[IDW] Circle the Drain

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

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

Dominus loathes parties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s worrisome.

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

Minimus shakes him off. “I’m fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now.

Now it’s a story of a broken spark.

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

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

Which is of course what happens.

“Dominus, come here child,” Silverspire croons.

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

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

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

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

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

He’s only an Ambus.

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

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

Dominus swallows a grimace. “I appreciate it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He vanishes into the crowd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primus spare him.

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

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

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

“Is he pretty, too?” Cork asks.

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

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

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

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

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

Just like this conversation, as a matter of fact.

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

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

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

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

Equalizer laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

“Aww.” Cork slumps. “That’s a shame.”

Dominus snorts behind his engex.

The party drags on.

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

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

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

It’s all so… pointless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

They let him go this time. Finally.

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

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

Minimus blinks at him. “Are you drunk?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m always busy.”

“But tomorrow specifically?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone catches his arm and steadies him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wha–”

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

“What are you doing?” he demands.

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

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

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

“Stop it!” Dominus struggles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Fallout,” Lore replies.

Ready for what? Dominus fears he already knows.

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

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

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

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

He need only endure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominus glares as much as he is capable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hurry up,” Equalizer says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good news for us,” Cork says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominus whimpers with a crackle of static.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get on with it!” Cork whines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’re going to kill him, he despairs.

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

~

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

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

“Dominus will make a fantastic heir.”

“He’s so talented.”

It’s enough to rankle.

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

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

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

There ought to be a law.

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

If he’s truly ill…

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

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

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

He hasn’t realized it yet.

No Ambus ever has much of a choice.

~

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

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

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

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

“He sounds like a pleasurebot,” Lore says.

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

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

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

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

His vents heave. His thoughts spin.

Something hot and wet splatters on his chest and belly.

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

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

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

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

“No, thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

Stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mm. You’ll see.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fallout assaults him, harder and faster.

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

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

It’s a blur. A mad blur of agony.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominus groans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this.

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rewind’s vents stall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

“—begun an investigation of our own.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How long will that take?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minimus’ tank churns. He presses play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s no better detective than an Ambus.

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[IDW] Wide of the Mark

“They target a specific frame type,” Prowl had said as he urged Getaway into the hands of the four-mech team who would alter and adjust Getaway’s frame – paint included. All the better to entice the crew of kidnappers who were like spark-echoes, terrifying the streets of lesser Iacon. “They serve customers who have very specific kinks, and this particular one is the rarest. You’re modified frame will be a sight they can’t resist.”

“And you’re sure Jazz can’t take this mission?” Getaway had asked, hands braced on the doorframe, heels dug into the floor. He might have been resisting. “Jazz’s frame is way better suited.”

Prowl had given him that Look, the one everyone in Spec Ops knew a little too well. The one that meant a table would be flipped because Prowl would neither be dissuaded nor argued with, and woe be unto the mech who decided to push the limits.

“He is needed for pursuit. And though I don’t want to over-inflate your ego, need I remind you that when it comes to escaping impossible situations, there is none better than you,” Prowl had said.

He hadn’t pushed Getaway into the re-fit room, but his look had the physical weight of it. So Getaway had dropped his arms and skulked inside, his mental picture of what the “adjustments” to his frame would entail more than enough to make him cringe. The worst part of going undercover was having to change how you looked.

He had secondary energon storage sacs installed because they were useful, not because they were appealing or sexy or… or… something to be fetishized!

Getaway recalled the conversation now as he sashayed down the street, tossing coy looks to mechs who trundled past, their heads down, exuding disinterest in what Getaway had to sell. Not that these downtrodden, rust-eaten mechs could afford him anyway. Getaway’s persona sought richer clientele, and the swell of his chest, the peek at engorged energon sacs as they jiggled behind the protection of his chest armor, advertised such a thing.

A potential mark walked by, his gleaming paint and high-class enamel suggesting he could afford the kind of look Getaway offered. So he gathered up what remained of his dignity and sidled up to the dark-blue mech.

“Evening, sir. Fancy sharing a cube with a pretty stranger?” Getaway purred, drawing on every lesson involving seduction Jazz had drilled into his processor until his optics swam in his helm.

The mech barked a laugh at him. “Sorry, sweetplate, but you’re not my type.” Blue optics raked Getaway from top to bottom. “A little too soft for my tastes.”

“Soft?” Getaway flirted his fingers over his own clavical strut, drawing attention to the swell of his energon sacs. “But that’s the point.” He cocked a hip, resting his free hand over the dip of his waist. “Curves in all the right places, too.”

The stranger grinned, but there was a sharp edge to it, mockery more than interest. “Like I said, you just aren’t my flavor. Ring me when you earn another two meters and several tons.”

Ah. Big spender liked the big mechs. Pity.

Getaway fluttered his optical shutters. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he murmured, interjecting disappointment into his tone. “You know where to find me if you want something sweet.”

The mech laughed and shook his head. “Thanks, but no thanks.” He flicked his wrist in parting and headed down the walk, still chuckling as though Getaway had told the funniest joke this side of comedy central.

Damn. Not the piece of scum Getaway was looking for.

He cycled a ventilation and scanned the streets again, lower back aching where the change in his pede structure made him walk at an odd angle. He wasn’t a seeker. Why he needed heeled feet without the thrusters to accompany them made absolutely no sense.

“Some mechs just don’t know a fun party when they see one.”

Now that smarmy tone was the kind of thing Getaway had been hunting. He turned slowly, head tilted, armor fluttering around his energon sacs.

“Oh, is that interest I hear?” he cooed as another mech with polished armor approached, a spoiler jauntily sprouting from behind his shoulders, and a cocky look on his face. Racer maybe, or rich enough to be one of their thirsty groupies.

Mech grinned with a mouthful of perfect, even denta. He had a visor, diamond-polished with an iridescent sheen. “The kind that’ll keep the two of us up all night.” He cocked his head and circled Getaway, predator to prey. “Those maxed out?”

Getaway arched his spinal strut, making the energon sacs more prominent. “Not even close, handsome.” He shifted his weight, the heels causing his aft to paint quite the sumptuous picture. “If you’ve got the creds, you can find out just how much.”

“Oh, I’ve got the creds.” The potential customer smirked and paused partially behind Getaway, leaning in and in-venting, as if tasting Getaway’s scent. “Mmm, you aren’t a cheap piece of rust, are you? You’re the real deal. What’s a sweetplate like you walking the street for? Surely you got a patron at home waiting on you.”

Getaway giggled.

Never underestimate how enticing a cute little giggle can be, my mech, Jazz had advised. He was probably glowing with pride right now, listening in as he was. He and the rest of Getaway’s back-up team.

“He couldn’t keep up. So I’m looking for someone with a bit more rev to their engine,” Getaway purred and looked the mark up and down. “Think that someone is you?”

The mech circled in front of Getaway, and his glossa flicked over his lips. “Oh, I do.” He popped a hatch on his right forearm and withdrew a cred-chip, platinum-plating catching a sparkle of sunlight. “Consider this a down-payment.”

He leaned forward, chip pinched between two fingers, before he slid it right into the seam of Getaway’s cleavage, his fingertips copping a light caress as they withdrew.

Getaway tipped his head, coy and offering. “Well, sweetspark. Looks to me like you’re well on your way to a nice night.” He leaned in close, walking his fingertips down the length of the mech’s arm. “My place or yours, hot shot?”

“Mine.” Fingers flirted at the curve of Getaway’s waist. “And you can call me Fallout. Or master.”

Getaway giggled again. Master? Really? How cliché.

“Sounds good to me.” He ex-vented warm and wet into the slightly taller mech’s intake. “The name’s Joyride. And it’s my pleasure to meet you.”

~

“His place” turned out to be a nearby hotel. Either Fallout couldn’t wait to get his hands on his new procurement, if he were a legit customer and not the mark Getaway suspected him to be. Or this local hotel was a front for their illegal dealings, as Prowl had hypothesized some weeks back.

Everything in their research had pointed to the Nuts and Bolts as being a legitimate business. No casual inspections had turned up anything untoward. The structure matched the schematics. The owners passed a very in-depth background check. And yet, mechs had gone missing in the area nearby, often seen going into the hotel but never emerging again, and not seen on the surveillance cameras either.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Getaway ran an internal double-check, making sure both his tracking beacon and two-way internal transmitters were both running smooth as engex.

It was a nice hotel, despite its shady reputation. The door closed and locked behind Getaway’s customer, Fallout. Getaway sent a ping to his team, letting them to know to keep an optic on his tracker, and cocked his hip at his customer.

“So, what can I get you first?” he asked with a flirty lilt to his voice. He dragged his fingers over the seam of his chest armor, where the energon sacs pushed at the edges of his armor. “Full show?”

Fallout rubbed the heel of his palm over his panel. “Actually, I want a taste of that sweet mouth of yours first. Assuming you have one.”

Ah, yes, the mouthguard. Jazz had said it would create a sense of mystery, as if he were giving his customer something special every time he revealed it.

“All the better to swallow you down, master,” Getaway purred and disengaged the locks, setting his mouthplate aside. He licked his lips, his mouth feeling bare and vulnerable. “Shall I drop to my knees?”

Fallout backtracked to the berth and perched on the edge of it, his knees spreading to make room between them as he continued stroking his panel. “Yeah. But where you are now. Crawl to me.”

Getaway would have rolled his optics if that wasn’t a guarantee to break his character. “Oh, an adventurous one I see,” he said as he sank to his knees and crawled forward, putting an extra sway into his aft, aware that it made his energon sacs extra-appealing.

Fallout leaned back on one hand as his panel snicked aside, and his spike emerged, glossy with pre-fluid already, and nothing extravagant to speak of. Blue with a gray twist and a head that had a bit of a hood on it. “We’re just getting started, sweetplate.”

“Yes, we are.” Getaway nudged between Fallout’s knees and ex-vented over the tip of Fallout’s spike. More pre-fluid welled up, dribbling down the side.

A hand rested on the back of his head as Fallout’s other hand held the base of his spike, aiming it toward Getaway’s mouth. Getaway rested his fingers on Fallout’s thighs and leaned in, lapping up the pre-fluid.

It was just oral sex. Nothing he hadn’t done for a job before. So he let his processor wander elsewhere while his mouth performed on auto-pilot.

Lick, lick, suck. A spike was a spike was a spike. Getaway hummed a little as he took Fallout’s spike into his mouth, and Fallout exerted a tiny bit of pressure to the back of his head, urging him even deeper. More pre-fluid slicked his glossa.

Fallout’s hips rocked, fragging into Getaway’s mouth in sharp, quick bursts. He cycled fast ventilations, his fingers kneading the back of Getaway’s head. He felt optics on him and glanced up to see Fallout watching him intently, lips parted, visor a little glazed over.

Hm. Maybe he was just a customer and not a mark after all.

Fallout hissed an expletive, denta gritted and lips pulled back after them. “Damn, you’re good,” he said as he pushed back on Getaway’s head, his spike sliding free of Getaway’s mouth and bobbing against his lips. “But I want to rub over those pretty sacs of yours.”

Getaway licked his lips. “I thought you might.” He rose up on his knees, further loosening the armor half-concealing his energon sacs, letting the heavy orbs spill a little freer.

He leaned forward, and Fallout shivered with a little moan as his spike rubbed over the top of Getaway’s sacs, gliding across the smooth protomesh. He left streaks of pre-fluid behind.

“Oh, those are nice,” Fallout hummed and grabbed the back of Getaway’s head again, directing his mouth downward. “Give it a little lick, won’t you, sweetplate?”

Easy enough.

Getaway let his sacs swell a bit more and rose up higher on his knees, making it easier for Fallout to thrust and rock against them. He tilted his head down, glossa extending, and caught the tip of Fallout’s spike as it rutted over the mounds of his sacs.

Fallout moaned again. “Yeah, that’s it,” he said, hips rocking harder, more pre-fluid leaving trails of it trickling over Getaway’s chest.

Fallout’s grip on Getaway’s head tightened as his free hand tangled in the berthcovers. His thighs pitched inward, trapping Getaway’s shoulders as he thrust harder against Getaway’s sacs.

Getaway tried not to roll his optics, instead licking at the tip of Fallout’s spike as it bobbed against his lips. He arched his backstrut, pushing his chest against the thrust of Fallout’s spike. Judging by the quickening of the mech’s ventilations, he was about to spill.

And Getaway was right.

Fallout groaned as he shoved Getaway’s head forward, and his spike twitched, hot splashes of transfluid painting Getaway’s chest, intake, and the bottom half of his face. It smeared over the top of his energon sacs, sticky and hot.

“Mmm, you’re the real deal, sweetplate,” Fallout said with a lazy grin, his hand sliding down Getaway’s face to lazily trail fingers through the spill painting Getaway’s energon sacs. “Makes me almost feel bad about this.”

Getaway’s optics widened as he jerked his head up. “What do you mean?” he asked, putting a quaver in his voice as he tensed his hydraulics, sending an alarmed ping to his team.

Fallout smirked at him.

It was the last thing Getaway saw before something struck him in the back of his head, striking right against a reset relay with enough force to send him into a hard reboot.

~

Getaway onlined in a haze, a stale taste on his glossa, and his processor spinning dizzily. Static rang through his audials, the buzz of voices a distant noise. His GPS reported back nothing except that it was offline, as was his comm system.

He frantically double-checked the link to his team and nearly sighed in relief. It remained active, transmitting his audio and visual feed to Prowl and the others. But when he tried to tap into it, to contact them, Getaway received only static. Somehow, they’d managed to block it. Wherever they’d taken him, they must have had a communication dampener.

Clarity returned slowly, more details trickling in. His mouthplate was completely gone, as were the panels over his valve, secondary port, and spike, though the last remained fully retracted. The brassiere plate protecting his energon sacs had also been removed, leaving them completely exposed and his feeders extended, a chilly airflow teasing the nozzled tips.

He was lying on his side, possibly on a berth, his hands cuffed behind his back. Peripheral sensors detected four – no, five – other Cybertronian signatures around him, one of which resembled the mech who had been his customer.

So. He’d found his way into the gang’s clutches after all. Prowl would be delighted. Which meant he and the rest of Getaway’s team better be on their way right the frag now. Because waking up without any of his protective plating was not a sign Getaway’s day was about to get any better.

“I know you’re awake, sweetplate,” someone crooned at him from above Getaway’s head. He felt a hand stroke the back of his neck, fingers teasing around the cephalic port which he only belatedly realized was no longer shielded by the protective plate.

“This’ll be a lot more fun with you conscious,” another voice claimed and Getaway followed the voice to an obnoxiously orange and white mech crouching toward the end of the berth, his hand creeping toward one of Getaway’s knees.

Getaway worked his intake. “Wha-what’s going on?” he asked, injecting fear and confusion into his voice. “If all you wanted was a freebie, we could have worked something out.”

The hand stroked over his head, and its owner chuckled. “This ain’t about creds, sweetplate. Or well, it is. But not about the creds you’re going to earn.”

The orange mech crouching near Getaway’s knees pawed at Getaway’s thighs, one hand slipping between them and upward, toward his bared valve. “Fallout already gave ya a trial run, but the rest of us like a little hands on experience ourselves.” Fingers tickled over the lips of Getaway’s valve.

Laughter echoed around him, and Getaway picked out no less than five distinct voices, only one of which he recognized as the mech who had originally purchased his services. He glanced around the room, seeing a bright purple and black mech perched behind an expensive camera. There was another mech, blinding in all white, leaning against the wall near the door. He couldn’t see Fallout and assumed that the mech was somewhere behind Getaway.

Fingers flicked at the panel covering his cephalic port. “Don’t worry. We’ll make sure you have a good time, too,” the mech above him purred, his voice sickly sweet and enough to make Getaway’s plating crawl.

“Oh, I always have a good time, sir,” Getaway tried to purr, injecting anxiety into his voice. Not that it was hard.

Hurry up, Prowl.

“I’m sure you do.” The mech above him chortled.

Getaway felt the cold touch of a plug against his port, connectors buzzing where they brushed against one another before someone plugged into him. The alien sensation of a foreign mind slithering into his own made Getaway shudder and his tank roil. He’d not been prepared for this! Nothing in the intel suggested one of the kidnappers was a mneumospecialist.

“You… you don’t have to do that!” Getaway cried, squirming on the berth, trying to twist his frame away from the mech below him, inching between his thighs.

Said orange mech licked his lips, his hands sliding up the length of his thighs, thumbs bracketing Getaway’s valve.

“I promise I’ll behave!” Getaway whimpered as the foreign presence tiptoed all around his processor, slicing through his firewalls and defenses as though they were cheap chips bought on the street and not spec ops grade.

“I’m sure you will. This just makes sure of– oh, what do we have here?” The rifling in Getaway’s processor paused, and the grip on his head tightened. “Cork, don’t get started just yet.”

Cork, the orange mech between Getaway’s legs, looked up with a flash of anger. “What? Why? You’re such a fragging tease, Lore. Why do you always gotta make me wait?”

“Because I know the taste of a spy when I’m inside one, slagger,” Lore replied as a chill swept through Getaway’s internals. “And what we got here, mechs, is not the sweetplate he appears to be.”

“I thought he was a little too clean to be a street-walker,” came Fallout’s familiar voice from somewhere behind Getaway.

“I’m not a spy!” Getaway said with what he hoped was an enticing squirm and smile. “I swear. I was just looking for some quick creds.”

Lore chuckled, and his grip on Getaway’s head turned into something more like a caress. “I just tore through seven layers of elite firewalls, sweetplate. I know what you are.”

“I figured somebody was going to be on us sooner or later. Didn’t think it’d be this soon,” Fallout said.

Cork frowned and whined. The pads of his fingers stroked along the insides of Getaway’s thighs, making his armor crawl with revulsion. “So what? I don’t get to play with ‘im cause he’s a spy?”

“It just means we can’t sell him,” said the camera-mech. “Doesn’t mean we can’t still make some good creds off him.”

The mech leaning against the wall near the door frowned, his visor reflecting harsh angles of light. “We should just kill him,” he suggested. “The creds aren’t worth the trouble.”

“And waste this opportunity?” Lore almost purred. “Why Equalizer, you have no imagination. Or generosity. Little Joyride came here to do a job, didn’t he? As Playback said, it would be a shame to let him fail.”

“A big shame,” Cork agreed with a bob of his head and a hungry look at Getaway’s array. He licked his lips as he caressed Getaway’s valve, which twitched at the soft touch. “He’s eager for it, even. Ya should see how much he’s dripping.”

It was a program, idiots! Getaway seethed behind clenched denta. It was pointless to argue with criminals. They would only taunt him more, if they believed him to be the slightest bit ashamed.

Equalizer shifted his weight, from one foot to the other, white paint flashing in the bright flood lights. “Then we kill him later.”

“When we’re done,” the camera mech – Playback — agreed, sounding distracted and barely interested in the proceedings. “Vids like this are always a big seller.”

Vids? Fantastic. Getaway’s newly altered frame was going to be splashed all over the darknet, self-servicing fodder for all of the weirdly twisted. His team better get here sooner rather than later. Weren’t they tracking him by now? How far could Fallout have taken him?

Movement in his peripheral vision alerted Getaway to Fallout crouching down next to the berth. “Snuff is a big, big seller,” he said and grinned as he patted Getaway on the cheek. “Now we can’t go killin’ all of our pets so each vid is a hot commodity. That means you’re going to make us a fortune, Joyride.”

“You won’t be free long enough to make that fortune,” Getaway ground out, his plating crawling at Fallout’s touch, and the way Lore above him kept stroking his head and lingering in his port. His presence was poisonous. “My team–”

“Your team?” Lore’s tone was mild and amused as he cut Getaway off. “Oh, you mean the tracker embedded in your system? I took the liberty of removing that. They won’t find you.” His field became a nauseating press, bearing down on Getaway like a physical restraint.

Getaway worked his intake. He didn’t believe Lore for a second. Yes, the slagger had his fingers deep in Getaway’s system, but he wasn’t Jazz, and Jazz had been the one to program all of Getaway’s protocols. No way Lore found all of the tricks and hidden caches.

Maybe he delayed Prowl and the others, but they were coming. Getaway was sure of it.

Lore chuckled, and he pinched at the port where he’d plugged into Getaway. “Trust me, little spy. We’ve been at this too long to get caught now.”

“Wouldn’t it be a waste to kill him?” Playback asked, sounding bored from behind the camera. “You could always rewire him like the others. Sell him afterward.”

“Nah. Sometimes, it doesn’t take. And then we’d have a spy who knows too much wandering around alive. This is the best way to get our money’s worth,” Equalizer said with a smirk, his optics dark and hungry as he watched Getaway on the berth.

He had the look of a predator, Equalizer did. One who liked tearing up his prey and leaving its innards out for the carrion-eaters, while only consuming the tastiest bits for itself. Of the five mechs in the room, Getaway wanted Equalizer to touch him the least.

“I’m not for sale!” Getaway hissed, squirming in his bonds, though his motions were dull and sluggish, like he didn’t have complete control of his frame. Probably due to Lore rifling through his processor, getting sticky metaphorical fingers in all of Getaway’s components.

Fallout barked a laugh. “Is that right, sweetplate? Well, the cred stick in your subspace says otherwise. Don’t it?”

Cork’s hands slid up Getaway’s thighs toward his bared array, fingers stroking his rim. “Who cares?,” he whined, and traced a circle around Getaway’s mostly hidden anterior node. To his relief, it didn’t provoke so much as a stir of pleasure. “Can we get started now? You’re wasting all this time talking.”

Behind them, Fallout snickered. “Go ahead, Cork.”

“The camera’s ready,” Playback added.

Cork’s engine growled and lust flashed in his optics. “Finally,” he said and snatched Getaway by the hips, twisting him onto his back, his bound arms pinned beneath him, energon sacs bouncing and swaying on his chest.

Cork wedged himself between Getaway’s legs, shoved his thighs wide, and smirked over Getaway’s valve. “This poor thing looks hardly used,” he said.

Another bark of laughter spilled from Fallout. “We’ll change that soon enough.”

Getaway clenched his denta. Endure, he told himself. He’d been trained for this. He knew it was a possibility. It wasn’t the worst thing. It was just interfacing.

Cork laughed and leaned closer, ex-venting warm and wet over Getaway’s valve. He licked his lips again before his glossa found Getaway’s rim and gave it a long taste. He hummed in his intake and licked some more, mouth discovering Getaway’s node to treat it to a lingering suck.

It felt… good. Sensation drizzled through Getaway’s array. He swallowed down a strangled moan and dimmed his optics. His hips moved of their own accord, canting toward Cork’s mouth, demanding more. He hated, in that moment, the small programming thread he’d installed to make it easier to play the part of buymech.

That was when Lore stopped fiddling with his port, the sensation of his presence inside Getaway still lingering, like an infection, but his hands wandered. They slid over Getaway’s shoulders, to his energon sacs, and Lore started to grope them, fingers squeezing and sliding over the smooth protomesh. He found Getaway’s fuel nozzles and pinched them, causing a shock of pleasure to burst through Getaway’s sensor net.

An unwanted moan escaped his mouth, his backstrut arching, pushing his sacs into Lore’s hands. They were supposed to feel good. That was how the programming worked, but now Getaway despised that fact. Between Lore’s pinching, and Cork’s determined licking, arousal pulsed a steady beat through his systems.

His spike started to thicken in its sheath. Lubricant gathered in his valve, until Cork was able to lap up the first drop with a pleased hum.

“It’s nice when they squirm,” he said, conversationally against Getaway’s valve. “But it’s better when they enjoy it.”

“It makes for a better video,” Playback commented. If it was possible to sound bored while filming a fragging vid, Playback had perfected the art.

Lore chuckled and gave Getaway’s energon sacs a squeeze. “And their shame sweetens the flavor.”

Getaway growled, his engine revving with a mixture of arousal and fury. “You’re sick,” he seethed through clenched denta as his lower half twitched and rocked against Cork’s mouth, eager for every lick and suckle.

“It’s a mad, mad world.” Lore pinched Getaway’s nozzles and rolled them between his thumb and forefinger.

Getaway gasped before he could swallow it down, pleasure arcing through the entirety of his frame. His plating juddered and more lubricant dripped out of his valve as Cork licked into him, nasal ridge applying a nice pressure to Getaway’s anterior nub. Cork was enthusiastic, determined, and he made sloppy, wet noises as he licked and sucked until Getaway’s spike emerged with a snick, and his vents came in sharp pants.

Cork made a sound of outright glee and briefly abandoned Getaway’s valve, his glossa laving a long lick up the length of Getaway’s spike. He suckled at the tip, glossa prodding at his transfluid slit.

“Mmm, Joyride here’s a wet one,” Cork said around his mouthful, oral lubricant dribbling out of the corners of his mouth. “Tasty.”

“You’re disgusting,” Fallout said with a laugh.

“To each his own.” Cork smirked and closed his mouth around the tip of Getaway’s spike, laving the sensitive crown with several sweeps of his glossa.

Getaway gasped, his spike throbbing, and he thrust into empty space as Cork abandoned his spike in favor of messily lapping at his valve again. Arousal crackled in Getaway’s array like a hot fire.

He didn’t want to overload. Not like this. Not with the camera pointed at him, the five pairs of optics devouring his frame, with Cork’s mouth on his valve, and Lore’s fingers on his sac, the energon-filled mesh bouncing and bobbing on his chest. He didn’t want the noises clawing out of his intake, like whimpers and moans.

But overload he did, tasting energon as he bit his glossa in a desperate attempt to swallow the pathetic sounds in his vocalizer. He bucked against Cork’s lips, riding the eager mouth, his spike bobbing as his valve rippled with pleasure.

Lore chuckled and cupped Getaway’s sacs. He moved his hips, thrusting a little against Getaway’s back, the slide of his damp spike leaving streaks behind.

Cork purred against Getaway’s valve and rose to his feet, one hand working furiously at his spike, pumping himself with eager abandon. He licked his lips as if savoring Getaway’s taste, optics bright and hungry. His face was smeared with Getaway’s lubricant and he made no effort to wipe it away.

“You’re sweet,” he murmured, something in his gaze too wild for Getaway’s comfort. Unhinged even. “I like the way you squirm,” he breathed and then he overloaded, spike spurting all over Getaway’s twitching valve, his pressurized spike, the insides of his thighs and his pelvic array.

Transfluid didn’t burn. But Getaway felt the sear of it splashing on his armor anyway. It felt like being marked, treated as less than, and he despised it.

“Get out of the way, freak.” Equalizer surged into view, rudely elbowing Cork away as the orange and white mech stood there dazed, hand around his depressurizing spike.

Cork stumbled with an outraged hiss, but obediently moved aside as Equalizer pushed his way between Getaway’s thighs, his fingers shoving into Getaway’s valve, three at a time, without any preamble. They burned, and Getaway flinched, and Equalizer laughed, husky and cruel.

“My turn,” he said.

Getaway groaned, fruitlessly trying to squirm away. Equalizer’s grip was hard and unyielding, the press of his field equally so. He was a mech who wanted to hurt, and Getaway had no illusions about how much pain he’d cause.

Lore chuckled and rolled his hips, thrusting harder against Getaway’s back, his spike leaving trails on Getaway’s shoulders. Lore’s hands squeezed Getaway’s sacs, making the energon shift and gurgle and the dermal mesh ache.

