[G1] Lust and Loathing

Medics are easily the most stressed students in any university on the face of Cybertron, second only to engineers. It should come as no surprise, then, that they indulge themselves in all manner of stress relief. The word debauchery comes to mind, if you ask Hook.

Medics have no standards. They’ll berth anyone with a decent paintjob who promises a night of multiple overloads and ecstasy the likes of which one only reads about in lurid romance datanovels.

And some medics and medics-in-training are the absolute worst. Just barely a few notches above shareware, in Hook’s opinion.

Mechs like Ratchet. The Party Ambulance, which has become his rather distasteful moniker, proving the breadth of his reputation.

A growl builds in Hook’s engine. He sneers as he brings up the public gradeboard and glares at the names listed on it. Once again, Ratchet’s marks outstrip Hook’s own. Always number one, Ratchet is. Which is a fragging travesty. It’s an insult.

Ratchet parties every chance he gets. Sometimes, he staggers to class still half-overcharged from the night before. He frags around to any berth that’ll take him. He’s never found in the library studying for practicals. Worse, he’s somehow the professors’ favorite and friend to everyone.

Everyone except Hook that is.

Here Hook is, working hard, studying diligently, taking care of himself, attending every class punctually, the first to ask questions and write down answers. Yet, he’s always one step behind Ratchet in scores and proficiencies. Somehow, he has no friends.

Well, save the one.

Recurve, Hook suspects, has only befriended Hook out of a sense of pity. He’s the golden spark who can’t stand to see an Empty in the alley or a beggar on the streets. He’s poor half the time because he’s always giving his allotment away to the needy. He doesn’t think to conserve and save like Hook does.

Act of pity Recurve’s friendship might be, but he puts as much effort into it as he would a genuine friendship. He’s the only one to notice Hook staring at Ratchet across the room, dancing in the thick of yet another loud and raucous party, so many hands on Ratchet’s frame that there’s no way to identify to whom they belong.

Hook had sworn he’d never attend one of these degenerate affairs. He had much more important ways to spend his time, and this kind of flippant disregard for propriety is positively obscene.

But Ratchet is here, and curiosity had finally taken Hook by the crane and tugged him into the nearest mass of noise.

He’d found Ratchet immediately. He’d only need look to the biggest clump of lewd behavior in the room.

“Just ask him to berth you,” Recurve says with a loud laugh and a knock of his shoulder against Hook’s. Large enough to nearly bowl Hook over, Recurve is an engineer built to withstand many an invention’s malfunction. “He’ll say yes.”

Hook growls and his visor flashes a glare. “It’s not about berthing him,” he retorts as his gaze finds Ratchet again, finds the tantalizing peeks of scuffed red and white plating vanishing behind groping hands.

Recurve snickers and leans hard against Hook’s side, already two sheets to the wind, like everyone else at this pitiful excuse for a celebration. “Yeah, well, that’s not gonna put you on top either, you crankshaft.”

Recurve has yet to learn that insulting someone you consider a friend is not how friendships are supposed to work. Though Hook assumes he is meant to take such a thing in jest.

He’s not overcharged enough for this.

Hook glares. That kind of comment isn’t even dignified a response.

Recurve sighs and shifts his weight away from Hook. “Fine. You sit here and glower.” He rises to his full height and surveys the crowd. “I’m going to get several drinks and see if I can’t convince that cute tow truck in the corner to take me home. Good luck.”

Hook’s so-called friend doesn’t wait for a reply or a dismissal. He melts into the crowd, snags the first drink someone offers him, and chugs it down. He disappears rather quickly, despite being a head taller than most of the medics around. There are many engineers here as well.

Medics and engineers. Same stock honestly.

Hook sniffs.

He leans harder against the wall and takes a long drink of his high grade. He drains the cube, the burn of the potent and inexpensive blend sitting heavy in his tanks. Primus, it’s foul. But students are poor and cheap besides. They would never spring for the good stuff.

The only good thing is that it’s potent enough to get him overcharged quickly. Overcharged and, he hopes, brave enough to do something stupid.

Hook grabs another mug and downs it so quickly he doesn’t taste the terrible swill. It burns in his intake and heats his tanks. He wobbles a little as he licks a few stray drops from his lips.

There. Just tipsy enough to gather his courage and make a pass at Ratchet, proving that there’s at least one arena in which Hook is superior to him.

Hook pushes himself off the wall and plunges into the crowd, weaving through the thick morass of dancing frames. He stumbles, bouncing from one gyrating pair to another, finding Ratchet again and again through the twisting frames.

Then suddenly, the sea of mechs abruptly parts, giving him a direct path to Ratchet and the mech he’s grinding against. Some white mech with blast stains marring his white and gray paint, obnoxious orange and green stripes making for a horrendous paintjob. He is vaguely familiar to Hook, in that he’s from the engineering department and notorious for being brilliant.

Sloppy and unconventional, mind, but brilliant.

Hook gets within two paces of the mechs dancing with moves just shy of public interfacing, and suddenly, his feet stop working. He hovers and he stares, unsure how to approach the situation now that he’s here. This is the first party he’s ever deigned to attend. What are the social protocols?

Is he supposed to cut in between them, grab Ratchet’s interface panel, and suggest they go somewhere private? (Or public, actually, because a good quarter of these partygoers haven’t bothered with anything like privacy or public decency.) Because that seems like what everyone else relies upon.

Timidity will get him nowhere. Hook is not a shy mech. He boldly goes after what he wants. So he squares his shoulders and prepares to insert himself between the two gyrating mechs.

But then the music stops, highlighting the riotous background noise of laughter and conversation. Ratchet and his dance partner share a lewd kiss, complete with visible glossae, before the engineer untangles himself from Ratchet and toddles away, but not after Ratchet smacks him on the aft. The clang isn’t even audible over the racket of the party.

Ratchet’s gaze falls on Hook next, almost as if he knows Hook’s been staring, and his slag-eating grin widens even further. His lips are already moist from his liplock with the engineer, but Ratchet licks them again.

“Well, if it isn’t number two,” he nearly shouts as he swaggers forward, his windshield marred by paint smears and what looks like sticky energon. He swipes someone’s high grade, and they don’t even protest when he downs half of it all at once. “Didn’t think I’d be seeing someone like you here. Didn’t even know you left your den, come to think of it.”

Anger burbles up in his tanks. Hook forces himself to swallow it down, lest he ruin this night in a sniping match. “It’s open invitation, is it not?”

Ratchet laughs. “Calm your treads, Hook. I’m not trying to throw you out.” He holds the high grade out to Hook, or what’s left of it, and gives the cube a wiggle. “Here. Drink this. You need to unknot your cable.”

Hook grimaces. Who knows who many mouths have been on that cube? “I’ve had two. That’s more than enough.”

“Not for this party.” Ratchet wriggles the cube again and sidles closer, until the first slither of his field is tangible. “Come on. Relax. Practicals are done for the decaorn. It’s time to kick back and celebrate our survival.”

Hook lifts his chin in challenge. “And what of the next practicals?”

“Those are a decaorn away. Plenty of time to study for those. Don’t be in such a rush to boredom.” Ratchet rolls his optics and leans in close, enough that Hook can smell the overcharge stink of him. “Wanna dance?”

Hook doesn’t recoil, but it’s a near thing. “I don’t dance.”

“Then why bother coming to a party? You’re such a dead battery.” Ratchet slides away with a disappointed frown. “I’m going to go find someone who’s actually interested in having a good time.”

Damn it. This isn’t going to plan.

Hook lunges forward, his fingers wrapping around a backswept wrist, stalling Ratchet’s escape. “I didn’t say I wasn’t here to have fun,” he says and lets his field lick out, hot and full of promise. “I’d just rather do it somewhere… private.”

“Is that right?” Ratchet turns back toward him with a leer, and his gaze flicks up and down Hook’s frame like he’s assessing Hook’s abilities. “I have to say, I didn’t take you for the type interested in a friendly ride.”

Hook gives a faint squeeze to Ratchet’s wrist – a warning. “You don’t know enough about me to decide that.”

“Mm. True.” Ratchet twists his wrist in Hook’s grip and leans in closer, sloppy and warm and smelling sweet like high grade and goodies, his field syrupy where it drapes over Hook’s. “You really wanna go somewhere else with me, number two?” His ex-vents tickle into the crook of Hook’s neck and shoulder.

Hook takes a chance and slides his hand up Ratchet’s arm, dragging his field along with it, cutting like a knife through Ratchet’s lust with a thirst of his own. “I intend to ruin you for anyone else,” he purrs.

Ratchet barks a laugh. “Oh, a challenge?” He leans in close, glossa flicking over Hook’s audial in a wet swipe. “Come on then. Let’s go.”

Ratchet dances back, grabs Hook’s hand, and abruptly tugs Hook after him. He stumbles as he struggles to keep up with Ratchet, who is not the least bit clumsy despite the copious amounts of high grade he’s consumed. He tows Hook out of the crowd with single-minded determination, a high-flying grin on his lips.

“Get him, Ratchet!”

“Attaboy Hook!”

“Make that second feel like he’s number one!”

Hook’s face burns with humiliation. He feels like they are walking through some gauntlet of debauchery as the congratulations keep coming, and Ratchet is treated like some kind of celebrity, with the cheering and the backpatting and the shoulder-smacking. Someone even has the audacity to whistle and wink at Hook.

He glares at the idiot, makes a point of memorizing their face – lurid orange and purple paint, blue optics, sensory horns – for later purposes. If he ever sees that mech again, well, they will learn the true meaning of humiliation.

Finally, he and Ratchet squirt free of the crowd, squeezing through a narrow doorway into an equally narrow hallway. Dimly lit, not enough room for two mechs to walk abreast, brightly adorned doors identify dormrooms. Ratchet pulls him to the nearest one, the door sliding open without so much as a code, and they stumble inside.

“Whose room is this?” Hook asks as he gapes at the mess, piles of belongings on the floor and in corners, haphazard stacks of datapads, burnt out emergency bulbs even.

Ratchet whirls him around and backs him toward the berth. “I have no idea,” he says with a laugh, and his hands find Hook’s hips, his field hot and hungry where it roils over Hook’s own. “I’m sure they don’t mind. Maybe they’ll even join us.”

“I hope not,” Hook grumbles as he peers around the room, trying to identify whom it might belong to. At least two medical residents, judging by the number of berths, but there are no designations in plain sight.

“Not interested in multiples?” Ratchet asks with a raised orbital ridge and a squeeze of his hands. “What a shame.”

Hook nearly trips on a discarded mesh cloth, but Ratchet’s grip keeps him on his feet. “Not everyone is as depraved as you,” he snaps, his face heating in the wake of his clumsiness.

Ratchet chuckles and gives him a push. Hook yelps as he stumbles backward, only for the back of his knees to hit the edge of a low berth and his aft to tumble down onto it. Off-balance, he tips back, head landing on a pillow that smells of cheap polish.

Ratchet climbs on top of him without any fanfare, straddling Hook’s mid-section, his aft planted on Hook’s pelvic array. The heat of Ratchet’s arousal wafts down from his panels, tempting Hook’s own array into stirring. They’ve not even started, and Ratchet’s aroused. Easy doesn’t even begin to describe him.

“What you call depraved, I call enlightened,” Ratchet purrs and leans forward, bracing his hands to either side of Hook’s head. His knees dig into the berth, pinning Hook’s hips between them. “Got any preferences for how we play?”

Ratchet’s smirk is positively lewd. And somehow Hook’s hands find Ratchet’s thighs, feels the heat of them beneath his fingertips.

“You say that as though you are not up for anything,” Hook replies, and though it’s meant to be a cutting remark, somehow it comes out flirtatious.

“Well, I have some limits,” Ratchet drawls and rocks his hips, grinding down on Hook’s panel, lubricant leaking and dripping onto Hook. “Why? What kind of screwy slag are you into, Hook? Hmm?” He leans down, ex-vents hot and wet over Hook’s lips, the tip of his glossa touching the corner of Hook’s mouth. “I think we’re a little too unfriendly for bondage at this stage.”

Bondage.

Ratchet wrapped in beautiful cables, black and gray perhaps, twisting and twining around his frame, displaying him to perfection. Immobile and poised, lewd and defiant, at Hook’s mercy, panting for pleasure, his biolights pulsing to the tune of his desperate vents, array dripping fluids to the ground as he begs for Hook to touch him, touch him please

Hook’s engine purrs, and he covers it up with a groan. “You’re ridiculous,” he says, but the images are there and they won’t leave now.

Wind Ratchet up with Hook’s own cable even, feel the medic bound to him, towed to him, forever wrapped around him.

Not an entirely unwelcome notion. It would certainly put Ratchet in his proper place. The over-faced aft would probably enjoy it, too.

Ratchet grins, and his glossa flicks over his lips. “Yeah, but you want to frag me anyway,” he replies with the sort of confident edge that makes Hook want to grind his denta. He rocks his hips harder, and a quiet click of panels opening is the prelude to hot lubricant seeping onto Hook’s groin, painting his panels with slick. “Gonna open for me? Or do I have to coax your spike out? Kinda curious to see what you’ve got packing down there, second.”

“You are a brat.” Hook seethes, but his hands slide up and down Ratchet’s thighs, enjoying the sleekness of his paint. His panels spiral open, his spike eagerly extending, the head of it brushing over Ratchet’s valve, tasting the wet heat gathered there.

“Well, I’m depraved. Ridiculous. Bratty. Any other pet names you got for me?” Ratchet grinds down, the mesh folds of his valve caressing Hook’s spike, painting it in lubricant, little nips of charge darting between them. “Kind of makes me special, doesn’t it?”

Irritation flashes through Hook. He growls, “You’re not special,” and grabs Ratchet by the hips, tightening his grip as strong as any medic worth his specialized hands.

He braces his feet on the floor – thank you cheap and low berth – and rolls, dragging his knees up onto the berth as Ratchet sprawls beneath him, knees obscenely parted. Hook notches himself between them, to the inviting damp at the apex of Ratchet’s thighs. He’s heavier than Ratchet. Stronger, too.

It takes little effort to pin Ratchet beneath him, his spike grinding in the slippery heat of Ratchet’s valve, the head of it rubbing over Ratchet’s swollen anterior node.

“And I’m going to be on top,” Hook pants, need coiling inside of him, engine rising and rolling, lust like a hot clench in his spark. Lust or loathing. He’s not even sure anymore.

Ratchet grins and stretches his arms over his head, totally relaxed, like the depraved mech he is. “Suit yourself,” he says, and shifts, crossing his ankles behind Hook’s thighs, dragging him closer. “I’m not complaining.”

Aft.

He always has to turn everything around, doesn’t he?

Hook growls and grinds against him, his spike slipping and sliding over Ratchet’s valve, teasing his exterior nodes, upper and lower. There’s so much lubricant between them he can hear it squelching. It feels ridiculously good, and Hook’s spike throbs with anticipation, arousal coiling in his lines.

“Need helping finding my valve, second place?” Ratchet asks with a little shimmy of his frame that widens the gaps in his armor, allowing Hook peeks at the delicate cables beneath.

Hook snarls and shifts his weight, hands sliding down to grab Ratchet’s hips. No, he doesn’t need help.

“Shut up,” he grits out, even as he jerks Ratchet’s hips down to meet his, and his spike sinks into Ratchet’s valve in one sharp thrust, all the way to the hilt, valve calipers fluttering madly around his spike and charge assaulting his sensor nodes.

Ratchet moans like the rough treatment is what he’s been dying for, and arches into the touch, his heels digging into Hook’s back. “Nnn. That’s better.” His hips rise, rocking into Hook’s thrusts, demanding more without words. “Want to plug in?”

Hook’s rhythm stutters. “What?”

“You know, hook up?” Ratchet smirks and wriggles his fingers and his hips. “Or have you not gotten the Interfacing Education course yet?”

“I know what cabling means!” Hook hisses as he thrusts deep and grinds against Ratchet’s ceiling node, hoping the jabs of pleasure would shut his rival up.

No such luck.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!” Hook snarls and shivers as a particularly deep thrust causes Ratchet’s valve to tighten and clench around him, caressing his spike. “I was surprised is all.”

Ratchet arches an orbital ridge. “Because?” It almost sounds like honest curiosity, if it isn’t for the edge of mischief in his tone.

“It’s personal.” Hook’s rhythm stutters again, his concentration stolen by the embarrassment in his admission. “And it’s…” He searches for a word that won’t make him any more humiliated than he already feels.

How can Ratchet always do this to him? It doesn’t take much. A few choice phrases, cutting words, and Hook is stewing in his own special blend of envy, fury, and embarrassment.

“Depraved to ask for?” Ratchet snickers and his hands slide up Hook’s arms, finding his tires and dipping his fingers into the rim gaps. “If you say so. I’m not about pushing mechs into things they don’t like.”

Somehow, Ratchet’s consideration feels condescending.

“Give me your cable.” Hook shifts his weight back to his knees, dropping his hold on Ratchet’s hips. He gropes at his port array, flicking open the panel to withdraw his cable, with perhaps a tad too much force than is necessary.

“Change your mind that quick, did you?” Ratchet chuckles, but his optics are focused on Hook’s dangling cable plug with evident interest. “I’m not sure you can handle my charge, number two.”

Hook slides his free hand over Ratchet’s bobbing spike, giving it a tight squeeze that makes Ratchet arch his back and shiver. “Why don’t you try me and find out?”

Ratchet’s glossa flicks over his lips. He tugs out his own cable, wiggling it in Hook’s direction. “I’ll take that challenge.”

Hook snorts, but doesn’t comment. Their exchange of cables is almost perfunctory, as is the way Hook doesn’t bother to tease as he slides his plug home in Ratchet’s port, sending a surge of charge immediately through. Pride swells in his spark as Ratchet visibly shivers, a warm sigh spilling from his lips.

Hook bombards with Ratchet with several more pulses of need and lust before he deigns to slip Ratchet’s cable into his port with decidedly more care. The little click of connectors coming into contact is unexpectedly arousing, and Hook bites back a groan.

“My turn,” Ratchet says with a smirk, and then a tidal wave of static charge comes surging over their connection, bombarding Hook’s lines with ecstasy.

His knees wobble. He pants for vents as he tilts forward, hands braced to either side of Ratchet’s shoulders, optics flickering. Primus, he’s never felt such raw charge, like lightning caressing his nodes, and going straight to his array. His valve clenches, suddenly desperate to be filled, as his spike plunges deep into Ratchet, throbbing insistently.

No. He’ll not be defeated. Not in this.

Hook gathers every ounce of control and focus. He gathers up the charge Ratchet is sending him and cycles it back, adding his own to the fray. His throbbing spike demands attention, so Hook starts to thrust again, fragging Ratchet with quick, deep stabs of his spike, raking over sensor nodes in a desperate bid to prove, once and for all, who is truly the best.

He claims Ratchet’s mouth to wipe away the smirk, the taunting remarks. He plunges his glossa inside, tasting sweet and tart high grade, and moans as their denta clack together. Ratchet gropes at him, hands gripping Hook’s side, curled on plating protrusions from his alt-mode.

Silence is golden, they say, and in this case, they are right. Ratchet is so much more likable when he’s reduced to moans and gasps and noises muffled against Hook’s lips. He’s ten times more appealing like this, squirming and writhing on Hook’s spike, his charge relenting in the wake of Hook’s unforgiving tide of electric ecstasy.

Ratchet grapples with him, refusing to go down without a fight. They roll across the berth, limbs tangling, frames clanging and colliding, leaving marks of paint behind. Hook is smug, it feels like staking a claim, until he realizes that Ratchet is marking him as well.

He growls and bites at Ratchet’s lips, his jaw, his intake, pulling more gasps and moans out of Ratchet’s mouth. No more words emerge from Ratchet. No more taunts or goads or challenges. Just raw pleasure, the occasional demand for more, harder, faster, and Hook is all too eager to oblige. His fans roar as he plunges into Ratchet again, matching the pulse of his charge across their cables to the beat of his spike.

Static crawls over their frames in bright bursts, lighting up the dim of the messy dorm. Ratchet’s making these noises, little whimpers and sighs, and his field is a hot lick against Hook’s own, trickling into all the nooks and crannies, winding him up.

They roll again, and Hook’s back on top, his hands seizing Ratchet’s hips, his spike grinding hard and deep, assaulting Ratchet’s ceiling node. He feels savage, lips pulled back over his denta, leaving nips and claims on Ratchet’s intake before he seizes Ratchet’s mouth again.

Victory soars into his spark as Ratchet overloads first, his valve spasming around Hook’s spike, his spike spurting against Hook’s belly, his lines surging with charge. Ratchet is gorgeous in pleasure, head tossed back, frame offered in complete surrender to what Hook is offering him.

It’s intoxicating. He clings to it, that sense of triumph, before the taste of Ratchet’s overload along their connection pulls Hook into the ecstasy as well. He buries his face into the crook of Ratchet’s shoulder, takes the spicy heat of him, and spills deep into Ratchet’s valve.

The release triggers a cascade across their cabled connection, sending Ratchet into another overload and pulling Hook along for the ride. The pleasure surges between them, one overload feeding into the other, until Hook feels eclipsed by it. His senses drown in ecstasy, and all sensation dims to the overwhelming electricity of it.

Safety protocols kick in around the fifth-sixth-he can’t count anymore. Hook gasps out a staticky sound even he can’t identify and collapses on top of Ratchet, vents desperately pulling in air, his lower half trembling and weak. There’s not a drop of transfluid in his tanks, and lubricant slicks his thighs. He’d overloaded with his valve, too, without so much as a brush of stimulation.

Primus.

Ratchet squirms and Hook manages one last surge of effort. He pulls his rapidly depressurizing spike free and tilts to the side, landing on his belly on the berth. His spark races, and Hook realizes he should probably get in a comfortable position, but he’s trying to remember if he has feet or not.

Primus, that’s the best he’s ever had. He’d forgotten that being with medics is one hundred times different. He doesn’t know what kind of mods Ratchet has in his valve, but they have to be illegal. Plus, whatever he was doing with his cable array.

And if it had been incredible for Hook, it had to have been even more so for Ratchet, who’d had just as many overloads if not more. Everyone knows the valve mech gets twice as much pleasure. No way would he ever forget this.

Hook drags up energy and turns his head to look at Ratchet next to him. He plants a smug grin on his face, ready to dredge up a taunt or two.

Ratchet groans, his field fluttery with happiness and satisfaction. He stretches his arms over his head and then reaches for their cables, disconnecting them with efficient twists of his wrists. Hook’s own spools back into his array, the panel closing behind it.

Ratchet sits up, one hand diving between his legs to brush over his spike and valve array briefly. They come up damp with a mixture of fluids, evidence of their debauchery. Ratchet snorts as though amused and then Hook hears a click as his panels close.

“Thanks for the ride, second,” Ratchet says, and then of all things, pats Hook on the hip before he scoots off the berth, standing up as though his legs aren’t made of gelatin, like Hook’s.

How can he move after that? How can he stand? Where is he getting the energy from? Hook feels like he could recharge for the rest of the night!

“Stop calling me that,” Hook croaks.

“Why? It’s what you are?” Ratchet’s smirk is condescending. As is the way he looks down at Hook as he redolently stretches.

“Not for long.” Hook glares and manages to leverage himself upright, though his arms wobble. “I’ll surpass you by the time we graduate. I swear it.”

“If you think you can.” Ratchet leans in close, smelling of interfacing and high grade, of challenges and the bitter tang of loathing. His lips are far too tantalizingly close. “I welcome the challenge, second.”

Hook squares his shoulders. “I just showed you, didn’t I?” he demands, sharp and hot.

Ratchet nips at his jaw before he leans back, making a show of deep thought as he taps at his chin. “Eh, I’ve had better. But it was definitely a solid effort on your part. Worthy of a repeat. Four stars easy.” He shrugs. “Just means there’s room for improvement. I volunteer to be your practice dummy.” He winks.

Hook stares at him. The words echo in his audials and in his head, they surge through his frame, melt out through his feet, puddle beneath him.

I’ve had better.

I’ve had better?!

“Anyway…” Ratchet stretches again, groaning long and low, before he spins toward the door, waving a hand over his shoulder. “Thanks for the ride and all, but there’s a party still in full swing, and I don’t want to miss a moment more of it. See you in class tomorrow.”

And then Ratchet swaggers out like he hadn’t just insulted Hook’s interfacing prowess, implied he needed to practice, and then dismissed him in the space of a single conversation.

Hook gapes at the empty space on the floor where Ratchet had been standing. Barely a minute had passed since he’d overloaded and Ratchet’s already gone, meanwhile Hook can barely move, save for the shaking. He’s sticky, exhausted, he reeks of interfacing and overloads and beneath it all, a curdle of shame.

What the frag? He’s had better? How!?

The door opens again.

Hook leaps to his feet, even if it does make him sway, ready to give Ratchet a piece of his processor and then some. But it’s not the top-rated student returning, but a pair of drunken mechs who stumble inside, lips locked and hands indiscriminately roaming.

They collide against a desk, giggling, oblivious to Hook’s presence. He recognizes Recurve immediately, but not the smaller mech plastered to Recurve’s front – a medic, by the brands on him. Newly graduated even.

Some people have all the luck.

“Excuse me,” Hook snaps as he storms forward, eying the narrow space between their flailing limbs and his path to freedom. “Let me get out of the way before you start fragging on top of me.”

They still.

Recurve’s head swivels toward Hook and he blinks in confusion. “Oh, hey, Hook. Wait. Didn’t you leave with Ratchet?”

Hook’s optical band narrows. His engine growls.

“Went that well, huh?” Recurve guesses.

His interface partner giggles. “Must not have, if he’s done already,” they say, singsong. “Guess your buddy here doesn’t have the stamina to keep up with the party ambulance.”

Heat floods Hook’s cheeks. Anger bubbles up inside of him, and all manner of waspish retorts dance on the tip of his glossa, but none of them emerge. What’s the point?

“I’m going home,” Hook declares as he stomps to the door.

Recurve is wise enough to spin his dance partner out of the way, his expression inscrutable. “See you later!” he says, not quite cheerful, but condescending all the same.

Hook ignores him, the door closing behind him and cutting off the sounds of giggling and sloppy kisses, barely a step missing in their lewd dance of courtship. Hook snarls under his vents and storms away from the room and noise and laughter and fun of the party. There’s a reason he doesn’t go to these things.

Never again.

I’ve had better.

The statement lingers in his processor like a bad rust infection, like a flick to the nasal ridge, like his position, ever below Ratchet’s in the rankings, ever in the shadow of something he can’t grasp. So easily dismissed, it builds a fury inside of Hook, one no smelter’s pit can match.

He’ll show them. He’ll show them all, and Ratchet especially.

He will find a method to surpass Ratchet in every way, to leave him soundly behind in the rankings, in the proficiencies. He’ll create methods that’ll make other medics boil with envy. He’ll become a name so remembered, everyone will forget Ratchet ever existed. He’ll be obsolete.

Hook intends to make Ratchet so jealous, so pathetic, that he’ll come begging for an invitation to Hook’s berth, just for a touch of the glory. So he can know what it feels like to be small in the face of greatness.

Yes.

It will happen. It’s going to happen. No matter what Hook has to do. He’ll find a way.

And he’ll crush that overconfident slagger beneath his foot.

Advertisements

[G1] Behind the Scenes 11

Good Boy

Prowl kneels, waiting patiently. He shivers, anticipation like an oil bath over his armor. The craving sets in, as his processor whirls and hums, a predator held at bay against the prey of desperately needed figures and calculations.

Ratchet hums as he starts to work. He has a pleasant voice. It soothes Prowl’s spark.

The first accessory – a thick collar with a heavy loop on the front – snaps into place around Prowl’s intake. With it, comes the first burst of relief. The metal is cold, but warms quickly against his dermal plating. The weight of it is a promise.

Duty slides away, behind the click of the lock.

Second comes the leash, a long, braided length of platinum – more show than function. It clips into the collar and hangs loose until Ratchet drapes the end over one of Prowl’s shoulders.

The snick washes away responsibility and leaves behind a simple command – obey. In Ratchet’s hands, this is always the easiest part. Prowl so often is the one giving orders, leaving that behind to lay his trust in Ratchet’s hands and only obey leaves him weak in the knees.

The trembles increase in earnest. Soon, Prowl whispers to himself. Soon.

“One more.” Ratchet gently, playfully, taps his nose. “Down, please.”

Prowl whimpers, heat surging through his lines. He obeys, sliding his hands forward, palms across the floor, until he presses his chevron to the cool metal. He shifts his knees open, parts his thighs, and presents his aft to his master. He reveals both valve and port without asking.

He’s slick. Air currents tease his damp valve folds, and his port rim twitches. He’s swollen, his main anterior cluster throbbing with need. Lust has soaked him from the moment he bowed his head earlier, nudged himself under Ratchet’s chin, and made the quiet plea.

Pleasure-lust, yes. But peace-lust more. He craves it, and Ratchet had stroked a hand down his back, beneath the hinge of his doorwings, as he nuzzled the top of Prowl’s head and agreed.

This, the rarest of their scenes, and always private.

Well.

Private save for whichever mech watches the video later. Prowl pointedly doesn’t look at the cameras surreptitiously placed, recording to a private server for later enjoyment. His. Theirs. Whomever they trust with the footage.

