout hummed and grabbed the back of Getaway’s head again, directing his mouth downward. “Give it a little lick, won’t you, sweetplate?”

Easy enough.

Getaway let his sacs swell a bit more and rose up higher on his knees, making it easier for Fallout to thrust and rock against them. He tilted his head down, glossa extending, and caught the tip of Fallout’s spike as it rutted over the mounds of his sacs.

Fallout moaned again. “Yeah, that’s it,” he said, hips rocking harder, more pre-fluid leaving trails of it trickling over Getaway’s chest.

Fallout’s grip on Getaway’s head tightened as his free hand tangled in the berthcovers. His thighs pitched inward, trapping Getaway’s shoulders as he thrust harder against Getaway’s sacs.

Getaway tried not to roll his optics, instead licking at the tip of Fallout’s spike as it bobbed against his lips. He arched his backstrut, pushing his chest against the thrust of Fallout’s spike. Judging by the quickening of the mech’s ventilations, he was about to spill.

And Getaway was right.

Fallout groaned as he shoved Getaway’s head forward, and his spike twitched, hot splashes of transfluid painting Getaway’s chest, intake, and the bottom half of his face. It smeared over the top of his energon sacs, sticky and hot.

“Mmm, you’re the real deal, sweetplate,” Fallout said with a lazy grin, his hand sliding down Getaway’s face to lazily trail fingers through the spill painting Getaway’s energon sacs. “Makes me almost feel bad about this.”

Getaway’s optics widened as he jerked his head up. “What do you mean?” he asked, putting a quaver in his voice as he tensed his hydraulics, sending an alarmed ping to his team.

Fallout smirked at him.

It was the last thing Getaway saw before something struck him in the back of his head, striking right against a reset relay with enough force to send him into a hard reboot.

~

Getaway onlined in a haze, a stale taste on his glossa, and his processor spinning dizzily. Static rang through his audials, the buzz of voices a distant noise. His GPS reported back nothing except that it was offline, as was his comm system.

He frantically double-checked the link to his team and nearly sighed in relief. It remained active, transmitting his audio and visual feed to Prowl and the others. But when he tried to tap into it, to contact them, Getaway received only static. Somehow, they’d managed to block it. Wherever they’d taken him, they must have had a communication dampener.

Clarity returned slowly, more details trickling in. His mouthplate was completely gone, as were the panels over his valve, secondary port, and spike, though the last remained fully retracted. The brassiere plate protecting his energon sacs had also been removed, leaving them completely exposed and his feeders extended, a chilly airflow teasing the nozzled tips.

He was lying on his side, possibly on a berth, his hands cuffed behind his back. Peripheral sensors detected four – no, five – other Cybertronian signatures around him, one of which resembled the mech who had been his customer.

So. He’d found his way into the gang’s clutches after all. Prowl would be delighted. Which meant he and the rest of Getaway’s team better be on their way right the frag now. Because waking up without any of his protective plating was not a sign Getaway’s day was about to get any better.

“I know you’re awake, sweetplate,” someone crooned at him from above Getaway’s head. He felt a hand stroke the back of his neck, fingers teasing around the cephalic port which he only belatedly realized was no longer shielded by the protective plate.

“This’ll be a lot more fun with you conscious,” another voice claimed and Getaway followed the voice to an obnoxiously orange and white mech crouching toward the end of the berth, his hand creeping toward one of Getaway’s knees.

Getaway worked his intake. “Wha-what’s going on?” he asked, injecting fear and confusion into his voice. “If all you wanted was a freebie, we could have worked something out.”

The hand stroked over his head, and its owner chuckled. “This ain’t about creds, sweetplate. Or well, it is. But not about the creds you’re going to earn.”

The orange mech crouching near Getaway’s knees pawed at Getaway’s thighs, one hand slipping between them and upward, toward his bared valve. “Fallout already gave ya a trial run, but the rest of us like a little hands on experience ourselves.” Fingers tickled over the lips of Getaway’s valve.

Laughter echoed around him, and Getaway picked out no less than five distinct voices, only one of which he recognized as the mech who had originally purchased his services. He glanced around the room, seeing a bright purple and black mech perched behind an expensive camera. There was another mech, blinding in all white, leaning against the wall near the door. He couldn’t see Fallout and assumed that the mech was somewhere behind Getaway.

Fingers flicked at the panel covering his cephalic port. “Don’t worry. We’ll make sure you have a good time, too,” the mech above him purred, his voice sickly sweet and enough to make Getaway’s plating crawl.

“Oh, I always have a good time, sir,” Getaway tried to purr, injecting anxiety into his voice. Not that it was hard.

Hurry up, Prowl.

“I’m sure you do.” The mech above him chortled.

Getaway felt the cold touch of a plug against his port, connectors buzzing where they brushed against one another before someone plugged into him. The alien sensation of a foreign mind slithering into his own made Getaway shudder and his tank roil. He’d not been prepared for this! Nothing in the intel suggested one of the kidnappers was a mneumospecialist.

“You… you don’t have to do that!” Getaway cried, squirming on the berth, trying to twist his frame away from the mech below him, inching between his thighs.

Said orange mech licked his lips, his hands sliding up the length of his thighs, thumbs bracketing Getaway’s valve.

“I promise I’ll behave!” Getaway whimpered as the foreign presence tiptoed all around his processor, slicing through his firewalls and defenses as though they were cheap chips bought on the street and not spec ops grade.

“I’m sure you will. This just makes sure of– oh, what do we have here?” The rifling in Getaway’s processor paused, and the grip on his head tightened. “Cork, don’t get started just yet.”

Cork, the orange mech between Getaway’s legs, looked up with a flash of anger. “What? Why? You’re such a fragging tease, Lore. Why do you always gotta make me wait?”

“Because I know the taste of a spy when I’m inside one, slagger,” Lore replied as a chill swept through Getaway’s internals. “And what we got here, mechs, is not the sweetplate he appears to be.”

“I thought he was a little too clean to be a street-walker,” came Fallout’s familiar voice from somewhere behind Getaway.

“I’m not a spy!” Getaway said with what he hoped was an enticing squirm and smile. “I swear. I was just looking for some quick creds.”

Lore chuckled, and his grip on Getaway’s head turned into something more like a caress. “I just tore through seven layers of elite firewalls, sweetplate. I know what you are.”

“I figured somebody was going to be on us sooner or later. Didn’t think it’d be this soon,” Fallout said.

Cork frowned and whined. The pads of his fingers stroked along the insides of Getaway’s thighs, making his armor crawl with revulsion. “So what? I don’t get to play with ‘im cause he’s a spy?”

“It just means we can’t sell him,” said the camera-mech. “Doesn’t mean we can’t still make some good creds off him.”

The mech leaning against the wall near the door frowned, his visor reflecting harsh angles of light. “We should just kill him,” he suggested. “The creds aren’t worth the trouble.”

“And waste this opportunity?” Lore almost purred. “Why Equalizer, you have no imagination. Or generosity. Little Joyride came here to do a job, didn’t he? As Playback said, it would be a shame to let him fail.”

“A big shame,” Cork agreed with a bob of his head and a hungry look at Getaway’s array. He licked his lips as he caressed Getaway’s valve, which twitched at the soft touch. “He’s eager for it, even. Ya should see how much he’s dripping.”

It was a program, idiots! Getaway seethed behind clenched denta. It was pointless to argue with criminals. They would only taunt him more, if they believed him to be the slightest bit ashamed.

Equalizer shifted his weight, from one foot to the other, white paint flashing in the bright flood lights. “Then we kill him later.”

“When we’re done,” the camera mech – Playback — agreed, sounding distracted and barely interested in the proceedings. “Vids like this are always a big seller.”

Vids? Fantastic. Getaway’s newly altered frame was going to be splashed all over the darknet, self-servicing fodder for all of the weirdly twisted. His team better get here sooner rather than later. Weren’t they tracking him by now? How far could Fallout have taken him?

Movement in his peripheral vision alerted Getaway to Fallout crouching down next to the berth. “Snuff is a big, big seller,” he said and grinned as he patted Getaway on the cheek. “Now we can’t go killin’ all of our pets so each vid is a hot commodity. That means you’re going to make us a fortune, Joyride.”

