Actions

Work Header

Break Me

Chapter Text

For most of Spike’s life, she’d been a legend:  a fantastical story about the human-built robot ninja who’d almost taken down the Cybertronians.  Virtually all of those who’d actually had contact with her, both Autobot and Decepticon, had been dead for years when the Autobots received a call from an elderly Japanese scientist who confessed that he’d always been haunted by the idea that his creation had actually had sentience, and they’d locked her away.

It was Spike who persuaded Rodimus that they had to at least check it out, and it was Spike whom Nightbird first laid optics on when she was freed from her decades-old prison.  She went for one of her sais on instinct when she saw a member of the species that had built and betrayed her… but then she stopped, gaze narrowing, and stayed her hand.  Calculating.  Intelligent.

"You’re safe now," Spike said, holding up his hands to show he meant her no harm.

Because of that first contact - because he was one of the few people to ever speak to her, instead of just around her - Nightbird came to trust Spike as her guide to this world that was, after all, as much her planet as his.  She taught him methods of combat far beyond anything he’d known, and he, in turn, taught her about Earth, humanity, and the war.

Eventually, they taught one another other things, as well.  The difference between organic nervous systems and electrical relays is vast, but it’s nothing to two people who are intent on one another’s pleasure, and who trust each other absolutely.

Chapter Text

What Optimus Prime realised that so many others seemed to forget was exactly how young Motormaster still was.  Cruel, yes, but often cruel in the hot-headed, relishing way of youth, and so desperate to prove himself - aching for someone to notice him.

So Optimus did.

It started when he forced the Stunticon to his knees after a long, drawn-out battle.  Motormaster snarled up at him, optics flaring -

- and Optimus leaned down and kissed him with terrible gentleness, stroking his cheek, and told him he had great promise.

Motormaster sputtered and immediately launched into his spiel about being the new King of the Road, but ever afterwards, he ignored the other Autobots to focus solely on tangling with Optimus Prime… and if Optimus didn’t know any better, he’d swear that there were times when Motormaster would lose on purpose.

Chapter Text

Overlord watched through half-lidded optics, a faint smile on his full lips, as his captor pottered about the room and painstakingly adjusted a gauge here, fiddled with a setting on an instrument there.  It was a marvel that this was the mech the Autobots had sent to experiment on him and find out what made his Phase-Sixer frame tick; Skyfire looked every bit as sweet-natured and hopeless in person as Overlord’s files on him suggested.

Time to give him a poke, and see how quickly he crumbled.

"My, my.  I really thought Autobots were above this sort of thing; ripping living mechs apart simply to get a peek under their plating is more Shockwave’s area, wouldn’t you say?"

"What I’d say," Skyfire replied, in a pleasant, even voice, "is that if the many, many cruelties I’m about to inflict on you get us a Phase Sixer of our own, we could end the war early and save countless lives.  So if you’re expecting to appeal to my conscience, just remember that I’m a good mech, but I’m an Autobot and a scientist both before I’m a good mech.  Oh, and one other thing.”

He patiently keyed in the final parameters and came to stand over Overlord, bracing one hand casually on the wall behind his captive’s head.  The effect was unsettling; Overlord hadn’t realised just how tall the shuttle was until he was looming over him.  ”I’m used to coping with pretty psychopaths, Overlord.  I was in love with one who’d put your petty tricks to shame.  And I’m still standing.”  Skyfire tipped Overlord’s chin up, forcing the bound mech to look at him.  ”Think about that.”

Overlord felt a shiver go through him.  Well well.  This one might be interesting, after all.

Chapter Text

It was during an especially desperate round of negotiations to try and establish agreement on the latest version of the Tyrest Accord - with Megatron stonewalling and Optimus kicking up a fuss over the new provisions - that Chief Justice Tyrest began his clandestine meetings with Shockwave.  He knew it was wrong:  one more impurity he would need to drill out of his plating afterwards.  But Shockwave was solid, implacable, relentless.  He was Tyrest’s rock, the one who calmly assured him that sometimes, sacrifices had to be made for the greater good by mecha clear-sighted enough to see what must be done.

And every time Shockwave ordered him to his knees, Tyrest felt the heady rush of purpose.  He didn’t need the drill on those nights.  Shockwave would decide whether and how to punish or reward him, and Tyrest had never been so grateful to surrender.

Chapter Text

The first time Wedge happened upon Sky-Byte’s hideout on an abandoned beach, he couldn’t believe his luck:  finally, a chance to prove himself by bringing in one of Megatron’s most dangerous minions!  That dream died a swift and painful death when Sky-Byte managed to get him in his jaws and shake him around like a rag doll… but after thoroughly trouncing Wedge, the shark didn’t leave or try to take him hostage.  Instead, he flopped down on the sand, lamenting loudly that he’d just bested an Autobot in single combat when no one - not his team, not Megatron - was there to see it.

Wedge hovered for a moment, and then cautiously sat down next to him.  ”I know what you mean.  It feels like they’re all staring at me when I screw up, but whenever I actually get something right, no one’s paying attention.”

Sky-Byte stared at him for a full minute before asking, “Would you like an energon goodie?  I have extras.”

For weeks afterwards, they would sneak away to the beach, toting whatever extra rations they could scrounge up, and sit at the water’s edge to talk about unattainable leaders, troublesome teams, and the sheer weirdness of adapting to life on an alien planet.  And one day, after listening to Sky-Byte recite one of his best poems, Wedge found himself staring at that terrifyingly toothy, but eloquent, mouth.

Well, he thought as he leaned in to kiss a startled - but by no means unhappy - Sky-Byte, Optimus always did say I was impulsive.

Chapter Text

The request wasn’t an unusual one, not to someone with Soundwave’s eons of experience; that it came from an Autobot was a little odd, but (as Soundwave realised once he ascertained that it wasn’t a trap) potentially valuable, if he needed blackmail material down the line.

Arcee showed up at their rendezvous point bearing two generous-sized cubes of energon, which she set at his feet.  She didn’t bluster and she didn’t beg; she only looked up into his blank visor and said, “Please.  I need to hear them one more time.”

Soundwave had extensive recordings of both Cliffjumper’s and Tailgate’s voices, as he did for most of the enemy.  And since she was paying, he made a point of going through and selecting clips he felt she might find the most comforting - commlink banter, shouts of encouragement in battle.  Arcee listened to them all in silence, optics offlined, and only murmured, “Thank you,” before driving off.

A week later, she was back, and the week after that.  Soundwave was intrigued; he began to try and tailor his selections to what he guessed her mood to be.  It was an exercise in reading his opponents, he told himself, and had nothing at all to do with the way her shoulders would finally ease down from around her audials and a faint smile would come to her lips when he found the perfect recording.

If she noticed that he eventually started creating his own - stringing together recorded words to make sentences that her deceased partners had never said - she didn’t point it out, and he grew bolder, until one day she paused before leaving, and said, “Soundwave?  Cliff never told me he loved my smile.”  Soundwave froze as she glided close to him and stretched up to kiss the side of his helm.  ”Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Megatron cast a skeptical glance towards the minibot in the cell.  The speakers inside were muted, but he could still see their tiny captive gesturing wildly to the air, grimacing, and rolling his optics as he carried on a discourse with himself.

This is the Autobot you can’t get to talk, Vortex?”

"Not quite, my lord.  Actually, we can’t get him to stop talking.  I hadn’t even touched him when he started in - just one long string of complaints about the Autobots.  How they let him get captured, their personalities, their hygiene, their paint jobs.  But whatever I do to him, I’m not able to get at more sensitive information than that.  I don’t think he knows any.”

"Unsurprising that the Autobots would keep him out of the loop, if this is how he behaves when captured.  But you know the procedure - if he’s useless, we’ll simply contact the Autobots to arrange a trade.  Why waste my time asking me to examine him?"

In response, Vortex toggled a switch, and the speakers came on.  ” - tell you another thing, at least our cells are structurally sound!  Sure, Cell B has that problem with the flickering bars, but you’ve got a seawater buildup in that conduit behind the wall that’s going to crack this place wide open like -“

Vortex killed the speakers again.  ”I checked with the Constructicons.  He’s right about the conduit - they’ve been working on it for two days - but Scrapper says there should have been no way for him to figure that out.”

Megatron’s optics narrowed.  ”So - brilliant in his own way, and for whatever reason, disgruntled with the Autobots.  You did well to contact me, Vortex.  This one may yet have potential.”

Huffer didn’t even startle as Megatron came through the door; only threw his hands up and shouted, “Great, and now I’m going to die!”

"That," said Megatron, putting on his most gleaming recruitment poster smile, "depends entirely on you."

Chapter Text

"And people complain about my voice,” Starscream muttered, slinking low in his chair.  Just when he’d begun to think things couldn’t get worse - Megatron missing, the Decepticons chipped like pets and herded into pens when they weren’t needed, Bumblebee ruling the planet - he’d managed to beg permission to get a quiet drink at one of Iacon’s makeshift bars, only to run smack into the soon-to-be crew of the Lost Light, having one last night out before their departure.  And it turned out that one of them, a mech called (with painful accuracy) Siren, tended to get horny when drunk, and was fond of letting everyone in earshot know all about the mecha he found most fraggable, and why.  And with that voice, there was no one on the planet who wasn’t in earshot.

And his topic of the moment was Starscream.

"SURE, HE’S A FILTHY ‘CON, BUT HAVE YOU SEEN THOSE HIPS?" Siren was telling Sunstreaker, who was wincing and, puzzlingly, putting his hands over the audials of a small Insecticon cuddled in his lap.  "AND THOSE WINGS, SLAG, I JUST WANT TO FALL DOWN ON MY KNEES AND WORSHIP THOSE THINGS."

That got Starscream’s interest, much as it pained him to admit it.  It had been a long, long time, what with Lord Megatron first comatose and then imprisoned, and the Autobot wasn’t bad-looking, all things considered.

Siren’s friends paled, mouths falling open, as Starscream approached.  Siren glanced at them, and then, in a conspiratorial yell, asked, “HE’S BEHIND ME, ISN’T HE?”

"I wouldn’t need to be behind you; I could be in the middle of the Sea of Rust and still hear every word," Starscream snarled, grabbing Siren by the collar fairing and hauling him off his feet.  "Answer me this:  if I decide to make your pathetic little dreams come true for one night, are you capable of shutting up for the duration?"

Siren opened his mouth, then thought better of it and nodded.

"Right.  And is that big mouth of yours good for anything else?"

Another nod, this time with a grin.

Starscream never spoke of that night, afterwards, but that was okay; Siren did more than enough speaking for both of them.

Chapter Text

It had started early in the war, when the Commandos and the Spy Changers were both units skirting the edges of respectability, doing the kind of wetwork their commanders were grateful for, but didn’t always want to know about.  R.E.V. and Mega-Octane had both always been conscientious in their duties, but off-shift was off-shift, and it didn’t get much further off-shift than a bar on a neutral planet.  Once it became clear that neither of them was in the mood to start an interplanetary incident by being the first to fire, R.E.V. sidled up and asked in his slow drawl, “What’dya say you buy me a drink?”  He grinned and added, “Payback for costing us that operation on Genesis X.”

Mega-Octane couldn’t help but smile in return.  ”We had you dead to rights, you know,” he replied, but ordered the drinks.

It was about three rounds in that they started playing a soldiers’ drinking game where you have to find all the scars on your companion.

Two rounds after that, R.E.V. decided to introduce Mega-Octane to the variation where you’re only allowed to use your mouth.

Chapter Text

No one expected Pharma, the brightest star of the Iacon medical academy, to develop a crush on quiet, unassuming hospital psychiatrist Rung.  Pharma himself couldn’t fully explain it.  The closest he came was that, in the middle of a mad whirl of instructors and patients and fellow students, all of whom wanted something from him, all of whom were forever setting him impossible challenges and then watching him with either smug condescension or desperate hope as he tried to meet those challenges, Rung was the only one who treated Pharma just like everyone else.

It drove Pharma nuts.

He tried everything - sneering at Rung’s specialty, teasing him about his model ship collection, ignoring him, flirting outrageously with him.  Nothing seemed to faze the older mech in the slightest.  It got so bad that at one point, Pharma was pretty much draped across Rung’s table in the staff lunchroom, gorgeous legs crossed and wings fluttering… and Rung only cleared his vents and politely asked Pharma to move before he crushed a model of the Ark-1 Rung had been working on.

It was some months after Pharma gave up entirely on Rung that he found himself, to his embarrassment, seeking the psychiatrist’s help with a patient.  For once, Pharma was surprisingly grateful for the way Rung treated him.  No needling The Great Doctor Pharma about how he really should be able to solve this on his own; Rung simply offered his opinion, and let Pharma know that he could call on Rung for support.

"Thank you; it’s greatly appreciated."  Pharma pinched the bridge of his nose, suddenly feeling off-balance.  "Do you… do you want to go get a drink when your shift is over."

To his shock, Rung lit up.  ”I would like nothing better.”

Chapter Text

"We’re doomed," Dead End opined, as the dust cleared and their situation became apparent:  the blast had brought half the cliffside down around them, trapping him with the Autobot inside a cone of rubble.  There was a small patch of sky visible at the very top.  That was a great comfort to one grounder Autobot and one Decepticon with damaged circuitry that was preventing him from taking off in root mode.  They’d be able to look up at something pretty while they slowly starved into stasis.

"Don’t you worry, ‘Con!  All I gotta do is find a place to blast a hole, and then WHAM!  BLAMMO!"

Apparently, the Autobot solution to bad explosions was more explosions.  Dead End pinched the top of his mask.  ”If you do that, we’ll end up crushed under the rocks.  Although, granted, that would be quicker.”

"Well, you got any bright ideas, smart guy?"

"Make our peace with Unicron?"

"Not so fast."  Warpath was unspooling a long cable.  "Ya got somethin’ I can use to weight the end?"

It was at least an hour’s work to find a rock of the right shape and size, and to fashion a makeshift hook out of Dead End’s removed mask to catch on the lip of the crater they were in (Dead End had balked at first, but his mask was already damaged, whereas Warpath’s wasn’t), and then it took another twenty minutes of Warpath trying and failing to lasso the rocks above, all the while murmuring, “Yeah, just like that!  Boom!  Blam!” in an encouraging way to himself, before the cable finally caught securely.  Dead End never dropped the skeptical smirk, but he did watch avidly as Warpath started to climb.

The Autobot reached the top, and pulled the rope up after him.

Dead End was in the middle of cursing Warpath’s name when the cable whipped back down, this time with a loop around the middle.  ”Hook it around yourself, an’ I’ll pull ya up!” Warpath shouted.

Suspecting a trick every step of the way - and really, how easy would it have been for his enemy to smash him into the wall with the flick of a wrist - Dead End nevertheless did as he was told.  When he reached the top safely and felt fresh air hit his vents, the salvation was so unexpected that he suddenly threw his arms around Warpath, kissing him soundly on the mask.

Warpath’s optics lit up like the noonday sun.  ”KAZOWIE!”

Chapter Text

The young waitress squirmed in the bindings.  ”Are you sure about this, Doc?” she asked, biting her lower lip.

"Of course," Ratchet purred, trailing the flat of the scalpel down her leg and relishing the shiver he caused.  "Siping is a long-established practice; a little slice here…” It was the blade itself he stroked over her tire, not deep enough to bite, but just as a preliminary tease.  ”… and there, and you’ll be faster than ever.  Don’t you want to win your Golden Disk?”

"But the ropes -"

"Are very much a necessary part of the process, my dear."  Ratchet grinned ferally.  "You see, I’ve often found that my racer patients tend to get particularly - overstimulated - when restrained.  Your sensitive little engines start revving faster and faster, and all that energy flooding your circuitry makes you crave sensation.  Even pain becomes…”  A single finger traced the shape of her helm, raking down her cheek to her parted lips.  ”… the most exquisite pleasure -“

"Oh, I know all about that, gosh.  What I mean is, are you sure you want to tie me up in a Polyhexian double-fold?  A Praxian triple-tie is a lot stronger, if I’m gonna be thrashing around and all.”

Ratchet blinked.  ”You… really have done this before, haven’t you?”

"Well," Lickety-Split chirped, batting her optics, "a girl’s gotta have hobbies."

Chapter Text

It was a good fifteen years later that Sari Sumdac made her return visit to Axiom Nexus.  Her AllSpark Key, which had once attracted so much attention, had long since been drained of its MacGuffiny powers, but it was no matter; she still knew how to get where she wanted to go.

The moment she set foot inside the city, a pair of guards accosted her and asked her name.

With a grin a mile wide, she announced, “Sarimus Prime.”

Within roughly ten minutes, she was strapped to an examination table in a familiar laboratory, and a dry, refined, long-suffering voice was grousing as its owner approached down the corridor, “It’s so simple!  No Megatrons, no Primes, no cosmic MacGuffins, and no soliciting!  Why does no one read the sign?”

"To be fair, I did read the sign,” Sari called out.  The footsteps halted for a long moment, and then Shockwave poked his head around the corner, his single optic widening.

"The human child!"

"Wrong on both counts, actually."  As an illustration, Sari quickly switched to her armoured form and back.  "But yeah, I’m the one you remember."

"You haven’t brought that odd purple dinosaur with you?"  Shockwave’s expression looked hunted, and that was quite a feat, considering that he didn’t have an expression.

