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Megatron was never really sure what to do with Ratchet. 

He raised an orbital ridge over his bottom of the barrel high-grade as Ratchet did his third shot in as many kliks. The Prime wasn’t even grimacing at the taste and Megatron, tasteless though he may generally be, knew it was bad.

Ratchet and he were...friends, he supposed. They would both always belong to Orion more than each other in any circle, but Megatron could appreciate a drinking buddy who understood the importance of terrible engex, worse bars, and quiet. Though lately nights out with Ratchet had gotten slightly less so.

If Megatron wasn’t really sure what to do with Ratchet, he was utterly lost on what to do with Drift.

It wasn’t that Drift wasn’t also quiet. But there was a difference between two mechs sitting shoulder to shoulder drinking in silence and the serenely sober smile that Drift constantly sported. There was also the frag-off huge sword constantly strapped to his back, which tended to draw stares.

But Ratchet had mellowed out a bit in the presence of the new mech, and while these nights had always been relaxing for the two of them, Ratchet was never truly relaxed.

Even Megatron had found the time to, as Rumble so eloquently put it, chill out. Somewhere between the Matrix choosing Ratchet and realizing that this thing with Orion and Starscream was permanent, Megatron had...not lost his fervor, perhaps, but tempered it.

Megatron considered this as he tossed back the last of his drink, signalling for another. Tempered it with the work he was doing now, with the long nights of secure recharge, with the motley group of people he could call friends, not just his Amica. 

The bartender delivered, and beside him Ratchet ex-vented heavily, “Can I ask you a question?”

Frag. Megatron raised an optical ridge and sent a quick comm to Starscream. If this was a talking night now, he was not doing it alone, “I suppose.”

Ratchet rolled his optics, “How do you handle people asking you about bonding? And I don’t mean the whole ‘just leave’ shtick.”

It was through sheer respect and camaraderie built of millennia of silent bar nights, and not so silent bar fights, that Megatron didn’t pull that “just leave shtick.” As soon as it had become clear that Megatronus wasn’t going to slink back into the shadows of Kaon and disappear, that he was going to stay and fight in the way that he had left, words, and the soft-spoken but strong-willed archivist from Iacon was going to be by his side the entire way, every other mech had been asking about their bonding. 

The questions had only doubled when the flashy Seeker mechs remembered from the edges of the Revolution That Was/Wasn’t started appearing with both of them in increasingly suggestive situations.

“Why do you ask?” Megatron finally settled on.

“I was talking to Orion-” Ratchet stopped and grinned when Megatron snorted.

“And Starscream,” Because as far as Megatron knew, Orion hadn’t been able to talk directly to Ratchet ever since overloading himself to a new processor after Ratchet had walked in on him and Starscream.

“Morons,” Ratchet said affectionately, “But yes. Orion and Starscream, and I noticed how chipper he was when I asked about bonding and the response was ‘as soon as Megatron proposes.’”

“And?” Megatron prompted when Ratchet didn’t continue. He knew what the others said. Pits, used in the right situation it was downright funny. 

“Frag it,” Ratchet muttered, tossing back another shot, “Does it bother you to be blamed for not being bonded?” He held up a hand before Megatron could protest, “Not by them, I know they don’t blame you, but by everyone else.”

Everyone else being the strange phenomenon of running in the same social and political circles as the Prime. Mechs that Megatron had never met, and would never meet were...unfortunately interested in his personal life. Even the warped celebrity of the Gladiator Pits hadn’t prepared him for this eventuality. As a gladiator he wasn’t expected to exist outside of the matches, let alone have public interpersonal relationships.

He had been bonded then, and Soundwave wasn’t even allowed as a medical proxy.

But now, mechs cared about whether he bonded to Orion or not. They speculated about the nature of Starscream’s continued presence in their lives, their berth. He was fairly certain he passed the same mech on the street every morning, and that they worked for some syndication he didn’t bother reading. 

It was strange.

He shrugged, “I’m the best one to put up as the stopping block. I’m the former gladiator who spends my days fighting for the wrong side of the tracks. Why would I want to bond? Never mind that, of the three of us, I’m one who’s already bonded. No one would believe that Orion wouldn’t want to bond, and Starscream’s already the homewrecker.”

Sometimes Megatron wanted to smash his head through the bar, thinking about the optics of his fragging relationship, “Whether we want to now, or tomorrow, or never is our business and I intend to keep it that way.”

“I just want everyone to stop asking,” Ratchet groaned.

“I don’t blame you,” Drift’s even voice pitched in, and Megatron jumped, sloshing his drink. He...had honestly forgotten the other mech was there. Drift adopted a teasing tone, “I should have expected to come back to your great achievements, considering the way you shined in a Dead End back alley.”

“Gross,” Starscream said from behind them and Megatron slumped in relief. What the frag was he supposed to have done with that? “If you commed me down here to talk Ratchet up then I’m leaving.”

Starscream didn’t bother pulling up a seat, plonking instead on Megatron’s knee and stealing his drink. He tossed the entire thing back in one and shot Megatron a look of disgust, “This is terrible.”

“Yes, well, it was also mine,” Megatron hooked an arm around his waist to steady him, signalling the bartender for another, “You can get your own.”

“The love has gone out of this affair,” Starscream sighed, and fixed Drift with doleful stare, “Never fall in with an older mech.”

“Two cycles Starscream,” Megatron grabbed his new drink before the aft could steal it again, “I am two cycles older than you.”

“Orion buys me drinks,” Starscream pouted.

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t chase Orion into hiding from his own friends,” Ratchet interjected, and Starscream’s pout shifted into a lascivious grin.

“Not chance,” Starscream said, “Not with the results I got.”

Megatron shook his head and snuck a sideways look at Drift. He had held on to that serene smile, but there was a strain at the edges that came with being new to Starscream exposure. Megatron let Starscream and Ratchet further their sniping, leaning around Ratchet’s back to catch Drift’s attention, “I apologize for him. If you’d like to call a friend as well, then by all means.”

“Another time,” Drift murmured back, “I know a mech that I think would get along well with Starscream.”

They paused. Starscream shrieked, “It’s not technically in public.”

“On second thought,” Drift looked worried, “Perhaps they’d get along too well.”

- - -

The night ended up not being a complete wash, slightly uncomfortable conversations about bonding aside.

Drift adjusted quickly to Starscream, even as he got progressively overcharged. He dropped a few quips with a glint in his eye that made Megatron a little nervous about this supposed friend of his that would get along with Starscream.

The problem ended up being trying to leave.

As soon as they walked out the door, or were carried in Starscream’s case, the flashing began. A horde of snapper bots and mechs yelling questions descended.

“Prime! Prime! Are the rumors about Sunstreaker designing a ceremonial repaint true?”

“Prime! Any word on when we’ll get to talk to your new mate?”

“Prime! Is it true that he’s been off-world for some time?”

“Prime! Any concern that his seemingly flagrant disrespect for the traditional teachings of Primus will cause friction down the line?”

Okay, that last one seemed less like a normal gossip mech, Megatron supposed. But the barrage was overwhelming.

Megatron took in the scene as best he could with the flashing doing its level best to blind him.

Ratchet looked miserable, the cheer that the latter half of the night had imparted completely vanished. Drift was cowering slightly behind him, a combination of Ratchet’s misery flitting over his features, and twitching fingers that indicated he was considering unsheathing the frag-off huge sword and using it. Starscream was still hanging off of his shoulders, overcharged and unsuccessfully mugging for the cameras out of the corner of his eye.

Megatron ex-vented heavily, and did the only thing he could think of in the moment. He reached around to grab Starscream, spinning him to stand next to him. Starscream yelped, swaying dangerously on his feet. He in-vented, clearly preparing to berate the ‘rough-handling’ and ‘lack of advanced warning,’ as if neither of these things got him going, but before he could so much as shriek a single word, Megatron enacted the second step of his plan.

He dropped to one knee, letting all his weight clang into the ground to get the attention of the paparazzi. He winced, feeling several wires pinch and, according to his HUD, more than a couple delicate struts fracture. 

He winced again when he glanced up to Starscream, whose face was devoid of all energon flow, mouth gaping open. He soldiered on, hoping that Ratchet was taking the hint and leaving, “Starscream of Vos-”

- - -

Cycle One

“I think this one really managed to capture a magical angle,” Orion said, tilting his head down at the datapad in hand. A pile had been delivered to their door, wrapped in purple ribbon and announced by a distinctive thwop sound, “You almost can’t see how angry he is.”

Megatron groaned, hiding his face behind a hand. He didn’t bother to move it, “Why are you even reading that drivel?”

“It was a gift,” Orion said, guile in his tone. Megatron heard as he swiped to the next page and twisted the datapad to the side, “Wow, I don’t know where they found that.”

“Oh Primus, what?” Megatron refused to move. If he just stayed here and fell into stasis and eventually rusted away none of this would be a problem anymore, right? He pictured briefly leaving Whirl alone at the Center. Perhaps not. 

“That was a very late night,” Orion sounded like he frowning. There was a long pause, “I don’t remember going to Swindle’s.”

Megatron wanted to die.

“Oh,” Orion said softly, accompanying another swipe.

“What now?” 

“Look,” There was a rustling and Megatron felt the berth dip down next to him. He blindly reached out and yanked. Orion yelped and clanked down half onto him, half on the berth. Megatron chuckled and finally looked at him. Orion had a flush across his face and was poorly hiding a smile behind a frown, “One day I’m not gonna fall for that.”

“Of course,” Megatron smiled then dropped his head back. He dragged a hand up and down Orion’s back, grumbling when he started squirming.

“No, look, I need you to look.”

Megatron blinked at the datapad that had been shoved in his face. His optics cycled briefly when he tried to focus, before reaching up and pushing it back a few inches. Then a few more.