“You won’t be free long enough to make that fortune,” Getaway ground out, his plating crawling at Fallout’s touch, and the way Lore above him kept stroking his head and lingering in his port. His presence was poisonous. “My team–”

“Your team?” Lore’s tone was mild and amused as he cut Getaway off. “Oh, you mean the tracker embedded in your system? I took the liberty of removing that. They won’t find you.” His field became a nauseating press, bearing down on Getaway like a physical restraint.

Getaway worked his intake. He didn’t believe Lore for a second. Yes, the slagger had his fingers deep in Getaway’s system, but he wasn’t Jazz, and Jazz had been the one to program all of Getaway’s protocols. No way Lore found all of the tricks and hidden caches.

Maybe he delayed Prowl and the others, but they were coming. Getaway was sure of it.

Lore chuckled, and he pinched at the port where he’d plugged into Getaway. “Trust me, little spy. We’ve been at this too long to get caught now.”

“Wouldn’t it be a waste to kill him?” Playback asked, sounding bored from behind the camera. “You could always rewire him like the others. Sell him afterward.”

“Nah. Sometimes, it doesn’t take. And then we’d have a spy who knows too much wandering around alive. This is the best way to get our money’s worth,” Equalizer said with a smirk, his optics dark and hungry as he watched Getaway on the berth.

He had the look of a predator, Equalizer did. One who liked tearing up his prey and leaving its innards out for the carrion-eaters, while only consuming the tastiest bits for itself. Of the five mechs in the room, Getaway wanted Equalizer to touch him the least.

“I’m not for sale!” Getaway hissed, squirming in his bonds, though his motions were dull and sluggish, like he didn’t have complete control of his frame. Probably due to Lore rifling through his processor, getting sticky metaphorical fingers in all of Getaway’s components.

Fallout barked a laugh. “Is that right, sweetplate? Well, the cred stick in your subspace says otherwise. Don’t it?”

Cork’s hands slid up Getaway’s thighs toward his bared array, fingers stroking his rim. “Who cares?,” he whined, and traced a circle around Getaway’s mostly hidden anterior node. To his relief, it didn’t provoke so much as a stir of pleasure. “Can we get started now? You’re wasting all this time talking.”

Behind them, Fallout snickered. “Go ahead, Cork.”

“The camera’s ready,” Playback added.

Cork’s engine growled and lust flashed in his optics. “Finally,” he said and snatched Getaway by the hips, twisting him onto his back, his bound arms pinned beneath him, energon sacs bouncing and swaying on his chest.

Cork wedged himself between Getaway’s legs, shoved his thighs wide, and smirked over Getaway’s valve. “This poor thing looks hardly used,” he said.

Another bark of laughter spilled from Fallout. “We’ll change that soon enough.”

Getaway clenched his denta. Endure, he told himself. He’d been trained for this. He knew it was a possibility. It wasn’t the worst thing. It was just interfacing.

Cork laughed and leaned closer, ex-venting warm and wet over Getaway’s valve. He licked his lips again before his glossa found Getaway’s rim and gave it a long taste. He hummed in his intake and licked some more, mouth discovering Getaway’s node to treat it to a lingering suck.

It felt… good. Sensation drizzled through Getaway’s array. He swallowed down a strangled moan and dimmed his optics. His hips moved of their own accord, canting toward Cork’s mouth, demanding more. He hated, in that moment, the small programming thread he’d installed to make it easier to play the part of buymech.

That was when Lore stopped fiddling with his port, the sensation of his presence inside Getaway still lingering, like an infection, but his hands wandered. They slid over Getaway’s shoulders, to his energon sacs, and Lore started to grope them, fingers squeezing and sliding over the smooth protomesh. He found Getaway’s fuel nozzles and pinched them, causing a shock of pleasure to burst through Getaway’s sensor net.

An unwanted moan escaped his mouth, his backstrut arching, pushing his sacs into Lore’s hands. They were supposed to feel good. That was how the programming worked, but now Getaway despised that fact. Between Lore’s pinching, and Cork’s determined licking, arousal pulsed a steady beat through his systems.

His spike started to thicken in its sheath. Lubricant gathered in his valve, until Cork was able to lap up the first drop with a pleased hum.

“It’s nice when they squirm,” he said, conversationally against Getaway’s valve. “But it’s better when they enjoy it.”

“It makes for a better video,” Playback commented. If it was possible to sound bored while filming a fragging vid, Playback had perfected the art.

Lore chuckled and gave Getaway’s energon sacs a squeeze. “And their shame sweetens the flavor.”

Getaway growled, his engine revving with a mixture of arousal and fury. “You’re sick,” he seethed through clenched denta as his lower half twitched and rocked against Cork’s mouth, eager for every lick and suckle.

“It’s a mad, mad world.” Lore pinched Getaway’s nozzles and rolled them between his thumb and forefinger.

Getaway gasped before he could swallow it down, pleasure arcing through the entirety of his frame. His plating juddered and more lubricant dripped out of his valve as Cork licked into him, nasal ridge applying a nice pressure to Getaway’s anterior nub. Cork was enthusiastic, determined, and he made sloppy, wet noises as he licked and sucked until Getaway’s spike emerged with a snick, and his vents came in sharp pants.

Cork made a sound of outright glee and briefly abandoned Getaway’s valve, his glossa laving a long lick up the length of Getaway’s spike. He suckled at the tip, glossa prodding at his transfluid slit.

“Mmm, Joyride here’s a wet one,” Cork said around his mouthful, oral lubricant dribbling out of the corners of his mouth. “Tasty.”

“You’re disgusting,” Fallout said with a laugh.

“To each his own.” Cork smirked and closed his mouth around the tip of Getaway’s spike, laving the sensitive crown with several sweeps of his glossa.

Getaway gasped, his spike throbbing, and he thrust into empty space as Cork abandoned his spike in favor of messily lapping at his valve again. Arousal crackled in Getaway’s array like a hot fire.

He didn’t want to overload. Not like this. Not with the camera pointed at him, the five pairs of optics devouring his frame, with Cork’s mouth on his valve, and Lore’s fingers on his sac, the energon-filled mesh bouncing and bobbing on his chest. He didn’t want the noises clawing out of his intake, like whimpers and moans.

But overload he did, tasting energon as he bit his glossa in a desperate attempt to swallow the pathetic sounds in his vocalizer. He bucked against Cork’s lips, riding the eager mouth, his spike bobbing as his valve rippled with pleasure.

Lore chuckled and cupped Getaway’s sacs. He moved his hips, thrusting a little against Getaway’s back, the slide of his damp spike leaving streaks behind.

Cork purred against Getaway’s valve and rose to his feet, one hand working furiously at his spike, pumping himself with eager abandon. He licked his lips as if savoring Getaway’s taste, optics bright and hungry. His face was smeared with Getaway’s lubricant and he made no effort to wipe it away.

“You’re sweet,” he murmured, something in his gaze too wild for Getaway’s comfort. Unhinged even. “I like the way you squirm,” he breathed and then he overloaded, spike spurting all over Getaway’s twitching valve, his pressurized spike, the insides of his thighs and his pelvic array.

Transfluid didn’t burn. But Getaway felt the sear of it splashing on his armor anyway. It felt like being marked, treated as less than, and he despised it.

“Get out of the way, freak.” Equalizer surged into view, rudely elbowing Cork away as the orange and white mech stood there dazed, hand around his depressurizing spike.

Cork stumbled with an outraged hiss, but obediently moved aside as Equalizer pushed his way between Getaway’s thighs, his fingers shoving into Getaway’s valve, three at a time, without any preamble. They burned, and Getaway flinched, and Equalizer laughed, husky and cruel.

“My turn,” he said.

Getaway groaned, fruitlessly trying to squirm away. Equalizer’s grip was hard and unyielding, the press of his field equally so. He was a mech who wanted to hurt, and Getaway had no illusions about how much pain he’d cause.

Lore chuckled and rolled his hips, thrusting harder against Getaway’s back, his spike leaving trails on Getaway’s shoulders. Lore’s hands squeezed Getaway’s sacs, making the energon shift and gurgle and the dermal mesh ache.