Equalizer’s fingers vanished, and Getaway had a moment of relief before they returned, this time prodding at Getaway’s aft port. The smaller entrance would have resisted, were Equalizer any gentler, but two fingers coated in a smear of lubricant and transfluid pushed into Getaway’s aft with a stretching burn that made Getaway hiss.

His legs trembled. A sound escaped him before he could swallow it. A whimper, a whine, pain that burbled up and spilled free.

“Let’s see if we can’t change your perspective, shall we?” Lore purred as Equalizer’s fingers kept fragging a burning stretch into Getaway’s aft. He supposed he should be grateful Equalizer bothered to try and stretch and lube him up even a little.

Something started wriggling about inside Getaway, in his neural pathways and his processor. The painful burn shifted to a liquid warmth. The tension in his hydraulics and cables eased. Pleasure, false as it was, washed through his thoughts, turning them dull.

He felt sick. Nauseous. And no amount of processor-washing could change that. His tanks lurched, even as the desire started to build inside of him.

“There. That’s better.” One of Lore’s hands stroked Getaway’s head. “Isn’t it nicer when you can relax?”

Getaway clenched his denta around the moan pushing at his glossa. His optical shutters clattered as he shivered. His hips rocked against the push of Equalizer’s fingers.

Where the frag was his team? Shouldn’t they be here by now? He’d have checked his chronometer, if only it wasn’t spinning nonsensical numbers at him. Time no longer had definition.

The berth rattled, dipped beside Getaway. He looked, through a haze crowding the edge of his vision, as Fallout clambered onto the berth. As he straddled Getaway’s belly, spike thick and visible, already dripping pre-fluid.

“Can’t let an opportunity like this pass me by,” he said, a breathless need in his vocals, his lips peeled back over his denta as he fondled Getaway’s sacs. “I’ve been dying to have more fun with these since I saw your sweet aft on the street.”

Getaway’s processor spun. It was dizzying, to fight the fake lust and the sensations in his frame.

“Frag you,” he gritted out.

Fallout rolled his hips forward, spike poking at Getaway’s energon sacs, rutting over and against them, leaving smears of fluid behind. “No thanks. I’d rather enjoy these instead.”

Getaway squirmed, vents coming in eager pants, both horror and lust. He felt Equalizer’s hands on his hips, too tight, too hard, too willing to dent. He felt the width of Equalizer between his thighs, and the blunt head of Equalizer’s spike against his aft port, prodding and prodding, threatening to impale.

Fallout was hot and heavy above him, eager and sloppy as he squeezed and fondled, as he thrust between the valley of Getaway’s sacs and squeezed his spike between them. His thumbs swept over the peaked nozzles, and a wave of pleasure made Getaway’s head spin. It was almost enough to distract him from the sudden burn in his aft as Equalizer plunged into him, spike a spear that filled him in a single thrust.

Getaway grunted, backstrut arching as little as he was able with Fallout on top of him. His shoulders ached, wrists strained.

Equalizer pumped into him, a steady, quick pace. His hands slid to Getaway’s thighs, urging his legs around Equalizer’s waist as he leaned forward, higher and higher, until Getaway was tilted and Fallout found it easier to frag his energon sacs. Fallout’s spike plunged between them, tip painting Getaway’s lips with pre-fluid again and again.

Lore seemed content to observe, while the disgusting-oil of his presence continued to manipulate Getaway’s processor, pushing more and more arousal at him, until his valve clenched on nothing, his spike throbbed, and his aft tightened around Equalizer’s spike. Even more so when Equalizer shifted one hand to molesting Getaway’s valve, stroking his rim and his external nodes, making heat blossom in Getaway’s groin.

Getaway’s frame moved, twitching and rolling with the stimulation. He began to meet Equalizer’s thrusts. He rocked up against Fallout’s spike, and the squeeze of Fallout’s hands, and the occasional pinch of his nozzles by Lore’s fingertips. Each touch was another shock of pleasure, another buzz of need in his lines.

He overloaded again, with a bitten off sound, lubricant spilling from his valve, his vents roaring. Purge threatened to rise, until Lore forced it down, smoothing over the disgust and chasing it away with waves of extended ecstasy.

Someone laughed. In the haze, Getaway wasn’t sure who.

“Little spy is made for fragging, isn’t he?”

“He’s overloaded twice already.”

“Probably bends over for anyone even without the creds.”

Laughter surrounded him. Getaway tried to growl, but all that came out of his intake was a moan, one desperate and needy, the result of Lore’s manipulation and entirely false.

A sharp burst of pain radiated through his groin. It took Getaway too long to realize it was because Equalizer had slapped his spike, and then roughly pinched the tip of it. There was no gentleness in that mech, only the urge to cause pain.

“Here.” Movement in his peripheral vision and a greedy voice forced Getaway to sharpen his senses.

Cork moved into view, a contraption of straps and metal dangling from his fingers. He grinned, all denta, as he handed it over to Lore.

“Put this on ‘im,” Cork said with a lascivious look down at Getaway. “Every pretty pet needs a pretty accessory, eh?”

Lore laughed. Equalizer paused in his fragging and even Fallout stilled as they watched the tangle of straps hover over Getaway’s face. Lore’s fingers untangled it, loops and coils of metal mesh unrecognizable.

At least, until Lore started to fit it over Getaway’s face. He recognized it for what it was then, as the wide, metal ring was forced into his mouth and lodged behind his denta. The straps wound around his face, cinching tight at the back of his head. He tried to turn his head, to make it difficult, but there were more hands to keep him still than he could fight and soon his mouth was stretched wide by the gag.

“Better,” Fallout purred as he started to thrust again, hands squeezing Getaway’s sacs, his spike prodding between them, bumping against the stretch of Getaway’s lips around the gag.

Equalizer started to move again, shoving hard and deep into Getaway’s aft, the slap of metal on metal harsh and obscene. He muttered curses, occasionally pausing to smack Getaway’s valve and anterior node with the flat of his palm, making Getaway jolt. It should have been painful, startling, enough to wilt his arousal. But Lore’s lingering infestation turned it all into liquid pleasure, until Getaway was moaning, unable to conceal the noises with his mouth forced open.

Fallout panted, mouth slack, optics glazed. He squeezed Getaway’s energon sacs until the metalmesh threatened to split. He rode them harder and faster, spike spearing between them, jabbing at Getaway’s mouth, until he abruptly curled inward and overloaded, transfluid splattering everywhere. It painted Getaway’s sacs in thick stripes, and coated his face, stray drops landing in his open mouth and on his glossa.

Where was his damn team? Getaway raged inwardly, shame and disgust spilling together as Fallout humped the last of his arousal against Getaway’s sacs. As he rose up, depressurizing spike hanging limp, free hand gathering up globs of his transfluid and smearing it over Getaway’s mouth and cheeks.

Getaway tried to tune it out. He focused inward, on the tenuous connection to his team, still transmitting. By Primus it was still transmitting. Sights. Sounds. Sensations. They could see and hear everything. They were witness to this humiliation as much as that camera was, recording it for prosecution’s sake.

Nausea roiled in Getaway’s tanks. He groaned.

“Someone take over so I can have a turn,” a dull voice said through the haze. Playback maybe. The only one who managed to sound bored while filming a gang rape.

“Wait until I’m done,” Equalizer grunted before he pulled out and gripped Getaway’s hips. “Flip him over, Lore. I want to pound his aft.”

“And I want his mouth,” someone else whined. Cork, Getaway thought.

Did it really matter?

Hands snatched Getaway’s frame. His processor spun as he was lifted, turned over onto his belly without a care for his comfort, sacs squished against the berth, hands still bound behind him. Staticky vision gave him a brief look at the mech still cabled to him – Lore was solid blue with garish green and gold stripes highlighting the blocky angles of his frame. He looked familiar, though Getaway couldn’t place where, and the lack of identifiable kibble suggested he was a monoformer.

Then orange and white moved back into his field of vision, directly in front of him. Cork knelt on the berth, his hand around the base of his spike – garishly orange with thin white swirls that made Getaway dizzy just to look at. Cork moved closer, eagerly clumsy, one hand gripping Getaway’s head, the other guiding his spike to Getaway’s mouth.

“This is my favorite part,” Cork panted as the head of his spike slipped through the ring of the gag and he released his grip on the length, revealing that there was an odd roundness to the base of his spike. It swelled outward, not so much that it wouldn’t get through the ring gag, but enough to be noticeable.

Getaway hoped that bump wasn’t what he thought it was. He’d heard of those mods, but he’d never seen anyone with one.

Cork probably meant to fill Getaway’s mouth slowly, but Equalizer suddenly started to frag him in earnest, plunging into Getaway’s aft with quick, deep strokes. He fragged Getaway like he was desperate for overload, his hands clenching tight enough to leave dents, his hips banging against Getaway’s aft, and shoving him forward, onto Cork’s spike.

Cork gripped Getaway’s head with both hands. “Frag him softer, damn it,” he whined as he eased back, trying to keep to his own pace. “You’re messing up my plans.”

“Shut it, Cork,” Equalizer panted and slammed into Getaway, hard enough for the clang of metal on metal to echo. “I’m doing this… my way.”

Equalizer grunted, spike rasping a searing path through Getaway’s port, scraping over his nodes, and then he slammed against Getaway’s aft seconds before he felt the hot flood of transfluid inside his port. A strangled noise, the bastard sparkling of a moan and a gurgle, escaped Equalizer as he pumped his hips, spurt after spurt of transfluid filling Getaway’s aft, until Equalizer abruptly jerked back and out. The last spray painted Getaway’s aft, and Equalizer’s palm slapped over it.

“Thanks for the ride,” he said.

“Damn it, Equalizer, take over for me,” someone else snapped.

Equalizer grumbled, but the rest of the conversation was lost as Getaway’s attention was tugged back toward Cork and the orange spike invading his mouth. Cork thrust into him deeper now, the head of his spike nudging the back of Getaway’s intake. He rocked slowly, as though he had all the time in the world, filling Getaway’s mouth with the taste of him.

“Playback’s gentler at least,” Cork said, his optics dazed, fingers stroking Getaway’s head in a parody of affection. “Means I can take my time with ya.”

Getaway would have offered a snarky comment, had his mouth been unoccupied, but all he managed was a terrible moan as Lore ramped up the false pleasure and a spike suddenly pushed into his valve, much thicker than all the others, but smooth at least. This, he assumed, was Playback, who filled every inch of Getaway, grinding over nodes with ease.

Playback set up a quick, efficient pace, like he only wanted to overload because he was aroused and it was troublesome. His vents came in sharp, stuttered bursts, his grip on Getaway’s hips perfunctory.

Cork chuckled and started fragging Getaway’s mouth slowly, spikehead brushing the back of Getaway’s intake opposite of the rhythm of Playback grinding on Getaway’s ceiling node. There was never a moment Getaway wasn’t filled, and this parody of a lover’s embrace made nausea roil in his tanks, for all that pleasure seared through his lines and made his valve throb.

“Let’s see if we can’t ramp up the tension, shall we?” Lore purred from somewhere in Getaway’s peripheral vision, and then those ghostly fingers slipped through Getaway’s processor, tugging on command lines.

Getaway groaned as his spike throbbed harder at Lore’s command, spilling more pre-fluid until it came in a steady trickle. It bobbed at the apex of his thighs, swaying to the rhythm of Cork and Playback fragging him. He was desperate, in that moment, for someone to touch his spike, and he started to hump the berth, eager for stimulation.

“Nice work,” Playback said as he ground against Getaway’s aft, and then hands circled Getaway’s spike, pumping him in long squeezes that forced out beads of transfluid.

His frame trembled. Cork pumped harder into his mouth, one hand curling around the back of Getaway’s head to push him against Cork’s groin, until his nasal ridge brushed bright orange armor. Cork’s spike slid down his intake, forcing Getaway to shift to secondary venting.

“This is going… to be… so good,” Cork panted as he ground against Getaway’s face, little jerks of his hips that barely counted as thrusts.

His spike throbbed, and Getaway’s internal sensors registered spurts of transfluid sliding down his intake. He dared think of relief, that Cork was done now and would leave him in peace. Surely his team would be here soon. Surely.

But then the base of Cork’s spike started to swell. Slow and barely noticeable at first, until Getaway’s glossa felt the pressure against it. His mouth opened wider, jaw aching, as the base of the spike swelled and swelled, forming a ball-like knot which prevented Cork from pulling out.

Cork laughed and held Getaway’s head tightly, jerking it against his groin one last time, fully seating his spike in Getaway’s mouth. It hurt. It was humiliating. It was exactly the mod Getaway feared Cork had.

The swelling – the knot – continued, pinning his glossa inside his mouth, straining the limits of his jaw, choking him. The spike remained in his intake, purge protocols rippling in struggle to remove it, and beeping obnoxiously as they failed. His jaw hinge stung, then ached, then sent lancing waves of pain through his mouth, until Lore’s ghostly fingers wisped them away, tangling them into the false pleasure.

Getaway whimpered.

His tormentors laughed.

Cork released his hold on Getaway’s head, now that Getaway couldn’t pull back. He reached down, pinched Getaway’s nose, cutting off what little air supply he could gulp down, forcing him to rely on his lateral vents. Playback fragged into him harder, tugging him back and dragging Cork’s spike with him. His intake ached, scraped raw.

Dizziness attacked from all angles. Pleasure spun through his lines, wild with charge. The hand on his spike was the best sensation of it all, fingers teasing his transfluid slid and pumping him expertly, drawing out the first vestige of real pleasure, to go with the false ecstasy Lore fed him.

More transfluid spurted into his mouth. It slid down his intake, into his tanks. He couldn’t taste it, a small favor, but he could feel it seeping through his intake. His tanks roiled with disgust. Cork laughed, his amusement flavored with lust, his spike pulsing against Getaway’s glossa.

Pleasure built inside of him nonetheless. His valve rippled around Playback’s spike, siphoning charge from the mech’s nodes. His spike throbbed eagerly, pre-fluid making for a slick stroke.

Overload struck him like an attack, it hurt as much as it felt good. It sent static over his armor, made his valve clamp tight, and his spike spurt a load into the fist of whoever was stroking him. Lore’s manipulations ramped up the pleasure, making Getaway’s armor gape, his engines rev, his field scream need, but they couldn’t completely hide the disgust in his field either.

“Oh, that’s delicious,” Lore purred.

Cork’s hand stroked around Getaway’s head as he circled his hips, venting bursts of heat down against Getaway’s face. “You’ve a talent for breakin’ ‘em, Lore.”

“That I do.”

Playback grunted and slammed into Getaway, hips making little jerks as he abruptly overloaded, spilling his load inside of Getaway’s valve, joining the mess his companions left behind. Like all else, Playback was perfunctory. He didn’t linger, withdrawing as soon as the pleasure had passed.

He pulled out, presumably to go back to his camera. Getaway’s bared components twitched at the brush of cooler air against his raw and exposed array. His valve lips twitched. His aft rim contracted around nothing. He felt hot and sticky, dirty.

Someone was quick to take his place, their hand smacking across Getaway’s aft in a harsh meet of metal on metal. The strike was jarring, and it stung. Getaway jerked, his mouth tugging on Cork’s spike, and to his relief, the knot which seemed to have shrank just a little.

They struck him again, open-handed palms, first one aft plate and then the other. Whoever it was vented hotly and loudly. Getaway’s frame jolted. To move backward would tug on Cork’s spike and put him closer to the pain. To move forward would have him crawling into Cork’s lap.

There was nowhere to go.

He checked, again, the link to his team. It held dead air – they couldn’t contact him. But it was active. Transmitting. How long had it been? He didn’t even know.

Where were they?

The mech behind him smacked his ass again, hard enough to leave a dent, for a cry of pain to be muffled by Cork’s spike before it abruptly slipped free. The knot popped past the gag ring, and Getaway’s lips, leaving a trail of transfluid in its wake.

Getaway’s intake immediately rebelled, sending him into a coughing fit, his tanks squeezing as they sought to purge, but Lore’s manipulations refused to initiate the protocols. Getaway coughed, flecks of transfluid dribbling from the corner of his mouth, a low and broken moan wreathed in static surrounding it.

“That’s a good look for you, spy.” Cork flicked Getaway’s forehead and sat back on his heels, spike hanging limp, knot still partially inflated. “Make sure you get a close up, Playback. You know they like to pay big money for coppers like this getting it good.”

Getaway dredged up a glare, but his vocalizer only spat static. His shoulders ached; his hands formed fists behind his back. His processor spun.

No, that was the room. The berth? No, they’d flipped him onto his back, his strut arched, energon sacs swaying and bobbing on his chest. It was Fallout between his legs, pushing into his aft without abandon, a look of crazed desire on his face. He licked his lips as he thrust, and his hands found Getaway’s sacs, giving them a squeeze, hard enough to force a squeak of pain.

Getaway squirmed, tried to wriggle backward on the berth, but Cork leaned over him, putting his hands on Getaway’s shoulders. He grinned as his half-pressurized spike kept slapping the side of Getaway’s face.

There was no getting away from Fallout’s vicious fragging. He plunged into Getaway’s aft with abandon, his hands squeezing and gripping Getaway’s sacs without pause. But that wasn’t enough for him, because he started slapping them, watching them jiggle. His fingers found Getaway’s nozzles and pinched them hard, as if he intended to rip them off.

Pain lanced through Getaway’s frame. His back arched in a soundless scream, an icy fire racing outward from the point of contact. Fallout pinched and tugged, and it was if someone had taken a branding iron to the nozzles.

Until the lancing pain turned to liquid pleasure. Until the ebb of Lore’s connection to him turned into a blinding wave all over again. Getaway stopped trying to twist away from the slaps. He started wriggling toward them, angling his frame to be better struck, all without his permission. He whined like a mechanimal desperate to breed. His valve clenched on nothing, and wept lubricant out of desperation. His spike thickened again, seeping pre-fluid, throbbing for touch.

Fallout overloaded quickly, his transfluid searing over Getaway’s bruised sensors. Or maybe he overloaded slowly, and he’d been fragging forever. Getaway wasn’t sure anymore. Awareness started to dim, fluctuating wildly between pain and pleasure, another overload whiting out sensation until he crashed back into the swollen, hot, aching thing that was his frame.

Fallout pulled out and someone else took his place. Someone who flipped Getaway back onto his belly, face and energon sacs smashed into the berth.

“My turn,” Lore growled, and shoved into Getaway’s valve, his spike modded with ridges and bumps and nubs that rasped over Getaway’s lining despite the mixture of fluids inside of him. It burned and tore and Getaway gasped, going limp.

Or maybe he went limp because Lore still had fingers in his processor and was still turning his thoughts to mush. He wanted to fight, wanted to scream and curse and squirm. But he kept melting and pushing back toward Lore, demanding more of the agony.

Lore laughed, something dark and rasping. He slid a hand around Getaway’s frame, up his body, fingers wrapping around Getaway’s intake. The other arm curled around Getaway’s waist, pulling him back and up. The pressure on his intake made his processor glitch, and he swore he tasted Cork’s transfluid again.

Overload hovered on the edge. His energon sacs swayed and bobbed from the force of Lore’s thrusts. He felt the heaviness of the others watching. The weight of the camera recording. Lore’s spike dragged over his nodes, demanding Getaway’s pleasure, as did the heavy touch on his processor, fingers deep in his pleasure center.

Ecstasy struck him with a garbled, pained sound. A dying noise. Getaway’s vision spun, his fans roaring to dispel heat and useless for it.

Lore laughed again, menacing this time, the tips of his fingers pressing in on Getaway’s intake. “And now,” he murmured against Getaway’s audial. “I really get to have my fun.”

Cold, icier than space, scraped down Getaway’s spinal strut. His spark dropped into his belly as every spark of pleasure in his frame abruptly turned to fear. Dark, drowning terror. He screamed as if someone held a blade to his spark, as if he stood on the precipice of a smelter’s pit, as if someone held his brain module in their teeth.

It wasn’t until he tasted smoke on his glossa that he realized he was screaming and shouting for them to “stop, stop, stop” and “help, help, help” and they were laughing and Lore was fragging him, his fingers getting tighter and tighter. Getaway felt like he were falling into an abyss, no berth beneath him, nothing but the hot, stinging burn of Lore’s spike in his valve, and the threat of a grip on his intake.

Snuff is worth everything on the black market, a small part of Getaway’s conscious reminded him. The logical part that tracked all of these horrible threats to society and made sure they were ended. The work that he did with his team was important for this very reason.

His team.

They must have forgotten him. They couldn’t find him. They wouldn’t find him. It was late. Too late.

Getaway moaned, and there was nothing of pleasure in it. His world was spinning, a sea of agony.

Lore fragged him harder, pounding into him, as though he sought to drive Getaway through the berth. His grip on Getaway’s neck tightened, and the cable connecting them spilled Lore’s commands faster and faster. Pain, pleasure, terror, Getaway couldn’t distinguish any of it. His processor floated, and he felt removed from it all, unable to gasp for a ventilation or notice anything beyond the sensation.

White-hot agony burst through Getaway’s head. He shrieked, thrashing, as Lore’s connection abruptly disengaged, leaving him staggering with control of his frame suddenly his again. His senses exploded: sight, sound, sensation.

His valve burned, his aft port on fire. His shoulders screamed for mercy. His energon sacs throbbed. He heard shouting, the discharge of weaponry, felt the startled bursts of multiple fields, and somewhere in the mess, something familiar. The warming touch of his partner.

His team.

Relief struck. Getaway dropped onto the berth, face-first, and didn’t have the energy to roll over onto his side.

“Getaway!” That was Jazz, shouting his name. “Slaggit, grab him!”

Hands on his frame, turning him. The world a blur of colors and agony and shame. He tasted energon, realizing he’d bit his glossa.

“Damn, partner. Look at you.” Skids’ voice, his face a blur to Getaway’s optics. “Can you hear me? Getaway? Getaway!”

~

“Getaway?”

He snapped out of the memory with a little shudder, one he was too slow to hide. He thanked Primus he’d decided to make his mouthplate permanent after that disaster of a mission. It meant he didn’t have a grimace to conceal.

“Sorry, mechs, got a little lost in thought.” Getaway rolled his shoulders, projecting ease toward his companions. “What was the question?”

Skids gave him a look, like he was trying to piece something together, but given his limited memories, only had a few snippets of it. Lucky for him. Lucky he didn’t have to remember that mission gone horribly wrong. It should have never come to that, the video which still made it onto the darknet, no matter how vigorously they tried tracking it.

Keystroke, however, just laughed and leaned forward, the garish orange highlights of his frame hearkening back to a memory Getaway would have rather soon forgot. “We asked if you were interested in joining us tonight. For a little wet and wild fun.” He winked, mouth stretched wide in a grin.

Beside him, Atomizer leaned back in his chair, one foot braced against the table’s edge. “I don’t know about the wild part, but fun is definitely on the table.” Lust radiated off him in waves.

It made Getaway’s tanks churn. Keystroke’s propensity for group bouts of interfacing, interconnecting cables and nights spent drowning in ecstasy, were starting to become something of a weekly occurrence on the Lost Light. He propositioned anyone and everyone and while they were perfect for letting off steam without worrying about unnecessary attachments… Getaway wanted nothing to do with being bared like that in a room with more than one mech.

“Fun,” Getaway echoed, and lifted his shoulders in what he hoped was a shrug. “Appreciate the offer, but no thanks.”

“Awww, that’s too bad. I hear your kind has all the best moves.” Keystroke grinned and winked, lascivious as always. “If you change your mind, you know where to find us.”

‘Your kind.’ Getaway knew what Keystroke meant, but his processor drifted to that disaster of a mission nevertheless. He still had the mounts for the energon sacs built into his frame, though the mesh pouches were not attached.

He hadn’t worn them since. He’d outright refused. And for once, Prowl had not pushed. The next mission of similar design had been Jazz’s. He’d been lucky. It had gone off without a hitch. No humiliating vids on the darknet to ruin him.

Getaway fidgeted with his engex, straw bobbing up in the glass. “Yeah. I do.”

Keystroke and Atomizer got up from the table, jostling each other as they moved to join another couple of mechs, presumably for the wild orgy they intended to have. In their absence, Skids slid closer to Getaway, a small frown on his lips.

“You okay?”

Getaway flashed calm into his field. “Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked, and took a sip of his engex through the intake valve, something no spike would ever enter again. It wasn’t like Skids could remember why he’d be uncomfortable anyway.

Or that Getaway had confessed to him once, months after the mission, that he still felt Lore inside him sometimes, turning pain to pleasure, making him aroused when he was afraid, and he loathed it so much. Like an itch he couldn’t scratch, an infection he couldn’t cure.

“Everything’s just fine,” Getaway lied.

It was getting easier every day.

[G1] Behind the Scenes 09

They quickly learned that playing cards with Prowl was not fun. It wasn’t that he tried to cheat, it was that he did the math in his head before he consciously made the decision to do so, and then the answers were there, right in front of him, impossible to resist.

Card games and anything like them were quickly handed over to others to enjoy. Smokescreen was particularly fond of Phase 10. It made for a rousing betting game apparently.

Which left board games. Things that didn’t rely on math, but absolute luck and nothing less. Prowl was less good at lucky games. Which meant he didn’t win one-hundred percent of the time.

Tonight’s choice was Monopoly – scaled up for Cybertronians and a gift from their human companions, who had been quite proud to present the game to the Autobots as a whole. Hoist and Grapple were quick to duplicate the efforts once the squabbling over whose turn it was began, and now there were enough sets to share.

(They also quickly learned that Scrabble was not a fun game to play with Prowl either. While none of them were idiots, Prowl’s ability to absorb and regurgitate ridiculously complicated words was, to be frank, unfair. Again, he didn’t cheat, and they never had to quibble over whether that ridiculous word made of all consonants was actually a word, – because it always was. It was simply Prowl’s way.)

Monopoly was an easy game that required little to no concentration. Which was a good thing, because Bluestreak couldn’t focus on it to save his spark. He was vaguely aware that he had all of the horses – altmodes to be more specific. And he knew Ironhide’s side of the board was a treacherous place to be.

But most of his attention was on Prowl. Stolen glances and outright staring because Prowl was putting on a show, subtle as it might be, and Bluestreak’s libido had stood up to take notice.

Ratchet leaned back, smirking, seemingly heedless of the suffering of his mate. But Bluestreak knew that Ratchet was paying twice as much attention as anyone else. He caught every ventilation stutter, hitched breath, plate tremble, and barely audible moan.

Ratchet was a maestro.

Bluestreak admired him greatly.

“Prowl,” Ratchet said as he scooped up the dice and gave them a roll, “Drink your energon.”

“Yes, Ratchet.” Prowl’s hand visibly trembled as he reached for the weak engex, not enough to overcharge, but just enough to pool in his tanks, warm and fizzy.

Prowl sipped, intake bobbing. A tremor raced across his frame. He squirmed in his seat, and if one listened closely, they could hear the telltale hum and whirr of vibrators working their magic.

Prowl’s cooling fans whirred quietly. Heat wafted from his frame, and his field was drenched in lust. He’d long foregone containing it, and with every beat of it, Bluestreak’s own internals tightened and tightened.

“Seven!” Ratchet declared and the click-click-click of him moving his miniature wrench was barely audible over Prowl’s fans. “Well, frag it. Why do I always end up in the brig?”