Fingers glide over his valve rim, tasting his slick, dragging Prowl’s attention back to his master. He chastises himself for letting his attention slip.

“Don’t worry,” Ratchet murmurs as those same fingers circle the smaller rim of Prowl’s port, teasing it. “I’ll make it go away.”

The promise clenches Prowl’s spark, fills it with love. He pants, ex-vents fogging the floor, fingers curling against it. His aft bobs, pushing towards Ratchet’s fingers. He doesn’t have to say please. Ratchet’s field is already agreeing.

Two fingers work into him; unnecessary, but this play has never been about pain like some of the others. Pain doesn’t belong in the here and now.

Prowl’s optics shutter. He pants harder. His fingers curl in and out, scraping the floor. His spike throbs, trapped. It will serve a purpose later.

For now, there is only the brief loss of stretching fingers before they are replaced by the last accessory. The plug squirms inside him, slick with extra lubricant, long and thick, filling him completely. His port clenches around it as it notches deep, his rim closing around the plug’s end. The soft synthetic fur brushes the back of his thighs, black to match his paint scheme.

Guilt is thus buried, deep under a pile of indulgence and care.

Ratchet lifts the end of the leash. “Come, Panther,” he says. “Up.”

All the rest slides away.

Prowl ex-vents and pushes himself to his hands and knees. The plug shifts in his aft, a constant reminder of its presence, along with the sweep of synthetic fur. His valve clenches, sympathetic and empty, squeezing out a pearl of lubricant. The tug on the collar, faint but there, is a reminder.

Command seals itself in an iron cage, and obedience swallows the key. Prowl hides himself, taking solace in the bars, and Panther rises, giving him room to be.

“Good hound,” Ratchet says, his voice rich with approval. He crouches down next to Panther, free hand sliding over Panther’s head. “You’re hungry, aren’t you?”

Panther makes a soft sound of agreement. No words. Turbohounds have no words, only needs.

Care. Shelter. Fuel.

Rutting.

“That’s what I thought.” Ratchet smiles and rises again. “Come on then. I’ve got your favorite. Figured you’ve been so good, you’ve earned it.”

Ratchet moves toward the main room. He doesn’t have to tug on the leash for Panther to follow, on hands and knees, plug shifting and pressing his nodes into singing delight. His engine revs. Ratchet looks down at him and smiles.

Panther’s spark flutters at the sight of his Master’s happiness.

In the main room, his dishes wait, two wide and shallow bowls arranged side by side on top of a small towel. In one is a liquid energon, the other a candied, flaked treat that melts on Panther’s glossa and occasionally crunches as he chews. Panther’s glossa moistens, and a happy whine emerges from his throat. He knows better than to rush forward.

Master appreciates his patience.

Ratchet laughs. “Don’t worry. You can have as much as you want.”

Panther licks his lips. He doesn’t know which to have first, and sniffs at the bowls as Ratchet urges him toward them. He guides the loop of the leash over a small hook nearby. Not that Panther has any interest in running off, it’s more about presentation.

Today’s liquid energon smells really plain. Panther gives it a lick and wrinkles his nasal ridge. Oh, it tastes fine enough, but it’s not a treat. He moves his attention to the other bowl and grabs a mouthful of the crisps. Oh, they are perfect. Sweet and tangy, fizzing on his glossa even.

He hears Ratchet move away. Panther looks up, confused, but Ratchet waves a hand.

“It’s okay, pet. Keep eating. I’m just prepping your toys.”

Toys.

Panther’s engine purrs. He returns his attention to the treat dish, carefully eating bite after bite, occasionally sipping from the other bowl to wash it down. His tanks warm as the pockets of energon give him little bursts of energy. Master always has the best ideas.

He only finishes half the bowl of treats by the time Master returns, slipping the end of the leash from the hook and giving it a light tug.

“Ready to play, boy?” Ratchet asks, his voice a little raspier than usual. Panther knows that tone of voice. Master is eager to get started.

Panther’s hips waggle. He licks his lips and turns toward his master, crooning a soft yip of agreement. He tilts his head as he realizes Master is holding something in his other hand. It’s some kind of board with colorful knobs all over it.

Panther tilts his head to the other side and his doorwings cant with confusion.

“It’s a new toy. For smarter hounds,” Master says, and moves toward his chair, Panther following on hands and knees. His tail swishes behind him, port clenching and keeping his arousal at a low simmer.

Sometimes, he just wishes Master would get on to the really fun play. But he’s also intrigued by this new toy. He’s never seen anything like it before. Usually they play a modified form of Catch or Tug.

Ratchet settles into his chair, hooks the leash over the arm of it, and leans over to set the toy on the ground in front of him. Panther pads nearer to it, giving it a sniff. It smells like wood and something sweet behind the wood. He pokes at one of the colorful blocks with his hand, and the block moves into the empty space next to it. There, in the gap, something shiny peers up at him.

Panther tilts his head and nudges the block again, revealing a tiny little energon treat in the cubby. His optics light up as bends over and snags it with his denta, chomping down on the treat. It’s chewy and filled with a sweet gel.

Panther makes a noise of delight and looks up at his master.

“For smart hounds indeed,” Ratchet says and props his chin on his fist, looking down at Panther affectionately. “Find all the treats and then we can have a new game.”

Panther’s engine revs with excitement. He nudges the toy again, finding it to be rather simple, all things considered. It doesn’t take him long to root out all the little treats, though the one that makes him spin and spin a tiny dial takes a little longer to figure out.

Master watches the whole time, until he leans down and pats Panther on the head. He pets him, rubbing behind his audials and scratching under his collar. It feels so good. Panther leans into the pets, and quivers with excitement as the hand strokes down his back, between his doorwings. He hunches down a little, offers his aft, and clenches down on the plug deep in his port.

He doesn’t have to look to know he’s left little drips all over the floor. His valve has been leaking so much. He knows better than to rush though. Master will get to all of it eventually. He always does.

Master keeps petting him. Panther’s engine rumbles. He snatches up the last treat with his denta and nudges the toy away. He’s done! So he rises up, drapes his front half into Master’s lap, and Ratchet huffs a little laugh.

“Good job,” he says, both hands petting Panther’s head and shoulders and back now. “You really are a smart boy, aren’t you?”

Panther’s engine whines, and he licks Master’s cheek, his field spilling out with joy. Ratchet chuckles and strokes him, fingers slipping into seams to scratch his cables beneath.

“You liked that toy, I take it,” Master comments and grins when Panther licks him again, leaning his weight harder on his master. He tries to crawl into Ratchet’s lap but Ratchet just laughs again and puts his hands on Panther’s shoulders.

“Yes, you must have,” he says. “Down, Panther, you energetic thing. Too bad I can’t take you for a walk right now. I think you need to work off some of that energy.”

Panther reluctantly backs off, recognizing the command. He sits on his haunches and looks up at his master, vents whirring, plug pressing against the floor and by proxy, deeper into him. He whines a little as another burst of pleasure peppers his array. More lubricant pools beneath him.

He looks down at it. Maybe he should lick it up?

“Until then…” Ratchet reaches down and grips his jaw, tilting his head up so that he looks into Ratchet’s optics. “I think I have an alternative, lovely.” His thumb strokes over Panther’s jaw. His other hand pets over Panther’s head.

Panther whines and licks Master’s hand. Master’s fingers taste so good, like his lubricant and like arousal, and Panther licks them some more. He wants to play again. He does!

Ratchet smiles and leans back in his chair. He spreads his knees, making room between them, and pats his thighs, dragging his fingers toward up toward the apex of them.

Panther watches avidly, his optics growing wide, his lips parting in a helpless pant. He knows these gestures very well. His audials listen intently for the command that usually comes next. He doesn’t want to presume.

The soft click of a panel spiraling open makes the need grow inside Panther. His mouth fills with lubricant, his senses canted forward. The scent of Master’s lubricant floats to his nose, so sweet, and when he looks, Master’s hand is between his own thighs, fingers bracketed to either side of his valve.

“Come here, boy,” Master murmurs, crooking a finger toward Panther in a gesture he’s been trained to recognize. The crooked finger tilts down and taps on the inside of Master’s thigh. “I have a treat for you.”

And what a treat it is. Panther whines in the back of his intake and crawls forward, inhaling the scent of his master’s lubricant, his arousal, his heat. The antiseptic scent of him, and weldfire, and cleanser.

He noses between Master’s thighs, his forehead bumping against the back of Master’s knuckles. He looks up in question as Master’s free hand falls on his helm, silently urging him closer, as Master’s thighs push further apart, making more room for him.

His first lick is tentative, tasting even. He swipes the flat of his glossa along the length of Master’s valve, laving the plump folds of it, getting a hint of pearly lubricant. It’s sweet on the tip of his glossa, and he feels the throb of Master’s main node against his glossa. Panther rumbles a growl and dives back in, licking Master’s valve folds and licking deeper into him, trying to get as much lubricant as he can.

He hears Master vent heavily, hears the soft sigh of pleasure. Master’s hand is gentle on his head, rubbing him encouragingly, and Panther purrs as he laps at his master’s valve. Master tastes so good, and his valve pulses against Panther’s glossa, and his hips are rocking. More lubricant leaks out, but Panther licks it up before it can make a mess.

Master’s thighs spread further open as he sinks down in the chair, making it easier for Panther to lick at him. He flicks the tip of his glossa over Master’s node, again and again, and then concentrates on his lower node, too. The little cluster of sensors always makes Master moan.

“Good boy,” Master murmurs and his field washes over Panther, thick with hunger and approval. “You’re such a good boy, Panther.”

A low whine rises in Panther’s intake. He paws at the floor as he presses his face against Master’s valve, wanting to go as deep as possible, make Master happy. Master’s hand wraps around the back of his head, keeping him where he wants to be. His thighs tremble to either side of Panther’s head.

“G-good boy,” Master says, his vocals filling with static now, the chair creaking as he rocks his hips. “Lick my node, Panther. Make sure there’s no mess.”

Orders. Commands. It’s so easy to obey them.

Panther growls and focuses on Master’s main node, licks it again and again and again, stopping only to lap up drips of lubricant before diving back in.

He hears Master moan and pant, faster and louder. Master’s hand clenches and trembles on his head. And then suddenly it moves to Panther’s forehead with a light shove.

“E-enough,” Master pants, scooting back, his valve visibly clenching with denied pleasure. “There’s still one more game, pet. If you want to play.”

Panther’s dripping valve and concealed spike throb in agreement. He nips at Master’s fingertips and licks his lips, feeling the tackiness of lubricant on his face.

Master’s palm cups his head and slides around his face, pressing up under his chin to tilt his head up, ignoring the mess now on his fingers. “You’ve been such a good pet today. So I will allow you to take me.” His thumb rubs over Panther’s lip, and obediently, Panther gives it a lick.

Panther shivers, his spike throbbing inside his sheath. Being allowed to take Master is such a rare treat. His aft wiggles against the ground, tail swishing across the floor, and he licks Master’s palm harder.

“I see you like that reward.” Master chuckles, though there’s strain in it. His field is flush with heat, and Panther can taste the arousal in it.

Master pats Panther’s head and stands, lubricant slicking his thighs almost immediately. Panther wants to lick it, but it seems like Master has other plans. He takes the leash in hand and gives it a tug, guiding Panther toward the berthroom. Panther’s spike throbs harder, head grinding against the panel concealing it, but he knows better than to allow it free.

The door closes behind them, lights activating to a romantic half-brightness. Master kneels in front of Panther, fingers still wrapped around the leash, as Panther sits back on his aft, knees drawn up. It pushes the plug deeper into his aft and a low whine ekes out of his intake. He resists the urge to grind down and whines again when Master reaches for his spike panel, dragging a fingertip across the domed metal. Panther shivers.

“Such a patient, pet,” Master murmurs with a curve of his lips. “You can open now, Panther. Let me see that big spike of yours.”

Panther snaps his panel open almost immediately, relief trickling down his spinal strut as his spike juts free, glossy with pre-fluid and throbbing. Master’s hand curves around it, giving it a squeeze and a tug, and Panther whines, his hips following the motion.

“You’re ready for me,” Master says with a hum. “That’s good.” He lets go of Panther’s spike, ignoring Panther’s whine of rejection, and lets the end of the leash dangle on the floor. “Stay, boy,”

Stay. Every inch of Panther’s being wants to rut, he’s shaking from it. His plating is open to help expel heat. His spike is throbbing. Master is hot for him. And he has to stay.

So he does. He waits as Master stretches his arms over his head, making his joints creak, before he pulls a padded mat out from under the berth. He spreads it across the floor, achingly slow, little drips of lubricant glistening on the insides of his thighs. He slides onto it, on hands and knees, fingers kneading the plush mat. He looks over at Panther with hunger in his optics, his gaze flicking from top to bottom, before his optics light up.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Master’s grin is devilish as he rummages under the berth again and pulls an item out of the toy chest.

The small, metal ring glints in the overhead light. Panther’s engine revs as Master summons him closer with a crook of his finger, and Panther inches into his Master’s reach. He pants as Master’s hand curls around his spike in two nice strokes, and Panther rocks into his Master’s grip.

“I can’t have you overloading inside me,” Master murmurs as he thumbs the top of Panther’s spike. “That just won’t do at all. Now stay still.”

Panther locks his joints and waits, a low whine building inside of him. He watches Master slip the ring around his spike and notch it at the base, a low pulse keeping it locked in place, and stopping him from overloading.

“There. Much better.” Master strokes his spike again and shifts back onto the mat.

He puts himself in a very familiar position, on his knees and elbows, aft pointed upward, knees slightly spread. He looks at Panther and shifts his weight, reaching back to pat his aft.

“Come on, boy,” he says before he reaches for the end of the leash and takes it in his fingers. “Mount.”

Mount.

An inferno of need roars through Panther’s frame. He knows this command, to the quiver in his spark, the throb in his spike, the arousal in his groin. He licks his lips and crawls over to his Master, guided by the gentle tug on the leash.

Master’s beautiful valve is on display, so wet and open and inviting. Panther wants to lick him, but that hadn’t been the command.

Mount.

He doesn’t have to think about it. Debate it. Weigh the proper course of action. All he has to do is obey.

Panther’s spike twitches. He rises up, drapes himself over Master’s back, lines up his spike to that plush and dripping valve. He can feel the rumble of Master’s engine against his chest. He braces himself on the floor and rocks his hips, blindly searching, rutting against Master’s aft.

He whines as he struggles to find Master’s valve. The tug on the leash becomes a bit more insistent. Master vents heat, his field wobbly with need against Panther’s.

“Good boy,” Master murmurs, his aft pushing back toward Panther’s hips, canting to try and help Panther along. “Just a bit more.”

Panther growls and snaps his hips forward, his spike finding Master’s valve, parting the mesh pleats of it, and sinking deep in one quick push. Master moans and clenches around him, his valve rippling, and Panther moans with him.

Master’s grip on the leash tightens more, as he twists it around his wrist, tugging Panther firmly on top of him, keeping him in place. He can’t do anything more than rut against Master, thrusting into him over and over, deeper and deeper, lubricant slick and messy around his spike. Master’s hot and tight and welcoming and if it weren’t for the spike ring, Panther knows he’d be close to overload.

As it is, he can only throb and thrust, hands pawing at the ground, knees digging in, his spike raking over Master’s sensory nodes. Charge fills the space between, sparking from node to node, until Master is bucking up against him, hungry and wanting. His voice is a drone to Panther’s roaring audials, but there are encouragement and demands in there.

“Good boy. Good pet. More. Deeper. Harder. Such a g-good p-p-pet.”

Master tosses his head. His frame creaks as he pushes back against Panther, lubricant sloppy down the back of his thighs. Static crawls over his armor and zaps against Panther’s own, and Master’s engine revs.

Master murmurs other things, maybe encouragement, but it’s lost to the static, and then he’s overloading, clenching down hard on Panther’s spike, as if milking him for a release he can’t offer. His spike hurts he’s so hard, but he can’t overload. He can only thrust wildly, riding the wild buck of Master’s frame. Transfluid splatters to the floor from Master’s spike as Panther’s frantic thrusting pulls another overload from his Master, who vents scorching heat and abruptly sags, dragging Panther down on top of him.

Panther whines, hips making little aborted jerks. He wants to overload. His spike hurts, swollen around the pressure of the ring. The tug on his collar is intoxicating, and Master is trembling beneath him, his plating vibrating.

“Down, Panther,” Master manages to sputter, his vents coming in heavy pants, his field thick with languid heat.

Reluctantly, Panther obeys, withdrawing from the hot clench of Master’s valve, his spike dripping lubricant. He wants so badly to overload, and can only watch as Master rolls over onto his back, legs splayed, his interface array liberally splattered with fluids and looking so tasty. The end of the leash is limp in Master’s fingers.

Panther licks his lips. He sits back on his aft, grinding the plug deep into his aft, enjoying the pleasure that washes through his frame. His valve feels so empty, and he’s leaving a puddle beneath him.

Slitted blue optics watch him before Master gives a tug on the end of the leash. “Good boy,” he says and his free hand crooks a finger toward Panther. “Well-behaved pets earn their rewards, don’t they?”

Panther scuttles across the floor and all but throws himself into Master’s lap, his spike leaving streaks on the sides of Master’s thigh. Master chuckles at him, running a hand over his head and another over his aft, giving it a light pat. His fingers thread through the fur of Panther’s tail, giving the plug a light tug.

“Yes, good rewards,” Master murmurs before he flicks the tail of the plug aside, exposing Panther’s valve to view.

Panther whines again and spread his knees, pushing his aft up into the air, baring himself to his Master. Whatever he wants to do, Panther will allow it. He kneads at Master’s other leg and rocks his hips and makes hopeful noises.

He moans as Master’s fingers tease at his valve folds, dragging through the lubricant glistening over the mesh. Master finds his anterior node and gives it a pinch, and Panther almost overloads then and there, except the spike ring’s pressure blocks even his valve from overloading.

He whimpers and rubs his face on Master’s leg. It hurts. And he is a good pet! Master promised him a reward, and he wants it.

The hand dips lower, teases at the base of his spike. Panther cants his hips hopefully, ex-venting hot air, his knees scraping at the floor. A finger teases at his valve opening, rubbing the lubricant-wet folds, before Panther hears the tiniest of clicks, and the spike ring springs open, freeing his spike.

“Good boy,” Master murmurs as his fingers plunge into Panther’s valve and curve just right. “Now overload for me, Panther. Enjoy your reward.”

It starts in his limbs, in his extremities. It roars through his engine, through his vents, through his intake. Panther keens as overload throbs through the entirety of his frame, pouring out of his seams in liquid roils of charge, his spike spurting and his valve clamping down tight on his Master’s fingers. His hips jerk, rutting against Master’s hand, and his frame goes wobbly.

His vision whites out. All other senses abandon him to the ecstasy, leaving him floating on air, spark dancing a happy twirl. Time vanishes, or at least his perception of it. He drifts in a haze of pleasure and relief, soaking up the feel of Master’s field around him, and the ecstasy humming through his lines.

He comes back into his frame flopped over his Master’s lap, panting and vents whirring, his entire self thrumming with delight. Master’s hand is petting him, while the other rests on his aft, leaving stickiness behind.

Master murmurs to him, a smile in his voice, “Ah, there you are, pet. You made a mess. I’ve been waiting for you to clean it up.”

Panther stirs and pushes himself upright with wobbly arms. He looks down and sees the splatter of fluids on his Master’s legs, and he flushes with embarrassment. He knows better than that.

Master cups his face with sticky fingers, and Panther licks at them, tasting transfluid and lubricant both. There’s something soothing about obeying the simple command, his engine settling into a quiet idle as he laps at Master’s hand, cleaning it. Then he moves to focus on Master’s legs: knees first, then his thighs.

Master makes room for Panther between his thighs, petting Panther’s head in approval as he cleans up his own transfluid and Master’s lubricant, too. It’s gone tacky, but the taste of it is familiar and welcome. It’s soothing, not that Panther could ever explain why.

Master keeps stroking him, fingers gentle on Panther’s intake, as he unlatches the leash and sets it aside. He reaches for the collar, too, but Panther whimpers and looks up at his Master. He pleads with his optics since he can’t use his words.

“You don’t want me to take it off?” Master asks, his voice as gentle as the touch of his fingers.

Panther dips his head and licks Master’s fingers. No. He wants the collar on for now. He doesn’t want it taken off. He doesn’t want the weight of responsibility back yet. He’s not ready.

“Alright, I’ll leave it on for a bit longer then.” Master’s hand moves away after a pat to Panther’s head, and he draws back, rising to his pedes with a creak of old joints. “Clean the mat, Panther. You’re almost done.”

Obedience is so very easy.

Panther bends over and starts lapping up fluids from the thick mat, both his and Master’s. It’s not the most palatable like this, but it’s not about taste. It’s about submission. Concession. Trust. The feel of Master’s field sliding over his.

Master’s hands on his aft, gently stroking him. Master’s fingers careful as they eased the plug out of Panther’s aft, his port rippling in it’s absence. He misses the thickness immediately, but knows he can’t keep it in forever. Master takes it away, putting it in a bin to be cleaned later. So it can be used again.

Anytime Panther needs it.

Master pats him on the head then, his fingers lingering. “Leave the rest for later, boy. Come on. Let’s get on the berth instead.”

Panther licks his lips and rises out of his crouch, looking up at Master, who has crawled onto the berth with an exhausted whuff of his field. He crooks a finger at Panther invitingly, and Panther gives a little yip before he clambers up to join Master.

This is his favorite part, when he snuggles up next to Master, the collar heavy but comfortable around his intake, a sign of ownership and trust. He’s half on top of his Master, half beside him, an arm around his frame and a hand petting him, the motions gentle and rhythmic.

“Good boy,” Master murmurs, and there’s love in the words, affection as thick as what’s in his field. It warms Panther to his spark.

Panther lays his head down and listens to the thrum of Master’s engine, to the pulse of his spark, and the tick-tick of a cooling frame. He wants to bury himself here, in the warmth and comfort, and he knows the morning means he has to take off the collar and become Prowl again. But for right now, he has this and Master and he’s all Panther needs in the world.

Safe. Comforted. Loved.

****

[IDW] Hot to Trot

The first time they fragged, Ratchet was lonely and tipsy and just stupid enough that a pitiful looking Megatron was a better outlet for his frustrations than anyone else on the Lost Light. Ratchet wasn’t lacking for options, but somehow, a smirking former warlord was the perfect flavor he needed to chase out the anger and the irritation and the emotions boiling beneath the surface.

It helped that Megatron, for all he was the living embodiment of evil and the single greatest threat to the safety of Cybertron, was attractive. He was sturdy, strong… big. Big enough to wrap his hands around Ratchet’s thighs and haul him up against the wall like he weighed nothing, thick spike sinking into Ratchet’s valve like it was laying claim and spilling charge over his internal nodes in heavy, pulsing waves.

It had to be the engex, Ratchet assumed dizzily, the cubes he consumed four times the size of the measly sample Swerve had given him so long ago. The engex was bitter and potent and it sat in his tanks like rustrot and low grade, but it turned the world fuzzy and bright and eager. He still tasted it on his glossa, in the kiss even, as Megatron pinned him to the wall and nipped at his mouth with sharpened, but filed denta.

It was the engex, Ratchet snarled as his back scraped red streaks into the ship’s walls, here in this semi-abandoned corridor of the Lost Light. Somewhere anyone could stumble on them, and maybe Ratchet cared that someone would, or maybe he didn’t. Maybe all that mattered was the pleasure licking up his spinal strut in lightning bursts and the way Megatron’s grip was tight enough to dent metal on anyone who wasn’t an ancient medic with one foot in the grave.

Ratchet thought he should have protested. He might have, maybe, half-sparked as it was, and not at all believable for that. He wanted, and there was shame in that, but frag if Megatron wasn’t so well put together and big, and Ratchet had always been weak for the big ones. The big, powerful mechs who could handle a heavy medic like he weighed nothing, who didn’t treat Ratchet like he was breakable, but rather like someone who wanted to be tossed around.

Mechs like Megatron, who ate at Ratchet’s mouth like he was starving. Who growled and grunted, their frames clanging together noisily enough to draw a crowd, if anyone were brave enough to watch. And whoever was on watch duty was probably getting a show out of the corridor’s surveillance. Ratchet was just soused enough not to care.

He slid his fingers into seams, wrapped them around cables and pulled, calves and ankles beating on the back of Megatron’s legs in violent urging. He hissed in between kisses, goads and challenges, demanding more, which Megatron granted him with dark chuckles and optics heavy like smoldering coals. Something about the way the light overhead glinted over his Autobot badge made the shame rise up again, until Ratchet smothered it with the pleasure rippling through his valve, the way Megatron pierced him, deeper and deeper, thick head grinding on his ceiling node.

Ratchet gasped and bucked against Megatron, thighs squeezing tight, tugging just a shade too hard on cables, enough to make Megatron hiss and bare his pointed denta. His valve spiraled down tight, milking the thickness of Megatron’s spike for all it was worth, his own spike pressurized and rubbing on Megatron’s abdominal plates, the rough skitter of the head over overlapping plates adding to the delightful friction.

Ratchet moaned.

Megatron chuckled, deep and dark and dangerous and every shameful fantasy Ratchet had ever indulged in, his fingers deep in his valve and tight around his spike.

“Look at you,” Megatron taunted, voice like rich engex and hidden caverns, probably mockery, maybe appreciation. “Just drunk enough not to care that you’re getting railed by an evil, evil Decepticon.”

Ratchet hissed an invective.

It was a totally inappropriate time to overload, which was why he did, clamping down hard on Megatron’s spike and painting Megatron’s abdomen with transfluid. He snarled against Megatron’s mouth, into a near-violent kiss, and his back hit the wall hard as Megatron all but threw him into it.

Megatron laughed into the messy, rough kiss. He fragged Ratchet like he wanted to paint himself, paint this illicit encounter, into the very metal of the wall. He thrust hard and deep, and the searing splatter of his transfluid was enough to pull another overload out of Ratchet. He swallowed the shame, same as he did his cry of pleasure, and clung to Megatron through the throes of ecstasy.

Megatron ate at his mouth, the echoes of overload making their plating ruffle, their engines thrum a discordant cadence. Megatron’s spike lingered in Ratchet’s valve, half-pressurized, a promise for more.

More Ratchet found himself wanting, and if that wasn’t enough to revamp the shame clawing at the back of his spark chamber, the slick feel of transfluid in his valve certainly helped. He indulged in the kiss, lips swollen where Megatron bit at them, his frame hot where they pressed together, the feel of Megatron’s hands on his hips far too erotic.

Ratchet growled and shoved at Megatron’s chest. “Put me down,” he demanded, and obedience was immediate.

His feet dropped to the floor as Megatron held him only long enough to make sure he was steady. Though steady was a strong word. Ratchet’s world kept sliding off to the right, and he knew the engex was only partially to blame. Fluids trickled down the inside of his thighs, and damn but they weren’t transfluid alone.

“Is this the part where you call for security?” Megatron asked, his words darkly amused, but a shadow of something in his optics.

Ratchet didn’t know if he should call it fear or not, though he was tempted when Megatron stepped back, hands lifted as if in surrender, the distance between them physically minute, but speaking of an immaterial chasm.

Ratchet snorted. “What kind of mech do you think I am?” he demanded, proud of himself for not stuttering or slurring his vocals. He pointed a finger at Megatron and narrowed his optics. “This didn’t happen.”

“Oh, so that’s the way you want to play it.” Megatron folded his arms over his massive chest, Ratchet’s transfluid still painting his abdomen like some kind of lurid claim.

“It’s not a game. This didn’t happen,” Ratchet repeated and glared at Megatron, using the fiercest one he had in his arsenal. He shook his finger at Megatron in stern warning. “And it’s not happening again.”

Megatron tilted his head. “Whatever you say.” There was mockery in the curl of his lip.

Anger flared through Ratchet like a flashbomb. He growled, his engine echoing him, and spun on a heelstrut. He stomped down the corridor, leaving Megatron behind him, aware of the fluids trickling down his thighs, spattering on the floor behind him, a lewd path anyone could follow to find the source of Ratchet’s shame.

Megatron’s amusement burned between his shoulders. Fury cropped up, scathing retorts and caustic curses, but Ratchet swallowed them all down.

Staying away from Megatron would be easy, he figured. That smugness was enough of a turn off. Ratchet was certain he’d never frag Megatron again, and this time, he’d chalk up solely to the engex and Megatron’s proximity.

It could have been anyone, he reasoned. Anyone.

~

The second time they fragged was entirely Megatron’s fault.

Megatron’s fault, Ratchet’s medic protocols, and the provocative dreams haunting Ratchet’s recharge, which had him onlining and reaching for one of the many toys he kept on hand. He’d buffed out the scratches and paint transfers after his last encounter with Megatron, but the memories of them caught up to him during recharge.

His hips ached, his valve clenched on nothing, and the pleasure preoccupied his waking hours. He found himself eying other mechs on the Lost Light, equal in size to Megatron, wondering if their hands could wrap around his thighs as Megatron’s had.