Equalizer’s fingers vanished, and Getaway had a moment of relief before they returned, this time prodding at Getaway’s aft port. The smaller entrance would have resisted, were Equalizer any gentler, but two fingers coated in a smear of lubricant and transfluid pushed into Getaway’s aft with a stretching burn that made Getaway hiss.

His legs trembled. A sound escaped him before he could swallow it. A whimper, a whine, pain that burbled up and spilled free.

“Let’s see if we can’t change your perspective, shall we?” Lore purred as Equalizer’s fingers kept fragging a burning stretch into Getaway’s aft. He supposed he should be grateful Equalizer bothered to try and stretch and lube him up even a little.

Something started wriggling about inside Getaway, in his neural pathways and his processor. The painful burn shifted to a liquid warmth. The tension in his hydraulics and cables eased. Pleasure, false as it was, washed through his thoughts, turning them dull.

He felt sick. Nauseous. And no amount of processor-washing could change that. His tanks lurched, even as the desire started to build inside of him.

“There. That’s better.” One of Lore’s hands stroked Getaway’s head. “Isn’t it nicer when you can relax?”

Getaway clenched his denta around the moan pushing at his glossa. His optical shutters clattered as he shivered. His hips rocked against the push of Equalizer’s fingers.

Where the frag was his team? Shouldn’t they be here by now? He’d have checked his chronometer, if only it wasn’t spinning nonsensical numbers at him. Time no longer had definition.

The berth rattled, dipped beside Getaway. He looked, through a haze crowding the edge of his vision, as Fallout clambered onto the berth. As he straddled Getaway’s belly, spike thick and visible, already dripping pre-fluid.

“Can’t let an opportunity like this pass me by,” he said, a breathless need in his vocals, his lips peeled back over his denta as he fondled Getaway’s sacs. “I’ve been dying to have more fun with these since I saw your sweet aft on the street.”

Getaway’s processor spun. It was dizzying, to fight the fake lust and the sensations in his frame.

“Frag you,” he gritted out.

Fallout rolled his hips forward, spike poking at Getaway’s energon sacs, rutting over and against them, leaving smears of fluid behind. “No thanks. I’d rather enjoy these instead.”

Getaway squirmed, vents coming in eager pants, both horror and lust. He felt Equalizer’s hands on his hips, too tight, too hard, too willing to dent. He felt the width of Equalizer between his thighs, and the blunt head of Equalizer’s spike against his aft port, prodding and prodding, threatening to impale.

Fallout was hot and heavy above him, eager and sloppy as he squeezed and fondled, as he thrust between the valley of Getaway’s sacs and squeezed his spike between them. His thumbs swept over the peaked nozzles, and a wave of pleasure made Getaway’s head spin. It was almost enough to distract him from the sudden burn in his aft as Equalizer plunged into him, spike a spear that filled him in a single thrust.

Getaway grunted, backstrut arching as little as he was able with Fallout on top of him. His shoulders ached, wrists strained.

Equalizer pumped into him, a steady, quick pace. His hands slid to Getaway’s thighs, urging his legs around Equalizer’s waist as he leaned forward, higher and higher, until Getaway was tilted and Fallout found it easier to frag his energon sacs. Fallout’s spike plunged between them, tip painting Getaway’s lips with pre-fluid again and again.

Lore seemed content to observe, while the disgusting-oil of his presence continued to manipulate Getaway’s processor, pushing more and more arousal at him, until his valve clenched on nothing, his spike throbbed, and his aft tightened around Equalizer’s spike. Even more so when Equalizer shifted one hand to molesting Getaway’s valve, stroking his rim and his external nodes, making heat blossom in Getaway’s groin.

Getaway’s frame moved, twitching and rolling with the stimulation. He began to meet Equalizer’s thrusts. He rocked up against Fallout’s spike, and the squeeze of Fallout’s hands, and the occasional pinch of his nozzles by Lore’s fingertips. Each touch was another shock of pleasure, another buzz of need in his lines.

He overloaded again, with a bitten off sound, lubricant spilling from his valve, his vents roaring. Purge threatened to rise, until Lore forced it down, smoothing over the disgust and chasing it away with waves of extended ecstasy.

Someone laughed. In the haze, Getaway wasn’t sure who.

“Little spy is made for fragging, isn’t he?”

“He’s overloaded twice already.”

“Probably bends over for anyone even without the creds.”

Laughter surrounded him. Getaway tried to growl, but all that came out of his intake was a moan, one desperate and needy, the result of Lore’s manipulation and entirely false.

A sharp burst of pain radiated through his groin. It took Getaway too long to realize it was because Equalizer had slapped his spike, and then roughly pinched the tip of it. There was no gentleness in that mech, only the urge to cause pain.

“Here.” Movement in his peripheral vision and a greedy voice forced Getaway to sharpen his senses.

Cork moved into view, a contraption of straps and metal dangling from his fingers. He grinned, all denta, as he handed it over to Lore.

“Put this on ‘im,” Cork said with a lascivious look down at Getaway. “Every pretty pet needs a pretty accessory, eh?”

Lore laughed. Equalizer paused in his fragging and even Fallout stilled as they watched the tangle of straps hover over Getaway’s face. Lore’s fingers untangled it, loops and coils of metal mesh unrecognizable.

At least, until Lore started to fit it over Getaway’s face. He recognized it for what it was then, as the wide, metal ring was forced into his mouth and lodged behind his denta. The straps wound around his face, cinching tight at the back of his head. He tried to turn his head, to make it difficult, but there were more hands to keep him still than he could fight and soon his mouth was stretched wide by the gag.

“Better,” Fallout purred as he started to thrust again, hands squeezing Getaway’s sacs, his spike prodding between them, bumping against the stretch of Getaway’s lips around the gag.

Equalizer started to move again, shoving hard and deep into Getaway’s aft, the slap of metal on metal harsh and obscene. He muttered curses, occasionally pausing to smack Getaway’s valve and anterior node with the flat of his palm, making Getaway jolt. It should have been painful, startling, enough to wilt his arousal. But Lore’s lingering infestation turned it all into liquid pleasure, until Getaway was moaning, unable to conceal the noises with his mouth forced open.

Fallout panted, mouth slack, optics glazed. He squeezed Getaway’s energon sacs until the metalmesh threatened to split. He rode them harder and faster, spike spearing between them, jabbing at Getaway’s mouth, until he abruptly curled inward and overloaded, transfluid splattering everywhere. It painted Getaway’s sacs in thick stripes, and coated his face, stray drops landing in his open mouth and on his glossa.

Where was his damn team? Getaway raged inwardly, shame and disgust spilling together as Fallout humped the last of his arousal against Getaway’s sacs. As he rose up, depressurizing spike hanging limp, free hand gathering up globs of his transfluid and smearing it over Getaway’s mouth and cheeks.

Getaway tried to tune it out. He focused inward, on the tenuous connection to his team, still transmitting. By Primus it was still transmitting. Sights. Sounds. Sensations. They could see and hear everything. They were witness to this humiliation as much as that camera was, recording it for prosecution’s sake.

Nausea roiled in Getaway’s tanks. He groaned.

“Someone take over so I can have a turn,” a dull voice said through the haze. Playback maybe. The only one who managed to sound bored while filming a gang rape.

“Wait until I’m done,” Equalizer grunted before he pulled out and gripped Getaway’s hips. “Flip him over, Lore. I want to pound his aft.”

“And I want his mouth,” someone else whined. Cork, Getaway thought.

Did it really matter?

Hands snatched Getaway’s frame. His processor spun as he was lifted, turned over onto his belly without a care for his comfort, sacs squished against the berth, hands still bound behind him. Staticky vision gave him a brief look at the mech still cabled to him – Lore was solid blue with garish green and gold stripes highlighting the blocky angles of his frame. He looked familiar, though Getaway couldn’t place where, and the lack of identifiable kibble suggested he was a monoformer.

Then orange and white moved back into his field of vision, directly in front of him. Cork knelt on the berth, his hand around the base of his spike – garishly orange with thin white swirls that made Getaway dizzy just to look at. Cork moved closer, eagerly clumsy, one hand gripping Getaway’s head, the other guiding his spike to Getaway’s mouth.