“Because you’re a nuisance and a menace?” Ironhide teased with a rumbling laugh. He snatched the dice from Ratchet, but his gaze kept slanting toward Prowl. “Keeping you in the brig is the only way to keep ya outta trouble.”

Ratchet snorted. “You’re such a charmer, Ironhide.” He planted his elbow on the table, propping his chin on his hand. “Are you going to roll anytime soon?”

“I’m getting to it. Hold yer horses.” The dice clattered across the table.

Bluestreak ignored them. He was too busy watching Prowl as he took another sip of the engex before setting it down with uneasy fingers. Prowl’s intake worked, his doorwings shivering. He fidgeted in his chair, his cheeks flushed. He shuffled the cards indicating the property he’d purchased. He nibbled on his bottom lip. His gaze wandered to Ratchet, bright and yearning. A shiver ran across his armor.

Bluestreak startled as something nudged against his arm.

“Here kid, your turn,” Ironhide said, smirking as he handed over the dice.

“Oh, really?” Bluestreak made himself peer at the board, but Ironhide’s little matrix replica was nowhere near Bluestreak’s properties. “You’re always so lucky, ‘Hide. How do you manage to avoid every owned property every time?”

Ironhide laughed and wriggled his fingers. “I’ve got charmed hands.”

Ratchet snorted.

Prowl moaned.

Bluestreak’s doorwings went high and taut, arousal spinning tight in his belly. He and Ironhide both snapped their attention to Prowl, who was listing in his seat, lips parted, optics a little glazed. He had his hands braced on the table, and his headlights were faintly flickering.

Ratchet, the devil, grinned and leaned in close to his mate. “Everything all right, love?” he all but cooed, hand easing over to slide down Prowl’s arm and tickle over his wrist.

Prowl cycled his optics and drew in a long, shuddery ventilation. “I’m… well,” he managed, after a noticeable pause, and fidgeted in his chair once more.

“You’re sure?” Ratchet squeezed Prowl’s hand and then leaned back, his hand disappearing below the table, presumably to rest on Prowl’s thigh.

Prowl visibly swallowed. “Yes, Ratchet.” His glossa swept over his lips and his armor juttered, lifting away from his substructure. He leaned in closer to Ratchet, hands still flat on the table.

“So long as you’re sure,” Ratchet purred and shifted his attention to Bluestreak. “Well, you gonna roll or not?”

As if he could concentrate on the game right now.

Next to Bluestreak, Ironhide snickered. “You a little distracted, Baby Blue?”

Bluestreak rolled his optics. “It’s not like I’m the only one.” But he rolled a three and moved his miniature tank – not the sniper gun this time, hah! – to the free space. “And my good luck prevails!”

Utter glee filled him as he scooped up the central pot and added it to his funds. Ironhide groaned. Ratchet snickered.

“That’s the only luck you ever have, Blue. You always land there, right after I’ve paid taxes three times over,” Ratchet said, one hand still hidden beneath the table.

Prowl made a muffled noise. His fingers curled against the tabletop.

“I am never goin’ ta win,” Ironhide groaned.

Bluestreak grinned. “There are different kinds of winning,” he said with a smirk and a long, slow pan down Ironhide’s frame. Then he turned his attention to Prowl, holding out the dice. “Your turn.”

Prowl looked at him, shaky, his optics bright and burning. “T-thank you, Bluestreak,” he said, and accepted the dice. He licked his lips, and he rolled.

Two. Doubles. Click-click went the tiny datapad across the board, wherein Prowl landed upon one of his own properties. Ratchet scooped up the dice with his free hand and dropped them into Prowl’s palm with a wink.

“Roll again, love,” he said. “And drink your energon.”

Prowl’s intake visibly bobbed. “Yes, Ratchet,” he said, vocals husky, another ripple dancing over his armor, his doorwings wriggling.

He rolled again, sliding into Ironhide’s danger zone, and forked over rent to the grinning weapon’s master. He drank his energon, and squirmed in his chair, a hot and heavy ex-vent making his optics glaze over.

Primus.

Bluestreak’s internals wound tighter and tighter. “So,” he said, and had to reboot his vocalizer because it spat static at him. “So, uh, what kind of accessories do you have today, Prowl?”

Prowl’s optics lifted toward him, a little focused. “A-accessories?”

Ratchet laughed and leaned back, the twitch of his shoulder suggesting his hand was doing something untoward to Prowl beneath the table. Bluestreak wished he could see, though Prowl’s reactions were fuel for the imagination.

“How did I dress you up today, love?” Ratchet clarified with a wink. He did something and a low moan escaped Prowl, his chin drifting downward. “Go on. Tell our guests what gifts I gave you.”

Pink stained Prowl’s cheeks. He visibly squirmed. His gaze slanted toward Ratchet, but Ratchet only nodded and waved for him to continue.

The order was given.

Bluestreak watched, enraptured.

Prowl cycled a ventilation and affected the most no-nonsense tone Bluestreak had ever heard. “There is a plug in my port,” he said, voice unwavering. “And a false spike in my valve. There is also a plug in my spike housing, which vibrates on command.”

Stuffed full then. Primus.

Bluestreak licked his lips. “Your spike housing,” he repeated, and tried to imagine it, his own hips squirming at the thought.

Prowl nodded. “Yes. The sensation is quite pleasant.”

Ratchet snorted. “Pleasant,” he echoed and his smirk widened to a ridiculous degree. “Prowl, you are adorable. Please don’t ever change.” He leaned over and plucked the dice from Prowl’s hand. “My turn!”

He rolled with an almost absurd glee, humming a little subvocally, one of the humans’ popular songs that Jazz liked to blast at full volume as he bebopped down the corridors.

“No doubles,” Ratchet observed with a theatrical sigh. “Drat. Guess I’m stuck in the brig still.” He leaned in close to Prowl, lips brushing over his partner’s shoulder. “Unless I can get out on good behavior?”

Prowl visibly shivered, his field going flush with heat. His doorwings shivered as he shuffled his cards again, an act that betrayed his aroused agitation.

Ironhide snorted. “Frag that. You stay where you belong, medic.”

Ratchet laughed and nuzzled Prowl’s shoulder again. “You’re such a stickler for the rules, Ironhide,” he said, but his gaze was on Prowl alone, something sharp and devilish in his gaze.

Whatever he did beneath the table, that Bluestreak couldn’t see, must have been good, because Prowl jerked. His ventilations caught, and his armor visibly ruffled. The property cards fluttered to the table as he abruptly gripped the edge. A low whine built in Prowl’s throat, audible to them all. He looked at Ratchet, casting him a glance full of longing.

“Ratchet,” he said, drawing out the syllables, a yearning in his tone.

A smile slowly stretching his lips, Ratchet bent his full attention upon his trembling mate. “Yes, love?” Their faces were inches apart as Ratchet looked up at him.

Prowl’s intake bobbed. His wings trembled. “Please.”

“All you had to do was ask,” Ratchet purred and he crooked a finger from his free hand at Prowl. “Come here, love. Allow me to help you with that.”

The chair groaned as it was shoved backward. Prowl all but lurched out of it, and tumbled into Ratchet’s embrace, for a moment allowing them a glimpse of the lubricant glistening on his thighs, despite his closed panels. Prowl made as if to sit in Ratchet’s lap, but Ratchet guided him otherwise, until he straddled one of Ratchet’s thighs, his own clamped tightly about it.

Prowl shivered, his hands pawing at mid-air before Ratchet took them and placed them on Prowl’s thighs. He curled an arm around Prowl’s waist, tugged him closer, and left it there, keeping Prowl close.

“There,” Ratchet said, as if he’d accomplished some great task. “Now, Ironhide, isn’t it your turn?”

“Uh…” Ironhide’s gaze was locked on Prowl’s squirming frame and shivering doorwings.

Bluestreak couldn’t blame him. Prowl made quite the fetching picture, trapped on the edge as he had to be. All Bluestreak could see was his back, his doorwings, the curve of his aft, and the subtle shifting of his hips, as he rocked himself on Ratchet’s thighs.

“What’s a matter?” Ratchet smirked. “Tactician got your tongue?”

Ironhide grunted at him, but made no attempt to hide how avidly he watched Prowl. “You know damn well yer puttin’ on a show, Ratch. What else am I supposed to do but watch?”

“Actually, to be fair, Prowl’s the one doing all the hard work,” Bluestreak pointed out, as Prowl’s rocking motions increased in urgency, and the wet slide of metal on metal became more audible.

Prowl’s hands lifted again, hanging in the air, as though he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with them. Ratchet’s free hand tapped them, and Prowl lowered them again, resting on his knees.

“I could use a little recognition, too,” Ratchet said as Ironhide finally snatched the dice and hastily rolled them, sloppy as he moved his piece onto one of his own properties, narrowly avoiding a Chance card. “This is all my plotting, after all.”

Ironhide tumbled the dice into Bluestreak’s hands. “Give me a reason to bend Blue here over the table, and I’ll applaud for you all ya want.”

“Hey! Who says I’m the one who’s gonna be bent over?” Bluestreak retorted, though his engine gave a little rev at the thought. It wouldn’t happen, at least not here in Ratchet and Prowl’s quarters. But later maybe?

Yes, he wouldn’t mind at all if Ironhide bent him over the nearest flat surface and fragged him silly. Ironhide’s big, strong hands on his hips, holding him down, pounding into him, fragging him nice and deep, grinding on his ceiling node…

Bluestreak shivered. No, he wouldn’t mind at all. He just resented the implication, no matter how slight, that it was what he wanted by default.

“Because I said so,” Ironhide said.

Bluestreak rolled his optics and rolled the dice, too, letting them clatter across the board. He passed over Go, collected his creds, and settled in for a nice wait on the Crystal Gardens, hoping a very blissed out Prowl wouldn’t notice that Bluestreak was occupying his property.

He didn’t. All Prowl did was shudder, hips moving more urgently, the rasp-slide of metal on metal barely audible over their conversation. But Bluestreak could lean a little to his left, look under the table, and see the lubricant glistening on Ratchet’s thigh. Prowl’s fingers kneaded at his own knees, his engine revving in rolling growls. Ratchet kept a hand on Prowl’s backstrut, just below his doorwing mounts, and seemed to be ignoring Prowl’s current state for all the attention he paid to it.

Restraint of duryllium, that one had.

“It’s okay, Bluestreak,” Ratchet said graciously and with a wink at Ironhide. “We’ll figure out how to get old Ironhide here on his knees soon enough.”

“Pah, I ain’t one of yer toys.” Ironhide gave Bluestreak a calculating look. “Though mebbe we do need ta find ya one of yer own.”

Bluestreak waved dismissively. “Isn’t it Prowl’s turn?” he asked, desperate to change the subject. The last thing he needed was to ignite a gleam of matchmaking in Ironhide.

Ratchet snickered. “Well, love, it is your turn.” He scooped up the dice and offered them to Prowl. “Don’t you want to roll?”

Doorwings shivered. A low whine rose in Prowl’s intake. “I… I forfeit,” he said, vocals ripe with static.

It was so much easier to win against Prowl when Ratchet was there to bend the luck in their favor.

“Very well,” Ratchet said. “Though I suppose that means all of your properties are now mine. Being as you are, too.”

Prowl groaned and his head dipped forward, his vents coming in a sharp burst.

“That is not fair,” Ironhide grunted.

“We’re getting a free show out of it. Hush,” Bluestreak retorted and ducked the teasing swat Ironhide sent his way, though he left his doorwings in range on purpose, as Ironhide grabbed the edge of one and dragged his fingers along the length.

Heat and charge licked up Bluestreak’s backstrut. He swallowed down a moan. Maybe he really would get Ironhide to bend him over a table after this…

Ratchet grinned. “Nothing in life is fair,” he said as he rolled the dice and watched them clatter across the gameboard.

Doubles! At last he was free from the brig, only to land on the unclaimed Tagan Heights.

Prowl, meanwhile, trembled harder and his field flashed through the room, carrying with it the heat of need. Bluestreak shivered again, and inspiration struck.

“Ratchet?”

“Yes?” the medic asked, oh so innocent as he contemplated his game piece as though it held the secret to chronic rust.

Bluestreak licked his lips. “Any chance we might see your pretty’s accessories tonight?”

Ratchet nodded to himself. “No, I don’t think I’ll buy Tagan Heights this time around,” he said, before he looked up at Bluestreak and grinned. “And of course! Why, all you had to do was ask, Baby Blue.”

He groaned. “I hate that nickname, you know.”

“No, ya don’t.” Ironhide laughed and nudged Bluestreak with his shoulder. “Ya love how much it confuses mechs cause they expect one thing and experience an entirely different thing.”

Well, Ironhide had him there.

Meanwhile, Ratchet had taken Prowl’s chin in hand, tugging Prowl’s face up toward his, a soft moan leaving Prowl’s lips. His optics were dim, this much Bluestreak could see, and there was something unfocused in his expression.

“Well, love, up for a little show and tell?” Ratchet asked, his tone dark and sultry as he stroked his lover’s face.

Prowl leaned in to the caress, another moan slipping free. “Yes, Ratchet,” he said, vocals shaky, his doorwings shivering and drooping, though not with discomfort. It seemed he just didn’t have the strength to keep them up in their usual high and severe configuration.

“Such a lovely mate you are,” Ratchet cooed and leaned in, brushing his lips over Prowl’s in the softest of kisses, and brief at that. When he leaned back, Prowl followed after him, a whimper of disappointment in his wake.

Bluestreak almost echoed him. There was something wholly intoxicating about the sight of Prowl like this, open and wanting, uninhibited, his entire focus on the pleasure Ratchet offered him, rather then the dregs and vagaries of war.

“Up you get, love,” Ratchet added with a pat to Prowl’s aft before he eyed the table intently. “Bluestreak. Ironhide. Mind clearing us a spot on the table?”

They sprang into action, and Bluestreak giggled, because the rate at which they swept the game’s pieces into the board was utterly ridiculous and made quite the mess. One that would make Prowl frown and twitch over later. Who won? No one won. No one ever won. It was impossible to play a game of Monopoly and actually have a winner.

Ratchet chuckled. “Much appreciated,” he said, he and Prowl both on their feet now, though Ratchet guided Prowl backward toward the table, pushing him onto it with a little nudge.

Prowl hefted his aft on the edge and lay back, flicking his doorwings to lay flat beneath him. His knees still hung over the edge, and they slid apart with a nudge from Ratchet, who dropped back into his chair and scooted between them, now at the perfect height to nuzzle Prowl’s panels with a cheek.

“Mm, my favorite meal,” Ratchet purred as he dragged his fingertips over each of Prowl’s panels – spike, valve, and port – making Prowl shiver and his hands curl into fists. His hands smoothed down Prowl’s thighs and curled around his knees, pushing them further open.

Bluestreak eased around the table, if only to get a better look, and didn’t fail to notice Ironhide mimicking him, only on the other side.

“Ratchet,” Prowl moaned, his fingers scraping at the table, but other than that, he didn’t try to touch himself, though his hips surged toward Ratchet’s fingers.

Ratchet chuckled. “Yes, I know, love.” He looked up at Bluestreak, his fingers circling Prowl’s spike panel. “Open for me.”

Prowl’s panel spiraled open so fast, Bluestreak worried Ratchet’s fingers lost a few paint layers. And rather than see the head of Prowl’s spike, Bluestreak spotted the blunt end of some kind of interfacing toy, in a very bright blue, and glittery to boot. It was vibrating, that much Bluestreak could tell, and fluid seeped out from around it – lubricant or pre-transfluid, Bluestreak wasn’t sure.

Ironhide made a strangled sound, and Bluestreak didn’t know if it was awe or trepidation, as if he couldn’t fathom one such plug himself. But Bluestreak certainly could. His own spike throbbed at the thought, of both experiencing it for himself, and playing with his own pretty in such a way. Should he ever find one, at any rate.

Ratchet lifted a single finger and pressed it to the visible end of the blue object. He exerted a light pressure, and Prowl moaned, his backstrut arching off the table, his hips squirming. Lubricant seeped around it in an audible squelch.

“This,” Ratchet said, conversationally, “is the spike housing plug. It’s been custom-made for Prowl, to be half the length of his spike and the same diameter when pressurized.” He looked at Bluestreak, his tone taking on one of teaching. “All spike plugs should be custom-made unless your pretty is a masochist who doesn’t mind a painful fit.”

Bluestreak swallowed thickly. “Noted,” he said, ventilations shallow and uneven.

“Primus, Ratch. Please tell me yer not gonna drag this out with lessons,” Ironhide groaned.

Ratchet chuckled and nudged the spike plug again, making Prowl twitch, his hands creaking as they pulled into fists. “Not entirely, Ironhide.” The flat of his thumb pressed against the spikeplug, and he moved it in tiny circles.

Prowl’s pedes made shallow kicks, his head tossing back, optics tightly shuttered. A whine eeked out of his intake, bottom lip tucked between his denta, as a burst of hot venting filled the room.

Bluestreak licked his lips, arousal building to a dull, heavy throb in his array. He squirmed where he stood, shoving his hands behind his back to keep from touching.

Ratchet circled the spike plug one more time before he lifted his thumb, and the plug bobbed upward just enough he could grasp the end of it. As he pulled it free, pre-fluid trickled in its wake, and the head of Prowl’s spike surged into view. Prowl groaned, low and deep, his spike pressurizing so quickly it had to be painful.

He had a nice spike, Bluestreak observed, trying to focus on anything but the need pulsing in his field. Full and thick, glistening with pre-fluid, Prowl’s spike was a gradient of black to grey to white, and thin stripes of red came to a star-like point around the transfluid slit. Said opening was currently dribbling with fluid.

Ratchet set the plug aside with one hand, as he drummed the fingers of his other hand over Prowl’s valve closed panel. “Open.”

Obedience was immediate. Prowl trembled as his cover spiraled open, and lubricant spilled out, filling the room with the scent of his arousal. His anterior and posterior nodes were both plump and bright. In the shadows of his swollen valve lips was another object, much larger than the spike cap, with a small knob on the end as if to make it easier for Ratchet to remove it. This one was a bright yellow.

“This one needs no explanation,” Ratchet said with a grin before he leaned in, pressing a kiss to Prowl’s upper sensory cluster. He flicked out his glossa over it, and Prowl whined, knees pushing further apart until they could go no further. His hips rolled up, toward Ratchet’s mouth, only for Ratchet to withdraw again, his lips shiny with Prowl’s lubricant.

Ratchet grasped the end of the toy and began to pull out slowly, achingly slowly, and all of Prowl went tense as he did so. A low sound rose in Prowl’s chassis, like a keen, and he abruptly hugged himself as he squirmed.

The toy began to emerge, still bright yellow, and Bluestreak’s ventilations caught as he spotted the numerous ridges embedded into its surface. At the rate Ratchet was going, each one had to be catching Prowl’s internal nodes, one by one, and making them sing.

Ironhide swore subvocally, his field spilling into the room with lust, making Bluestreak’s sensory panels and substructure tingle. When Bluestreak looked up at him, his optics were burning with it, and Bluestreak shivered.

Fine.

Assumptions aside, Bluestreak would let himself be bent over a table later. Because a desperately aroused Ironhide always meant for a ride that promised Bluestreak more overloads than he could count, until he had an ache that he could savor for a week.

Licking his lips, Bluestreak watched Ratchet once more, just in time to see the obscenely long toy pull free with an audible pop. Prowl moaned and his valve fluttered, lubricant spilling out in the wake of the toy and his biolights pulsing fitfully.

Ratchet set the toy aside, where it left a smear of lubricant on the table, as his free hand traced circles around Prowl’s valve rim, gathering up pearls of fluid. His engine grumbled and he leaned in, pressing a kiss to Prowl’s main node.

Prowl’s trembling increased in earnest, his engine making these low, mournful revs. His armor creaked where he held himself, and his field lashed out with so much lust and arousal, it was dizzying. Especially when Ratchet didn’t stop at the gentle kiss. When he made a hungry sound and licked a long line up Prowl’s valve before licking him deep, licking him like he was the tastiest treat around.

Bluestreak ached. His entire array throbbed. His spike demanded release. His valve pulsed longingly, and he could feel the wet gathering behind his panel. This was almost torture, damn it.

Ratchet made a sound, one of enjoyment, and pressed a suckling kiss to Prowl’s main node cluster once more before he pulled back.

“Sometimes, I just can’t help myself,” he said, a thumb sweeping around Prowl’s valve rim. “But I suppose I need some restraint. You don’t want to miss the rest of the show.”

Bluestreak worked his intake. “No, we wouldn’t want that,” he said, and maybe his voice sounded a bit faint, but damn it, he couldn’t tell whose cooling fans were louder at this point: his, Ironhide’s or Prowl’s.

Ratchet was a master of suspense, at keeping everyone on the edge, and though neither Ironhide nor Bluestreak were his pets, he still managed to effectively have control of them.

Bluestreak was in awe of him.

“One more, love,” Ratchet said as he stroked his fingers over the panel protecting Prowl’s port. “Open for us.”

Prowl was ever so obedient. The panel snicked aside, revealing the end of a bright green toy, more of a plug than a false spike, however. Ports were shallower than valves.

Bluestreak might have leaned a little closer as Ratchet nudged the plug and wiggled the end of it, making Prowl gasp and jerk.

“Ratchet,” he moaned, closer to a whine, the need in his voice making Bluestreak’s substructure prickle, and he had to stop himself from reaching over and offering Prowl some relief.

“I know,” Ratchet replied, and this time it was closer to a croon, as one hand stroked Prowl’s thigh and the other toyed with the end of the plug. “You’re doing so well. I’m so proud of you. Just a little bit longer, and you can have your reward.”

Prowl keened.

Ironhide blasted a ventilation so loud it almost made Bluestreak startle.

It was a toss up, at this point, who was going to blow a gasket first.

“If ya don’t give him a reward, I will,” Ironhide teased, though he’d been a part of their games far too long to actually do such a thing.

Ratchet snorted. “He doesn’t need your rough pawing, ‘Hide.” He tilted his head and gave Bluestreak a wink. “Though I might be convinced to let Baby Blue over here love on him a bit.”

Bluestreak groaned. “Stop teasing, Ratch. Or you’ll have to replace burnt chips from all of us tomorrow.”

“And I wouldn’t want to do that.” Ratchet smirked and nuzzled Prowl’s inner thigh. He grasped the end of the plug and gave it a wiggle. “For future reference, Blue, port plugs are the best accessory for long term wear. Especially since they are well suited for all kinds of remote play.”

Remote. Play.

Bluestreak shivered. Yes, the idea of teasing his pretty from across the room, in public, with no one else the wiser appealed to him very, very much.

“Good to know,” he said, even as Ratchet finally took mercy on all of them and started to work the plug free.

Shallow a port might be, but it was capable of accepting items of greater… girth. The plug that Ratchet worked loose made Bluestreak’s internals tighten with lust. It was thick and fat, with a sensory spiral around the circumference of it. The rim of Prowl’s port stretched to accommodate it, shiny with lubricant, and seemed to cling to the plug until it, too, audibly popped free.

Prowl’s port rim fluttered. Biolights flickered madly, lighting up the shadows of his port interior. The plug was discarded as Ratchet’s free hand teased the rim, one finger slipping inside to curl and massage clusters of sensory nodes.

Prowl whined. His backstrut arched, thighs trembling, charge lighting up the room as it spilled out from under his armor. So much heat wafted from his frame that he felt like a furnace, and Bluestreak almost choked on the need in his field.

“So good, love,” Ratchet purred and leaned close to Prowl’s array, his lips barely brushing over his port, his valve, the base of his spike and back down again. “I think you’ve earned a reward. Don’t you, Blue? ‘Hide? Has my love earned a reward?”

“Yes,” Bluestreak said.

“’Course he does,” Ironhide added.

“Well,” Ratchet purred. “The guests have spoken.” He stroked a free hand along Prowl’s inner thighs. “Tell me, love. What would you like as your reward then? Which of these shall I enjoy?” He traced a loving path down Prowl’s spike, down the length of his valve teasing each node cluster along the way, and around the rim of his port.

Prowl trembled so hard that his armor clattered. “W-whatever you wish to reward me with, Ratchet,” he said, vocals liberally laced with static.

Ratchet hummed a laugh. “Good answer,” he purred and leaned in close, ex-venting heat over Prowl’s valve. “I think I shall enjoy all three.”

Oh, Primus.

Bluestreak locked his knees just to keep himself from falling when they turned to jelly. The deviousness in Ratchet’s optics, his smirk, made him wobble. He was captivated, vent-less, as Ratchet followed through on his promise.

Fingers curled around Prowl’s spike, giving him a stroking squeeze, even as Ratchet’s mouth descended on Prowl’s valve, and his other hand slid three fingers knuckles deep into Prowl’s port.

The response was electric.

Prowl’s head tossed back, his entire frame thrashing in a sharp jerk. His knees snapped against the table edge, pedes swinging back to curl under. His backstrut bowed, his engine roared, and the sound that tore from his intake was nothing short of a wail. He thrust down against Ratchet as charge lit up across his frame in a dazzling crackle of blue fire, overload nearly immediate once offered permission.

Bluestreak groaned and gnawed on his lip, hands squeezed into such tight fists they ached, himself refusing the pings his array sent again and again. He was breathless, hovering on the cusp of his own pleasure, unable to tear his gaze away from the sight of Prowl writhing in the grip of a triple overload.

His spike spurted, long stripes of transfluid decorating his belly, his arms, his chassis, and then trickling down to soak Ratchet’s fingers, a few droplets even splattering Ratchet’s helm. What Bluestreak could see of his valve and port had both clamping down, his port tight on Ratchet’s fingers, his valve fluttering and his swollen anterior node throbbed in the grip of Ratchet’s lips.

All while Ratchet worked him gently, long licks and laps and gentle thrusts and squeezes, extending the pleasure as long as possible. Prowl shuddered and shook, frame a wave of motion on top of the table, his sensory panels twitching hard beneath him.

Bluestreak swayed, dizzy from it all, and didn’t even startle when a hand gripped him by the upper arm. He had a moment, blearily wondering how Ratchet had a hand to spare, until he realized it was Ironhide. He’d somehow come around the table without Bluestreak noticing him, and now he pressed against Bluestreak from behind, hot and heavy and ex-venting scorching air down the back of Bluestreak’s neck.

He moaned and lolled in Ironhide’s grip, stumbling backward, his array aching. Sheer self control kept him from extending himself, but Bluestreak swore his entire frame throbbed with the need to release.

Ironhide tugged, and Bluestreak followed, wondering how in the Pit he could manage to be so coherent. Vision hazy with need, clouded by the suffocating lust, caught Ratchet standing up to gather Prowl into his arms and kiss him deeply, Prowl’s arms and legs instantly clamping around his mate. Little rolls of Ratchet’s hips indicated he was slowly, lovingly fragging Prowl, and somewhere in the buzz of staticky need that filled Bluestreak’s sensors, he heard Prowl whimpering quietly.

Bluestreak moaned and stumbled, finding it all too easy to imagine taking his own pretty to the limit and pushing him farther, building his pleasure to great heights and letting him float in the clouds of ecstasy.

Ironhide tugged him through a door, and Bluestreak expected to be blinded by the bright lights of the exterior corridor. But, no. Here it was dim, barely lit except for a few strips set into the floor, until Ironhide smacked a wall panel.