It was a formal photo. Some banquet or another that Megatron couldn’t tell you the reason for anymore than he could the one he was meant to attend in the next quartex. He was sure they were meant to be posing in the photo. Megatron often brought Starscream to these for the promise of some kind of entertainment. Sure, Orion actually liked the events, but he usually already had his own invitation, and was much more likely to forget that Megatron hated them. So. Starscream. In the photo Megatron was smirking, and they managed to catch Starscream in profile, smile fixed in place and murder in his eyes as he looked up at Megatron. He was fairly certain that had the photo been from any other angle, his hand on Starscream’s aft would have been visible.

Megatron felt his spark skip a pulse. He already missed the little glitch. 

“I fragged up,” He moaned, hiding his face behind his hand once again.

“Yes,” Orion agreed, sliding off Megatron to sit cross legged on the bed next to him, swiping a new datapad from the Skywarp-delivered pile. Megatron reached over and rubbed at Orion’s back, right over the spot on his strut that always ached. Orion hummed, flipping through the datapad, “He’ll come back.”

“Always does,” Megatron agreed quietly.

- - -

Cycle Three

Megatron strode his way through the crowd of snapper bots, seriously considering breaking a few in half. They were drones. It wouldn’t be murder. Technically. It probably wouldn’t look good to see him tossing bot parts outside the Center for Forgotten Justice. He could hear Soundwave thinking disappointed thoughts about public relations.

He caught the optic of one of the few mechs on the scene before grabbing a snapper bot by the camera apparatus...head, and crunching down until he heard a lens crack, “The anonymity of our clients is very important here. I think you’ll want to leave.”

“Leave the same way Screamer did?” The mech had the audacity to ask.

Megatron flinched and reflexively let go of the snapper. He smiled, the same one he used to break out in the Pits, leaning forward but not taking a step, “His name. Is Starscream. Kindly do your best to use it. Or better, don’t refer to him at all, no matter the designation.”

He turned and made his way to the door, locking it behind him as the incessant snapping of the drones was muffled.

Desist,” A very old, slightly corrupted audio file played, and Megatron ex-vented and let his fists unfurl, delicate struts creaking dangerously from the force he had been clenching with. He swung his gaze to Soundwave, who had clearly been loitering in the lobby.

“You never used to lurk,” Megatron ex-vented again, straightening and starting to walk back toward the offices, “You’re also usually not here this early.”

Soundwave slanted his mask towards Megatron at an angle he had never been able to read as anything but sardonic. He huffed, grabbing at Soundwave’s hand brushing a sorry across it. Soundwave blatted a second of static over his speakers, forcing a laugh out of Megatron.

“What the FRAG are you laughing at?” Whirl yelled from beyond the doorway, “I heard you got left at the altar! Carrie Bradshaw weeps over you! Fraggin’ JILTED my mech!”

“Whirl,” Megatron greeted as he walked into the offices, wondering for several hundredth time why they didn’t settle on separate, walled offices, “I can always trust you to put my private life into perspective.”

“You would starve without me,” Whirl dismissed him with a clack of his claws, “Emotionally, professionally, socially. Face it Megs, I’m the only connection you have to the outside world, and frag only knows-”

He hissed and cut himself off, turning to where Soundwave had stopped in the doorway, “Heeeey there Mothmech, you’re looking, oh how to put this, particularly effusive and delighted this fine morning. Did ya, uhhh, hear all that?”

Soundwave moved, silent as ever, to place himself just this side of uncomfortably in Whirl’s space. Megatron raised an optic ridge at him, flicking his gaze between the two of them. Whirl was clearly doing his best not to move any closer to Soundwave as possible, rotors drawn tight towards his body, while Soundwave appeared as unbothered as ever. Megatron was the only mech usually allowed that close to Soundwave, barring his own symbiotes. He could only imagine what was happening on the edges of the two fields where they had no choice but to come into contact.

Soundwave dropped a telepathic data packet in Megatron’s processor, nothing more than a feeling that equated to a shrug and a warning to not worry about it.

“Do we have an alternate entrance planned for those we’re meeting with today?” Megatron addressed Whirl, perfectly willing to accept his Amica’s judgement for the time being.

Whirl noisily blew out an ex-vent, then flinched when it twitched a rotor within a few inches of his new shadow, “Dead drop. I’m still working out the two identical mech sized suitcases that we can clandestinely switch in an airport, but the usual for the higher classified clients. Rig a couple of those hologram disguises that Scream definitely isn’t stealing from somewhere, which I definitely don’t know about nor am I an accessory to, hitch a ride on the me, drop ‘em in the back, and shuffle ‘em in. Unless Waverider here wants to come along and throw up some telepathic shields?”

Whirl twisted his optic up and around to blink a few times at Soundwave. Soundwave slowly glanced down at him, then reached out to flick at the glass. Whirl squawked. Soundwave looked up at Megatron, waved, sent another data packet that amounted to a stern warning to take care of himself, then melted back out the door.

“Very mature!” Whirl yelled after him, “This whole You’ve Got Mail situation is getting fragging old, and by the way, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE WHICH DEFEATS THE PURPOSE! Unless, wait, am I Tom Hanks?!”

Whirl jumped out of his seat and chased after Soundwave, “AM I TOM HANKS?!”

- - -

Cycle Eight

“How’s Soundwave?”

Megatron frowned, barely through the door, “Fine?”

“Hmm,” Orion had a new stack of datapads next to him, more purple ribbon, and the distinct haze of ozone displacement in the air.

“Primus’ sake, what now?” Megatron crowded into his space to look. The double page spread featured a number of photographs from the previous orn, one of the few times Soundwave had dragged him out of the Center to refuel. They weren’t at a nice place. It had no sort of area to sit and refuel and they had been standing against a wall in the sunlight, sipping on energon that Starscream would have barely deigned to call swill. 

Rumble and Frenzy had been crawling all over him. Megatron had always liked his Amica’s symbiotes, but even he admitted the soft spot he had for the twins. One of the pictures featured Rumble kicking him in the head, followed immediately with one of him dangling Rumble upside down while the mech shrieked in delight.

The damning thing was probably the fact that the hand not swinging Rumble had been tangled in Soundwave’s. It was always easier for them to fall into chiro, particularly when refueling. Soundwave spent a lot of time archiving and organizing sound clips to play in lieu of his voice, which he was incredibly private about. But Megatron always liked to hear his Amica’s thoughts without the go-between of other mech’s words. 

The spread was topped by a large and colorful title splash, “MYSTERY MECH CAPTURES MEGATRON’S MANGLED AFFECTIONS?”

“Mangled,” Megatron said, toneless, “That’s a new one.”

“Apparently,” Orion hummed, “Starscream left because you want sparklings and he doesn’t. It’s driven you into the arms of this ‘mysterious father of two.’”

Megatron dropped his head down to Orion’s shoulder, “I hope you and Starscream will be very happy together.”

Orion stifled a laugh and Megatron dug his head a little further into his shoulder, “Because Soundwave is going to kill me.”

- - - 

Cycle Nine

Megatron should have learned not to underestimate his Amica at this point. Soundwave didn’t kill him.

He did so much worse.

“MYSTERY MECH REMEMBERS EVERYONE AT CENTER FOR FORGOTTEN JUSTICE.”

“That is a lot of cables,” Orion commented, peering closely at the pictures.

Megatron groaned.

“I didn’t know Whirl could bend like that,” Orion swiped to a new page, and didn’t speak for a long few minutes, “Well, I’m not sure that one’s appropriate to print in this type of publication.”

- - -

Cycle Twelve

“Have you considered he might be framing you for murder?” Whirl asked, tossing another stylus up to stick in the ceiling. There were approximately thirty up there. Megatron would love to know who approved that budget expense.

“Excuse me?” Megatron didn’t look up from the latest cease and desist that had been served that morning. He was positive that they hadn’t actually engaged in libel. It wasn’t their problem that everything they were saying was true

“Scream,” Whirl said, illuminating precisely nothing. Megatron peered at a particularly dense section of legal nonsense.

“He stopped doing that a while ago,” He commented absently. 

“Now see other mechs say having a murder friend was weird, but I knew it had to be a Thing,” Whirl tossed another stylus up into the ceiling.

“I’m sorry, what?” Megatron finally dropped the datapad, fixing his full attention on Whirl. Largely, mechs withered under his gaze. Whirl only brightened.

“Murder friend!” He repeated, as if this explained anything, “A friend that tries to murder you sometimes, and you try to murder them. Keeps ya sharp.”

Megatron had no idea where to even begin with that, so he opted to do as he always did with Whirl, and just didn’t, “Starscream is not my murder friend. He’s my…my...”

And perhaps that part of the problem in all of this, when it boiled down to it. Starscream was his...Starscream. There was no description, no modifier that could encapsulate the millennia of bickering and love and force of will that was the two of them clinging to each other and Orion. How could the simple title of Conjunx measure up to that?

“He’s your Amy Elliott Dunn,” Whirl said, like this explained everything.

“Sure Whirl,” Megatron picked the datapad back up, not actually seeing the words, “That’s what he is.”

- - -

Cycle Eighteen

“Orion?” Megatron broached the restful quiet of their living area. 

“Mm,” Orion didn’t look up from the latest round of gossip rags, swiping through them with disinterest.

“Did you-” Megatron stopped, unsure if he should finish the question.

“Did I what?” Orion paused on a new page, “Oo, he hates that picture. I thought he’d gotten the last copies deleted.”

“Is it the one from the night he got ‘overcharged’ and told you he loved you?” Megatron abandoned the work he’d been staring in front of for the last several breems and crowded onto the couch with him, dropping his head onto Orion’s shoulder.

“I still think he looks fine,” Orion laughed, twisting to kiss his head absentmindedly, “What were you asking?”