"Okay, he was never actually with us in the first place, and what’s with all the talking?  Shouldn’t you be interrogating me?”

"I am interrogating you.  I am asking questions, to which you are providing answers, which I believe you’ll find is the essence of interrogation.”

"Yeah, but I mean -"  Sari waggled her eyebrows.  "Interrogating me.  You know, with the whips and the chains and the… probing…

Shockwave crossed his arms.  ”Why?”

"What?"

"What purpose would that serve?  Given the chaos you and your friends caused last time, I believe I know all I care to about you, and I’m more inclined to expel you from Axiom Nexus than to try and find out more.  Besides, for what possible reason would you wish me to interrogate you?”

"Oh, come on!" Sari burst out.  "I know how this works!  I’m a beautiful, innocent young femme, chained up in an evil laboratory -"

"Morally ambiguous."

" - in a morally ambiguous laboratory, and you’re telling me that you’re not even going to examine me, the way you did Prime?  And after I came back all this way?"

"You… you traveled here specifically… because you want me to torture you?”

Sari made a “duh” gesture as far as her bound hands would allow.  Shockwave dropped onto a chair.

"I require a very large drink all of a sudden."

"That’s okay!  Drinks work!  Drinks are good!  Let’s go get a drink first!"

He pointed menacingly at her.  ”Just a drink.  And then we are going to discuss this little scheme of yours in detail, and proceed only if you are able to satisfy me on all points.”  Noticing her wicked grin, he snapped, “Of the discussion.

"Sure thing!"  As he bent to untie her, she beamed up at him.  "You know, I think I had a crush on you even way back then, but I only just started to understand why.  Your voice is still amazing, by the way.”

"Silence, Autobot, and come with me," Shockwave ordered.  And if he added a little extra purr to it just to see her shiver happily, well, the only one who knew was Sari, and she certainly wasn’t going to tell.

Chapter Text

No one in the FBI’s special Cybertronian liaison division ever told Agent Nakadai about a woman named Verity Carlo.  

This was probably because Nakadai would have wanted to meet her, and the last time an operative from the division had tried to recruit Carlo, she’d punched him right in the mouth.  That wouldn’t have stopped Nakadai, though; nothing ever did, once she’d made her mind up.  Better not to present her with the opportunity in the first place.

So it was sheer coincidence - unless you subscribed to the theory that prolonged contact with aliens left you with a strange resonance, like a scent embedded in your skin, that only those who shared it could pick up - that Miko glanced across the club one night and met a pair of dark, strangely sad eyes above a sarcastic half-smile. The whole expression just screamed challenge.  And Miko could never resist one of those.

Within half an hour, Miko had the woman pressed up against the wall of the club, and was feverishly biting at her lips as Verity grabbed her belt to pull her in closer.  It was a minor miracle that they made it back to Verity’s place with most of their clothes on, and that was only because she lived down the street - or, rather, was crashing there.  Miko would find out later that Verity rarely stayed anywhere for very long.

When Verity peeled off her shirt, Miko let out a gasp, and Verity grinned smugly, one fist on her cocked hip… until she saw that what Miko was staring at was the Autobrand tattooed between her breasts.

"You know them, too!  Oh, my God, that is so cool!  Here, look -”  Miko stripped off her jacket impatiently, flashing an Autobrand on one bicep.  Verity’s mouth fell open.  ”Who did you meet?  Have you ever been in a battle?  I bet you have!  How many Decepticons have you -“

"No."

"No… what?"

"No, we are not doing this.  I’m not going to sit here and talk about how awesome and perfect the Autobots are, because if you’d seen some of what I… look, never mind.  We can fuck or you can get out.  That’s -”  She broke up abruptly, having just caught sight of Miko’s other arm when the woman drew closer in confusion.  ”Is that what I think it is?”

Miko flexed, showing off the second insignia.  ”Wreck and Rule, baby!”

They talked so long that it was nearly daylight before they actually went to bed together, and when they did - well, it wasn’t tender, but there was a joy in the roughness of it.  Two warriors unafraid to use their strength, each knowing the other could take it.

For the first few months, there were times when Verity honestly hated Miko, for all the things she had and took for granted.  Miko’s parents might be distant and demanding, and her Cybertronian friends may have up and left her to head back to their own world, but they were all still alive.  And when Verity was first introduced to Jack, he was so like Hunter that she nearly cried.  Miko had known danger and hardship, but she hadn’t ever known loss.  Not really.

Or so Verity believed.

The realisation crept in slowly, from watching the way that Miko would always touch that photo of herself and two Cybertronians on her nightstand whenever she went past it.  Sometimes the touch would be affectionate, sometimes wistful; but there were times, especially late at night, when Miko would glance at the picture, and something in her expression would twist horribly.  One night, Verity caught her crying as her fingertips traced the image, the smile of the girl she’d been.  Miko hurriedly wiped her eyes and cracked a terrible joke as soon as she realised Verity was standing in the doorway, but it wasn’t quite quick enough.

Verity sank down on the bed next to her.  ”I’m sorry.  I - I forgot that there are a lot of ways to be left behind.”

"Yeah," Miko whispered, her voice thick.  "But you know."  She reached out, and Verity drew her close, stroking her hair.  "Life persists."

Chapter Text

Ratchet called them “professional consultations”.  It was essentially code for “get stinkin’ drunk and complain about our patients” - not that Rung himself ever participated very much in either activity.  Instead, he’d sip a light energon spritzer and listen, because Ratchet had a wicked sense of humour once he got going, and Rung liked hearing him talk.

One evening, Ratchet abruptly leaned over and dropped one hand heavily onto Rung’s knee.  ”Rung,” he breathed, the words a little slurred, “why don’t you come on back to mine?  I’ve got a bottle of vintage highgrade I’ve been saving.  We could crack it open, maybe have a little fun - I don’t care what kids like Rodimus say, youth’s got nothing on an old fragger who’s picked up a few tricks along the way.”  He winked, and Rung’s ventilations caught.  For a long moment, he couldn’t think of what to say as he peered up in to Ratchet’s hopeful smile.  Rung was just opening his mouth to ask whether Ratchet was actually serious when Ratchet finally dropped his gaze and withdrew his hand, wincing and murmuring, “Slag, sorry; stupid, that was stupid.”

"Oh."  Rung blinked, feeling strangely disappointed.  "Ratchet, maybe you’ve had enough for tonight?  I could walk you back -"

"No, no.  I’m fine.  Thank you.  You’re a real gentlemech to offer."  Ratchet smiled wryly, and let himself out.

Rung deliberately put the incident, and his surprising feelings about it, out of his mind, until he walked into his office two weeks later to find a tinier-than-usual model ship sitting on his desk.

Picking it up reverently, he turned it this way and that:  it was a little model of the Lost Light itself.

"Had to get Perceptor to help me with the specs," a voice said behind him.  Rung turned to find Ratchet leaning in the doorway.  "I know the work’s not as fine as on your other models, and I promise I’m not going to be offended if you, I don’t know, use it as a paperweight instead of putting it on the shelf."

"Nonsense," Rung replied, carefully shifting his other models so that he could install the Lost Light in pride of place.  ”Ratchet, this is - truly, I don’t know what to say.  What a generous gift.”

"Well, you’re a good friend, Rung.  The best.  I wanted you to know that."  Ratchet vented deeply, and squared his shoulders, though his voice remained deceptively casual.  "Besides, nothing but the best for the mech I’m courting."

It was a good thing that Rung had already put his new model on the shelf, or he might have dropped it.  ”But - you said you didn’t mean that.  That it was a stupid thing to ask.”  Some of the pain of that rejection bled through into his voice.

"I meant that the way I asked was stupid.”  Ratchet was deliberately studying the ships on the wall rather than looking at Rung.  ”You deserve more consideration than that.”  And then he did look at Rung, and the intensity of those optics made him feel lightheaded.  ”Look, you don’t have to give me an answer yet - unless you want me to stop right here, and then I will.”

"No!"  Rung took a second to collect himself.  "No, I - don’t wish you to stop."

"Well, then."  Ratchet’s optics sparkled mischievously.  "Would you care to accompany me to Swerve’s this evening?"

"It would be my pleasure."

Chapter Text

"I would shake your hand," Megatron rumbled, trailing his gaze over Whirl’s pincers, "but your masters in the Senate seem to have pre-empted that option."

Whirl raised his battered helm with difficulty, the motion straining his bonds.  He hadn’t gone down easily to the Decepticon assault.  That much was to his credit, at least, Megatron thought.

"Huh."  The copter’s voice was rough with static.  "Kinda thought I’d be enemy number one around here, after that little night we spent together in the cells."

"On the contrary.  I learned something that night.  Not from you, you understand, Whirl.  You were simply the instrument."  Large, dangerously skilled fingers stroked Whirl’s helm as if he were a pet.  "The vicious edge of a blade the Senate was holding at our throats.  And that night, I saw their brutality for what it was, with all the illusions of reason and compromise stripped away, and I understood that the only way to meet force was with force.  It was the first step towards my awakening."  When Megatron’s hand moved to curl around the side of his helm, Whirl’s optic narrowed - whether in suspicion or pleasure, it was hard to say, but Megatron received a hint when his captive’s fans switched on.  "We are a warrior race, Autobot.  My mistake - our mistake - was in trying to be anything else.”

"Speak for yourself, ‘Con.  I was something else, once.”

Megatron crouched in front of him, tilting Whirl’s helm to meet his gaze.  ”And which made you feel more alive?”

The copter’s engines snarled, but he didn’t speak.

"Poor Whirl," Megatron cooed.  "Did you really think that I was your fault?  All these eons you’ve spent trying to make amends."  The snarl choked into a high whine as Megatron wrapped one massive hand around the slender cables of Whirl’s throat.  "So desperate for someone to just take you in hand and punish you for what you thought you’d done, so that your debt would finally be paid."  Whirl was staring at him, his single optic feverishly bright.

Abruptly, Megatron released his grip and rose.  ”You won’t find your punishment here, Autobot.”  As he drew away, though, he didn’t miss the slight, pleading sway of Whirl’s body towards him.

Perhaps his captive might make an interesting toy, after all.

Chapter Text

After all the others - the officers to check and double-check his restraints, the scientists to study every inch of his new frame, and the Prime, to ask him what his preferred sentence would be - they sent in the psychiatrist.

Megatron was amused.  ”And just what do you hope to gain from this, Doctor?” he purred.

The little doctor - Rong, was it? - gazed up at him placidly, but Megatron could practically smell the crackles of ozone as the mech’s spark whirred in panic.  ”A better understanding of you, I hope.”

"You wish to know why I surrendered."

"I would like to know anything you would like to tell me."

Megatron bit down on a smile, and very conscientiously took the doctor at his word.  For two hours, he held forth on the genesis of the war, the glory of the Decepticon cause, detailed recitations of epochs-old troop movements, and - just to gauge the reaction - an extensive tangent on the proper method for dissecting a living mech so that they experienced the maximum amount of pain before losing consciousness.  The doctor noted all of it down, his expression of sympathetic interest never flickering.

Eventually, Megatron tired of the game.  ”Does that answer the Prime’s question?”

"No.  But I feel it may begin to answer mine," the doctor said, rising.  "Thank you for your time."

He couldn’t resist.  ”Your question?”

The mech paused at the entrance, just before signalling the guard to come and release him.  ”A long time ago, a young miner was arrested for trying to defend me.  I always wondered what became of him.”

Megatron’s optics narrowed, as if he could physically peer back over the years.  ”… Rung.  Your name is Rung.”

Rung beamed.  Then, with nothing more than a polite, “See you tomorrow,” he was gone.

Chapter Text

When they start dating, Rewind worries how Chromedome will feel when he realises that he isn’t Rewind’s first.

He doesn’t mean first interface partner; Chromedome already knows that.  But there’s another intimacy they share, as well:  the whisper of Chromedome’s needles extending, the warm presence of his mind slipping inside Rewind’s.  With Chromedome, it’s the best Rewind’s ever experienced - but not the first.

It was in the early days of his desperation, when conventional methods of searching weren’t turning up any clue of Dominus Ambus’s whereabouts, and Rewind was haunted by the thought that he might have missed something along the way.  He contacted the New Institute discreetly.  Sometimes, he wonders how different his life might have been if the person to answer his comm. had been Chromedome instead of his boss.

Trepan agreed to an injecting session so that they could comb through Rewind’s memories together, looking for hints that might help in the search.  Rewind fretted about how much it would cost, but Trepan wasn’t interested in money.  What he wanted was unfettered access to the memories in Rewind’s archives.

One session turned into two, then into a dozen - hour upon hour of Trepan’s fingers raking hotly through Rewind’s processor as the minibot lay with his head pillowed in Trepan’s lap, shivering.  He’d never expected Trepan to be as interested in his private memories as he was in the historical footage and high-level rumours, but the mnemosurgeon loved to linger in the most secret parts of Rewind’s brain.  Sometimes, those fingers would prod a sore memory until Rewind physically cried out; other times, they would find a remembered sensation and stroke the thought into aching arousal.  More than once, Rewind would end the session a dripping, trembling mess.  At those times, Trepan would often have mercy on his patient and finish him off, long needles (still beaded with energon) thrusting tantalisingly into his valve as Trepan’s other hand worked Rewind’s spike.

Despite the filthy grin on Trepan’s lips whenever he watched Rewind overload, he never accepted the minibot’s offers to reciprocate.

Instead, he’d say the same thing that Chromedome does now, millennia after Trepan is dead and gone:  ”There’s nothing hotter to me than the pictures in your head.”

Chapter Text

Just because his deal with Pharma protected Ambulon from harm didn’t mean that Tarn couldn’t have a little fun once in a while.  After all, Ambulon was Pharma’s pet - his tame Decepticon, what a revolting thought - and Pharma was Tarn’s, so, logically, Ambulon was Tarn’s, as well.

With that in mind, Tarn would occasionally request that Ambulon, rather than Pharma, deliver the latest t-cog shipment (not that Ambulon had the faintest idea what was in the crates).  It was oddly refreshing to have a traitor he wasn’t supposed to kill.  All the usual fun of making Ambulon kneel, or suddenly swooping in and purring an exquisitely turned-out threat - or a come-on, which seemed to terrify the ex-Decepticon even more - in his audial, and watching him shake and whimper in the most delicious ways; and yet this was one toy Tarn couldn’t allow himself to break.  Which meant that he got to go back and play with him over and over.

Chapter Text

Aficionados of human movies might have found the scene of Sixshot holding Skyfire in one hand and roaring - especially with the Decepticon seekers desperately strafing the out-of-control Phase Sixer, to no effect - to be weirdly reminiscent of King Kong taking a screaming Fay Wray up the Empire State Building.  The size difference wasn’t quite as profound, though, and Skyfire most definitely wasn’t screaming.

Instead, he used Sixshot’s momentary distraction as he swatted at the jets to ease out of his hold and shimmy up his arm.  Sixshot glanced at him in confusion, but once he realised that his - hostage? pet?  Skyfire wasn’t sure he wanted to know - wasn’t trying to get away, he patted the shuttle’s wings absently and went back to fighting.  Skyfire reached his shoulder and perched on it, stroking Sixshot’s helm comfortingly while his other hand went for the vulnerable circuitry at the back of the neck.

"Shhhh, it’s all right, Sixshot," he crooned as he worked.  "Skyfire’s going to make the bad pain in your helm go away.  It’s all right."

The Phase Sixer slumped, his flaming optics dimming to a dull, bewildered glow.  As the battle came to an abrupt halt, Optimus Prime raced across the wreckage to find Skyfire still petting Sixshot’s helm, while the Decepticon let out a pleased rumble.

"He’s going to be okay - I found the wiring for a killswitch.  It’s passworded, but I was able to bypass the security and trip it," Skyfire told him, without looking up from where his fingers were tracing the edge of Sixshot’s audial fin.

Optimus looked at the scientist, then at the huge hand that was curving around him, pinning him gently to Sixshot’s shoulder.  ”Um… he’s still…”

"Yes.  He’s disoriented, and needs reassurance."  Skyfire cuddled closer to Sixshot’s neck.  "I don’t mind.  You can leave us here; I may be a while."

Optimus cast one last dubious glance at the two, and decided that the rest of the evening was going to involve heavy drinking.

Chapter Text

"Whoa!  Hey!  Watch it, buddy!"  Beachcomber sprang forward, waving his arms, as what was unmistakably a temporal vortex opened up in the middle of the dog park and a purple T-Rex stumbled out, snarling and swiping at the dogs around it.  Most of them fled, but Astoria’s three poodles, whom Beachcomber had been walking, had obviously inherited some of their owner’s lack of concern in the face of huge, looming threats:  they circled around the dinosaur, snapping, as it roared and swung its tail.

Beachcomber was desperately trying to corral the dogs with one hand, and making placating gestures at the T-Rex with the other.  ”Chill out, my man!  Everything’s cool; you just scared each other, is all.”

The dinosaur halted, pulling his head back and staring at Beachcomber.  Then he snapped, in posh and perfectly enunciated Cybertronian, “What year is this?”