Here came the blindness, which was nearly enough to distract Bluestreak from the fact they were in a washrack. A private one. Prowl and Ratchet’s washrack.

“What? Wait. We’re not supposed to–”

Ironhide swung him around, and Bluestreak hit the wall just as Ironhide dropped down in front of him and licked a hot stripe up his panel. Bluestreak jabbed a fist into his mouth to muffle his moan even as his panels sprung open, his spike tapping Ironhide on the cheek.

“It’s fine,” Ironhide said as he grasped Bluestreak’s hips. “I asked.” And then he didn’t say anything else because he was too busy swallowing Bluestreak’s spike in one fell swoop, down to the base, the head of it nudging the back of his intake.

Bluestreak whined around his knuckles, his optics flickering as his head slammed back against the wall. His knees trembled, and he thanked Primus for Ironhide’s grip, because surely he would have dropped without it.

Ironhide was relentless, lips and denta and glossa working in concert, swallowing him harsh and deep, sucking like he wanted to pull the overload right out of Bluestreak. Which was good because that was exactly what he did.

Bluestreak gasped, struggling to ventilatte, engine screeching as he bucked. His free hand formed a fist, one that pounded against the wall behind him as he jerked. He overloaded, spilling straight down Ironhide’s intake, his array throbbing and volcanic heat sluicing through his lines.

Ironhide swallowed everything he had to offer before he shoved himself to his pedes and easily hoisted Bluestreak up the length of the wall, until his spike nudged at Bluestreak’s valve in a thick and heavy weight.

“It’s not a table,” he said, vocals dark and just shy of a growl, the blaze of his optics betraying his need.

Bluestreak panted and clamped his thighs tight around Ironhide’s hips, his pedes drumming the back of Ironhide’s thighs. “I don’t care. I swear to Primus if you don’t frag me right now I’m going to shove you down and take care of it myself, see if I don’t!” He rolled his hips, lubricant leaving a wet swath, and moaned as the head of Ironhide’s spike nudged his rim.

A snarl peeled from Ironhide’s intake as he claimed Bluestreak’s mouth in a kiss, his hips snapping forward to sink deep inside Bluestreak in one heavy push. Bluestreak keened against Ironhide’s lips, backstrut arching, his hands gripping Ironhide’s arms as the older mech began to frag him in earnest.

Metal clanged against metal. Bluestreak moaned as Ironhide’s spike raked over his sensor nodes, pounding them with pleasure, surging the arousal back to roaring life. He rolled his hips to match Ironhide’s thrusts, manipulated his calipers to squeeze and ripple around the rock-hard heat of Ironhide’s spike, and gave as good as he got. He buried his cries in the kiss, and nipped at Ironhide’s lips, and spun out his field, wrapping it around Ironhide’s and tugging it into a spiral of lust.

Ironhide growled, all but slamming Bluestreak into the wall as he thrust hard and deep, pounding on Bluestreak’s ceiling node. His field was heavy and blistering, hungry and when he overloaded, he ground deep, spurting his transfluid in searing splashes deep into Bluestreak, triggering him into another overload of his own.

He was glad Ironhide’s mouth was there to drown out the noises he made, because what little escaped echoed in the washracks, as charge crackled fire through his lines and briefly made his vision fill with static. His cooling fans roared, his vents stuttered, and his hips pumped arrhythmically, extending the pleasure as Ironhide throbbed inside of him, grinding deep.

Primus.

Bluestreak moaned against Ironhide’s lips and sagged, his entire frame tingling as his valve rippled and clutched around Ironhide’s spike. His circuits still fairly buzzed with arousal, but at least the fog of need had cleared. He could think straight again.

He tipped his head back, panting, staring up at the obscenely bright lights of Ratchet and Prowl’s private washrack. It was just… really clean in here, too. Did they bleach the tiles or something?

Ironhide leaned his forehead on Bluestreak’s shoulder with a little raspy laugh. “Well,” he said. “Think yer under control enough now that we can take this somewhere I can’t feel Ratchet’s optics on the back of my head?”

Bluestreak snorted. “I dunno.” He squeezed his valve calipers, making them ripple around the mostly pressurized length still nestled snug within him. “Are you?”

Strong hands squeezed his hips. Ironhide laughed again. “You are a brat,” he said as he lifted his head. He slid free of Bluestreak’s valve and retracted his spike, though not without some effort Bluestreak was proud to notice.

“Better a brat than old,” Bluestreak teased as he triggered his valve panel to close, trapping lubricant and transfluid alike inside of him.

Well, he’d just have to make sure Ironhide cleaned up his mess, was all. Not here, because he was pretty sure Ratchet and Prowl were getting antsy. But definitely elsewhere.

“Can still frag ya against a wall though,” Ironhide said with a leer.

Bluestreak licked his lips. “But only half finished the job.”

Ironhide laughed and shook his head. He snatched Bluestreak’s hand and tugged him to the door. “Allow me to fix that then,” he said as he palmed open the door and peered cautiously back into Ratchet and Prowl’s quarters.

Bluestreak poked his head out as well. Ratchet and Prowl were still at the table, Prowl seated on the edge with his legs wrapped around Ratchet’s waist, and Ratchet with his hands propped on the table to either side of Prowl’s hips. Prowl’s arms were over his shoulders and their foreheads pressed together. Ratchet was talking, Bluestreak could see that much, but it was so quietly that it registered as only a low murmur.

His spark gave a twinge.

Someday, he told himself. Someday, he’d have a partner like that, too.

Ironhide gave him a gentle pull toward the door, and Bluestreak let him take the lead, assuming that Ironhide was in some sort of comm contact with Ratchet. The door wasn’t locked, so they let themselves out, and it locked behind them.

“So,” Ironhide said as he squeezed Bluestreak’s arm before letting him go, “my place or yours?”

Bluestreak laughed and arched an orbital ridge. “Depends. Do you have a table?”

[IDW] Shake Before Using

Finding trouble on a planet that the entire galaxy considered ‘peaceful’ and ‘open to tourism’ was quite possibly Rodimus’ standard modus operandi.

Getaway tried not to hate him too much for it. Key word: tried.

However, when trouble inevitably found Rodimus and the small crew he’d allowed to accompany him on this trip, they’d found that fleeing was the better course of action. Apparently “massive metal-eating monster” was not enough to disqualify a planet from being considered peaceful.

Or maybe that was in spite of the monster. After all, no one really liked Cybertronians anymore. And who could blame them.

Getaway, in a stroke of genius, had decided whichever way Rodimus ran was not the direction he wanted to go. For surely Rodimus would only find the greater trouble, and Getaway’s plan was to avoid further potential death.

Rodimus and his merry band of idiots fled to the right, toward an open plain with nowhere to run or hide.

Getaway ducked into a nearby copse of forest, figuring he could hide among the towering trees and thick leaves until the metal-hungry beast got bored and wandered away. And/or, it would get stuck in the thick vegetation, leaving Getaway free to meander back to the Lost Light without so much as a scratch.

That was the plan anyway.

It worked to a certain extent. The metal-hungry beast and its rows upon rows of sharp teeth rumbled along after Rodimus and his half-dozen closest friends. Getaway was left to his own devices, crouched amid a swirling tangle of thick, leafy vines that seemed to run in all directions across the forest floor. They were a very pale, almost sickly green color, come to think of it.

Proud of himself, Getaway stood up, brushed off his armor, and prepared to make a slow, meandering path back toward the Lost Light. He could take his time, browse the sights even, without Rodimus around to invite trouble.

That was when something slithered around his right ankle strut. He paused, thinking he’d stepped into a coil of the vines, and looked down.

Too late.

The something tightened like a noose and jerked him upright, completely off his feet and straight into the air. Getaway shouted and flailed as he was hoisted from the ground, dangling headfirst above the forest floor.

What the frag?

He twisted his frame to see that a rather thick vine had wrapped around his ankle strut. It was somehow strong enough to hold his weight alone. Getaway kicked at it.

“Let me go!” he seethed. The vine shuddered.

No. Not just the vine. Everything around him rustled. Leaves rained down in loud flutters. There was a scraping, rustling noise.

Frag.

Getaway braced himself just as several more vines shot out of the morass, instantly encircling his other ankle, his wrists, his knees and his shoulders. They coiled around him, tight against his armor, and pulled his limbs out far and taut.

He tugged. He yanked. He thrashed and writhed, but the vines might as well have been made from titanium for all that they did not budge. They were the same shade of sickly green, and studded along the length with tiny, raised bumps, but they did not have leaves.

He should’ve grabbed his blaster when he had the chance. Prowl was going to give him a lecture for days. If he lived through this.

He tried to activate the hidden laser cutters in his wrists. No dice. The vines were wrapped around him far too tightly. The spring-loaded mechanisms couldn’t activate.
Double frag.

Getaway activated his comm. Nothing. Static. No one within range. So no immediate help. All he could do was activate his distress beacon and wait for the Lost Light to pick it up. Surely he could survive until then.

He hoped.

Something touched his abdomen.

Getaway’s gaze snapped upward. Another vine had emerged, this one lime green and bulbous at the tip. It pressed the squishy end of itself against a long drip of energon seeping out from beneath his substructure. Ah. He’d taken a pretty hard hit. Ruptured a few non-vital lines. He hadn’t been worried about it. Self-repair would get it really quick.

But the vine was interested in it. If Getaway had to guess, he’d almost say the vine was tasting it. Everywhere the bulbous tip touched, the energon disappeared, and the vine gave a shudder, leaves wrestling.

Another vine appeared, this one so dark green it was nearly black. It slithered over his frame, poking into every nook and cranny. It tried to squirm into armor seams, and poked into an exhaust pipe, as if exploring. As if looking for something.

Something it found.

The dark vine prodded at Getaway’s sealed interface array. Then it started to buzz. Loudly and quickly, sending vibrations over Getaway’s frame. The other vines around it rustled as if in excitement. There was a low groaning from somewhere deep in the shade.

Primus. Getaway had heard stories about things like this. Mostly from deeply hidden porn-vids or terrible smut datapads. He didn’t think stuff like this was real.

But given the way the vine was poking, poking, poking at his array, obviously it was. Frag it all to the Pit.

He had a choice now. He could wait and see if the vine could possibly bash through his panel, thereby denting it and requiring replacement. Or he could cut his losses and open his panel now.

Decisions, decisions.

The bulbous vine ground against his panel, pressing with more and more pressure. Not enough to cause warnings to crop up on his HUD, but enough that he was aware of it.

Another vine appeared in front of his head. He cycled his optics as he stared at it. This one was narrower than the rest, though the same pale yellow. It didn’t have any leaves on it either. The tip of it twitched in front of him and then moved closer.

Getaway leaned back. The vine followed him. It brushed over his cheeks, his forehead, his audials, and his facemask. It paused at his mouthguard and explored the seams, the edges, the tiny needle-like tip of it wriggling beneath the seam. There was intent in the exploration. Determination, too.

All of those old porno-vids and datapads came flooding back. Hah. Joke’s on the vine. Getaway’s mouthguard didn’t retract. It was built into his face.

Which, apparently, was not an insurmountable problem. Panic strobed into his spark as the vine wriggled and writhed its way under the lip of the mouthplate and into his seam, until it found the connector bolts. It circled the bolts, giving them a tap, and then twitched.

Three more vines appeared, slipping up and into Getaway’s mouthguard, finding the other three connector bolts. Oh, Primus. This was going to hurt.

He braced himself as they coiled around the bolts. They coiled tighter and tighter until, with a screech of metal and a pop, his mouthguard was torn from his face. Pain lanced through his lines and Getaway twitched in the grasp of the vines, gasping for a steady ventilation.

Well, they weren’t to be deterred. And stronger than they looked.

Still reeling, Getaway sent the command to retract his array panel. He didn’t want to lose it, too. He didn’t even know where his mouthguard had gone. It was drawn down toward the nest of vines beneath him, where it vanished somewhere in the dark.

Air wisped across his intake port. His now bare components felt cold and exposed. Vulnerable. This was not a position Getaway often found himself in. He didn’t like it.

He cast his gaze back up the length of his body, intakes hitching as the vine exploring his array found his valve and immediately rubbed against it. Slick, but firm, it ground over his rim and his exterior nodes, sending little jolts of pleasure through his array. Heat started to pulse there, and Getaway shivered.

This, at least, was expected. At least he’d get some pleasure out of the indignity. He only hoped pain wouldn’t follow.

That was when another vine, much thicker than the one before it and a pale blue-green, slithered in front of his face. It was easily the same width as the one exploring his valve, and it wriggled straight toward his intake. It seemed to glisten as though it was covered in slime or something, and the tip of it looked almost like a nozzle.

Great.

The vine did not hesitate. It pushed the tip into his intake port and slithered further down. His pressure sensors registered the weight of it, the heat of it, and the sour-sweet taste of whatever fluid coated it. Some kind of lubrication, which enabled it to slide into his mouth and down his intake.

Getaway’s purging reflexes tried to engage, but he shut them down. He doubted it would do any good with the vine shoved in his mouth.

That was when it started to pump. In and out, very slowly, and something squirted from the tip. It trickled down his intake, thick and viscous, seeping toward his tank. Internal scanners pinged back a positive identification.

Energon.

The vine was feeding him energon. How the frag could it be feeding him energon? And such pure energon at that! It slithered into his tank and peppered him with energy, even as more of the lubricating slime coated his mouth, his glossa, and trickled down his intake. This was identified as organic, but no other information was available.

Was it starting to get hot in here?

Getaway checked his internal temperature readout. Thirty percent higher than standard. Double frag.

He grunted as the vine exploring his valve abruptly slithered into him, coated in the same gooey substance as the one in his intake. It pushed forward steadily, wriggling past his calipers, and every node it touched sent a fiery blaze of pleasure through his valve. His lines tingled.

The vines beneath him rustled.

Getaway looked down. Tension rippled through his frame, combating mildly with the pleasure the vines stirred within him.

More pale yellow vines shot out of the tangled morass. More than he could count. They surged toward his frame, wrapping around him, slithering over his armor. He made a muffled sound as they poked and prodded into every nook and cranny. As one nudged at his spike and wrapped around it. As another discovered his secondary port and invited itself inside, with pushing and wriggling and more of that slick goop.

Getaway groaned around the vine in his mouth. He tried to force it out with his glossa, but the damn thing was as firm as titanium, for all that it seemed organic in nature.
More heat peppered his frame, surging through his lines. Static crawled out from beneath his armor. The vine in his valve thrust further, the bulbous head of it grinding against his ceiling node and the port to his gestational tank.

It felt… well, it felt good, if he were being perfectly honest.

Getaway tried to relax, if only to try and prevent damage. Right now, his escape plan was a single word: survive. And his best chance of that was to not struggle and make the plant-creature-monster thing angry.

He had the feeling it could rip him into pieces with the barest amount of effort. Not good.

He moaned as another vine shoved into his valve, stretching him wide. His calipers clicked, spasming as they were forced open. His nodes spat charge that the vines couldn’t return, and all it did was cycle back. Like he were self-servicing with a false spike.

Tingles raced up his backstrut. His hips rocked, his frame shivering. Pleasure built and built inside of him, his nodes blazing with heat. His array was an inferno.

And he was full. So full. His tank read at ninety percent capacity now, and still the vine steadily pumped a slow trickle of energon into it. It rested in his mouth, seeping that odd fluid, until Getaway started to feel dizzy. His ventilations increased, cooling fans kicking on with a telling whirr.

The two vines in his valve pressed against the walls. They stopped thrusting and started shoving, pushing his calipers open and open, leaving space in the middle. But for what?
Getaway’s optics flickered. He worked his intake.

The nest of vines beneath him shuddered. They slithered aside, leaving room for a very thick, ridged vine to emerge. The end was bulbous, nearly twice the size of its circumference, and the tip of it had a star pattern as though it split open.

Getaway’s legs were pulled further open, to the limit of his flexibility. The vines in his valve quivered, seeping more and more of that goo. His ventilations stuttered, the heat in his frame quickly becoming an inferno, one that blazed higher as a smaller vine encircled his anterior node cluster and started rhythmically palpating it.

Oh, Primus.

He moaned around the vine in his mouth as the large vine headed directly for his valve and started to force its way inside. His calipers screeched a protest, his valve screamed capacity warnings at him, and his nodes flickered with a mix of pain-pleasure.

Getaway could track every inch as the thick vine shoved into him, as it raked over every node, every caliper, sending a ripple of pleasure through his array. It should have hurt, and it did, but more than that, it was a blinding ecstasy.

Getaway trembled. He thrashed in what little wriggle room he had, and when the massive bulb nudged against the apex of his valve, he overloaded. Charge erupted over his frame, ecstasy striking him from all directions, as the thick vine ground against ceiling node and gestational port alike.

It was enough, somehow. Getaway gasped as his frame throbbed with need. He clenched his fingers into fists as his gestational port spiraled open, allowing the massive bulb inside.

Traitorous frame!

He didn’t cycle down from the overload. Instead, his calipers fluttered hungrily. They grasped at the vines as best they could. His nodes spat charge. His hips wriggled in the confines of the vine, desperate for more sensation. His spark fluttered.

Another vine joined the one stuffed into his secondary port. They thrust in and out in alternating rhythms, raking over the sensitive nodes buried deep in his aft.

Another overload quickly rose in the wake of the first, leaving him gasping. Heat flowed over and into his frame, thick and syrupy. The vines rustled around him. The thick one in his valve wriggled into his gestational tank where it spat out some kind of viscous liquid. It was thick, heavy, warm.

Damn it felt good.

Getaway moaned again, his thoughts spinning.

His tank was at one-hundred percent energon capacity. The vine in his mouth stopped pumping energon into him, but it didn’t withdraw. Instead it lingered, thrusting so slowly in and out of his mouth that he barely registered the motion. His mouth interior tingled where the lubricating goo touched him.

He shivered.

And the massive vine started to writhe. The two smaller ones next to it started to undulate against it, as if palpating it.

Something bulged in the thick vine.

Getaway watched it travel the length of the vine. He tracked it as it it emerged from the nest beneath him, moved up the length of the thickest vine, and continued unerringly toward his valve. More came in its wake, several bulges perfectly spaced out.

Eggs, he figured distantly. Or something.

Ovipositor, he decided. That was what the big vine was.

It was pumping eggs into his gestational tank. Great. Just great.

The first of them met his valve rim and no resistance at all, thanks to the pull of the two assisting vines. He felt them as they slid up his valve channel, as they moved past each one of his caliper rings, as they notched up against his gestational port and struggled to fit through the narrower space.

It didn’t hurt. Pain didn’t exist anymore. It was just pleasure, waves after waves of it. Unnatural, was what it was. It shouldn’t feel this good. He should be more… outraged. Disgusted.

All he felt was pleasure. He started to crave more of it. He wanted to beg for it.
What in Primus’ name was in that goo?

Getaway’s head spun dizzily. Hanging upside down was not helping. Fluids dribbled out of the corners of his mouth where the vine still lingered in his intake. The egg pushed harder at his gestational port. The ovipositor wriggled, seeped out more of the weird fluid, until the egg popped inside.

He couldn’t feel it being deposited, but his sensors reported that there was now an unknown mass in his tank. Spherical, too.

A second egg arrived, slipping easier past his gestational port rim. As did the third. They came faster now, about the size of an energon goodie, one after another.

Mass registered in gestational tank, Getaway’s HUD helpfully informed him. Initializing gestational subroutine.

Oh. Oh, no. Frag, no.

Getaway groaned as another overload stripped him of rational thought. He sagged in the vines, feeling lubricant seeping out of his valve. It dripped down his chassis, staining his armor and his aft. Transfluid joined the mess as his spike was repeatedly massaged by the fine. It never seemed to depressurize.

This wasn’t normal.

But the juttering of his chestplates was the worst. As the subroutines started to send commands to the rest of his frame, his chassis responded. The protective armor over his chest started to twitch and slide, moving aside to reveal the supplementary prototanks usually hidden beneath. Right now, they were deflated and tucked safely into his chassis.

That didn’t last long.

Getaway panted as they started to swell, as energon diverted into them, filling the rubbery sacs with processed energon and activating the sensory nubs at the elongated tips. The vine in his mouth suddenly started pumping more energon down his intake again, as though it could sense his tanks were emptying toward the protosacs.

Which, by the way, responded to gravity like everything else and hung downward, his sensor-nubs pointing toward the vines like little arrows. Little arrows the vines were suddenly very interested in examining.

Thin, narrow vines encircled the energon-filled sacs. They wound about them again and again, a loose hold, until the pointed tips prodded at the sensory nubs. The points located the feeding channel and started poking at it.

Getaway shivered. Little bursts of pleasure radiated outward from every exploratory poke. His optics flickered as the ecstasy started to build within him again, not that it ever cycled down.

More eggs filled his gestational tank. They pumped into him steadily, jostling for space, bumping against the walls of the tank, and stirring the nodes in his valve as they passed through.

The vines in his aft squeezed and rippled, and he couldn’t see it, but he felt a third one start to nudge into his secondary port. It was thicker than the others, with a bulbous tip. Another ovipositor? He didn’t know. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t tell. Even his sensors were confused and on the fritz.

More charge crawled over his armor. His engine revved. The vines squeezed his supplementary tanks, and Getaway’s backstrut arched. He garbled a gasp around the vine in his mouth, pleasure like electric fire through his lines.

Another overload sent his thoughts into a spiral. There was too much sensation. Too much movement. He couldn’t track it all. Not the vines wriggling in his valve and depositing eggs, one after another. Not the vines in his secondary port, their multiple, tiny nubs rasping against the sensitive rim. Or the one in his mouth, trickling energon steadily into a tank that was diverting half of it to his supplement sacs. Or the one around his spike, milking him for transfluid, and the one pressing against his anterior node cluster, sending lances of fiery pleasure through his array.

Getaway moaned, his frame limp and pliant, for all that it was tense with the need to overload, the yearning for more pleasure. He couldn’t stop shaking, his frame twisting in all directions, toward every different source of pleasure.

He whined. He couldn’t help it. It hurt, and it felt good, and another overload sent his vents roaring and his cooling fans spinning so fast that they ached.

He lost track then. It all blended together. Overloads and vines and the sweet pressure in his valve and port and around his sacs. Tiny vines tugged on his feeding nubs, sending jagged lines of need through his frame.

Everything at once hurt and felt good. He was hot and swollen, aching and needy. His fans spun, and his vents sputtered, and he could feel his plating expanding, plates drawing apart, protoform stretched to its max capacity. Eggs jostled for space in his gestational tank, forcing it to enlarge and shifting internal components aside.

Getaway whimpered, but it was lost to the slick sounds of countless vines in and around his frame. To the creaking of his armor and the rustling of the leaves and the weird sounds the forest seemed to make around him.

He lost count of the overloads. Updates streamed through his HUD faster than he could track them. Overcapacity warnings and gestational engagements and overheating and a blinking light in the corner – stress beacon still active. He clung to that hope.

Someone would pick it up soon.

Another overload left him wrung dry. Getaway’s vents panted as he sagged, hanging limp in the grip of the vines. His thoughts spun. His optics flickered. It took several, aching moments to realize that everything had stilled. The vines no longer pumped into him, his array wasn’t ablaze with motion, and even his over-full aft port quivered as the vines paused.

He stirred, trying to find coherency.

He looked up the length of his frame, could barely see past the mound of his swollen, enlarged sacs. But between them, he could see the swell his abdomen had become. Plating had shifted aside to make room for his very full gestational tank.

The vines were gone from his valve. It took him an embarrassingly long time to realize that there was no longer anything stuffing his valve. His calipers twitched weakly, but wouldn’t draw shut. His rim was stretched wide, and every gust of air made it twitch and his anterior cluster blink. His aft port, too, had been abandoned. The rim contracted weakly, feeling hot and swollen, and yes, his sensors did register that a few eggs had been deposited in there.

When had that happened?

His gestational tank rippled. Contracted. A jolt of charge lurched over his frame.

Gestational evacuation imminent.

Well. That wasn’t good.

The vines around Getaway’s limbs abruptly tightened, to the point they stressed the metal. And then his world turned upside down, startling all of his sensors and sending his gyros into a tailspin.

He was turned upright, causing his very full supplementary tanks to flop down, bouncing over the top of his rounded abdomen. He made a muffled sound of surprise, one that got louder as the vine in his mouth abruptly slithered free.

Getaway groaned, his mouth aching, his intake fluttering. He coughed, bits of fluid and energon flecking out of his intake port.

His gestational tank rippled again. He could actually count the number of vines around his frame now. Four very large, thick ones encircled his limbs. A fifth held him about the waist, nestled just under the curve of his distended abdomen. Two more encircled his engorged sacs, tugging at the feeding nubs. An eighth one provided a steady, circular pressure to his anterior node cluster, making his hips twitch and jerk with a growing wave of pleasure.

Primus, he was sore. Everything about him was sore. Hot. Swollen. Achy. He just wanted to recharge. To lie in a berth somewhere and recharge for days.

He’d survived thus far, however, so he supposed that was a plus.

His comm chimed. “Distress signal acknowledged,” Ultra Magnus transmitted, a recorded message apparently. Reception here must be spotty. “Rodimus and his team have your position and will arrive as soon as possible.”

Getaway checked the origin timestamp.

Twenty minutes ago. Less than five minutes after he sent the original distress call. Which meant they would be here any minute.

Which was… good. And bad.

He looked down at himself. At his exposed valve and aft, his engorged supplementary tanks and his swollen abdomen. He was a hot, disgusting mess which left nothing to the imagination.

Great, just great.

His gestational tank spasmed. Getaway groaned as a lance of pain battled mightily against the heat of pleasure centered around his anterior node cluster. He felt the eggs in his tank shift, wriggling about. They pooled toward the caudal end of his tank, gravity doing its work.

More lubricant and fluids seeped out of his valve, dripping into the writhing mass of vines beneath him. The vine nudged harder at his node cluster. The thinner ones tugged on his feeding nubs. Getaway moaned an exhausted sound.

Overload hovered in the periphery, not quite ready to tip him over the edge, but reminding him of the possibility.

“Getaway! Getaway, can you hear us?”

And there was Rodimus’ voice. Of course it was Rodimus’ voice. He was loud and obnoxious and despite everyone else in his squad, Getaway could only hear him over the others tromping through the underbrush.

The vines beneath Getaway rustled, quivering. They seemed to be shrinking back, as though the noise and bustle disturbed them. They tightened their grip on his limbs and increased the pace of stroking at his nodes.

His tank rippled again. Something shifted about within him. Something else prodded at the rim of his gestational port.

Oh, Primus. Were they hatching?

Getaway groaned as something squirmed past his gestational port. It both tickled and itched as it seemed to slide and pull itself free. Gravity and slick aided the way, but teensy feelers grasped onto his calipers and climbed downward as though they were a ladder.

“His signal is coming from this direction.” Brainstorm’s voice now, sounding oddly excited. Of course he would be. He’d probably been nicking samples of the vegetation the whole way.

Getaway rebooted his optics. He tensed as something scribble-scratched through his valve. He looked down, but could see nothing past the mound of his supplementary sacs and his swollen abdomen.

Something clawed free of his valve, spiny fingers leaving scratches in his swollen rim. It fluttered to the ground, landing in the swirl of twisted vines with a tinny clatter, only to immediately vanish in the twisted coils.

They were hatching.