Ratchet blamed a lot of things, Megatron especially. Though he admitted, if grudgingly, that evil warlord or not, Megatron had kept his end of the bargain. He’d told no one about their tryst in the corridor, and whoever had gotten to the security feeds didn’t blab about it either.

No one seemed to know about Ratchet’s little indiscretion. He preferred it that way. It would definitely never happen again.

Megatron kept his distance, too. Like the intelligent mech he was.

And then a month later, Megatron walked into the medbay for his daily dose of fool’s energon, and Ratchet was the only one around who could give it to him. He’d been foisting that particular duty off on everyone, anyone else honestly. Not because he was embarrassed. Pah. Ratchet didn’t know the meaning of the word embarrassed. It wasn’t temptation either.

He didn’t have to explain himself actually.

There Megatron was, recently washed and polished, his Autobot badge gleaming, a look of irritation on his face as he patiently waited for his serving of the foul concoction meant to tame him. Ratchet didn’t much approve of the psychological game Optimus had going on, since it put so many Autobots in danger, but if it kept Megatron cowed, he supposed he’d have to trust in it. For now.

“I suppose you want your energon,” Ratchet grunted and gestured Megatron to a semi-private berth nearby.

“Want is a strong word, medic,” Megatron replied with a sigh and dropped down heavily onto the berth, it creaking beneath him. “It is a matter of necessity, though I would prefer something with a better flavor.”

Ratchet drew Megatron a cube and thrust it toward the mass-murderer. “The point is that you don’t enjoy it.”

“Clearly.” Megatron made a face, like a newspark being fed medicinal coolant, and chugged the energon in one swoop. All the better not to taste it, Ratchet supposed. “Primus, that is foul. What a petty punishment.”

Ratchet snatched back the empty cube, tossing it into the recycler. “It’s not a punishment. It’s a–”

“–deterrent for the safety of my crew. Yes, I know.” Megatron gave him a baleful look as he moved to slide off the berth.

“Stay.” Ratchet held up a hand, fingers unexpectedly coming into contact with the broad strength of Megatron’s chest, hot beneath his touch and vibrating from his engine. “You’re here. I might as well do that maintenance you’ve been avoiding for a month.”

Megatron grunted and sat back, out of reach. He arched an orbital ridge at Ratchet. “I’ve been doing the avoiding? That’s new to me.”

Ratchet ignored the goad. He grabbed a scanner instead and pointed it at Megatron, bombarding the co-captain with a series of scans meant to measure and diagnose quickly. He had his suspicions about what the scans would reveal, and all but one of them were confirmed.

“You’re stressed,” he observed, mostly a comment made to himself, but Megatron heard it nonetheless.

What great restraint it must have taken, for Megatron to resist the urge to reply with scathing sarcasm. “Yes,” he said, with a laugh that wasn’t at all amused. “I am. Surrounded by enemies forced to be allies while waiting for an execution that has only been delayed, I suppose I am.”

Ratchet would not feel guilty. His protocols, however, gnawed at him. Stressed mech, systems strained as a result, fix it, fix it now.

“Find a way to lower it,” Ratchet said as he dug in his supply cabinet for a new air filter. Megatron’s was in sorry shape. “I don’t need to tell you what can happen to a frame with strained systems.” More frequent trips to the medical bay, for starters, and Ratchet already knew Megatron wasn’t fond of them to begin with.

Chromedome had learned to keep his distance from their new co-captain, and with good reason. If there was one mech on the ship Ratchet feared Megatron might attack indiscriminately, it wasn’t actually Whirl. It was Chromedome.

“I’ll make it my top priority,” Megatron drawled as he twisted at an angle and lifted an arm, popping one of his exterior panels so Ratchet could get to the filter. “Perhaps meditation. I hear it soothes the spark.”

Ratchet snorted again, memories of Drift rising up at the back of his mind. Hippy-dippy woo-woo slag, everywhere he looked. Though it seemed to work for Drift, the former Decepticon, who tried too hard to be what he wanted to be.

He yanked out the old filter and snapped the new one into place, frowning at the state of the used one. It should have been changed months ago. “Either that or an outlet,” Ratchet said, almost absently. “Sparring. Exercising. Fragging. Something that involves you working out your frustrations.”

“Fragging,” Megatron repeated, his vocals thick with amusement, as he leaned back and peered at Ratchet. “That wouldn’t be an offer, perhaps, for the event which never happened?”

Ratchet reared back, mouth agape at the sheer gall. “Of course not!” he spluttered, heat filling his faceplate as the erotic dreams rushed to the forefront of his conscious, whispering sweet ideas of the best method of stress relief.

Megatron shrugged, as nonchalant as only he could be, when he’d been so thoroughly rejected. It had to be hard, a mech like him, being rejected. Ratchet imagined it didn’t happen much. Megatron had a draw to him, a siren’s song, and it was too easy to get pulled into his web.

“Pity,” Megatron said, with a lick of his energy field along the length of Ratchet’s, as tangible and hot as a touch up his backstrut, dragging out a shiver. “It seems I’ll have to look elsewhere for exercise.”

Elsewhere, he said, as though the images weren’t streaming through Ratchet’s cortex. As though he didn’t want to pin Megatron to that berth and made him quiver, make him pant and moan as so few dared to do. Worse that his protocols latched on to the idea like an Empty on a scrap of energon.

Fix, fix, fix, they said, and there Megatron was, big and shined up and freshly energized and watching Ratchet with a restrained curiosity but a curl to the corner of his mouth like he already knew he’d won. He radiated smugness, and Ratchet had never wanted to frag the self-satisfaction off someone’s face harder than he did in that moment.

The desire to spank Rodimus into submission was another matter entirely.

“I’m sure you’re capable of coming up with a solution,” Ratchet grumbled, but his spike had started throbbing, and his optics kept roaming over Megatron’s frame, which he hadn’t been able to appreciate in their last encounter that didn’t happen.

He wondered if he could bend Megatron over that berth. He wondered if Megatron would let him. He wondered if simply making the offer would see the infamous warlord bolt from the room.

“Ah, but the simplest one is always better.” Megatron stood, stretching his arms over his head, widening the gaps in his plating, allowing peeks of the gleaming cables beneath, as shiny as the rest of him.

Fix, fix, fix.

Frag it.

“Fine,” Ratchet said as his hands snapped to his hips and his lips curved in a wicked grin. Here was the part where Megatron’s bravado whittled away. “Get on the berth, pop your panels, and I’ll drive you so hard you won’t remember this conversation ever happened.”

Megatron laughed, not mockingly, and his lips pulled into a smirk. He leaned back against the medberth, hips against the edge, elbows braced on it behind him. “You wouldn’t rather have me on my hands and knees?”

What a mental image. But no. If Ratchet was going to frag Megatron into oblivion, it was going to be where he could see every inch of naked lust on the mech’s face.

Ratchet triggered the door closed and locked it with a code no one on this ship could override, save Rodimus and he knew far better than to do so. “If I did, I would’ve said so,” he retorted as he turned back toward Megatron.

He didn’t waste time on a subtle slink. He crossed the floor in three swift strides and put himself between Megatron’s knees, his hands braced to either side of Megatron’s hips.

“Here’s your chance to back out.” Ratchet grinned with a mouthful of denta. “I promise I won’t think less of you.”

Megatron snorted, hooked a hand behind Ratchet’s head, and yanked him into a kiss. All denta, all glossa, no gentleness, all lust. He still tasted of that foul fool’s energon, but his field was hot and staticky against Ratchet’s, and his knees pressed in on Ratchet’s hips in silent demand.

Well then.

So that was how Ratchet found himself fragging Megatron into the medberth, Megatron’s legs hiked around his waist, his hands entangled with Megatron’s, palm to palm. He’d pinned Megatron’s hands to the berth beside Megatron’s head, and the pressure of Megatron’s grip against his sensors made pleasure lick like hot fire through his sensor net.

Megatron opened for him without asking, valve slick and accommodating, greedy for the first long and slow thrust, and demanding more, more, more. His calipers rippled and clutched, feeding charge into the sensor nodes of Ratchet’s spike. He panted into Megatron’s intake and against Megatron’s lips.

The first overload was immediate, on Megatron’s side at least. He moaned, threw his head back, and clenched down on Ratchet’s spike, lubricant seeping out around it as he overloaded. Ratchet smirked.

“Been a long time, has it?” he asked. “Or maybe you’re just sensitive.”

“Shut up,” Megatron snarled and bucked up against him.

Ratchet laughed against his lips and rolled into Megatron, deep and grinding, denta gritted against the hot, squeezing pleasure. Megatron’s field buzzed against his, scalding with need, hungry and desperate. His hips snapped up to meet Ratchet’s thrusts. His hands squeezed Ratchet’s. He made these sounds, deep in his intake, deep in his chest.

Wholly erotic sounds they were. Growls and gasps and moans. His head tilted back, his optics half-shuttered and gleaming with an inner fire. It was unfair, how sexy he was, and as a second overload wracked Megatron’s frame, his spike emerged, thick and pressurized, and Ratchet’s valve clenched in memory of that spike filling him oh so sweet.

Megatron squirmed on Ratchet’s spike like he hadn’t had intimate contact in millennia. He was thirsty for it, gasping out demands for more, his heels drumming the back of Ratchet’s legs to an imperfect cadence. Megatron melted beneath Ratchet, there was no better word for it. The way the lines of stress eased from his face, and how his armor loosened and softened, some of the unease and tension whisking away in the wake of two overloads and the build-up of a third.

He looked younger. Softer. Like the fresh-faced miner who had a dream the universe tried to pummel out of him, but he was stronger than the forces of change gave him credit. He came back, every time, a little more fierce, a lot more ready to do what was necessary, until even that line was stepped over, and what became necessary was any untenable act to meet a goal lost to the spilled energon, scorched battlefields, and millions upon millions of deaths of those now forgotten.

It was almost enough to make Ratchet falter in his rhythm. For the shame to ride the wake of pleasure, but then Megatron’s hands tightened around his, fingers interlocked. He made a sound, a whimper more than a moan, and Ratchet licked his way to Megatron’s intake, felt the echoes of those noises on his glossa.

His spike ached. The rippling pull of Megatron’s valve around him was intoxicating. Megatron squirming beneath him was even more so.

Megatron growled out a noise, a cross between a moan and a whimper, and he overloaded again, this time with a spatter of transfluid against Ratchet’s belly and windshield. Ratchet ground deep, spike swallowed by Megatron’s valve, and was pulled into his own overload, striping Megatron’s valve with his spill as lips and denta closed around Megatron’s intake. He felt the rhythm of Megatron’s energon against his mouth. He bit hard enough to leave a mark, every pulse of his overload feeling as though it were being yanked from his spike.

Ratchet collapsed on top of Megatron, drained, fans whirring, heat billowing in the air around them. Megatron’s engine thrummed, vibrating his frame, and Ratchet’s fingers ached where they’d been interlocked.

It took too many long, embarrassing moments for Ratchet to realize he was all but cuddling Megatron in the semi-privacy of the medbay. He withdrew, reclaiming his fingers and his spike, which slid out of Megatron with a trickle of lubricant and transfluid in its wake. Megatron’s valve contracted, anterior node bright and plump, and Ratchet’s mouth filled with lubricant.

He would never admit how much he wanted to taste that fierce little nub.

Megatron lounged into the berth, self-satisfied to the core, his legs hanging limp over the edge, his thighs splayed, shamelessly displaying his valve and the fluids trickling out of it. One hand slid down his frame, briefly palming his softened spike, the splatter of transfluid making the motion all the more erotic.

“You’re right,” he said. “I do feel more relaxed.”

It took every ounce of self-control in Ratchet’s arsenal to keep the heat from flooding his cheeks. Instead, he yanked a mesh cloth out of subspace and tossed it at Megatron’s abdomen.

“Clean yourself up,” he snapped. “You can’t walk out of here looking like that.” He was shamed to note that he had, indeed, left a bite mark on Megatron’s intake.

“Given the way Rodimus prances around this ship, I don’t see how my current state is anything of a problem,” Megatron said, with a droll note to his tone that did little to calm Ratchet’s building ire.

He ground his denta and bit back on several sharp retorts, choosing instead to scrub at his own frame with a mesh cloth. “Just get out of here. I have work to do.”

The berth creaked as Megatron leveraged himself off it, his clean up more cursory than anything. He still looked freshly fragged, and the white and red streaks along his thighs gave hint to who had done the fragging. Though it might as well have been a neon sign.

Not too many white and red mechs left on the ship, after all.

Megatron performed another one of those sinful stretches. “And if I should find need for another act of stress relief?”

“Pick a hobby,” Ratchet snarled with his back to Megatron, his armor twitching in confused shifts of enemy-not enemy. Auto-badge or not, Ratchet’s self-defense protocols still didn’t know how to identify Megatron.

The former warlord chuckled and strode to the door, casual as you please, overriding the lock with ease. “If you insist.”

“I do. And Megatron?”

He paused in the frame, one optic arched in a gesture that could have been amused or taunting. “Let me guess. This didn’t happen, and it’s not going to happen again.”

Ratchet narrowed his optics. “Get out of my medbay.”

Megatron laughed and swaggered out the door, which closed behind him so quietly, it did not match the irritation boiling in the pit of Ratchet’s tanks. Throwing his soiled mesh cloth at the door didn’t help either.

Frag it. Frag Megatron. Frag everything.

Never again, Ratchet swore. Never again.

~

Never again was a promise far more easier kept if it hadn’t been for Rodimus. Who was, as with the way of most things, to blame for the newest debacle which found Megatron pinging the door to Ratchet’s hab-suite with a look that blended desperation and resignation. If Ratchet’s own face hadn’t been radiating the same look, he might have keyed the door to slam shut in front of Megatron’s nose.

His frame betrayed him. The raw need. The billowing heat. The slick on his thighs. The hunger in his tank. The tide of lust that boiled over him the moment he saw Megatron, mouth watering in remembrance of his thick, thick spike and his oh-so-welcoming valve. Because Megatron could keep a secret.

And in the morning, Ratchet could blame Rodimus and keep his conscience relatively free. Or at least, that was what he told himself, when Megatron looked at him and said, “Something’s wrong.”

Ratchet had sighed and gestured Megatron inside with something akin to resignation. “Yeah, I know.”

It started, he would later reflect, on Antioch.

The planet had been advertised as welcoming to metallic beings, even Cybertronians. Friendly, had been the word, along with enthusiastic. Antiochians were organic in nature, tiny quadrapeds with six-fingered hands and several sets of unblinking eyes set into a wide, hairless skull – all of which was more than a little unnerving.

But they liked metallics. They liked Cybertronians. They liked to touch and twitter and made some of the most delicious synthetic oils Ratchet had ever tasted.

They were eager to house their metallic visitors, those few who dared step foot on the planet. Rewind had something in his databanks, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but was certain they had nothing to fear from Antiochians. They didn’t even have weapons, these non-spacefaring but curious organics.

The Antiochians helped the Lost Light refuel and restock. They persuaded some of the more adventurous members of the crew to enjoy their polishing houses. They fed the Lost Light crew until they could consume no more and fell into sleeping piles of mechanisms, the majority of whom managed to get back to their habs on the ship.

There were a few who didn’t.

No one could have expected the effect the oils would have on Megatron’s system. It had been deemed the oils weren’t fuel and were better considered candy – tasty but largely ineffective, so he’d been allowed to consume them. And after he’d promptly slipped into recharge, no one could or would move him. Leaving him behind, alone, wasn’t an option.

Ratchet didn’t so much volunteer as he was the last mech standing who had a leadership capacity by the time the rest of the crew cleared out. And while he’d consumed his fair share of the Antiochian oil and fuel, he’d had the good sense to engage his FIM chip, leaving him to enjoy the taste but not the effect.

When morning dawned, particularly bright as a planet with three suns could only be, the Antiochians swarmed with solicitous hands and shoving cups of what they called ‘the cure’ at every mech who hadn’t made it back to the Lost Light. Ratchet had taken one out of politeness, though he hadn’t needed it, while Megatron chugged two of them, still wobbly and out of sorts from the potent oils.

Ratchet carefully stowed one into his subspace when their hosts weren’t looking. He intended to hand it and a sample of the oils to Perceptor because a lifetime of war meant one couldn’t be too suspicious.

As Red Alert would say, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

Declining further invitations by the Antiochians to rest and recover and celebrate, Ratchet dragged Megatron back to the Lost Light, dumped the still woozy co-captain in his habsuite, and stormed up to the bridge.

Rodimus capered about, citing how excellent of an idea it was to come to Antioch, because wasn’t it nice to be welcomed for once? Ultra Magnus stood nearby, frowning severely, arms folded over his chassis. He had not partaken of any of the Antiochian delights, and as Ratchet recalled correctly, had returned to the ship last night with no less than four crewmates slung over his massive arms.

“We cannot afford to linger,” Ultra Magnus said with the kind of firm look that tended to make Rodimus wilt, albeit slowly. “And I don’t trust these Antiochians.”

“Pah. You don’t trust anyone.” Rodimus flicked a wrist, flippant. His spoiler twitched up and down. “This place is a blast. And if you ask me, it’s about time the crew had a little fun.”

Ultra Magnus sighed.

They probably would have stayed on Antioch longer, if not for Perceptor bursting onto the bridge in that moment, vocalizer running a spew of scientific gobbledygook that even Ratchet had difficult parsing, much less Rodimus. Ultra Magnus looked deeply concerned. Brainstorm, who had been in Perceptor’s wake, looked excited.

Neither of which boded well.

Something to do with chemicals and metabolic rates and exactly how the Antiochians kept themselves safe without having weapons or any means of defense? And why they were so friendly toward metallics? Something about… brood parasites?

“–and Nightbeat confirmed it,” Perceptor finished as he slapped away Brainstorm’s hand, which was inching toward the datapad in his possession. “We need to leave. Now.”

Rodimus’ optics had glazed over, but on the last statement, he’d jerked into attentiveness. “Is everyone onboard?”

“Yes. Including Megatron,” Ratchet said, an unease building deep in his tank, along with a strange and winding heat. “I checked.”

“Right then.” Rodimus clapped his hands together and spun toward the main console. “Mainframe, take us out. No one’s making a sparkling factory out of my crew.”

Never let it be said that Rodimus couldn’t see reason. He only played at the fool. Sometimes, perhaps a little too well.

A wave of queasiness swept through Ratchet. Maybe because of what he’d been able to parse from Perceptor’s explanations. Maybe because the oils and the “cure” didn’t mix well with his FIM chip. Maybe he’d picked up some kind of metallic-based virus while on Antioch.

Either way, Ratchet excused himself from the bridge and tromped back to his habsuite. He was supposed to be off-duty, frag it.

He intended to wash the lingering sourness of the Antiochian cure from his mouth, linger in the solitude of his private washrack, and then collapse face-first on his berth for a nice, long nap free of any stress and worries. Maybe he’d delay that nap to watch a movie or read a datanovel or anything that wasn’t working or worrying himself into a fit over the current state of affairs.

The weird wash of heat returned with a vengeance, strong enough to make Ratchet stumble when he was two hallways away from his hab. He frowned, confused, and kept one hand on the wall to steady himself.

A self-directed internal scan produced nothing out of the ordinary. Well, except for his slightly raised core temperature, a quickened sparkbeat, and thrumming fans. Typical indications of arousal really.

Save that Ratchet wasn’t currently engaged in any kind of interfacing and shouldn’t be aroused on even a simmering level right now.

Maybe it was some aftereffect of the Antiochian oil. He could be mildly overheated or still suffering ill-effects from what was technically an intoxicant, despite his FIM chip. A little bit of arousal wouldn’t kill him. If he didn’t feel better tomorrow, he’d perform a systems purge and that should clear it out.

That, at least, was the plan.

Ratchet lurched into his habsuite, doused some of the rising heat with the chill of the washrack solvent, and stubbornly resisted the urge to palm the pulse of need rising behind his interface panel.

It was not going away. If anything, it was getting worse. Little crackles of charge teased out of his seams. There was a fire building between his thighs. He could feel the lubricant gathering and his meshwalls swelling with excitement. His sparkrate further increased. His ventilations grew stronger.

He staggered out of the washrack and tumbled onto his medberth, pressing his thighs together in stubborn refusal. There was an itch in his lines, a feverish one. Ratchet panted, his hands curling into claws as he resisted.

This was not normal. His sensors kept pinging back everything as within safe bounds, that his frame experienced nothing less than typical arousal. But it was fake. It had to be.

The Antiochians. The rich, indulgent oils. Their insistence that the crew linger as long as they wished.

Rumors of their brood parasitic tendencies.

It was all adding up. Ratchet snarled in a mixture of irritation and revulsion. He was going to kill Rodimus for this, he decided.

That was when his door pinged. That was when it pinged twice and then a third time. That was when Ratchet rolled out of the berth and stumbled toward the door on wobbly knees, a snarl painting his lips, which were drawn back over his denta.

He snapped the door open, intending to growl out an unwelcoming “what?” but it petered into a whine when he saw Megatron. The simmering arousal raged into an inferno. He remembered all too well the ecstasy he’d experienced the two times that didn’t happen.

“Something’s wrong,” Megatron said.

Rationality and reason escaped Ratchet’s processor with a whoosh of his cooling fans. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Get in here.”

And so Megatron came into his habsuite. Ratchet wondered if he should bother with an explanation when his hands found themselves magnetically attracted to Megatron’s hips, when he leaned in close, dragged in a deep vent, and moaned softly.

“I find myself more than a little confounded, medic,” Megatron rumbled, though his armor jittered, and his field was a chaotic tangle of need and confusion. “I thought this didn’t happen.”

“It didn’t.” Ratchet worked his intake, his processor spinning, his mouth wet with lubricant. “But it’s happening now. Those damn Antiochians have us prepped for their absurd reproduction technique.”

Megatron’s hands found Ratchet’s shoulders, big and strong as they were, and Ratchet leaned into them. “What?”

“It’s Rodimus’ quest!” Ratchet spluttered, his hands sinking into Megatron’s seams, stroking the sensitive cables beneath. Delight surged through his lines as Megatron shuddered and sank into his touch, as his plating parted of its own accord, granting Ratchet more access. “This kind of weirdness shouldn’t be shocking anymore.”

“It’s more alarming that I am getting used to it,” Megatron muttered. His burning gaze turned down on Ratchet. “You’re offering mutual assistance, I presume?”

Ratchet pressed closer, armor to armor, heat to heat. “Why? Are you waiting for an invitation?”

Megatron’s hands slid inward, thumbs gracing Ratchet’s intake, teasing the sensitive cabling there. Yet, his hands trembled, proving that he was as affected as Ratchet. What monumental restraint it must have taken him not to throw Ratchet to the floor and grind against him, like Ratchet wanted to do right at this very moment.

“Given the circumstances, yes.”

Ratchet growled and sank his fingers in against Megatron’s cables. Hard. “Frag me,” he demanded as his optics flashed, and he tugged Megatron flush against him. “As many times as it takes.”

That, apparently, was all he’d needed to say. Megatron’s optics turned the dark red hue of those meteors Rodimus was so fond of surfing, before he lifted Ratchet clear off the ground and crossed the floor in a few swift strides, right to the berth. Ratchet’s back hit the surface with a clang, his frame blanked by Megatron’s, whose field unleashed, lashing the room with the full brunt of his arousal.

Ratchet moaned into a kiss fierce with denta, his frame bucking into Megatron’s hands, his legs trying to wind around Megatron’s waist, even as Megatron tried to get his knees over Ratchet’s hips to straddle him.

Ratchet bucked up against him. “Frag me,” he hissed into the kiss, his hands hooked in Megatron’s armor, his panel already open as his valve throbbed and leaked lubricant, which trickled down his aft.

Megatron’s hands gripped his hips as he ground down against Ratchet. “I am attempting to do so,” he growled and again tangled a leg around Ratchet’s, their inefficient wrestling getting them nowhere.

A streak of damp painted Ratchet’s leg. He didn’t have to look to know that Megatron’s panel had snapped open, and like Ratchet’s, only his valve was bared. Neither of them had extended their spike.

Ratchet wondered if they couldn’t.

He snarled out of frustration and squirmed against Megatron, armor grinding and squealing together, heat building to a crescendo between them. His valve ached, all of his nodes twitching with restless need. His main node throbbed, swollen and hungry, desperate for stimulation, and each random brush of Megatron’s armor was torture.

“Give me your spike!” Ratchet demanded as he tried to worm a hand between their frames.

Megatron’s denta curled against his intake cables, but not hard enough to harm. “You first,” he retorted.

“This is ridiculous!” Ratchet spluttered and jerked his head out of reach of Megatron’s mouth, as tempting as it was. “Just spike me already.”

“No.” Megatron rutted against him, panting, a wild look in his optics that suggested he wasn’t thinking straight. And considering how much harder the Antiochian oil had affected him last night, no doubt this false lust was harder on him than on Ratchet.

He supposed he’d have to concede for once. Except that he couldn’t, because he couldn’t seem to extend his spike. Not even manually. It wasn’t that the panel wasn’t working, or that he couldn’t send the commands, they just weren’t being heeded. He suspected Megatron faced the same difficulty.

Time to get creative.

Ratchet gripped Megatron and exerted more force that most mecha knew he – and by extension – medics were capable of. He tumbled Megatron onto his back, straddled Megatron’s left leg, and had Megatron’s right draped around his waist before the warlord even know what was going on. The berth shuddered and protested beneath them, but held, even as Ratchet gripped Megatron’s right thigh and pushed it slightly back, baring Megatron’s dripping valve which was now achingly close to Ratchet’s own.

“What the frag are you doing!” Megatron demanded, only for his outrage to peter into a moan as Ratchet rolled his hips forward, the plush swollen mesh of his valve brushing over Megatron’s engorged anterior node.

“Getting creative,” Ratchet said on the edge of a pant. He rolled his hips again, thrusting against Megatron’s valve with his own. “You can’t give me your spike, and I can’t give you mine. This’ll have to do.”

Megatron gasped and reached down, one hand curling around Ratchet’s right thigh and dragging him closer, until their valves were flush together in a wet, swollen kiss. “It’s perfect,” he groaned as his free hand tangled in the berth.

Megatron arched his backstrut, rolling his hips into Ratchet’s movements, until they established a rhythm. Ratchet licked his lips, drawing vents through his mouth, as his spark thumped erratically.

There was nothing quite like valve-to-valve interfacing. The wet touch of valve lips, one to the other, the nudge and duel of swollen anterior nodes. Feeling the twitch of the other mechs outermost ring of calipers. Valve lubricants intermingling and spilling together, making for a slick mess. The sound of it, so noisy and lewd, and the sensation, similar to a glossa but less focused and firmer pressure. It was almost a tease, save that it felt so good.

Ratchet leaned forward, grinding harder against Megatron, pleasure licking up his spinal strut in heavy, heated waves. He watched as Megatron’s head tilted back, as he moaned and gasped, expressing losing the lines of strain and smoothing out into genuine pleasure. His field spilled over Ratchet’s, hot and hungry, and his frame vented heat into the room. Little sparks of charge danced over his armor, leaping against Ratchet’s own.

Ecstasy built and swelled in Ratchet’s internals, punctuated by a surge of pleasure every time their anterior nodes touched. Megatron’s hand on his thigh was heavy, strong, desperate as it pulled Ratchet against him. Their frames moved together as if they’d always known this dance. Or maybe that was the need talking.

Either way, pleasure exploded in Ratchet like a supernova, sparkles dancing in his optics. He gasped as he overloaded, hips jerking against Megatron’s, valve spilling so much lubricant it must have soaked his berth cover. His hips made several stuttered thrusts against Megatron’s who suddenly growled and tightened his grip on Ratchet’s thigh. His optics flashed as he bucked, ecstasy striping his field and a surge of charge running down his frame, grounding against Ratchet’s armor.

Their valves throbbed in tandom, pressed together in a most intimate kiss. Ratchet panted for ventilations, his processor spinning, frame thrumming with the aftereffects of a powerful overload… and a hunger that felt as though it had barely been touched.

Need still yawed inside of him. His valve clenched, desperate for something to pierce it. The one overload was not nearly enough.

Ratchet groaned. “I’m going to kill Rodimus,” he said as he sagged, coming to a reluctant conclusion.

“Later,” Megatron said before he turned the tables.

He twisted his hips in a move that Ratchet barely believed him capable of, and Ratchet’s back hit the berth, knocking a ventilation out of him. His processor spun, producing an incoherent ‘wha?’ before Megatron knelt between his legs, scooped Ratchet’s thighs over his arms, and buried his face against Ratchet’s valve.

Ratchet’s head snapped back, and his backstrut arched as Megatron latched his lips around Ratchet’s swollen nub and gave it a suck. Ratchet shouted, his hands scrabbling at Megatron’s shoulders, his hips bucking up against Megatron’s mouth. His vents roared to life, ecstasy shooting through his lines in a bolt of charge.

Megatron was fierce, determined, lips and denta and glossa making short work of examining every inch of Ratchet’s valve. He suckled on the plump folds and plunged his glossa deep, nasal ridge grinding against Ratchet’s node. His denta scraped delicately over sensitive nodes before he returned to Ratchet’s nub, pinned it between his denta, and lashed it with his glossa.