Beachcomber cycled his optics as he gave the date in Earth years and galactic standard.  ”Where did you come from, pal?  Look at you!  You’re amazing!  May I?”  He reached out towards the gleaming purple hide, and, when the dinosaur nodded distractedly, ran his hands over the surface.  ”You’re Cybertronian, right?  But your skin is actually organic; it’s gorgeous!”  He beamed up at his new friend.  ”It must feel so peaceful to be one with this beautiful organic world.”

"I, er… yesssss,” the dinosaur replied, studying Beachcomber in what, if Beachcomber had been paying attention, he might have called a calculating way.  ”Very… harmonious.  But I find myself a little lost in this particular place and time on this… lovely world.  Perhaps you can help me, my friend?”  His voice was like liquid sunlight.

Beachcomber continued to stroke, smiling when he heard a distinctly Cybertronian engine start to purr under the warm hide.  ”Of course.  Come back to our base with me; I’m sure we can get you whatever you need.  I’m Beachcomber.  What can I call you?”

"My name is… Joe."  Beachcomber didn’t have time to wonder about the hesitation, as the T-Rex curled his tail around him and Beachcomber’s fans kicked on.  "I’m sure we’re going to get along famously, Beachcomber.”

Chapter Text

He would never have done this in the days of Megatron; but Galvatron wasn’t Megatron, at least not in Soundwave’s view.  Galvatron was insane and unpredictable, and Soundwave had begun to fear for his and his deployers’ safety.  He responded by staying out of their leaders’ company as much as possible while still carrying out his duties - and what better reason for long absences from Charr than a permanent “undercover” role on a neutral planet, listening to the gossip at a cutting-edge nightspot frequented by the great and good of the galaxy?

If you could call it “undercover” when Featuring DJ Soundwave! was blazoned across the poster, that is.

He spotted her across the club one night, throwing her head back in raucous laughter, surrounded by a clutch of Autobots and aliens.  She strutted with all the confidence of youth, of being in the inner circle of the winning side and having known little else.  Soundwave remembered a bit of that himself.

She was slightly overcharged when she came up to him after his set, the crackles of charge putting an extra purr in her voice.  ”Never heard anyone play Earth tunes in this place before.  I wish you’d done more of them.”

"Earth music, considered novelty.  Exotic, but primitive.  Perspective requires time to change."

"Don’t hit ‘em with too much of it all at once?"  

Soundwave decided he liked the gleam of intelligence in those blue optics.  ”Correct.”

"Makes sense.  And your Cybertronian stuff is fantastic, anyway.  So…" Arcee murmured, swaying a little closer as the next act started up, "… do big bad Decepticon officers ever dance?"

"Dancing, Decepticon invention."

"I’ll believe that when I see it.”

She took his hand, and Soundwave smiled behind the mask.

Chapter Text

It was no secret in the Decepticon ranks that Rumble liked them big, and he liked them dangerous.  Not exactly unusual preferences for a ‘Con, to be honest, and given the cassettes’ relative size, he was spoiled for choice - or he would be, if it weren’t for Soundwave perpetually at his shoulder, fixing prospective berthmates with the Glare of Telepathic Doom.

So Rumble had to look further afield, and, well, what was more dangerous than fraternising with the enemy?

He hid a grin when, as he’d requested, Optimus Prime himself came to see him in his cell.  Getting captured by the Autobots had been the easy part, but this was going to be trickier.

Worth it, though.  Rumble could feel his engine turn over just looking at those massive shoulders, broad thighs, hands big enough to wrap around him completely… now there was a thought…

"You wished to speak to me."

Rumble gave a practiced little sigh.  ”Yeah, I… I’ve been thinkin’ a lot about my life and… I’m not so sure I want to stay with the ‘Cons.  I’m just so confused, ya know?”  Tiny hands wrung cutely together, and he batted his optics like mad behind his visor.  ”Maybe… maybe if you tried to convince me…”

Bat bat.  Bat bat.

"I see.  Well, I must say I’m pleased to hear that you’ve finally decided to leave that cruel tyrant Soundwave -"

"Don’t you talk about the boss like that!"  It was out before Rumble had a chance to clap a hand over his mouth.

Optimus eyed him sidelong, a flash of amusement in his optics.  ”Mmm-hmm.  That’s what I thought.  Why don’t you tell me what you really want, Rumble?”  He looked momentarily startled as the question - couched in that voice, oh my Primus - made Rumble’s fans kick on.  ”Oh.  Never mind -” and here Optimus stretched back and very, very deliberately trailed one broad, skillful hand down the glass of his windscreen - “I think I can guess.  Maybe we can come to some sort of… arrangement?”

"I can’t give you information," Rumble pleaded.  "Megatron would kill me, he’d actually kill me, and the boss wouldn’t be able to stop him this time.”

"Not information, then.  I’m sure that a clever bot like you…"  Optimus retracted his mask, and oh, that was a wonderfully wide mouth.  Full lips, curved into a faint smile; his glossa must be the size of - wow, okay, lots of potential there.  ”Can think of some way to make this work.”

Rumble’s vents hitched.  ”Y-yeah,” he squeaked.  ”I’m sure I can.”

Chapter Text

Devastator first caught the little Autobot snooping around him after a battle, desperately hoping to pick up some kind of information that would prove his worth to his comrades.  While the individual Constructicons would have either sent Scrounge packing with a shot to the helm, or torn him apart for fun, the simpler mind of Devastator was intrigued.  This Autobot was different.  He was tiny, but fearless enough to look Devastator straight in the optics.

He was… oddly cute, in a way.

Devastator scooped Scrounge up.  He could feel the little ‘Bot trembling, but Scrounge nevertheless stared at him defiantly as Devastator rumbled, “What do you want?”

"Just to know more about you."

"What do I get out of it?"

"Depends what you want."  Scrounge lowered his helm coyly, and Devastator felt his core temperature climb a notch higher.

In the end, they managed to work out a satisfactory arrangement.  Scrounge appreciated the specs Devastator gave him (basic stuff, but something he could suitably inflate for the next officers’ briefing) almost as much as Devastator appreciated all the things Scrounge’s special arm could do.

There was no other like it, after all.

Chapter Text

For a long moment, as the human lay curled in Predaking’s grip, the predacon considered tightening his fingers and crushing him.  The Autobots hadn’t hesitated to murder his brothers in their birth chambers; why should Predaking shrink from killing one of their pets in retaliation?

But it smacked of dishonour.  It wasn’t the human’s energon he wanted, but the energon of his Autobot protectors, and to murder such a helpless thing - a prisoner, no less - well.  He would be no better than the Autobots themselves if he did that.

The human gasped as Predaking loosened his hold enough to let him relax.  ”Thank you.  Listen, soldier, don’t think I don’t understand - but killing humans isn’t going to bring your kind back.”

Despite having reached the same conclusion, Predaking bristled at being advised by a fleshling.  ”What do you know of loss?”

"I was a warrior, too.  Still am, I suppose."  To Predaking’s surprise, the human laid his tiny hand atop the claw circling him, and gave it a comforting pat.  "I’d say I know enough."

Predaking felt his anger seeping away as he watched the little creature, leaving only a confused void.  He felt so lost; the only one of his kind left in the universe.  Perhaps the only one there ever would be.

"You’re young," the human murmured.  "So young.  And it hurts like nothing you’ve ever known, and I’m sure you won’t believe me - but the pain does turn into something you can bear.”  He kept stroking Predaking’s hand soothingly, and Predaking found himself listening with a strange hunger.

"Were they warriors, too?  The ones you lost?"

"Some.  Some never got that chance.  You want to hear the stories?"

Predaking nodded, and sat down so that he could hold the human in his cupped palms.  The tiny creature wrapped his arms around one of Predaking’s thumbs in a way that shouldn’t have been as comforting as it was, and began.

Chapter Text

The impulse on Optimus’s part is typically selfless.  Show their human foe, who regards them as nothing more than things, that Cybertronians are not mere machines.  Show him that they’re capable of loyalty, affection, pain, pleasure - and of giving pleasure as well as experiencing it.

Silas’s eyes are heavy-lidded as he rocks back and forth against Optimus’s thumb, his curious little fleshy spike leaking whatever the human equivalent of transfluid is called.  Optimus vents warm air over the human’s bare skin, making him shiver, and adds the slightest vibration to his hands.  That seems to please Silas; he moans wantonly and tips his head back.

Optimus is keeping up a stream of sweet talk and compliments, trying to make sure that Silas remembers he’s there, that Silas is interfacing with a person, not a toy.  ”You look beautiful like that.  I’ve always thought there was something so compelling about humans, the way your bodies can take such intense sensation.  Like that?  Does that feel good?  Don’t hold back, Silas, please.”

Afterwards, Silas rolls over lazily and gives Optimus a sweet, dopey smile.  ”Amazing.”

"I am pleased to have made you happy, my friend."

"War machines crossed with sex toys," Silas purrs, still with the same smile on his face.  "When we hollow you out and find out what makes you tick, you’re going to have more uses than even I imagined."

Optimus never speaks of the encounter after that, but nor does he ever show Silas mercy again.

Chapter Text

Minimus Ambus looked up from his investigation, a furious flame of righteousness burning in his optics.  ”Sugar.  Without a doubt, sugar.”

Chromedome lay back on the berth and groaned.  ”I thought you said that was an Earth thing?  How’d Swerve even get a hold of it?”

Minimus sat up and eased backwards; he’d taken off the Magnus armour so that he’d be small enough to listen to the strange gurgle of Chromedome’s tanks without accidentally flattening the smaller bot beneath his helm.  ”Clearly, he has a supplier among the former Earth outpost crew, identity as yet unknown, who was probably also the one to mention that humans put sugar in fuel tanks as a prank.”  There was a weight to his voice that suggested said supplier had better start running before their identity did become known.  And not stop running until they reached the next galaxy over.

"So what do I do?  I can’t transform; I can barely move.”  His tanks ached horribly, as well, but mentioning that to Minimus - to Ultra Magnus - would probably give the impression that he was whining or shirking his duties.

Chromedome started as a small, warm hand settled over his abdomen.  For a vivid second, the touch was so like Rewind’s that he almost sobbed.

Watching the expression in Chromedome’s visor closely, Minimus began to rub slow, meticulous circles on his plating.  ”I’ve found that this helps ease the pain, and speed the combustion of the sugar.  Please tell me if you want me to stop.”

"No, don’t stop," Chromedome murmured.  Now that he was past the initial shock, the resemblance wasn’t as strong as he’d first thought.  Minimus’s hands were larger, his fingers long and slender, and his touch was softer than Rewind’s would have been, almost hesitant.  It did seem to be helping, though, as the warmth spread through Chromedome’s plating and began to unpick the knot in his fuel tanks.  "Thank you."

Minimus smiled.  It suited him, Chromedome thought drowsily.  ”My pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Tailgate should never have looked in the basement.

He didn’t mean to.  He’d been trailing around after Cyclonus, until Cyclonus had rounded on him and told him to stop following him, so Tailgate had been forced to make up an innocuous reason he’d been going in the same direction.  Looking around desperately, he’d spotted the entrance to one of the ship’s maintenance tunnels down a corridor, and had scampered off down it, throwing some line about routine checks over his shoulder.

The only problem was that, once inside the tunnel, he’d gotten lost.  After wandering for almost half an hour, moving deeper and deeper into the bowels of the ship without meaning to, he ended up in front of a massive door.  There was a glass panel in the door.  The interior of the room was red-lit, and inside - 

There was a mech inside there.

Tailgate had heard the stories of Garrus-9, especially after Fortress Maximus had shot up half the ship, but he’d never seen an image of Overlord.  (Truth to tell, Rewind had offered, grinning, to show him footage, but Tailgate had squeaked and shaken his head.)  There was no chance of him recognising the prisoner; all he saw was a mech suspended from shackles, with his head lowered and an expression of utter misery on his face.  His lips - strikingly beautiful lips - were moving.

There was a control panel to the left of the door.  Tailgate found the toggle for the speaker and switched it on, only to be greeted by an almost painfully deep sound that seemed to be coming through liquid.  There was an Adjust for temporal distortion? option on the screen, though, so he clicked it.

"… me… kill me… kill me… kill me…"

Tailgate scrambled frantically for the microphone button.  ”Hi - hello?  Are you okay?”  It was a stupid thing to ask, he realised, but he had to say something.

It seemed to work, strangely enough, as the mech’s voice stopped and he lifted his head with glacial slowness, turning towards the glass.  Tailgate waved uncertainly.

"Who are you?" the mech breathed.

"Um, I’m Tailgate - I’m the ship’s bomb disposal officer.  Uh, not that there are any bombs here!  That I know of.  I mean.  I’m not working right now, I’m just here to talk.  What’s your name?"

The mech in the room smiled with the same transfixing slowness.  If he’d been good-looking before, he was stunning with a smile gracing that sensual mouth.  ”My name is Drills, Tailgate.  I’ve been down here a long time; it’s so good to have someone to talk to.”

"Did the neutrals keep you in here?"  Tailgate’s spark was pounding.  Everyone knew the neutrals who’d previously owned the ship had been up to no good - the sparkeater proved that - but to secretly keep a poor mech in a tiny cell like this!  "Don’t worry; we’re in charge now.  The Autobots.  Well, we were Autobots - the war’s ended now."

"Ended, you say?"  Drills’s rich voice practically crackled with interest.  "What a relief!  You must tell me how that came about.  And please, tell me more about your friends on the ship.  I am so happy to hear that I’ve ended up among good mecha like yourselves."

Tailgate could feel his faceplates warming, but he sat down next to the glass and told Drills everything he could about the Lost Light and its crew.  It was intoxicating to have someone so clearly important (and, if Tailgate was honest, someone so beautiful) listening intently to every word he said.

Eventually, Tailgate stood and said, “I should go and try to get help for you.  It’s okay - we’ll get you out of there soon!”  

"Thank you, Tailgate, my sweet friend."

Impulsively, Tailgate pressed a hand to the glass, and his spark fluttered in his chest when the gesture made Drills grin wider.  And then he left.

(All things considered, it was for the best that Tailgate went straight to the captain - who distracted him for a moment, knocked him out, and took him to Drift, who took him to Chromedome.  A quick injection to remove the memory and implant a nameless terror of venturing into the basement of the ship again, and Tailgate was none the wiser.  Now if only it were as easy to remove what Overlord had heard from his mind…)

Chapter Text

"Willya get this stupid mutt off me?" Wheelie shouted, pushing at Bonecrusher’s enthusiastically slobbering head.  "Ugh!"

"Awww, that’s just how he shows you that he loves you!" Sam cooed.

Wheelie stopped shoving abruptly.  ”He what now?”  But just at that moment, Sam’s cell phone went off, and he turned away, leaving the tiny Cybertronian staring up at the massive canine.

Well, this was a strange turn of events.  He’d known that fleshling mating rituals were odd, but he’d had no idea that the dog’s intentions towards him were romantic in nature.  Putting his head close to Bonecrusher’s, Wheelie whispered, “Hey, listen, pal.  I like ya.  I mean that.  But I just… I don’t feel the same way that ya do about me.”  Bonecrusher continued to drool seductively.  ”Cut that out!  Stop coming on to me, it’s not going to happen.  Seriously, how would we even do that?  And what would the kids look like?”

That was the moment when Sam came back in the room.  He stared at the two of them in bewilderment, until Wheelie put his hands over Bonecrusher’s ears and whispered, “I’m just lettin’ him down easy, ya know?”  And then Sam proceeded to laugh himself sick as he explained - between bouts of giggles - that the English word “love” didn’t just mean romantic love, but covered a whole range of concepts for which Cybertronian had distinct words.

"Well, ya could have said," Wheelie muttered.  Then surreptitiously, he reached up and scratched Boney behind the ears.

Chapter Text

Dominus Ambus always said that if the entire Senate voted tomorrow to give full and equal rights to every Cybertronian, regardless of alt, Proteus would be the one holdout.  He’d probably vote ratioist even if he had a gun to his head.  A lost cause, Dominus called him, not worth the effort of advocacy.

Rewind didn’t believe in lost causes.

True, he got tossed out of the Senate lobby the first time.  And the second.  The third time, he managed to race all the way down the hall and jump on Proteus’s shin as he was emerging from the Senate chamber before security hauled Rewind away.  The fourth time, though, he was cleverer about it:  he waited until the youngest and most bored-looking guard was on duty, and used bribery.  A disc of some delightfully crude and highly illegal Nebulan porn?  Well, thank you very much, minibot I totally never saw walk in here.  Enjoy your visit that you absolutely didn’t make.

Proteus recoiled gratifyingly when Rewind leapt up on his desk and folded his arms, staring the senator down.

"All right," he began.  "You’re gonna vote with Dai Atlas tomorrow, or I swear, Dominus Ambus and I will have five hundred low-caste Cybertronians marching in the streets.  Every news station on the planet will be covering it, and even if you shut them down, we’ve got ways of making our own broadcasts that you’ll never trace.  We can end you.  Am I clear?”  He jabbed a finger towards Proteus’s nose.

Proteus shivered, and let out a noise that could only be described as a moan.