His gestational tank and valve started to contract in sync. He registered more tickling and scratching as handfuls of the little critters started to unfurl from their eggs and scrabble over each other to make their escape.

Getaway moaned, hanging limply in his bonds, unable to do anything as the sound of his crewmates grew closer and closer until he could make out their bright colors through the dark foliage. Little saplings or whatever the tiny monsters could be called, dripped out of his valve in little spiny bursts, but there were more than he could count still squirming about in his tank.

And then Rodimus came into view, Skids and Brainstorm just behind him. Rodimus skidded to a halt, his jaw visibly dropping, his optics wide, his spoiler jutting.

Brainstorm immediately swung some kind of scanner Getaway’s direction, which beeped and chirped a cheerful tone. His winglets wiggled with an unholy glee.

Skids’ mouth opened, jaw moving, but no sounds emerged.

“It’s… about… time,” Getaway gasped out, his vocalizer ripe with static. Frankly, he was surprised it worked at all.

His tank gurgled. Energon and whatever fluid slicked the vines intermingling within it. Before, his frame hadn’t seemed to mind. Now, his poison control protocols seemed to realize that maybe, they weren’t so acceptable after all.

“Get me down from here!” Getaway added in a narrow-band comm to every person he had a number for.

Rodimus audibly gulped. He grimaced. He raised a hand ever so slowly to his comm.

“Uh, Ratchet,” he said, both aloud and over the comm apparently. “We found Getaway. Prepare the medbay for uhhh… organic contaminants.”

Getaway twitched as another baby tree squirmed out of his valve. Pleasure rose and crested within him, the vines tugging harder at his feeding nubs and anterior cluster. He trembled as he faced another surge of charge.

A handful of vine bitlets skittered free of his valve, dripping into the nest of vines below.
No. Only one dropped. The other one started climbing up his frame, little limbs easily finding handholds in his armor and seams.

Getaway had the nauseating feeling he knew exactly where it was going, and he was right when it skittered over the mound of his supplementary sac and started pinching and prodding at the feeding nub.

“You okay there, buddy?” Skids asked.

Getaway groaned and hung his helm. No way he could answer that politely. Just… no way. He was exhausted. He hurt. He was embarrassed. He felt wrung out and stripped bare and vulnerable.

It was a nightmare that not even repeated overloads could ease.

He just wanted to go home.

“Just get me down,” he grated out, only to grunt as another couple vine-lets clawed free of his valve. They plopped to the ground, in front of the whole rescue party.

Primus be damned.

Getaway shuttered his optics. And furiously wished they’d all hurry the frag up.

[TFA] Terms of Service

If Optimus had things his way, he would have sulked in the small room he called his own for the next week. He would have wallowed in his own self-pity and self-hatred until the eviction notice finally forced him out, leaving him to flounder in a society that no longer felt he was of worth.

But a summons from Ultra Magnus was something he could not ignore. There was a tiny niggle of hope, buried in the back of his spark, that maybe the Magnus had changed his mind. Maybe there was forgiveness or a chance. Maybe there was hope.

The smarter, more realistic side of himself dreaded the meeting. There were worse punishments yet, and perhaps Ultra Magnus realized that Optimus had gotten off relatively easy. Perhaps they would strip more from him. His citizenship maybe. Would it be exile? Would he be formally charged? Would he find himself in the Stockade next to thieves and murderers and political dissidents?

He was a murderer. Maybe it was where he belonged.

Optimus’ fingers twisted together. He knew his anxiety showed on his face, but he didn’t have the strength to put up a brave front. Whatever further punishment Ultra Magnus decided for him, Optimus would accept it.

He deserved it.

He arrived at the Magnus’ office and was a bit surprised how quickly they ushered him inside. No one would look him in the optic, and he was taken immediately to the Magnus’ private office, and left alone to buzz the door and announce himself.

Steeling himself, Optimus cycled a ventilation and pressed the call button. The door opened, and when he stepped inside, it closed and locked behind him. Optimus worked his intake. That wasn’t ominous at all.

“Optimus, welcome.”

He blinked. That was not the response he’d been expecting.

Ultra Magnus’ office was understandably large, and the furthest wall was nothing but a long run of windows overlooking Iacon spread out below. Ultra Magnus himself stood in front of the bank of windows, his hands clasped behind his back, but he’d half-turned when Optimus entered. There was even a smile on his face.

“Thank you for coming,” Ultra Magnus said, still in that pleasant voice. “Please join me. Are you in need of fuel?”

Optimus blinked again. “I – umm – No, sir. I’m fully fueled.” His stabilizers carried him forward before he could think otherwise, crossing the massive floor and circling around the desk to join Ultra Magnus at the window.

It was a bit dizzying to be this high up, but exhilarating, too. He could see all of Iacon stretched out below him, and it looked even larger from here. Larger and untouchable.

“Thank you for the offer,” Optimus said as he stood at parade rest, unsure of how to proceed. The last time he’d stood before Ultra Magnus, it had been to castigation and a stripping of a rank he’d never managed to embrace.

“Are you certain?” Ultra Magnus’ smile was soft. He half-turned, gesturing with one hand to a nearby table with a tray on it – a decanter of oil, a tray of energon goodies, and a few small cubes of looked to be high grade were laid out on it. “I have plenty to spare.”

Optimus twitched nervously. He licked his lips. Was it ruder to accept or decline? Was he committing some kind of faux pas by refusing?

Ultra Magnus reached behind him and grabbed the plate with the goodies. It looked so small in his hands even as he turned to offer it to Optimus.

“I’ve been told they are quite delicious,” he said.

Optimus lifted a hand and thanked Primus it wasn’t shaking. “I appreciate your generosity, sir,” he said as he picked two goodies from the plate. There were still many left, but hopefully, two was an appropriate amount.

Ultra Magnus set the tray back on the table and turned toward him. “You are most welcome, Optimus.” He smiled softly. “Now, I’m sure you are curious as to why I summoned you here today?”

“Yes, sir.” He braced himself. “I assumed it had something to do with… with my failure.” The tips of his antennae burned. The goodies felt, at once, heavy in his hand.

“The unfortunate accident, yes.” Ultra Magnus nodded solemnly. His gaze slid to the window. “Iacon is beautiful, is it not?”

Optimus blinked. “I… yes, sir.” What an odd segue. “The greatest city in all of Cybertron.”

“That it is.” Ultra Magnus chuckled softly, and his gaze slid back to Optimus. “Please feel free to indulge, Optimus, while I explain why I called you here.”

“Yes, sir.” He shoved one of the goodies into his mouth, and barely resisted from moaning as the sweet, syrupy energon exploded over his glossa. He’d never tasted anything so refined before.

“Good.” Ultra Magnus inclined his head and stepped closer, near enough that Optimus could taste the edges of his field now. “You were an exceptional student, Optimus. You studied hard and trained harder. You would have graduated at the top of your class, if I’m not mistaken.”

Optimus licked his lips clean and jerked his head in a nod. “Yes, sir. That was my intention.”

“You would have succeeded. You have the potential within you, Optimus. Perhaps not to be a hero, but to be a servant to the Autobot cause most certainly.” Ultra Magnus’ smile softened, turned indulgent. “I hate to see such potential go to waste.”

Optimus’ ventilations increased in pace. “What do you mean, sir?” Could it be? Was this the dash of hope he’d been begging the universe for? He nervously squeezed the goodie, and forced himself to eat it, lest he make a mess.

“I mean, Optimus, that I have, through great effort on my part, and no few strings pulled, managed to find you a commission.”

Optimus’ optics rounded. His spark stuttered. He nearly choked on the sweet, jellied energon. “I don’t understand.”

Ultra Magnus rested his hands on Optimus’ shoulder, big and heavy and warm. His thumbs swept inward, resting on Optimus’ clavicular strut.

“I do believe it is possible to offer you a position within our space bridge repair force, and with it, the title of Prime,” Ultra Magnus said as his thumbs stroked over Optimus’ clavicular strut, gentle and oddly intimate. “It will take much pushing on my part, and even as Magnus, I can’t guarantee that I will be successful. But I am willing to put forth the effort for you. That is, if you are willing to put in the hard work necessary.”

“Of course I am!” Optimus blurted out, surging forward, until he remembered where he was and rocked back on his heelstruts. “I mean, I’m sorry, sir. But yes, I promise. I will work very hard. I am grateful for any opportunity you’ll give me.”

He didn’t deserve it, but Primus, he would. He would do whatever it took if it meant they wouldn’t expel him or jail him. All he needed was a chance. He would prove Ultra Magnus’ faith in him. He swore it!

Ultra Magnus leaned closer, the weight of his hands on Optimus’ shoulders somehow heavier. “Are you certain?” he asked. “This is a big responsibility, Optimus. I will be putting an enormous faith in you. I need to know that you will work hard. That you will do what is necessary. That I can trust you.”

Optimus worked his intake. “Yes, sir. I will. I’m just so grateful for the second chance. I promise I won’t let you down.” Whatever it was, he would do it.

Ultra Magnus smiled. “I believe you,” he said, and his thumbs started stroking again, soft sweeps that brushed over Optimus’ intake now. “It is a space bridge repair position, I admit. It is not much, but–”

“Anything, sir,” Optimus insisted, that tiny nugget of hope daring to bloom into something larger. “This is more than I could have hoped for. I will do whatever it takes to prove your trust in me.”

“Excellent.” Ultra Magnus’ field pushed at his, thick with approval and delight. He tilted his helm even as one hand shifted to cup Optimus’ face.

Optimus froze. W-what? What was Ultra Magnus doing?

“I knew there was potential in you. This is a minor setback. One that can be overcome with hard work and dedication,” Ultra Magnus murmured even as his thumb swept over Optimus’ cheek. “You are loyal, aren’t you, Optimus? To this city, to the Autobots, to me?”

He swallowed thickly. “Yes, sir. I am.” His ventilations stuttered. Ultra Magnus’ field pushed at his again, only now it was warm and sticky.

“Good.” Ultra Magnus’ engine purred. “You are quite stunning, Optimus. Has anyone ever told you that?”

Some of the color drained out of Optimus’ face. “No, sir. I’m, um, I’m quite average.” A tremble whipped down his spinal strut.

“You are far from average, Optimus,” Ultra Magnus murmured, and his thumb swept downward, brushing over Optimus’ lips.

Optimus could not have gone more still if he tried. “Sir, I don’t–”

“I am putting myself on the line for you, Optimus,” Ultra Magnus said in a smooth, even tone. “I am Magnus, this is true, but even I have limits. Everything you do from now on will reflect back on me. Do you understand the risk that I am taking?”

A shiver crawled under Optimus’ armor. His hands formed fists at his sides. “I do, sir. But–”

“Then you understand why I must know I can trust you,” Ultra Magnus interrupted, still in that even tone, though the press of his field was more apparent now. Heavy like thick oil, and so very hot. It prickled against Optimus’ own. “I must know that my faith in you is not misplaced, and that you will be obedient to the Autobot cause, such as you weren’t when you made the poor choice to go Archa Seven.”

Oh.

Optimus cycled a deep ventilation. “Yes, sir. I understand. What would you have me do?”

Ultra Magnus smiled, and for a moment, it almost felt genuine, were it not for an undefinable something that lurked behind his optics. “There is some paperwork that I need for you to sign,” he said as his thumb moved over Optimus’ bottom lip, stroking it again and again. “Along with your personal reassurance that my faith in you is not mistakenly put.”

Optimus’ knees wobbled. He remained standing only because he knew if he ran out the door right now, that was it. This was his last chance.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” Ultra Magnus’ hand slid away from his face. The one on Optimus’ shoulder slid to his upper back and further down, until it rested at the base of his backstrut. “The paperwork is on my desk.”

He guided Optimus by the hand on Optimus’ back, urging him toward the desk. “You should look it over, ask me any questions you might have. I want to be sure that you understand the responsibility I am giving you.”

Optimus forced his stabilizers to move. He was very aware of the hand on his back, inches from his aft. The weight of Ultra Magnus’ field against his, the way it pushed and tugged, as if taking over. The heat of him and the fact that Ultra Magnus’ fans were audibly whirring.

There was a datapad on the desk. It was the only thing on the desk as a matter of fact. The rest of the desk was scrupulously clean. A small stylus cup rested in the corner. Ultra Magnus’ in and out box were completely empty. The keyboard for his personal console was tucked to the side. His monitor was powered down.

As if he’d been waiting for Optimus.

Optimus braced himself and reached for the datapad, which was already powered on and open to a document. He expected a lot of legal jargon, but it was actually rather simple.

He picked it up and started to read – or skim, rather. He couldn’t really focus. The hand on his backstrut started to move, short little sweeps down, each stroke coming closer and closer to his aft. Ultra Magnus crowded against his side, so very present and overbearing.

“I, um, don’t know much about repairing space bridges,” Optimus admitted, his vents stuttering as Ultra Magnus moved until he stood behind Optimus, leaning over him. He felt the warmth of Ultra Magnus’ ex-vents over his antennae, and they burned with a mixture of shame and dread.

“You will have a team,” Ultra Magnus murmured, his hands stroking down Optimus’ sides now, until one of them found Optimus’ aft and cupped it. “You are to be their commander. Ensure they stay on track. Log missions. Et cetera. You will report to me.”

That was highly… irregular.

Optimus wondered if part of his duties would now extend beyond space bridge repair. What if Ultra Magnus intended for Optimus to become some kind of personal… um, soldier? Or something.

He didn’t dare think of the possibilities.

“Oh, I see,” Optimus said, and was ashamed that his vocalizer filled with static a little.

Ultra Magnus hummed his amusement. “Do not worry, Optimus. I’m sure you will work hard to prove that you are worthy of this opportunity.” He ex-vented again on Optimus’ antennae.

Optimus opened his mouth to respond, but it dribbled off into a stuttered noise as Ultra Magnus’ lips enclosed around the tip of his antennae. Denta gave it a soft nip, and a glossa flicked over it.

Optimus gasped a vent, sagging a little where he stood. Sensations both hot and cold went running through his frame.

Oh, Primus. Was he going to stand here and let Ultra Magnus do this? Whatever this even was? Did Ultra Magnus want him like that? Did he seriously want to frag Optimus? Was that why he’d been called here?

Realization slammed into Optimus. His spark squeezed.

Was this how he was supposed to prove his loyalty? With his frame? Was that all he was worth now? Some kind of… frag toy? Or a… a buymech?

How could Ultra Magnus do this? He’s supposed to be a leader! He’s always been Optimus’ hero, and here he was, manipulating him. Backing him into a corner.

Despair crowded at the back of Optimus’ intake. He trembled, hands tightening around the datapad. His armor clutched tight to his protoform, his field a wobbly mess.

Ultra Magnus hummed around his antenna before releasing it with a slow slide of his mouth. “You are so responsive,” he murmured. “Is this your first time?”

Optimus’ optics shuttered. “No, sir,” he said, swallowing over a lump in his intake. He didn’t elaborate. He didn’t want to think about the happier times, or the knot in his spark where the happiness he, Sentinel, and Elita shared had come undone.

“Mm. Pity.” Ultra Magnus’ hand slid down Optimus’ aft again, only now his fingers went further, slipping between Optimus’ thighs, the tips of them brushing the panel concealing his interface array. He rubbed the panel gently. “Open for me, Optimus.”

It was not a request. That was clear in Ultra Magnus’ tone.

Optimus gnawed on his bottom lip. His shoulders hunched. What would happen if he refused? Would the datapad be taken from him? The opportunity as well? Would he find himself facing all of those dreaded repercussions he feared when he first received the summons?

Ultra Magnus’ field pushed at his harder, as if swallowing him whole.

Optimus’ helm dipped. He obeyed, a shudder racing down his backstrut, as his panel snicked aside, baring his valve and spike to the air. He wasn’t aroused in the slightest, and both of them reflected that.

“Very nice,” Ultra Magnus said as two of his fingers traced over and around Optimus’ rim, exploring it gently. His other arm circled around Optimus’ frame, his hand flat on Optimus’ chest. “If I am to fit inside this pretty valve of yours, I must prepare you properly.”

Optimus’ ex-vents surged out of him in a shuddery mess. The datapad crackled in his grip.

One finger found his anterior node cluster and gave it a gentle rub. Optimus’ knees wobbled. The most distant stirrings of pleasure woke in his array, and he wasn’t sure if it was actual arousal or anxiety that made his valve twitch.

“Have you taken anyone of my size before, Optimus?” Ultra Magnus asked as he circled Optimus’ node again and again, his lips nuzzling each of Optimus’ antennae in turn.

Optimus curved forward, away from Ultra Magnus’ touch, but there was nowhere to go. He was trapped between the desk and his leader, Ultra Magnus’ presence all consuming.

“No, sir,” he said, truthfully. He didn’t dare admit that he’d taken Sentinel and Elita both at once. He didn’t want Ultra Magnus to get any ideas.

Well, anymore than he already had.

“I see.” Ultra Magnus sounded pleased. He pressed harder against Optimus’ back, his finger dipping into Optimus’ valve as a thin stream of lubricant finally dampened the sensitive protomesh walls. “Well, I have taken someone as small as you before. I will fit with a little work.” He leaned closer and nuzzled the back of Optimus’ helm.

His finger dipped deeper into Optimus’ valve, curling to rub along the ring of sensor nodes just behind his rim. Optimus sucked in a ventilation, his frame twitching, as a tiny jolt of pleasure lanced through his array. Those nodes were particularly sensitive and never failed to excite him.

“Mmm. Very responsive,” Ultra Magnus murmured. His mouth wandered lower, tucking into the curve of Optimus’ intake. His lips brushed over Optimus’ cables, a parody of lover’s intimacy. “Have you finished reading the datapad yet?”

Finished? Optimus couldn’t remember the last time he’d looked at it. He’d been too focused on Ultra Magnus touching him, on tracking the motion of every finger, every ex-vent, braced for every new invasion.

He swallowed thickly as the wet noise of Ultra Magnus slowly fragging him with one finger became louder when Ultra Magnus added a second. Together, they were the width of a regular spike, and Optimus’ calipers clutched at them. Greedily, if you asked him. His frame didn’t seem to care that his spark wasn’t in it. Little bursts of pleasure kept peppering in his array, his nodes sparking to life.

“No, sir,” Optimus admitted, the datapad screen wavering in front of his optics. “I’m sorry.”

“That is quite all right.” Ultra Magnus kissed his intake cables, his vocalizations causing little puffs of warm ex-vents to tease Optimus’ neck. “I’m sure I am distracting you. Set it down, Optimus. There will be time to read it thoroughly later.”

Later.

Optimus slowly lowered the datapad. “Yes, sir.” He rested his hands on the desk to either side of it, braced against the overpowering weight of Ultra Magnus’ frame and field over him.

His aft rubbed against Ultra Magnus’ upper thighs. Two fingers worked in and out of his valve, twisting and stroking, until lubricant trickled free and slicked Optimus’ thighs. His shoulders hunched, his antennae and neck treated to a soft assault of lips and glossa.

“Please, Optimus. We are in private. You may call me Ultra,” his leader murmured, glossa flicking over the tip of Optimus’ antennae.

He eased a third finger into Optimus’ valve, and Optimus hissed quietly. It was a stretch now, forcing the width of his calipers wider. Not bad, not painful, but definitely more tangible. Not that his valve seemed to care. It greedily cycled more and more lubricant and spat charge from his nodes.

Optimus shaped the name of his Magnus with his mouth, but couldn’t bring himself to say it. “Yes, sir. I will… try.”

“That is all I ask.” Ultra Magnus’ lips descended to his audial, ex-venting warm and wet over it. He pressed hard against Optimus’ back, trapping his hand between himself and Optimus’ aft, his fingers still working deep and firm within Optimus’ valve.

“You grip me so tightly. I cannot wait to feel you on my spike,” Ultra Magnus murmured, even as his free hand slid up Optimus’ chestplate, fingers brushing over his intake before they found his lips. He traced them slowly, intently. “However, there is something you could do for me first, if you are so inclined.”

If. He spoke it as though Optimus had the choice.

Somehow, he suspected he did not.

“Of course, sir,” he said, though his internals tightened into uneasy knots, and the goodies he’d consumed sat in his tank like hunks of unprocessed ore.

“Excellent.” Ultra Magnus gave one last stroke to his valve before he withdrew his fingers and leaned back.

The heat of him retreated, and Optimus shivered as cold washed in. He didn’t know if he was overheating because Ultra Magnus was so warm, or because the stress was making his temperature spike. His own engine was producing this pathetic whining noise and he couldn’t seem to make it stop.

Optimus slowly turned, hoping his shame didn’t show on his face. Hoping Ultra Magnus didn’t want him to look eager for it. He couldn’t bring himself to fake it.

No sooner had he turned than Ultra Magnus cupped his face – with the hand still sticky with Optimus’ lubricant – and leaned down, brushing his mouth over Optimus’. The kiss was almost chaste, just a brush of lips together, before Ultra Magnus returned, pressing his mouth firmly to Optimus’. He made a humming noise of delight as Optimus felt the wet poke of a glossa against the seam of his lips.

He shuttered his optics and relented, parting his lips to allow the glossa within. Ultra Magnus purred with pleasure and deepened the kiss, his glossa laying claim to Optimus’ mouth, his grip on Optimus’ helm falsely romantic. Optimus barely responded, passive as he let Ultra Magnus explore his mouth and kiss him as though they were lovers.

His hands clenched at his sides, so tightly into fists that his knuckle joints ached. He was shaking, he knew he was. He could hear his armor clattering, and he couldn’t seem to make it stop.

“Mmm.” Ultra Magnus ended the kiss, but not without nuzzling Optimus’ face with his own. “I can taste the candies on your glossa. Did you enjoy them?”

Optimus cycled a ventilation. “Yes, sir.”

Ultra Magnus’ lips curved, almost indulgent. “You may call me ‘Ultra,’” he reminded Optimus as though he’d forgotten. His thumb swept over Optimus’ bottom lip, over the wetness his glossa left behind. “You have a beautiful mouth. I should like to see it wrapped around my spike.”

The shudder worked its way from Optimus’ pedes up to the crown of his helm. He couldn’t bring himself to speak so he simply nodded and started to lower himself and his gaze. He focused on Ultra Magnus’ frame, his optics skirting over the prominent Autobot symbol on his leader’s chesplate.

It felt like the badge were mocking him.

Optimus lowered himself to his knees, Ultra Magnus’ hand slipping to rest on the top of his helm instead of cupping his face. He lifted shaking fingers, resting them on Ultra Magnus’ hips, and braced himself.

“Only a taste,” Ultra Magnus murmured as he urged Optimus toward his panel, which was slowly spiraling open. “I am so pleased with your performance so far. I truly believe that my faith in you is not being misplaced.”

The reminder, Optimus knew, was not accidental. Ultra Magnus wanted him to remember exactly what his frame was paying for. How cruel of him.

Optimus’ face burned with humiliation. He wanted to duck his helm, hide from Ultra Magnus’ approving gaze, but he couldn’t. Not with Ultra Magnus’ spike emerging, pressurizing quickly, pre-fluid already beading at the tip. He was massive, proportioned to his size, his spike a bright blue unit ribbed with bands of white. Optimus’ jaw ached just looking at it.

Ultra Magnus’ hand on his helm was a steady, forward pressure. It pushed him closer and closer to the Magnus’ spike, until the tip of it bobbed millimeters from his lips. Optimus’ tank churned, but he obediently parted his lips and allowed Ultra Magnus to slip into his mouth. He tasted pre-fluid immediately, and Ultra Magnus throbbed on his glossa, so hot and firm already. How long had he been aroused? Had he been fantasizing from the moment he sent the summons for Optimus? Had this been his plan all along?

Probably so, given the way Ultra Magnus’ fans whirred and his vents thrummed and his frame radiated heat like a furnace. Every inch of him was control, though the pressure of his fingers grew firmer.

“Ah, but you are beautiful,” Ultra Magnus praised from above as he urged Optimus deeper onto his spike, the thick length rubbing firmly against Optimus’ glossa. “This is a talent I did not know you had, Optimus. You should include it on your resume.” He chuckled as though it were a joke.

Optimus tried not to purge. His fingers shook where they gripped Ultra Magnus’ hips. He just wanted this to be over.

He forced himself into action. He shifted his weight on his knees and swallowed as much of Ultra Magnus as he felt he could fit. He lashed his glossa around it, oral lubricant welling up in his mouth and dribbling out the corners. He had to divert his oral ventilations. His jaw did indeed ache.

Ultra Magnus gave a soft sigh of satisfaction. His hips rolled forward, ever gently, pushing himself deeper into Optimus’ mouth. His field buzzed against Optimus’, plucking at the edges and demanding more. The tip of his spike bumped against the back of Optimus’ intake and lingered there, grinding against the soft protomesh.

His fingers shook around Optimus’ helm before he abruptly drew back, the tip of his spike painting over Optimus’ lips.

“Ah, forgive me,” he said, his voice regretful. “Any more and this would have ended too soon for us. You are quite skilled, Optimus. You should be proud of yourself.”

Hot and cold warred for control within him. “Thank you, sir,” he rasped.

Ultra Magnus smiled at him and cupped his jaw. He urged Optimus to stand with a bit of pressure on the bottom of his jaw. “I seem to recall giving you permission to call me by name,” he said. “But now there is something in the way you say ‘sir’ that I’m growing fond of. Continue, if you like.”

Optimus blanched. Now this, too, would be tainted.

He swallowed, still tasting Ultra Magnus on his lips and glossa. “Yes, sir,” he said, going cold all over, like ice dripping into his lines. His knees wobbled again as he remembered the size of Ultra Magnus’ spike.

Ultra Magnus hummed an approving noise and leaned down to kiss Optimus once more. It was less claim this time as it was a brush of their lips together, Ultra Magnus nuzzling against him.

“There is a part of me that wishes to keep you,” he said, before he rested a hand on Optimus’ hip and gave it a squeeze. “Now, it is unfair of me to demand all the pleasure for myself.” The hand shifted, moving inward, fingers dipping between Optimus’ legs to play with his valve again. “I should like to taste this again. Would you like that, Optimus?”

Oh, Primus.

Optimus’ vents stuttered. Heat built at the back of his optics, the shame making his intake close tightly. If he spoke the truth, would Ultra Magnus throw him out? Would it be a rejection of this, his final chance?

Did he even deserve to reject Ultra Magnus’ generous offer? This was what he deserved, wasn’t it? For failing to save Elita. For failing to protect Sentinel. For failing.

Optimus bowed his helm, and felt a shudder race through his frame. “I am a loyal Autobot,” he said instead.

“That is all I wanted to hear.” Ultra Magnus’ finger rubbed firm circles on his anterior node, making his hips jerk and his array pulse with heat.

Ultra Magnus pulled away and placed his hands on Optimus’ shoulders. They slid down to cup Optimus’ aft and lifted him with ease, placing him on the desk.

“This, I think, will be easier,” he said as he urged Optimus to lie back, even as he nudged himself between Optimus’ knees, his spike rubbing over Optimus’ inner thighs. “That and you look enticing on my desk.”

Optimus’ hands bunched at his sides. “Thank you,” he said, unsure of what else he could say honestly. All of the tension returned, his armor clamped so tight he wasn’t ex-venting heat properly, and the tremble came back, making him ache from clenched cables.