Ratchet thrashed, hands grabbing at Megatron’s head, shoving him against his valve as he ground against Megatron’s face. Coherent thought flew out the window as the ecstasy sparked and flared inside of him, his thighs trembling and his frame rattling. Pleasure consumed him, so hot it swept up everything else.

He didn’t even realize he was spewing a steady stream of dirty epithets and encouragement until sound came through the static in his audials. A montage of ‘frag’ and ‘more’ and ‘harder, rust you’ until he felt Megatron chuckle against his valve and obey, lips making lewd noises as he joyfully consumed Ratchet’s valve.

Another lash of Megatron’s glossa, followed by a sharp, squeezing pinch of denta, and overload swept Ratchet up, tossing him into a wave of bliss. He writhed on the berth, distantly aware of hearing a click and some kind of ping inside his processor, as he rode Megatron’s mouth for all it was worth.

Wrecked, he collapsed back into his body, tremors making him twitch, fans venting heat into the room at a fast pace. Megatron hummed against his valve, gave it a final lick and then crawled up Ratchet’s frame.

“You have a dirty mouth, medic,” he growled before his lips descended on Ratchet’s, tasting of heat and charge and Ratchet’s own lubricant.

Ratchet sucked on Megatron’s glossa, arousal running in jagged lines down his backstrut. His valve throbbed, still desperate. The confirmation ping reasserted itself.

Override successful. Penetrative interface unit engaged.

Sure enough, he felt the heat against his spike, and the brush of it against Megatron’s armor, each light touch sending jolts of pleasure and heat through Ratchet’s array. Lust still burned through him, as though it was a hunger nothing could sate. He clutched at Megatron’s arms and moaned into the kiss, his processor spinning and the world tilting beneath him.

He needed.

Megatron nipped his lips and chuckled. “Well, what do we have here?” he purred as he pulled back and looked between their frames, at Ratchet’s spike standing proud and eager, pre-fluid already beading at the slit.

“You know damn well what that is,” Ratchet retorted as he rolled his hips, grinding the head of his spike against Megatron’s abdomen. “And if you’re very good, I might even put it in you.”

A soft sound escaped from Megatron’s mouth, a mix of groan and whine. “Is that so?” He laughed again, more air than vocals. “I’m not so sure it can do the job.”

Outrage took the edge of the arousing need burning in his lines. “Excuse me?” Ratchet spluttered. “It seemed to do just fine last time!”

“The time that didn’t happen, you mean?” Megatron shifted and reached between their frames, dragging a finger up the length of Ratchet’s spike.

Ratchet made a strangled sound as his spike throbbed. “Do you want to get spiked or not, fragger?”

“I suppose it’ll do,” Megatron said with an aggrieved sigh that had to be feigned. He smirked down at Ratchet. “If it’s the best you have.”

The best, hm? Ratchet had a little surprise in store for Megatron, if he was going to act like that.

“Then move,” Ratchet said. “Get that aft in the air.”

Megatron laughed against Ratchet’s lips. “Such a dirty mouth,” he murmured and stole Ratchet’s lips for another scorching kiss before he drew back to obey.

Ratchet rather liked that, Megatron obeying without so much as a complaint or protest. Obedience was a good look for him. Ratchet slipped out from under Megatron and moved behind the former warlord, admiring the view. Now wasn’t the time, he knew, but he could just imagine Megatron wrapped in ropes, crimson ones, wound around his frame. Perhaps even framing this pretty valve right here.

Ratchet’s fingers grazed over Megatron’s valve lips, which were plump and hungry, lubricant painting them with an opalescent sheen. Megatron’s anterior node was swollen and bright, his biolights flickering with need. Two fingers sank into him easily, and Ratchet groaned as they were enveloped in hot, squeezing mesh, calipers rippling and trying to drag him deeper.

“This is not the time for teasing, medic,” Megatron growled as his forehead hit the berth, his fingers kneading the rumpled cover.

Ratchet smirked. “No, it’s not.” He patted Megatron’s aft and retrieved his fingers. He slipped off the berth. “I think I have something you’ll like.”

“Your spike in me is what I asked for!”

Ratchet’s smirk widened. He stumbled across the floor to his locker and input the code with fingers shaky and sticky with Megatron’s lubricant. The smell of it was dizzying, and Ratchet’s mouth lubricated.

Later, he told himself.

He rummaged around in his locker before he found what he was looking for: the special gift Wheeljack had pressed into his hands before he left with Rodimus and the Lost Light. For those lonely, lonely nights out in the middle of space when he needed a little stress relief.

Well. Perhaps little was the wrong word.

The false spike with a vast array of vibration and pumping settings could hardly be called little. It was long and thick, ribbed for pleasure, and filled every inch of Ratchet’s valve and then some when he had the patience and the time to himself to indulge.

It was also garishly painted, because Wheeljack had a sense of humor, but it filled Ratchet with fondness every time he saw the bright orange spatters mingled with bright blue and purple streaks. So he didn’t curse Wheeljack too much. At least, not aloud.

Ratchet returned to the berth, false spike in hand, and upon sight of it, Megatron burst into laughter. “What in Primus’ name is that?”

“A special treat,” Ratchet said with a wink. “You said you didn’t think my spike could do the job, didn’t you?”

“That is a monstrosity,” Megatron retorted, but his optics had gone dark with pleasure and more lubricant trickled from his valve. It visibly twitched, as if already imagining the false spike.

Ratchet chuckled and teased the tip against Megatron’s valve, playing in the gathered lubricant and applying pressure to Megatron’s node. “Are you saying you don’t want to play with it then?” he asked, pretending innocence, even as he briefly flicked the vibration setting on and off, sending a buzz against Megatron’s array.

A strangled groan was Megatron’s reply. The berth creaked as he rocked back against the toy, his hands tangling in the berth covers.

“I could always take it away,” Ratchet added, with perhaps a touch more devilish glee. He flicked the vibrations on and off again, as he nudged the head of the spike inside Megatron’s valve, only to remove it just as quickly.

“Frag you!” Megatron hissed as his optics burned at Ratchet, alight with the fire of his need. “Shove that spike in me or so help me I will–”

Whatever he planned to say choked off on a moan as Ratchet slipped the toy into Megatron’s valve, the way eased by copious lubricant, and thrust into him agonizingly slow. So slow he could feel every ridge, every bump, as it filled his valve and stretched his calipers and finally, ground against his ceiling node.

Megatron gasped, his hips squirmed. His elbows buckled and he sank down, aft up in the air, pushing back toward the toy. His engine growled as he kneaded the berth, lubricant painting the back of his thighs and his aft, his biolights bright and pulsing.

Ratchet licked his lips, ground the toy just a tad deeper, and then flicked on the vibration to its lowest setting. The quiet hum was barely audible over the roar of Megatron’s vents. His lower half wriggled as he moaned, thrusting back against the toy as Ratchet set up a rhythm, grinding it deep each time.

“Not so horrible now, is it?” Ratchet taunted. His spike throbbed, and he dropped his free hand to his array, giving it a squeeze. Pleasure lanced through him. He groaned.

He wanted to frag Megatron. The way his valve lips swelled. The sweet, heady scent of lubricant. How he squirmed and groaned. Ratchet wanted to grab him by the hips, pound Megatron’s aft, and spill himself deep.

The mere thought of it made Ratchet’s spike throb harder. He groaned as he stroked himself, fisting his spike with abandon.

Megatron moaned and his hips swayed as he eagerly clenched on the spike. “You should… make use of that,” he growled.

“Of what?” Ratchet asked.

“Your spike.” Megatron shoved himself up onto his elbows and directed a glare over his shoulder. “Frag me.”

“And here I thought you were enjoying my toy.” Ratchet moved closer, rolling his hips so that his spike brushed over the back of Megatron’s thighs. He increased the strength of the vibrations.

Megatron visibly shivered. His hands kneaded at the berth. “I am.” He panted, optics glazed over, and then there was a click.

Ratchet’s optics widened, lust like lightning in his lines, as Megatron’s aft port cycled open. The smaller opening clenched hungrily, and Ratchet’s ventilations quickened. He never thought, in a thousand centuries, that he’d ever find himself with the opportunity to frag Megatron’s aft.

Literally.

“You’re sure?” Ratchet asked, even as he spread pre-fluid over his spike, and gathered up some of Megatron’s lubricant, smearing it around and over Megatron’s aft port. His hands shook from anticipation.

“Wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t.” Megatron’s forehead pressed into the berth again, his aft canted up in offering.

Oh, Primus.

Ratchet flicked the switch to notch the vibrating toy into place and activated the pumping action, keeping it on the lowest setting so he’d have both hands free. He shuffled closer on his knees, his hand steadying Megatron’s hip as the other guided his spike to that tiny port.

Well, tiny in comparison to Megatron’s valve, but perfect for Ratchet’s spike, he realized with a groan. There was resistance at first, the tiniest bit, before the head of Ratchet’s spike popped inside, and he sank into snug, rippling heat. Ratchet moaned as he pushed deeper and deeper, charge nipping his spike, the increased roar of Megatron’s engines vibrating them both. Even better that he could feel the pump and vibration of the toy filling Megatron’s valve as it carried through Megatron’s array.

Ratchet moaned and gripped Megatron’s hips. He panted, half-curled around Megatron’s lower half, his spike throbbing incessantly and the grip of Megatron’s aft making him see stars. He couldn’t quite thrust, the sensation too strong and arousing. He lingered for a moment, enjoying the squeeze and heat as he leaned over Megatron.

“Do something, medic!” Megatron growled as he bucked up against Ratchet.

Damn, impatient fragger.

Ratchet snarled and tightened his grip. He rose up on wobbly knees and started to thrust, slow at first, but gaining in speed with each subsequent push. Megatron’s frame opened to him, hot and welcoming, until Megatron shoved back against him needily, the crown of his head pressed into the berth.

“Harder!” Megatron demanded as his fingers tangled in the covers, and his plating flared, and his field stirred Ratchet’s into a frenzy. “Harder if you even think you can, old mech.”

The goads shot Ratchet’s arousal into new heights. And the sounds, Primus the sounds Megatron made. Little gasps and groans, whimpers buried in the rumbles of his engine, the copious trickles of lubricant, the revving of his engine. Megatron made a noise, like a keen, and his field flashed. His aft rippled around Ratchet’s spike as his rocking increased in earnest, and only then did Ratchet realize Megatron had overloaded.

There wasn’t a moment, however, where Megatron stopped moving. He kept shoving back against Ratchet, demanding more with his frame and his voice, lips spilling filthy challenges. Demanding that Ratchet frag him harder, make him feel it, mark him, fill him with transfluid, while the toy buzzed and danced and charge crackled blindingly over Megatron’s armor.

Ratchet groaned and sank deep into Megatron, hips making little stuttered jerks and circles, as overload swept over him. Pleasure sparked through him, stole his energy. His knees wobbled. His vents panted. His processor spun. He clutched at Megatron’s hips, emptying transfluid into Megatron’s aft with spurt after spurt.

Heat still raged through his lines in an inferno.

His world turned upside down, as Megatron seemed so fond of doing, and Ratchet had a moment of confusion as his spike slipped free of the snug place it had enjoyed. His back hit the berth, Megatron’s hands grabbed his hips, and then Megatron’s spike plunged into his valve in one fell swoop, lighting up every node along the way and making them sing.

Ratchet gasped, backstrut arching. He scrabbled at Megatron’s hands as the former warlord setting up a driving pace, shoving Ratchet into the berth. There was a low buzz on the edge of his senses. A buzz…

“Wait, the toy. Let me–”

“Leave it,” Megatron growled, his optics as dark and hungry as embers as he plunged into Ratchet, again and again.

Just the thought of that toy filling Megatron while he fragged Ratchet was enough to send Ratchet’s arousal soaring. Every overload felt like a sip of energon when he were starving, like wetting his glossa but not sating his hunger. He wanted and needed more.

Ratchet snarled, grabbed Megatron’s arms, and tightened his legs around Megatron’s hips. He rose up to meet each thrust, valve greedily clenching on Megatron’s spike and feeding charge into Megatron’s node receptors. The berth creaked and rattled beneath them as they fragged hard and fast, like the world was going to end tomorrow and this was all they had left.

The world narrowed down to nothing but this, the thick spike filling him, the eager clutch of his calipers, the heavy frame pressing him down, the charge that licked across his frame and snapped against Megatron’s. The clench of Megatron’s denta, the flash of fire in his optics, the need so blatant in his field which had become thoroughly tangled in Ratchet’s own. If he wasn’t so lust-drunk, he might have been able to read something of Megatron, secrets the once-warlord kept hidden. Right now, there was nothing but a deep craving.

Ratchet reached up and grabbed Megatron by the back of his head. He pulled Megatron’s mouth to his, though it was less kiss than a battle of glossa and denta. Their ex-vents intermingled, hot and humid. They rocked together, armor making a racket, the berth shuddering. Ratchet’s thighs tightened.

Megatron shoved deep, grinding hard, and then Ratchet felt the hot splatter of transfluid washing over his internal nodes. He shuddered, panting into the kiss, as the heat sent him into an overload of his own, his valve squeezing down tight on Megatron’s spike. The kiss never once softened, not even as the overload tremors eased, but the lust remained, and the need as well.

Like Ratchet’s, Megatron’s spike was still firm. It lingered in Ratchet’s valve, teasing his excited nodes, re-invigorating his arousal.

“It’s never going to end,” Ratchet groaned and he wasn’t sure if it was exasperation or delight at this point. He still felt charged, like he hadn’t had three overloads and there was enough energy inside him for a dozen more.

Megatron chuckled. “Can’t you keep up, medic? Or are you getting too old for this?”

“Frag you,” Ratchet retorted, though with less heat than he would have liked. “I’ll show you what I can still do. Roll over.”

Megatron smirked and slipped out of Ratchet, obeying as he had before. There was always something impertinent in his obedience, but hungry, too. Like the submission was something he wanted, but was afraid to admit.

Ratchet would never state aloud how much it ramped his charge. The idea of suborning Megatron to his will, not because he was a former warlord, but because he was big and strong and hungry, filled Ratchet with lust.

He slid between Megatron’s legs and slipped his hands under Megatron’s knees as Megatron relaxed into the berth. A king on his throne. The toy still peeked from his valve, the bright orange end an odd juxtaposition to the grays and reds of Megatron’s armor. It buzzed along, on the softest speed, yet Megatron didn’t seem to mind the constant stimulation.

“Let’s see how flexible you really are,” Ratchet said as he started to urge Megatron’s knees back toward his chassis, as Ratchet shuffled forward.

Megatron smirked. “I can handle anything.”

“Of course you can.” Ratchet laughed and eased Megatron’s legs further back, until his knees were nearly touching his chassis, before he pushed them out a bit, completely baring his aft port, valve, and spike.

“I take it the rumors of your experience are true?” Megatron said with an arched orbital ridge. His frame trembled as his valve visibly clenched around the end of the toy.

“You have no idea.” Ratchet smirked and moved until he straddled Megatron’s aft, his valve lining up perfectly with Megatron’s, so that their main nodes touched and the vibrations of the toy pleasured Ratchet as well. He sank down, grinding against Megatron’s valve, a bolt of ecstasy rattling through his lines.

Megatron, too, gasped, his optics flaring in surprise. His knees twitched in Ratchet’s grip, even more so when Ratchet leaned forward, as if he were thrusting into Megatron, and rocked their hips together, valves in delicious contact.

Megatron purred. “So I see.” He slipped his hands between their frames. “But I have a few tricks as well.” He grasped their spikes and pressed them together, squeezing them with his huge hands.

Ratchet’s head hung as he groaned. His knees wobbled, and his rhythm briefly stuttered before he found it again. Megatron stroked them together, throbbing metal to throbbing metal, as the pleated folds of their valves kissed. The vibrations of the toy rattled against the exterior of Ratchet’s valve, stimulating his anterior node.

“It’s a… good trick,” Ratchet panted as he rocked against Megatron, grinding their arrays together and pumping his spike into Megatron’s grip. The feel of Megatron’s spike against his, heated and throbbing, was an extra burst of eroticism.

Megatron chuckled, but it was breathless and distracted. He rolled up to meet Ratchet’s thrusts as best he could, their combined pre-fluid making his strokes slick and sweet. He gnawed on his lips, his backstrut arched, his field vibrating with pleasure.

Every nudge of their anterior nodes made Ratchet quiver. His backstrut licked with lightning. He groaned, head hanging, mouth open for desperate draughts of cooler air which were nowhere to be found. Ecstasy hovered in the wings, matching the beat of Ratchet’s sparks and the rhythm of their frames.

In the end, he wasn’t sure which of them succumbed first, he or Megatron. It was a blur of heat and wet, transfluid painting Megatron’s fingers and lubricant slicking their arrays. Megatron groaned and pawed at Ratchet with transfluid-sticky fingers and Ratchet’s balance abandoned him as he toppled forward on top of Megatron, scrabbling up to pull their mouths together.

Their limbs tangled. The scent of scorched circuits and hot metal and spent transfluid and lubricant soaked the air until it was dizzying. The noise of frames coming together, sliding and impacting, rang in Ratchet’s audials.

Ratchet groaned, his engine revving. He wanted, no, needed more. More overloads, more ecstasy, more to sate the hunger inside of him, the slick rippling of his valve, the desperate throb of his spike. Megatron’s roaming, gripping hands reflected the same urgency, the same driving need. If it bothered him, Megatron didn’t say so. Instead, he rocked with Ratchet, ground against him, wordlessly asking for more with lips and denta and fingers.

Ratchet obliged because he wanted it, too. His processor spun and the world blurred into sensations: hot and wet and smooth and soft and pleasure, pleasure, pleasure until it seemed to take over all the rest.

It was going to be a long, long night.

~

Everything hurt. Ached like it hadn’t since he’d woken from a night celebrating his graduation from the medical academy with the highest honors, and had partied until long past sunrise with five of his closest friends. Engex, candies, and the kind of creative interfacing that only a half-dozen medics could think of.

That had been a good night, but the morning, or late afternoon rather, had been rough. Stiff and sore and aching everywhere, but in a good way, depleted of all of his fluids, vocals a rough rasp, frame marked with lubricant and transfluid and so many paint transfers on his frame he looked like a hot mess.

At the time, he’d wondered if Wrench had slipped a little something extra into their engex, to extend the fun.

Ratchet felt a lot like that now. Exhausted. Sore. Wrung out. Needing to replenish all his fluids, but energon and coolant especially. The consuming heat had faded, leaving him only with the soft warmth of another frame flush with his. He ached, but felt satisfied, and like he could recharge for another few days, if allowed.

At some point, the evening had become a blur of overloads and fluids and hands and valves and spikes. He vaguely remembered the press of Megatron’s body on top of his, a languid pace as Megatron thrust into him and fingered his aft port at the same time and Ratchet spilling transfluid all over the berth as he overloaded. He remembered swallowing Megatron’s spike as Megatron writhed on the toy, which had been increased to the strongest vibrations at some point. There had been grappling and rolling around, their frames pressed together, arching against each other, armor scraping.

He’d ridden Megatron’s spike more than once. He’d bent down and licked his own transfluid from Megatron’s aft while Megatron swallowed his spike. Ratchet had taken Megatron’s aft again while Megatron sucked on his fingers, mouth wicked and optics dark. At some point, he’d taken out the toy and fragged Megatron with four fingers, his promise to fist Megatron at some point dragging another overload out of Megatron.

No wonder he ached. It had been a night of debauchery unlike anything Ratchet had experienced in centuries. Everything tasted and smelled and felt of interfacing.

Ratchet probably should move. He didn’t know if he could. He didn’t have the energy. There was a heavy weight on top of him, a head pillowed on his shoulder, a heavier arm and leg draped over his frame. Megatron’s field was thoroughly entangled with his as well, which was something Ratchet could have never anticipated either.

And then Megatron’s optics unshuttered, and Ratchet lost his chance to sneak away before the uncomfortable morning after needed to be addressed.

Megatron stared at him for a long moment, as though trying to see who was going to make the first move. Ratchet decided to bite the bullet

Megatron chuckled, vocals rough and grated, vibrating down Ratchet’s spinal strut, though he didn’t have the energy for lust to stir. “Is this the part where you tell me it’s never happening again?”

Ratchet snorted. “I think that ship has left port.” He tried to move and his entire frame creaked. It wasn’t even Megatron’s weight that kept him immobile. “I can’t move.”

“Neither can I.” Megatron made an aborted attempt to lift his arm, but all it did was slide a little over Ratchet’s abdomen.

“Frag.”

“I believe we both did that last night. Multiple times.”

Ratchet rolled his optics. “You’re not funny.”

Megatron’s ex-vents teased against Ratchet’s intake. “Actually, I think I’m hilarious.”

If Ratchet could move, he’d hide behind his palm right now. As it was, all he could do was sigh. “This is all Rodimus’ fault.”

Megatron’s smirk was positively obscene. “Remind me to thank him later.”

Ratchet sank into the berth, surrendering to the pull of comfort and to the demands of his frame. If he was going to be stuck here, he might as well enjoy it. “This–”

“–doesn’t happen again?”

“No, you aft, I was going to say this is a bad idea,” Ratchet snapped, and made himself ignore the twinge of guilt radiating through his spark. He shuttered his optics and cycled a ventilation. “As was joining this quest so apparently, I’m full of them.”

Megatron laughed, soft and genuine. “Being that I didn’t have a choice in the matter, I find your comparison of the two strangely apt.”

Ratchet snorted. “Does that mean you’re trying to figure out how you can escape? Or that I’m as appealing as fool’s energon?”

“If you were so foul, I would not be here, medic,” Megatron growled snappishly. He twitched on the berth, moving his leg a few inches but not fully off Ratchet.

One optic onlined to direct a glare at Megatron. “What a stirring compliment. And here I thought you were supposed to be some kind of poet.”

“You want me to wax lyrical about your skills in the berth? I’m sure that one will be a hit at Swerve’s later this evening. If I can find the strength to move from this spot,” Megatron said dryly. Humor lurked in his tone.

Ratchet abruptly got a mental image of Megatron standing in front of a crowd at the bar and reading a dirty limerick with a completely straight face, while the rest of the patrons looked on in a mixture of horror and confused arousal. The image was so clear, so absurd, that Ratchet burst into laughter, and then he couldn’t stop. Because everything about this was ridiculous, from the quest down to what had happened in this berth last night, and somehow, it was all fitting.

“If you do, please record it,” Ratchet managed to gasp out as the laughter started to subside, but the humor lingered.

“I’ll keep a private copy, just for you.” Megatron shifted on the berth, not managing to put much distance between them. “So then, medic, what now?”

In other words, where did they go from here? Their fields were still intertwined, though Ratchet couldn’t read anything from Megatron’s, save the distant echoes of agitation, resignation, and a touch of shame.

Ratchet sighed, flopped himself into a side curl and pressed back against Megatron. “Now we go back to recharge because I’m too tired to deal with this slag right now.”

He felt the rumbles of Megatron’s laugh against his backstrut. “Works for me.” His hand draped over Ratchet’s side.

The most surprising was how unthreatened Ratchet felt. His defense protocols should have been screaming at him. This was Megatron after all, the mech responsible for millions of deaths and destruction, and everything Ratchet hated.

The universe was a complicated place now, Ratchet admitted to himself. And people were complicated things. Or maybe he was just too tired to think about this rationally.

So he offlined his optics and prepared to slip back into recharge. He made a mental note to contact someone who could both keep their mouth shut and be willing to bring he and Megatron the necessary fluids before they slipped into stasis for lack of coolant.

His life had become really strange. Or maybe it had always been. Ratchet didn’t know anymore. He just knew this was the beginning of something he couldn’t name.

[SoF] Tangled Threads

My Sun, 

I love you. 

There I said it. Three little words. Funny how it took me so long to get them out. Yeah, you already knew it, just like I knew it, but the important part is in the saying it. Right? 

It’s too late for them to mean anything, I know. And I’m okay with that. You’re happy with Megatron, and that’s all I could have ever wanted for you. I want you to be happy, to smile, to belong. Even if it’s not with me. 

So I have to go. It’s not because of you, it’s because of me. I have to go because you’re right. I left something out there. And I think if I don’t go back for it, I’m going to regret that even more than never telling you those three words. 

I don’t want to regret anymore. So I have to do this. It’s a matter of–

“How many more times are you going to read that?”

Sunstreaker dimmed the screen of the datapad and tilted it against his chestplate. His gaze slanted to the left, where Megatron’s rumbling vocals had pulled him out of another review of Rodimus’ letter.

“Until I stop feeling guilty,” he murmured as a silver arm slid over him, tugging him into Megatron’s embrace.

Megatron nuzzled against his shoulder, ex-venting a soft sigh. “I believe the purpose of the letter was to assuage your guilt, love.”

“Maybe.” Sunstreaker tipped his head, leaning it against Megatron’s. “I’m starting to wonder if I didn’t say anything, not because I wanted to spare his feelings, but because I was protecting my own.”

“Mmm.” Megatron pressed a kiss to his shoulder armor, his field tangling around Sunstreaker’s firmly. “That may be true. And it may not be. Matters of the spark are never so clear.”

Sunstreaker swallowed a sigh and powered down the datapad, leaning over to rest it on the nightstand. “It doesn’t bother you?”

“I have never doubted your feelings for me.” Megatron’s ventilations evened out as he started a slow-cycle into recharge. “I understand that love has layers, and what we share is different than what you feel for him.”

Sunstreaker let the words wash over him, absorbing their meaning. Megatron did not push, which he was grateful for. He loved that about Megatron, point of fact. That he never became irritated because Sunstreaker was slow to understand the emotional or social implications of things. That he took time to absorb the more abstract aspects of interaction.

Sunstreaker cycled a ventilation. “Sometimes, I wonder if I deserve you,” he murmured, a moment of painful honesty, one he’d never voice where Sideswipe could hear, because he’d already heard Sideswipe’s objections to his own feelings of self-inadequacy.

“Of course you do.” Megatron’s tone was so candid that it rejected argument. “We deserve each other.”

Sometimes, Sunstreaker wondered.

His processor wandered back, to his memory core, to nearly a month prior, when fear had seized his spark and almost sent him into a blind panic. When the force of his feelings, and what they meant, had thundered through his audials, forcing him to confront a truth he’d been burying for years upon years.

It wasn’t the ferocious way Springer had pounded on the door that drew out the terror. It was the look in Springer’s optics as he said one of the worst things Sunstreaker had ever heard. The words washed into his audials and sent a flood of ice through his lines.

“What do you mean he’s missing?” Sunstreaker demanded, voice low and cold, through clenched denta, through control slipping between his fingers.

Sunstreaker did not yell or panic. No matter what anyone said, neither of those reactions emerged from his chassis. It only felt like they did.

“Meaning we can’t find him,” Springer replied, just short of a snarl, his optics narrowed. “Which is the only reason I’m talking to you right now.”

It took all Sunstreaker had not to punch Springer. Though there was still time. He and Rodimus’ batch-brother had never seen optic to optic on much of anything. Springer didn’t approve of Sunstreaker or Sideswipe, not even after they mated the Warchief.

Sunstreaker had no idea why.

No. Scratch that.

He had an inkling.

“I don’t know where he is,” Sunstreaker gritted out, rising to his full height, his armor clamping down tight around his frame. “So why don’t you? Aren’t you his brother?”

Springer’s engine growled. He shoved a fat finger in Sunstreaker’s face. His field surged forward, as aggressive as his tone. “Warchief’s mate or not, I will fight you, so don’t test me.”

“Try me,” Sunstreaker snarled, his hydraulics tensing, his field coiling around him, ready to strike back.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.”

Red armor intercepted them, neatly slotting between Sunstreaker and Springer like he didn’t have a fear in the world. Sideswipe. Of course it was Sideswipe. Probably roused by the same noise that had driven Sunstreaker from his berth and the warm embrace of his mates.

Springer had better hope he hadn’t woken Megatron, too.

“You two can fight over who loves our boy more later, all right? Maybe we should focus on finding him first.” Sideswipe’s back knocked against Sunstreaker’s chassis in warning. He could just imagine the grin on his stupid twin’s face. That easygoing, but warning grin he gave to many a Firebrand thinking they could test the Warchief’s mates.

Springer set his jaw. “That was the plan,” he ground out, but wisely backed off a pace. “He didn’t show up for training, and no one’s seen him since before the storm started.”

“Okay,” Sideswipe said, hands raised still, like he wanted to be a red barrier, like he didn’t want to pound Springer’s stupid face in himself. “When was the last time anyone saw him?”

Sunstreaker kept his mouth shut. Only because his glare said it all, and Sideswipe was right. He cared more about finding Rodimus than he did about teaching Springer a lesson. He could dent the arrogant aft all he wanted after they found Rodimus safe and sound.

“After weapon instruction. Yesterday,” Springer answered, and Sunstreaker heard it like a roar in his audials, a great rushing wind. He knew, immediately, what had happened, just like he knew the guilt echoing in the glyphs of Springer’s answer.

“When he was talking to Silverspire and Torque?” Sunstreaker demanded, already knowing the answer, as the anger started to twist and coil in his internals.

Sideswipe tensed in front of him. “Sunny.”

It was a warning.