In the end, Rewind got his way, but only in exchange for certain… considerations.  It turned out that Proteus’s visceral disgust for low-caste mecha went hand-in-hand with secret urge to be dominated and used by them.  Nothing got him hotter than the idea of some filthy, filthy little disposable tying him helpless to the berth and telling him off pretty much exactly as Rewind had done in his office.  And he wasn’t exactly above selling his influence as a senator to get what he wanted, whether it was vintage highgrade and admission to flashy parties or the occasional private session with a low-caste minibot with a talent for ordering him around.

Rewind played it smart, never asking for large or public concessions, but always insisting that Proteus deliver something specific before he’d agree to ‘face him.  On minor amendments, Proteus might be persuaded to vote their way; when it came to major bills, he’d stick to his ratioist guns in public, but pass Rewind enough information on the side to help Dominus and the others put pressure on Proteus’s colleagues, instead.  And afterwards, Rewind would tug Proteus around his berthroom on a leash, or grab the fins on either side of his helm and ride his glossa, or stuff the senator’s trembling valve with toys nearly as big as Rewind himself, all the while telling him how dirty he was for wanting this, how degraded.  Proteus lapped it up.  The scenes would make for the most delicious blackmail fodder if anyone saw them, so Proteus always made sure that Rewind’s camera was detached and kept outside the room.

Good thing he never found out about the other camera.

Rewind still didn’t believe in lost causes - but he did believe in backup plans.

Chapter Text

"Only a little longer to go."  Wheeljack patted the edge of the console with his free hand as his other danced over the keys.  "How’s that defrag feeling, buddy?"

In answer, a panel in the front of the computer slid open, and a nest of cables came sprawling out, writhing across the floor toward’s Wheeljack’s feet.  Several of them started wrapping around his legs, gliding slyly upwards.

"Hey!  I said ‘defrag’, not ‘frag’!" Wheeljack laughed, but he caught one of the cables between his fingers and began to rub the tip of it, causing the whole thing to give a violent shudder and arch upwards into his grasp.  "I guess this means you’re feeling better?"

"Alert!  Wheeljack has been working long hours to repair Teletraan-1’s systems.  Stress release is highly advised to continue functioning at optimal levels."  How was it possible for that brassy monotone to sound that filthy?

Wheeljack retracted his mask and ran his tongue over the cable in his grip before sucking the end into his mouth.  Teletraan-1’s speakers let out a loud burst of static.

"Well," the scientist murmured, "if you say so.  You always know best."

Chapter Text

The blindfold was whipped off, and Ratchet blinked, trying to get his optics to adjust to the darkness.  He could make out hulking shapes clustered around him, and here and there, dimly glowing slivers of red, blue, and yellow indicated mecha watching him from the shadows.

"Found ya a medic, just like ya asked for, Boss," said a voice from somewhere behind him.  Close to floor level, it sounded like.

A shadow shifted in front of him, and resolved into a massive silver bot peering down into Ratchet’s face.  ”You are a doctor?” he rumbled.  Ratchet nodded curtly, biting down on his fear.  He’d been in a few nasty situations in the Dead End, mostly trying to get between the circuit speeder dealers and his strung-out patients, and he’d survived that.  He could survive this.  He could.

The silver mech tilted his head towards the back of the room.  It was an oddly graceful gesture.  ”We have wounded.  Come.”

"Do I get to learn who my patients are?" Ratchet asked, already standing up and taking his medical kit out of subspace.

"They are my followers.  They are of great importance to me."

"And you are…?"

"The mech who will be removing your spark with his denta if you fail."  His voice was as even as if he’d been commenting on the weather.  Ratchet didn’t quite manage to suppress his shiver.

There turned out to be three wounded mecha:  a minibot who just needed an injection to stabilise his spark after receiving some kind of massive electric shock (like running afoul of an electrified security system?  Ratchet wasn’t sure he wanted to know); a seeker with a near-shredded wing, but who was stable and awake enough to snark at him up until Ratchet put him under; and a yellow grounder whose chest and abdominal plating was mangled horrifically, and who graced Ratchet with a cocky smile and a soft, “Watch the paintjob, eh, Doc?” before passing out.  It took two hours to make certain they wouldn’t lose him, and another four to patch him up to the point where self-repair could take over.  Ratchet was nearly dead on his feet by the time he finished with all three of them.

Turning to his host, who had been watching impassively with his arms folded for the last hour, he snapped, “And now your arm.”

"What?"

"You’re hurt.  I noticed you favouring it as we came in."

The mech glared for a moment; then, slowly, he extended one arm.  A meagre patch job and a haphazard lick of silver paint hid what was, once Ratchet got them peeled off, a particularly ugly gash.  Clucking, he said, “You’re lucky you don’t have the beginnings of a rust infection.  I get that you don’t want it seen, but next time, bathe it in a nanite solution before you wrap it - I can get you some from the clinic.”

"Your generosity to the mech who kidnapped you borders on suspicious."

"Yeah, the guy who had his minions grab me in broad daylight and take me to a secret lair to treat battle wounds really has grounds to call me suspicious.”  He knew he should regret saying it, but somewhere around the fifth hour of surgery, the fear had burned off, replaced by exhaustion and worry.  Worry over every patient, from the kid with the torn-open plating to the mystery mech whose arm he was piecing back together.

To Ratchet’s surprise, his current patient said nothing more, until the repair was done.  Then he caught Ratchet’s retreating hand in his larger one, and turned it palm up, examining it minutely.

"You have a gentle touch, Doctor."

"Yeah, well, that’s why they pay me the big shanix."  Ratchet’s mouth went dry, watching the mech turn his hand delicately this way and that.

"I did not mean it as a compliment.  I do not require coddling, like a fretful newspark."  He had a gentleness of his own, though, in the careful way he folded Ratchet’s fingers over his palm and released his hand.  "However, you are skilled.  You have my gratitude."  For the first time since they’d met, the silver mech smiled, flashing bright, sharp denta.  "You may find that a valuable commodity in the time to come."

Chapter Text

Kaon first started tracking the Autobot CMO because of Tarn.  More specifically, because of Tarn’s own pet medic, and his fixation with the older Autobot; asking Kaon to keep an eye on Ratchet was Tarn’s way of indulging his pet.

Kaon found he didn’t mind.  In fact, he realised that Tarn might be on to something; there was a certain draw to Autobot medics.  The idea of a group of people who devoted the same kind of intimate skill, the same kind of single-minded intensity, to putting mecha back together that the DJD did to taking them apart was strangely compelling.  There was a delicious innocence to them, too, with their clean white-and-red plating bravely blazoning their vocation, as if that wouldn’t make them priority targets for the enemy.  And Ratchet - well, with all due respect to Tarn’s pet, Ratchet was the quintessential Autobot medic, as experienced and unshakable in his profession as the DJD members were in theirs.  Kaon found him fascinating.

It never occurred to him to attempt to make personal contact, though… until The Pet got sick.  (His Pet, not Tarn’s.)  Vos did his best, but ultimately looked up from the whimpering sparkeater and explained, in a burst of distressed Primal Vernacular, that he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Pharma was singularly unhelpful, simply rolling his optics and declaring that he was a doctor, not a veterinarian.

And the same day, an intercepted transmission revealed that the Lost Light had docked at a neutral space station nearby for repairs and R&R.

The DJD rarely bothered to hide their identities among other Decepticons; it was easier to let fear do half the work for them.  But that didn’t mean they weren’t adept at clandestine operations when necessary. After all, catching traitors often meant infiltrating Autobot strongholds or alien societies.  A little paint, a set of false optical lights, and a set of prostheses that transformed his electrical coils into (nonfunctional but convincing) tank treads, and Kaon reinvented himself as a harmless neutral in transit through a friendly station.  His approach to Ratchet was a little clumsy, but the sight of a Pet who was clearly in pain (and an owner who was genuinely upset) did the trick.  Ratchet commandeered a room in the station’s clinic and ushered Kaon in, then took the whining Pet gently from his arms and laid him on the table to examine him.

Kaon watched Ratchet’s hands intently - one probing at the Pet’s stomach while the other soothingly rubbed behind his ears - and allowed himself a brief fantasy about what that deft, affectionate touch would feel like on his plating.  The thought was so pleasurable that he almost missed the question.  ”Hmmm?  Oh, well, we give him low-grade, mostly, but he likes to chew on spent t-cogs.”  Scrap!  ”I mean, there’s a - a hospital nearby, and he gets into their medical waste sometimes.”

"Well, there’s your problem.  Sparkeaters are drawn to any of Rossum’s Trinity - t-cog, spark, processor - but if it’s not a spark, it won’t sustain them.  Normally, there’s no harm letting him chew on it anyway, but it looks like he got his denta on a corroded t-cog."  Ratchet shot Kaon a quick smile, and leaned over to squeeze one of his treads reassuringly.  "His tanks are just upset.  I’ll give him something for the pain.  Keep him on mid-grade for a few days, and he’ll be fine."

"Thank you."  It was embarrassingly staticky, and Kaon reluctantly pulled away from Ratchet’s grip, before the electric arousal spiking in his coils could transmit itself through the "treads" covering them.  He beamed up at the medic to show that his withdrawing was nothing personal.  "It’s terribly kind of you to do this."

"Eh, my pleasure.  Making a mech’s pet feel better is a nice change from patching up war wounded, I have to say.  Besides," he added, his voice dipping a little lower, "you’ve got a great smile, kid.  There’s a lot of things I wouldn’t mind doing to see it."

"Really?"  Kaon’s voice was similarly husky, the hiss of his coils starting to bleed through.  "I thought Autobot medics had rules about fraternising with patients…" he teased, even as he drew closer, circling the table to stand next to Ratchet.

Ratchet grinned wickedly.  ”Technically, Sparky here is my patient, not you.”

Well, that changes everything.”

Ratchet never did find out who the mech he took to berth that day really was, which was probably all the better for his sanity, and Kaon never breathed a word of it to the rest of the DJD.  For one thing, Pharma would have had an absolute fit.

But from that day onwards, Kaon never questioned what Tarn saw in his own pet Autobot medic.

Chapter Text

Death didn’t come swiftly for those taken by the DJD.

Sometimes it was for the sake of example, as with Black Shadow and other high-profile traitors - days, even weeks of torture that would make any wavering Decepticon think twice about the consequences of leaving.  Often, though, it was as much for the DJD’s personal entertainment.  Chasing deserters was hard, thankless work, and when they succeeded, it was only natural to want to take their time and really relish the victory.

And sometimes, under very special circumstances, the DJD might actually keep a prisoner alive indefinitely.  Circumstances such as their leader’s favourite Autobot medic throwing away his vaunted dignity and actually begging, in front of all of them, for Tarn to spare the life of Pharma’s most hated employee.

Tarn had been utterly gobsmacked by Pharma’s plea, and may - though he would never admit as much to his team - have agreed before he’d had a chance to really think it through.  Regardless, it meant that Ambulon was a permanent guest of the DJD.  Technically, the agreement had only been that they wouldn’t kill him:  torture was still very much on the table (and on the chair, and on the floor, and on the berth, and anywhere else the DJD felt like surprising their hapless “guest”).  Honestly, though, most of the team tired of Ambulon relatively quickly.  They liked defiance.  They liked having something there to break, and Ambulon was already thoroughly broken.  He didn’t even scream anymore.

So, after the first few weeks, he was largely left alone by the DJD - with the exception of Vos.  That surprised Vos’s colleagues a bit; they knew that there was a degree of patience to his sadism that most of them didn’t share, but even Vos usually needed a more responsive subject to keep his interest.

Vos, however, was fascinated by Ambulon, and especially with his paintjob, the enemy facade that stubbornly refused to cling to the Decepticon underneath.  One day, he spent hours in Ambulon’s cell, slowly scratching and peeling off every inch of that garish red and white paint.  Ambulon whimpered and shuddered underneath him, but Vos’s fingers were relentless - relentless and unbearably gentle.  By the time the last of it came off, revealing battered purple plating beneath, Ambulon was moaning with relief.

Vos stroked the sore, freshly bared plating.  ”Betterrrrr,” he rasped.  ”Preeeettyyyyy…”

Ambulon blinked slowly up at him.

Then, very deliberately, he shuttered his optics and arched up into that tormenting, wonderful touch.

Chapter Text

At first, Ambulon and First Aid had been in the cell with them, until the wild-eyed doctor arrived to take them away.  Tailgate didn’t know him, but Rung seemed to recognise him.  “Pharma?  Ratchet said you were dead.”

“You’d be astonished at the restorative powers of this moon,” Pharma cooed at him, one hip cocked invitingly against the cell bars.  “Not to mention that I have a few tricks up my own sleeve.”  With one last smirk at the denizens of the cell, he turned to lead his two handcuffed charges down the corridor.

Tailgate spared a quick glance at the others – no one seemed to be paying attention; they’d all turned to mutter among themselves – and then dashed to the corner of the cell farthest from his fellow prisoners, and closest to Pharma’s retreating back.  “Psst!”

“Mmmm?”  Pharma glanced back through half-lidded optics.

“Did you mean what you said?  About the moon?”  Under Pharma’s supercilious gaze, Tailgate found himself blurting it all out.  “Only, I’ve got cybercrosis, and Ratchet says I only have a few hours left.  But I’m sure that this place – that is, I’m sure that you can cure me!”  Tailgate had heard the tale of what happened at Delphi over and over – from Pipes, from First Aid, from Drift – and he had an inkling that Pharma’s pride was his weak point.

“Ratchet, eh?”  Pharma drew closer.  ”So, Ratchet’s taken a personal interest in your case?”

“Yeah, he’s really desperate to save me!  I’m his favourite person on the crew!” Tailgate lied desperately.

Pharma raised an eyebrow ridge, but then he keyed a sequence into the pad by the door and it clicked open again, allowing Pharma to tug Tailgate through and shut the door before cuffing the minibot.  “Well, this isan unexpected bonus.”

“I know!  Think about it – Ratchet will have to say that you’re a better doctor than he is if you save me when he couldn’t, right?”

“Indeed.  I’m just picturing the look on Ratchet’s face when he finds out I’ve saved the life of his little toy.”  Pharma’s smile was sweet as poison.  He leaned down to stroke one dexterous hand over Tailgate’s helm, then slide a finger under his collar fairing, tugging at the sensitive wiring there and making Tailgate blush.  “And then I’m picturing the look on his face when he finds out that I got his little toy all dirty first.”

Chapter Text

"Now!"  Impactor let loose with one more burst of suppression fire, and then whirled, grabbing Ratchet’s arm and pushing the medic in front of him towards the waiting shuttle.  "Move that sexy aft, Doc, before they regroup."

Ratchet snarled at him, but the snarl turned into a harsh pant halfway through.  His ankle was royally torn up, and even limping was taking all of his concentration.  Impactor glanced at him, swore, and scooped him up with one motion, throwing Ratchet over his shoulder as he made a break for the ship.  One arm anchored the medic’s legs while the other directed wild potshots behind them.

Ratchet gritted his denta.  Bad enough to be part of a unit that got pinned down in Decepticon territory and had to be rescued by the Wreckers, but this was just piling on the indignity.  When Impactor finally set him down against some crates in the back of the shuttle and barked at Springer to take off, Ratchet averted his gaze, poking at the exposed wiring of his ankle.  That cable would need replacing; that one would have to be resheathed; this one…

… The shuttle was strangely quiet.

Ratchet lifted his head and looked around.  Springer in the pilot’s chair, three other Wreckers slumped exhaustedly against the walls, and Impactor still sniping at ‘Cons through the open door.  No one else.  ”Where are they?  My unit…”

None of them would meet his gaze, but Impactor lowered his gun for a moment.  ”Sorry, Doc,” he whispered roughly.  ”When we got to them -“

"No."

Impactor holstered the blaster as they lifted out of range, and shut the door.  ”It looked like it was quick, if that’s any consolation.”

"It isn’t!  You -"  Ratchet bit his glossa, struggling with himself.  He wanted to yell at Impactor and the others - they hadn’t tried hard enough, they’d gotten there too late, maybe one of the mechs they’d left for dead could have been revived - but he knew he was being unfair.  The Wreckers weren’t at fault.

A weight settled on his shoulder, and he looked up to see Impactor sitting down beside him, hand gently squeezing Ratchet’s plating.

Suddenly exhausted, Ratchet slumped against Impactor’s shoulder, letting the hum of the mech’s living engine and the quiet whirr of his spark soothe him.  Impactor didn’t seem to mind; he just kept on giving orders to the others, while his arm wrapped casually around Ratchet’s shoulders and gathered him in close.

Chapter Text

"Once more, I protest this treatment," the mustachioed mech declared as he lowered his head, baring the back of his neck.  "The Senate has no right to alter my processor, and this is a crime against Cybertonian kind."

"Your protests have been logged, sir," Chromedome recited, even has he extended his needles.  "But the Senate’s judgement is final."

Just as he was about to slide into the cabling of Dominus’s neck, Dominus murmured, in a voice radically different from his usual proud, sonorous tones, “What’s your name?”

"Tumbler."  He was a little taken aback.  Most of them never thought to ask, and certainly mecha like Ambus - the Great and Good of Cybertron - usually considered him beneath their notice.  "People call me Chromedome, though."

"Why do you do this, Chromedome?  You don’t seem like the sadistic type.  You’ve treated me with consideration, and I thank you for that, but it leaves me confused."

"The Autobots can’t afford dissidents, not when we’re losing the war, sir.  What I’m doing is just… helping you help the Autobot cause, which I’m sure is what you want, isn’t it?"