Megatron cycled his intake and shuttered his optics. It seemed so trivial question until he was presented with the opportunity to ask it. At the very least, it would probably go over better this way, “Did you want to bond?”

Orion’s hands stilled on the datapad for a long moment, before he shut it off and set it aside. He reached out and grabbed Megatron’s hand, laying it flat in his lap and tracing the delicate seams, wires, and sensors in the appendage that dwarfed his own.

“This is not a proposal,” Orion said, not a question. Megatron shook his head anyway. He was suddenly glad he had moved over to an angle where they didn’t have to look at each other.

“I just...I’ve been realizing that I spent so long avoiding the question from others that I never thought to even know if you...wanted...that. Frag,” Megatron mumbled, trailing off.

“We are both bonded, Megatron,” Orion finally said, humor in his voice, and Megatron ex-vented.

“You like keeping me in suspense, don’t you?” He accused, and Orion laughed brightly.

“We do have to keep you on your pedes,” He teased, still tracing around Megatron’s hand.

It was quiet for a few moments, save for the sounds of the city seeping in through the walls. Megatron huffed and captured Orion’s hand in his, prompting, “Yes, we are both bonded.”

“I guess,” Orion faltered, “I also...never thought about it. I have Ratchet and you have Soundwave and Starscream has his trine. What we have is different, obviously, but it...hmm.”

“What?” Megatron asked, spark tripping over in his chest.

“I think,” Orion said slowly, easing Megatron’s head off his shoulder and shifting to face him, “That I got so used to the idea that no one was going to ask.”

Megatron stared at him, unable to respond. Orion shifted slightly, “You wouldn’t, not after the way they hounded us for so long, and Starscream...I mean, you know.”

Megatron very much did know, and still had the scuffed dermal plating to prove it. He nodded.

“And I guess,” Orion stopped, chewing his lip. Megatron reached over and rescued the soft plating from itself.

“You don’t ask for anything you truly want,” Megatron supplied quietly, and chuckled at Orion’s offended look, “You don’t. You never have, and I am at fault for forgetting that about you.”

“I do so,” Orion squirmed again under the look Megatron pinned him with.

“You ask for things,” Megatron explained, “Cycle to cycle things, work things, but never more than that. I’m not saying this to be cruel.”

Orion ex-vented hard and looked away, looking for all the world like Starscream in the moment. Megatron quirked a small smile at the resemblance and soothed a hand over his knee, “When was the last time you asked us on a date, Orion?”

Orion’s face flushed as his mouth opened and closed, clearly paging through his memory banks. The quiet stretched longer and longer between them. Orion deflated, conceding quietly, “You may have a point.”

“Do you want to bond?” Megatron asked again, just as quietly, “When Starscream comes back and I can ask properly, do you want to bond with us?”

The flush that had never fully receded grew stronger and Orion’s vents increased in pace. He whispered, equal parts wondering and terrified, “Conjunx?”

“When you want, I will ask,” Megatron promised.

- - -

Cycle Twenty

Thundercracker answered the hail as he usually did, glasses perched on his nose and not looking at the video up-link at all. Megatron heard the tapping of him typing just out of the frame. He waited until the tapping stopped.

“New lead or new chapter?” Megatron asked. He was always happy to talk to Starscream’s trine, despite what many people thought of him. Thundercracker was always researching something interesting to write about, and Skywarp was always good for a laugh.

“Lead,” Thundercracker said, still distracted, “Oh hey, can I get a comment on your latest legal action?”

“No.”

“Yeah, thought not,” Thundercracker snickered, “I can never decide if I should complain that they keep giving me these stories in the vain hope that you’ll talk to me just because I’m trined to your quote unquote berthwarmer.”

“Berthwarmer,” Megatron deadpanned, “Right. How is he? Any sign that I’m forgiven yet?”

“What?” Thundercracker finally looked up at the up-link, blinking, “You’re fighting? But...he’s not here.”

“What?” Megatron felt his mouth drop open and couldn’t stop it, “What do you mean he’s not there?”

“What do you mean, what do I mean he’s not here?!” Thundercracker’s voice edged on hysterical, “I didn’t know you were fighting!”

“Skywarp has been delivering the public evidence of our fighting to our home every morning!” Megatron’s own voice crept on the hysterical edge as well, and Thundercracker suddenly stood up and disappeared from the screen. He reappeared, crossing the frame back and forth as he paced.

“How long have you been fighting?” He yelled, still pacing.

“Only two decacylces,” Megatron muttered.

“He’s been missing for two decacycles!” Thundercracker shrieked, stalking back to the up-link and glaring. The effect was somewhat hampered by the askew glasses.

“I thought he was with you two!” Megatron defended, “He’s always with you two after we fight! And you know how he gets when I check in too early!”

Thundercracker deflated. He pulled the glasses off and rubbed at his optics, finally settling on a calmly serious, “I’m going to kill him.”

“I’m going to kill Skywarp,” Megatron groaned, “Why didn’t he say anything?”

Thundercracker looked back up and stared into the middle distance, “You’re right. I’m going to kill Skywarp.”

The up-link blinked black and faded out of existence. Megatron slumped forward and groaned again. Starscream ran, that’s what he did. But he had always ran to something in the past couple millennia, rather than just self-destructively away. Megatron let his head thunk down on the comm unit. He...he probably should have expected this. The kick in the face retreat had been a little much, even for Starscream.

Megatron pushed at the comm unit, not bothering to look up at it. The hail was answered after an unusually short period, “What?”

“Have you seen Starscream?” Megatron asked, face still pressed to the table.

“What?” Ratchet growled, “Sit up idiot, I can’t understand you.”

“Starscream,” Megatron said, catching Ratchet’s optics as his face betrayed his surprise, “Slag. I’ll take that as a no.”

“Since when is an angry Starscream my responsibility?” Ratchet rolled his optics, “He has a trine for that.”

“So I also thought,” Megatron ex-vented heavily, “He’s usually with them, yes, but they haven’t seen him at all.”

“And I’m the next logical choice?” Ratchet sounded skeptical, and Megatron forced a thin laugh.

“I thought it possible he might blame the spectacle on you and chase you down to yell about it.”

Ratchet made a noise of disgust, “Typical. Go ask someone else, I haven’t seen him. Ratchet out.”

The up-link winked out. Megatron wondered if they ought to develop a comm system for Starscream Missing. He placed in the back of his processor to consider later, and hailed Soundwave.

- - -

Cycle Twenty-Two

Soundwave’s entrance was preceded by a crash that sounded suspiciously like a cassette pile driving a helicopter into the wall.

“If you break my business partner you’re finding me a replacement,” Megatron called, feeling a processor ache begin.

“Sorry Megs!” He heard Rumble call, accompanied by Whirl’s squawk of protest. 

hello,’ dropped into his processor, and Megatron waved, not looking up from his work. A data packet followed, nothing but a pervasive sense of dread and worry. He did look up at that. 

Soundwave didn’t appear outwardly concerned, but Megatron saw the subtle tells. Namely, the way his fingers had knotted themselves together, and the subtle shifting of his weight between the front and back knees. Megatron stood and came around the desk, settling against the edge and tugging Soundwave towards him.

“I’m alright,” He said softly.

Pitslag and lies,” Whirl’s voice hissed out at him, and Megatron snorted, picking up Soundwave’s hands in an attempt to unknot them.

“I’m worried, yes,” Megatron said, soothing over creaking joints, “But...he comes back. Always has before.”

Soundwave was not mollified. He finally unwound one hand from the other only to grab at Megatron’s, ‘Not sure waiting is the best thing to do.’

Megatron ex-vented, and murmured, “Bringing Starscream back before he wants to go doesn’t end well.”

Soundwave huffed, ‘Starscream doesn’t know what he wants, especially now.’

“Starscream wants to stay hidden,” Megatron countered, “And he is very good at doing just that.”

Soundwave stilled, frustration in every angle of his frame. He wouldn’t look for Starscream. They both knew he wouldn’t even offer. Soundwave had long ago declared that he was not meddling in Megatron’s relationships, no matter how he felt about them. He would always be Megatron’s Amica, but they had long determined that Amica did not mean relationship counselor.

“I’m alright,” Megatron said again, brushing the words through hands as well, “It will all be alright.”

- - - 

Cycle Twenty-Six

“Sorry, sorry,” Megatron called as he opened the door, “We had someone come in for help a groon before it was time to lock...up…”

He trailed off, taking in the darkness of the apartment.

“Orion?” It seemed far too early for him to have gone to berth. Yes, Megatron was late, but not that late.

Silence was the only answer. Megatron turned a couple lights on as he moved through the empty apartment, “Hm.”

He considered his options, staring down at the energon dispenser. In all likelihood, something had come up. It wasn’t unlikely that one thing or the other melted down in their government, forcing Orion to stay back and mediate. He had always had a gift for mediation.

Megatron supposed he just felt off balance coming home late to a dark, empty home. The lack of Starscream felt particularly stifling. It was always obvious yes, but here and now...Megatron turned away from the dispenser, tanks rolling. He turned the lights off again, making his way to the berthroom in the dark.

Orion didn’t climb in beside him until groons later. Megatron hadn’t managed any recharge yet. He listened as Orion moved through the apartment in the dark, also foregoing energon and curling up on the other side of the berth.

The space between them felt so much bigger than before.

- - -

Cycle Thirty-One

“Somehow I’m not surprised to find you here,” Ratchet said.

“I’m fairly certain that you being here destroys any semblance of impartial decision making you have,” Megatron answered, unable to find it in himself to be surprised by his appearance.

“Because when any Councillor looks at me they see impartial,” Ratchet snorted, “They’re all so far up their afts anyway, I doubt they can see me all that well.”

Megatron chuckled, “Fine. What brings you by anyway?”

“Come get a drink with me.”

“It’s the middle of the day.”