“It was a conversation,” Springer said, but his gaze went shifty, and his hydraulics creaked as he adjusted his weight.

It was guilt. Sunstreaker knew it when he saw it. He might be dumb when it came to most social interaction, but Sunstreaker knew the foul stench of guilt.

Sunstreaker’s engine snarled. He spun on a heelstrut and stomped away from both of them, the rage building to a fine froth. Those aft-headed slaggers were taunting Rodimus again, he just knew it.

“That’s not going to help find him!” Springer shouted after him, exasperation thick in his tone, his feet rooted in place like the guilt had sprung glue to keep him there.

Sunstreaker ignored him.

Sideswipe made a noise and chased after him. “What are you doing?” He made a grab for Sunstreaker’s arm, but he twisted out of the way, too quick.

“Getting answers,” Sunstreaker said, the fury thick in his frame, in his intake, boiling out through his lines, drawing his hands into tight fists.

Sideswipe’s engine growled. He balked, his field chased Sunstreaker. He made a sound as if he was going to argue, before he spun on a heel and went stalking back to their quarters. To Megatron, who should still be sleeping.

Good.

Sunstreaker had answers to find. And he knew exactly where to start looking.

Three corridors over, around the curve, and a level down, to the common room where the Firebrands, the newly trained, and the newly hopeful gathered. Times like these, heavy storms on the horizon and roaring overhead, the younger mechs crammed together to play games, chat, wile away the time and burn off restless energy.

Sunstreaker’s prey clustered together in a corner, laughing loudly, crouched as they were over some kind of card game with chore chips as stakes. The common room quieted the moment Sunstreaker was spotted, and a hush followed him as he cut through the crowd with ease. Sometimes, he was glad that his reputation preceded him. Mating the Warchief hadn’t tempered it that much.

His prey spotted him and none of them had the good sense to bolt. Instead, they stared back, like dynadeer in a hunter’s sightline. Questions hovered on the tip of Sunstreaker’s glossa, his engine growling in anticipation.

They started gibbering the moment they saw him. He didn’t even get a chance to pound the truth out of them, which was both frustrating and a relief.

“It’s not our fault,” Silverspire blurted out.

“He’s the idiot who believed us,” Clockwork agreed.

Sunstreaker didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t have to. “Where is he?”

“Probably trying to find the Deathbringer. Like an idiot,” Torque said from half-behind Silverspire’s bulk.

All three cringed behind the table, as if it would protect them from Sunstreaker’s wrath. Clearly, they hadn’t been paying much attention.

“The Deathbringer,” Sunstreaker echoed, and shot them all a scathing glance. “And where would he have gotten an idea like that?” Another ripple raced down his spinal strut. His engine growled.

Torque quailed.

Silverspire squared his shoulders.

But it was Clockwork who spoke. “Not like it’s not a story everyone doesn’t already know,” he babbled, a collection of double-negatives and defiance that petered away into a mumble. “He was desperate and willing to try anything. Can’t blame that on us.”

Could and would.

Sunstreaker set his jaw. He leaned forward; they leaned back much further. Their fields grated against his own, thick with anxiety. Sunstreaker almost snorted aloud. And these were the ones Megatron wanted to accept into the warriors?

Clearly he was being too lenient in his assessments.

“You know that even after accepting the badge, you’re still required to undergo training?” Sunstreaker said, careful to keep his tone as cold and even as ice.

They exchanged glances.

“Yes?” Silverspire ventured.

Sunstreaker smiled.

It was not a kind smile. It had far too much denta, and nothing of humor in his optics. Well, maybe a tad bit of humor. But not the kind that encouraged laughter.

“I will be one of your instructors,” he said and he leaned forward, his field flowing out and over them, caging them in as effectively as energon-laced bars. “And I am neither kind nor forgiving. Remember that.”

He left them with that promise. He spun on a heel and abandoned them to their cowardice. He would point out to Megatron, later, just what he and Wirelight had agreed to bring into their fold. Maybe the three could be salvaged, maybe not.

Liking Rodimus wasn’t a precedence for accepting the warrior’s badge. But being an aft and a bully was not acceptable.

Sunstreaker stalked out of the common room, aware that a pervasive silence settled in his absence. It followed him out, and it wasn’t until he was around the corner that the low murmur of conversation began again, though he was soon too far to pick up anything in particular. No doubt the rumor mill would churn with a fury.

He headed straight for the supply depot, already mentally compiling a list of the things he would need. Travel rations, certainly. Extra, external power packs. A few daggers, easily magnetized to his plating so they wouldn’t get lost in the storm. A thick, sand-resistant tarp to guard against the worst of the grating wind.

There was no guard at the door, and Sunstreaker had a key so he let himself inside. He snatched a travel pack from the hooks and started stuffing things into it, weighing each option carefully. He didn’t want to drag himself down by bringing too much, but he didn’t want to be unprepared either.

It occurred, however briefly, that he was being irrational. Perhaps unreasonable even. But there was a chill in his spark, a clenching squeeze that screeched of guilt. And concern.

Rodimus was his friend. One of his dearest. He was much, much more than that as well, but difficult to put into words, to define. Once, they had been lovers, frag buddies to put it crudely. Sunstreaker cared for Rodimus. Deeply. It wasn’t love, such as was defined by how he felt for Megatron, but it was something of equal worth.

He refused to leave Rodimus to the storm.

“What is this I hear about you terrorizing the Firebrands?”

Sunstreaker didn’t allow himself to stiffen at the voice, one which crept up on him and he should have heard, were he not so intent on his packing. Still, no one was around. They had privacy. He didn’t have to show Megatron the deference he did in public.

“Rodimus is missing,” he said as he shoved another handful of rations into the small pack. He would need to travel light. “And those afts are partially to blame for it.”

“Did they tie him up and throw him into the Barrens?”

Sunstreaker’s armor clamped down, tension coiling in his hydraulics. “Verbal bullying is no better than physical torment. You know that as well as I do.”

“I’m not saying they’re innocent.” Gears creaked and pistons hissed. Megatron moved up beside him, all bulk and presence, his hand falling over Sunstreaker’s, mid-reach to another dagger he could strap to his thigh. “There’s a storm, Sunstreaker.”

“Which is why I have to find him quickly.”

Megatron’s fingers curled around his wrist, tight enough to warn, but not enough to threaten. “You don’t know where he is or how far he’s gotten, and Soundwave tells me there’s a greater electrical interference in this storm. You go out there, and you’ll just get yourself killed.”

Sunstreaker ground his denta. “I have to find him.”

“You’re not responsible for him.”

“I am!” His vents roared as he whipped around to look up at his mate. “If I’d just–” He bit off, unwilling to complete the admission, though Megatron knew it already. He dropped his gaze, staring hard at Megatron’s chestplate. “I should have paid more attention.”

Immediately, he was enfolded in his mate’s arms. Megatron was the only one he let hold him like this, Sideswipe notwithstanding. There was safety here, safety that he could find with no one else. Not even Rodimus, who he loved so dearly.

“It is not your fault,” Megatron murmured, his head tilted against Sunstreaker’s, his hands warm and firm on Sunstreaker’s back.

He clung to Megatron, his rock in the storm of emotion rampaging through his spark. He shuttered his optics. He cycled his vents, alarmed to find them shuddering.

“Say it enough, I might even believe you,” Sunstreaker replied with another shaky vent. He dug his fingers into Megatron’s seams, hooking in, keeping him close. “Did Sideswipe send you?”

Megatron’s engine rumbled. “He was concerned.”

“Tattler.”

The smallest of chuckles rolled out of his mate’s intake. He stroked Sunstreaker’s back again, long and warm sweeps of his palm. “Perhaps. But he was right to be worried.” Megatron’s head pushed harder against his. “As much as you care for Rodimus, I can’t allow you to go after him in this storm. I’ll not lose you.”

His fingers tightened; he heard them creak. His spark shriveled down with the painful truth. “What kind of friend would I be, to leave him out there to die?”

“You don’t know that he will.”

“You’re so certain that death will find me if I go after him.”

Megatron’s silence was confirmation. Another full shudder ripped through Sunstreaker’s frame. He buried his face against Megatron’s chassis, dragged in the scent of him, hot metal and weldfire and plasma energy.

“He’s such an idiot,” Sunstreaker choked out, heat burning like slag behind his optics, and his intake thick and tight.

Megatron’s hands became a lifeline, a point of connection, where they swept steadily up and down his back. “Soundwave estimates the storm will burn itself out in a week, perhaps less if we are lucky. The moment it is safe, I will send out a search party.”

To find something to bury, Sunstreaker assumed. A heavy shudder raked through his armor. He couldn’t get any closer to Megatron, but he tried. His spark ached, and that was when warmth pressed against him from behind, and he knew from the echo, that it was Sideswipe. Who, mercifully, said nothing. Only pressed his forehead to the back of Sunstreaker’s neck and held tight.

Apologies clawed out of his vocalizer and caught in his intake, sticking there. He prayed to a deity he never much gave any credit to, and he hoped.

He hoped that Rodimus remembered what he’d been taught. That the brat had found somewhere to hole up and wait out the storm. That he’d seen it coming and knew what to do.

He hoped and he prayed and wondered if he was fool for bothering with both.

Not long after, and not long enough later, responsibility pried Megatron away from them. He urged both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe to return to their quarters.

Well, urged as in ordered, and Sunstreaker didn’t have the state of mind to disobey. He let Sideswipe drag him back to their room. He let Sideswipe help him disarm all of his extra weaponry, tumbling the daggers and the grenades and the blasters into their weapons bin. He let himself be pulled to one of their chairs, pushed down into it. He accepted the energon Sideswipe handed him.

The need to act coiled like a hungry turbowolf inside of him. Sunstreaker was a warrior, born and bred. Patience was not one of his better virtues. He was not built to wait.

Sideswipe dropped down beside him, lounging on the floor as he was wont to do, his repose lackadaisical but Sunstreaker knew his brother far too well. Sideswipe could spring to action in a moment’s notice. There was wariness in the way he looked at Sunstreaker, like he’d become a type of skittish mechanimal.

Maybe he wasn’t wrong.

Time passed slow, achingly slow, trapped as he was in these rooms, as large as they were. Sideswipe remained his constant companion, offering empty conversation, trying to draw Sunstreaker into some kind of entertainment, a spar or two.

Sunstreaker could only focus on the shriek of the wind, the sound of the ferocious sand as it battered at the defense of their settlement, the gathered noise of their clan, everyone indoors and caged just as he. They were as much nomadic as they were settled, and many of the hunters were eager to get back to their duties.

Sunstreaker started to pace a circuit around their living quarters, a path he could walk in his recharge, so often had he done this. Restless energy did not make for a calm life, especially as he grew more and more agitated. The storm would not abate, and no word had been found from Rodimus.

They wouldn’t, either, not with this storm. Communications were down across the board. They couldn’t even contact the clan nearest to them.

Megatron had all but ordered Sunstreaker stay in their quarters. He didn’t want to risk Sunstreaker looking for Rodimus. In the privacy of their quarters, Sunstreaker could argue. But Megatron had made the proclamation in front of the clan. As Warchief.

Sunstreaker couldn’t disobey.

Or shouldn’t.

His engine growled. He stomped through another circuit, shooting a glance toward the doorway. He felt trapped in here, like a caged mechanimal, a toxicougar who hadn’t fed. He should be out there. Looking. Not pacing around in here like a kept pet.

He needed to be moving. He couldn’t stay in here for the rest of the week. He at least needed to be somewhere else or he’d worry himself into a spark-attack.

Sunstreaker whirled and stomped toward the door.

He was immediately intercepted by Sideswipe. “Where are you going?” his twin asked, with a smile that was far from casual.

Sunstreaker drew up short and narrowed his optics. “Out.”

“Ohhh. I want to go out, too. We should go together.” Sideswipe nodded firmly, as though this was a given and shouldn’t be ignored. He planted his hands on his hips and added a jaunty grin.

Sunstreaker didn’t fail to notice Sideswipe was between him and the door. He hated that, even for a moment, he considered taking Sideswipe down to make his escape. He could do it and had done it. He won two times out of three when he sparred against his brother.

Sunstreaker cocked his head. He folded his arms over his chest. “What? Are you my sitter now?”

Sideswipe’s grin never lost its steam. “Well, someone has to stop you from being an idiot.” He planted his hands on his hips, thrusting his chassis forward, as if it would intimidate.

Sunstreaker snorted. “Well, I’m sorry I’m the only one worried.”

A flinch and Sunstreaker knew he’d scored. The smile wiped itself from Sideswipe’s face, his optics going hard, like energon crystals.

“You think I don’t care?” Sideswipe asked, his voice low and cold and for a fraction of a second, Sunstreaker had an idea of what those strut-less Firebrands had felt. “You think I don’t wanna find him, too? You think I haven’t considered diving out into that storm to bring his sorry aft back here?”

Sunstreaker set his jaw. Even when Sideswipe flung a hand in a seemingly random direction, but one Sunstreaker knew aimed toward the main entrance and main outer gate.

“Do you think I haven’t already considered every route, every possibility, every cave between here and the rumors?” Sideswipe demanded and his farflung hand trembled. “Just because I’m an inch more of a tactician, an inch more realistic to know that there’s nothing I can do more than I’m doing now, that makes me sparkless? How is getting myself killed going to help anyone?”

Silence. Only because Sunstreaker didn’t have a retort that wasn’t petulant or would add fuel to the flame. Each word landed in his audials like a physical strike, as clear and obvious as the pain in Sideswipe’s vocals.

It hadn’t made him feel better, to hurt Sideswipe the same way he hurt. It never did. Yet, Sunstreaker kept doing it anyway. All his life, he’d done this. Sideswipe still forgave him for it. Every time.

Frag if Sunstreaker knew why.

Sunstreaker dropped his gaze. He stared at the floor around Sideswipe’s feet. There were several scrapes in the swept stone here, flecks of paint caught in the scratches: black, gray, bits of red and yellow. They’d tackled each other more than once, sometimes sparring, sometimes for a bit of playful fooling around.

Sideswipe’s feet moved. He came closer.

His voice gentled, as it always did, when Sunstreaker should apologize and didn’t, because here as always, Sideswipe was the better mech.

“Look, I get it okay,” Sideswipe murmured, his field reaching as much as his voice did, and he tapped on his end of the bond, the strings connecting them vibrating until they touched Sunstreaker’s spark, too. “But just… you gotta wait. We all do. And as soon as the storm clears up, we’ll go look. Soundwave’s gonna send out the bird twins. Wrench is gonna contact some old pals of him. We’ll find him. And he’s gonna be fine.”

It was hard to ventilate. It felt like someone had reached into his chassis, put their hands around his pumps, and squeezed.

“He’s in the desert. In the middle of a sandstorm,” Sunstreaker said to the floor. His own pessimism was a knife to the back.

Sideswipe moved even closer, and he didn’t have to offer his arms before Sunstreaker slipped into them, the tremble in his knees radiating up his spinal strut.

“So? He’s a smart kid,” Sideswipe said.

Sunstreaker snorted, his face buried in the crook of his twin’s intake. Their chestplates knocked together, and he could feel the answering pulse of Sideswipe’s spark, even through their layered armor.

“Okay, so he’s a resourceful one at any rate,” Sideswipe corrected, a touch of humor in his voice, his arms enclosing Sunstreaker much as Megatron’s had. “And we trained him. Have a little faith in him.”

Sunstreaker worked his intake. “There’s a line,” he began quietly, “between trusting in someone’s abilities, and fooling oneself to the practicalities.”

“You’ve been spending too much time with Dead End.”

Sunstreaker opted to say nothing. He shuttered his optics and focused on the rhythm of Sideswipe’s vents and the pulse of his twin’s spark. It was an age-old tactic he’d used to center himself, to ground himself when it felt like his emotions were going to swallow him whole. Sideswipe had always been the steady one.

Sideswipe vented and patted Sunstreaker on the back. “You’re such a drama queen,” he murmured, but there was an affectionate cant to his vocals.

“Shut up.”

“Love you, too.”

Sunstreaker could be incredibly dense sometimes. He missed the subtleties of social interaction. Mostly, he didn’t care whether people liked him or not, so long as he had a few close friends. He was painfully unaware of certain things.

But he was not stupid.

He swallowed down the rest of his plans to go after Rodimus. He knew they were all foolish and suicidal besides. He couldn’t help Rodimus by dying. He could do nothing but be patient. He had to wait.

Until the storm ended, Sunstreaker was agitated and unsettled. He made everyone around him miserable, stalking as he did through the halls, snapping at anyone who dared smirk in his direction. Firebrands quickly learned to give him a wide berth, especially those Sunstreaker blamed for Rodimus’ stupid but understandably desperate action.

The hours and minutes crawled by. Days felt as weeks. Sunstreaker spent a lot of time standing just within the front entrance, staring out into a world that was nothing more than swirling sand, roaring wind, and no visibility, even with his advanced sensors. This was one of the worst storms he’d ever seen, and his only consolation was that the more fierce the storm, the quicker it burned out.

It was a little under a week until the storm dulled enough that they could risk sending out search parties. Sunstreaker volunteered for every one. He didn’t know what he’d find. He was afraid of it.

But he also didn’t want to be back at the settlement when they found him. He wanted to be there, to hug Rodimus, and then slap the sense back into the idiot. He didn’t want to wait for answers anymore. He wanted to find them himself.

He was on his way back from another search party, from another sector, another long circle of sweeping sensors with Laserbeak flying overhead, when Megatron pinged him. When the message came crackling across his comm, and sent a surge of relief through his spark.

Rodimus is home.

Three words and the bottom fell out of Sunstreaker’s spark. His knees wobbled. He would have dropped out of sheer relief, if he’d been alone or around mechs he dared show weakness. Instead, he’d barked orders and turned toward home.

He hadn’t wanted to dare believe. He hadn’t wanted to hope. He wondered if it was a dream, that maybe he was in recharge and imagining Rodimus could have somehow survived that storm and come back to them.

It wasn’t until he came over the horizon, until he sped toward the entrance, following the pull of Megatron on his end of the bond, until he saw that red and orange and yellow armor, the familiar jut of a spoiler, that it felt real.

Sunstreaker owed so many apologies. But later, he told himself, as he swept Rodimus up into his arms, his optics hot and burning at the sound of an adorable, and familiar, startled squeak. As Rodimus squirmed in the embrace and chuckled.

To see Sunstreaker, anyone would think that Rodimus was his lover. Certainly his behavior made it seem so, and he knew it did. He’d looked at Megatron, expecting his mate to be angry, disappointed, jealous even. The cold clench of resignation. A sensation of abandonment.

Instead, he’d found understanding. A small smile on Megatron’s lips. Relief as bright in his optics as it was in Sunstreaker’s spark.

That look had been a comfort, a reassurance. Megatron understood. Sunstreaker loved Megatron, in words that he couldn’t express. He’d accepted Megatron’s courtship and mated Megatron, and there was no one he loved like this more.

He loved Rodimus, too. But not the way he loved Megatron. And there were no words for the gratitude that flooded him then, the way he felt when he realized Megatron understood and wasn’t angry.

It had been that moment, Sunstreaker contemplated back in the present, that he’d fallen for Megatron all over again. So while reading Rodimus’ letter made his spark clench, made the guilt settle in, he could turn into Megatron’s arms, pillow his head on Megatron’s chassis, and know that his mate understood.

It was balm to the burn.

“You’re right,” Sunstreaker murmured as he slid a hand around Megatron’s chassis, feeling the quiet thrum of his mate’s purring engine beneath his palm.

Megatron chuckled against his audial, low and deep. “I always am.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

Another soft laugh tickled Sunstreaker’s audial as Megatron ex-vented soft and warm. “And what if I want to kiss you? Am I allowed that?”

A shiver slipped down Sunstreaker’s spinal strut. “Always,” he murmured, before Megatron’s mouth slid toward his, capturing his lips in a sweet, sultry kiss.

A rush of liquid warmth pulsed through Sunstreaker’s lines. He held on to Megatron, clutching his mate close, and moaned quietly when Megatron shifted to blanket Sunstreaker’s frame with his own. Megatron was larger and heavier, but somehow, held beneath him felt less like being trapped and more like being kept safe.

The kiss deepened, Megatron’s glossa sliding against his, careful and exploratory. The berth dipped beneath Sunstreaker as Megatron braced his weight with an arm, and let the other drag teasing fingers down Sunstreaker’s side. His knees bracketed Sunstreaker’s hips, the warmth and weight of him enclosing Sunstreaker entirely.

He didn’t have to ask for forgiveness, because there was nothing to forgive. That was what he felt in Megatron’s field, which pulsed nothing but comfort and affection at him.

He was lucky, Sunstreaker thought. He was so very lucky.

Megatron’s mouth wandered away, a gentle kiss pressed to the corner of Sunstreaker’s mouth before it followed the curve of his jaw to his audial. He ex-vented a tickling rush into Sunstreaker’s helm vent.

“What else am I allowed?” Megatron murmured in that deep, silken voice of his which never failed to send tremors down Sunstreaker’s spinal strut. “What would you have of me, only one?”

Sunstreaker moaned softly, well aware that Sideswipe still recharged on the berth beside them. “Everything,” he replied in a voice equally hushed.

Megatron chuckled against his audial. “You already have that.” His lips grazed a sultry path into the curve of Sunstreaker’s intake. “You’ll have to be more specific.” Teasing fingers stroked into Sunstreaker’s lateral seams.

A universe of choices then, because there had been nothing Sunstreaker asked for so far, which Megatron had denied him. He had only to whisper, to plea, to demand, and Megatron yielded, with need and affection in his optics.

Sunstreaker’s grip shifted to Megatron’s hips, fingers hooking around seams and pulling him down, as he rolled up and ground against Megatron’s groin. Heat answered him back, searing and hungry.

“Want you inside me,” Sunstreaker panted as the berth creaked and shifted, as he felt the slide of hot armor against his own. His valve ached, cycling into readiness, lubricant already slicking the metalmesh walls and causing his calipers to click restlessly.

Lips burrowed into the hollow of his intake, warm and wet on the sensitive cables. “That I can most certainly do,” Megatron purred, the vibrations of his words sending a thrill up Sunstreaker’s backstrut.

His panels snapped open. Any other time he would have been embarrassed by the need in his frame, but with the appreciative flush in Megatron’s field, and the answering pulse of desire, embarrassment was the furthest from Sunstreaker’s mind.

He swallowed down a moan as Megatron shifted, his mouth sliding down ever so slowly, lips discovering the length of Sunsteaker’s chestplate, over the flat of his abdominal armor, and to the peeping head of Sunstreaker’s spike.

Warmth enclosed the tip, a glossa poking at his transfluid slit. Sunstreaker’s hips all but arched off the berth, were it not for Megatron’s hands cradling them, keeping him pinned. Desire lurched through his frame, pooling southward, sending arousal hot and heavy through his array.

“Not fair,” he hissed subvocally.

A soft chuckle vibrated around the head of his spike. Megatron looked up at him, optics dark with lust and humor, before he let Sunstreaker slip from his mouth.

“All’s fair when it comes to the berth,” he murmured and dipped his head further down, his lips brushing over Sunstreaker’s anterior node.

Fire licked up his backstrut, and Sunstreaker fisted the berth covers, his backstrut curving once more. “This… is not obedience,” he groaned softly, lights dancing in the back of his optics.

Soft ex-vents teased his valve, lips brushing over his swollen rim and a glossa sweeping in to lap up the lubricant trickling free. “Can’t I have a little taste first?” Megatron asked, half-deference, half-plea, fully contrary.

Sunstreaker’s thighs trembled. “You just did,” he said, and hoped it sounded firmer aloud than it did in his head, because he was tempted now. He didn’t know if he wanted Megatron’s spike or his glossa buried between his thighs.

“Ah, but I am ever so greedy,” Megatron said with another long, savoring lick up the length of Sunstreaker’s valve, ending with a suckle to his swollen anterior cluster.

Sunstreaker sucked air through his denta, his valve throbbing. “Megatron,” he moaned, and knew there was no way Sideswipe still recharged, not with all the noise they were making. “Spike me. Now.”

Megatron cradled his hips, pressing a kiss to Sunstreaker’s valve. “As you wish.” He lifted his head, his lips glistening with Sunstreaker’s lubricant.

Sunstreaker almost shoved his head back down, save that his valve was desperate for something to pierce it. Instead, he gripped the berthcovers tighter, thighs trembling with anticipation as Megatron sat back on his heels, spike standing proud and glistening with pre-fluid. His biolights pulsed a slow, steady throb of need, and Sunstreaker’s valve ached.

More lubricant trickled free even as Megatron shifted his position, pulling Sunstreaker’s hips toward him. He leaned forward, blanketing Sunstreaker’s frame with his own. The head of his spike nudged Sunstreaker’s swollen rim, sending a shock of need through his lines.

Sunstreaker canted his hips upward, urging with his frame as well as his field. His valve rippled.

“Spike me,” he demanded again, more forcefully this time. “Now.”

Megatron’s optics glittered at him. “Yes, love.” He rolled his hips forward, spike sliding into Sunstreaker achingly slow, filling him inch by inch, until the thick head brushed Sunstreaker’s ceiling node.

He moaned, head tipping back, a shiver rattling him from head to foot. His thighs trembled where they bracketed Megatron, pressing in, keeping his mate close.

Megatron held himself deep, circled his hips, grinding slow and sweet against Sunstreaker’s ceiling node. Sparks of pleasure danced up and down Sunstreaker’s backstrut. He moaned a little louder, grasping at Megatron, pulling him closer.

“More,” he demanded.

Megatron leaned in, nuzzling Sunstreaker’s face. “All you want,” he promised, and withdrew until only the tip of his spike lingered, before he pushed in again, just as slow and steady.

He started up a pace, long and deep strokes that made Sunstreaker’s nodes sing and charge build hot and heavy in his array. He writhed beneath Megatron, holding his mate tight, gasping out demands for more.

Suddenly, Megatron’s rhythm stuttered. He gasped out a hungry sound, optics flaring, back arching. He pressed deep and shivered.

“Don’t stop!” Sunstreaker demanded, urging Megatron on with a press of his knees, a tightening of his grip.

His brother’s head popped up from behind Megatron, hooking his chin over Megatron’s right shoulder. “Is this a private party or can anyone join?” Sideswipe asked, all mischief and lust, one hand sliding around Megatron’s abdomen and the other nowhere in sight.

Though judging by Megatron’s quickened vents and the flush of heat in Megatron’s face, Sunstreaker could guess where it’d gone.

“Stop it,” he hissed as Megatron throbbed in his valve and shook with evident struggle to restrain himself. “You know he can’t hold back when you do that.”

The slick noise of fingers in lubricant was barely audible over three sets of whirring fans. Megatron shivered again, hips rocking as Sideswipe’s fingers slid into him. Two, maybe three? Sunstreaker couldn’t see, and it didn’t matter.

“I can so,” Megatron grunted, but the way he sagged on top of Sunstreaker as blue fire sparked along his frame argued otherwise.

Sideswipe chuckled and nosed his way into the side of Megatron’s throat, lips and denta marking a hot path. “No, you can’t,” he purred and did something to make Megatron thrust harder into Sunstreaker, grinding against his array and tapping his exterior node.

Sunstreaker moaned. He rocked up against Megatron as his mate started to move again, faster now, sharper thrusts that lit up Sunstreaker’s nodes with ecstasy. Sideswipe looked outright devious as he nibbled on Megatron’s throat, and no doubt fingered him without restraint.

Megatron hunched forward, gasping, his optics dark and heavy. His thrusts became erratic, desperate, grinding hard and deep into Sunstreaker. The base of his array was a heavy pressure on Sunstreaker’s external node, licking fire up and down his backstrut. Sunstreaker groaned, trying to drag Megatron closer, trying to cling to the rising coil of need in his groin.

He was so close. Release was within his grasp. He just needed a little more–

Megatron’s rhythm stuttered. He gasped as he stilled, slamming deep into Sunstreaker, transfluid spurting a hot gush inside Sunstreaker’s valve, washing over his nodes and setting them ablaze. It wasn’t enough, however, and Sunstreaker snarled angrily as Megatron slumped over him, vents whirring and frame trembling.

“I told you!” Sunstreaker seethed as he bucked his hips, trying to get friction, any kind of friction really. Need pulsed in his lines and whirred through his spark. His engine hiccuped from the stalled pleasure.

Sideswipe chuckled and curled an arm around Megatron, pulling him back. “Relax, bro. I always get you taken care of, don’t I?” he asked even as he did something to make Megatron shudder, his optics brightening.

“I would apologize, but I suspect Sideswipe has some plan he intends to follow,” Megatron rasped as his hands slid up Sunstreaker’s legs and curled around his knees, tickling the undersides.

Sunstreaker thumped his fists on the berth. “I don’t care about Sideswipe’s plan. I care about getting off!”

Sideswipe’s hand slid down Megatron’s belly, his fingers curling around their mate’s semi-pressurized spike and giving it a squeeze. “The plans includes that, don’t worry.” He nuzzled into Megatron’s throat and nipped with his denta. “Sun’s got such a pretty spike, doesn’t he? Why don’t you taste it?”