“This is my favorite part,” Cork panted as the head of his spike slipped through the ring of the gag and he released his grip on the length, revealing that there was an odd roundness to the base of his spike. It swelled outward, not so much that it wouldn’t get through the ring gag, but enough to be noticeable.

Getaway hoped that bump wasn’t what he thought it was. He’d heard of those mods, but he’d never seen anyone with one.

Cork probably meant to fill Getaway’s mouth slowly, but Equalizer suddenly started to frag him in earnest, plunging into Getaway’s aft with quick, deep strokes. He fragged Getaway like he was desperate for overload, his hands clenching tight enough to leave dents, his hips banging against Getaway’s aft, and shoving him forward, onto Cork’s spike.

Cork gripped Getaway’s head with both hands. “Frag him softer, damn it,” he whined as he eased back, trying to keep to his own pace. “You’re messing up my plans.”

“Shut it, Cork,” Equalizer panted and slammed into Getaway, hard enough for the clang of metal on metal to echo. “I’m doing this… my way.”

Equalizer grunted, spike rasping a searing path through Getaway’s port, scraping over his nodes, and then he slammed against Getaway’s aft seconds before he felt the hot flood of transfluid inside his port. A strangled noise, the bastard sparkling of a moan and a gurgle, escaped Equalizer as he pumped his hips, spurt after spurt of transfluid filling Getaway’s aft, until Equalizer abruptly jerked back and out. The last spray painted Getaway’s aft, and Equalizer’s palm slapped over it.

“Thanks for the ride,” he said.

“Damn it, Equalizer, take over for me,” someone else snapped.

Equalizer grumbled, but the rest of the conversation was lost as Getaway’s attention was tugged back toward Cork and the orange spike invading his mouth. Cork thrust into him deeper now, the head of his spike nudging the back of Getaway’s intake. He rocked slowly, as though he had all the time in the world, filling Getaway’s mouth with the taste of him.

“Playback’s gentler at least,” Cork said, his optics dazed, fingers stroking Getaway’s head in a parody of affection. “Means I can take my time with ya.”

Getaway would have offered a snarky comment, had his mouth been unoccupied, but all he managed was a terrible moan as Lore ramped up the false pleasure and a spike suddenly pushed into his valve, much thicker than all the others, but smooth at least. This, he assumed, was Playback, who filled every inch of Getaway, grinding over nodes with ease.

Playback set up a quick, efficient pace, like he only wanted to overload because he was aroused and it was troublesome. His vents came in sharp, stuttered bursts, his grip on Getaway’s hips perfunctory.

Cork chuckled and started fragging Getaway’s mouth slowly, spikehead brushing the back of Getaway’s intake opposite of the rhythm of Playback grinding on Getaway’s ceiling node. There was never a moment Getaway wasn’t filled, and this parody of a lover’s embrace made nausea roil in his tanks, for all that pleasure seared through his lines and made his valve throb.

“Let’s see if we can’t ramp up the tension, shall we?” Lore purred from somewhere in Getaway’s peripheral vision, and then those ghostly fingers slipped through Getaway’s processor, tugging on command lines.

Getaway groaned as his spike throbbed harder at Lore’s command, spilling more pre-fluid until it came in a steady trickle. It bobbed at the apex of his thighs, swaying to the rhythm of Cork and Playback fragging him. He was desperate, in that moment, for someone to touch his spike, and he started to hump the berth, eager for stimulation.

“Nice work,” Playback said as he ground against Getaway’s aft, and then hands circled Getaway’s spike, pumping him in long squeezes that forced out beads of transfluid.

His frame trembled. Cork pumped harder into his mouth, one hand curling around the back of Getaway’s head to push him against Cork’s groin, until his nasal ridge brushed bright orange armor. Cork’s spike slid down his intake, forcing Getaway to shift to secondary venting.

“This is going… to be… so good,” Cork panted as he ground against Getaway’s face, little jerks of his hips that barely counted as thrusts.

His spike throbbed, and Getaway’s internal sensors registered spurts of transfluid sliding down his intake. He dared think of relief, that Cork was done now and would leave him in peace. Surely his team would be here soon. Surely.

But then the base of Cork’s spike started to swell. Slow and barely noticeable at first, until Getaway’s glossa felt the pressure against it. His mouth opened wider, jaw aching, as the base of the spike swelled and swelled, forming a ball-like knot which prevented Cork from pulling out.

Cork laughed and held Getaway’s head tightly, jerking it against his groin one last time, fully seating his spike in Getaway’s mouth. It hurt. It was humiliating. It was exactly the mod Getaway feared Cork had.

The swelling – the knot – continued, pinning his glossa inside his mouth, straining the limits of his jaw, choking him. The spike remained in his intake, purge protocols rippling in struggle to remove it, and beeping obnoxiously as they failed. His jaw hinge stung, then ached, then sent lancing waves of pain through his mouth, until Lore’s ghostly fingers wisped them away, tangling them into the false pleasure.

Getaway whimpered.

His tormentors laughed.

Cork released his hold on Getaway’s head, now that Getaway couldn’t pull back. He reached down, pinched Getaway’s nose, cutting off what little air supply he could gulp down, forcing him to rely on his lateral vents. Playback fragged into him harder, tugging him back and dragging Cork’s spike with him. His intake ached, scraped raw.

Dizziness attacked from all angles. Pleasure spun through his lines, wild with charge. The hand on his spike was the best sensation of it all, fingers teasing his transfluid slid and pumping him expertly, drawing out the first vestige of real pleasure, to go with the false ecstasy Lore fed him.

More transfluid spurted into his mouth. It slid down his intake, into his tanks. He couldn’t taste it, a small favor, but he could feel it seeping through his intake. His tanks roiled with disgust. Cork laughed, his amusement flavored with lust, his spike pulsing against Getaway’s glossa.

Pleasure built inside of him nonetheless. His valve rippled around Playback’s spike, siphoning charge from the mech’s nodes. His spike throbbed eagerly, pre-fluid making for a slick stroke.

Overload struck him like an attack, it hurt as much as it felt good. It sent static over his armor, made his valve clamp tight, and his spike spurt a load into the fist of whoever was stroking him. Lore’s manipulations ramped up the pleasure, making Getaway’s armor gape, his engines rev, his field scream need, but they couldn’t completely hide the disgust in his field either.

“Oh, that’s delicious,” Lore purred.

Cork’s hand stroked around Getaway’s head as he circled his hips, venting bursts of heat down against Getaway’s face. “You’ve a talent for breakin’ ‘em, Lore.”

“That I do.”

Playback grunted and slammed into Getaway, hips making little jerks as he abruptly overloaded, spilling his load inside of Getaway’s valve, joining the mess his companions left behind. Like all else, Playback was perfunctory. He didn’t linger, withdrawing as soon as the pleasure had passed.

He pulled out, presumably to go back to his camera. Getaway’s bared components twitched at the brush of cooler air against his raw and exposed array. His valve lips twitched. His aft rim contracted around nothing. He felt hot and sticky, dirty.

Someone was quick to take his place, their hand smacking across Getaway’s aft in a harsh meet of metal on metal. The strike was jarring, and it stung. Getaway jerked, his mouth tugging on Cork’s spike, and to his relief, the knot which seemed to have shrank just a little.

They struck him again, open-handed palms, first one aft plate and then the other. Whoever it was vented hotly and loudly. Getaway’s frame jolted. To move backward would tug on Cork’s spike and put him closer to the pain. To move forward would have him crawling into Cork’s lap.

There was nowhere to go.

He checked, again, the link to his team. It held dead air – they couldn’t contact him. But it was active. Transmitting. How long had it been? He didn’t even know.

Where were they?

The mech behind him smacked his ass again, hard enough to leave a dent, for a cry of pain to be muffled by Cork’s spike before it abruptly slipped free. The knot popped past the gag ring, and Getaway’s lips, leaving a trail of transfluid in its wake.

Getaway’s intake immediately rebelled, sending him into a coughing fit, his tanks squeezing as they sought to purge, but Lore’s manipulations refused to initiate the protocols. Getaway coughed, flecks of transfluid dribbling from the corner of his mouth, a low and broken moan wreathed in static surrounding it.