"I’m sensing someone else’s words there, Chromedome."

Chromedome shifted uncomfortably, though Dominus couldn’t see it from his position strapped to the chair, head still bowed.  ”I just follow orders.”

"Is that all?"

"We can’t afford consciences, either."

"That’s the same person you’re quoting again, isn’t it?  Your boss?"

My ex.  Chromedome bit down on the words.  Instead, he snapped, “Do you think I like doing this to other Autobots?  I feel like scrap about it - but I push that away, because it’s my duty.  And it’s not like you’re so innocent.  I know you were warned before this, and you didn’t stop.”

"To stop advocating for what I believe would be to stop being myself.  How could I possibly do that?"

And an awful silence settled between them, because Dominus was about to find out exactly how.

"Look," Chromedome coaxed after a moment, "I’ll make this as painless as I can, and leave as much of - of the way you are now as I can.  That’s all I can do."

"Would you do me another kindness, first?  Would you talk to me for a few moments?"

Chromedome hesitated, but ultimately shrugged.  ”Okay.”

Dominus kept the conversation light, all things considered - idle questions about how Chromedome liked Iacon, where he was before, did he know this or that bar (places Chromedome did, in fact, like, but hadn’t expected someone of Ambus’s station to even recognise), what did he like to do in his spare time?  In turn, Chromedome found out that Dominus liked Polyhexian movies, and warm midgrade with nickel shavings, and music.

Knowing those things made it tougher, but Dominus seemed to need someone to remember who he’d been.

When Chromedome finally slid his injectors in, he did so with his other hand resting comfortingly on Dominus’s helm.  Dominus sighed deeply, and then Chromedome was in his mind, snipping connections and reshaping pathways as cleanly and thoroughly as he could.

For many, many years afterward, Dominus’s voice was one of the few elements of his nightmares that was actually drawn from his own memories, and not someone else’s.  Even waking, Chromedome sometimes fancied he could hear that voice whispering in his audial.  He always had the sense that if he were ever made to pay for his sins, Dominus would be at the very top of the list.

And then he met Rewind.

Chapter Text

It was probably inevitable that Minimus would be caught sooner or later.  The armour had to be taken off occasionally for maintenance, and itwould pick a time when he was on a ship of over 200 sparks and one of the most inquisitive mecha ever forged was running around shooting a documentary to start glitching.

"Oh, hey!" Rewind’s voice called out cheerily from the doorway of the (deserted, it was supposed to be deserted!) storage room.  ”Sorry to disturb you… um…”  His gaze moved from Minimus’s unfamiliar face to the Magnus armour.  ”… wait.  Wait.

It took some quick thinking, and a guided tour through Rewind’s own footage of (what he had never realised were) different Magni over the ages, to convince the bot not to run straight to Rodimus about the “imposter”.  It took a much longer and more delicate conversation to explain Minimus’s connection to Rewind’s long-lost friend Dominus Ambus, and deliver the sad news that Minimus knew no more of his brother’s whereabouts than Rewind did, and would have mentioned it before now if he had.

When Minimus finished, Rewind sat blinking slowly behind his visor.  ”Wow.  So, does that mean the nutty rule-obsession is an act?”

"It isn’t an act, and it isn’t ‘nutty’," Minimus grumbled.

"Sorry.  What about the whole ‘sexy but untouchable’ thing?"

It was Minimus’s turn to blink… and then follow Rewind’s (smirking) gaze downwards.  Oh.  With the usual relief that came over him when he shucked the armour - he could touch his smallest comrades without hurting them, or shattering the Magnus illusion! - he had, without thinking about it, wrapped one hand around Rewind’s shoulder, and planted the other on his knee.

And Rewind, with nothing like the same perfectly reasonable excuse, had his hand on Minimus’s thigh.

"Well…"  Minimus swallowed.  "As Ultra Magnus, I can hardly show the favouritism that an intimate relationship with a single crew member would suggest and stop sniggering I did not just imply that I could just ‘face every member of the crew at once instead.

"Sorry," Rewind giggled.  "As Ultra Magnus, you said.  But as Minimus Ambus?"

"As Minimus Ambus," Minimus replied slowly, "it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve been touched."

Rewind leaned forward, his weight sliding his fingers further up Minimus’s thigh even as he nuzzled his mask against his throat.  ”Well, what do you say we do something about that?”

Chapter Text

"I am Wreck-Gar!  I am a worthless, dirty whore who belongs to Overlord!"

Overlord narrowed his optics at the chipper repetition.  This was not going according to plan.  He’d never seen an Autobot so unintimidated in all his function.  Huge, hopeful optics shone up at him, and the bot fixed him with an adoring smile.

Overlord could feel a processor ache coming on.

Still, such ready obedience, while not what he was used to, could be fun, he supposed.  He smirked gamely.  ”That’s right.  And what do dirty whores do?”

"They…"

"Come along, Wreck-Gar.  We just went over this."

"They… get on their knees!"  The Autobot dropped eagerly.  "I am Wreck-Gar!  I am on my knees!"

Good, Wreck-Gar.  That’s such a good little slut.  Now, have you ever sucked a spike before?”  A look of confusion, mixed with the beginnings of worry.  ”No?  That’s all right.  You’re going to learn a lot today, little one.”

Within a few moments, that obnoxiously big mouth was lapping at the underside of his spike with almost laughable eagerness.  Overlord gave the bobbing head a pet, and smiled to himself.  Silence at last.

Chapter Text

"Stay still, you must," the artist chided gently, sweeping the stylus across the tablet in a broad arc mimicking the curve of the Seeker’s wing.  Thundercracker’s exquisite form would make a perfect model for Slog’s next sculpture - if only said model would stop fidgeting so much.

"Sorry!  I’m not used to going this many hours without a flight."  Thundercracker straightened, but his wings still fluttered unconsciously.

"Twenty minutes, it has been."

"Oh."  The wings slumped a little.

Slog put his tablet down and crossed the floor, delicately nudging Thundercracker’s wings back into position.  He couldn’t resist ghosting his fingers along the flat of one as he did so.  Such glorious, vibrant colours.  ”Your wings, an inspiration are.”

"Oh yeah?"  Thundercracker grinned broadly… and then, as he watched the reverence in Slog’s touch, his smile turned sly.  "So why just look from over there?  Surely -" and he covered Slog’s hand with his own, moving their joined fingers more firmly across the lushly painted metal - "getting a good, long, hard look is a lot more inspirational?”

"Tease, you are."

Thundercracker leaned back on his hands and trailed one foot lazily up Slog’s legs.  ”Only a tease if you don’t mean it.”

Chapter Text

"He thinks it’s a what?” First Aid asked as Ratchet ushered him into the medbay.

"Apparently, a colony of some sort."  The older medic sighed heavily.

"Well, I suppose you could call Autobot City a colony…"

"Yeah, I don’t think that’s what he means.  You’ll understand in a minute.  I appreciate your input on this one, Aid; I’m about at the end of my tether here, and I could use a fresh set of optics on this case."

"Of course."  First Aid was about to ask for more information when he stepped through the door, and shut his mouth with a snap as he got his first look at the patient.

Oh.  That kind of colony.

The creature occupying the central berth looked like nothing so much as a large Earth fire ant, but as Aid watched, it transformed with a soft, liquid sound into a very small Cybertronian.  Who still resembled a fire ant.

Curioser and curioser, thought First Aid, who had been boning up on Earth literature lately.

"It’s okay," he informed the ant.  "We’re not going to hurt you."

"Are you of this colony?" the creature demanded.

"… Yes.  My name is First Aid."

"First?"  The ant looked startled.  "You are ranked First?  What is your role in the colony?"

Aid wasn’t quite sure how to explain what a medic was in fire-ant terms, and it was quickly becoming apparent that those were the terms they were dealing with.  ”I guess you could say I… care for the colony.  I sustain it.  Keep it alive.”

Without warning, the ant jumped down from the berth and dropped to all of its knees at once, rubbing his antennae eagerly against First Aid’s leg.  ”My Queen!  I beg you, give me leave to serve you, to pleasure you, Royalty…”

First Aid was beginning to understand why Ratchet kept a stash of engex in his bottom drawer, if there were going to be days like this.

Chapter Text

"I trust the codebreaking algorithm was satisfactory?"  Glyph bounced slightly on her heels, which, given the sheer heft of her feet (each approximately half of her car-mode bumper) was quite an accomplishment, but her enthusiasm was impressive.

And, admittedly, rather infectious.  ”Very satisfactory,” Airachnid purred with a smile.  ”Come with me, and we’ll get you your reward, as promised.”  She ushered the little Autobot into the inner chamber of her ship, where the most prized pieces in her collection lined the walls.  Glyph had refused payment for the codebreaker she’d supplied.  Instead, she’d asked only for a private tour of Airachnid’s… well, Glyph had called them “xenoanthropological specimens”.  Airachnid preferred “trophies”, but if it meant a free, expert lockpicking algorithm and a chance to show off her collection at the same time, she certainly wasn’t going to argue the point.

"Fascinating!"  Glyph was rushing from case to case in near-ecstasy.  "This one appears to have three intakes with separate vocalisers.  How do they use those in communication?"

"I’ll level with you," Airachnid murmured, gliding up behind Glyph and hooking one spider-form leg flirtatiously over her shoulder, "I’m not the expert in alien cultures that you are.  My interest is more in the… biology."

"I see!  Well, perhaps I could join you on one of your expeditions in the future; we could investigate both the culture and the physical forms of an alien race!”

Airachnid couldn’t help but grin at the mental image of this excited, innocent creature witnessing exactly how Airachnid liked to make first contact with other species.  Oh, this could be amusing.  She wrapped an arm around Glyph’s waist and pulled her in, nuzzling her helm against the little ‘Bot’s mask.  ”But of course… we could have such fun together, don’t you think?”

Chapter Text

Sentinel felt ill at ease in this new universe from the very moment he first stepped through the portal, sneered at the bot he later found out was the leader of their entire race (and how in Primus’s rusty hatch had some alternate version of Optimus managed that?), and turned to salute Ultra Magnus… who, despite being a Magnus, was only second-in-command in this reality.  Oops.

His relationship with this all-new, improved-flavour Optimus Prime has never really recovered, he thinks morosely as he returns from patrol, transforming and slumping into the base.  It’s not that Optimus holds the accidental slight against him.  That, at least, would be easy to understand.  Instead, Optimus seems to hold everything else against him - totally normal things like his revulsion for the organics they let run around the place, his asserting his rank and experience over those beneath him (which, in his estimation, has to be everyone except Optimus and Ultra - Sentinel still can’t think of their non-leader as “Magnus”), and his perfectly natural resentment at having to lay the hard-earned title of “Prime” aside, without even anything to replace it.  He’s just… Sentinel.

Sentinel who has to learn humility, Optimus keeps telling him.  Who has to learn to work together with people.  Some days, he thinks this version of Optimus is every bit as obnoxious as his former friend.

He’s back late, and Optimus is the only one there, shutting down the groundbridge behind Sentinel before turning back to his work on the Iacon database.

"Successful patrol?" he asks.

"Mmmph."  Remembering whom he’s talking to, Sentinel belatedly draws himself up.  "Sir, yes, sir."

"At ease, Sentinel."  There’s a gentleness to that rumble that Sentinel finds it hard to take, some days.  "I know that you find these slow times frustrating.  You have not yet had the chance to go into battle with us, and you are eager to prove yourself."

"If I prove myself, does that mean I get my rank back?"  It’s out of his mouth before Sentinel can stop it.  "I mean - I’m sorry, sir.  I know that’s not possible.  But there must be some opportunity for promotion, some kind of -“

"Sentinel."  Optimus turns and closes the gap between then, placing a warm hand on Sentinel’s shoulder.  "In this universe, we do not observe rank as you did at home.  What you see of us is all that we have left.  Beyond the chain of command in battle, status serves no purpose among us.  But that does not mean you do not matter.  Each of us must carry a weight that is far greater than we would have borne when there were thousands of Autobots, and the addition of even one new ally could be enough to turn the tide of the war in our favour.”  His thumb rubs soothing circles over Sentinel’s collar fairing, and Sentinel leans into the touch.

"Do you mean that, sir?  I feel like…"  He swallows hard.  "I feel like you don’t approve of me being here."

"That is not the case, I assure you.  You will need to adjust, as we all have - more so, in fact.  But I see great potential in you.  In you, Sentinel, not in the rank you once held or the empty gestures of deference you were able to demand.”  The hand slips up to cup Sentinel’s helm, softly tilting it so that Optimus can better study his face.  ”In you.”

Well, that’s just great, Sentinel observes in the back of his mind, his optics growing heavy-lidded at the heat of Optimus’s gaze.

This version of Optimus is every bit as obnoxious, and on top of that, I’m in love with him.

Chapter Text

Minimus’s impending certain death would almost be worth it for the look on Megatron’s face.

One minute, the warlord had been gloating about having Ultra Magnus captive and at his mercy; the next he was staring with saucer-sized optics at a tiny green minibot who’d been left behind when Ultra Magnus vanished into thin air.

"Well," Megatron grated out.  "That was… unexpected."  Glancing at the minibot’s face, he broke into a pointy grin.  "For both of us, it would seem.  Were you under the impression that you would teleport away, as well?"

"That’s… generally how it works," Minimus admitted, glancing around in distress.

Megatron crouched down in front of him, grasping his chin with a kind of clinical gentleness to examine his face.  ”We did wonder how Ultra Magnus kept surviving what should have been fatal blows.  I take it you’re not the first?”

Frag, frag, FRAG.  Minimus was too well-mannered to say it, but it must have shown on his face, because Megatron burst out laughing.  ”So tell me,” he continued, “what do they call you when you aren’t hiding inside the shell that we knew as Magnus?”

"Ambus.  Minimus Ambus."  It had been a long time since he’d said his real name out loud, long enough that it tasted strange on his glossa; and yet there was a certain relief in it.

Megatron’s optics tracked the shifts in his expression with practiced ease.  ”The burden of a legend that is not one’s own can be a heavy one, Ambus.”  His smile was knife-thin.  ”Aristocrat.  Senator.  Prime.  Magnus.  The Decepticon way is better.  We make our names feared in their own right; we do not hide behind fear that others have earned.”

"It isn’t about hiding.  It’s about giving people something to believe in."

"An illusion."

"An ideal."  Minimus jerked his chin out of Megatron’s grip and stood with his arms folded, glaring up at his captor.

Well, this was interesting.  He was going to be the first Ultra Magnus to die as himself.

To his amazement, though, Megatron’s smile only widened.  ”Your ideas are as blinkered as any scrap of Autobot rhetoric, but you have spirit.  And since you will be our - guest - for some time, you and I will speak again.”

"I’m not telling you anything about the Magnus armour."  Nothing you don’t already know, at least, Ambus thought, wincing.

"I’m not interested in a suit of armour, Ambus.  We have more of those, and better."  Megatron rose, towering over Minimus.  "I’m interested in the mech inside."

Chapter Text

One of the remarkable things about the end of the war was that you could walk into a bar and share a drink with an Autobot.

Sure, it had happened during the war, as well, but those times were rare and furtive, both sides terrified of what would happen if their superiors caught them making nice with the enemy.  Now, if two Cybertronians ended up at the same bar together on an alien world, they’d almost inevitably gravitate towards one another, regardless of faction.  It didn’t always make for the most comfortable conversations, but frankly, it wasn’t as if every Decepticon unit could hobnob effortlessly with every other unit, either.  Seekers hung out with seekers, frontliners with frontliners, everyone wanted to be noticed by the Phase Sixers (but not too closely), no one wanted to spend time with the Insecticons, and as for the DJD… Fulcrum shuddered.  Some days, it actually seemed simpler just to drink with the enemy.

Which was how Krok ended up deep in conversation with that striking red-and-blue Autobot grounder, hashing over the tactics used in battles eons ago.  It was the sort of thing Krok lived for, and Fulcrum had picked up enough from his own talks with their leader to allow him to follow along pretty well.  He sat on the edge of the group, sipping his drink and listening, letting himself get caught up in the stranger’s passionate retelling of the encirclement technique used at Simanzi.

Eventually, the talk turned from ancient to modern tactics, and they learned that their new friend was something of an innovator when it came to weapons and upgrades.  ”I’m working on a little something at the moment - personal sensor scrambler.  Still hoping to find a volunteer willing to test it out for me.  It’s not quite invisibility tech, but it basically fuzzes you out of most mecha’s optical and auditory searches, so unless they’re looking really hard for you specifically at that moment, their gaze will just slide right off you.  I call it The Veil.  Like a cloaking device, but a little more see-through, yeah?”  He laughed.  “‘Course, with the war over, it’s mostly going to be good for slipping out of parties without being noticed…”

"… or, for example, if someone had a grudge against you and you wanted to minimise the risk of running into them?"  Krok turned and looked at Fulcrum.

They were all looking at Fulcrum.

"Or five someones?" Misfire chirped.  Fulcrum put his head down on the bar.

***

"So, just relax, and let me know if there’s any pain," Crosswise cooed soothingly as he connected the last of the wires.

"Is there likely to be any pain?”  Fulcrum was perched on the edge of the berth in the Scavengers’ room, fingers curled tightly enough to dent the metal of the bedframe.