“It got dark about a groon ago, but I appreciate the confirmation that you could really use that drink,” Ratchet pointed out and Megatron cycled his optics, checking the window. Ah. 

“Slag,” He said, looking back down at the datapads strewn across his desk, “Orion’s still at work, isn’t he?”

“Of course he is,” Ratchet finally moved further into the room, inspecting the styluses that were still hanging onto the ceiling, “I can’t get him to leave.”

“So you thought to try with me,” Megatron was a little amused. He had always enjoyed the sideshow that was Orion and Ratchet’s Amica bond, so different from his own.

“Laugh it up,” Ratchet finally planted himself across the desk from his, arms crossed, “There’s more of you to look just as bad.”

“I suppose that made sense to you,” Megatron grumbled. He looked over the datapads again, wondering how he’d managed to miss Whirl leaving, “Frag it, you mentioned a drink.”

“I promise not to say a word,” Ratchet clapped a hand on his shoulder as he moved around the desk, “I’ll even order for us so you don’t have to talk to the bartender.”

“I’m not falling into that trap again.”

- - - 

Cycle Thirty-Seven

“What the frag,” A voice startled Megatron online, and he scrambled upright.

“Whirl?” He shuttered his optics at the stare of the single one, “Why are you here?”

“I work here?” Whirl sounded completely nonplussed, “Did you recharge here?”

“What?” Megatron shook his aching head, noting the several stiff and painful struts in his back and neck, “Where?”

“Primus and Unicron on a fragging pogo stick,” Whirl turned and stalked away, before swinging back around and marching right up, “We’re at the Center, Megs. I think you recharged here last night. Frag.”

“Oh,” Megatron frowned. That wasn’t right. But then, neither was home. Home was quiet and Orion was quiet and none of it was right.

“You promised S-” Whirl pointed an accusatory claw at him, then stopped and ex-vented, “Slag it to the Pit, I’m comming Soundwave.”

“What?” Megatron shuttered his optics again.

“Have you even been fueling?!” Whirl yelled, and Megatron winced, the sound battering his pained processor, “No, not you, hi Ravage.”

“Why do you have Soundwave’s personal comm code?” Megatron asked, desperate for any change of subject. Whirl ignored him.

“He recharged at the Center last night. At his desk. Yeah. I know. Bring the whole brood, frag it, you’re probably gonna need the help. Okay. Whirl out,” He cut the call and stalked out of the room, calling back, “Don’t even think about moving or so help me Primus I will send you for smelt, you useless lump of metal!”

Megatron dropped his head back down to the desk, wincing once more at the reminders of how unsuited he was to recharge sitting up anymore. He didn’t bother to move until he felt a tap on his shoulder. Whirl shoved a cube of medigrade in his face, glowering fiercely for a mech with only one optic to convey the expression, “Drink.”

He settled back in to watch. Megatron didn’t bother arguing, sipping slowly at the cube, tanks protesting the entire time. It seemed like no time had passed at all when Whirl took the empty cube from him, and Laserbeak came soaring in. She landed on the desk in front of him, hopping forward to the edge and making distressed sounds. Megatron stroked a finger down her back and croaked, “Hello little one.”

“Oh, Megatron,” Ravage sighed, and he cycled his optics. When had she climbed into his lap? The twins were at his side, uncharacteristically quiet as they looked up at him. Ravage stretched up to tuck her head under his chin, a rumble running through her entire body.

Desist,” Soundwave played. The marred and corrupted file of their first shared pitboss always twisted Megatron’s spark. On the one hand, he hated the long dead mech, on the other, the reminder of how long Soundwave had been by his side? It was the first file his Amica had ever played at him, long before being his Amica.

“Ya gotta go home and recharge, Boss,” Frenzy whispered, tucking his hands around Megatron’s forearm as best he could.

Laserbeak chirred, hopping off the desk to flutter up to Soundwave, transforming and docking into his chest. Ravage butted at his chin, “She’s upset. You better cooperate and let us take you home to make her feel better.

“I-okay,” Megatron was honestly too tired to say anything else. 

It seemed like the scene changed with every shutter of his optics. Whirl waving him out with Rumble at his side, promising to keep an eye on the place. Stopped at a dispensary, Soundwave exchanging credits for a case of medigrade. Ravage winding through his legs on a public transport.

The next shutter found him in their berth, Soundwave crouched next to him with another cube of medigrade. Ravage purred, “Drink it, then recharge.”

He followed the instructions, feeling incapable of doing anything else. Once done Ravage nosed him into laying down, curling up on his chest with a single optic peering out at him.

Desist,” Soundwave played again.

- - -

Cycle Thirty-Eight

“You’re awake?” Orion sounded genuinely surprised, and his voice had a layer of static. Megatron felt his spark ache.

“Come here,” He said, making sure to keep it an invitation rather than an order. Orion dropped the stack of datapads he was carrying haphazardly, and didn’t seem to notice that he’d missed the table completely. Megatron struggled not to wince.

Orion crawled into his lap, entirely graceless. Megatron did his best to rearrange limbs as they went, but he still ended up with an elbow jammed close to his chassis port, and something sharp he couldn’t identify poking into a transformation seam on this thigh. He tucked a hand around the back of Orion’s neck and sighed when it caused a shiver, that quickly turned into one hitched ex-vent, then another.

“Ratchet commed me earlier,” Megatron said, letting Orion shake and fall apart on him, then admitted, “After Soundwave commed him. You have tomorrow off. We’re to get some recharge.”

“I can’t-” Orion muttered.

“I know,” Megatron soothed. He did. It was surprisingly hard to recharge without the highest whine of fans in the room, no wings poking you awake, no berthcovers tossed on and off for no apparent reason.

“He’s never been gone this long.”

“I know,” Megatron’s vocalizer cracked, and he clutched Orion that much tighter as he sobbed.

- - -

Cycle Thirty-Nine

“It seems they’ve finally remembered that I exist,” Orion commented idly, armor twitching under Megatron’s ministrations. He paused with the polishing cloth, waiting for the plates to settle under him before continuing.

“That feels longer than usual,” Megatron said, and winced. None of this was normal, nor had it ever been, and they needed to stop acting like it. Last night had been evidence enough of that.

Skywarp had only delivered a few datapads that morning, more subdued than previously. He’d actually knocked, rather than warping in, and handed them to Orion, explaining, “Thought you might wanna know.”

Orion sighed, paging idly through the pad, “There are a lot of comments on my appearance and how late I’ve been coming home. They’re speculating that you and Starscream must be reconciling and it’s breaking my spark.”

Megatron focused harder on the scratch under the cloth. He didn’t realize he was perhaps buffing too hard until Orion reached down to stop him.  He ex-vented, dropping his head to rest on Orion’s knee, struggling to draw air back into his systems.

“He’ll turn up,” Orion murmured, “We’ll find him.”

Megatron flashed back to the start of this. Orion’s quiet confidence that Starscream would come back, he always did. 

Orion nudged him back and dropped down to wrap his arms around him, “Today we fix you and me, then tomorrow we go looking.”

“Fix?” Megatron echoed, “Are we so broken then?”

“Without Starscream?” Orion hummed, “Yes. But you and I aren’t doing too well right now either.”

Megatron lifted his head, opening his mouth to defend, when Orion settled his own over it. Megatron groaned, the unsuspecting trap much more likely from Starscream taking him by surprise. Orion pulled back after a moment, his optics bright and interested, “Leave the polish, take me to berth, and fix.”

Orion stood and tugged Megatron along. He allowed himself to be pulled, up and to their berth. Orion sat him down on the edge, then straddled his lap. Megatron dropped his head to Orion’s chest, reminding himself to breathe. His hands came up and gripped slim hips in easy habit, thumbs dipping into the crevices there to flirt with wiring.

Broad fingers swept down his chest, pausing to brush over his chassis port teasingly. Orion flirted with the edge of the opening, “Do you remember the first time we did this?”

Megatron shuddered, the remembered ghost of sensation and emotion crashing over him. Orion popped his port open, dragging the cable up and out, “We’re going to link, and we’re going to fix this, and we’re going to find him and drag him back and never let him go.”

Megatron could only moan as Orion slotted their cables in near simultaneously, melting everything together in a slow merge. Orion flowed through him in waves, and Megatron shoved himself forward before he could stop himself, burrowing deep in Orion’s love and confidence and anxiety. 

Oh hello,’ Orion pushed through wryly. Megatron shuddered again. Interfacing between the two of them had always been...intense. Emotional. Overwrought.

Megatron tried to hide his own insecurities, his worries that Starscream was truly gone this time, the way he had felt holding a shaking Orion the night before. Orion’s vents sped up and like always, nothing was concealed.

Love was forced through his processor and Megatron moaned, vocalizer hitching and skipping over the sound. Orion pushed a memory file through that Megatron rushed to open.

Starscream loomed over Orion in the memory, wings flared. For such a small mech he took up so much space. Megatron and Orion moaned in concert as, in the file, Starscream spiked Orion deep, in one thrust. Megatron felt the ghost of restraints around his wrist and gasped, tossing his own memory file of that night into the mix. Starscream, beautiful and deadly, tossed a smirk back over his shoulder at Megatron, sitting and watching with the explicit instructions to do nothing else. 

Orion’s mouth crashed into his as they rode out both memory files together, simultaneously watching and experiencing as Starscream brought Orion to the brink of overload again and again, spike sliding over nodes equally gently and forcefully.

Orion whined and drew away from the kiss. Megatron forced his optics online to watch him. Orion’s own were offline, mouth open and panting as his vents heaved. The memory file continued to play out in their merged processors.

“Want, wa-” Orion forced out, then clearly gave up and popped his panels. His spike pressurized instantly, but Megatron was much more interested in the valve dripping lubricant into his lap. Megatron growled and retracted his own panels, reaching a hand down to slide over Orion’s anterior node.