“That’s a good look for you, spy.” Cork flicked Getaway’s forehead and sat back on his heels, spike hanging limp, knot still partially inflated. “Make sure you get a close up, Playback. You know they like to pay big money for coppers like this getting it good.”

Getaway dredged up a glare, but his vocalizer only spat static. His shoulders ached; his hands formed fists behind his back. His processor spun.

No, that was the room. The berth? No, they’d flipped him onto his back, his strut arched, energon sacs swaying and bobbing on his chest. It was Fallout between his legs, pushing into his aft without abandon, a look of crazed desire on his face. He licked his lips as he thrust, and his hands found Getaway’s sacs, giving them a squeeze, hard enough to force a squeak of pain.

Getaway squirmed, tried to wriggle backward on the berth, but Cork leaned over him, putting his hands on Getaway’s shoulders. He grinned as his half-pressurized spike kept slapping the side of Getaway’s face.

There was no getting away from Fallout’s vicious fragging. He plunged into Getaway’s aft with abandon, his hands squeezing and gripping Getaway’s sacs without pause. But that wasn’t enough for him, because he started slapping them, watching them jiggle. His fingers found Getaway’s nozzles and pinched them hard, as if he intended to rip them off.

Pain lanced through Getaway’s frame. His back arched in a soundless scream, an icy fire racing outward from the point of contact. Fallout pinched and tugged, and it was if someone had taken a branding iron to the nozzles.

Until the lancing pain turned to liquid pleasure. Until the ebb of Lore’s connection to him turned into a blinding wave all over again. Getaway stopped trying to twist away from the slaps. He started wriggling toward them, angling his frame to be better struck, all without his permission. He whined like a mechanimal desperate to breed. His valve clenched on nothing, and wept lubricant out of desperation. His spike thickened again, seeping pre-fluid, throbbing for touch.

Fallout overloaded quickly, his transfluid searing over Getaway’s bruised sensors. Or maybe he overloaded slowly, and he’d been fragging forever. Getaway wasn’t sure anymore. Awareness started to dim, fluctuating wildly between pain and pleasure, another overload whiting out sensation until he crashed back into the swollen, hot, aching thing that was his frame.

Fallout pulled out and someone else took his place. Someone who flipped Getaway back onto his belly, face and energon sacs smashed into the berth.

“My turn,” Lore growled, and shoved into Getaway’s valve, his spike modded with ridges and bumps and nubs that rasped over Getaway’s lining despite the mixture of fluids inside of him. It burned and tore and Getaway gasped, going limp.

Or maybe he went limp because Lore still had fingers in his processor and was still turning his thoughts to mush. He wanted to fight, wanted to scream and curse and squirm. But he kept melting and pushing back toward Lore, demanding more of the agony.

Lore laughed, something dark and rasping. He slid a hand around Getaway’s frame, up his body, fingers wrapping around Getaway’s intake. The other arm curled around Getaway’s waist, pulling him back and up. The pressure on his intake made his processor glitch, and he swore he tasted Cork’s transfluid again.

Overload hovered on the edge. His energon sacs swayed and bobbed from the force of Lore’s thrusts. He felt the heaviness of the others watching. The weight of the camera recording. Lore’s spike dragged over his nodes, demanding Getaway’s pleasure, as did the heavy touch on his processor, fingers deep in his pleasure center.

Ecstasy struck him with a garbled, pained sound. A dying noise. Getaway’s vision spun, his fans roaring to dispel heat and useless for it.

Lore laughed again, menacing this time, the tips of his fingers pressing in on Getaway’s intake. “And now,” he murmured against Getaway’s audial. “I really get to have my fun.”

Cold, icier than space, scraped down Getaway’s spinal strut. His spark dropped into his belly as every spark of pleasure in his frame abruptly turned to fear. Dark, drowning terror. He screamed as if someone held a blade to his spark, as if he stood on the precipice of a smelter’s pit, as if someone held his brain module in their teeth.

It wasn’t until he tasted smoke on his glossa that he realized he was screaming and shouting for them to “stop, stop, stop” and “help, help, help” and they were laughing and Lore was fragging him, his fingers getting tighter and tighter. Getaway felt like he were falling into an abyss, no berth beneath him, nothing but the hot, stinging burn of Lore’s spike in his valve, and the threat of a grip on his intake.

Snuff is worth everything on the black market, a small part of Getaway’s conscious reminded him. The logical part that tracked all of these horrible threats to society and made sure they were ended. The work that he did with his team was important for this very reason.

His team.

They must have forgotten him. They couldn’t find him. They wouldn’t find him. It was late. Too late.

Getaway moaned, and there was nothing of pleasure in it. His world was spinning, a sea of agony.

Lore fragged him harder, pounding into him, as though he sought to drive Getaway through the berth. His grip on Getaway’s neck tightened, and the cable connecting them spilled Lore’s commands faster and faster. Pain, pleasure, terror, Getaway couldn’t distinguish any of it. His processor floated, and he felt removed from it all, unable to gasp for a ventilation or notice anything beyond the sensation.

White-hot agony burst through Getaway’s head. He shrieked, thrashing, as Lore’s connection abruptly disengaged, leaving him staggering with control of his frame suddenly his again. His senses exploded: sight, sound, sensation.

His valve burned, his aft port on fire. His shoulders screamed for mercy. His energon sacs throbbed. He heard shouting, the discharge of weaponry, felt the startled bursts of multiple fields, and somewhere in the mess, something familiar. The warming touch of his partner.

His team.

Relief struck. Getaway dropped onto the berth, face-first, and didn’t have the energy to roll over onto his side.

“Getaway!” That was Jazz, shouting his name. “Slaggit, grab him!”

Hands on his frame, turning him. The world a blur of colors and agony and shame. He tasted energon, realizing he’d bit his glossa.

“Damn, partner. Look at you.” Skids’ voice, his face a blur to Getaway’s optics. “Can you hear me? Getaway? Getaway!”

~

“Getaway?”

He snapped out of the memory with a little shudder, one he was too slow to hide. He thanked Primus he’d decided to make his mouthplate permanent after that disaster of a mission. It meant he didn’t have a grimace to conceal.

“Sorry, mechs, got a little lost in thought.” Getaway rolled his shoulders, projecting ease toward his companions. “What was the question?”

Skids gave him a look, like he was trying to piece something together, but given his limited memories, only had a few snippets of it. Lucky for him. Lucky he didn’t have to remember that mission gone horribly wrong. It should have never come to that, the video which still made it onto the darknet, no matter how vigorously they tried tracking it.

Keystroke, however, just laughed and leaned forward, the garish orange highlights of his frame hearkening back to a memory Getaway would have rather soon forgot. “We asked if you were interested in joining us tonight. For a little wet and wild fun.” He winked, mouth stretched wide in a grin.

Beside him, Atomizer leaned back in his chair, one foot braced against the table’s edge. “I don’t know about the wild part, but fun is definitely on the table.” Lust radiated off him in waves.

It made Getaway’s tanks churn. Keystroke’s propensity for group bouts of interfacing, interconnecting cables and nights spent drowning in ecstasy, were starting to become something of a weekly occurrence on the Lost Light. He propositioned anyone and everyone and while they were perfect for letting off steam without worrying about unnecessary attachments… Getaway wanted nothing to do with being bared like that in a room with more than one mech.

“Fun,” Getaway echoed, and lifted his shoulders in what he hoped was a shrug. “Appreciate the offer, but no thanks.”

“Awww, that’s too bad. I hear your kind has all the best moves.” Keystroke grinned and winked, lascivious as always. “If you change your mind, you know where to find us.”

‘Your kind.’ Getaway knew what Keystroke meant, but his processor drifted to that disaster of a mission nevertheless. He still had the mounts for the energon sacs built into his frame, though the mesh pouches were not attached.

He hadn’t worn them since. He’d outright refused. And for once, Prowl had not pushed. The next mission of similar design had been Jazz’s. He’d been lucky. It had gone off without a hitch. No humiliating vids on the darknet to ruin him.