Ultra Magnus’ hands swept from his hips to his knees, urging them to press in around his hips. He pulled Optimus’ aft to the very edge of the desk and rolled forward, the head of his spike nudging over Optimus’ rim. It painted itself in Optimus’ lubricant, and rubbed teasingly against his anterior node cluster.

Optimus’ face filled with heat. He shuddered, a mix of shame and arousal. He wanted to cover his face, but he suspected that seeing his expression was part of what Ultra Magnus wanted. Because Ultra Magnus was staring at him, optics devouring Optimus’ face.

“Do you ever self-service, Optimus?” Ultra Magnus asked. One of his hands palmed Optimus’ array, the heel of it scrubbing over his spike sheath, where only the head of his recessed spike dared poke into view.

“I-I do,” Optimus admitted even as his antennae spit sparks out of sheer embarrassment. He had a feeling he knew where this was going.

Ultra Magnus hummed thoughtfully. He kept rolling his hips forward, spike rubbing over Optimus’ thighs, his rim, his node, everywhere but actually sliding inside of him. “And do you prefer your spike or your valve?”

“N-no preference,” he admitted. Because after this, he wasn’t sure he’d ever want his valve again.

“Hmm.” Ultra Magnus rubbed over the head of his spike and little by little, Optimus’ array responded, until his spike reluctantly pressurized into Ultra Magnus’ warm grip.

He gave it a squeezing stroke as his free hand held Optimus’ hip, keeping him in place for a shallow grind of his spike against the rim of Optimus’ valve. “Would you show me? I want to make sure I learn how best to touch you.”

Oh, Primus. Oh, no.

He’d been right.

“Y-yes, sir.” Static crackled in his vocals. Heat gathered behind his optics, but he rallied enough to swallow it down.

He forced his right hand to unclench. He forced himself to reach down the length of his frame, to wrap his own fingers around his spike the moment Ultra Magnus released him. He forced himself to remember nights spent hunched over, stroking himself as he tried to keep his cries quiet, while thinking of Sentinel and Elita and whoever else decided to haunt his fantasies.

“Beautiful,” Ultra Magnus murmured as he held Optimus’ hips and ground against his valve, the head of his spike catching on Optimus’ rim and rubbing over it repeatedly. “I want to see your pleasure, Optimus. I want to see you overload. Will you do that for me?”

He gnawed on his bottom lip. “Yes, sir,” Optimus forced out as he squeezed his spike and started to stroke, his hands shaking where he held himself.

Nausea and shame coiled and twisted together in his tanks, but it wasn’t enough to stop his frame from responding. From pleasure throbbing into his array, blooming through his groin in a slow spread of warmth. His valve cycled hungrily, lubricant soaking his aft and dripping onto the desk. His spike pulsed, the smallest drip of pre-fluid squeezing from the tip.

“Excellent,” Ultra Magnus purred before he tilted Optimus’ hips and finally sank into Optimus’ valve in one slow, steady push. His spike parted the squeeze of Optimus’ calipers with ease, grinding against Optimus’ valve walls and exciting every node along the way.

Optimus whimpered, his backstrut arching, thighs trembling where they pressed against Ultra Magnus’ hips. It felt good, despite it all. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been filled so deeply, or the last time someone had nudged his ceiling node with such ease.

His optics flickered. He panted several droughts of desperate air through his vents. He squeezed his spike as it throbbed, his free hand clawing at the desk. He knocked over something in his blind pawing – the datapad he thought – and ended up gripping Ultra Magnus’ hand by the wrist. He held tight, squeezing, though it did little to affect Ultra Magnus’ reinforced battle armor.

“Ahh.” Ultra Magnus sighed a moan, his energy field rippling with bliss and satisfaction. His spike throbbed a happy beat. “I knew you would feel good.”

Ugh.

Optimus gritted his denta. He expected Ultra Magnus to frag him roughly to pound him into the desk. Instead, the Magnus pulled back and started thrusting into him slow and deep, each drag of his spike in and out of Optimus’ valve only serving to stir the pleasure higher and higher within him. His hands cradled Optimus’ hips, pulling him into each thrust, his thumbs stroking over Optimus’ armor as if in comfort.

Ultra Magnus’ face was one of delight and concentration. His field rippled and flexed against Optimus’, hot and hungry, sucking him into the maw of it. His engine rumbled, the pitch of a mech surrendering to arousal.

And then he leaned forward, over Optimus, nuzzling against his face as though they were lovers and this was just a naughty little tryst for fun’s sake. His lips traveled over the curve of Optimus’ jaw before they found Optimus’ mouth. He kissed Optimus, as slow and deep as every thrust into Optimus’ valve, until his spike worked deep and ground hard against Optimus’ ceiling node.

He gasped, twitching beneath Ultra Magnus, unconsciously stroking himself faster. Shivers and charge both danced up his backstrut. He squeezed his spike, jerking himself with every trick he knew, anything to make himself overload faster and get this over with. His valve clenched around Ultra Magnus’ spike, cinching tight, greedily slurping up the charge Ultra Magnus’ spike fed him.

Optimus’ squeezed his optical shutters closed and tightened his grip on Ultra Magnus’ wrist. He bucked up against Ultra Magnus, driving his spike deeper, and pushed into his own hand. He squeezed his spike, stroking himself faster and faster, as the arousal in his array coiled tighter and tighter.

He hated it. He hated it so fragging much, but his frame didn’t seem to care. Instead, his engine revved loud enough to be audible, his field flared, and lubricant seeped out from around Ultra Magnus’ spike. He squeezed down as though trying to keep Ultra Magnus within him, and fingered his spike head, and whined into the kiss Ultra Magnus insisted upon, glossa plunging over and over into Optimus’ mouth, to the same tune as his spike in Optimus’ valve.

Overload, when it finally took him, was a relief. Optimus whimpered as a weak stream of transfluid spurted from his spike, and his valve fluttered madly around Ultra Magnus’ spike, charge leaping from his nodes to latch. He writhed beneath Ultra Magnus, gasping for cold air, tearing his lips away from Ultra Magnus’ mouth to pant into his own shoulder.

This left his intake and neck ripe for the taking, and Ultra Magnus took advantage of it. He purred hungrily, denta and glossa licking and sucking at Optimus’ cables as he pushed harder and faster into Optimus’ valve, taking him with more vigor than Optimus would have expected of the old mech.

He grabbed onto Ultra Magnus to keep from getting squished beneath the older mech’s bulk and tried to swallow down the cries as Ultra Magnus fragged him deep every time. As he pressed harder, forcing Optimus’ thighs to the limit of their flexibility, and ground against his sore ceiling node fiercely. The desk rattled and squealed beneath them.

Optimus hoped no one could hear them. He hoped the sound didn’t carry. He prayed there wasn’t a camera here to witness his shame.

And he prayed that Ultra Magnus would be finished soon.

It was the only prayer Primus granted.

Ultra Magnus ex-vented into his intake, his grip on Optimus’ tightening. His rhythm stuttered as he thrust fiercely into Optimus, bottomed out, and finally, Optimus felt the hot splash of transfluid deep within him. Ultra Magnus moaned into his audial, murmuring something nonsense that Optimus couldn’t hear through the static.

Ultra Magnus’ hips made little jerks as his spike spurted, the rest of his frame absolutely still. His field swallowed Optimus whole and spat him back out, back into his frame, as the last of overload retreated from Ultra Magnus. His vents whirred noisily, his cooling fans even more so, as Ultra Magnus braced his arms on the desk and pushed himself upright.

His hips were still pressed to Optimus’, his spike buried deep. Optimus dared unshutter his optics. Ultra Magnus was looking at their frames, where they were still joined, and Optimus didn’t know what to call the expression on his face. Hunger. Possession. Lust. A mix of all three.

“That was wonderful,” Ultra Magnus said as he stroked his hands down Optimus’ sides. “You did so well, Optimus. I am proud of you.”

Optimus peeled his fingers away from his spike, which was rapidly depressurizing back into the safety of its sheath. “T-thank you, sir.”

“Mm. I do love it when you call me ‘sir’,” Ultra Magnus murmured, and his glossa swept over his lips. He leaned back, his spike easing from Optimus’ valve, achingly slow. “If I did not have another meeting this afternoon, you are enough of a temptation that I would enjoy you again.”

His hands stroked over Optimus’ sides again, his field pulsing warmly against Optimus’. “I knew my trust in you would not be displaced,” he added as his spike finally slipped free.

Optimus cringed as his valve contracted. He could feel the fluids dribbling downward, seeping out of him. As much as he wanted to snap his thighs back shut, he couldn’t. Not with Ultra Magnus still firmly emplaced between his knees, and especially not with Ultra Magnus now reaching for his valve, his fingers stroking around Optimus’ swollen, soaked rim.

“Beautiful,” he murmured, before he tapped Optimus’ array with one finger. “Close your panel, Optimus. You wouldn’t want to make a mess.” He chuckled softly. “That would be interesting to explain to the cleaning staff.”

A protest rose and died on Optimus’ glossa. He shuddered as he obeyed, trapping Ultra Magnus’ release within him. He wondered, when he stood, if it would slosh against his valve panel. If it would seep past and stain his thighs.

He wondered if that was Ultra Magnus’ intent all along.

“I did not hurt you, did I?” Ultra Magnus helped Optimus off the desk. His stabilizers wobbled beneath him, but his knees held, for all that his joints felt like jelly.

He shook his helm. “No, sir.”

“Good.” Ultra Magnus dug around in subspace and offered Optimus a mesh cloth. “Here. You seem to have made a bit of a mess.” He gestured to the few spatters of transfluid on Optimus’ abdomen and hips.

His face burned with humiliation. Optimus ducked his helm. “Thank you, sir.”

He wiped at himself in vain, even as Ultra Magnus reached around him, scooping the datapad off the table. He tapped his fingers over the screen, and the datapad chirped cheerfully back at him.

Optimus did not know what he was doing. He couldn’t see either, so he focused instead of making himself presentable. Or as presentable as he could given the paint scrapes on his thighs and on the transsteel of his chestplate.

“I have added my designation glyph to your file, Optimus,” Ultra Magnus said as Optimus tucked the dirtied mesh cloth into his subspace. He assumed Ultra Magnus would not want it returned. “All it needs now is your signature.” He offered the datapad over.

Optimus took it once again, alarmed to find his fingers were trembling. “Thank you, sir.” Static etched his words, and his thoughts felt stretched and distorted. All he could manage was obedience.

“This is yours to keep, Optimus. Feel free to read it in depth,” Ultra Magnus said as he gestured for Optimus to move back around to the front of the desk. “Once you have signed your agreement, you will be contacted for your new assignment. Your new title is already yours.”

Optimus’ hands tightened on the datapad. “I understand, sir.” He looked down at the screen, at the glyph denoting Ultra Magnus stamped in the upper right hand corner of the terms and conditions now. It hadn’t been there before.

He dreaded to see what the terms were. He doubted the words ‘frag toy’ had been used, but there were ways around that, weren’t there? After all, Ultra Magnus had never once said to him, ‘you must frag me to get this opportunity’. It was all implicit. Manipulation.

Deceptive.

“I knew you would. You have always been a very good student.” Ultra Magnus offered Optimus his hand. “Congratulations, Optimus Prime. I know that you will do myself and the Autobots proud.”

Optimus startled at hearing the title attached to his own name. It suddenly felt a lot less like the honor he thought it would. It was tainted now, stained with the same transfluid that spattered his hips and thighs, despite his attempts to wipe it away.

He offered his hand and shook Ultra Magnus’, his field crackling against his leader’s. A mech he had once admired, possibly to a fault.

No. Not possibly. Definitely.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, and was grateful his voice didn’t crackle, despite the tautness in his frame, the heat in his optics, and the urge to hide in a dark corner.

“You are most welcome.” Ultra Magnus squeezed his hand before releasing him. He sat in his chair behind his desk as though it were business as usual. “Memorize my comm, Optimus Prime. I’m certain I will call you back to Cybertron from time to time, for private missions, you see.”

Private missions.

Was that code for more fragging sessions?

Optimus could barely contain his shudders. He felt like he’d made a deal with Unicron. He felt like he was being used and discarded, and he longer had anyone to pull him out of the dark. He’d left Elita to die, and Sentinel would hate him forever for it.

He didn’t deserve to be pulled from the mire.

He dipped his helm in a bow. “Yes, sir. I will stand at the ready.”

“Good.” Ultra Magnus smiled, bright and approving. “You are dismissed, Optimus Prime. Perform well. I know you will be a testament to my name.”

Optimus snapped off a salute, if only to hide the nausea crawling up his intake. “Thank you, sir. I will.”

He spun on a heelstrut, hoping Ultra Magnus missed the disgust in his face. He honestly wasn’t even sure if it was directed at Ultra Magnus or himself anymore. He’d bought and paid for his position with his frame. He didn’t know what to think of himself now.

All he knew was that he needed a shower. A scalding one.

And soon.

[Crown the Empire] Salvage 06

Of all mechs to be waiting outside of his office when Optimus turned the corner, he did not expect Grimlock to be one of them. Grimlock did not seem the type to wait, and while things between them had not been sour, they had not been friendly. Optimus couldn’t blame Grimlock. He had mistreated the Dinobots.

“Grimlock,” Optimus greeted as he juggled an armload of datapads. “Were you waiting for me?”

Grimlock moved away from the panel so Optimus could key in his code. “Wasn’t waiting for Soundwave,” he said gruffly. His field was neutral, for all Optimus could sense from it.

“Of course you weren’t.” Optimus sighed inwardly. “Come on in. Nothing’s urgently the matter, I hope.”

“I can’t show up to speak with my former commander without it being an emergency?” Grimlock asked, but thank Primus, there was humor in his vocals rather than challenge.

Grimlock was baiting him, perhaps on purpose. They were on equal ground now.

Optimus dumped his datapads on his overflowing desk and sank into the chair behind it. Grimlock sprawled into the largest chair Optimus had available for guests, the scavenged piece of furniture creaking and groaning beneath him.

“Then it’s a social call?” Optimus guessed. Though speaking of, where was Soundwave? Optimus hadn’t seen or heard from the former Decepticon all day.

“Something like that.” Grimlock folded his hands across his ventrum, the very picture of ease. “Where’s your shadow?”

“I am not his keeper. Soundwave is allowed to do as he wishes.” Optimus busied himself with arranging his datapads into separate piles based on priority. “I trust that his business is his own, or it is for the benefit of the Autobots and Cybertron.”

Grimlock made a contemplative noise. “That’s a lot of trust you’re putting in a Decepticon and a mech who used to be Megatron’s left hand.”

Optimus lifted his helm and raised an orbital ridge. “One could say the same about you. Remind me again your current position and who serves as your second?”

Grimlock chuckled. “You grew fangs, Prime. I’m impressed.”

“You’d be surprised what can make you change,” Optimus replied, though it was a lot less sharp than he would have liked. He flattened his palms on the desktop and caught Grimlock’s gaze. “What did you want to talk about, Grimlock?”

“My Air Commander.” He lifted his chin, all trace of amusement abruptly wiped from his field. “I’m going to court him.”

Optimus cycled his optics. He rebooted his audials for good measure. “I beg your pardon,” he said carefully, giving himself time to form the proper words. “But I don’t think I heard you correctly. You are telling me you mean to court Starscream?”

“Yes.”

Blunt and to the point. He wouldn’t be Grimlock if he wasn’t.

Optimus sat back in his chair and pinched his nasal ridge. “And you, what, came here to seek permission?”

“No. To keep you informed. As a courtesy.” Grimlock sat up and leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “We are on equal footing now, Optimus. I want to keep it that way. I told you as a show of respect. Something that was sorely lacking in our relationship in the past.”

Optimus dropped his hand to the arm of his chair. “I am to blame for that, Grimlock. I can only say that I allowed my ignorance to blind me, and I do apologize for that.”

“I know. I’m moving on. I don’t have time to dwell on the past, but you asked for an explanation, and I gave you one.”

“Then I take it congratulations are in order?”

Grimlock outright laughed and sat back, ease returning to his frame language. “Congratulations are premature. I haven’t informed Starscream yet. He may refuse me.”

“I don’t see why he would.” Optimus rolled his shoulders in a shrug. “But then, I can’t say that I’ve ever fully understood what motivates Starscream. I am glad to see that you two are getting along, however. It can only mean good things for the Decepticons.”

“If by getting along you mean christening every available surface, then yes, I suppose we are.” Grimlock’s visor lit up. If Optimus didn’t know better, he’d think Grimlock was smirking. His field certainly buzzed with self-satisfaction. “Though perhaps you’d know all about that.”

Optimus blinked. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you don’t.” Grimlock snickered and pushed to his pedes. “You always were blind, Optimus. I wonder how long it will take for you to notice that you have an admirer or if someone’s going to have to point him out to you.”

Optimus frowned behind his battlemask. “It wouldn’t matter if there was. I don’t have the time or the inclination right now.” Nor the interest. He wasn’t keen on physical contact, and while Optimus recognized it for a perfectly valid reaction, he didn’t have the time to address it.

Optimus was fine on his own. He didn’t need interfacing to survive. He’d done fine before.

Grimlock looked at him for a long moment before he leaned forward, bracing his hands on the desk. He stopped just shy of Optimus’ personal space limits.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching, Optimus, it’s that no mech is an island,” he said in an even tone. “You can’t beat this enemy on your own.”

Grimlock pushed back upright. “You look busy. Comm me when you have enough free time to spare for socializing.”

Optimus worked his jaw for a long moment. “You came here… to give me advice?”

“No. I came to tell you about Starscream. The advice was a bonus.” Grimlock turned and flicked a wave over his shoulder. “Remember what I said, Optimus.”

Grimlock left Optimus alone in his office, behind his mounds of datapads, unable to settle the confusion taking over his processor. That was not only the politest conversation he’d ever had with Grimlock, it was also the most enigmatic one.

Optimus shook his helm and cycled a ventilation. He had work to do. He couldn’t dwell on this.

He reached for the next datapad in the stack.

~

A life of living in darkness and surviving a war in the shadows left Jazz a naturally suspicious person. So when the Decepticon’s most famous loyalist and spy defected and immediately attached himself to Optimus Prime, well, Jazz got a little curious.

Granted, he’d let it slide for a little while. Only because it didn’t seem like Soundwave intended to cause Optimus harm, and surely Sounders wasn’t so stupid as to try and do something like that after a truce was signed. Especially since he’d helped the Autobots take down Megatron in the first place.

Plus, Jazz was a little distracted. He had his crew to think about first. But Trailbreaker and Ravage were taking care of Hound and had him well on the road to recovery. Bumblebee was mending things with Rumble, with Jazz’s full set of double thumbs up approval. And Mirage, well, he was better. He wasn’t going to be the same, but Jazz didn’t think any of them were.

The war had been too long. They’d lost too much. They’d suffered too much.

Right now, however, Jazz left Mirage with Bluestreak because he had something he needed to do. Namely, finding Soundwave and sussing out whatever his intentions were for Optimus.

It didn’t take him long to track old Sounders down. Soundwave made no secret of where he was. If anything, he was being so blatantly open that Jazz felt more than a little leery.

Especially since Soundwave was walking around Polyhex in plain sight.

“Hiya there, Sounders,” Jazz chirped as he intercepted Soundwave with a grin, pedes skidding to a halt in front of the former Decepticon. “Spare a minute for an old pal?”

Soundwave gave him an even stare, Buzzsaw fixed upon his shoulder opposite of his sonic cannon. Jazz wondered if the other cassettes were scampering about. Laserbeak, maybe. Or Frenzy. Ravage and Rumble, he knew, were otherwise occupied.

“State purpose,” Soundwave replied.

“Just a friendly chat.” Jazz tilted his helm and widened his grin, showing off his denta. “You know, me ‘n you, we got lots in common. We should talk about that, you think?”

Soundwave audibly cycled a ventilation. “Public location requested.”

Despite himself, Jazz laughed. “I’m not going to hurt ya. That would upset Optimus, and I’m not about upsetting OP. I suspect you aren’t either.” He lowered his helm, looking up at Soundwave from the top of his visor. “I’m on my leash for now.”

“Understood. Discussion accepted. Where?” Soundwave didn’t relax, but he seemed to trust Jazz’s word.

Which was good. There’d always been a sort of professional understanding between them, and Jazz hoped it would be maintained now that there was a truce, and they were more or less on the same side.

“Well, I’d hate to take up too much of your time. I know you were busy doing… what is it you’re doing again?” Jazz asked as Soundwave started walking. Jazz fell into step beside him.

He wasn’t lying. He didn’t need to take Soundwave somewhere private to get to the nitty-gritty. He only needed five minutes of the dock’s time, and he’d learn all he wanted to know.

“Whatever must be done,” Soundwave said as Buzzsaw alit from his shoulders and took the sky, circling above them. Jazz did not believe for a second that he would go far. “Wherever Soundwave is needed.”

“Including at Optimus’ right hand?”

Soundwave drew to a halt and turned toward Jazz, staring at him with that blank stare that tended to intimidate lesser mechs. Jazz had faced off against it before. He remained unperturbed.

“Jazz opposes?” Soundwave asked with a tilt of his helm.

“I didn’t say all that now,” Jazz said as he folded his arms under his bumper. He looked up at Soundwave, glad that there was no one around to eavesdrop. “I’m just curious. And ya know how dangerous that can be.” He grinned.

“If not opposed then… jealous?”

Jazz’s visor flashed. “There’s nothin’ to be jealous about. OP and I have an understanding. I’m where I’m supposed to be. But if ya want to give it a name, you can call me protective. That’s my Prime you’re lurkin’ around, Soundwave. And I’ve no problem killing for him. Just ask Megatron.”

He paused and rolled his shoulders before continuing, “Well, actually, you can’t because he’s a pool of dreg at the bottom of a smelter right now. Maybe Overlord instead… except he’s an empty shell, lucky that his spark is pretty much a bomb. Ya see where I’m going with this?”

“Soundwave agrees that Jazz is dangerous,” he replied, and Jazz politely pretended that he didn’t hear the hitch in Soundwave’s ventilations, however slight it was. “Respect given, but threat unnecessary. Soundwave intends no harm.”

Jazz leaned forward, bobbing on the tips of his pedes before sinking back. “Yeah, the thing is, I actually believe ya about that. Which brings me to wonder why? And before you even try to pull that card, yeah, it is my business.”

Soundwave shifted his weight. “Optimus Prime belongs to Optimus Prime.”

Jazz’s stared at him. “You know very well what I meant, Sounders. He’s a free mech, but he’s ours. And your madmech of a leader might have taken Ironhide and Prowl from him, but I’m still here, and I’ll do what Optimus can’t. Tell me I won’t.”

Soundwave went silent.

Jazz stood his ground.

Just give me a reason, he vowed. He’d held himself back before. He wasn’t going to do so now. He had all the respect for Soundwave; they had a sort of professional respect over the centuries of war. But Jazz wouldn’t hesitate to take him down and hide the empty frame if he had to.

Finally, Soundwave’s shoulders drifted down by minute increments. His head tilted, gaze looking over Jazz’s helm. “Threat unnecessary,” he repeated. “Soundwave wishes no harm on Optimus Prime. Soundwave wishes only…” He trailed off, pausing, and of all things, Jazz did not expect to see Soundwave fidget.

Holy Primus on a pogo stick.

“…Friendship,” Soundwave finally said though with a huff of frustration, as though he had sought a better term and settled only for what emerged.

Friendship. Jazz had a feeling there was a lot more to it than that, but now he suspected not even Soundwave was sure what he wanted and was trying to figure it out in a kind of clumsy, suspicious manner. The logical reason to stick close to Optimus aside, there was something personal there, too.

Just how long had Soundwave admired Optimus?

“Friendship,” Jazz repeated and let his lips slide into a more friendly grin. “Well, that’s all right then. We could all use a bit more of that right now. Fostering good relations and such.”

“Interrogation over?”

Jazz laughed and unfolded his arms. “That was me being nice, Sounders. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Prefer Soundwave.”

“I’m sure you do.” Jazz dimmed half his visor in a version of a wink. “I’m really glad we had this talk, Sounders. Contrary to what you might think, I really do respect you.”

Soundwave’s helm tilted back down, his visor focusing on Jazz again. “Jazz’s behavior contrary.”

“Yeah. I know. It’s part of my charm.” Jazz’s lips curved. “Just don’t hurt my Prime, and we won’t have to have this conversation again, yeah?”

Soundwave’s visor rippled with light, his field touching Jazz’s briefly, as though in acknowledgment. “Intentions were never to harm.”

“Then we understand each other.” Jazz grinned and patted Soundwave on the shoulder, noticing that he flinched. “Good talk, Sounders. Glad we had it.”

“Soundwave doesn’t share Jazz’s opinion,” Soundwave replied, wariness thick in his tone.

Jazz didn’t blame him one bit. That had been his intention all along.

He chuckled. “I know. You’ve got time though. Hopefully, we won’t have to repeat this conversation.” He flashed half his visor in a wink. “Catch ya later, Sounders.”

He made himself scarce, whistling as he strolled off without a backward glance. He didn’t know where Buzzsaw was, but that didn’t mean the winged cassette wasn’t around.

Jazz wasn’t bothered. He’d learned what he wanted to learn. The rest was up to Optimus.

So long as Soundwave behaved himself. Besides, Jazz had a certain combiner team to find. He had a job offer, and it was about time they contributed.

Finding the Combaticons was no harder than finding Soundwave. They’d taken to residing in a bunk near the Space Bridge Command Control. As a purely Neutral party, they often took shifts guarding it from “potential threats.”

As far as Jazz was concerned, the biggest threats were a) sitting in the Decepticon brig and b) squatting in Nova Cronum, plotting a way to take Cybertron from the united Autobots and Decepticons.

That was the topic du jour Jazz wanted to address with Onslaught. Jazz’s own team couldn’t do this task. Mirage had been making noise about retiring. Bumblebee had sparks in his optics over Rumble, and Jazz couldn’t fault him for that. Smokescreen had his hands full trying to be a fully-fledged psychiatrist without the credentials to back him up.

Jazz was going to have to outsource, and he couldn’t rely on Soundwave loaning him his cassettes. Besides, Metalhawk would be suspicious of anyone with a brand on their chest right now, and everyone knew Onslaught and his team had scrubbed theirs off the moment the truce was signed.

Jazz strolled up to the bunk and hit the chime, shifting from pede to pede as he waited for someone to answer. As far as he knew, they were none of them on-shift right now, but Jazz was also not privy to the Combaticon schedule. They were obligated to report to no one, not even each other.

They were, in fact, the only group of Cybertronians right now who were truly Neutral. Metalhawk’s group counted as a faction in its own right. But the Combaticons had identified themselves as entirely separate.

It’s a smart move, one worthy of a brilliant tactician, the same Megatron had never properly utilized. Well, Jazz wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as Buckethead. As much as he called Optimus his Prime, Jazz wasn’t letting him call all the shots either.

He’d tell Optimus about recruiting Onslaught when it became relevant, but not before.

The door opened with Onslaught standing in the frame, his expression hidden behind mask and visor.

“Now,” he drawled. “What could Prime’s pet spy want with us?”

Jazz grinned. “Got a job offer for ya, if you’re interested.”

“All of us?”

“All of you who can be spared.” Jazz bobbed on his heelstruts, at ease despite the baleful nature of Onslaught’s stare.