Orion gasped, optics flying online. Megatron ducked the kiss he tried to push into, keeping his gaze on his face. His hips dropped down fully into Megatron’s lap, theirs spikes brushing together and Megatron’s hand more firmly pressing against his bared array.

Dirty pool,’ Megatron growled across the connection and pulled Orion in closer when he shivered. He slipped fingers into Orion for the sheer pleasure of making him shiver again.

The memory file fell to the background as they focused on throwing the physical sensations over the merge. Starscream’s presence ghosted over the entire exchange, mentally, emotionally, and the memories of physically, but Megatron focused in on Orion. He was right. This was for them

Orion slid a hand down his chest, teasing their connection briefly before continuing to the intent of his motion. Megatron read the entire thought process before it happened, but was still surprised at the feel of a hand around his spike. Their hips moved restlessly against each other, both pushing minutely into the hands on each other’s arrays. Megatron couldn’t tear his optics away from Orion’s face, tracing the features as he sighed and caught his vocalizer on small satisfied noises.

They rocked together, small motions minutely building the charge passing between them. Megatron pulled up more memory files to share, to tease more than anything else: Starscream’s brilliant smile when getting exactly what he wanted, Orion’s straight shoulders from behind, the hypnotizing rhythm of Orion and Starscream’s hips as they moved together, the deep rumble of Orion groaning in release. Each memory was sent with the zing of charge they always inspired in Megatron and Orion’s vocalizer hitched and burbled under each new assault.

The hand on his spike left, and Megatron thrilled at seeing Orion’s small smirk, before his optics shuttered at the feel of other fingers tracing around where he had buried his own in Orion’s valve. 

His processor was swamped as Orion abruptly shifted the tone of the merge, images and sensations bouncing across, finally settling in on a moment of intense overload that he bounced over and over. 

Megatron gasped and struggled to maintain control, managing by the barest of margins.

“In, in, in,” Orion gasped, pulling at Megatron’s wrist until he slipped free of his valve. Megatron was so focused on his own control he didn’t see the shove coming. Flat on his back, he yelled and clamped his hands down hard enough to dent on Orion’s hips as he rose and dropped himself onto Megatron’s spike in one fluid movement. Orion stilled, a shiver moving up his backstrut. Megatron moaned as the motion caused Orion to clench his valve tightly.

Love and charge pulsed over the connection. Megatron flexed and released his hands where they gripped Orion’s hips, waiting while they both teetered on the precipice. Orion shifted his hips incrementally, nothing more than a reactionary twitch forward.

Oh hello,’ Orion pushed through again. Megatron rebooted his optics, narrowing them at the look on his face. The smile was purely Starscream, mischief and desire. Orion rocked his hips again, trailing his hands down Megatron’s chest, then stilled.

“Fix,” He said.

Megatron growled and threw himself over the link. He pushed over and around Orion’s processor, yanking the mech down to bite at his lips. Orion yelped and moaned when Megatron rolled them, getting his knees under himself and forcing Orion’s back to bow as his hips were lifted, shoulders resting against the berth.

“Oh that’s,” Orion gasped, “That’s good, that feels like fixing.”

“I’ll show you fixing,” Megatron muttered, gripping at Orion’s hips tightly and cutting off his bright laughter with a slow grind.

Orion threw his hands up, gripping the opposite side of the berth. Megatron shuddered as he felt Orion throw down every process that controlled his vocalizer, any reactionary sound that Megatron could cause being allowed to spill out. He set out to hear just how many he could inspire.

He leaned forward, sliding an arm under Orion’s aft, enjoying the arch of his back, the solid and straight dig of his shoulders in the berth. He slid a few memory flashes through the link, every stolen moment of staring at the line of those shoulders, never faltering or broken. Orion gasped, squirming as much as he was able, never comfortable with just how beautiful he was to Megatron.

“Are y-you going to m-move?” Orion managed to get out around a hitching and staticky vocalizer. Megatron hummed, letting the arm not around Orion loose its grip on his hip to slide a hand over his spike. Orion yelped and twitched his hips up into the contact, then moaned low and broken when it changed the angle of Megatron pressed inside him, rubbing a new set of nodes.

“That is an idea, I suppose,” Megatron fought to keep his vocalizer as even as possible. Orion prodded over the link and he had to snicker a little, the sensation of an arching back and the rarely stimulated forward valve nodes firing off being pushed through. Megatron pulled back slowly, feeling it over his spike and Orion’s valve, before pressing back in carefully, “Is this what you wanted?”

Orion pouted when he wasn’t gasping and moaning. He didn’t bother answering verbally, instead pushing memory files of Starscream spiking him fast and hard over the link.

“Brat,” Megatron snorted, dipping forward to nip along the edges of his windshield. He kept the pace slow and with as little rhythm as possible, relishing the drag of his spike over Orion’s nodes and calipers. Orion whined, trying to throw his head back, but finding it immobilized with the way his back arched at the berth.

“Meg-Megatr-Megatron,” He ground out, between heavy ex-vents and whining moans. Megatron grinned and held himself still, just to hear to delicious groan it caused. Orion snarled, and Megatron had a moment to relish the reaction before Orion hauled himself upwards in an impressive display of strength, and nearly tackled them both back. 

They moaned in concert as Orion’s sudden shift in gravity forced him just that last possible bit onto Megatron’s spike. Orion wrapped his arms around Megatron’s shoulders and shuddered hard. Megatron tightened the arm around Orion’s aft and growled, “Did you want something?”

“Frag. Me.” Orion breathed between gritted denta, right into Megatron’s audial, accompanying the demand with heavy transference of the sensations of charge zipping through his sensors over the bond.

Megatron ex-vented, burying his face in Orion’s shoulder as the other squirmed against him, trying to take any more of his spike that wasn’t there. The sensations zinged back and forth across the link and Megatron gave up. He buried himself deep in the link, not moving his spike, but sending drowning waves of love and charge across.

Orion locked up, valve cycling impossibly tight, before a whine built up into a yell. His overload was beautiful, valve clenching rhythmically, spike pushing out transfluid where it was pressed between them, and thighs pressing weakly where they were spread around Megatron’s hips. Megatron allowed a moment to enjoy Orion against him, before the backlash hit the up-link and his own overload took him.

He clutched Orion to his chassis tightly and muffled his groan in the cabling where neck met shoulder, spilling deep into Orion. 

“Lov-love you,” Orion panted, all struts sagging into the tight grip Megatron had on him.

Always,’ Megatron cast across the up-link.

- - - 

Cycle Forty-Four

Megatron was starting to get used to the heavy tread that preceded more sad news. He went to meet Orion just inside the door, “No luck?”

“No,” Orion ex-vented, not stopping until he collided with Megatron and burrowed in, “Did you hear at all from Skywarp?”

“I heard from TC,” Megatron tugged Orion further into the apartment, “They managed to trigger a trip wire with an active grenade, but no Starscream.”

“A live grenade,” Orion snickered, “Where does he even find these things?”

“I’m fairly certain he steals them,” Megatron rubbed small circles across Orion’s plating.

“So, not Vos. Or Iacon, Protihex, Praxus, Kaon, or Tarn,” Orion listed, ex-venting hard again, “Should I check if there’s been any unauthorized Space Bridge activity?”

“I’m fairly certain you’re joking,” Megatron nudged him back enough to bend and kiss him, “But I’d rather not entertain the notion.”

Orion hummed into the kiss, and Megatron felt the stiffness in his back relax just a bit.

“Hi,” Orion grinned up at him, “How are you?”

“Ravage spent the day with me,” Megatron offered. It was hard not to be a little bit relaxed after being watched by a warm, purring mass stretched across your shoulders. He was sure that was her intention, “It was quiet as the Center can be.”

“On the verge of chaos?” Orion continued to look up at him, eyes soft with love. Megatron’s vents caught.

“Of course,” He said, “And you?”

“Ratchet and I played hooky,” Orion stage-whispered, “We went to visit some younglings at the big hospital in Polyhex. I got to see Rotor and the other ones. She asked about Whirl.”

“Brat,” Megatron snorted, “I know full well he was down to see her not two cycles ago.”

“The sad-optics are very effective,” Orion laughed, “How is their case?”

“Slow,” Megatron finally dropped his hold on Orion, herding him towards the kitchen, namely the dispenser, “We’re still trying to salvage anything from the interdepartmental mess.”

“And how many times have you yelled at Prowl now?”

“Only the two,” Megatron replied absentmindedly, filling two cubes and handing one off to Orion.

“Only the two,” Orion echoed, “He must be a wreck waiting for the next one.”

“I’ll be twice as fervent the next time,” He said. They both quieted, doing their best to refuel. He managed a third. Orion got almost half. 

“Medigrade in the morning,” Orion said, staring forlornly at the leftover energon, “Ratchet says it’s psychosomatic at this point.” 

“Ratchet says a lot of things,” Megatron ex-vented, “But he’s probably right. Starscream did always have his ways of driving us out of our processors.”

Orion hummed, dumping the energon and tossing the cubes in the recycling. Megatron followed him to berth, letting Orion crawl half atop him in the dark.

“What’s left?” Orion whispered, finding Megatron’s hand in the dark and squeezing.

“Altihex,” Megatron rumbled back. “Helix, maybe Crystal City. The addresses are getting harder to, hmm, pinpoint in terms of city.”

“Paranoid,” Orion whispered, “Silly, paranoid mech.”

“Yes,” Megatron agreed, making sure they were both comfortable before offlining his optics, “But we love him.”

- - -

Cycle Forty-Six

“He’s not in Helix!” Whirl yelled as soon as Megatron opened the front doors of the Center.

“Why are you here so early?” Megatron yelled back, “If I’m not allowed to sleep here neither are you!”