Getaway fidgeted with his engex, straw bobbing up in the glass. “Yeah. I do.”

Keystroke and Atomizer got up from the table, jostling each other as they moved to join another couple of mechs, presumably for the wild orgy they intended to have. In their absence, Skids slid closer to Getaway, a small frown on his lips.

“You okay?”

Getaway flashed calm into his field. “Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked, and took a sip of his engex through the intake valve, something no spike would ever enter again. It wasn’t like Skids could remember why he’d be uncomfortable anyway.

Or that Getaway had confessed to him once, months after the mission, that he still felt Lore inside him sometimes, turning pain to pleasure, making him aroused when he was afraid, and he loathed it so much. Like an itch he couldn’t scratch, an infection he couldn’t cure.

“Everything’s just fine,” Getaway lied.

It was getting easier every day.

[CtE] Full of Yourself 02

His berth kept twitching and rumbling beneath him, not quite as at rest as it should be, Starscream remarked with poorly concealed amusement. Then again, he was equally to blame, as his wings kept pushing into broad strokes, demanding more and more of the soft, soothing pets. Grimlock’s hands were made of magic sometimes, even if his attention was a little half-sparked at best, most of his processing power consumed by the datapad in his other hand.

Reports, likely. Or maybe he was pretending to catch up on his work and was actually reading one of the adventure datanovels unearthed from the bowels of a collapsed library. The wing-petting was likely automatic then, though it warmed Starscream from the inside out and sent a low buzz to his interface array.

It didn’t help that he was sprawled on top of his much larger mate, the resting rumble of Grimlock’s engine against his cockpit and straight to his spark. Grimlock ran several degrees hotter than Starscream, and that warmth had seeped through his armor to the cables beneath. It would be relaxing, were it not for the sweep, stroke, tweak motion of Grimlock’s hand on his wings.

Starscream wriggled. He started to move into the pets, backstrut arching, legs shifting restlessly, turbines spinning with a quiet click, click, click. His own datapad fell from slack fingers, interest in the scientific text forgotten. A purr rose in his intake as he squirmed on top of Grimlock, their armor sliding together in a chirr of metal on metal.

He felt the heat of Grimlock’s gaze shift to him, interest in his datapad melting away. Starscream smirked to himself and stirred a bit more, wing pushing up into Grimlock’s hand, his aft wiggling, one leg sliding over Grimlock’s thigh.

“You know,” Starscream purred as he lounged and squirmed just enough to straddle Grimlock’s belly, the heat of his array pressed over his mate’s abdominal vents. “Thundercracker is on shift now, and Cyclonus takes over after that. I believe that means we have what could be considered free time.” He curled his fingers into armor seams, the tips of his talons caressing the cables beneath.

Amusement rumbled in Grimlock’s chassis, vibrating against Starscream’s fingers. “Is that so?” His visor lit with interest, datapad falling by the wayside. “You look like you have something in mind.”

Starscream rolled his hips, grinding down against Grimlock’s belly, heat in his array building to a hungry want. It was rare they shared two off-shifts back to back, rare he could indulge. He knew what he wanted. He knew he wouldn’t even have to beg for it. All he had to do was ask.

He leaned forward, knees pressing in against Grimlock’s sides, wings pushing into the caress of Grimlock’s hand. “Knot me,” he murmured and swept his glossa over his lips, biting back a smirk as Grimlock’s visor tracked the motion of it.

He wasn’t entirely sure that counted as a request. Not when it emerged more as a demand, and a desperate one at that.

But Grimlock’s field surged, hot and hungry. One hand slid from Starscream’s wing to his aft, fingers stroking the curve of it. “You sure?”

Starscream’s spark fluttered. There was something about the single question, the constant need for permission and reassurance, that made his arousal blaze and the affection he felt for his mate deepen and settle in every inch of his frame.

He leaned forward, draped himself over Grimlock’s chest, finding the edge of Grimlock’s mouthplate with his denta. “Someday, you’ll realize I mean what I say and stop asking me that,” he murmured.

Grimlock’s hand curved around his aft and further down, fingers slipping between his thighs to rub over Starscream’s valve panel. He graciously allowed it to spiral open, letting Grimlock slip a finger into him, the thick digit stirring through lubricant to tease the sensory nodes decorating the metal mesh. Starscream moaned and kneaded at his chest, hips sinking down onto the single finger, his valve cycling tight and milking it for more.

“Never.” Grimlock slipped in a second finger, lubricant rolling thick and slick over the digits, making wet noises.

Starscream sucked in a sharp ventilation, heat winding a thready path through his lines. He ground against Grimlock’s chassis, spike throbbing in its sheath, valve hungry and willing, clenching around Grimlock’s fingers. Their fields intertwined, hot and heavy, pulsing to the same needy beat. A moan caught in Starscream’s intake, threatening to spill out.

Grimlock tweaked an aileron, making Starscream shiver. “Want to stay on top or…?” He trailed off, leaving all of the choices to Starscream, as he so often did.

“Mmm, no.” Starscream draped himself over Grimlock’s chassis, languid and aroused, lips curving into a pleased smirk. Want yawed inside of him, processor supplying naughty images that made his energon boil. “I want you to transform for me.”

Grimlock’s engine roared, as Starscream knew it would. His hand tightened on the edge of Starscream’s wing. His fingers pushed deep into Starscream, knuckles grinding on his valve rim, and heat rose up from his groin like a needy inferno.

Starscream hummed a laugh. “I thought you might like that.” He knew how much his trust meant to Grimlock, because Grimlock knew how hard it was for Starscream to give it. Trusting Grimlock in his alt-mode, so much larger, primal, terrifying, was worth thrice as much.

Starscream’s glossa swept over his lips. He pushed himself upright and leaned back into the cradle of Grimlock’s hand, trailing fingers down the front of his chassis to plunge them between his thighs. He toyed with his anterior node, fingers slippery with lubricant and sending pleasure radiating through his array.

“Knot me, my lord,” Starscream purred, fixing Grimlock with a heated look, slipping another finger into his valve, beside the two Grimlock had offered. “Until you’ve given me every drop.”

Grimlock’s visor flashed, and he growled. He surged upward, strong hands gripping Starscream and turning him onto his front on the berth, sliding three fingers into Starscream all at once, pushing deep to stroke his throbbing ceiling node. Starscream moaned and bucked onto the fingers, knees digging into the berth, fingers tangling in the covers.

The heavy mass of his mate settled over him, the front of Grimlock’s thighs rubbing against the back of Starscream’s, Grimlock’s engine revving a heavy vibration against Starscream’s wings. His mate’s hot vents blasted down through his seams, and Grimlock’s fingers rubbed and curled against sparking nodes.

“I thought you might enjoy that,” Starscream gasped as Grimlock’s palm ground against his rim, a heavy pressure on both his upper and lower external nodes. The tiny nubs throbbed with need, swollen and hungry. Lubricant slopped out of his valve, sticky on Grimlock’s fingers, painting the back of his thighs.

“You are a menace,” Grimlock growled, the hunger in his vocals as evident as the need buzzing through his field, and the way he carefully added a fourth massive finger, stretching the limits of Starscream’s valve.

“I thought that was what you liked about me.” Starscream gasped a laugh and kneaded the berth, knees rocking against it to push harder onto those fingers. It was not quite enough anymore, not now that he’d felt the swell of Grimlock’s spike, and more than that, the stretch of his knot.

Starscream hummed deep in his intake. “Transform, my lord,” he said, knowing how much it revved Grimlock to hear the title. “My valve could use some oral attention first.” He spread his knees further, completely baring himself, wisps of air caressing his valve where Grimlock’s fingers left him.

“Your wish is my command.” Grimlock pressed his head to the side of Starscream’s, his hands a caress against Starscream’s sides before he pulled back, sliding off the berth.

His hands tracked down to Starscream’s hips, pulling him nearer to the edge of the berth, all the better to give him easy access. He palmed Starscream’s aft, thumbs sliding down to bracket Starscream’s valve, giving it a brush. Grimlock rumbled again, and Starscream smirked over his shoulder, watching lust darken Grimlock’s visor, and a spill of charge dance bright-blue over his armor.