The Combaticon Commander did not intimidate him. It didn’t matter that Onslaught was twice his size and mass. So was Ironhide and Jazz still beat him four spars out of five. Ironhide never held back either.

It was all about leverage.

Onslaught made a noncommittal noise and stepped aside, gesturing for Jazz to enter. “I’ll listen,” he said.

“Great!” Jazz chirped and strode inside, taking in the barren nature of the place, though the Combaticons had made some effort to turn it into a home.

Not much of a one. No doubt Onslaught ran his gestalt like the military commander he was sparked to be. At least each member had a room of their own, Jazz noticed as he passed closed doors before finding himself in an open room, probably a gathering area for the team given the large screen.

Brawl was nowhere in sight, but Jazz heard a rumor he was hanging around Dinobot headquarters so that came as no surprise. Unfortunately, however, Vortex wasn’t around either which put a wrench in Jazz’s gears. Vortex was the one the most trained. Then again, Vortex was also unappealing to many, many Cybertronians so maybe it would be better if he didn’t participate.

Rumor had it he had his visor set on a certain talkative sniper, which situation Jazz intended to monitor very, very closely.

Blast Off and Swindle, however, were present. The former of which stared intently at some datapad, and the latter of whom aimlessly cycled through the limited programming on the vidscreen. Some enterprising Autobot had made an effort to upload human programming to the planet-wide servers. Selection was still limited, though.

“So,” Onslaught said as he leaned against the massive couch where Blast Off sat, clearly subspacing some serious mass to fit on it. “Talk.”

Jazz planted his hands on his hips. “Got a job for you, if you’re interested and up to the challenge. How do you feel about infiltrating the Neutrals?”

The screen paused. Swindle looked up from his datapads. Blast Off half-turned to stare at Jazz as Onslaught tilted his helm.

“And this will work how?” Blast Off asked with a visible frown. Or a glower, rather. “Metalhawk has a distinct distaste for Decepticons.”

“Ahh.” Jazz lifted his hand and waggled a forefinger. “But none of you are Decepticons anymore. You are brand-less. You loathed Megatron. You are his kind of mechs.”

Swindle snorted and leaned his chin against his fist. “You actually think that’ll work?”

Jazz lifted his shoulders. “It’s no secret that Megatron was controlling you. And you’ve not shown any inclination to work with the Cons. Besides, you gonna tell me you can’t be convincin’ when ya need to be, Swindle?” He gave the conmech a pointed stare.

Swindle grinned, his purple optics brightening. “Well,” he drawled. “That depends on what kind of compensation you’re offering.”

“And that depends on what ya want,” Jazz replied. “We’re short on credits and resources right now, but if it’s in my power to get it, I will.”

Blast Off tilted his helm. “You don’t have to ask the Prime?”

“Oh, I probably should. But I’ll save that for when I really need it.” Jazz smirked and shifted his visor toward Onslaught. “Metalhawk’s up to something, and all of my team is down for the count. I don’t have anyone else to send.”

Onslaught crossed his arms. “Did you intend to betray that weakness to me?”

“Just layin’ all my cards on the table.” Jazz spread his hands. “We’re all thin and understaffed, and the Neutrals outnumber us. I gotta know what he’s up to before he succeeds in kicking us off Cybertron.”

Jazz doubted they’d all survive the exodus. Because Autobots and Decepticons would fight to stay on their home planet, and despite claiming to be non-combatants, Jazz had no doubt the Neutrals would shoot to kill. Not to mention the lack of resources they’d face stuck out in the universe on whatever crowded shuttles they found.

“Hmm. All of us?” Onslaught asked.

“As many of ya as ya think ya need,” Jazz replied. He spread his hands. “I’ll consult if ya want. Help build a profile.” He knocked a fist against his helm. “I’m good at it.”

“Yes, I know,” Onslaught said.

Swindle laughed and sat back in his chair. “Well, I’m in. Though it’s going to cost you. I’ll ponder a sufficient payment.”

“There is a shuttle among the Neutrals,” Blast Off said, though he turned his attention to the screen. “Perhaps therein lies my welcome. I am quite certain, also, that Vortex might object. He is busy courting.”

“So I’ve heard,” Jazz drawled. He slapped his palms together and rubbed them. “All right, my mechs. Then let’s create a plan of attack, shall we?”

“I can hardly wait,” Onslaught drawled.

~

Optimus tugged harder at the restraints, despite the pain lancing up and down each arm. He’d broken something in his shoulders, could feel the harsh grind of components together and the sticky slick of seeping fluid, but the urge to resist compelled him.

His entire frame shuddered and shook. Half his cooling vents were blocked. He couldn’t pull in air. Heat rippled through his entire infrastructure. His vocalizer spat static.

Still the glossa lapped at his valve. Denta scraped over his throbbing anterior node, a sensation that was so far removed from pleasure, it was agony. Yet, it still left him cycling higher and higher toward another overload.

This was as much torture as Barricade’s acid.

“Come now, Optimus,” Megatron purred as he gripped Optimus’ thighs harder, thumbs pressing between a seam and bruising the cables beneath. “You should be thanking me for serving you.”

His vocalizer spat another blat of static. He’d smelled smoke earlier, and suspected he’d burnt out the components. Another tremble wracked his frame.

Megatron latched onto his anterior node between his denta and gradually applied pressure. Optimus threw his helm back, trying to twist away, but Megatron’s grip was made of steel and there was nowhere to escape the agony of it. His node throbbed. His array sparked charge into the air.

Another overload stripped him raw, sent his thoughts into the red.

Optimus screamed and writhed, his engine weakly revving a tune of distress. Megatron’s pressure on his node didn’t ease. He flicked his glossa on the nub trapped between his denta, and Optimus’ hips jerked beyond his control. His spark shrank with fear and pain. He gasped, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, had no vocalizer to beg for freedom.

Optimus startled online, his optics flashing online and his spark strobing shock. There was a warmth on his helm and his right hand, and he jerked away from it.

“Whoa, whoa, Prime. Calm the frag down!”

“Frenzy, desist.”

Optimus rebooted his optics and audials. The smear of colors and shapes in front of him coalesced. He was in his office, his new office in Polyhex. He was at his desk, or slumped over it to be precise. There was mess everywhere, his desk clear of all items. He suspected he’d find them on the floor.

Soundwave knelt next to him. He had Optimus’ hand in one of his. The other was gently pressed to Optimus’ forehelm, but he removed it the moment he realized Optimus was more aware.

“That musta been some nightmare.” Frenzy’s vocals again.

“Frenzy!” Soundwave’s chastisement was sharp. Optimus heard a scoff and a subvocal mutter, but nothing further.

Soundwave’s visor shifted toward him. “Optimus caught in memory loop. Soundwave unable to waken without telepathic measures. My apologies.”

Optimus shook his helm and straightened, feeling exhausted to his core. “No, I understand. Thank you, Soundwave.” He looked down. Soundwave still held his hand.

Soundwave startled as though he’d realized it as well and let go of Optimus hand. “Apologies,” he said, again.

He missed the warmth almost immediately which was an odd feeling Optimus tucked away to carefully examine later. Or perhaps it was that he was so unused to comforting, friendly touches that he was desperate for them. Cybertronians were not meant to be so isolated.

“No need,” Optimus reassured as he pushed back from his desk, rubbing a hand down his face and over his battle mask. Sure enough, his desk accessories were on the floor. “Rather I appreciate the assistance.”

“Gratitude unnecessary.” Soundwave straightened, but he also took a step back, as though making sure not to loom. “Apologies, also, for prior processor invasion.”

Optimus frowned behind his mask, looking up at the former Decepticon. “You act as though you had a choice, Soundwave. To refuse would have earned you or your cassettes punishment. I recognize that.”

There was a difference, Optimus knew, between those who hurt him because they could, and those who hurt because they had no other option. Besides, of all the violations Optimus experienced while in Megatron’s possessions, Soundwave’s almost gentle exploration of his processor was the least of them.

“Apology still given,” Soundwave insisted.

“You’ll have ta accept it. He ain’t gonna stop until you recognize he feels bad,” Frenzy said with a cocky smirk as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Soundwave turned toward him, and though his expression was hidden, Optimus imagined there was chastisement in it. Though all Frenzy did was smile brighter, the picture of innocence.

Bah.

Optimus knew very well Frenzy wasn’t innocent. Was it not he and Eject who painted the face of Autobot Headquarters in brilliant splashes of color? While Optimus was glad to see the two getting along, the mess was unacceptable. Though neither had complained too much when Ultra Magnus punished both of them by requiring they clean up after themselves.

“Apology accepted,” Optimus replied. “But I reiterate that there is no need.” He looked down at the mess under his desk and sighed, slipping out of his chair to attend to it.

Soundwave knelt beside him, reaching for a scattered pile of datapads, two of which Optimus could see were broken.

Helping without being asked. As he’d been doing from the beginning, since requesting to defect.

Optimus frowned behind his mask and stared at Soundwave. “Is that what this is about?”

Soundwave looked up at him. “Query: clarify?”

“This.” Optimus gestured between himself and Soundwave. “Your assistance. The way you help me and serve as… as an aide. Is that your way of apologizing? Of trying to make up for what happened?”

Frenzy groaned and slapped his face. “Of all the– are all Autobots as dumb as you, Prime?”

“Frenzy, desist,” Soundwave snapped, his visor flashing.

“But–”

Desist.”

Frenzy’s visor darkened. “Fine.” He spun on a heelstrut and stomped toward the door. “I’ll go find Rumble then, since you’re being mean to me.”

How could a little mech make so much noise, Optimus wondered, as Frenzy slammed his palm on the panel – which he should not have been able to open – and stormed into the hallway.

Silence rose behind him. Optimus blinked and directed his attention back to Soundwave. After all, Soundwave had not answered the question.

Soundwave cycled a ventilation and continued to pick up the datapads, though with greater care. “Soundwave has much to answer for,” he replied, a touch of tightness to his vocals, despite the monotone. “However, actions not entirely due to guilt.”

“You can’t tell me you enjoy taking on a duty best suited to interns,” Optimus replied as he gathered the last of his items and pushed to stand. “Your talents lie beyond personal assistance.”

Soundwave rose as well, carefully stacking Optimus’ datapads on the end of the desk where he always kept them, though Soundwave left out the two that were damaged. He fiddled with them instead of looking at Optimus’ face.

“Soundwave… serves,” he said, a noticeable pause between the two words as though he searched for the right answer. “Position optimal.”

It wasn’t the first time Soundwave reassured Optimus. He doubted it would be the last. Knowing the position Soundwave had carried with Megatron, Optimus struggled to believe that Soundwave didn’t feel marginalized or set aside.

Optimus dumped his belongings on his desk, telling himself he would reorganize them later. Or sweep them into a drawer.

“You’ll let me know if you wish to do otherwise?” Optimus asked.

“Affirmative.” Soundwave stared hard at the broken datapads as though they would provide all the distraction he needed. “Soundwave would present offer.”

Optimus tilted his helm. “Offer?”

The communications mech lifted his helm and reached with his free hand, tapping his forehelm. “Memory removal within Soundwave’s capabilities,” he explained. “If Optimus trusts.”

Optimus cycled his optics, the full implications of Soundwave’s offer striking home. He leaned against his desk, bracing his hands on the edge. Soundwave could potentially remove the memories of his time spent in Megatron’s possession. Did that mean he would instantly be recovered?

Of course not.

What the processor forgot, the spark remembered. Only, he’d be left without the context. He’d be afraid without knowing why. He’d be disgusted without a reason. He’d avoid those around him and then be struck with paranoia because he couldn’t pinpoint a reason, save for the blank spaces in his memory.

Was that a better alternative?

Optimus shook his helm. “I appreciate the offer, Soundwave. But I must deal with this, not wipe it away.”

“Offer remains,” Soundwave said, and then, as if to hurry and change the subject, he held up the two damaged datapads. “Soundwave will repair and retrieve data.”

Optimus nodded and lowered himself back to his chair. “Thank you. There’s nothing classified on there. Not that I believe there is anything left to be classified.” He leaned back, bracing his weight against one chair arm. “No Special Ops divisions. No factional lines. We shouldn’t be concealing anything from Grimlock or Metalhawk.”

“Optimus still has faith,” Soundwave said as he circled around the desk and took the other chair available.

It occurred to Optimus that Soundwave still did not have an office of his own. He knew that Soundwave had quarters somewhere, but he did not know where. He never thought to ask.

How could he know so little about the mech who had become his right hand?

Optimus shook himself out of his musings as Soundwave’s comment filtered through. “Of course I do,” he said, though he could understand why it wouldn’t seem so obvious. “Otherwise I would have chosen to gather up the Autobots and leave Cybertron entirely.”

“Soundwave grateful Optimus did not.”

“You would have stayed on Cybertron?” Optimus asked, confused. If Soundwave did not wish to stay with the Decepticons and had no interest in Metalhawk’s Neutrals, what would he have done?

Soundwave rested his hand over the datapads. “Cybertron home,” he admitted. “But leaving an unfortunate necessity.”

“Mm. Fortunately Grimlock stepped in, making peace with the Decepticons less of a burden,” Optimus said with a tilt of his helm. “I do appreciate all of your assistance, Soundwave. It surprised me how much I noticed your absence.”

Soundwave’s visor flickered. “Apologies,” he said, his field flickering out, but then drawing back before Optimus could sense the emotion in it. “Soundwave interviewing potential candidates for defection to Autobots.”

Optimus leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on the arms. “How many?”

“Three, two denied. Petitioners sought to circumvent Grimlock’s authority.” Soundwave’s visor darkened in determination. “Soundwave refused to allow. Two unwelcome.”

Optimus considered those he knew still in the Decepticon’s brig without parole. Necessity had allowed the Constructicons a small measure of freedom, but there were others gathering dust in the jails. Motormaster and Barricade, for example. Dirge was another.

This sort of underhanded move sounded like something Barricade would do. He supposed he owed Soundwave for taking care of that issue before Optimus was required to address it.

“And the third?”

“Potential exists. Will forward request. Identity: Breakdown.”

Optimus tilted his helm. Not the designation he would have expected. He didn’t think combiner teams could or would separate. Certainly the Protectobots and Aerialbots had never indicated a desire to do so. Though First Aid no longer had a choice. Gestalt members could survive without their teammates, though it was an uncomfortable and painful existence.

Then again, such was the same for Breakdown. Of his brothers, only two still lived.

“I’ll take a look at it,” Optimus said, making a mental note to contact Mirage. He’d been in Stunticon custody and if he was willing to discuss it, Optimus would get his opinion on Breakdown’s potential rehabilitation. He would not force Mirage to suffer seeing Breakdown if it was at all possible it would harm Mirage.

All apologies to Breakdown, but Optimus’ own Autobots came first. He was no longer going to consider the greater good. At least, not immediately. He had learned his lesson. If Breakdown truly wanted to leave his team and the Decepticons, he had the option to go the route of the Neutrals, though Optimus doubted Metalhawk would be any more welcoming.

Then again, Metalhawk did have Chromedome, Trepan’s former associate. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think Metalhawk might use him.

Times like these, Optimus wished he had some insight into Metalhawk. He didn’t trust Metalhawk’s motivations.

“Thank you,” Optimus said, “For taking on that task for me.”

Soundwave inclined his helm. “You’re welcome.”

Optimus smiled behind his mask.

~

Chromedome slumped as he disengaged from Red Alert and sat back in his chair. The tenth session had gone well, but it left him drained.

He was getting a little tired of cleaning up after Trepan’s messes. He didn’t know whether to thank the Autobots for putting an end to Trepan’s madness, or curse them out for not keeping him alive to fix his own mistakes.

Chromedome was of mixed feelings about the situation. Metalhawk hadn’t given him much choice in the matter. While Chromedome was willing to help another victim of Trepan’s, he was loath to do so with skills he had sworn to abandon. He also didn’t like that his aid was being used as a means to spy on the Autobots.

For all that the Autobots and Decepticons had set aside their differences to end the war, Metalhawk was the one who seemed determined to cling to it. He didn’t see it that way, of course. But there was a bitterness inside Metalhawk. One that no amount of goodwill could dissipate.

“Here.”

Chromedome startled, hand whipping upright and to his chagrin, nearly impaling the poor minimech who was trying to hand him a cube of energon. In his exhaustion, he’d neglected to retract his needles. Primus. Trepan would have ripped him out for his negligence.

He retracted them with a quiet snickt, expecting the other mech to flinch, except that he didn’t even flare his visor at the sight of them.

The black and white mech – who on closer inspection was probably small enough to be a cassette – stared back at him. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No. It’s okay. I was just thinking.” Chromedome winced. It was a bit of a lame reply. He directed his attention to the energon instead. “You brought that for me?”

“You look like you could use it. You’ve been sitting still for six hours.”

“That long?” Chromedome rubbed the back of his neck as he accepted the cube. “I didn’t even notice.” He should have checked his chronometer.

Chromedome pulled out his autoinjector and plunked it down in the cube. He peered at the mech who, in turn, peered back at him.

“You’re not the mech who was here earlier,” he said with a tilt of his helm.

Unsurprisingly, the Autobots made certain he had a guard every time he plugged into Red Alert, not that they could do anything to stop him once he engaged. Nor would they be able to recognize a problem if there was one.

“No. That was one of my brothers.” The cassette clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on his heelstruts. “I’m Rewind. And you’re Chromedome, the Neutral who is going to fix Red Alert.”

“I’m going to try,” Chromedome corrected. He glanced at his patient. “I never could match up to my mentor, but I will do the best I can.”

Rewind tilted his helm, and that was when Chromedome noticed the light shining from the side of it. He cycled his optics behind his visor.

“Are you recording me?” he asked.

Rewind chuckled and tapped the side of his helm. “I’m always recording. It’s kind of what I do. I’m a data archivist.”

“But you’re a cassette.”

“I’m not just a cassette though. My dock’s Blaster.” Rewind rocked up and down on his heels again. “If it bothers you, I’ll stop.”

Chromedome leaned back in his chair. “But it’s your function.”

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I’m interested in the Neutrals and Blaster says I can’t go over there, and Metalhawk probably wouldn’t allow it so all that’s left is you.” He paused and something like distaste entered his field. “Or Ambulon but, he’s cranky all the time. You looked like you’re more interested in talking.”

Chromedome laughed a little himself. “What on Cybertron gave you that impression?”

“Instinct.” Rewind turned and grabbed the only other chair in the room, dragging it closer. He plopped himself down and folded his hands in his lap. “So,” he continued. “Will you talk to me? If you’re too tired, you don’t have to, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. Blaster says I should always ask.”

“Asking is important,” Chromedome agreed. He dragged a hand down his faceplate, feeling the fatigue as it crawled into every strut and cable. “But maybe another day? My datastream’s sluggish, and I can barely process.”

Rewind smacked his own forehelm. “Duh. What am I thinking? Of course you’re exhausted. You’ve been in Red Alert’s head. Even on a good day, that’s a minefield.” He slid down from the chair and held out his hand. “Come on. I’ll take you somewhere you can rest.”

Chromedome stared at him and the offered hand. Most mechs didn’t blindly offer such to mneumosurgeons. They thought he could access their thoughts with a flick of the wrist, no matter how many times Chromedome explained that he didn’t use wrist dataports.

“I expected to go back to Nova Cronum.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re helping Red Alert. You don’t have to go all the way back there to rest.” Rewind wriggled his fingers and then paused, tilting his helm. “Unless you want to, I mean. I’d understand if you weren’t comfortable here.”

Metalhawk would tell him to go for it, to take every chance he could to learn more about the Autobots and their potential weaknesses. Chromedome was supposed to find something to exploit. He simply didn’t want to. But he also didn’t want to go back to Nova Cronum. The terrain was rough, he was exhausted, and he was more likely to crash than he was to make it back safely.

Plus, Metalhawk’s suspicions made it an unpleasant place to be.

Did it count as defecting if he left the Neutrals to be an Autobot?

“Thank you for the offer,” Chromedome said as he rose to his pedes, towering over the cassette by twice Rewind’s height. He took the small hand, still marveling over the fact it had been offered to him. “It would be nice to recharge here.”

Rewind’s visor lit with happiness. “And when you wake up, maybe we can talk?” His camera light glowed up at Chromedome, still recording.

“Sure,” Chromedome said. “I don’t see why not. There’s a lot we don’t know about each other.”

Metalhawk, I don’t want to do this.

Rewind beamed at him and started to tug him from the room, not that Chromedome was at all resistant. Another few sessions, maybe Red Alert would online, and they’d all trust him. Then he could spill the truth about Metalhawk and maybe, they’d let him stay here.

His fingers flexed in Rewind’s grip.

Maybe.

[Crown the Empire] Salvage 05

He couldn’t move.

He was getting used to being on his knees. He hated that he’d acclimated. His wrists had been shackled behind his back. That, too, was so commonplace as to be almost comfortable. His shoulders no longer ached.

This, however, was new.

Megatron’s spike in his mouth was almost familiar. But usually it had a purpose. One of many overloads the warlord demanded. One of many humiliations.

Megatron wasn’t after an overload, however. He’d called Optimus over, he’d extended his spike, and he’d demanded Optimus service it. Optimus had bent to the task with a sigh, a sense of resigned fatigue.

He’d bent with no ceremony, sucking Megatron’s spike into his mouth and working him quickly. He’d used several tricks he’d learned, including prodding at the transfluid slit with his glossa. Usually, Megatron left him to do it. He didn’t bother Optimus so long as Optimus did what he was told.

This time, Megatron looked down at him with burning optics. Amusement glimmered in his field. Mischief, too, was present, and it was that which made Optimus uneasy.

Megatron’s hand rested on his helm. This, too, wasn’t unusual. Optimus offlined his optics, resigning himself to Megatron taking the lead, using him however he wanted. It was easier that way, sometimes, as Megatron often overloaded faster when he did that. Then Optimus would be pushed aside where he could cough in peace.

Both of Megatron’s hands rested on his helm now, a heavy, noticeable weight.

“You look so good with a spike in your mouth,” he said. His grip became heavier. He pushed.

His spike sank deeper into Optimus’ mouth.

“You almost look comfortable, Optimus. Like you’re enjoying yourself.” Megatron ex-vented, a wave of heat rolling over Optimus.

He pushed again, and kept pushing, until Optimus’ lips were flush with Megatron’s panel, and Megatron’s spike was down his intake. His intake fluttered with discomfort. He diverted his ventilations so as not to overheat.

“But that’s not the point of this,” Megatron said.

One hand lifted from Optimus’ helm, and Optimus made a small noise. He tried to pull back, but Megatron’s remaining hand pushed hard against him. Fingers dug into his helm, keeping him in place.

Optimus’ intake squeezed. It convulsed. His tank roiled. His hands drew into fists.

Megatron didn’t move, didn’t thrust. His spike pulsed and swelled on Optimus’ glossa and against his intake. His engine rumbled.

“Stay,” he said. His free hand groped the tabletop.

Optimus onlined his optics. Megatron dragged a datapad closer and flicked it on. His attention shifted to the datapad and its contents. He didn’t seem to care about Optimus at all.

Heat built in Optimus’ chassis. His intake spasmed again. His tank flipped. Warnings cropped up in his processor. There was something lodged in his intake.

Optimus squirmed. Megatron’s fingers dug in harder. Optimus’ helm creaked. Red optics flicked to him. Megatron shifted as though to make himself more comfortable, and kept Optimus pinned against his array. His lips and denta pressed against Megatron’s panel. All he could smell was Megatron’s scent, his arousal, the heat of his plating.

Humiliation burned. Sometimes, he forgot he was supposed to feel like this.

“That’s better,” Megatron said, the amusement ripe in his field. “Can’t let you get too comfortable, can I? Else you might think you’ve earned it.” His optics darkened. “And your comfort has never been a part of this.”

His words echoed in Optimus’ audials. His intake rippled again. His tanks churned, torn between evicting the paltry energon Megatron had granted him, and keeping it.

Self-preservation won.

It was a long time before Megatron made an effort to overload.

His optics snapped online. His tank convulsed, and Optimus had a moment of blind panic. His entire frame shook, but more important was the rising surge of sickness. He flailed and tossed himself out of the berth, landing hard against the floor. His gyros reeled. His processor spun.

He shoved himself to hands and knees and managed a few unsteady, crawling steps away from the berth before his tank clenched again. A low moan escaped Optimus as the lingering memories of nausea overwhelmed him.

He had only a moment to brace himself before his tanks initiated a purge, and he expelled all of the energon he had yet to process. Drinking half a cube before recharge was apparently a bad idea as it splattered on the floor beneath him. He cycled his optics shut, fingers scraping against the floor, as his frame heaved, and his tank continued to clench.

Primus!

His temperature climbed upward. Warnings cascaded down his HUD. But his frame wouldn’t settle until every last drop of unprocessed energon emptied itself. He swore he could still taste Megatron on his glossa, beneath the sourness of his own spill.

Optimus spat, trying to clear his mouth of the foul taste.

He backed away from the mess, and pushed himself back against the berth. He stayed there on the floor, legs and knees wobbly, unwilling to try standing. He swiped the back of his hand over his mouth, wiping away a few drips of sticky oral lubricant. He drew up his knees, resting his elbows upon them and buried his face in his hands.

His armor clattered. His field was a wild frenzy. He was hot all over. It wasn’t sickness, he knew.

His energy levels hovered at thirty percent, relying only on the energon he’d managed to process overnight.

Ratchet would be appalled.

Optimus cycled a ventilation. He couldn’t stop trembling. Heat cascaded through his system.

He realized, all too late, that it wasn’t entirely because of the unexpected purge. Both of his panels were wide open. His valve leaked. His spike was half-pressurized. He shook because his lower half thrummed with arousal.

Primus.

Optimus groaned and pushed the heels of his palms against his shuttered optics. He tried to will the unwelcome arousal away. Megatron had trained his frame all too well apparently.

Megatron liked to use him and then make him overload afterward as a reward. His frame quickly learned to associate humiliation with pleasure. Every time Megatron debased him, his frame responded. He learned to be ready, to ease the pain. It left him in a constant state of mild arousal.

He hated no longer being in control of his own frame. He didn’t know how to fix it.

The floor was chilly beneath his aft. The vents pumped cold air into his suite. Optimus tried to focus on the cold sensations. He refused to self-service. He forced his panels to close, ignoring the arousal still pinging him notices.

His chest ached. He ignored that, too.

Optimus was old enough and wise enough to know that recovery was a long process. He knew that nights like these were going to be common until he could figure out how to process what happened and move on from it.

Logic, however, did not help him when it came to moments like this. When recharge only made things worse and he woke up both purging and aroused and sick to his core. When he loathed himself and Megatron both, and knew, logically, that none of this was his fault, but still feeling as though he should have prevented it anyway.

Primus, but he wished Ironhide were here. Or Prowl, even. He desperately wished to have their counsel.

Optimus curled into himself, covering his helm with his arms and tucking it against his knees. He thought if he made himself small enough, he could block out the world. He could find his center.

He missed the counsel of the matrix. More often than not, it was a silent weight in his chest. Occasionally, he could tap into its wisdom if he was fully centered and seeking guidance. But all that remained was a raw ache where Megatron had yanked it from his chassis. Ratchet had repaired him, but he still hurt.

Ghost pains, Ratchet called it. He spent so long with the Matrix attached that his frame would need time to adjust to its absence.