"Nah, not really.  There might be a bit of numbness in the arm, but if it starts to pinch, we’ll disconnect it.  Ready?  Starting test… now."  Crosswise flipped a switch, and the device on Fulcrum’s arm started to vibrate.

It didn’t hurt; quite the opposite, in fact.  Fulcrum gasped as deep, pleasurable thrums sank right into his plating and started coursing along the wires underneath.  The effect was like a shot of engex to the spark; charge surged through his systems, and his fans switched on helplessly, trying to cool the heat that was spreading over his plating.

Meanwhile, Crosswise gave a low whistle.  ”Not bad, if I do say so myself!  If I’m staring straight at you and thinking about that fantastic chin of yours, I can catch a glimpse of you, but it’s like a sensor ghost.  Otherwise, I can’t even see you!”

"C-can you ssssee me enough to switch it-t-t off?" Fulcrum managed through gritted denta.  Even then, he couldn’t stop a low moan from escaping.

Crosswise’s pleased expression turned to alarm.  ”Fulcrum?  Something wrong?  Here - ” he held out his hand, palm up - “put your hand in mine, if you can.”  Fulcrum did, and Crosswise groped his way along the half-seen arm (and oh, those rough, probing touches were not helping the situation at all) to find the off switch on the device.

Fulcrum popped back into full visibility, panting.  ”Sorry.  Didn’t - expect -“

"I’ll say."  The Spy Changer looked distressed.  "I’m really sorry, Fulcrum.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  I promise, I’ll iron that glitch out before - "

Fulcrum shook his head vehemently, still trying to get his ventilations under control.  ”That - was - brilliant!  Just - get that part - under control.  Separate switch.  But don’t get rid of it!”  He grinned at Crosswise, yellow optics alight.  ”You’ve just invented the galaxy’s best sex toy!”

Crosswise stared at him, then laughed.  ”I suppose I did!”  He clapped Fulcrum on the shoulder, and Fulcrum fought down the urge to rev his engine at the touch.  ”Thanks.  You’re being a really good sport about this.”

"Not a problem.  Um, Crosswise…"  Fulcrum fidgeted for a moment, but then plunged ahead.  "If you ever need a beta tester for… that particular function, I’d be more than happy to.  Provided you were willing to - well - give me a hand with the side effects.”

Crosswise’s engines gave a low purr,and his voice dropped to match.  ”Is that so?”  He reached out and ran a finger over the still-attached device.  ”Well, since you put it that way, I can think of a few tests I’d need to run…”

Chapter Text

W.A.R.S. was, Prowl reflected, everything that his name implied.  Classic hot-tempered Autobot meteroid-surfer with a side of bloodlust; it was no wonder the Spy Changer had found trouble less than forty-eight hours after arriving from Earth.  Sideswipe’s report said that the mech who was currently slumped sullenly in a cell had assaulted four of his comrades and managed to land a punch on one of the enforcers before he was hauled away.

Prowl drew closer and rested a hand on the bars, causing W.A.R.S. to glance up as the shadow fell over him.  ”They were Autobots, W.A.R.S.  Whatever difference you had with them, we’re living side by side with the enemy here, on a planet that occasionally tries to kill us.  I can’t have Autobots turning on each other on top of that.”

"No, sir."  It was a grumble, but at least a moderately contrite one.

Prowl stifled a sigh.  ”You’ll be released in three days’ time.  Report to me then.”

"But sir!  I can’t -"  W.A.R.S. apparently thought better of the plea when Prowl raised an optic ridge at him, because he fell silent, squirming; then burst out, "Can’t you give me a few hours?  Something I gotta take care of.  Then you can lock me up as long as you like, I promise."

"I can lock you up as long as I like regardless, soldier.  This isn’t a negotiation,” Prowl reminded him softly.  He was intrigued against his will, nonetheless.  ”What is it that’s so urgent?”

W.A.R.S. winced - then he yanked an object out of subspace and shoved it through the bars.

Prowl’s optics widened.

"It’s how I got in the fight to begin with," W.A.R.S. muttered.  "They were making fun of my posy."

With elaborate care, Prowl reached out and took the tiny bundle of Earth flora.  The white lilies would have been a generous double armful for a human, but a Cybertronian could pinch them between thumb and forefinger.  There was a miniscule bow around the middle.

"Buncha the guys thought it was stupid to be carting some organic parasites around.  I told them it was private, but they wouldn’t let up, and I guess I just… lost my head, sir."  He studied Prowl studying the posy.  "They’re called ‘flowers’, and they’re -"

"I remember.  I was stationed on Earth, as well.  The humans use them as congratulatory gifts and for courtship… and funerals."  Prowl’s gaze shifted from the lilies to W.A.R.S., who looked away.

"There’s a… well, kind of a memorial.  They set it up at the edge of town.  For all the dead, you know, Autobot, neutral…"  He coughed.  “‘Con.  Everybody who used to be buried on Cybertron.  The old mausoleums disappeared when the planet was reborn, and it didn’t seem right."

"And you were bringing the flowers to lay at the memorial."

"Yup - yes, sir.  Brought ‘em from Earth.  I know it’s a little dumb - I know they go off and stop being pretty after a few days, but…"  He shrugged helplessly.

"But that’s Earth, isn’t it?"  Prowl’s voice was quiet.  "Fleeting, but beautiful.  I take it the mechs that you were…"  He wasn’t sure how W.A.R.S. would like the word ‘mourning’.  "… thinking of never got to see Earth?"  W.A.R.S. shook his head.  After a moment’s thought, Prowl handed the lilies back.  As W.A.R.S. was placing them reverently back in subspace, Prowl keyed in the code to unlock the door.

W.A.R.S. jumped to his feet.

"I won’t shorten your sentence, but I can delay it for a time.  You have twenty-four hours.  If you’re not back here by the deadline, the enforcers will hunt you down, and believe me, you’ll be staying a lot longer than three days."

"Sir, yes, sir!"  W.A.R.S. gave him a surprisingly crisp salute.

"And try not to punch anyone wearing an Autobrand before then,” Prowl muttered as he went.

True to his word, W.A.R.S. was back a day later to serve out his sentence.  He’d put the intervening time to good use, it turned out, because when Prowl entered his office that evening, there was a faintly spicy smell on the air.  An even tinier posy was resting in the centre of his desk - not flowers, just a prickly, dark green herb.

There was no note.  There didn’t need to be.

Rosemary for remembrance.

Chapter Text

It was a moment - a moment across the battlefield.  Impactor’s harpoon, soaked in gore, was lifted high to finish off a downed Decepticon, and Megatron’s cannon was still smoking, when they caught sight of each other.  Two sets of optics widened, gold and red.  There was a shared thought between them so vivid that it might as well have been shouted aloud:  What the frag happened to you?

It wasn’t as if either of them had been in the dark about the other’s choice of faction, but knowing was one thing and seeing another, and it was hard to say which of them looked the more betrayed:  the one who seemed to have forgotten all about his pacifism, or the one who seemed to have forgotten all about his stand against the Senate’s corruption.  Even through the smog and flames, they could still read each other’s expressions like a datapad, as they could all those years ago, huddled helm-to-helm in a dive bar in Iacon, dreaming and bickering and setting the world to rights.

It was a moment.  Then they both lowered their heads, brandished their weapons, and charged.

Chapter Text

It was the way she laughed; a high, breathless giggle as Chromia’s fingers slid inside her valve, as her hips thrust down to drive them in further.  It was strange and infuriatingly cute, and it never failed to make Chromia feel as though she were drunk on the beautiful mech squirming under her touch.

From her perch straddling Chromia’s thighs, Nautica grinned and grabbed at her lover’s wrist.  ”Come on, I can take more!”

"Oh, yeah?"  There was a wicked glint in Chromia’s optic.  "I think you’ll take what I give you and like it, soldier."  Her voice was husky, drawing a low moan out of Nautica.  Nevertheless, Chromia obediently eased another finger inside the soaked valve, scissoring it open.  Nautica gasped and laughed again, and started riding Chromia’s thrusts, her head tilted back in pleasure.

"Primus!  Faster, ‘Mia, please, please!”

"Mmmmm.  Like that?"

Faster!”  Nautica’s hands were raking hard over Chromia’s thighs, diving into sensitive transformation seams; a little clumsy in their eagerness, but deliciously thorough.  Chromia groaned.  ”Come on; what’s the matter, old timer?  Can’t keep up?”

"Brat," growled Chromia, effortlessly flipping her over so that Nautica was flat on her back, Chromia keeping her pinned with one hand on her stomach while the other pumped her valve.  It was a position that had distinct advantages, Chromia thought, as she lowered her head to lap at the sensitive nodes ringing Nautica’s valve.  Nautica was flat-out begging, stroking Chromia’s helm with startling gentleness, until she eventually just grabbed on and held tight as she overloaded with a shriek.

"Sorry!"  Nautica sat up, venting raggedly.  "Didn’t mean to grab that hard.  Did I hurt you?"

"Pfft.  Nah."  Chromia patted her thigh.  "If you’re worried, though… I’ve got an idea for how you can make it up to me."

"Yeah?"

"On your knees, soldier."

"Yes, ma’am,” Nautica purred.

Chapter Text

The jet’s maniacal laughter followed Cliff as he careened down the road, dodging blasts that pockmarked the road with craters the size of his alt mode.  ”Ahahahaha!  Ooooh, you’re a pretty dancer, Autobot!  But not as good as me!”  Another burst of laser fire came inches away from catching his exhaust pipe, and Cliff swerved wildly.

"Reckon I can still out-dance you," he panted, "ya overgrown metal jack-o-lantern."

"At least I have a nose!"

"At least I don’t have teeth like a scraplet!"

"WHAT?"  It shifted halfway through from an indignant squawk to a full-throated roar, undercut by the sound of transformation; and the next thing Cliffjumper knew, an armoured tank was plunging from the sky.  He barely skittered away in time; the tank’s weight cause the asphalt to ripple like a wave beneath it.

When the tank didn’t stir, Cliff transformed and stalked towards it.  He reached out and petted the scratched armour carefully.  The only response was a groan.

"So."  Cliff fought to contain the grin.  "Form and mood go together, huh?"

"Shut your mouth, filthy Autobot."  To be honest, it sounded more sulky than angry.

Cliff chuckled.  His touch grew more confident, stroking soothingly over the shivering plating, until the tank shifted again, and Blitzwing lay sprawled across the road in root mode.

"Fascinating," the Decepticon commented, slowly staggering to his feet.  "I look forward to our next contest with great anticipation, Autobot."

Cliffjumper winked.  ”I’ll get my dancing shoes,” he replied as he transformed to drive off.

Chapter Text

Tarn was drunk.

Actually, Tarn had achieved “drunk” about four hours ago, and was now hovering somewhere between “trashed” and “in orbit”.  Sweet oblivion continued to elude him, though, as he slumped against the counter at the revived Maccadam’s, listlessly signalling the little blue Autobot to bring him another.

Megatron was joining the Autobots.  Megatron was joining the Autobots.  Megatron was joining the Autobots.  It went beyond unbelievable; the concepts simply didn’t fit together.  It was as if you’d said, “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously,” or, “The Simanzi Massacre put on a tutu and yipped like a turbofox.”  The sentence was grammatically correct, but completely impossible.

Tarn let out a little giggle that threatened to turn into a sob.

The DJD had been elated to be summoned to Cybertron by Megatron himself.  When they’d arrived, however, they’d been issued with new orders:  follow their leader’s example one last time, and place themselves under Autobot command.  Give up the hunt.  Shred the List.  Do as the enemy tells you.  Remove the brand that never comes off.

The entire DJD had listened in stunned silence and, the second they were dismissed, had all but run to the nearest place that looked as though it might have engex to hand.  Lots and lots of engex.  The other four members of the Division had passed out hours back, and were piled up in a drunken heap in the corner, with Tesarus and Helex in each other’s arms, Kaon snuggled between them, and Vos curled atop all of them, looking for all the world like the Pet lazing in a sunny spot.  Tarn envied them.

Looking up blearily, he spotted a flash of yellow entering the bar, and lurched to his feet.

"You!"  It came out as more of a hiss than his trademark rumble, but it was enough to make the few patrons left in the bar start and edge away from the massive tank with the crazed look in his optics.  All but Bumblebee, who stood transfixed in the doorway.  "You - you did something to him!"

The little Autobot raised his hands.  ”Now, Tarn, take it easy.  No one did anything to Megatron; he made a free choice.”

"No!" Tarn roared, slamming his cube down on the bar.  Nightmare Fuel sloshed over his fingers.  "Something - blackmail or Shadowplay or - or -”  He stalked up to Bumblebee and shoved his mask in the Autobot’s face, watching him recoil.  ”Or maybe you seduced him!  With your - your big blue optics and your - cute little hands -“

"Okay, how much did you let him have?" Bumblebee asked over Tarn’s shoulder.

Blurr shrugged.  ”You want to refuse service to the mech who can kill you by talking to you?  Be my guest.  Let me know how that works out for you.”

Tell me your secret!”  Tarn had Bumblebee by the shoulders now, and was shaking him.  ”Why does he love you and not me?

"Whoa - whoa!  Okay, just - why don’t we sit down and talk, hmmm, Tarn?  And I’ll get you another drink.  A nice quiet drink, how about that?”

Tarn allowed himself to be led back to his bar stool.  ”Stupid sexy Autobots…”

"Yeah.  Okay."  Bumblebee pulled up a seat beside him.  "It sounds like this is really difficult for you, Tarn.  You know, my leader left us once, too.  It wasn’t an easy time."

"Yours came back,” Tarn complained.

"Maybe yours will, too!"  The little Autobot beamed up at him hopefully.  "Hey, you know, half the Autobots already think that he’s having us on.  Prowl is convinced he’s only pretending to change sides so he can horribly murder us all in our berths.”

"Really?"

"Uh-huh!  I mean, for all you know, Megatron could have a diabolical plan to destroy the Autobots from within and revive the Decepticon Empire!"

On impulse, Tarn threw his arms around the little ‘Bot and snuggled him close.  ”Thank you, Bumblebee!  You’re very kind; I’m sure you’re right!”  Aware that the scenario Bumblebee had painted might not be as welcome to the Autobot and his little friends as it was to Tarn, he groped for something comforting to say.  ”Er - may your death come swiftly!”

"Um.  Thanks, Tarn.  Uh, yours, too."  Bumblebee patted his arm, and found himself pulled into another hug.

Chapter Text

Something had gone wrong with Shockwave’s device.

One moment, Megatron had been hooked into the Dead Universe, feeling his plating begin to rend as Galvatron clawed his way through the portal opening inside Megatron’s spark chamber - and the next, he’d been lying dazed on a rocky surface, looking blearily up into the optics - no, the eyes, the thing was organic - of some massive, leather-winged monstrosity.  The creature snarled at him, and took a swipe with claws almost the length of his arm; Megatron managed to roll heavily to the side and came up firing.  The fusion cannon blast made the beast rear, but didn’t seem to so much as scorch its hide.  Just as Megatron was lining up another shot, this time trying to target the thing’s eyes, an eerie sound drifted across the plateau.  It was like a strange, discordant little song, but on no instrument Megatron recognised.  The beast shied away at the noise, and, with a last glare at Megatron, lumbered off.

Allowing Megatron to get a look at the source of the song.

It was a Cybertronian, but wrapped in the most bizarre assortment of organic detritus Megatron had ever seen, bristling with feathers and bones.  They didn’t quite serve to cover the Autobrand on the mech’s chest, though.  Megatron’s cannon hummed, ready to fire if necessary.  Still, there was much he didn’t understand, here.  It would be foolish to waste the first potential source of information he’d encountered.

"I thank you, Autobot," he murmured.

The mech was staring at him with huge, pale optics.  A staticky whine came from his vocaliser.

"I will not hurt you unless you give me reason," Megatron continued, rising.  Still no response.  "Do you know who I am?"

The direct question seemed to do the trick.  ”Memories are all but gone,” the mech whispered, “but Wheelie still knows Megatron.”

"How did you frighten the beast away… Wheelie?"

The Autobot held up what seemed to be a flute, crudely carved.  ”Monsters hunt us down like game, but Wheelie’s music makes them tame.  More might come, and us discover.  I suggest we look for cover.”

With that, Wheelie turned and led the way, and Megatron, bemused, followed behind.  He couldn’t tell whether the little Autobot was aiding him in spite of his obvious terror, or because of it.  Either way, Wheelie was a surprisingly skillful guide, pointing out as they went the signs that different aliens had passed that way, how many, how long ago - all in his sing-song rhyming pattern.

They eventually found a cave to shelter in for the night.  Wheelie chose the corner furthest from Megatron, and sat staring intently at the Decepticon leader.  Megatron wondered whether the Autobot actually recharged at all that night.  The next few days didn’t seem to do much to alleviate the mech’s fear of him, either, as they combed the site where Megatron had been found together, searching for some hint of what had happened and how to reverse it.  It wasn’t as though Wheelie’s reaction was exactly new to Megatron, but it was beginning to frustrate him that the only mech capable of shedding a little light on their current situation was too afraid to do much more than watch him nervously and squeak when Megatron spoke to him.