“It’s possible I am no longer allowed in Helix, and I was hiding,” Whirl lowered his volume as Megatron entered the office. Megatron stopped and stared at the violently purple splotch of paint decorating his optic housing that he was scrubbing at.

“What on Cybertron did you do ?” Megatron sputtered.

“Oh this?” Whirl gestured around his optic housing, “I pissed off the Old Council just enough to allegedly warrant a makeover.”

“You aren’t cute,” Megatron huffed, “The paint?”

“I am incredibly cute!” Whirl cried, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard!”

“Whirl, the paint,” Megatron fought the urge to drag a hand over his face. One sign of weakness with Whirl and the topic would never be approached again.

“I’ve been distracted,” Whirl hedged, “This whole thing with your missing mech has been very stressful for everyone around you, y’know?”

“I’m sorry,” Megatron reached out and patted his shoulder, “And thank you for your help.”

Whirl’s entire frame brightened as he pressed up into the contact, conveying a grin with his single optic, “It’s nice to be appreciated!”

“I always appreciate you,” Megatron affirmed, “Now, why is your head purple?”

“I told you I’m distracted!” Whirl went back to scrubbing at the splotch, “I wasn’t at my best and he tagged me.”

“He?” Megatron had a sneaking suspicion, “Is this your murder friend?”

“Yeah!” Whirl ex-vented in frustration, “Got the total drop on me in Helix, so then I had to fight him, and it was only like, ten windows maybe that got fragged up.”

“Mhm,” Megatron agreed, making sure to set a reminder to check the news later, “Alright. Thank you for looking.”

Whirl brightened once more before doubling down on his scrubbing, and Megatron made another mental note to be better at showing his appreciation for Whirl.

- - -

Cycle Fifty-One

Charity galas were the worst thing Megatron had ever experienced. He was including his time in the Gladiator Pits. He didn’t even remember what this one was for. The only balm was that rather than wandering as he usually did, Orion was sticking close to his side.

“I hate this,” Ratchet grouched, slouching down onto the small table they had claimed.

“Hi Ratch,” Orion said, shifting further into Megatron, “Do you remember what this one is for?”

“I think this is the Velocitron Virus one?” Ratchet did not sound convinced of his being right, “Ambulon decided that one was the lesser of all evils for my monthly appearance.”

“He wouldn’t let you look at the virus coding until you went, huh?” Orion teased.

“You know damn well he wouldn’t,” Ratchet surveyed the rest of the room, “Just the usual crowd of Old Council blowhards, huh?”

“What am I, chopped rubber?” A smooth voice responded. Megatron raised an orbital ridge at the excessively shiny, pretty mech that had sidled up next to Ratchet. He didn’t appear to care, “Good evening, Prime.”

“Ambassador Knock Out,” Ratchet rolled his eyes.

“Excellent, niceties achieved,” Knock Out relaxed a bit, shifting from impeccably mannered and smug to bored and...well, still smug, “Please tell me you have some decent high-grade stashed somewhere. Between us medics.”

“Of course not,” Ratchet said, bringing a small cube out of his subspace, “That would be unprofessional, and my assistant would have my head for it.”

“Mine too,” Knock Out agreed, knocking back a quick pull, “Which is, of course, why I never asked.”

“Of course,” Ratchet took his own pull, capping the cube and stashing it again. He rolled his optics at Megatron’s longing look, “Not a chance, I know for a fact you’re still mostly on medigrade.”

“Ah, the historical oppression of the Primes rears again,” Megatron sighed, and cracked a smirk when it made Ratchet laugh loud and long.

“Mm, you must be Megatron,” Knock Out gave him an obvious once over, “Pax, I had no idea you liked them... big .”

Orion sputtered and flushed. Ratchet rolled his optics, “Keep blowing hot air Knock Out, you might be able to fill the space your Conjunx takes up. Where is he, anyway?”

“Distracting Moonracer so I can get a drink,” Knock Out smiled winningly.

“Incorrigible,” Ratchet grinned.

“Sweet talker,” Knock Out glanced about the room quickly, before shifting his focus to Megatron and Orion, “Though I did have another purpose here. Saw your Seeker the other night.”

“What?!” Orion jumped. Knock Out hissed and rolled his optics.

“Quiet, quiet,” He caught the optic of a mech who had looked over at Orion’s yell and blew a kiss, waving her off, “I’m sure you don’t want this in those Pit-spawned tabloids, and neither do I.”

“Where?” Megatron asked, faintly. He couldn’t believe how much it was throwing him, someone actually seeing Starscream. They had been actively looking for almost fifteen cycles now with nothing, and yet here this stranger was with news?

“Ah, well,” Knock Out finally dropped the smugness, instead shifting in discomfort, “When I find the opportunity, I do try to escape the diplomatic retinue. And no matter what planet you’re on, there’s always a party somewhere. I don’t precisely remember which, but it was a warehouse in Iacon.”

“Was he alright?” Orion asked softly.

“He didn’t look hurt,” Knock Out seemed to settle on, “But I could tell that he was out of his processor and alone. I didn’t realize until he caught me looking and bolted that I recognized him. I tried to catch up, but Seekers are nasty, speedy things.”

Knock Out fidgeted in the silence his story had left. So, Starscream was at least alive. Not that Megatron ever doubted as such, but it was nice to have the confirmation, “Thank you.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t give you anymore,” Knock Out looked distinctly uncomfortable.

“Ambassador!” A small, teal mech appeared at Knock Out’s shoulder, scowling fiercely, “You can’t just run off like that!”

“Clearly I can,” Knock Out’s discomfort dissolved as he turned and smirked at the new arrival, “As that is what I did.”

“Don’t argue semantics with me,” She stamped her foot.

“And what have you done with my bonded?” Knock Out asked, “Did you really think it wise to leave him all alone?”

“Please,” She snorted, “The worst Breakdown can do is crash into something, and Cybertron is actually built for mechs his size.”

“Oh, I noticed,” Knock Out winked at Megatron and Orion, pushing back from the table, “Another time then, Prime. I’ve got a Conjunx to rescue.”

“Ambassador,” Ratchet said, “And Moonracer, good luck.”

“Thanks,” Moonracer squeaked, before hurrying after Knock Out.

- - - 

Cycle Fifty-Six

“You’ve stopped looking,” Ratchet grunted, breaking several groons of silence.

“More that we ran out of places to look,” Megatron said.

“If it looks like a turborat and squeaks like a turborat,” Ratchet said, uncharacteristically sing-song.

“Then it’s probably a glitchmouse,” Megatron rolled his optics, “Turborats don’t squeak. How overcharged are you?”

“Slag off,” Ratchet nudged at him with his elbow, “Orion looks better.”

“We’re trying,” Megatron admitted, “It’s been easier knowing that someone has at least seen him.”

“Was good to know you weren’t gonna fall over the second you got some high grade in you,” Ratchet nudged him again, and Megatron re-categorized him from ‘moderately overcharged’ to ‘flight frame tanked.’

“What about you?” Megatron asked, “How is, um, Drift?”

Ratchet stared at him. Megatron watched his optics cycle twice, “What?”

“Are we bonding?” Ratchet continued to stare, “Is this bonding? Do we talk now?”

“You start every conversation!” Megatron yelled, “I was perfectly content with not talking but you keep asking questions!”

“Frag off,” Ratchet took another pull from his drink, keeping an optic on Megatron like he was an animal about to pounce, “You just asked me how Drift is.”

“You ask me about Orion! You’re bonded to him! You work with him! You should know!” Megatron was fairly certain his processor was glitching. None of this conversation made sense.

Ratchet rolled his optics, finally looking away from him, “You and I both well know that Orion can’t be trusted to tell anyone how he’s doing. You’re my inside mech, I gotta ask.”

“I hate you,” Megatron settled on, stealing Ratchet’s drink and finishing it, “This is the worst. Tell me about the slagger with the huge sword that you’re dating.”

Ratchet opened his mouth, a distinctive glint to his optic. Megatron held a hand up, “That was not a spike joke, frag you.”

- - - 

Cycle Fifty-Nine

The dispensary was crowded and full of chatter, just the way Megatron liked. Crowded dispensary meant good energon, which was never something he could convince Starscream of. It was why dates like this were reserved for he and Orion, the ones to the quiet, minimalist places were for Orion and Starscream, and he and Starscream...mostly argued before settling on something neither of them wanted, only to abandon it partway through.

It was a delicate system, but it worked well for them.

The other good thing about chatter, he had discovered over the millennia, was it was a great way to not be overheard.

“Almost two quartex,” Orion said, poking at his energon.

“I know,” Megatron sighed, reaching out to catch Orion’s hand with his own, “He’s as stubborn as you are.”

Orion chuckled, “No, I think it’s as stubborn as you are.”

“We’re all stubborn,” Megatron rolled his optics, “How do we ever get anything done.”

“We don’t,” Orion looked up at him with a half-smile, “I get everything done while you two are arguing.”

“Aft,” Megatron squeezed his hand.

“We’re gonna have to talk to him when he’s back,” Orion said softly, almost lost under the din of the crowd, “It can’t go back to the way it was, not anymore.”

“I know,” Megatron admitted, then again, “I know.”

“I’m scared,” Orion whispered.

“I know,” Megatron whispered back, “As am I.”

- - - 

Cycle Sixty-Four

The pounding at the door startled them both out of fitful recharge. Sleep was still elusive on the best of nights, but they were still more aware of making the effort.

“Time issit?” Orion yawned, and Megatron tried not to find it cute.

“You have a chronometer just like the rest of us,” He snorted, and pushed himself up. The pounding was not letting up despite the hour, so late it was nearly morning. He opened their front door, too tired to even be angry. Orion was on his heels and gasped before Megatron could understand what he was looking at.

The mech at their door was...very purple. That was all Megatron was able to take in for a long moment. The rest filtered in very slowly. Taller than most, though maybe that was the horns? And the scowl. He was more confused the longer he stood there, until the important bit finally hit him. Held at his side, looped and dangling over the mech’s arm, was Starscream. 