Optimus focused on ventilating until the rippling in his tank ceased and the tremors in his armor eased. He watched his internal temperature cycle down, degree by degree; the slow count of it helped him center himself. He took the memory of the purge and shoved it down deep.

The arousal ebbed away, leaving him drained and exhausted. So much for a whole recharge cycle and the requisite defrag. Optimus felt worse now than he had when he laid down last night.

Time, Ratchet insisted. Time was all they needed.

Optimus sighed.

He did not return to recharge. He managed to unfurl himself when he felt marginally better. He sought out cleanser and rags to clean up the mess he made, missing cleaning drones in that moment. His tanks pinged him for more fuel.

The idea of consuming energon left him ill all over again.

He was at thirty percent. He could survive a little longer. Certainly, it was a luxury compared to what Megatron allowed him.

Optimus spent longer than he should have in the washracks, the temperature near-scalding. He should have been more conservative, but he wanted to scrub away all traces of the unwanted memories. He thought if he scrubbed a little harder, he might scrub away the memory of Megatron’s hands on his plating, Megatron’s spike in his valve, and Megatron’s spark rasping against his.

Ugh.

Optimus shuddered.

He forced himself out of the washrack when he could no longer justify lingering. He checked his chronometer, but it ticked far too slowly toward first shift.

Optimus tried to busy himself with the stack of datapads that he’d brought back with him from the office. Ratchet didn’t have to know about these either.

The chime to his quarters rang ten minutes before first shift was due to begin. Optimus cycled his optics in surprise. No one visited him this early and Soundwave had an unusual talent of only pinging Optimus precisely on time, not a minute too soon or too late.

Optimus tucked the more immediate datapads into his subspace and rose to his pedes. His legs were still wobbly, he noticed, but he hoped his visitor didn’t. He opened the door and was once again surprised.

“Jazz?”

His third in command grinned at him, bouncing on the tips of his pedes. “Good morning, OP. Or… is it?” He tilted his helm to the side, as perceptive as always. “Ya look terrible.”

“Thank you for your honesty,” Optimus said with a sigh. He gestured for Jazz to go ahead and come in. “I didn’t recharge well. Has something happened?”

Jazz all but danced in, carefully balancing a cube of energon in each hand. “Not bad news. Metalhawk finally sent his mech over, the one with the mneumosurgery skills, and Ratchet thought you might like to meet him.”

“That I do.” Optimus shook his helm as Jazz offered him a cube. “No, thank you. I am fueled enough.”

“Not according to my sensors.” The light behind Jazz’s visor dimmed. “You okay?”

“Nothing that won’t heal with time.” Optimus returned to his chair and wasn’t surprised to find Jazz hop up on the table, folding his legs to take up less space. “I am sorry if I seemed rude. I wasn’t expecting you.”

Jazz popped open his own cube and sipped at it. “I know. Ya were expectin’ Soundwave. But he’s off in Iacon playin’ nice with his old friends today.”

“Oh, I see.”

“You sound disappointed, OP.” Jazz drummed the fingers of his free hand over his knee. “I know he’s been keeping pretty close to you, but I figured ya were bein’ too nice to tell him to get lost.”

Optimus cycled his optics. “He’s been inordinately helpful. True, I found it a bit odd at first, but now I find myself in a position where he has become irreplaceable.”

Jazz tilted his helm and finished his cube. “Huh. Now isn’t that somethin’.”

“What?” Optimus asked. He leaned forward, peering at his third in command. “I know that tone. What is it, Jazz?”

He leaned forward, elbows braced on both his knees. “Somethin’ goin’ on I should know about, Optimus?” Jazz asked, his tone taking on an edge of seriousness. “Because Soundwave is awful close to ya all of the sudden, and now you’re talkin’ like you don’t mind.”

“Because I don’t.” Optimus leaned back in his chair, resting his elbows on the arms of it as he laced his fingers together. “He is no longer a Decepticon, and his behavior has been exceptional. I see no reason to believe he isn’t honest in his intentions.”

Jazz waved a dismissive hand. “Never said he wasn’t. Just said that it was interestin’ how close he’s stickin’ to ya. Don’t ya find that a little odd?”

“Why would I?” Optimus rolled his shoulders in a shrug. “Soundwave is simply pragmatic. He knows that he’s safest close to me. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if I was in a similar situation.”

“Yeah. I get that. But I’m sayin’ it’s more than that, too.” Jazz’s lips twitched toward a smile. “And you don’t see the way he looks at ya.”

Optimus sighed and rubbed his forehelm. “Perhaps because there is nothing to see. Now, do we not have somewhere to be? Since it appears I need an escort without Soundwave present.”

Jazz chuckled and hopped off the table, stretching his arms over his helm. “I know a desperate bid to change the subject when I hear one. And, yes. If Metalhawk’s mech isn’t already there, he’ll be there soon. Ratchet won’t start without ya unless I tell him to.”

“Good. I want to be there.” Optimus rose to his pedes as well, briefly swaying as a spat of dizziness attacked him. He paused to regain his balance and pretended that Jazz wasn’t giving him a concerned look. “And how is Ratchet?”

“Doc seems to be doing okay.” Jazz led them out of Optimus’ quarters and started down the hall. There was less pep in his step than earlier. “He and ‘Jack took in First Aid since Perceptor started bunking with Blue. They’re making sure the kid takes care of himself. Ratch’s cranky, and he don’t like anyone touching him, but he’s got a wealth of support. I think he’ll be okay.”

Optimus managed a small smile of relief. It was good to know that he hadn’t completely failed his Autobots. “And Mirage?”

“He’s… not good.” Jazz glanced up at him. “You knew he and Tracks were partnered, right?”

“Given that Mirage is still alive, I assume not spark-bonded.”

“No. But they were close.” Jazz audibly cycled a ventilation. “I don’t know that he’s ever going to come back to the army, boss. He’s angry. He’s bitter. And if Cliffjumper hadn’t gotten to Blitzwing and forced us all to tighten our defenses, he might have been the first to murder a Decepticon.”

Optimus’ tank churned again. He was glad he had consumed this morning’s ration, no matter how much he needed it. “The Stunticons?”

“Well, the three-fifths of them that survived.”

Optimus sighed and looked up into the sky as they stepped out of the Xantium. Bright stars shone against the dark. The haze was gone for now. It would return soon enough.

“I had the opportunity to save him,” Optimus said as his spark clenched with regret. “Tracks did not want to be saved. After being in Shockwave’s custody and then being passed to the Stunticons, I can’t say I blame him. But I now wonder if honoring his request had been the wrong choice.”

Jazz’s field bumped against his, a bare brush that was an invitation Optimus had only to accept. “We had to decide a long time ago to stop wasting resources on mechs that didn’t want to be saved, remember?”

“This is different.”

“Not really.” Jazz swept a hand over his helm, his visor darkening. “Honoring Tracks’ request was probably the only time he was able to choose anything for himself since the Decepticons took us down. I don’t think Mirage can be angry about that.”

Optimus made a noncommittal noise. He wasn’t sure he could believe Jazz. Perhaps it would be best to speak with Mirage himself.

“The honoring ceremony will help,” Jazz continued as they hooked a left toward the building Ratchet had claimed for a medbay, or medcenter as he planned on calling it. “The chance to honor the fallen and let ourselves grieve is something we all need, I think. Closure is important to the healing process, according to Smokescreen.”

Optimus nodded. “Just don’t tell Ratchet it was Smokescreen’s idea.”

Jazz managed a light chuckle. “I won’t. Doc doesn’t see optic to optic with Smokescreen on this. It doesn’t matter that none of us know what we’re doing.”

“We are all doing the best we can,” Optimus agreed. “And what of Hound, has he checked in yet?” He meant to check the communication logs first thing this morning, except that Jazz intercepted him. Perhaps it was better this way as Jazz would give him a more accurate presentation of his mech’s mental state.

Jazz rubbed a hand down his faceplate. “He did and he’s… better. They haven’t found the humans yet, but Ravage thinks she’s caught a fresh trail. Hound ain’t recharging like he should, but he’s letting Ravage cuddle with him, and ‘Breaker ain’t nothin’ but a cuddle bear so I think he’ll be all right.”

“You do whatever you think is best, Jazz. I trust your judgment. And be sure to tell Hound that I fully support him.” Optimus allowed a bit of fondness into his field. “He and Ravage have a history, as I understand it, and I don’t wish to stand between him and any measure of happiness.”

Jazz tilted a grin toward him. “Boss, they had a history during the war, you just didn’t know it. Don’t think Sounders knew it either.”

Optimus cycled his optics and stared at his third in command. He paused in front of the medcenter, unable to believe his audials. “They were fraternizing?”

“If that’s what ya want to call it.” Jazz shrugged, but it was far from casual. “Look, boss, things happen. What it was had nothing to do with faction. I knew about it. I was watchin’ it. I never had anythin’ to worry about. Otherwise I would’ve said somethin’. Trust me.”

“I do,” Optimus said automatically, because it was true. He trusted Jazz with his spark. “I am merely surprised. I never would have thought it of Hound.”

“He’s loyal. He wouldn’t have betrayed us. Just like Ravage is loyal to Soundwave.” Jazz offered another grin, this one softer than the other. “It’s kind of lucky things ended this way. At least for them.”

Something good had come out of the horror. Optimus supposed he could be grateful for that. There was always hope. He wasn’t sure he could pinpoint the exact moment he let himself forget that.

“I believe you,” Optimus murmured.

He stared up at the medbay. Ratchet would know, from the moment he scanned Optimus, how poor his health truly was.

Was it cowardly to hesitate? Ratchet had become even more of a mother hen since the defeat of the Decepticons. He’d taken their health as a personal crusade, convinced he couldn’t rest until all of them were optimal, physically and mentally, perhaps even at the cost of his own.

“I know ya do. C’mon, OP. You know the doc don’t like to be kept waitin’.” Jazz entered the medbay ahead of him.

Optimus gathered his courage and followed. If Ratchet wanted to fuss over him, Optimus wouldn’t complain. Too much. He knew a coping mechanism when he saw one. They all had their ways.

When they entered the main service area, Ratchet was deep in conversation with a tall, gangly mech, wearing both visor and face mask. He was a grounder, judging by the tires on his shoulders and legs. He had long, thin fingers and Optimus wasn’t sure why he noticed them except for the fact the mech had six rather than the standard five.

Ratchet noticed them first. “About time you got here!” he said, just short of a growl. The other mech turned to greet them. “This here’s Chromedome. Metalhawk sent him.”

Optimus planted friendliness into his field and greeted the mech. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “Metalhawk said you may be able to help one of my Autobots?”

“Red Alert,” Chromedome acknowledged as he gripped Optimus’ hand, two of his fingers oddly tapping at Optimus’ wrist before he drew back. “I studied under Trepan. If there’s any hope of undoing what he did, I’m probably the best chance you have.”

“And since you’re here, we can finally get started,” Ratchet said as Chromedome backed off a pace. “I suppose you’re staying, too?” He added with a glance toward Jazz.

He stepped back, holding up his hands. “I can always leave if you like.”

“Or you could go talk to the Twins. They could use some company,” Ratchet retorted with a roll of his optics.

Optimus blinked, startled. “The Twins are online?”

Ratchet sighed and scrubbed at his chevron. “There was no reason to keep them in stasis if I didn’t have to. As long as I don’t separate them, they can be online. Though if they persist in being irritating, I may have to put them under again for the sake of my sanity.”

“Shockwave’s suggestion for repairin’ them is nothin’ any of us want to use. But we might not have a choice,” Jazz added.

Optimus cycled a ventilation. “Why haven’t I heard about this?”

“I was going to tell you after we took care of Red Alert. I still am.” Ratchet spun on a heelstrut and waved over his shoulder. “Come on. Red first, Twins later. Jazz, you know what to do.”

“Sure thing, doc.” Jazz tossed off a friendly salute. “We can do the rounds when you’re done, OP,” he said as he walked away, to the room that had been designated for Sideswipe and Sunstreaker.

The rounds? Apparently, Jazz really had appointed himself as Soundwave substitute. Did they think Optimus needed an escort?

Optimus rubbed at his forehelm and fell into step beside Chromedome and Ratchet. The former was actually taller than Ratchet, but the medic was more than twice his mass. Chromedome’s field was unreadable, Optimus noticed. It was present, he could sense it, but Optimus couldn’t read into it.

They stepped into the smaller room Ratchet had set aside for Red Alert, and Optimus couldn’t quite hide his shiver of disquiet. Red Alert lay on a berth, painfully still, his optics offline, and his energy field as empty as it had been the first Optimus saw him again. If not for the brightness of his color nanites, Optimus would have thought him deactivated.

Ratchet stepped aside, giving Chromedome room to stand next to Red Alert’s berth. He lifted his right hand, thin fingers twitching restlessly.

“You might not want to stay,” Chromedome said as his left hand rested on Red Alert’s helm. “The sight of mneumosurgery tends to make most mechs uncomfortable.”

Ratchet folded his arms over his windshield. “I don’t know you from Prima. I’m not going anywhere. I’m a medic, I think I can handle it.”

Chromedome shifted to stand at the head of Red Alert’s berth, both hands now on Red Alert’s helm as he looked in Optimus’ direction. “Prime, sir?”

Optimus shook his helm and took up a position next to Ratchet. “I will remain as well.”

“Then don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Chromedome bent over Red Alert, nimble fingers tracing the seams of Red Alert’s helm before there was a tiny click and a protective panel lifted up and away.

Optimus’ optics cycled wide as Red Alert’s processor module came into view, the heavy protective plate being set aside. Chromedome tilted his helm to the side, one hand hovering over the exposed component, fingers twitching as though tracing some invisible lines.

“Trepan’s so sloppy for someone who invented this,” Chromedome commented, more to himself than to them.

One hand rested on Red Alert’s forehelm as the fingers of his other hand twitched and long needles emerged from the tips of them. Optimus’ tank churned at the sight. Next to him, Ratchet shifted, his field going still.

Chromedome glanced at both of them. “Last chance to leave.”

“We’re not going to,” Ratchet growled. “Fix him.”

“Please,” Optimus amended.

“I’ll do what I can.” Chromedome cycled a ventilation, his needled fingers twitching in the air before he pressed the tips of them against Red Alert’s processor.

Optimus cringed as Chromedome’s needles sank into Red Alert’s module. His tank wobbled with unease. No wonder Chromedome had suggested they leave. It was an unsettling image.

Next to him, Ratchet was as steady as a rock. He watched, his lips pinched into a thin line, his field thick with worry.

Optimus wasn’t sure if speaking aloud would hurt Chromedome’s concentration. So he picked Ratchet’s comm instead.

How long do you think this is going to take? he asked.

I don’t know, the medic replied as he shifted his weight. I know of the procedure in theory, but it was a very small field before the war broke out. There were rumors, of course, that the council was forcefully reprogramming mecha.

You never believed it?

Ratchet cast him an askance look. Would you? It sounded like a sparkling tale. Something to convince mecha to behave. Luckily, Megatron started the war in earnest before it became common. He must have recruited Trepan along the way, probably convinced him with freedom to experiment, like he did Shockwave.

Disgust rippled through Optimus’ field. He frowned as he watched Chromedome work, the Neutral absolutely still, save for the flickering in his visor.

It made Optimus wonder. If Megatron’s rebellion had never found its footing. If Megatron had never started the Decepticons, what kind of world would they inhabit? What would the council have done? Would this procedure have become commonplace? Would they have simply reprogrammed any mech too outspoken for their tastes?

Such thoughts sent another surge of nausea through Optimus’ tanks. He was thankful for the berth behind him, as it provided something for him to brace against.

How is Perceptor? Optimus asked, desperate to change the subject.

Ratchet tossed him a knowing look. He is well. He and Wheeljack are currently trying my patience right now. They’ve claimed the building next door and are attempting to turn it into a lab.

They’re going to share one?

Ratchet shifted his weight. For now. Though I’m sure it won’t last long. Perceptor is particular about where things go and Wheeljack’s lack of concern for what he considers outdated and superfluous safety practices tend to irritate Perceptor.

And yet, despite all of that, they were best friends. All three, in fact, were close. For the longest time, Optimus had thought they were all romantically involved, until Ratchet clarified matters.

Then you’re not worried about him?

Ratchet snorted and then cast a guilty look Chromedome’s direction, not that the Neutral noticed. He didn’t so much as twitch, though his visor continued to flicker.

I’m worried about all of us, Ratchet said, correcting him. But in terms of those who were rescued, no. Perceptor is one of the ones I worry the least about.

And the most?

We’re looking at him. Ratchet audibly sighed, drawing into himself. Other than Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. Shockwave claimed that the only way to help them is to encourage them to bond.

Optimus frowned behind his mask. They are already bonded.

They need a third spark to balance them. I don’t know what Shockwave did, but it set them perpetually off-balance. That’s why they can’t be far from each other. They are drawing on each other’s spark to keep themselves from slipping out of oscillation.

Optimus’ optics narrowed. And that’s the best solution?

It’s the only one. Ratchet palmed his face, fingers pinching at his chevron. I’m not a spark expert. I don’t know that there’s a medic alive who was one. Shockwave was messing with things we never fully understood.

Shockwave was touching things he had no right to touch. Optimus’ only consolation was that Shockwave currently sat in the Decepticon brig, and he highly doubted Grimlock was inclined to set him free anytime soon. The sight of Swoop was enough to convince Grimlock otherwise.

The Pit hath no fury like an angry Grimlock. He was and had always been protective of his subordinates.

A low click dragged Optimus’ attention away from their internal conversation and back toward Chromedome. A small shiver worked its way across the Neutral’s frame before he lifted his helm. The fingers buried in Red Alert’s processor module gradually retracted until Chromedome was free and able to take a step back.

“Well?” Ratchet prompted, just short of a growl.

Chromedome’s visor brightened and turned toward them. “I’ve identified the changes Trepan made. I believe I can undo them. Do you have access to Red Alert’s back up memory cores?”

“Of course I don’t!” Ratchet snapped. His plating clamped tight toward his frame. “They were left behind on the Ark with everything else we couldn’t carry.”

And Megatron had quite thoroughly destroyed anything he perceived to be of value in the Ark.

“Can you not help him without them?”

Chromedome stepped away from the berth and rubbed his forehelm with one hand. He twitched the wrist of the other, prompting the needles to slide back into his fingertips and out of sight.

“I can remove the programming Trepan installed. The only problem is that in order to do so, Trepan wiped his operating system. So if I remove it, there won’t be anything left. All he’ll have are his spark memories and spark traits.” Chromedome’s tone was apologetic, even as he grabbed a stool and slumped down into it. His knees visibly wobbled. “Trepan kept some of the core programs, basic parameters like his security training, but everything that made him Red Alert is gone.”

Optimus cycled a ventilation. “Red Alert was very cautious. He always had a contingency plan. I can’t imagine that he would keep his back ups in a single location.”

“You think he hid other copies somewhere?” Ratchet asked.

Optimus inclined his helm. “Why wouldn’t he? I did. My main backups were kept in the medbay with everyone else’s, but Jazz has a smaller copy of my core and so did Ironhide.”

The smaller copies were his core programming, his core memories. Such things took up less storage space, and relied heavily on his spark memories to supplement, but it meant if anything happened to him, he could be mostly restored. Optimus had done so on Prowl’s suggestion that it never hurt to have a contingency plan.

“Who would he trust?” Ratchet asked, his expression solemn but his field speaking of a delicate hope. “Was there anyone he was close to?”

Optimus folded his arms. “Not that I am aware. But you know how Red was, he kept to himself.” Much like Prowl had. They were two of the more controversial Autobots. Sometimes, the crew did not understand why they made the choices they did, because the crew couldn’t see the larger picture.

It was why Prowl had so few friends. Red Alert was the same way. Their social interaction was limited to the command staff. They couldn’t mix into the crowd like Jazz and Ratchet and Wheeljack and Ironhide could. They couldn’t shake what made them part of the command staff.

Worse, even if there was someone Red was close to that they weren’t aware of, in all likelihood, that mech was dead. Megatron had been quite thorough in executing the Earth-based Autobots.

“It won’t hurt to ask,” Ratchet said as he crossed the floor, a scan dancing over Red Alert’s frame. “I’m not going to give up on him just yet.” He grabbed Red Alert’s limp hand, giving it a squeeze.

“If you can find even a copy of his core code, I can return him to a semblance of who he was,” Chromedome said, fatigue thick in his vocals. “I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

Ratchet gave him a sideways look. “You’re a Neutral. Why would you even care what happens to one of us warmongers?”

“Metalhawk might be our leader, but he doesn’t speak for all of us. Besides, I can’t stand seeing this used for something so cruel. I learned mneumosurgery to help mecha, not break them.” Chromedome inclined his helm, the gleam of his visor coming across as earnest. “I want to live in peace on my home planet. I’m tired of running and hiding.”

“If only Metalhawk believed as you do,” Optimus murmured. He dipped his helm and pushed off the berth, offering Chromedome his hand. “Thank you for all your assistance, Chromedome. We very much appreciate it.”

A taste of Chromedome’s field escaped, ripe with relief. “Whatever I can do to help. Would you like me to wait until you find a core copy?”

Ratchet shook his helm. “No. If we find it or not, I won’t let Red Alert live like this. He deserves more than being a drone. Even if it means I let him offline at peace.” He squeezed Red Alert’s hand again and spun away form the berth. “You stay seated. I’ll bring you a cube before you start again. Optimus, come with me.”

“Yes, Ratchet.”

Optimus knew better than to argue. Apparently, so did Chromedome, as he planted his aft back down and nodded.

Optimus followed Ratchet into the main room and stood to the side as Ratchet filled a fresh cube from the dispensary.

“You trust him?” Optimus asked.

“I trust his intentions,” Ratchet replied with an askance look. “If I didn’t, you can bet your aft I would have tossed him out already.” He spun toward Optimus, a cube in each hand. One he thrust toward Optimus. “You, however, I’m learning I can’t trust. Drink.”

Optimus cycled a ventilation and reluctantly accepted the cube. “I had no appetite this morning,” he said. Truthfully, he had very little appetite now. His tanks remained unsettled, and hearing about Red Alert and the Twins had not helped.

“And if you let your energy levels dip too low and you collapse on your rounds, what then?” Ratchet asked. His field reached for Optimus, so thick with concern it was almost cloying. “You’re already not recharging properly. If you stop refueling properly, too, I’ll have no choice but to admit you here and confine you to the berth. And you and I both know that such inactivity isn’t going to help.”

Optimus lowered his helm. Shame licked at the edges of his field. He stared at the energon Ratchet had given him – alas, back to medical grade. It wasn’t so much that it tasted foul but that it had no taste at all. It was thick, slimy, and unpalatable for the texture, not the taste.

But his tanks reported a baleful twenty-six percent, and Ratchet had worked very hard to get him to an optimal level. Optimus couldn’t function like this and he knew it. He’d been fighting off dizziness for a long time now.

Optimus forced a tentative sip and waited for it to settle in his tanks. When an immediate purge didn’t follow the sip, he dared a second one and then a third.

“Have you considered talking to Smokescreen?” Ratchet asked, his vocals oddly soft.

Optimus arched an orbital ridge. “I thought you said he wasn’t accredited.”

“He’s not,” Ratchet retorted, but he audibly cycled a ventilation. “But he’s the best we have right now and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m powerless here, Optimus. I can’t help you.” His optics dimmed as his lips pinched together. His field was a wave of helplessness and misery.

Optimus’ spark hurt to feel it.

“I am fine, Ratchet,” he tried to reassure. “All I need is time. Once the Autobots are better established, and I am convinced of Starscream’s sincerity, and Metalhawk’s commitment to peace, then we can all relax. Myself included.”

Ratchet scrubbed a hand down his face. “Sometimes, I really hate that part of you.”

Optimus cycled his optics. “Beg pardon?”

“The part that insists you put everyone else first. When are you going to learn to take care of yourself, Optimus?” Ratchet demanded.

Optimus tilted his helm, unable to hide the affection in his field. “I could ask the same thing of you, my friend.”

Ratchet peered back at him, planting one hand on his hip. “The difference between us, Optimus, is that when I wake up screaming in the middle of a recharge cycle, I have Wheeljack to reach for.”

Optimus hid behind his cube, taking another long sip. “I am accustomed to solitude, Ratchet. No matter what I may have endured.”

“That’s not the point.” Ratchet rubbed harder at his chevron and then moved past him, still carrying Chromedome’s energon. “I just wish you’d let us support you, even a little bit.” The last was muttered, to the point where Optimus wasn’t sure if he was meant to hear it.

“He’s right, ya know.”

Optimus turned at the unexpected comment, which distracted him long enough that Ratchet escaped into Red Alert’s room. Jazz was behind him, leaning against the wall outside the room the Twins shared. He didn’t look ruffled, but then, that was par for the course for Jazz. He was as steady as a rock, just like Ironhide.

Primus, but Optimus missed him. Every day reminded him of how many he had lost. Every empty seat at his command table was another knife to the spark.

“We all want to help ya,” Jazz continued as he pushed himself off the wall, unfolding his arms from under his bumper. “Ya just won’t let any of us close enough to do it.”

Optimus shook his helm. “There are others who need your attention more.”

Jazz sighed and scrubbed over his helm. His field pushed at Optimus’, heavy with affection and exasperation intermingled. “I know why yer sayin’ that and for right now, Imma let it slide. We do have work to do.”

“What about Sideswipe and Sunstreaker?”

Jazz waved a dismissing hand. “They’re in recharge. Interaction takes a lot outta them apparently. Sideswipe was droopin’ like I’ve never seen before, and Sunstreaker flat out refused to talk.”

Sunstreaker wasn’t very chatty even on the best of days, but Jazz could often get through to the Twins when no one else could. If he said they behaved out of character, Optimus believed him.

“Do they know of Shockwave’s solution?”

“Yeah. Not that they’re happy about it. Who would be?” Jazz headed for the medcenter door and Optimus followed. “They haven’t decided whether or not they’re going ta try lookin’ for a volunteer. Fortunately, they have time.”

Optimus cast a look over his shoulder, but Ratchet still hadn’t emerged from Red Alert’s room. Optimus would have to either return later or comm Ratchet for an update.

“Do you know if Red Alert had a friend or lover? Someone he might have trusted with a copy of his core coding?”

Jazz’s visor flashed with surprise. “Not that I’m aware of.” He frowned, sadness tinting his field. “Prowl probably would have known. They were close.”

“In all likelihood, it probably was Prowl who he trusted,” Optimus said with a sigh. He rubbed at his aching forehelm.

Prowl was one of the frames Megatron had pulled from the wreckage of Omega Supreme and smelted down. Perhaps he feared a miraculous recovery, Optimus didn’t know. It didn’t matter because anything Prowl might have carried, was melted down with him.

“I’ll ask Smokescreen, though,” Jazz said with a soft ventilation. “He tends to know all the little secrets. I take it we need one to help him?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” Optimus’ shoulders sagged. Today was full of bad news, it seemed. “Shall we see to Bluestreak then?” Perhaps the sight of Bluestreak thriving would restore some of the hope he seemed to be lacking as of late.

“Whatever you want, boss bot.” Jazz patted him on the elbow, the nearest part he could reach, and Optimus was rather proud of himself for not flinching. The bare brush was actually rather nice.

See, Ratchet? Optimus was healing fine on his own.