So, that night, Megatron sprawled out in the middle of their cave, and drew a cloth from subspace, idly polishing his plating.  As he worked, he began to hum to himself.  Out of the corner of his optic, he could see Wheelie freeze to listen.  Slowly - so slowly - the Autobot turned toward him, and began to inch closer.

Megatron fought a smile.  Wheelie tamed wild things with music, but he was a wild thing himself, truly.

"Familiar ring, the song you sing," Wheelie said tentatively, crouching just outside of arm’s reach.

"It’s a work song from Kaon."  Megatron was startled.  "Did you know Kaon?"

The little mech looked pensive.  ”Times before the war were bad.  Factory work was all I had.  Singing made the load seem lighter, and the day a little brighter.”

Megatron cocked his helm, listening.  Then - moving at a glacial pace, so as not to startle him - he patted the ground next to himself.

Wheelie scooted towards him, looking at Megatron with a mixture of hope and alarm.  Megatron resumed polishing his armour, but he also began to talk.  Stories from the pits of Kaon, and from Tarn before that; not war stories, but collections of tiny, inconsequential moments.  What the food was like, the work they did, how such-and-such a mech moved or acted.  Before long, Wheelie was leaning back on his hands, fear forgotten as he listened.  And not much longer after that, his head drooped as the lack of recharge started to catch up with him.

Megatron trailed off as he watched Wheelie’s optics drift offline.  Then he stood and went to the cave entrance, settling himself against the rock face to stand guard.  One peaceful night, feeling himself under Megatron’s protection, and his guide would probably be much more cooperative.

A good leader mastered sweet as well as bitter, and knew when to use them both.

Chapter Text

It was astonishing - and a little embarrassing - how quickly Rung managed to win them over.  

 

All right:  it might not have been a huge surprise in Tarn’s case.  Tarn was a cultured mech.  He’d read up on Rungian psychology as part of his early education, and he could hold his own in a discussion of psychological theory with the little ‘Bot, and actually enjoy doing it.  Besides, Tarn had - as his colleagues were all too fond of reminding him - a bit of a thing for Autobot medics.  

But that was different, Tarn always griped.  Pharma had been the kind of Autobot who’d have made a first-rate Decepticon.  Rung… wasn’t.

He was just so bewilderingly nice.

It should have been irritating, but the absence of the smug Autobot self-congratulation that usually went along with it made the niceness easier to bear.  Endearing, almost.  It helped, as well, that Rung would practically trip over those long (long, long, and rather elegant) legs to make himself useful.  Nimble fingers, their touch honed by countless hours of assembling and detailing those odd little ships he liked, proved adept at doing repairs on Vos’s firing mechanism that his comrades’ hands were too big to pull off, and equally good at picking bits of shredded traitor out of Tesarus’s blades.  (For an Autobot non-combatant, Rung was less squeamish than you’d imagine - although they still took care to keep their actual work well out of his sight.)  He tracked Helex’s temperature when the smelter started worrying that there was something wrong with his heating coils, and was even willing to temporarily detach his own thumb-mic to explain to Kaon, in detail, how it worked.

Most importantly, though, Rung listened.  He listened to Tarn talk about Megatron, and Kaon talk about Tarn; he listened to Tesarus’s ennui, and Helex’s fretting over the quality of his work.  With the help of some dusty language subprotocols that hadn’t been activated in eons, he listened to Vos.  Rung rarely spoke during these times, and they didn’t need him to.  It just felt absurdly good, after being part of such a close-knit team for millennia, to occasionally have a stranger’s audial so that you could pour out the concerns that your friends had heard a million times already.

So perhaps it wasn’t such a shock when the DJD began courting Rung.  All of them.  They hadn’t planned it that way, but the curious synergy of thought the team had after so long together meant that the idea occurred to them all at roughly the same time, and Rung went overnight from being held at a distrustful arm’s length to being showered with gifts of high grade and tiny ship accessories.  The members of the DJD made a pact:  if it looked like the little Autobot wanted any one of them, the others would pitch in to help make it happen.  And if he wanted all of them… well, that would be the energon icing on the goodie.

Rung politely deflected every advance, though, remaining kind but professional… until one day.  The rest of the DJD jumped as Tarn’s voice suddenly echoed around the ship with a low throb that wrapped around their sparks and gave them the briefest of squeezes.

"What do you mean, you don’t transform?”

He wasn’t angry, they realised once they’d rushed into Tarn’s office, so much as stunned and horrified.  Rung stood in the middle of the room, gazing at Tarn with clear distress, apparently feeling guilty that he was upsetting the DJD leader.  ”But Tarn, I don’t turn into anything.  Not anything recognisable, at least.  What would be the point?”

"The point is the experience, my dear Doctor," Tarn replied, his voice silken as he reached for Rung’s hands.  "Come - transform for us.  Right now.  I’ll show you what I mean."

Rung’s face showed his reluctance, but they all knew how difficult it was to resist that particular heat in Tarn’s optics.  With a sigh, the psychiatrist folded up laboriously and transformed into a… thing.

The other members of the DJD stared from the object to one another in confusion.  Tarn, though, didn’t seem fazed.  ”And now back.”

Rung switched back and dusted himself off.  ”You see?”

"I see a mech who hasn’t properly indulged his t-cog in millions of years.  Even if you don’t need to transform, Doctor, don’t you like the way it feels?  The electricity singing along your circuits?  The way your plating stretches and warps until it’s too much, until, for the briefest of kliks, you’re convinced that the transformation will rip you open… and then you’ve suddenly broken through, as your body crests like a wave and flows deliciously into a new form.”  Tarn’s voice had dropped to his trademark purr, and there were spots of colour in Rung’s cheeks.

"I… I don’t think it’s ever felt like that, for me."

"Really?  Well, we’ll need to remedy that, won’t we?"

With Tarn’s voice murmuring a low, sweet stream of encouragement, Rung transformed again and again that afternoon.  He’d never known that the act of transformation could have such astonishing variety.  His shifts ranged from fast and desperate to so slow that they allowed him to track the motion of every wire in his body; from rough to meditative to achingly sensual.  He transformed until his knees were weak and his t-cog burning, and he had to lean against Tarn to hold himself up.

Tarn caught him around the waist easily with one massive hand.  ”How does that feel, Doctor?”

"I… I…"  Rung panted raggedly, and clung to Tarn’s arm.  Tarn nuzzled gently against him, relishing every moment of that awestruck expression, every sobbing breath.

"I know.  And you did so well," he whispered, "so well, my brightest spark.”

Chapter Text

He was like nothing she’d ever seen, this great silver mech who fell from the sky.  Who, with his armada, had vanquished the kaiju in a week, when their entire world had been fighting for over a decade.  He was proof that there were mysterious, alien worlds out there that contained more than the horrors of the kaiju dimension; worlds full of people who were beautiful and terrible and like her.

Gipsy adored him.

Megatron’s arrival had changed how all the jaegers saw themselves, but none more than Gipsy.  He was the one who first told her she could be more than a tool.  It was her dearest wish to one day fight under his command, to wear his mark.

But she’d seen his disgust when the process of drifting - organic mind control over mechanical beings - was first explained to him.  She’d tried desperately to describe the bond she had with Mako and Raleigh, but it didn’t seem to help.  There was contempt in his optics, now, when he saw the three of them readying for battle.

And more and more, lately, she could see her beloved pilots through Megatron’s optics:  not as protectors, but as squirming, fleshy parasites seated in her brain.  She became stubborn and rebellious, digging in her heels whenever they asked her to do something, much to Raleigh and Mako’s dismay.  And every once in a great while, she’d contemplate how little effort it would take to pluck the two humans out of her head and drop them to the floor below, or simply crush them like grapes between thumb and forefinger.

Every time, she was horrified by the thought - but the horror couldn’t quite silence the tiny voice at the back of her helm saying that maybe, just maybe, that would finally make her a worthy Decepticon.

Chapter Text

The jet was ancient beyond telling, and while he had once been beautiful, the touch of the undead powers that had long controlled him had left their mark.  His plating was badly scarred, and his face expressionless and forbidding.  Leftover traces of demonic energy from beyond the veil crackled dangerously through his EM field.

Never let it be said that Tailgate didn’t have a type.

"I think he’s lonely," Tailgate said, swinging his legs idly as he perched on the bar stool.  Swerve stopped wiping down the bar to stare.

"You think he’s lonely.  You think the ex-herald of the Chaos Bringeris lonely?”

"Don’t you think?  He looks so sad, over there on his own.  I’m going to go talk to him."

"Tailgate!  What’s the matter with - awww, fraaaag," Swerve moaned as Tailgate stood up determinedly and marched over.

From across the room, it was obvious that the minibot’s approach had startled Ramjet.  The jet stared with diabolically flaming optics as Tailgate settled into the seat across from him.  Swerve danced anxiously from foot to foot, his fist crammed in his mouth.

And Ramjet…

… did nothing.

He simply watched.  Swerve could make out snatches of Tailgate’s high, piping voice above the noise of the crowd, but he couldn’t quite hear the words.  And then Ramjet began to speak, his tones a gutteral hiss, like the sussurration of flames.  Tailgate rested his chin on his clasped hands as he listened, looking for all the world as though he were fascinated, and not terrified the way any sane mech would have been.  Occasionally, he’d reach out and pat Ramjet’s eerily glowing arm with a tiny hand.

They stayed like that for so long that Swerve eventually, with some reluctance, pried himself away and went back to serving other customers.  He still snuck the occasional glance at the strange couple in the corner from time to time.  However, as the evening rush picked up, Swerve had so many people to contend with that he forgot about Tailgate and Ramjet for a few hours.

He got a nasty shock when he looked over and saw their table was empty.  ”Tailgate?  Buddy?” Swerve called out.

A moment later, though, he spotted the weirdest sight of the evening:  Tailgate dragging a bemused Herald of Unicron by the hand over to the door.  Swerve heard him chirping, “You’ll love the view from my room!  You can see the whole port starfield from there!”

Swerve stared after them as they left.  Then he poured himself a shot of engex, setting the bottle down with a stunned thunk, and raised his glass in a silent toast.  Go get ‘em, Tailgate.

Chapter Text

Astrotrain hissed.  ”Careful, Autobot!  Do you know who I am?”

"Yes; you’re a prisoner of war, which entitles you to medical treatment.  That’s all that concerns me right now."  Ratchet stuck the penlight he was using to illuminate the patch of interior circuitry in the corner of his mouth so that he could free both hands to work.  That slightly muffled the words, "You’re also a giant sparkling,” but didn’t muffle them quite enough for Astrotrain’s tastes.

He sulked - aware that it probably wasn’t helping the “sparkling” image, but too discouraged and in pain to care - as Ratchet methodically worked his way along the sensitive wires, rubbing each one between his fingers.  Little pops of trapped charge fizzled against his fingertips, making Astrotrain wince at first, then tilt his helm back and sigh as the painstaking massage of his circuitry started to relieve the kinks and aches.

"There’s a lot of strain on these couplings," Ratchet pointed out, lifting his head to meet Astrotrain’s gaze while his fingers continued to work.  "You shouldn’t be carrying loads that heavy, that frequently."

The triplechanger averted his optics.  ”War, Autobot, ever heard of it?  It means we don’t always get to hold out for the fun and easy jobs.”  He was rather proud of the way it came out:  stern and defiant.  As if he hadn’t spent half the last week complaining to Blitzwing about the exact same thing.

"Don’t I know it," Ratchet muttered.  "Otherwise, I’d be doing this all day."

"You’d be helping the enemy?"

"No, I’d be treating occupational injuries where I know I can quickly alleviate the pain.  Beats patching up a hole through a kid’s torso and then sending them back out there.  You’re done, by the way."  He closed the paneling; Astrotrain stretched experimentally, and found that he could move without the ache that had plagued him for… well, frag, it had to be vorns at this point.

Ratchet was avoiding his gaze as he tidied his medical kit, almost as if he were embarrassed at having said so much.  Astrotrain was fine with that.  The Autobot didn’t seem to expect thanks, which was good, as he wasn’t fragging getting any… even if this was the best Astrotrain had felt in ages.  Instead, he muttered, “No wonder you Autobots are all so spoiled, if you get treatment like that all the time.”

Ratchet looked up, and flashed him a smile so fleeting that it might have been a momentary glitch in Astrotrain’s optical processors.  ”Yeah, well, we Autobots have this crazy notion that we should take care of our soldiers, especially the ones doing the hard, thankless jobs.  I’m sure that’s bleeding-spark naivete in your book.”

"Wuss."

"Brat."

"… you coming back tomorrow?"

"Every day you’re here.  Unless you refuse care.  That’s your right, too."

"Nah.  Whatever.  I mean, you wanna waste your resources on me, that just helps us out in the long run," Astrotrain said, a little too quickly.

The smile lasted a bit longer this time.  ”See you tomorrow, ‘Con.”

Chapter Text

One moment, there was nothing but the mysterious false dawn growing on the horizon; and then the pod came streaking down to the planet in a heedless burst of light.

Arcee yelled that it was Jhiaxus’s doing, Ironhide yelled back that it had to be the exiled ‘Cons, but when the pod burst open on impact, the last mech anyone expected emerged, his plating wreathed in flames.

“Overlord?!”

And then there was the battle, desperate and confused, a handful of Autobot stragglers against a wounded, but enraged, Phase Sixer – and then nothing.

When Prowl woke to find himself on his knees, his arms lashed behind his back, and Overlord looming over him, he knew he was going to die.

He had to admit, though, he’d been expecting the first blow to come from Overlord himself.  The tiny metallic ball of energy and rage that slammed into his chest and attempted to strangle him – that was a surprise.

“You almost got me killed, you slagging gearsucker!  This was all your fragging plan!  Do you have any idea –”

“Rewind?”  Prowl finally managed to pull back enough to get a good look at the minibot who had failed to get his hands all the way around Prowl’s neck, and was now hammering his fists on the other mech’s bumper.  A wild hope surged through him.  Overlord alone might have been able to survive the complete destruction of the Lost Light – the necessary downside of designing such a secure cell for him – but if tiny, useless-alt-mode Rewind were still alive as well, then that meant that the rest of them – that Chromedome 

Overlord’s laugh broke into his thoughts.  Such a laugh:  deep, refined, almost musical in its way.  Prowl suppressed a shiver, but that was nothing compared to its effect on Rewind.  The minibot froze where he was, half-hanging off Prowl’s frame; his visor sparked so brightly that the light seemed to bleed at the edges, and his whole body shook.  “Rewind,” Overlord purred.  “Such manners.  I’ve already told you, Prowl is our guest– and my bargaining chip with Bumblebee and his Autobots.  I can hardly have you attempting to murder him, can I?  Much as I admire your spirit.  It seems that our little… talks during our time together have not been wasted.”

Rewind slid limply off Prowl and landed on his feet, staggering just a bit.  Prowl tilted his chin up to meet Overlord’s gaze, but surreptitiously ran his optics over the little bot.  There wasn’t a scratch on him.  Overlord hadn’t been hurting him physically; indeed, he must have protected Rewind with his body when they crashed, or the impact that had scorched the Phase Sixer’s paint half off would have killed the minibot.  So what hadOverlord been doing to him?  Rewind wasn’t exactly Prowl’s favourite person, but he still hated to think what could have produced such a learned reaction in someone without so much as laying a finger on them.

Even as Prowl thought it, Overlord did reach for Rewind… and drew one fingertip over the top of the little bot’s helm with frightening gentleness.  “But that doesn’t mean we can’t scratch him up a little, my pet,” he murmured.  “It would be a shame not to have some fun.”  Rewind didn’t shrink from the petting; he barely even seemed to feel it.  When he looked at Prowl, the anger in Rewind’s expression had all but evaporated.  It was dull fear, laced with doubt, and that somehow made it more awful to watch.

Prowl drew himself up as far as he could, pressing his bound arms together behind his back.  “Breaking the Autobot second-in-command,” he drawled, ladling as much contempt onto the words as he could.  “That will be quite an accomplishment.  I bet Megatron would be so proud of you, for once… that is, if he hadn’t already managed it himself.”

Overlord’s optics narrowed abruptly.

“And he didn’t even need to use restraints,” Prowl continued in his most sugary voice.  “He broke me from the inside, you see, Overlord, because that’s how a truly dangerous mech operates.”  The words tasted bitter; it was the first time he’d said it out loud, he broke me, Megatron broke me.  But he managed a smile.  The special smile; the one he reserved for felons who’d just handed him damning evidence.  “My mind was utterly under his control for months.  Anything you could do to me would pale in comparison.  In fact, I think I’d find a little bit of old-fashioned, brute-force torture almost restful at this point.”

Forgotten under Overlord’s hand, Rewind opened up a comm. link and broadcast ::What are you doing?:: at Prowl’s helm with the force of an artillery barrage.

A momentary sidelong glance from Prowl and a fractionally raised browridge.  ::Setting him a challenge.  He won’t kill me; he needs me.  And with luck, he won’t hurt you while he’s focused on me.::

He could all but feel the confusion radiating off the smaller Autobot, but all that came over the comm. was ::You don’t know him the way I do.::  There was a pause, and then the next message sounded a little less cowed, a little more like Rewind.  ::Which, FYI, your fault.::

Overlord was still studying him gravely.  Prowl tilted his head and smiled again, in clear invitation, while he silently shot back ::I apologise for what happened to you, but I won’t apologise for putting Overlord on that ship.  It was the only possible choice.::

“He got loose, you fragging monster!”  Rewind yelled, forgetting to use the comm.  “People died!  Does that even register with you?”