Megatron shivered, his optics half-shuttering as the hot weight of his gaze slid to Sunstreaker’s spike. His glossa swept over his lips.

Sunstreaker slid a hand down his frame and fingered the tip of his spike, which extruded pearls of pre-fluid at a rapid pace. “You owe me,” he said. “Both of you.”

Sideswipe was still going to pay later, no matter how much Sunstreaker would enjoy this now. He hated having his pleasure delayed. Sideswipe was the one with an overload-denial kink, not Sunstreaker.

“Indeed I do,” Megatron murmured. Lust darkened his tone into a heavy syrup that drizzled into Sunstreaker’s audials.

Megatron bent forward, curling his arms around Sunstreaker’s thighs from beneath them, cradling Sunstreaker’s hips with his hands. He rubbed his cheek over Sunstreaker’s spike, his gaze holding Sunstreaker’s as he did so. Half in challenge, half in promise.

A shiver danced up Sunstreaker’s spinal strut. He felt every hot ex-vent over his spike. More pre-fluid trickled free, glistening at the tip. His valve clenched, raw with emptiness.

“You two make such a gorgeous picture,” Sideswipe said as he knelt behind Megatron, one hand on their mate’s back, the other gripping his hip.

Sunstreaker couldn’t see Sideswipe’s spike, but he could imagine where it was. Pressurized and needy, the head of it nudging Megatron’s valve, teasing the plush lips before slowly piercing his rim, gradually filling Megatron. He could tell how deep Sideswipe went by Megatron’s rumbles, increasing in strength and volume.

Megatron ex-vented hot and wet over Sunstreaker’s spike. His cheek rubbed the length of it again.

“Stop teasing,” Sunstreaker growled as he bucked his hips as much as he was capable. “Put me in your mouth!”

The vibrations of Megatron’s laugh rattled along Sunstreaker’s spike. He snarled at his mate, hips rolling up again, only to finally sink into Megatron’s mouth, his spike eclipsed in wet heat. Charge licked up Sunstreaker’s backstrut as the head of his spike teased the back of Megatron’s intake before his mate eased off and focused on the head, slurping at it, his glossa poking at Sunstreaker’s transfluid slit.

“Obedience looks good on you,” Sideswipe purred as he gripped Megatron’s hips and ground against his aft, no doubt sinking deep by the way Megatron groaned around Sunstreaker’s spike, his optics half-shuttering in pleasure.

Sideswipe thrust and rocked Megatron forward, driving the pace of Megatron’s mouth on Sunstreaker’s spike. Wonderful heat and suction, the swipe of a clever glossa and the wet sounds it made as oral lubricant mixed with the pre-fluid seeping from Sunstreaker’s spike.

He groaned louder and reached down, gripping Megatron’s head with both hands, holding him in place so he could thrust gently into his mate’s mouth. Judging by the sound Megatron made, the way his energy field rose up and entangled with Sunstreaker’s, so thick with lust, he enjoyed the directing. Only here, in the berth, did Megatron enjoy being told what to do.

Megatron’s hands tightened on Sunstreaker’s hips, his moans vibrating against Sunstreaker’s spike as his intake rippled around the head of it. Sunstreaker shivered and thrust up into Megatron’s mouth, pleasure rebuilding into a crescendo inside of him, lust like a hot knife and a sizzle through his lines.

“Yesssss,” Sideswipe hissed, his pelvis clanging against Megatron’s aft as he thrust harder and faster, yanking Megatron back onto his spike and shoving him forward again, onto Sunstreaker’s spike, forcing him deeper. Sideswipe’s lust spilled into the room, tangling with Sunstreaker’s and driving his even higher.

Sunstreaker growled and tossed his head back, the spiral of hunger building into a tense knot threatening to boil over. His heels kicked at the berth. Charge raced across his armor, breaking up the dim.

“You close, bro?” Sideswipe asked, his optics the blue fire of lust. “Gonna spill in our mate’s mouth? Fill him up?”

Megatron moaned around Sunstreaker’s spike as if begging for it. His hips pushed back into Sideswipe’s thrusts, his hands squeezed Sunstreaker’s hips to the rhythm.

Sideswipe chuckled darkly. “Think he likes that idea.” He slid his hands over and around Megatron’s aft. “Don’t swallow, Megatron. Not yet at least.”

Oh, Primus.

Sunstreaker choked on a gasp, the implication in Sideswipe’s words shoving him over the edge. He bucked up, ecstasy slamming through his frame, making sparks dance in his optics as he overloaded, transfluid pumping into Megatron’s mouth. He held Megatron’s head firmly, only the dimmest focus keeping him from squeezing too tight.

Megatron moaned around his spike, his optics flaring with desire. His hands gripped Sunstreaker’s hips hard enough to dent, drips of lubricant and transfluid dribbling out of the corners of his mouth.

“Yes,” Sideswipe hissed as he bent over Megatron from behind, slamming into him. “Don’t swallow. Hold it in your mouth. Savor it.”

A shiver wracked Megatron’s frame. He tongued at Sunstreaker’s spike, more mingled fluids dripping from the corner of his mouth.

“Adaptus,” Sideswipe breathed and abruptly leaned back, tugging on the back of Megatron’s collar fairing as he did so.

Sunstreaker groaned, releasing his hold on Megatron and shoving a hand between his thighs, plunging three fingers into his valve. Megatron reared upright, hands flailing before they found a hold on Sunstreaker’s knees. His spike bobbed at the apex of his thighs, streaked with the evidence of his earlier overload.

Sunstreaker ate up the sight of Sideswipe tugging Megatron into a sloppy, wet kiss, Sunstreaker’s transfluid staining their lips and passing between them. Sideswipe’s free hand slid around Megatron’s belly, reaching down to grip his spike firmly. Megatron groaned into the kiss, his hands squeezing Sunstreaker’s knees.

Sunstreaker’s fingers plunged deeper, raking the sensitive nodes on the inside of his valve. Megatron’s aborted spiking left him with a lingering ache. He hissed his pleasure, hips pumping up into his fingers, as he watched his mates move together, sharing a wet and heated kiss, Sideswipe’s hands squeezing and pumping as he shoved hard and deep into Megatron.

Primus, they were gorgeous. And they were his.

Megatron stiffened in Sideswipe’s hold, his sounds of pleasure muffled by the kiss, as he overloaded. His spike spurted, most of it dampening Sideswipe’s fist, but the rest landing on Sunstreaker, hitting the back of his hand where he ground the heel of his palm against his anterior node. The taste of the pleasure in his field, tangled so deeply with Sunstreaker’s own, dragged Sunstreaker over, his valve clamping around his fingers.

He shook, head tossing back, as his valve squeezed rhythmically, lubricant seeping out of his valve to soak the berth beneath his aft. Sunstreaker panted and forced his optics open, not wanting to miss a moment of Sideswipe’s pleasure as he broke away from the kiss, shoved his face into the crook of Megatron’s neck and bit down.

Denta-marks were always a clear sign Sideswipe had succumbed to pleasure. His optics streaked white, his field exploded outward and his hips screeched against Megatron’s aft in a deep grind. His hand smacked against Megatron’s belly, coated in transfluid as it was, and the harsh bite of his denta made Megatron shudder.

Ecstasy left Sideswipe in a rush, abandoning him to the lingering tremors of it. He captured Megatron’s mouth again, though the kiss this time was a softer and sweeter. He gentled his hold and they swayed together, the smallest of smiles curving their lips.

Sunstreaker straightened a leg and swatted them both in the sides. “Hey, where’s my kiss?” he demanded as he drew his fingers free of his valve, three digits glistening with lubricant. “Or do I have to do everything myself?”

Sideswipe ended the kiss with the smirk. “Someone’s feeling a little left out,” he teased as he leaned in and licked the bitemark he left behind. “Now you know how I felt lying there listening to the two of you canoodle.”

“Canoodle.” Megatron rolled his optics. “You are ridiculous, Sideswipe.”

“But you love me anyway, right?”

“Still not getting kissed here,” Sunstreaker reminded them with another kick that barely counted as a kick. The sound it made was little louder than a chime.

Megatron eased out of Sideswipe’s grip and curved forward, back between Sunstreaker’s thighs where he belonged. “My apologies,” he murmured as he crawled up Sunstreaker’s frame, all languid grace like a voltaic cat.

He dropped a kiss on Sunstreaker’s abdomen, his chestplate, his clavicle strut, the curve of his intake.

“Allow me to make it up to you,” Megatron murmured against the curve of Sunstreaker’s jaw before his lips found Sunstreaker’s.

Mmm. Much better.

Sideswipe, however, snorted. “Such a drama queen,” he said, as he shifted his weight and made the berth shift with him. “Can’t stand not to be the center of attention.”

Sunstreaker broke away from the kiss and nuzzled Megatron, making it easier to direct a glare over their mate’s shoulder. “Shut the frag up.”

“Hah. Make me.” Sideswipe patted Megatron’s aft and crawled up the berth beside their intertwined frames, flopping down next to Sunstreaker. “Just for that, you get to sleep in the wet spot.”

Megatron groaned and shifted as well, moving to lay atop Sunstreaker, pillowing his head on Sunstreaker’s chestplate. “Must you two always bicker?”

“It’s part of our charm,” Sideswipe said. “Besides, it stopped him from brooding, didn’t it?”

“I wasn’t brooding,” Sunstreaker retorted as he wrapped his arms around Megatron’s frame, stroking his hands down Megatron’s back.

He actually was lying in the wet spot, but he could tolerate it for a short time if it meant having this. Sure Megatron was heavy and overheating and the width of his frame forced Sunstreaker’s thighs wider than was comfortable. But he’d never say aloud how much he enjoyed cuddling like this.

Sideswipe stretched his arms over his head before folding them behind him. “You were brooding. About Hot Stuff. Because you have a guilt complex larger than this settlement.”

Sunstreaker sighed and shuttered his optics.

“He’s right, you know,” Megatron murmured, his words vibrating against Sunstreaker’s chestplate. “I seem to recall distracting you from reading that datapad over and over again.”

Sunstreaker pressed his lips together and ignored both of them.

Sideswipe rolled over, Sunstreaker felt the berth shift before the warmth of his twin settled against his side. “Kid’s gonna be okay. We taught him well. He’s finally found his happiness.”

“I know that,” Sunstreaker muttered.

“And yet, you’re acting like you just got dumped,” Sideswipe retorted.

“Or a caretaker whose sparkling has left the cradle,” Megatron added.

Sunstreaker growled. “I hate you both.”

They laughed at him. Both of them. His mates who he loved. Afts.

Megatron chuckled and nosed into Sunstreaker’s throat, his lips tracing a path that made shivers dance down Sunstreaker’s spinal strut. “And I love you, Sunbeam.”

Sideswipe cackled.

Sunstreaker groaned. “Great. He’s corrupted you.”

“Eventually, everyone falls for my charms,” Sideswipe said as the berth bounced when he shifted.

Suddenly, a weight bore Sunstreaker down. He grunted, and Megatron did as well. He had only to taste the devilishness in Sideswipe’s field to know what that weight was.

“Get off us!” Sunstreaker growled, trying to shove at the two heavily armored frames making him sink into the berth. “Primus, you’re such a sparkling sometimes!”

Sideswipe chortled. “Who’s king of the mountain now?”

Megatron sighed.

Sunstreaker wished he didn’t love them so much sometimes. Because then he wouldn’t find their behavior charming.

He’d chosen this, he reminded himself. He wanted this happiness, a life shared with his mates. He resolved to enjoy it, forgetting about the datapad on the nightstand.

Rodimus was gone, out living life on his own, seeking his own version of this very annoying, very wonderful romance. That was all Sunstreaker could have wished for him.

Which meant Sunstreaker was now free to do the same.

“I’ll show you who’s king,” Megatron growled as he bucked up, sending Sideswipe tumbling from his back and inevitably, off the berth with a noisy clatter of armor.

“Ow.” Sideswipe’s laughter belied any pain, however.

It was Sunstreaker’s turn to sigh.

They were his mates, and he loved them dearly. And he certainly couldn’t let them have all the fun now could he?

Sunstreaker smirked and tensed his hydraulics to pounce.

After all, there was only one king in this court. And both Sideswipe and Megatron knew frag well it wasn’t either of them.

[TF] Trial by Fire 13

Rodimus took his time rinsing off, his thoughts darting between wild ponderings and an unexpected calm. He felt nervous and excited, expectant and wary. Not even Scuttle, beeping as he slid from solvent-slick to solvent-slick, could chase away the anxiety, amusing as the drone’s behavior was.

He was here. He’d left the settlement and everyone he knew behind. He came here. Back to Starscream.

Rodimus still wasn’t sure why.

But the rapid flare of his spark, the flush of heat that struck his frame, the way he just wanted to fall into Starscream’s arms and babble to him, or even fall into a berth and stay there for days… he thought maybe some of the answers were in there.

He couldn’t blame Starscream for being cautious. He hoped he could prove himself, though. He wanted to stay here. To be with Starscream. He just wanted a chance.

Rodimus sluiced away all of the rust and grit his long walk had acquired. He rinsed off his tarp and hung it to dry as well, and waited until the solvent ran clear before he turned off the spray. The oil bath called, and Rodimus was more than ready to sink into it.

Damn, but he’d missed this luxury.

He hoped Starscream let him stay.

He’d have to go back to the settlement eventually. Sunstreaker would hunt him down if Rodimus didn’t at least come back now and again, prove that he was all right and not rusting away in some ditch or that he hadn’t become food for a pack of turbowolves. Sunstreaker worried.

It was nice that someone worried. Even if their last conversation had been… well, it had hurt, but it had also been freeing. Like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Rodimus had no regrets now. He’d said what he’d needed to say, and despite leaving some things behind, felt as though he’d left richer than before.

Leaving had revealed a lot to Rodimus. He’d had more ties than he’d realized. From Springer’s unexpected support to Kup wishing him luck and telling him to come back now and again to freshen up his training.

Even Wrench had snagged Rodimus on his way out of the celebration to press a wrapped box into his hands. He’d said to give it to the mech who’d saved Rodimus’ life, and added a wink, leaving little guess that he’d known it was Starscream all along.

Rodimus supposed he’d have to dig out that box from his pack later. He’d peeked into it, because his curiosity couldn’t be denied, but all that was in it was a bunch of medical supplies. Boring. But nice of him.

Leaving like that, with so many people wishing him well, filled Rodimus with warmth. He thought, again, that Sideswipe was right.

He would always have a home in the settlement. Even if he couldn’t stay with Starscream, he could always go back. He didn’t know what he’d do then, but not being a warrior? It was hardly the worst thing that could happen to him.

Maybe he could find a way to the other clans. He could venture out to Skyfire’s if he wanted. Surely Elita’s clan would offer him passage if he asked politely and he was by himself. If he went about it properly, she might not rip off his head. There were others, too. Some good, some bad.

Adventure was out there. Opportunity, too. He didn’t have to stay in his own clan, his own settlement. He could find his future elsewhere.

Only, he hoped he didn’t have to. He hoped Starscream wanted him to stay.

The sound of footsteps echoed in the small hall that led down to the oilsprings, disturbing Rodimus from his musings.

Rodimus straightened from where he’d sunk down into the warmth, anticipation coiling inside of him into a hot mass. He remembered, all over again, when he had been plugged into Starscream and the boiling surge of data.

Primus.

Starscream stepped into view, his lips pulled into a soft smile, his gaze searching the room before landing on Rodimus shoulder-deep in the oil. “Well, you didn’t waste any time at all.”

Rodimus grinned, interpreting the tone to be playful rather than chastising. “I’m only obeying orders.”

Starscream snorted. “Right. And did you miss me or my private oil bath?” Scuttle spun over to meet Starscream, bumping briefly against his foot before huddling back behind Rodimus again.

“Why not both?” Rodimus asked as he trailed his fingers over Scuttle’s chassis, a trilling rise of noise rising in the wake of his touch. It wasn’t unlike a voltaic cat’s purr actually.

Wings flicked, but again, more amusement than annoyance. Or at least Rodimus hoped. Starscream moved to join him in the oil bath, easing himself down into the heated liquid. He had a lazy grace, Rodimus noticed, with a small frisson of heat winding through his circuits.

He was gorgeous, beautiful in a manner different than Sunstreaker but no less equal. Rodimus wanted so much to touch him this time. To trace his seams, discover how different he tasted, the sounds he made in pleasure. He wanted to flick those little fans on Starscream’s chest, and see if his wings were as sensitive as rumor claimed.

He wanted so much.

“I see where my true value lies then,” Starscream remarked as he briefly dipped down into the oil, only to rise again, cockpit shimmering where oil sluiced down it. His cockpit shimmered in the oil’s wake, calling for touch.

Private and small. Rodimus could reach out and brush his fingers over Starscream if he wanted. He held himself back. Things were, as yet, awkward.

“How… uh, how’s your coding, by the way?” Rodimus asked for desperate need of a distraction. He leaned back, resisting the urge to purr as the hot oil seeped into every seam and joint, caressing his aching cables.

Starscream tilted his head. “Between you and Deadlock, I’m at full capacity,” he said and gestured to Rodimus. “You mentioned your back?”

Oh. Right.

Rodimus leveraged himself upright and obediently turned, his field prickling as Starscream moved close to him, their fields coming into contact. Starscream was only a few inches taller than him, but it suddenly felt like more. Standing, the oil bath lapped at his hips, and the feel of it trickling down his armor was unexpectedly erotic.

“Deadlock, huh?” He tried to keep his tone light. He was suffocatingly jealous, and he had absolutely no right to be. But the twins had been stolen before he could be brave enough to confess, and he now worried he’d lost his chance with Starscream, too.

Deadlock was handsome. Charming in some way obviously. He was far more skilled than Rodimus could ever hope to be. And he and Starscream had a history. What did Rodimus have to offer compared to that?

“Is that jealousy I detect?” Starscream asked as he started to wipe along Rodimus’ back and spoiler. An oil soak was good and all, but to get the full benefits, it was better to gently massage it in.

Damn, it felt good. Starscream’s touch was deft and gentle, and it left Rodimus’ dermal net tingling in the aftermath. He shivered, and hoped it didn’t show.

“I guess I don’t have a right to be,” Rodimus said, carefully choosing his words. After all, he didn’t have any sort of claim on Starscream, did he?

“No. But that doesn’t mean I’m not flattered.” Starscream’s tone, at least, was warm. As was the sweep of the cloth over the back of Rodimus’ spoiler. “Yes, we’ve shared a berth. Yes, I’ve copied his coding. But that’s as far as it goes.”

Rodimus nodded, though Starscream couldn’t see it, and decided to go for broke. After all, why else was he here? “What am I then?”

“An experiment.”

A laugh burst out of Rodimus before he could stop it, Starscream’s tone so flat it had to be a joke. “No. Seriously.”

“I don’t know.” Starscream’s hands paused, resting on his shoulders. “Do you need a definition?”

“Sometimes they help.”

“And sometimes they are just a tiny box that you don’t fit into.” Starscream’s hands slid down to Rodimus’ waist before subtle urging had Rodimus turning to face him. “What do you plan to do here, Rodimus?”

He blinked. That seemed like such an odd question. One with an obvious answer.

“What?”

Starscream arched an orbital ridge at him, though nothing in his field felt accusing, just curious. “You wanted to be a warrior. Do you have other skills? What do you plan to do here? You can’t build an entire future around romancing someone, after all.”

Oh.

Rodimus shrugged, trying not to focus so hard on Starscream’s hands on his hips, and where else they might wander. “I’ll figure something out. I can still hunt. Make things. Help you, maybe. I mean, I don’t know any science stuff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a second pair of hands.”

He was babbling again. Sounding like an idiot. He always did this when he didn’t know what else to do. Frag, he hated it.

Starscream’s hands remained gentle where they rested on his hips, but his tone turned more probing. “And you’ll be satisfied with that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Rodimus hedged, and fidgeted, resisting the urge to cross his arms over his chassis. He knew he looked defensive when he did that.

Starscream sighed, and Rodimus knew he’d fragged up. Especially when the Seeker let him go and backed away, putting a noticeable distance between them. Rodimus could still reach out and touch Starscream, but now he didn’t dare.

“I can’t be comfortable with a maybe,” Starscream said, and he was the one to cross his arms as he leaned back against the wall of the spring. “How do I know you won’t wake up tomorrow, realize how bored you are, and vanish?”

Rodimus chewed on the inside of his cheek for a second. “You don’t,” he admitted, and scrubbed the back of his head. “But then, I don’t know that you’re not gonna wake up in a week and realize how annoying I am and kick me out.” He shrugged and hoped it came across more confident than he felt. “That’s a risk we’re both taking, I guess.”

Risk indeed. Rodimus felt an awful lot like he was standing on the edge of something, and a single push would send him tottering over. There was freedom in the freefall, he knew, but then the ground would come awfully quick.

He didn’t want to go splat.

“What about your clan?”

Rodimus’ forehead drew down. “What about them?”

“You’re fine with just leaving them?”

He frowned and tried not to squirm. He, too, backed away, until there was as much distance between them as was possible in the springs. “Well, I mean, it doesn’t have to be permanent, does it? I can go back and visit whenever I want. And maybe someday, you’ll want to come back with me.”

Starscream visibly stiffened. His optics narrowed into little slits. “I’m not a trophy.”

Rodimus shook his head. “I didn’t say you were. Honestly! If you don’t want to go, you never have to. I just…” He ducked his head, aware that his face was filling with heat.

He felt stupid, now that he thought about it, that quiet fantasy he’d built while at the festival, watching the mated and unmated alike as they spun and twirled around the bonfire. The hazy dream where Rodimus walked hand in hand with a mate of his own choosing, dancing the courtship, the firelight reflecting over the polished surface of his mate’s armor.

He used to imagine himself between Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, flirting and grinning, overwhelmed by their fields and smiles and the seduction of their hands. Now he wondered what it would be like to see Starscream glittering in the moonlight, wings high and fluttering, a coy smile on his lips.

A romantic idiot, was what he was.

“You just what?” Starscream demanded.

Rodimus sighed and scrubbed the back of his neck. “I thought it would be fun,” he mumbled. “To dance with you. At the festival.”

“Festival?” Starscream echoed.

He couldn’t bring himself to lift his optics. “Mating season,” he clarified. “The courtship dance.” He sighed again. “A lot of clans out here do the snatch and grab, I know, but we don’t. For us it’s more of a game? Except you already know the players. You don’t take the unwilling, and it’s more of a courting dance than anything.”

He felt the weight of Starscream’s gaze on the top of his helm. Starscream’s field lingered in the periphery of his own, but Rodimus didn’t dare reach for it.

“You wish to claim me in front of your clan,” Starscream said.

Rodimus winced. “I know. It’s stupid.”

“I didn’t say that.” Starscream’s tone softened, and warmed even.

The oil swished as he moved closer, and only then did Rodimus risk lifting his head. He wasn’t sure what to call the expression on Starscream’s face, but it didn’t hold anger or irritation, so he considered that a plus.

“It’s kind of flattering really,” Starscream said, and something dark flashed in his optics. “There are few things on this planet worth less than the spark of a Seeker. And yet, you’d want to court me in front of your entire clan.”

Rodimus nodded. He mastered his ventilations, unsure if he dared to hope, and unwilling to shatter whatever this was.

“Why?” Starscream asked.

Rodimus worked his intake. “Because you’re…. you,” he said, and decided, what the frag, what did he have to lose? “You’re gorgeous. You’re so smart that it makes my head spin. You’re strong in ways I didn’t know mechs could be strong. You’re everything I didn’t know I wanted until I found it in you and…”

His spark throbbed harder. There were a lot of words inside of him, and they bubbled out, more incoherent than he wanted, but it was the best he could do.

He gnawed on his bottom lip and looked up at Starscream. “I don’t know what I can do now, but I know whatever it is, I want to do it with you.” He drew in another shuddering ventilation and held Starscream’s gaze. “I want this, you and me and whatever we can have, I want it to be my future now. I want you to be my adventure. And… and I really don’t know what else to say.”

Which seemed like such a stupid addition considering how much he’d babbled.

Starscream stared at him for a moment before he cycled a ventilation, one that sounded shaky. “I think it was perfect,” he murmured and cupped Rodimus’ face once more, drawing them together, leaning his forehead against Rodimus’. “I would like that as well. To see what we can have. To give ‘us’ a try.”

Us.

Rodimus liked the sound of that.

He reached for Starscream’s hips, tentative and careful, but when he wasn’t rebuffed, he rested his hands there. The heat of the oil seemed to swallow him whole, but it was a distant second to the sensation of Starscream’s field against his, and the cup of Starscream’s hands.

“I don’t have to leave?” Rodimus asked, a question he’d presented before, but lingering uncertainty made him doubtful.

“No,” Starscream murmured, and he kissed Rodimus, his mouth covering Rodimus’, his glossa slipping inside with a gentle caress.

Rodimus sighed into the kiss, melting against Starscream, pulling them together, their frames coming into sizzling, electric contact. He felt a shiver run through his frame, even as the kiss deepened, and Starscream’s field throbbed against his as if expecting.

A thrill ran through Rodimus’ spark. He made a sound into the kiss, maybe a whimper, maybe a moan. He felt weak in the knees and clutched harder at Starscream, the kiss almost desperate, his mouth moving against Starscream’s, until it vanished.

Rodimus made a noise of protest, but Starscream’s lips didn’t go far. They trailed a tingling path up, pressed lightly to the tip of his nasal structure before they wandered over his cheek ridge.

Another shudder rippled over Rodimus’ armor. The heat of the oil swished around his legs, and he panted for cooler air, only to find none. He moaned softly, tugging Starscream more firmly against him, their chassis in delicious contact. He swore he could feel the whirl of Starscream’s spark through the transsteel of his cockpit.

Starscream’s hands released him and slid down, palming his chestplate before sliding further down, cupping the two halves of his bumper grill, thin fingers slipping into the slats and teasing the delicate constructions beneath. Rodimus moaned, his chassis arching toward Starscream, lust hitting him like a bolt to the spinal strut.

His head tipped back and Starscream seemed to take that as an offer, because lips and denta immediately descended, nibbling on his intake cables. Every brush of Starscream’s denta sent another thrill through him, until Rodimus shook with need, heat coiling lower and lower, winding like a spring inside of him.

It was dizzying.

He hadn’t even realized that Starscream was backing him up toward the edge until his aft bumped the unpolished wall beneath the surface. He was pinned quite thoroughly by an amorous Seeker and dizzily, Rodimus couldn’t imagine anywhere else he’d rather be.

Except, maybe, a berth.

Because frag it, he’d made enough mistakes already. He didn’t want to do this with Starscream for the first time for real in an oil bath.

Starscream bit at his intake again, and soothed it with his glossa, and Rodimus’ vision wobbled. For a moment, he was distracted, arousal pooling hot and heavy in his array, his spike throbbing behind his panel and another crackle of need racing through his lines.

Rodimus moaned and grasped for coherency. “W-wait.”

Starscream pulled back almost immediately, the smallest of frowns at the corner of his lips. “Something wrong?”

Rodimus’ ventilations hitched and he had to remind himself not to lean in and steal Starscream’s lips. He was trying to say something.

“No,” he said, and felt the heat in his cheeks again. Would he ever stop feeling like an idiot? “I just… could we move this to a berth? I mean, if you want to do what I think you want to do and I want do to it, too. I do. Just not here?”

Primus, he sounded like a moron.

Starscream stared at him for a moment before he cycled his optics, and his hands stroked over Rodimus’ chestplate. “I’d forgotten how much of a romantic you are,” he murmured, before he leaned in and pressed a kiss to the corner of Rodimus’ mouth.

Rodimus flushed. “Sorry.”

“I didn’t say it was a bad thing.” Starscream sounded amused. He leaned back, stroking around the curve of Rodimus’ face. “Well then. Let’s towel off and head upstairs, shall we? So we can do what you think we want to do, but in the comfort of a berth.” His tone, mercifully, was teasing rather than mocking.

It took more effort than Rodimus expected to peel himself away from Starscream and climb out of the oil springs. Chill swept over him immediately, without the heat of the oil and the heat of Starscream’s frame. Though his engine purred hungrily and arousal throbbed heavily through his sensornet.

Starscream followed him out.

“Could we, um, do it again?” Rodimus asked as he quickly swiped a towel over his frame to get off the excess oil that had yet to drip from his frame, into the grate beneath him. He suspected Starscream collected it and reused it.

Starscream tilted his head. “You’ll have to be more specific,” he drawled, optics glittering with humor. “There are many things we’ve done.”

Rodimus worked his intake and dropped his gaze, focusing intently on the oil gathered in the seams of his feet. “You know. With the cables.”

“Codesharing?”

Rodimus nodded and diligently wiped at his calves, only to suddenly feel a towel on his back and across his spoiler. Not unlike Sunstreaker, as a matter of fact. Apparently, he wasn’t very good at drying himself off.

“Why?” Starscream asked as several efficient strokes finished Rodimus up and the towel was tossed aside.

“Because I want to,” Rodimus admitted and tossed his own towel into the pile, turning to face Starscream again. “I liked it, and I guess, I want you to know that it doesn’t bother me.”

Okay, yes. He’d been terrified at first. Who wouldn’t be, if they’d spent most of their functioning being told that Seekers were dangerous code-stealers who wanted to hack you and reprogram you and turn you into a slave.