Grimlock stepped back from the berth, and his field rippled with hunger seconds before he transformed, his alt-mode towering over the berth and Starscream. Anticipation sent shivers through Starscream’s plating even as he pressed his forehead to the berth and pushed his aft up.

Then there was a snout between his legs, nosing between his thighs, the glossa following, big and thick and wet. It lapped at his valve, caressed his nodes, and more pleasure radiated outward, turning Starscream’s cables to liquid. He buried his face in the berth cover, knees wriggling as wide as he could manage, hips rocking back toward Grimlock’s eager licks.

Front nub to valve fold to lower nub and back again, lubricants mingling and turning him into a dripping mess. Starscream quivered, his valve swelling and hot, pleasure building to a fine throb in his array. He writhed, berth covers ripping beneath his talons, balancing on the precipice of overload. He pushed back against Grimlock, into the plunge of a thick glossa over his valve and the delicate scrape of massive denta.

“That’s– that’s good,’ Starscream gasped out as his aft rocked and his entire frame trembled. “You can… frag me now.”

A growl rumbled in the back of Grimlock’s intake, sounding both smug and hungry. The flat of his glossa laved Starscream’s valve again before he drew back, glossa sweeping over the lubricants painting his snout. His forearms, stunted though they were, patted Starscream’s aft and a following click was barely audible over the combined roar of their cooling fans.

Starscream moaned as he felt the heavy, blunt weight of Grimlock’s spike nudge his aft and the back of his thighs. The dripping tip left streaks of pre-fluid over his armor, painting it in lurid streaks. Grimlock rolled his hips, but in alt-mode, the angle was too awkward for a proper thrust.

He would need help.

Starscream dropped his weight onto his cockpit and reached down, back between his thighs, fingers curling around the bulbous tip of Grimlock’s spike. His mate shivered, releasing a low growl, especially as Starscream guided the dinobot’s spike to his valve, the thick head of it grinding against his rim. As thick as three fingers and ringed with tiny sensor nodes, Grimlock’s spike was a marvel.

Starscream shuddered as he imagined how it felt to pierce him. His lubricant painted the tip, already dribbling with pre-fluid. Grimlock thrust into his grip, grinding against Starscream’s rim and exciting the ring of tiny nodes.

Awkward though the angle might be, Starscream flirted his fingers up and down the length of Grimlock’s spike, ignoring the ridges and bumps, teasing his mate. Grimlock rumbled, venting hot puffs down over Starscream’s frame, his field pushing at Starscream in silent demand to move faster.

Starscream gnawed on his bottom lip. “Now who’s the impatient one?” he asked as Grimlock thrust into his hand again, grinding on the rim of Starscream’s valve.

“You’re being a tease,” Grimlock rumbled.

Starscream barked a laugh and braced his weight on one arm. He guided the tip of Grimlock’s spike to his valve and rocked backward, the head of it parting the pleats of his rim and sinking into his valve. Starscream moaned as pleasure radiated outward, his fingers abandoning Grimlock’s spike to brace himself with both hands now. His knees went weak, wings sinking against his back, as his valve rippled, dangerously close to overload once more.

Grimlock’s engine sent a heavy growl that vibrated them both. His feet braced on the floor before he rolled his hips forward, thrusting deeper into Starscream, half of his spike filling Starscream by the second thrust. Starscream growled and pawed at the berth, blindly shoving back with his knees as Grimlock rocked forward and bottomed out on another thrust, the head of his spike grinding over Starscream’s ceiling node.

Overload shattered through his system. His valve rippled and clenched around Grimlock’s spike, spilling charge into the receptor nodes as it crawled over his armor. Starscream moaned, the berth covers torn by his talons, pleasure spiking through his lines in wave after wave of ecstasy.

Grimlock waited, lingering in Starscream’s valve, frame trembling from the effort of holding himself back, ex-vents scorching where they buffeted Starscream’s frame.

“Good?” he rumbled, vocals rough and tantalizing in Starscream’s audials, making him shiver all over again.

“Always.” Starscream panted, his valve twitching as it fed off the charge in Grimlock’s spike. “Keep going.”

“You’re sure?” Grimlock asked, though his hips moved in a single thrust, rocking Starscream on the berth, stimulating his internal nodes through the thickness of his spike alone.

Starscream moaned. It was all the answer he could manage, through the pleasure sparking in his lines and throbbing in his spark.

Grimlock rumbled at him, field a hot and heavy stroke down the length of Starscream’s. And then he thrust, hard enough to push Starscream a bit further up the berth, his knees tangling in the covers. Starscream moaned again and shoved back, rocking the heavy length inside of him, his aft meeting the armoring of Grimlock’s abdomen. Rhythm soon followed, Grimlock making aborted little thrusts, dragging the nodes of his spike against the crackle-snap of Starscream’s valve.

“F-fill me,” Starscream stuttered, his vocals caught with static, his oral vents coming in sharp pants as his cooling fans roared. He was lost to the rhythm, the press of Grimlock’s spike, the way it ground deep inside of him, building his arousal to new heights.

Grimlock growled, a primal sound, and thrust into him again, shoving Starscream further up the berth. The first hot flush of transfluid spurted into Starscream’s valve, and he felt the swelling at his rim, minute at first, as it always was. Grimlock’s rhythm stuttered, less cadenced and more like desperate humping, the smack of his frame against Starscream’s aft, and the spurt of his spike, hot transfluid washing over Starsream’s nodes.

The knot swelled more with every thrust, filling and filling despite every spurt of searing transfluid, making Starscream twitch and writhe. His awareness narrowed down to a pinpoint, to the ecstasy building in his valve, making him tremble. Grimlock’s spike rasped in and out of his valve, raking over his sensor nodes, until at least, the knot was too large to be removed, and it passed by Starscream’s rim and was trapped within.

Starscream’s mod, only once tested before, contracted immediately. It tightened behind the knot, keeping it within his valve, the bulbous mass of it grinding against the ring of nodes behind Starscream’s rim. He moaned, going limp, as the knot swelled and transfluid filled his valve, stretching the lining, his calipers, straining the limits.

Grimlock sank against him, hips still working in tiny jerks, transfluid filling Starscream’s valve in steady spurts. The pressure built inside of him, the flood of transfluid rushing over Starscream’s nodes, and the tiny opening at the back of his valve, the one that led to his modded overflow tank. It bowed inward at the pressure, until it hit critical and the safety mechanism kicked in, the opening cycling open.

Transfluid rushed into it, sliding over previously untouched sensors along the way. Starscream writhed on Grimlock’s spike, panting as Grimlock spurted more and faster, filling his tank as fast as Starscream’s valve emptied into it.

Grimlock leaned harder against him, mass pinning Starscream’s frame down, his field winding around Starscream and stroking him with intangible fingers. “I love this mod,” he growled.

Starscream couldn’t hide the waves of self-satisfaction in his field. “I seem to remember saying the same thing about yours,” he gasped out as he went completely limp, his frame at Grimlock’s mercy and wracked with pleasure.

Heat crackled through his sensory lines, and his spark whirled and flared with oncoming overload. He was pinned and impaled, helpless almost, and if it weren’t for the trust flooding his spark, he’d have been afraid. But all he felt was arousal.

He deliberately clenched his valve, sending a ripple through the fluids filling him. His calipers strained and fluttered, the shift of pressure like a stroke to his charged internal nodes. More charge crackled between Grimlock’s spike and Starscream’s valve, nodes exchanging energy at a rapid pace.

“I don’t mod myself for just anyone, you know,” Starscream added as the overflow tank started a register its fullness, nearing maximum capacity, the heaviness of it pushing at Starscream’s internals, causing the gaps in his abdominal plating to widen and bulge.

Grimlock rumbled a laugh at him, his tone heavy with arousal. He rocked against Starscream, making his entire frame sway on the berth, the knot so firmly trapped within him that it ground against the interior of Starscream’s rim. It swelled and swelled with every pulse of transfluid, until Starscream’s overlow tank and valve both strained and could hold no more. Not even the rocking of their frames allowed the fluid to budge and Starscream trembled at the sensation.