He seemed to wait for the shock to settled, before shifting Starscream a little and saying, “Whirl said you were looking for this.”

“Is he okay?” Orion demanded, and Megatron was shaken out of his stupor by the anger in the question.

The mech snorted, glancing down at Starscream, “Overcharged enough to offline, but probably.”

Megatron was still too caught off guard to say anything. They all stood in stilted silence for a klik, the strange mech never once twitching or shifting his weight, despite holding Starscream fully off the floor. The mech finally ex-vented almost silently, “Did you want me to leave him in the hallway, or?”

“Sorry!” Orion yelped, “Sorry, right, um. Come in?”

“Thank you,” He took careful steps between them. Megatron noted that for all his economy of movement and the seemingly permanent scowl, he was incredibly careful with Starscream, ensuring that his wings weren’t catching on anything and that no part of him dragged along the ground. He deposited Starscream onto the couch and turned to leave.

Megatron finally felt his processor fully online with the movement. He followed after the mech, “Wait, I’m sorry, who-?”

“Friend of Whirl’s,” He said, not stopping.

“Okay?” He couldn’t seem to come up with anything beyond that.

The mech finally stopped, either he understood the question even Megatron wasn’t sure he was asking, or he had finally realized that this entire thing was fragging weird. Considering this was a friend of Whirl’s, probably the former. He didn’t look back, “You treat him well. Whirl, I mean. Don’t tell him I was here.”

And then he was gone. Megatron boggled at the corner he disappeared around, trying to understand how someone so large and luridly purple could vanish so quickly and effectively. Eventually he could do nothing but shake his head and go back into their apartment.

Orion was staring at Starscream with his arms crossed. Megatron shuffled over to stand next to him, gazing down at their erstwhile partner. Starscream looked...rough.

“He changed his paint,” Orion commented, peculiarly distant. 

“He’s going to complain about it once he feels better,” Megatron nodded, “You disabled his thrusters, right?”

“Of course,” Orion tilted his head to the side, “How long do you think?”

“He was carried back to the one place he was avoiding by a total stranger, and it looks like he’s been recharging as much as we have,” Megatron said, “Probably not until the afternoon.”

“I’m going back to berth,” Orion decided, “You watch him.”

Megatron waved him away and sat next to Starscream, trailing a finger under his bruised, shuttered optics.

- - - 

Starscream did not wake peacefully. With a hissed expletive he jolted so hard he fell off the couch and curled into a ball clutching his head.

“I think I’m fully broken,” Orion said mildly from where they had both paused in their evening fueling, “Because my first thought was ‘how cute.’”

“No, you’re fine,” Megatron grunted, setting his cube down, “It’s always funny when he falls down.”

Starscream moaned across the room. They both made their way over to where he lay curled on the floor, and at this point partially under the couch. Orion sighed, “I’ll go get the medigrade.” 

“Thank you,” Megatron squeezed his hand briefly before letting him walk away. He surveyed the miserable puddle of Seeker on the floor before shrugging and lowering himself down next to him. He reached out and massaged lightly at the back of Starscream’s neck, smiling as he uncurled slightly.

“Starscream,” Orion settled in next to them, “Drink this.”

Megatron leaned over and pressed a kiss to Orion’s shoulder while a surprisingly compliant Starscream downed the cube. His optics shuttered over and over, never quite able to flick themselves to on. Megatron settled in to wait, continuing his ministrations at the points where Starscream always carried his tension, the back of his neck, the juncture where his left wing met his back. 

Megatron could tell the exact moment that Starscream realized where he was. Every bit of tension that Megatron had managed to drain returned in a full force slam. Starscream jumped, clearly trying to engage his thrusters, and did nothing more than crash back to the floor.

“You act like we don’t know you,” Orion said idly, darkness underlying his tone, “Are you ready to be a fragging mature mech about this now? Because I’m getting pretty sick of this.”

“Orion-” Megatron cut himself off when the steely optics whipped to meet his. Alright, he was stepping out of the driver’s seat of this conversation.

Starscream hissed and shuttered his optics again. Orion snorted, “That wasn’t rhetorical. What the frag is wrong with you? Two slagging quartex, Starscream. You couldn’t even tell your trine, the mechs that you’re meant to trust beyond all else, that you were fragging alive.”

“Frag off,” Starscream managed to string together, his vocalizer heavy with static and jumping over several octaves.

“Not a slagging answer,” Orion growled.

Megatron chanced a hand at Orion’s lower back, brushing the barest of pressure against him. Starscream forced a laugh. It wasn’t pretty, scraping against a clearly abused vocalizer and intake. Megatron vented slowly, pressing harder into Orion. Starscream strained, “Nothing to say Megatron? You were never very accomplished at playing good enforcer.”

“Starscream,” He began, but couldn’t find anything else to say. Starscream being here , whole and in front of them was swamping him with relief. He wanted nothing more than to pretend it had never happened, go back to their happy and settled life as it had been. But that was impossible. Too much had happened, he’d been gone too long, and it had opened too many cubes. 

“I’m sorry,” Orion interrupted, “Do you really think we don’t know you at this point? I know every single fake out, every deflection strategy, every escape plan that you’re cycling through Star. I’ve been inside your processor you infuriating glitch. I love you, and we’re fucking talking about this!”

Orion’s vents were dumping heat by the time he stopped. Starscream had finally unshuttered his optics, and was staring up at them. He slowly levered himself to a sitting position, curling back into the couch as much as he could. Megatron felt frozen, the third party to an argument that he had caused but had no standing in.

“Alright,” Starscream finally said, his voice utterly deadly in its evenness, “Let’s fucking talk about it.”

“I don’t want to be bonded,” Orion said, bluntly. Starscream recoiled as if he had been slapped.

“I will gladly bond when we are all ready,” Megatron offered, quiet so as not to shatter the uneasy truce.

Starscream didn’t say anything, but his gaze never strayed from Orion, who eventually ex-vented and buried his face in his hands. Starscream finally looked at Megatron, panicked.

“Orion?” Megatron rubbed small circles on his back, as his vents hitched and stuttered.

“I thought- I thought,” He hiccuped, the small sound sounding completely ridiculous from his vocalizer, “That maybe if he was back, and we talked about it, that I would be okay. That I would want to bond. It’s been four million years and I can’t- how can I not want this?”

“I ran,” Starscream finally rasped, “Because I have been desperate for someone to ask for that long. And outside that disgusting bar, with everyone watching, and you weren’t there...have you ever had a moment that was somehow everything and nothing you ever wanted?”

Megatron floundered for something, anything to say. The room was silent but for Orion’s hitching vents. Even the sounds of the city outside seemed to realize that now was, perhaps, not the time.

“I’m sorry,” He finally settled on. Starscream stared at him with wide optics, “I shouldn’t have belittled something as important as a bonding proposal by turning it into a weapon to wield.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t...come back,” Starscream finally seemed to settle on.

The room descended into the sound of Orion’s labored vents once more. Megatron rolled his optics and mouthed to Starscream, ‘Get over here.’

Orion keened when Starscream wrapped himself over his shaking shoulders.

- - -

Cycle Sixty-Five

“Slag,” Megatron groaned, and rolled to his feet.

“What?” Starscream said, curling further into Orion on the berth they had eventually stumbled to and immediately fallen into recharge on.

“Gotta tell TC you’re alive before he kills Warp,” Megatron mumbled, shuffling out of the room. 

Thundercracker answered the hail after a klik of pinging, flushed and rumpled, “What.”

Megatron raised an orbital ridge, “I don’t want to know.”

“Slag off, Warp just got off stream,” Thundercracker growled, “Make it quick.”

“Starscream’s back.”

“Starscream came back?”

“Starscream was delivered back,” Megatron admitted.

Thundercracker snorted, “Of course. Well, when you’re done with him send him our way for an aft-kicking.”

The commlink winked out of existence. Megatron sent out a couple quick messages to the appropriate parties, Starscream: not dead. He considered the job done and figured he’d accomplished enough to make his way back to berth. 

He paused in the doorway and laughed, “I should have known.”

Starscream and Orion both turned to look at him, breaking away from the heated kiss they had been engaged in. Starscream looked particularly peeved, wings swept high and trembling, from his perch straddled over Orion, who still looked a little off balance, but was smiling, soft and pleased.

“C’mere,” Orion said around a yawn, “Star’s apologizing properly.”

Starscream sputtered, but Megatron laughed again. He pushed off the door frame and reached for Starscream, pulling him upright and kissing him soundly. Starscream made a helpless noise, claws scrabbling at his shoulders. Megatron pulled away reluctantly when he felt the hand brushing his panel. Orion blinked at them both, trying to smirk but sliding firmly into smile territory.

“Get on the berth,” Starscream ordered softly. Megatron shuttered his optics slowly, then climbed back in next to them. Starscream hummed in approval, “On your back.”

He dipped back down and nipped at Orion’s throat, making sure to maintain optic contact with Megatron the entire time, “Orion, love?”

“Y-yes,” Orion cycled his intake a few times around the response. Megatron saw the cabling moving beneath Starscream’s mouth.

“Would you like Megatron to eat you out?” Starscream kept his voice soft and even, as if he was doing nothing more than discussing their plans for their next fueling. Megatron’s fans kicked on as Orion’s engine rumbled.

“Please,” Orion said, arching up to try and grind his panel against Starscream, but he hovered just out of reach. Starscream dipped down to kiss him again, slow and sweeping. Orion whined as Starscream coaxed him upwards. Starscream broke the kiss, hovering in his space still, “Go on, kneel over him.”