“Of course it does,” Prowl snapped.  “Would you rather I’d left him on Cybetron, where his escape might have meant thousands of deaths instead of a maximum of two hundred, not to mention the destruction of everything we were trying to build?”

“You cold spawn of a –”

“What I did saved lives –”

“My, my.  Such fractious little pets you are.”

“And you can shut the frag up!” Prowl snarled, rounding on Overlord.  “You think you scare me, ’Con?  You talk a good game, but you’re far from the worst I’ve faced in my life.  You’re not even the worst this week.

In the utter silence that followed those words, Rewind shrank further under Overlord’s hand, as if he could use the Decepticon’s own body to hide from him, and Prowl gritted his denta as he tried to still the frantic whirring of his spark that belied what he’d just said.

Then, astonishingly, Overlord laughed again, his helm thrown back as his whole body shook with amusement.  “Oh, Prowl!  You’re everything I was told, and more.  I can’t begin to express how much I’m going to enjoy this.”

Prowl shot Rewind a glance, but the minibot was too far under the cupped hand to see it.  Overlord caught it, though.  “Oh, yes, our little archivist talks about you often.  He’s far from my only source, though, since it seems he’s far from the only comrade you’ve betrayed.  Now, let’s see, was it Fortress Maximus who told me all about you?”  A brief shudder passed over Prowl’s frame, but his gaze was steady.  “Or was it your pretty friend with the needles, when I pinned him down and forced my way into his mind, instead?  He has such memories of you, Prowl.”  A dark chuckle.  “Some of which you no longer share, thanks to him.”

Prowl opened his mouth to call him a liar… and shut it again, his vents suddenly stalling.  A voice rose in his mind, out of the queasy nightmare that was the last few months:  Bombshell’s voice.  I found Prowl’s mind… ready for manipulation… already damaged memories… easy to access.  He’d had no time until now to process what that meant.  Someone had opened the chink that had let the nightmare in.  Someone had given the Decepticons the key to his brain.

Oh, Primus.

Oh, Primus.

Overlord plucked up Prowl’s unresisting form like a doll, and carefully turned him around.  One fingertip stroked the back of his neck, making him tremble.  “I know scars,” Overlord murmured gently.  “Even if I hadn’t seen it in dear Chromedome’s mind, I would see it here.  This is injection scarring.  Most of it is eons old; did you used to let him put his needles in you while he fragged you?”  Even though Prowl couldn’t see his face, he could hear the smile in that rich voice.  “Kinky little thing, aren’t you?  But this – here – this is much fresher.  A matter of months, I’d say.  Surprising that none of your Autobot friends noticed it.”  The finger slid lower, massaging his back struts.  “But then, I imagine that no one gets that close to you.  Poor Prowl.  How long has it been since you’ve been touched?”

“Not long enough,” Prowl gritted out, but it sounded hollow, even to his audials.  He drooped in Overlord’s grip and let the monster stroke his back.  In contrast to the ache in his mind, it almost felt soothing.  His processor spun, a constant, pathetic recitation:  No.  Please, no.  Not Chromedome.  Not Tumbler.  But it fit too damned well.

Overlord dropped him without warning, leaving him to struggle back up to his knees.  “Ah.  I do believe I’ve figured out how to have my fun with you, and do Megatron one better in the process.”

From the corner of his optic, Prowl could see Rewind staring at him, his visor wide and horrified.  He was shaking his head frantically.  ::I didn’t know.  I didn’t.::

Prowl knew that hating him was irrational, but, just for a moment, did it anyway.  Then Overlord’s hands came down, one cradling Rewind’s helm, the other tilting Prowl’s chin up, and there was a strange kinship there.  They were in the same boat.  Prowl was going to have to focus if they were both going to survive this.

Allowing his optics to go half-lidded, he purred, “Mmmm?  And how is that?”  That’s right, look at me, look at the new toy, forget the old one…

A smile tugged at the corners of Overlord’s mouth, threatening to break out fully at any moment.  “Why, Prowl.  Megatron may have forced you to submit without raising a finger… but he never made you want to submit.”  One fingertip trailed over Prowl’s cheek.  “I will.”

Prowl laughed.

It wasn’t as unconcerned as he’d wanted it to be; what came out was an eerie sound, with more than a touch of madness crackling at the edges.  “Do you know, I’d almost like to see you try?”

“I can be very persuasive.  You’d be astonished how many of my little pets come to me willingly.  Ask Fortress Maximus; he was beggingme to frag him before I finally relented, and gave him what he needed so badly.  And you, Prowl – you’re just aching to give in.  Let go of the burdens of being… well… you.

“So, you’re seriously telling me that you won’t hurt me and you won’t ‘face me unless I say you can?

“No.”  The smile broke in earnest.  “I’m saying I won’t hurt you and I won’t face you until you say I can.”  Overlord pouted slightly, those plush lips pursing.  “But you do need to give me a chance, Prowl.  Play the game with me, and I’ll do the rest.”

“Why should I even agree to that much?”

“Because I know what he took from your head.”  Overlord leaned in so that his lips were almost against Prowl’s audial.  “And I know why.”

Prowl’s gaze snapped to his.  After a long moment, he said, “All right.”

Rewind froze, unresisting, as Overlord scooped him up and set him on his shoulder.  “Is your camera on, my pet?  Good.”  He raked his gaze over Prowl where he knelt in the dust.  “You won’t want to miss a single moment of what’s to come.  And if you’re very, very good, maybe I’ll let you help me break him.”

Chapter Text

Still.  Scan.  Wait.  Move.

Prowl slid one foot across the floor, slinking as silently as he could.  His sensors still registered nothing, but he was acutely aware that that didn’t mean there wasn’t anything there.

Still.  Scan.  Wait.  Move.

He knew his opponent preferred high ground, so he kept his gun trained on the rafters.  At the same time, his audials were pricked, hypersensitive to the slightest sound behind him – but there was only the hum of the power plant’s machinery and the low hiss of his own ventilations.

Still.

Prowl was capable of staying unnaturally still for hours on end – one of the places where police work bled over into combat skills.  Underneath his plating, though, his spark was pulsing wildly.  He’d strayed too far from the main battle, far enough that his fellow Autobots would struggle to reach him in time if he sent a distress call.  Anything could happen, a treacherous voice whispered in his mind.  Anything.

Scan.

Gritting his denta, he sternly steered his attention back to the information from his sensors – or, rather, the complete lack of information.  Could he have lost her, after tracking her this far?  Was he wrong to think that his prey was still out there, stalking him in turn?  It was possible that she could have doubled back and be at Megatron’s side on the battlefield even now, having successfully drawn the Autobot second-in-command on a… what was the Earth term?  Something about waterfowl.  A feral duck chase.  Prowl frowned.  No, that wasn’t right.

Wait –

WAIT.

There.  A telltale click and the faintest whiff of accelerant, and Prowl hit the deck a bare second before the world exploded around him.

He rolled, proximity sensors screaming as flaming shrapnel came at him from what seemed like every direction.  Time slowed as he processed positions and trajectories – dodge the fragment spinning towards his helm – leap back to avoid the scorching chunk of wall plummeting at him – can’t evade that one in time, it’s small, take it on the arm.  Prowl could track eight hundred moving objects at once.

The eight hundred and first proved to be the Decepticon ninja who dropped from the ceiling and landed squarely on his back.

***

He came to pressed up against a (blessedly cool) wall.  The pain of the burns streaking his plating and the half-dozen jagged slashes on his arms and legs from shrapnel blazed through him, so intense that, at first, he missed the prickle of the sai laid with its point just barely indenting the cabling of his throat.  Two yellow optics were staring up into his.  The edges were crinkled with what could have been amusement.

Prowl vented hard.

This was the third time they’d found themselves in roughly this position, although who had the upper hand tended to swap back and forth.  The first time, Nightbird had materialized in the middle of a ravine, suddenly manifesting where there had been only rock and dust a moment before, and had dropped down on his hood like a hailstorm, causing him to veer out of control and lose the Stunticons he’d been chasing.  He’d transformed underneath her to try and throw her, and the fight that followed had been vicious, only ending when she managed to pin him face down and strip him of his weapons.  He’d expected her to kill him, but after securing his arms, she’d let him up, and had stood there staring at him with frank curiosity.

That was right, he’d remembered then – Nightbird had a puzzling habit of sometimes sparing her opponents.  Not always, but at odd moments, and pretty consistently after one-on-one combat.  Optimus suggested it was a quirk that owed more to her Earth construction and programming than to her ongoing Decepticon education, but no one really knew.

He’d lowered his helm to her.  If this was, in some way, about Earth ideas of honour, then a show of deference for a worthy opponent might help get him out of here alive.

And then he’d felt the touches, feather-light, over his face and helm.  He’d glanced up in shock to see her watching him intently, her keen optics tracking the motion of her own dark fingertips over his plating.  With one hand still training his own blaster on him, she’d moved the other hand from face to throat, to headlights, circling the shape of one in a way that had made his systems start to heat.  From there, she’d trailed her fingers up to stroke his doorwings, still with the same avid look on her face.  Of course:  alt-mode kibble must have a certain fascination for a mech who couldn’t transform.  And with grounders being so rare among the Decepticons, and Praxians nonexistent, it made sense that Nightbird would be eager to study and catalogue these strange forms when she oh Primus that was sensitive… 

The innocence of the touch had made him ashamed of the way it had made his fans spin up.  He’d shuttered his optics and taken it, trying to stay detached.  A moment later, though, Nightbird’s fingers had stilled on his doorwing.  When Prowl had onlined his optics again, she’d been studying, not his frame, but his expression.

Those nimble fingertips had begun to move again – very deliberately, this time, delving into seams and teasing wires, drawing a gasp from him.  Nightbird had tilted her head in clear question:  Like that?  There had still been curiosity in her optics, but something darker, as well.

Prowl’s optics had narrowed warningly in return.

And then, just like that, Nightbird had withdrawn, holding her hands up.  A faint rustle – softer than an in-vent – and she’d disappeared.  Leaving Prowl tied up and uncomfortably aroused for the Autobots to find.

And, more than anything else, hungry for a rematch.

The second time, Prowl had managed to lure her into a trap, and she’d bowed graciously to him from behind the electrified bars of the cage… before sauntering close enough that the electricity had crackled against her plating.  It had to have hurt, but she hadn’t so much as flinched, using the proximity to let her EM field unfurl towards his.  There had been excitement there, the leftover battle rush… and, underlying it, enough desire to scorch Prowl’s energon in his fuel lines.

Of course, he’d done nothing except turn her over to Red Alert for processing.  Every code Prowl believed in was absolute on this point:  one Did Not take advantage of a prisoner.

Now, taking advantage of a captor, on the other hand… well, that was an intriguing loophole.

Prowl shifted slightly towards Nightbird, and the sai dug in a fraction, stinging him.  Energon welled from the cut.  Prowl could see the faint glow of it if he tilted his head.  Bracing himself against the wall, he managed to slither down until the tip of the blade was pointing directly at his mouth.  He locked optics with Nightbird for a brief moment, and then lowered his own submissively as he flickered his glossa out and tasted his own fuel on her blade.

He could hear Nightbird’s fans stall, although the sai didn’t waver.  Raising his gaze to hers once more, Prowl slid his mouth languidly along the central blade, showing off as he worked it with his lips.  Nightbird was watching in fascination.

Curiosity.  Honour.  Desire.  Any one of them could be a potential in with this puzzling new Decepticon.  If she couldn’t be turned, then at the very least she could be distracted.

And if the ninja was only playing an elaborate game with him?

Well, he was a tactician.  Games were his specialty.

Nightbird made a sign with her left hand, even as her right pulled the three-pronged dagger back – and then pushed it gently forward, gliding the tip over Prowl’s lower lip.

Over the years, Prowl had picked up a few dozen of the signs Nightbird used to communicate.  Her creator had started her off with a few, based on ancient texts that catalogued hand signals used by ninja clans in Earth’s past.  Observation had given Prowl some of the hundreds more that Nightbird herself had developed.  However, the signs were more than just a jumble of separate words,  Prowl had realised long ago, watching from across the battlefield.  This language that she had essentially invented had grammar and syntax, and shades of meaning he couldn’t grasp; and it frustrated him that he could only ever decipher a word here or there, while the language itself eluded him. 

This sign, though, he knew.  [Victory].

Prowl nodded – carefully, so as not to nick his glossa – and pointed at Nightbird before copying the gesture.  [You, victory].  He added in a glossa-twist that was practically obscene.  Yes, well done; you’ve won this round, ’Con.  Whatever are you going to do with your prize?

Nightbird visibly shivered, and reached down to draw her thumb along Prowl’s jawline.  It was a neat, sharp motion that didn’t quite feel like a caress – a suspicion that grew when she repeated the gesture more urgently, and then, as if frustrated at his lack of response, stroked her own cheek in the same way.  Prowl frowned a little, pulling back.  “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one.”

She cocked her head in thought, even as she continued to tease Prowl’s mouth with the sai.  Then she delivered a rapid burst of hand signals.  “Sunset,” he knew that one, followed by – “Ocean?”  (He’d always been uncertain whether that one meant ocean or Nemesis, but Nightbird nodded when he asked.)  “Wings.  Earth-rain.  Flyer – no, flyer-commander.”  The double gesture was her way of signing “Starscream”.  Prowl licked his lip.  He had a guess about what she was trying to get across, what tied all of those ideas together.  Not a battle concept at all, so it made sense that he wouldn’t have seen this sign before.  But Primus, was he going to feel ridiculous if he was wrong.  “Pretty?” he ventured.

Nightbird nodded eagerly, repeating the gesture on his cheek, and then pointed at the brand on his chest.  [Pretty Autobot].

Prowl smiled for her, letting his optics go hazy and half-lidded.  Nightbird withdrew the sai and dropped her arm loosely to her side.  Prowl knew from experience that she could still strike in a spark-pulse from resting, but this way, it was insurance, not an active threat.  Looking at him appraisingly, she signed, [Affirmative/negative?].

He signed back [Affirmative] in her language, and said, “Yes,” in his, so that she knew he understood.

Prowl felt clever fingertips swiping through the energon that had pooled in the cabling at the hollow of his throat; it was a little tacky, just beginning to clot.  Nightbird’s hand came up to his mouth – he parted his lips –

– and the door of the room crashed open.

The two of them each made a sudden grab for the other, and grappled for a moment, blade to bare hands, but when it became clear that the newcomers were Autobots and she was drastically outnumbered, Nightbird twisted in Prowl’s grip like an oiled turbofox.  A second later, she had vanished.

Prowl waved away Perceptor’s concern over his scorched and sliced-up plating.  “I’m fine.  Is the plant secure?”

“Yes, sir – the frag happened to you?” Sideswipe put in.

“We’ll discuss that later.  Preferably after a long talk about the speed of your team’s response to hearing a bomb go off inside an unstable and compromised facility.”  Prowl folded his arms and glared until the other Autobots had saluted sheepishly, then he herded them out.

Just before he followed, his hand moved subtly by his side, forming a halting series of glyphs that might just be visible from the rafters.  [Next time, battle, good/anticipate…]  He hesitated.  [Affirmative.]

There might have been an answering rustle, but it was probably his imagination.

Chapter Text

He wasn’t Longarm, then, and he certainly wasn’t Shockwave - just another nameless maintenance bot sweeping the halls of the Elite Guard headquarters, secretly gathering the information he’d need to create his cover identity.  He found himself drawn to her right away.  She was a cool-headed island amid all the posturing and bluster of the other cadets.  He’d linger in the backs of classrooms, taking far too long to empty the waste receptacles, hoping that she would raise her hand to offer an opinion, because it was such a pleasure to listen to rational arguments for once.

Ultimately, he couldn’t resist contriving a meeting in the hallway one day, and humbly asking her about the textbook she was carrying.  She seemed startled that a maintenance bot would recognise the author, but her optics flared as she dove eagerly into a detailed discussion of his theories on CNA splicing.  After that, they would meet every week at the end of his last shift, and sit up late, drinking highgrade (well, her, not him) and spinning wild hypotheses about everything from mnemosurgery to alien biology.  It was an effort to rein himself in, sometimes, and remind himself that he was a curious young amateur, not an ancient Decepticon scientist with epochs of experience.  The fire of her fascination with these subjects caught in his circuitry.

She kissed him once, just on the cheek.  There might have been more if he’d encouraged it, and, shameful as it was to admit, he might have encouraged it if it hadn’t been time to move on.

He never knew whether she recognised him when she washed up on their metaphorical doorstep years later, mutilated and abandoned, but he knew her immediately.  It was his intervention that swayed Lord Megatron into giving her a place within the Decepticon ranks… and, ironically, she was the one who put the crucial finishing touches on his identity as Longarm.

“Shockwave,” she said once, as they worked side by side testing a new corrosive agent, “sometimes I think you don’t even see this Primus-damned body of mine.”

“Form is irrelevant.  I see a mind.  And yours is capable of virtually anything.”

That was the second time she kissed him.