He pressed his forehead to the berth and panted, claws curled into the cover, rending tears that would have to be mended again. The pressure was intense, delicious, like a constant press on internal nodes no finger could reach, and a spike only rarely.

Grimlock’s engine rumbled. One foot pawed the ground; Starscream could hear the talon scraping the polished metal. Grimlock leaned forward, over Starscream, the weight of him hot and present and arousing. The shift made for the slightest change in angle, nearly minute, except that the head of his spike now ground against a different node.

Pleasure sparked sharp and vivid through Starscream’s array, so startling that it sent him sailing into overload, a low wail escaping his intake. He squirmed, the tightening rim of his modification massaging Grimlock’s knot and milking it. Starscream sagged, panting, a twitch in his lower half.

A glossa swept over the back of his wings, hot and wet. Denta scraped delicately in its wake, and Starscream shivered again. Grimlock growled, the vibrations carrying against Starscream’s wings, as his mate’s spike pulsed in his valve, the knot throbbing to the same rhythm. Grimlock didn’t thrust so much as he lingered, savoring the press and clench of Starscream’s valve around his spike.

Starscream hummed and slipped a hand beneath himself, fingers gathering up lubricant and sliding over his own anterior node. It was plump and throbbing to the touch, eager for stimulation. Starscream gritted his denta, pinching and rolling the tiny tub, little zaps of charge dancing through his valve. Grimlock rocked hard against him, grinding on the outside of his rim, a press of plating on his lower node, and Starscream shuddered.

Overload pulsed through his system all over again, a long, slow wave of bliss that stole his vents. Starscream whimpered with delight as his valve rippled, sending charge racing through the fluid filling him, licking at Grimlock’s spike. His mate growled, low and deep and guttural, and a thick, hot jet of transfluid erupted from his spike, the last of it.

Starscream sighed a moan and slumped into the berth. His valve continued to twitch around Grimlock’s spike, milking the knot to encourage it to shrink. He cupped his abdomen, feeling the bulge of the overflow tank pushing at his plating. It bowed visibly outward, and while that should make him feel ashamed, or ridiculous, it didn’t. Instead it was deliciously erotic, and Primus if he knew why. He supposed it didn’t matter.

He should feel helpless. Trapped. Afraid. But he wasn’t. If anything, he felt erotic, loved, cared for. Grimlock’s field wrapped around him like a loving embrace. A promise.

“It still surprises me you want this,” Grimlock murmured, his vocals rougher in his alt-mode, rasping as they did through sharpened denta.

Starscream folded his arms under his head and manually rippled his valve, making it clench around Grimlock’s spike. He didn’t need to ask why his trust was still a surprise. He could only imagine the ugly things Grimlock had heard over the years, even from his own so-called allies.

“Some probably say it’s a surprise that you want me,” Starscream replied, and was glad Grimlock couldn’t see his face, though his mate could probably read the emotion in his field.

Grimlock growled, bestial and possessive. “Frag them.”

Starscream chuckled. “I’d prefer it if you fragged me.”

His rim mod rippled, massaging the knot at the base of Grimlock’s spike. He supposed this would be odd to the outside viewer, Grimlock in alt-mode, his spike locked in Starscream’s valve, the two of them chatting as they waited for the knot mod to complete its cycle. It still surprised Starscream that it had never once felt weird, only oddly comfortable.

“Isn’t that what I’m doing?”

“And oh so well at that,” Starscream purred. He arched his back, causing the tiniest of shifts to the spike within him, sending out another wave of liquid pleasure.

Grimlock chuckled, and Starscream could hear his tail swishing lazily across the floor. He licked the back of Starscream’s neck again, his frame practically humming with the low-grade pleasure constantly running through him.

He’d described the knotting protocols to Starscream before, how once the knot was fully engaged, his entire array set off wave after wave of tiny overloads that left him floating in a cloud of ecstasy. Focus was hard to come by, and Grimlock managed it only by reaching outside of himself, making sure Starscream was comfortable and pleased.

The knot shrank much slower than it swelled, in incremental shifts. For those who thought Grimlock had no patience, clearly they’d never shared a berth with him. Here they were, tied together for a certain length of time, and Grimlock never tried to jerk away, to urge the process along. If anything, he seemed to relish the time they spent tied.

It wasn’t a strain for Starscream either. The berth supported his weight, and all he had to do was rock a little to stir the spike in his valve, the pressure dancing along his sensory nodes and giving him little bursts of pleasure. It was like a long, slow extended overload for him as well, and he knew when they’d both soaked into it, because conversation vanished. Their fields intertwined, pulsing together, and Starscream hummed as his valve rippled with wave after wave of genuine bliss.

It didn’t end until Grimlock softened enough to slip out of him, the bulge of his knot caressing Starscream’s rim as it eased free, giving him one last strut-shivering overload. Starscream moaned and sank like liquid onto the berth as Grimlock’s heat abandoned his frame.

He heard his mate transform, and the creak of cables being stretched before the berth dipped. Starscream moved to stretch, but was first picked up and deposited in Grimlock’s lap, optics twirling as he was faced with the ceiling and Grimlock leaning over him, worry dimming his visor.

“You didn’t extend your spike?” Grimlock sounded surprised as he traced his finger over Starscream’s spike panel. His other hand palmed Starscream’s belly, curving across the rounded fullness of Starscreamm’s abdomen.

He enjoyed doing that, Starscream noticed. His fingers stroking and measuring the bulge, as if awed and possessive all at once. Starscream thought it was the Earth coming out in him, how he’d been raised on it and all too used on the organic method of reproduction. Something primal, Starscream supposed, about implanting seed into a mate and watching it grow into a new being. Given the organic nature of Grimlock’s alt-mode and his odd field and coding, it only made sense.

“Mmm. Not this time.” Starscream stretched his arm above his head and wriggled until he could turn on his belly, all the better to be draped in his mate’s lap. “Pet me.”

“As if I could do anything less.”

One hand obeyed, stroking Starscream’s back and wings and aft, the steady rhythm a soothing caress that almost lulled Starscream into recharge. Occasionally, it would dip between Starscream’s thighs, stroking the swollen pleats of his valve and dragging through the tiny trickles of dribbling fluid.

Before, playing with Grimlock’s knot had produced a torrent of mess afterward. Since Starscream had gotten the rim mod and Grimlock could fully empty his transfluid tank, however, mess was a thing of the past. A fully-engaged knot contained a compound, in the final spurt, that created a plug of some sort. One which could be dissolved by array-safe solvent at their convenience.

Until then, Starscream would be stuffed with Grimlock’s transfluid, his abdomen rounded, his overflow tank straining, and his valve calipers struggling to grasp the fluid sloshing about. It was maddening and arousing both, but knowing that Starscream was filled with his spill made Grimlock revved beyond belief.

“You’re messy,” Grimlock observed as his finger traced Starscream’s rim, playing in the trickle of fluids gathered there. His tone was less chastisement however, and more possessive, more pride and full of lust.

Starscream smirked. “I guess you’ll just have to clean me up then. It is, after all, your mess.” He arched his aft into Grimlock’s hand pointedly, a lazy curl of heat in his groin from the gentle, exploratory touches.

Grimlock rumbled at him. “Should I take you into the washrack then?” he asked, his voice growing darker, hungrier. “Or would you prefer my glossa?”

Mmm. Decisions, decisions. One was more erotic than the other, but it also would only make Starscream stickier. He was going to have a hard time getting clean in the future as it was. Lubricant was ever so difficult to get out of his joints.

He squirmed onto his back as Grimlock’s hand slid from his aft to resting over his pelvic array. But then, it almost immediately slid up, dragging lubricant with it, to cup Starscream’s lightly rounded belly again. His palm formed a curve over it, thumb stroking strained armor panels.

“Washrack first,” Starscream said and slid his hand up Grimlock’s chassis, one talon tracing the Decepticon badge so prominent there. “After that, we’ll see. We have two whole shifts to ourselves after all.” Barring any emergencies that is.

“Then I plan to enjoy every moment of it,” Grimlock purred and swept Starscream up into his arms, head tilted in for a nuzzle as he slid off the berth heading on a direct route for their private washrack.

Those reports weren’t going to get done in a timely manner, Starscream mused.

Oh, the frag well.