But now? He couldn’t forget that ecstasy, and he wanted to show Starscream how much he trusted the Seeker.

Starscream arched an orbital ridge. “My coding is currently at one-hundred percent stability, Rodimus. It doesn’t need a refresh. Another codeshare would be pointless.”

“Because of Deadlock?” he asked, or blurted rather, before politeness told him it was a bad idea. Not his place, remember?

Starscream tugged him in close, his hands sliding around Rodimus’ waist, and Rodimus couldn’t resist touching the shiny gleam of his chestplate. Those turbines looked in need of exploration.

“Is that why you asked?”

Rodimus’ gaze slid away. “Maybe.” He’d already lost one love to the charms of another mech. It was something of a fear for him now.

Starscream rolled his optics and slid his hands up Rodimus’ back, tweaking his spoiler mounts. It sent a little thrill of need up Rodimus’ spinal strut.

“No amount of codesharing between us will delete Deadlock from my coding, Rodimus,” Starscream said, a touch of amusement in his tone. “I’ve been living off his code for too long. It’s embedded. Stick around long enough, and you’ll be a part of me, too.”

Rodimus blinked. “What?” Though it did sound kind of romantic in retrospect.

“It’s a long and probably boring explanation,” Starscream replied with a sigh. He pressed their foreheads together. “And I, for one, would rather find that berth you mentioned. Hm?”

Rodimus licked his lips and slid his hands up Starscream’s chassis, palms briefly skittering over the turbine housing. “Sounds good. But that still doesn’t answer my question.”

“If you want to plug in, that’s fine. There are other things than code sharing. Things that can be mutually beneficial.” Starscream smirked at him. “I’ll show you.”

Rodimus shivered. “Okay.” He tilted into Starscream’s touch, his processor spinning again, as heat swamped his frame.

It was too easy to lean into Starscream and kiss him again, to melt into the touch of lips against his, and the soft sweeping of Starscream’s hands.

The kiss ended, and Rodimus chased it, half in a daze, half dizzy with anticipation. Starscream tugged him backward, toward the door. Rodimus followed, his circuits singing and his spark skipping a dancing whirl.

They made it to the lift before Rodimus had to kiss him again, pressing Starscream against the side of it, his hands sliding up to caress the long edges of a wing. Starscream shivered and made a hungry noise, his hands cupping Rodimus’ aft, dragging their frames together. The lift donged noisily at them, obstinately, reporting their arrival and demanding they exit.

Apparently all of the non-sentient machinery in Starscream’s tower had attitude. Which suited, come to think of their owner.

Rodimus almost snorted a laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Starscream asked, his mouth devouring Rodimus’ intake.

“Tell you later,” Rodimus said with a shiver, his hands finding those fascinating turbines and giving them a flick with his thumb. “You said something about a berth?”

The lift donged at them again and gave a little shudder. Rodimus barely bit back his chuckle and instead nudged Starscream toward the door. They stumbled out, hands wandering, heat rising between them.

Rodimus expected to go to the room that had once been his. But his current surroundings dictated otherwise. It wasn’t until they approached a door that had always been closed to him, and Starscream blindly pawed the panel, that he realized Starscream had taken them to his own room.

It was much larger than the one Rodimus knew, with a huge uncovered window looking out on the side of the tower overhanging a tall cliff. The desert stretched out for miles in all directions. To a grounder, to Rodimus, it was dizzying. It figured Starscream would enjoy such a view.

The rest of the walls were lines with shelves, all of them cluttered with all manner of things. Rodimus only got a glimpse of them before Starscream lurched against him, claws scraping Rodimus’ point as he nearly bit Rodimus’ lower lip. He muttered a curse and performed an odd jig, even as he looked down, wings high and tight.

“Scuttle!” Starscream hissed, his tone a touch mortified. “He’s mine first!”

Rodimus slipped out of his lusty haze a tad. Sure enough, Scuttle was beneath them, beeping and whirling away, in and around their feet. A laugh slipped out of Rodimus’ intake as Starscream bent down and physically shooed Scuttle toward the door.

“Out the door, you menace!” Starscream grumbled, herding Scuttle back into the hallway. “We don’t need a voyeur!”

Scuttle honked obnoxiously and tried to whirl around, making a beeline to come back inside. But Starscream hastily backtracked and slammed a palm on the door. There was a light thunk from the other side.

The laugh escaped. Rodimus grinned from audial to audial as Starscream stomped back toward him, but not before directing a sharp glare toward the door.

“Brat doesn’t listen at all anymore, and it’s your fault,” he said.

Rodimus shook his head, grabbing for Starscream’s hands and pulling the Seeker toward him. “You’re adorable,” he murmured as static crackled where their plating touched. “And Scuttle will get over it.”

“He’ll learn to, if I have anything to say about it,” Starscream retorted, and leaned in, his lips ghosting over the curve of Rodimus’ jaw. “Now where were we…?”

Rodimus shivered, arching toward Starscream, the heavy throb in his belly making his legs wobble. “Right about here, I think.”

He captured Starscream’s lips with his, moaning as the kiss immediately deepened. Starscream’s mouth was hot against his, and the Seeker’s field crackled with need. Starscream leaned against him, urging him backward, and Rodimus’ world spun with dizzying lust, until the back of his knees struck something.

The berth, he suspected. They tumbled onto it, a berth more than big enough for two, and so comfortable it felt like it swallowed him.

Starscream pressed him down into it, and Rodimus moaned as a knee slipped between his, nudging against his array, the pressure against his concealed equipment forcing out another moan. He clutched at Starscream, capturing the Seeker’s mouth with his, heat throbbing through his array. He found those turbines again, and played with the narrow slats. Above him, Starscream moaned and visibly shivered.

His mouth tore away from Rodimus’, diving in at his intake again, denta grazing and leaving little nips that felt like claims. Rodimus’ thigh clamped down on Starscream’s leg and he rolled his hips, grinding his array against Starscream’s knee. He smelled lubricant and knew it had to be leaking from his seams.

Wait.

Rodimus tried to find coherence in the dizzying need throbbing through his circuits. As much as his valve clenched and his spike thickened, he seemed to remember there was something else…

Something.

“Wait,” he said as he squirmed beneath Starscream, vents whirring and the comfortable berth neatly distracting him again. “You promised me cables.”

Starscream chuckled against his intake, and the pleasurable onslaught eased, giving Rodimus a moment to catch his vents. “I did, didn’t I?” he purred as he pushed himself up on his forearms to look down on Rodimus.

Who felt an awful lot like prey at the moment. There was something hungry in Starscream’s gaze, and it made Rodimus shiver all over again.

“You did,” Rodimus confirmed.

“Then I suppose I’d better keep my promise.” Starscream leaned down and nuzzled Rodimus briefly before he sat back on his heels, his optics raking over Rodimus’ frame in a gesture that was nothing short of appreciative.

Rodimus felt his face flush with heat. He squirmed a little under the scrutiny.

“I seem to remember your port array being here,” Starscream said as he dragged his fingertips across Rodimus’ abdominal armor to the leftmost panel, barely visible in all the complicated seams of his frame.

Rodimus shivered, his hands fisting the plush surface of the berth. “You remember right,” he said.

“Open for me?”

It was embarrassing the speed at which Rodimus triggered his panel to open, baring his still fairly new connectors to the open air. He gnawed on his bottom lip as Starscream’s fingers traced the ports and teased the cable ends where they were still docked. Primus, even that felt good.

Rodimus’ back arched, a tremble starting at the base of his strut. Charge licked out from his substructure. “You– You said you were going to show me something different.”

“And I am.” Starscream pinched the tip of his cable gently and a jolt of need raced through Rodimus’ array. “Codesharing requires a one-way connection. Data-facing relies on one that is two-way.”

“D-Data-facing?” Rodimus echoed, a bit shakily, as Starscream fondled the tip of his cable a bit harder.

“Mm hm.” Starscream hummed and gave a little tug, urging Rodimus’ cable to unspool from his array.

Why did that feel good? Rodimus had no idea. But it felt like Starscream was stroking his spike, and all Starscream did was pull his cable free, until it was long enough to cross the distance between them.

Starscream smirked as he leaned over and ex-vented across the pronged tip, the wet heat of his vents making Rodimus moan. His head tossed back, hips squirming beneath Starscream.

“It’s fallen a bit out of practice.” Starscream extended his glossa, lapping at the end of Rodimus’ data cable and making his entire frame jerk with need. “Too intimate for most. Spike and valve are better for casual encounters.”

Rodimus groaned and shifted, slipping his legs around Starscream’s waist to tug the Seeker closer. “Less lecturing, more ‘facing,” he said as charge crackled around his port.

Starscream chuckled. “As you wish.” He kept Rodimus’ connector cable in hand and reached behind himself, for his own awkwardly placed panel.

Rodimus would have offered to help, but given the way his hands were shaking, he doubted he’d be much use. Besides, Starscream was far more practiced at this than he. Even so, he fumbled a bit, and Rodimus groaned as his connector made contact with Starscream’s port, static crackling between the two, only for it to skitter away.

What a torturous tease.

Until his connector finally clicked into place with a little jolt of charge, and Rodimus moaned, head tossing back, his engine revving. Heat surged into the link like a lightning strike, before it ebbed to a slow burn. It felt nothing like when Starscream had connected to him, but it carried a pleasure of its own. He felt Starscream’s port twitch and crackle around his connector, before it seemed to pulse and nestle him tightly, snug in all the right places.

And then Starscream was spooling his own cable into view, and Rodimus licked his lips.

“You sure know how to drag out the moment,” he said as he watched the tip of Starscream’s connector get closer and closer, his own port aching with need.

“That’s because you’re cute when you’re flustered,” Starscream purred as the tip of his connector nudged against Rodimus’ port, charge flashing between the two units.

Rodimus arched and moaned. Lights danced in his optical feed, his vents surging out in eager pants, his entire frame shaking with desire. His array throbbed, valve cycling hungrily, spike swelling and swelling, demanding to be set free.

“Star, please!” he pleaded, heat filling his face and his frame.

Starscream leaned over him, their face inches apart, his ex-vents ghosting over Rodimus’ lips. “You’re gorgeous,” he murmured before his connector sank home.

Rodimus keened, and his hands scrabbled at Starscream’s chestplate, fingers hooking in seams as he kept the Seeker close. Electric fire spread outward from the hot and heavy pulse of charge where they were connected. It licked through his sensornet, through his lines, and he whimpered when a scorching pulse of charge shot down the line from Starscream and into his array.

Above him, Starscream panted a moan, his forehead pressing to Rodimus’. “Oh, my,” he breathed, his field surging wildly, ripe with lust. “You are aptly named, ‘Hot Rod’. Your charge is like fire.”

He whimpered and lost control, his spike springing free between them, the head of it scraping against Starscream’s belly armor. It left a streak of transfluid behind and just the bare touch felt so good. Rodimus writhed, pleasure eclipsing all else.

He hadn’t known it could feel like this.

Starscream’s free hand rested on Rodimus’ belly, palm sliding upward and upward, tickling over his chestplate, over his seams.

“I’ll teach you,” Starscream murmured as another heavy, crackling pulse of charge surged into Rodimus’ port, and he felt the tug of Starscream’s cable on him. “How to feed your charge into me. How to draw my charge into you.”

Rodimus moaned, Starscream’s words like an arousing promise, pulsing into his audials. His fingers tightened on Starscream’s chassis, his frame rocking and rolling against Starscream’s in a mimicry of interfacing, his spike grinding against Starscream’s belly.

No, not just his belly. The hot length of Starscream’s spike suddenly brushed against his, their spikes rubbing and teasing one another.

More pleasure surged through Rodimus. He writhed, a moan escaping him.

“Primus, you’re hot,” Starscream breathed and his mouth closed over Rodimus’ again, his lips and denta and glossa demanding.

Rodimus felt completely and utterly claimed. Forget about the courtship dance. This was what it felt like to surrender.

His thighs clamped around Starscream’s hips. His processor spun dizzily, overcharged on the hot pulses coming across their link, the dragging pull of Starscream’s systems on his, the feel of Starscream’s spike sliding hot and wet against his, the mass and heat of Starscream over him. The taste of Starscream on his lips, the tingling press of Starscream’s field surrounding him.

He had no defense against it.

Rodimus moaned into the kiss, processor whirling, spark throbbing faster and faster, barely out of sync with the pulses of charge, both sent and received. He rocked and ground up against Starscream, their frames moving and sliding together, spikes rubbing and sending jolts through Rodimus’ array.

Heat spun inside of him, faster and faster, like the growing charge before firing an ion blaster.

Rodimus heard himself whimper and couldn’t be embarrassed, not with his vents roaring and his fans spinning so hard they whined. A hard pulse of charge roared into his port array, making it crackle and hiss with electric fire. It radiated outward, spreading through his entire frame, throbbing into his spike.

Rodimus moaned, backstrut arched, as overload boiled over him, his thighs clamping tight, his spike spurting transfluid between their frames, his mouth tearing away from Starscream’s as he threw his head back and keened. His frame thrashed, hips rolling, as wave after wave of pleasure seared his sensornet and whited his processor out to nothing but the ecstasy.

He dimly heard Starscream moan seconds before the felt the flashfire of a tide of charge racing across the link, flavored with ecstasy. Rodimus jerked and soared into a second overload as Starscream must have overlaoded as well, the splatter of his transfluid raining down on Rodimus’ belly.

He panted for ventilations, sagging into the berth, feeling wrung dry and twitching. Charge still lazily pulsed through his port array, like the soothing stroke of a magnetic cable massage. Rodimus’ processor spun and it took all he had to online his optics, wondering when he’d shuttered them.

He gasped, desperate for cooler air, his fans spinning mightily. He still clung to Starscream, and Starscream to him, the cables swinging between them. Starscream shook, the little clatters of his armor barely audible over their spinning fans.

Rodimus groaned. Little zaps of charge ran up and down his frame. His spark hummed happily. He felt he could recharge for days.

“Primus,” he murmured, gentling his claw-like grip on Starscream’s chestplate into a lazy slide around Starscream’s chassis.

“It can be intense,” Starscream replied, his vocals striped with static. He sagged, forehead resting on Rodimus’ shoulder. “I had forgotten how much so.”

The datastream slowed to a trickle. It was kind of comforting actually. Rodimus made a low sound in his intake, tilting his head to rub his chin over Starscream’s head.

“So this is normal?”

“Quite.” Starscream shifted a little, until he was only half lying on Rodimus. His spike had retracted at some point, so Rodimus followed suit.

There was a tacky mess on his frame. He should probably clean that up. But cleaning required moving, required effort, and Rodimus didn’t have any to spare. His engine purred as he pulled Starscream closer. It’d been a while since he got to snuggle with a warm frame, and he’d missed that quiet intimacy.

“Are you going to sleep, Firebrand?” Starscream’s vocals were amused, but distant. Or maybe that’s because Rodimus’ optics had shuttered and the tug of recharge was getting stronger.

“Yep.”

Starscream hummed a laugh. “Amateur.” His hand slid up Rodimus’ abdomen, and fingers teased at his port array, where they remained joined.

“You can leave ‘em,” Rodimus murmured as his vents started to even out. “Feels good.”

There was a beat of startled silence.

“You will never cease to surprise me,” Starscream said, almost too quietly for Rodimus to hear. But he did shift, enough to brush his lips over Rodimus’. “Recharge well.”

Rodimus mumbled something in reply, but the grasp of recharge pulled him under, and he sank into it wrapped in warmth and comfort and an undeniable sense that he’d found where he belonged.

Finally.

[TF] Trial by Fire 11

The sound of muffled cursing and dull thumping announced to Starscream that he was no longer alone. He debated with himself how he wanted to handle the intrusion before he decided it would be welcome.

That was when Deadlock’s head popped into view, gold optics narrowed at first in confusion and then in relief. “There you are,” he said as he climbed up onto the roof through the skylight, just as Starscream had done. “Should’ve known you’d be up here.”

“Am I that predictable?” Starscream asked as Deadlock settled next to him, their hips and thigh touching as their legs dangled over the edge, into the open expanse of the tower below them.

“Only to someone who knows you as well as I do.” Deadlock grinned, his fangs glinting in the starlight. “Where’s Saunter?”

Starscream lifted his hands, revealing the drone resting in his lap, not recharging but hibernating. “His glitch isn’t active while the skylight’s open. Silly thing.” He stroked his fingers over the top of Saunter’s frame.

“He’s not the only silly thing.” Deadlock’s voice was rich with humor. He bumped shoulders with Starscream. “What’re you thinking about?”

Starscream’s gaze turned skyward, to the constellations he could pick out, and the far horizon, coincidentally the direction he assumed Rodimus’ clan to be. “You know me so well. You tell me.”

“I don’t think you want me to, Starling.”

He nibbled on the inside of his cheek. “I just needed a break,” Starscream murmured. “I wasn’t making any progress on my work.”

“Too distracted?”

“I’m used to you.” Starscream flicked his wings. “You don’t count as a distraction anymore.”

“So it’s internal thoughts then.” Deadlock nudged his left foot against Starscream’s right. “Wouldn’t happen to be a flame-painted Firebrand now would it?”

Starscream vented a sigh.

“That’s what I thought.” Deadlock rested a hand on Starscream’s thigh, less sly and arousing, and more comforting. “I know he got under your plating.”

“I’m choosing not to acknowledge that,” Starscream replied. He stroked his fingers over Saunter’s frame again, though the drone continued to snooze. Above him, stars flickered and faded, grew brighter and dimmed. In front, the horizon was shadows and dark patches, mountains and flatlands.

Maybe he should go for a flight.

But later.

Deadlock made a noncommittal noise.

“I’m tired,” Starscream murmured on the end of a sigh. He tilted over, letting his head rest on Deadlock’s shoulder. Sometimes, one had to move on. He knew this better than most.

His relationship with Blurr had been a sparkbreaking teacher. Sometimes, you could love someone with all you had, and have them return that love, but still have to separate. Sometimes, you had to make a choice, and love wasn’t enough.

Deadlock’s head leaned against his. “I was thinking I’ll stay longer this time,” he murmured, his tone careful and measured.

Starscream chose not to respond. From anyone else, he would have taken that as pity. Even now, he wasn’t sure it wasn’t.

“It’s getting pretty lonely out there,” Deadlock added as his field nudged against Starscream’s, warm and syrupy. “So you know, maybe it’s good to stick around in one place every once in awhile.”

Starscream offlined his optics. His hand stilled on Saunter’s top panel. “You’ll still leave.”

“Maybe. But not so quickly at least.”

It wasn’t pity. It had to be something else, that both of them didn’t dare name because that was precious and fragile and had to be guarded. Kalis had taught them as much.

Starscream cycled a vent. “Stay as long as you like.”

Deadlock pressed a kiss to the top of his head. It said enough, even without words.

~

“So you’re going to leave without a word.”

Rodimus’ shoulders hunched. He stared guiltily into the trunk under his berth as he dug through it, pulling out various items to stuff into an increasingly heavy travel pack. He didn’t look up at the voice, though he knew the large shadow blocking the doorway belonged to his batch-brother.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Rodimus murmured and pulled out the stack of datapads so carefully hidden, shoving them into his pack as well. He didn’t leave much behind.

Training weapons he didn’t need anymore. A few extra travel kits that would need to be restocked. Polishing kits. A couple of tarps too-small. Blankets for his berth. The next youngling to have this room and this berth could use all of it. This wouldn’t have been Rodimus’ room forever after all.

Even if Starscream turned him down, even if there was nothing left for him in that tower, Rodimus didn’t intend to return to his clan. Not immediately at least.

There was a whole world out there. Surely he could find his future somewhere. Surely.

“That’s not an excuse.” Springer’s tone was both sharp and hurt. “Did you think I wouldn’t care if you vanished?”

Rodimus sighed and braced his hands on the edge of the trunk. He looked at Springer, who blocked the door so completely, arms folded over his massive chassis. “You’re a warrior now. You don’t have to worry about me anymore. You have better things to do. I’d just get in the way.”

“That’s not an answer!” Springer hissed, his face darkening with emotion, his field a thundercloud Rodimus couldn’t interpret.

Rodimus worked his intake and slammed the trunk shut. He rose to his feet, nudging it back under the berth with his knee. “I was going to leave a note this time,” he said quietly.

“A note,” Springer repeated, and he couldn’t have sounded so disgusted if he tried. “Yes, that makes everything better. A fragging note.”

Rodimus picked up his travel pack, giving it a shake. It was heavy, but nothing he couldn’t handle. “What would you want me to say? I don’t want you to try talking me out of it.”

“Who said I would?”

Rodimus scoffed and slung the bag over his shoulder, which creaked in protest. “I know you would. You think I can’t do anything right. That I need you to protect me.” He looked at his brother, who he loved dearly, and wondered just when he’d started to resent Springer a little. “You’d want me to stay for my own safety. Because I’m no good on my own. And you’re probably right.”

He moved closer to Springer, his spark racing, and his engine whining as he made himself throttle it down. “But I’m still going. Because I have to do this. There’s nothing for me here right now, so I have to go find what I’m looking for.” He stared pointedly at the fresh brand on Springer’s chestplate. A brand he’d never earn.

Springer looked sad. But he sighed and uncrossed his arms. “I’m not gonna stop you,” he said as he rested his hands on Rodimus’ shoulder, a heavy and familiar weight. “And you know I’ve always thought you were worth more than others said.”

Rodimus squirmed under the praise.

“If you think you need to go, then go. Just be careful, eh? And take care of yourself. You’re my favorite brother.” Springer squeezed again and then pulled him into an embrace, a spinal strut crushing one that forced out Rodimus’ vents and wrapped him in suffocating heat.

It was wonderful.

Tension seeped out of his frame. “I’m your only brother,” Rodimus grumbled, a common joke between them. He patted Springer awkwardly on the back. “Will you do me a favor then?”

“What?” Springer’s tone took on that of suspicion as he let Rodimus go and stepped back, his optics narrowing.

Rodimus turned and rooted around in his pack, pulling out the topmost datapad. “Would you give this to Sunstreaker for me?”

“Oh, frag no.” Springer backed up a step, holding up his hands defensively. “You wanna skip out without telling the Warchief’s mates you’re not going, that’s your choice. But I’m not gonna be the one who hands them the goodbye note.”

Rodimus snorted. “What? Are you scared?”

“No, I’m just not an idiot.” Springer stepped aside, giving Rodimus room to leave, as though making him stay would have the letter forced on him. “I’m not ashamed to admit that either of them could kick my aft with ease.” He grinned with a confidence Rodimus knew all too well. “Though we’ll see what happens in a decade or two.”

Rodimus snorted again and adjusted the strap of the pack on his shoulder. “It doesn’t matter how long has passed. You’ll never be able to take down Sunstreaker.” Or Sideswipe for that matter.

Springer just grinned back at him, eerily similar to the toothy snarl the turbowolves had given him. “We’ll see.” Seriousness replaced his humor. “You’ll come back, won’t you?”

“This is still home,” Rodimus replied, with what he hoped was a dismissive shrug. He didn’t want to end up emotional and second-guessing himself. “And if I fail, well, it’s the only place I can come back to.”

“You won’t. Fail, I mean.” There was something dangerously close to pride in Springer’s tone. “You’re my brother. It’s impossible.”

Rodimus smiled, soft and sincere. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

Springer stared at him, and then he suddenly grabbed Rodimus, pulling him into another hug that made his armor creak and his spark throb with affection. “Good luck,” he said, soft and gruff all at once, before he let Rodimus go and spun on a heelstrut, vanishing down the hallway opposite of the direction Rodimus needed to go.

He caught himself smiling as he watched Springer’s back disappear around the corner. It was weird how he felt fully himself for the first time, now that he’d decided to abandon everything he’d been working hard to accomplish.

Rodimus adjusted the pack on his shoulders and started down the corridor. He didn’t have to sneak out. Not truly. There was no rule that said he couldn’t leave if he wanted to. He’d used the cover of night the first time because he suspected someone would stop for him for his own safety. He was, after all, a Firebrand.

He had the feeling now, however, that even if someone did see him leave, no one would say a word. There’d been encouragement in Optimus Prime’s words, and though Rodimus hadn’t spoken with Kup, he had the feeling the old mech would understand. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe already seemed to know what he was thinking. They’d pass it on to the Warchief, and no one would bar Rodimus’ way.

He was sure of it.

Of course, he wasn’t as sneaky as he thought. Because while he’d thought it was better for his spark to leave without seeing the twins, they must have read his processor. They waited for him at the side gate, the usual guards a fair enough distance away to offer an approximation of privacy, while still doing their jobs.

Rodimus sighed. They spotted him before he considered spinning around and heading out the other side of the settlement. He wasn’t a coward, he told himself. And he’d made his choice.

“Thought you could leave without saying goodbye, eh, hot shot?” Sideswipe said as he was the first to intercept Rodimus, literally sweeping him up into a hug that lifted his feet clear from the ground. “Not this time.”

Sideswipe set Rodimus down with a processor-spinning thump before digging in his subspace. “Not to mention I’m not letting you go without a gift.” A sack emerged, which he thrust in Rodimus’ direction. “Treasure it always. It’s not just anyone I’ll give one of my secret recipes.” He winked.

Heat stole into Rodimus’ face. “Thanks, Sides.” He took the sack, tying the extra strings onto a projection on his pack. “And well… it’s complicated.” His gaze slid briefly to Sunstreaker before dropping to the sand. “I chose to leave, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I’m going to miss.”

“Things,” Sideswipe echoed and sidled in next to Rodimus, slipping an arm around his waist to lean his head on Rodimus’ shoulder. “Or maybe a couple of hot-aft mechs who keep things interesting, hm?”

Rodimus chuckled. “Yeah. Maybe.” He leaned into Sideswipe, soaking up his friend’s heat, and indulging in the touch of their fields, the playful nudge of Sideswipe’s, and the affection swirled in it. He loved Sideswipe, too. Just not in the same way.

“You’re lucky we know you better than you think we do,” Sunstreaker said, his voice soft, but the words sharp enough to sound like a chastisement. “I’d hate to have to chase you into the desert just to kick your aft.”

Rodimus winced.

Sideswipe clicked his glossa. “Sunny, that’s not the way we show we care.”

“Yes, it is,” Rodimus said with a forced chuckle even as Sunstreaker glared at his brother, who slipped his arm out from Rodimus’ waist and held up his hands.

“Don’t hate the messenger,” Sideswipe said, nudging Rodimus with his elbow. “Besides, hot shot knows better now, doesn’t he?”

Rodimus nodded. “I wrote a note,” he said, fumbling with the datapad in this subspace. “Kind of glad it didn’t come to that now.”

“Some things need to be spoken,” Sunstreaker said, with a surprising acuity few knew him capable.

“And that’s my cue,” Sideswipe said. He grabbed Rodimus’ hand, tangling their fingers together and giving it a squeeze. “Take care of yourself out there, Roddy. You don’t want to break our sparks, okay?”

“I learned from the best, didn’t I?” Rodimus replied.

Sideswipe grinned and pressed a kiss to Rodimus’ cheek, one that lingered as if he put all of his affection into it. He squeezed Rodimus’ hand again. “Got your back, hot shot,” he said, and then he pulled away, taking the swirling warmth of his field with him. “We’ll keep a berth for you.”

Sideswipe winked, tossed his brother a knowing look, and then he strode away, a whistle on his lips, nonchalance in the set of his shoulders. Rodimus watched him go, spark simultaneously fluttering and squeezing.

What came next was one of the hardest things Rodimus ever had to do.

He looked at Sunstreaker and prepared himself to say goodbye, while his spark felt too big for its casing. He fidgeted, knowing he should speak, but too many words crowding on his glossa. He wished he had managed to escape and leave the datapad, with the carefully crafted note behind.

He swallowed over a lump in his intake. “Sunny…” Words failed him. He wished he could just shove the datapad into Sunstreaker’s hand and flee into the night.

“I’m glad,” Sunstreaker closed the distance between them, his hands gently cupping the curve of Rodimus’ intake and jaw. “I am glad that you found someone worth risking your spark.”

It’s too hard to look into his optics. So Rodimus didn’t, instead dropping his gaze as he cycled a ventilation. “I think I’ve lost count of the times I’d wondered what would have happened if things were different.”

He didn’t elaborate on ‘things’. Sunstreaker already knew. It was this unspoken secret, this unacknowledged thing between them, growing heavier and heavier with each passing season, until it became too large for words and too hard to declare.

“There is no different.” Sunstreaker’s voice was quiet. “Things happened the way they were meant to.”

Somehow, Rodimus always knew that.

“That doesn’t make it any less valid or valuable though,” Sunstreaker added, his thumbs sweeping a soft pattern over the curve of Rodimus’ cheek. “I do love you, Rodimus. Just…”

“Not the way that makes you mine,” Rodimus finished for him, and managed a smile, despite it cracking around the edges. “I know. And it’s okay. As it turns out, I seem to have a thing for mercurial Seekers anyway.”

Sunstreaker chuckled and pulled their heads together, pressing his forehead to Rodimus’. “I’ll want to meet him someday, you know. Just to be sure he’s good enough for you.”

“If I can convince him to keep me, I’ll make it happen.”

“You will.” Sunstreaker’s optics shuttered, and he cycled a ventilation. “If this Seeker has any sense, he’ll know better than to let you go.”

The lump in Rodimus’ intake grew larger. “Yeah, I hope so.”

Sunstreaker huffed a laugh and pulled back, unshuttering his optics. “You’ll come back to visit.” It wasn’t a question.

“Of course.” Rodimus smiled, easier this time, less broken around the edges, and smoother, like reforged transsteel.

Sunstreaker’s fingers slipped away, though the warmth of their touch lingered. “I have something for you,” he said, before he dug around in his subspace and produced a bag not unlike the one Sideswipe had offered. “So you don’t forget me.”

“As if I ever could.” Rodimus accepted the bag, and coughed his ventilations as heat colored his face. “And uh, this is for you.” He offered up the datapad. It did have a note especially for the twins on it, but it was also a collection of the romantic tales Rodimus knew Sunstreaker didn’t have in his collection.

“Keep it hidden from Sides,” Rodimus added with a little laugh as Sunstreaker tucked the datapad into his subspace. “You know how he likes to tease.” As if Sideswipe wasn’t any less guilty given those terrible detective novels he consumed like cheap engex.

“I do.” Sunstreaker’s lips pulled into a soft smile, one that few had been treated to seeing. “Good luck, Rodimus. Not that I think you’ll need it. You’re an easy mech to love.”

Rodimus’ spark throbbed so hard he felt the crystal structure tremble. Words, again, were unhelpful, traitorous things. So he threw himself at Sunstreaker, into the gold mech’s arms, and felt himself wrapped in a tight embrace. He thought Sunstreaker was shaking, but maybe he imagined it.

“You better go,” Sunstreaker said. “Or I might ask you to stay.”

Rodimus forced himself to pull back, and was glad he did, because he caught something in Sunstreaker’s expression. Something he couldn’t define, that shaded his best friend’s optics a darker hue and filled his field with determination. Then Sunstreaker leaned in and Rodimus didn’t evade, giving in to the brief brush of their lips together.

It barely counted as a kiss.

It was definitely a goodbye.

Sunstreaker retreated, sooner than Rodimus would have liked, but not soon enough for the ache in his spark. Sometimes, it was harder to let something go that hadn’t definitively ended. Or perhaps because it had.

“Be safe,” Sunstreaker murmured.

“Be happy,” Rodimus countered, and didn’t even have to look behind him or over his shoulder to know that Sideswipe and Megatron hovered just inside the entrance of the settlement, watching. Not with jealousy but concern.

They’d take care of things on this end.

Now it was up to Rodimus to take care of himself.

“Ask me something hard,” Sunstreaker said.

Rodimus grinned. He tucked Sunstreaker’s gift into his subspace, to go through it later, and made himself dash through the open gate, before his spark made him linger. Before his determination faltered and he second-guessed his choices.

The easier choice was to stay in the settlement, to grapple with his failures, his unrequited love, and settle for whatever was left. He could bury his hopes, his dreams, and be satisfied with whatever lot life would give him.

Or he could take this chance. He could plunge back into the Barrens, find Starscream’s tower, and see if the Seeker would let him stay. See if there was a future with Starscream, one full of adventure and curiosities and challenge.

Rodimus had never been one to take the easy way out. He certainly wasn’t going to start now.

So into the Barrens he descended.

He didn’t know what his future was going to hold, and for once, that uncertainty didn’t frighten the Pit out of him.

If anything, it set him free.

[TF] Trial by Fire 09

The scent of a freshly scrubbed speedster announced Deadlock’s arrival, but so did the drape of a warm frame over Starscream’s from behind, arms caging him in and chassis pressed to the back of his wings. Kisses dotted like little gifts all over the curvature of his head until Starscream squirmed.

“What did I miss?” Deadlock asked, amused and warm, his voice drizzling into Starscream’s audial and making him shiver.

“Nothing,” Starscream replied, and gamely tried to wriggle from under Deadlock’s weight, but for all that the mech was shorter than him, he was quite heavy.

Triple-layered armor, apparently. A mech could never be too careful when he lived most of his life alone and wandering.

“Come on, Lock, I’m working,” Starscream said, in vain, as he peered at his datapad but couldn’t seem to focus given the way Deadlock’s hands lingered.

And wandered. Sliding up over his shoulders, curling around to brush his abdomen, and then slipping over his chest. One finger twirled a tiny turbine, sending zings of pleasure through Starscream’s lines.

“Mmm, so I see,” Deadlock purred as his finger went flick, flick, flick, and Starscream’s turbine lazily spun in its casing. “But I’ll bet you need a boost first. Gotta keep your processor sharp, right?” He nibbled at the side of Starscream’s neck, singling out a cable and applying a sturdy pressure to it.

Charge crackled up Starscream’s backstrut. “That is a terrible excuse,” he groaned.

“But is it working?” Flick-flick-flick went the finger while the other hand toyed with his cockpit, trying to ease into the seam.

Starscream shivered and arched into Deadlock’s hands, his array tingling. Especially when the finger abandoned his cockpit and went in search of his dataport, flicking over the latch protecting it.

“Not at all,” Starscream said in an attempt to be droll, but it failed miserably as he pushed into Deadlock’s touch. “I swear the universe is out to distract me.”

Deadlock laughed and pinched at his dataport cover, making Starscream jerk. “I’m the only one who’s been here in months. What else would you find so distracting? Unless…”

He trailed off, tone turning contemplative, and then his hands vanished. Starscream made a noise of protest, but it quickly cut off when Deadlock swung around and deposited himself in Starscream’s lap, straddling him. He draped his hands over Starscream’s shoulders and cocked his head.

“Unless I’ve not been your only visitor,” he purred and leaned forward, hands seeking and finding Starscream’s wings. “Spill it, Starling.”

“Spill what? You’ve missed nothing,” Starscream said with a huff, his hands finding their way to Deadlock’s hips, because if his friend was going to persist in being a distraction, then Starscream was going to enjoy himself.

“Ooo, the lies you tell me straight from your lips.” Deadlock tweaked an aileron and Starscream shivered, his array flushing with heat. “Something’s different. This whole place feels different. And you, especially are different.”

Deadlock leaned in close, pressed his forehead to Starscream’s, sliding forward until their chestplates touched. “Come on, Starling. Tell ole Deadlock what’s going on.”

Starscream laughed. “Primus, you’re ridiculous.” He gripped Deadlock’s hips, letting his thumbs sweep inward, teasing Deadlock’s array housing. “But you’re right. I’ve had a visitor since you’ve last been here.”

“What? Really?” Deadlock reared back, and a scowl twisted his lips, though it wasn’t directed at Starscream in particular. “Who do I need to kill?”

“No one, you bloodthirsty thing.” Starscream snorted, but his spark still fluttered at the offer. It was nice that someone wanted to protect him. “One of the locals got themselves into some trouble at the back door, and I bailed him out.”

Deadlock squinted at him. “You let someone into the tower?”

“Let is a strong word. It was either that or deal with his clan when they came looking for their missing Firebrand.” Starscream leaned in, tried to initiate a nuzzle. “He’s gone now. What does it matter? Don’t you owe me a ‘boost’ as you so elegantly called it?”

“He didn’t hurt you?” Deadlock’s hands swept over Starscream’s shoulders and arms, a small frown on his lips, as though determined to find the smallest injury.

“No,” Starscream replied, bemused. “But I appreciate your concern, Deadlock.”

Deadlock cocked his head. “That can’t just be it though.” He pointed a finger at Starscream, waggling it in his face. “Usually when your research is interrupted, it’s the first thing you rant at me when I show up. So why’d I have to pull this time out of you?”

“What? Do you think there’s something nefarious going on?” Starscream chuckled and resisted the urge to nip at that waggling finger.

“I think there’s something you’re not telling me.” Deadlock’s glossa flicked over his lips, and he leaned forward, nose twitching as though he could pick up the scent of the Firebrand off Starscream’s frame. “You fragged him, didn’t you?”

For someone who spent so much time isolated from society, Deadlock could be astonishingly perceptive.

“Not in so many words,” Starscream said, and of all things, his face heated. “I miscalculated, and didn’t know if my coding degradation would stall until you arrived. I was desperate.”

“And lucky he was here to donate.”

“He saved my life,” Starscream corrected. “I’m still not sure he quite understands that.”

Deadlock snorted. “Right. What would it matter to him? He got to frag a Seeker. Aft probably pranced out of here, trying to calculate who all he should blab to.” He folded his arms, optics darkening.

“While I appreciate your defending my honor, as I said, it wasn’t like that.” Starscream’s tone was wry, even as he tickled his fingers into Deadlock’s seams. “He offered his code and that was it. We did not interface.”

“Hmph. Then you found the honorable one out of the bunch,” he said with a sniff, though he gave Starscream a side-eyed look. “And don’t think I haven’t noticed you trying to distract me. Your fingers are all over my seams.”

Starscream made his optics big and wide. “What fingers?” He kept his tone as innocent as possible, even as he found a bundle of cables and stroked them. “Besides, what else am I supposed to do with a pretty little grounder in my lap? Hmm?”

“I can think of a few things,” Deadlock purred and his hands returned to Starscream’s wings, his engine rumbling noisily. “That is, if you don’t mind the distraction.”

“I wasn’t making any progress anyway,” Starscream said and pulled Deadlock into a kiss, moaning as denta nipped at his lips, and Deadlock rolled his hips in a manner which should be considered illegal.

~

The settlement’s oil baths were larger and more numerous than Starscream’s private one, but they were also cooler. And loud.

Rodimus tried not to make comparisons, but couldn’t help it. Not when he sank into the springwell they’d carved and shivered, because it wasn’t as blistering hot as Starscream’s had been. Or quite so soothing. He missed the enticing scent of whatever minerals Starscream swirled into the oils to make them so appealing. Plus Scuttle wasn’t around beeping at him as if afraid Rodimus had drowned.

To be fair, however, there was one thing Starscream’s private bath didn’t have – a determined and dedicated Sunstreaker.

There was once a time that Rodimus thought getting scrubbed on by a willing partner was an erotic experience that would lead to fun, berthtime shenanigans. He thought maybe that was still possible, so long as his partner wasn’t Sunstreaker, who considered time spent in the oil baths as serious as time spent on the training mat. It wasn’t for fooling around. It was for getting clean and spotless to Sunstreaker’s idea of perfection.

Sunstreaker scrubbed into Rodimus’ seams and armor plate as though the tiniest speck of dirt offended him. He lifted Rodimus’ limbs and spun him around like a drone meant to obey and little else. It wasn’t the soft and sensual, flirtatious sweep of a washrag. It was a determined, ferocious scrub that would have been invasive, if Rodimus wasn’t so used to it. Sunstreaker didn’t know how to say he cared so he showed it instead.

At least he’d be clean afterward, Rodimus thought, and braced himself to endure. It wouldn’t be the first time. Besides, a scrubdown by Sunstreaker was considered a thing of value in the clan. He was being treated. Other mechs were envious of the friendship Rodimus had with the twins, even though they’d scorned Sunstreaker and Sideswipe before.

Rodimus knew, just as much as the twins did, that their interest only came about because Sunstreaker and Sideswipe had successfully courted the warchief. Suddenly, Sunstreaker’s abrasiveness and Sideswipe’s irritating pranks were endearing, rather than off-putting. Now that they had the audial of one of the clan’s highest ranked members.

“So,” Sunstreaker began as he attacked a scuff on Rodimus’ left shin as though it had insulted his twin, “Want to tell me what happened?”

Rodimus winced. “You already know.” He didn’t meet Sunstreaker’s gaze, instead looking around at the other patrons of the bathing room. There was a group of younglings splashing around in the corner, under the bored gaze of their sitter. “I let the idiots goad me into doing something stupid. Then I got lost and had to hide out until the storm passed.”

“You were also attacked by turbowolves and somehow managed to repair yourself in the middle of a storm,” Sunstreaker said, his tone mild, but disbelieving.

“Yeah. Sounds about right.”

Sunstreaker snorted and spun Rodimus around. He bent over to peer at the patch of bare armor on Rodimus’ abdomen. “You didn’t do this,” he said as he gave it a poke before he looked up at Rodimus. “Come on, Roddy. It’s me, not those idiots. You can tell me the truth. Who’d you run into? One of Elita’s bunch? Magnus’? Skyfire’s?”

Rodimus shook his head. “I didn’t come across any of them. Honestly, Sun. I’m the only mech dumb enough not to check the forecast and realize there was a storm coming.” He rubbed the back of his head, lowering his gaze.

“Foolish, too, for actually believing those stupid rumors and letting the other Firebrands goad you.” Sunstreaker gave Rodimus another critical look. “You’re clean enough. Let’s get you dry so I can paint you.”

“Aww, Sun. You don’t have to.”

Sunstreaker cocked an orbital ridge. “None of that was a suggestion, Rodimus. Up you get.” He patted Rodimus’ aft for emphasis. “I’m not letting you walk around looking like that. It’s embarrassing.”

Beaten, Rodimus climbed out of the oil bath and snatched a meshcloth, toweling himself in short, efficient strokes, just as Sunstreaker had taught him. Beside him, Sunstreaker did the same.

In the corner, the younglings were being herded out by their sitter. This time of the day, the baths were scarcely occupied. Most of their clansmechs were on duty or out performing necessary tasks. The few mechs that were present paid them no attention. Frag, Drag Strip looked like he was napping. Rodimus wouldn’t be surprised if he actually was. Drag Strip was the only mech who spent more time soaking in the baths than Sunstreaker.

“You shouldn’t let them get under your plating like that,” Sunstreaker murmured as he finished his own armor and then frowned at Rodimus’ back, only to attack his spoiler with the drying cloth.

Rodimus bit back a sigh and endured once again. It was part of the price of a Sunstreaker cleaning. If he didn’t do a good enough job, Sunstreaker would do it himself.

“Goading you into doing something so stupid, I mean,” Sunstreaker added as he wiped the last trickles of oil from Rodimus’ spoiler and tossed the meshcloth into the recycle bin. “You don’t have anything to prove to them.”

“Maybe not. But I do have to show that I’m capable to Kup and Wirelight and the Warchief.” Rodimus gave Sunstreaker an askance look, though he knew Sunstreaker would never understand.

He and Sideswipe were born warriors, built for it down to the struts. It came easy to them. They had always been certain of their place in the clan. Yeah, maybe they’d wavered when it came to their chosen mate because who would be arrogant enough to court their warchief? But the twins had always been confident of themselves. It was one thing they never lacked.

“Chasing after a myth is not the way to do that,” Sunstreaker retorted. He tugged Rodimus out of the public baths and down the narrower back halls, no doubt to the large room he shared with his twin and their Warchief.

Warchief Megatron and Optimus Prime had larger rooms than anyone in the clan, but they weren’t ostentatious. Both mechs claimed they were nothing special, and to be fair, both had rather large family units that needed the greater space. The Prime’s bond was a carrier mech, one responsible for a half-dozen symbionts, and the Prime himself often held meetings in his quarters. Warchief Megatron was much the same, though he and the twins had not opted to raise younglings.

Yet.

“He’s not a myth,” Rodimus muttered.

Sunstreaker rolled his optics. “I know that. But honestly Rodimus, did you really think finding a Seeker for whatever reason was any way to prove your worth?”

His face heated. He clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t want to talk about how desperate he felt then. How the goading and the teasing and the challenge had made him puff up, made him feel obligated to prove himself. How he felt miles behind his fellow Firebrands and felt he’d never catch up. How his dreams of being a warrior slipped through his fingers. He’d never get to fight alongside Sideswipe and Sunstreaker if he couldn’t take the Warchief’s brand.

He wouldn’t get to travel. He wouldn’t get to see anything. He’d be stuck at the settlement, always at the settlement, with the rest of those too old or young or unskilled to defend themselves. He’d never see the Sea of Rust or the Sea of Mercury. He’d never visit with the other clans and meet new people.

He was too stupid for anything else. Rodimus knew this. If he couldn’t be a warrior, what use was he? He hadn’t the processor for tactics or study. He hadn’t the creativity to weave or sew or build. He was somewhat practiced at a little bit of everything, but skilled at absolutely nothing, and useless everywhere around.

What was he if not a warrior? If he couldn’t seek any of his passions? If he had to settle for security and safety, left behind to rot? He didn’t know if he could bear it, a life like that. He had to be meant for more.

If not a warrior, then what?

Rodimus didn’t have a good answer for that which didn’t make him sound pathetic or like a fool, or worse, both. So he pressed his lips together and folded his arms over his chest.

Sunstreaker sighed. He didn’t press for answers, at least, not while they still walked the public corridors.

When they arrived at the massive quarters Sunstreaker shared with his twin and their Warchief, however, Rodimus knew he was in for it. He braced himself, and tried not to look like he trudged to his doom as Sunstreaker swept aside the swinging door and gestured him inside.

Rodimus had been here before, albeit not as often as the time he’d spent in the small room Sunstreaker and Sideswipe used to share. The largest room was, by far, the main receiving room. Three other doorways led to the shared berth room, an office for the Warchief, and a storage room for all their spare weapons, energon, and supplies.

“Sit,” Sunstreaker said as he gathered up his painting supplies, all of which he kept in a central location for ease of use. Given how often he touched up his own paint, it was no surprise. He had a whole corner of the receiving room cordoned off just for his supplies.

Rodimus planted his aft in one of the chairs expertly arranged throughout the receiving room and cycled a ventilation, preparing himself for a lecture. Or an interrogation. Or both. Sunstreaker could be pretty perceptive when he put his processor to it, and with a victim who couldn’t escape, he had all the time in the world.

“Now,” Sunstreaker said as he moved closer, dragging a wheeled tray with his various instruments arrayed upon it, “are you going to tell me what really happened out there?”

Rodimus squirmed.

“Be still,” Sunstreaker added as he picked up a cloth and a bottle and eyed Rodimus’ midsection intently.

Rodimus fought back a sigh. “I’ve told you what happened.”

“Not the truth.”

Rodimus ground his denta. “How are you so sure I’m lying?”

“Because I know you,” Sunstreaker said simply, as if that was explanation enough.

Sunstreaker frowned, but it was directed at Rodimus’ belly, as he drizzled something on the mesh cloth and started to dab at Rodimus’ armor. The bitter reek of stripper floated up to Rodimus’ nose, and he wrinkled it.

“What does it matter anyway?” Rodimus asked, as desperate to keep the secret as he was to tell someone, anyone, about it in a vague hope that they would understand and help him make sense of it. “I’m back, I’m alive. What’s it matter what really happened?”

Sunstreaker didn’t look at him, focusing intently on the task at hand. “Because it matters to you,” he said softly, and then he looked up, his optics gentle as so few knew they could be. “Do you trust me?”

Rodimus groaned. He buried his face behind his hands. “Sunny, that’s not fair,” he said, just short of a whine. “You can’t pull that on me.”

“You see, that’s where you’re wrong.” Sunstreaker leaned back, and the tray clattered as he set aside the stripper and reached for something else. “I’m a warrior. I can use whatever tactic I like. That still doesn’t answer my question.”

Rodimus’ shoulders sank, even as he shifted at Sunstreaker’s urging, surrendering his abdomen to his friend’s ministrations. He leaned into the chair, trying not to wince as Sunstreaker chipped at the raised edges of the ragged weld.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Rodimus said as he lowered his hands. He gnawed on his bottom lip in between words. “I mean it, Sunny. I owe him my life.”

“Owe,” Sunstreaker echoed, before he nodded firmly. “Consider it locked then. Not even Sides or Megatron will know.” He bent over Rodimus again. “Tell me.”

If there was one person in the entire settlement Rodimus could trust with the truth, it was Sunstreaker. And he needed to tell someone.

So he did.

Quietly, in stuttered bursts and meandering incomplete sentences, while Sunstreaker silently worked on making his abdomen look brand new and then moved on to touching up his frame here and there. He didn’t comment, said nothing until he was sure Rodimus was finished, and that made it easier somehow.

He told Sunstreaker about getting lost, finding the caves, being attacked by the turbowolves and thinking that he’d met his end. He talked about how he’d woken up in an unfamiliar place, in the company of a stranger, who had not only repaired him, but offered his home as a refuge from the storm.

How Starscream had been rude and standoffish, but kind where it mattered. How he was beautiful and smart and ate Rodimus’ treats with evident delight. How he’d let Rodimus read his books and use his training room and explore the universe through the holographs in the Astronomy room. How Starscream had trusted Rodimus with a secret of his own, and then, the code sharing. How it had felt, how strange it had been, but also wonderful.

And then, his own mixed feelings. How a part of him had wanted to stay, because he wasn’t sure there was anything left for him in the clan, and aside from that, he wanted to get to know Starscream better. He was fascinated by everything in the tower. He’d learned so much and wanted to learn more. He loved the drones and Scuttle especially. He wanted to kiss Starscream and mean it.

By the time he finished, Sunstreaker had moved on to buffing him to a shine, his fingers making long, delicate sweeps over Rodimus’ spoiler. It was soothing, like a loving embrace, and Rodimus leaned into it, feeling like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Being around Sunstreaker, and Sideswipe also, had always been a comfort for him. Springer was his brother, but there was always this sense of competition between them. Whereas being with the twins was more about companionship.

“Well?” Rodimus prompted, once the silence had grown too long and stretched thin between them. He wanted Sunstreaker’s advice. He wanted to hear it from someone other than the stupid hopes building in his own spark.

Sunstreaker set down his buffing cloth and rested his hands on Rodimus’ shoulders. “I’m glad you came back to us,” he said.

Rodimus blinked. “That’s it?”

“Were you expecting a reprimand?” Sunstreaker’s voice was warm with humor, even as he moved around to face Rodimus, crouching to look up at him. “Tell me this, Rodimus. Is taking the Warchief’s badge the only action of worth to you?”

“It’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Sunstreaker shook his head, resting a hand on Rodimus’ nearest knee. “That’s not what I asked.”

Rodimus gnawed on his bottom lip. “If I’m not a warrior, then what am I? What’s the point of anything?” Which, he knew, didn’t answer Sunstreaker’s question either.

“I can’t answer that for you, and right now, I do think you need to answer it for yourself.” Sunstreaker patted his knee and stood up again, cupping Rodimus’ head and pressing a kiss to his forehead. “If I know you as well as I think I do, you’ll figure it out.”

“Thanks. I guess.” Rodimus squirmed in his grip, warmth fluttering out from his spark.

There was still a part of him which resented that Sunstreaker would never be his. He valued their friendship and what they had, but that Megatron had come along and wooed them away hung heavy in his spark. He used to dream about getting old enough, earning his warrior’s badge, and presenting himself as a mate candidate to the twins.

They bonded with Megatron before he ever got the chance.

“You’re welcome.” Sunstreaker released him and stepped back, lips curved with amusement. “Now come on. Let’s find you a meal before I turn you over to Kup’s custody.”

Rodimus groaned and hung his head. “Can’t I just hide here until he forgets about it?”

Sunstreaker chuckled. “I don’t think Megatron will approve, kid.”

“You’re not that much older than me.” Rodimus rolled his optics and forced himself to stand. Sunstreaker was right after all.

He had to face the consequences of his actions. No matter what it meant. Yes, they’d goaded him, but it had been Rodimus’ choice to leave without telling anyone, to barge into the desert with a half-baked plan and an absurd idea of proving himself.

“But thanks,” Rodimus added with a small smile. “For listening, I mean.”

Sunstreaker winked and dragged him into a half-hug, his frame warm and his engine purring and his field feeling the closest to what Rodimus could describe as home.

“Anytime, Roddy. Anytime.”

~

“So tell me about the Firebrand,” Deadlock said, out of nowhere, as they lounged in Starscream’s berth, feeling lazy and indulgent.

Interfacing with Deadlock was always a curious thing. Half-comfort, half-familiarity, all pleasure. Starscream adored Deadlock and the sensations his friend could invoke in him, and there was a soft curl of comfort in his belly whenever Deadlock was around. It was love, but it wasn’t.

Starscream didn’t think he could define it.

The jolt in his spark at the mere mention of Rodimus, however, was something wholly different. And unexpected. Had the Firebrand crawled so deeply under his plating?

Starscream lazily stretched his arms over his head and flopped over to his front, letting his wings twitch and shift in their housing. “Why?”

“Because I’m curious.” Deadlock sprawled next to him, hand slip-sliding over Starscream’s back to tease his seams. “And because it’s rare that you let anyone stick around.”

Starscream twitched a wing and pillowed his head on his arms. “Is that jealousy I detect?”

“Mmm. More like protectiveness.” Deadlock leaned over, getting his mouth on a wing flap, his denta asserting a light pressure.

Starscream hissed, heat coiling in his array, threatening to stir his sated bits back to life. “He’s gone,” Starscream managed to spit out. “What does it matter what he’s like?”

“It just does.” Deadlock’s ex-vents were hot and wet on the edge of Starscream’s wing. “Come on, Starling. Tell me. Was he at least attractive?”

Starscream laughed into the berth cover. “You’re ridiculous,” he said with a groan. “But yes, he was. Red and yellow, these garish flames painted across his chestplate. His alt-mode had a spoiler, and in root mode, it created these adorable faux-wings across his upper back.”

“Mmm.” Deadlock nibbled on his ailerons. One hand drifted down Starscream’s back, flirting over the curve of his aft. “What else?”

Starscream buried his face in his arms, though it did little to stall the light coils of pleasure stirring in his frame. “I think he’s from the Kaonite clan, you know, that big settlement to the east? He wasn’t branded.”

“Look at you, creche-robber.” Deadlock laughed. “Taking code from such a young thing. I shouldn’t be so surprised.”

Starscream shoved himself to his elbows and directed a glare over his shoulder. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Deadlock snorted. “Nothing.” He bit at Starscream’s wing again, optics teasing as they met Starscream’s. “Tell me more.”

“Why should I?” Starscream sniffed and flicked his wing out of Deadlock’s oral range.

“Because I asked.” Deadlock’s glossa swept over his lips, baring a hint of fang. “What’s his name?” His hand rested on Starscream’s aft, a lingering, heavy weight.

“Hot Ro– No, Rodimus. It was Rodimus.” Starscream frowned as he corrected his defaults. “For some reason, he felt the need to tell me an alias. And he came here, like so many before him, because of a rumor. You know the one.”

Deadlock field flickered into anger. “Yes, I know the one,” he growled and his hand curled, claws threatening to curl a strip of paint from Starscream’s aft. “And you let him stay here anyway? Knowing what he wanted from you?”

“I made it quite clear the consequences of any misbehavior.” Starscream sniffed and tossed Deadlock a dark look. “I am capable of taking care of myself, you know.”

“Still a pointless risk.” Deadlock’s hand abandoned his aft sadly, and he pulled himself up, seated with his back to the wall and his knees drawn up. He draped his arms over his knees, hands gesturing. “Especially since he got what he wanted in the end.”

“I didn’t ‘face him,” Starscream repeated and buried his face in his arms, his voice muffled when he added, “I copied his code. I offered to ‘face him, in exchange for his code, but he turned me down.”

“Huh. A Firebrand with a conscience. Who knew they existed?” Deadlock snorted.

“He was quite… unusual.” Starscream offlined his optics, cycling several ventilations in an attempt to dismiss the lowgrade arousal simmering in his lines. “Messy, full of questions, and quite irritating at times but he wasn’t as much of a bother as I expected him to be.”

“Hm.”

Starscream blinked and pushed himself upright, half-swiveling to stare narrow-opticked at his best friend. “I know that tone.” He frowned. “What is it?”

Deadlock twisted his wrists, palms facing upward, a gesture of conciliation. “You tell me.” He tilted his head, optics dark and acute. “Get used to him being around, did you?”

Starscream twisted his frame until he was seated on the edge of the berth, though one leg curled up on it so he could face Deadlock. “You sure you’re not jealous?”

“Nothing to be jealous of. Not like you’re mine.” Deadlock shrugged, but there was nothing nonchalant about it. “Only I know that you don’t like people, yet you seem to have nothing but good things to say about this one.”

“Well, maybe that’s because he turned out not to be an aft like everyone else.”

“Except me.” Deadlock smirked, flashing one sharp fang. “And, well, Blurr.”

Starscream’s spark twinged at the reminder. It had been decades since he’d separated romantically from his former partner, and while that end had come by mutual agreement, it was still an ache of loss in his spark. Visiting Blurr occasionally, for a code refresh or just because, did little to ease the ache.

“You’re still an aft,” Starscream said loftily, trying to chase away the rush of sadness. “Just a different kind.” He hopped down from the berth and stretched his arms over his head. “I’m going to get some coolant. Shall I bring you something?”

Deadlock flopped back down to the berth, taking up such a large amount of space for a frame smaller than Starscream’s own. “Surprise me,” he purred as he wriggled about to make himself comfortable. “And don’t think we’re done talking about this. I know a redirection when I hear one.”

Starscream snorted and waved Deadlock off. He did need coolant, but yes, also, he wanted some distance.

He didn’t want to talk about Rodimus, because he couldn’t put into words the answer Deadlock wanted. Starscream wasn’t even sure what answer he wanted to give.

Best to forget about it.