“Frag,” Orion panted, scrambling to get his knees under him. Megatron didn’t dare say anything to break this strange spell. The berthroom was bathed in warm sunlight, and along with Starscream’s soft instruction, the movements and whispers of whirring fans felt like slipping into a warm oil bath.

“Open your panels,” Starscream purred, as Megatron’s view was entirely encapsulated by Orion’s thighs and modesty plating. The plating slid away, and Megatron watched a bead of lubricant collect, stretching perilously. He didn’t see it drop, but felt the warmth slide down his face. He groaned, flicking his gaze down to what little he could see of Starscream, whose own panels were popped, hand lazily stroking his spike.

“You love this,” Starscream said, still in the soft, measured voice, “You’re literally dripping onto his face, you realize?”

Orion moaned, his hips dropping a micrometer. Starscream looked at Megatron, raising an orbital ridge.

Megatron lifted his head and lapped up the next bead of lubricant he could see threatening to drop. Orion ex-vented too fast, dropping his hips and grinding onto Megatron’s face. Megatron groaned when he felt Orion’s hands drop down to brace on his chest. He did his best to focus on the task at hand, licking and sucking at every surface he could while Orion ground his hips down in a slow drag. He rerouted all his critical vents elsewhere, and managed to catch at Orion’s anterior node on a back drag, sucking hard

Orion shouted, thighs shaking on either side of Megatron’s head. Megatron squirmed away from the sudden pinch at his side, releasing Orion. 

“Orion,” Starscream said, sounding slightly strained, “Hands up, lean back.”

The delicious, blinking node moved out of Megatron’s reach. He groaned, and Orion gasped, grinding down into the vibration. He felt Starscream slide up his chest, settling with his thighs spread wide across Megatron’s abdominal plating, spike sliding across the smooth metal. Megatron found his hands again, and reached up to grip handfuls of Starscream's straining hips.

“Mm,” Starscream folded forward to splay entirely across Megatron’s chassis, “I certainly missed this.”

Megatron wasn’t entirely sure, but based on Orion’s yelp and fitful attempt to jerk his hips in two directions, he would bet that Starscream had swallowed his spike.

Game on,’ Megatron thought, and took the opportunity to curl his tongue as far as possible into Orion’s valve.

Orion reacted beautifully to everything they threw at him. He finally settled into a rhythm that Starscream mirrored in his own sliding grind against Megatron’s abdominal plating. Megatron’s array ached. His panels had slid away long ago, but there was nothing but air against the desperate mesh. His face felt cool where it was exposed to the air, Orion’s lubricant coating the plating and sliding down to soak the berth.

Megatron felt their rhythm start to stutter and fall apart, so he relaxed his ministrations and just let Orion rut against him. Muffled by Orion’s thighs, Megatron heard him shout. Through the haze his own charge had left him in he registered a slide of extra lubricant down his jaw, Starscream sitting up, and Orion’s lax weight. He gasped when Orion lifted off him, and Starscream’s optics, shades darker with intent, met his own.

“Orion,” Starscream was straining to keep that even tone, but Megatron could hear the way his vocalizer had a slight buzz marring the words, “What do you want us to do?”

Megatron turned to look at Orion and if he’d had any air left in his vents it would be gone. He was strutless on the berth next to him, head pillowed on crossed arms, optics peeking out to take them in muzzily. As often happened after overload, he seemed to have lost all control of his legs, and they splayed wide, his panels still open, valve still weakly leaking lubricant. Megatron cycled his optics, and Orion buried his head in his arms, hiding his own optics away.

“It’s all up to you,” Starscream continued, and Megatron had to wonder if he’d realized the same thing that they already had: Orion never asked for what he wanted. He thought perhaps Starscream understood this better than anyone. He and Orion were spark-breakingly alike in the best of ways. Megatron overrode every action his charge hazed processor wanted him to take, staying completely still and keeping his gaze on Orion.

Orion lifted his face out of his arms finally, optics flashing. Megatron had to wonder the sight the two of them made, his face covered with lubricant and array exposed. Starscream’s thighs stretched wide, spike sliding through a trail of its own prefluid. Both of them shaking, charge nearly visible in the air where they touched.

“Anything you want,” Starscream said gently, hitch in his vocalizer as his twisted his hips forward.

“Do you-?” Orion began, but Starscream shushed him.

“What do you want, Orion?” He said. Orion’s flush redoubled, and even behind the shelter of his arms, Megatron knew he was chewing on his lip again.

“Slide back,” He finally mumbled. Starscream acquiesced immediately. Megatron groaned and pushed up as the heat from Starscream’s valve slid over his neglected spike, gliding through the lubricant and nudging up against the base of Starscream’s spike.

“Here?” Starscream asked, grinding his valve over the length of Megatron’s spike. 

Megatron slapped a hand over his optics and moaned, “I’m going to die here, aren’t I?”

Orion giggled, and Starscream ground over him again, even slower. Orion seemed emboldened by the response though, and Megatron heard him shifting, before a head came to rest on his chest. He peered through his hand, and caught only the back of Orion’s head. 

“Not your valve,” He said, breathless, “Your spike?”

Starscream hummed and Megatron shuttered his optics fully as Starscream’s spike slid along his own, slick with prefluid and lubricant.

“Like that,” Orion murmured, “Can you overload like that?”

“Ah,” Starscream gasped, hips rolling and pushing his spike along Megatron’s, “Ah, maybe. Megatron?”

“Keep going,” He answered, doing his best to roll into Starscream without unseating him. He thought he might, if only for the sheer heat in Orion’s stare where they moved together. 

The careful, intent grind was building his charge more than he expected. He dropped the hand from his face to trace nonsense patterns on Orion’s hip, feeling the heat pouring off of him.

“Orion,” Starscream gasped, unusually quiet, his hips stuttering in their slow movement before pressing down hard in slow, tight circles, “Need-”

“Megatron, get your hand in there,” Orion ordered.

Megatron wasn’t sure he could even find his other hand. Not with Starscream twitching the way that signaled an impending overload that he couldn’t quite reach, and a noise that he was pretty sure meant that Orion had started fingering himself while he was watching them so intently. Orion dug his head into Megatron’s chest, “Megatron. Hand.”

He eventually unearthed his awareness of the damned thing, clutching at the berthcovers so tightly he was amazed they hadn’t ripped. He trailed up Starscream’s leg to reach their spikes, just out of his line of sight. He swept his hand through the small puddle of prefluid that had been collecting on his abdominal plating before wrapping it tightly around both of them.

“Megatron,” Starscream whined, pushing forward into the grip. 

“Oh, that’s-” Orion sounded dazed, and now Megatron was sure he was knuckle deep in his own array. He knew that tone, that was Orion realizing that he was about to overload.

“Close,” Starscream panted, “Are you-?”

Orion shivered, hard. Megatron felt the way he locked up and relaxed against his chest. Starscream moaned so hard his vocalizer shorted out halfway through and collapsed forward, hips jerking forward as transfluid spilled across Megatron’s hand. Megatron dropped his grip on their spikes to worm a hand under Starscream, reaching desperately.

He settled the heel of his hand over his anterior node, curling three fingers in his overheating and dripping valve. He hissed and bucked up hard enough that Starscream slid forward through the puddle on his abdominal plating. Starscream yelped, but his hips continued to twitch as the last dregs of overload ran through him.

Megatron rolled desperately up into his hand, so close to overload he could feel it tingling over his frame. Starscream recovered enough from his sudden unseating to stretch himself up to reach Megatron’s audial, “Orion just overloaded so hard from watching us that he nearly offlined himself. He’s lying in a pool of his own lubricant because of what we do to him...because he loves us.”

It was more than Megatron could take. Overload shot through him. 

He felt like his processor offlined. One moment he was suspended in nothing, and the next he was crashing back online. Megatron gasped, “Primus.”

“Mighta just seen him,” Orion yawned, plastered to his side. Starscream was still lying entirely atop him.

“Should, hmm,” Starscream mumbled, “Should clean up.”

“Later,” Megatron rumbled, letting his vents slow as his internals cooled, “Love you.”

“Mm, love,” Orion said.

- - - 

Megatron wasn’t quite sure what to do with Drift’s friend.

His only consolation was that he was doing far better than Ratchet, who refused to look at Rodimus for a solid groon.

“I swear I know you from somewhere,” Starscream was saying for the twelfth time, optics fuzzy with overcharge. Megatron would usually be worried about him falling out of his chair at this point, but as his chair was Orion, he was pretty sure it would be fine.

Rodimus laughed, a high, bubbling thing, and winked, “I’m sure you do, but I’m still not telling.”

Megatron shared a baleful look with Ratchet. Drift looking unbelievably smug, which admittedly was a nice change from the serene smile. Megatron threw back his drink and left to get another round.

“Can I ask you a question?” 

Megatron jumped and nearly knocked over the drinks that had already been deposited in front of him. He narrowed his eyes at Ratchet, “You’re a bastard.”

“Old news,” He waved away the accusation.

“If you must, then ask,” Megatron sighed, collecting the cubes as best he could.

Ratchet grabbed the rest with a thoughtful hum, “It’s about bonding.”

“It’s always about bonding anymore,” Megatron sighed again, “Go ahead.”

“Do you think I could build a case to sue the media and make them stop asking about it?”

Megatron threw his head back and laughed. Ratchet looked far too pleased with himself. They distributed the drinks at the table, still snickering.

“Oh no,” Starscream clearly thought he was whispering. He was not, “They’re conspiring.”

“Yes, sweetspark,” Megatron reached over to take the drink from his hands, depositing the coolant he had ordered there instead, “Everyone is always conspiring when it’s not a conversation you can eavesdrop on.”

“It usually is when I’m eavesdropping too,” Starscream pointed out, guileless. Orion snickered and did his best to coax him into drinking the coolant.

“Rodimus,” Orion started, wincing when a wing smacked into his chest, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught what it is you do.”

“This and that,” Rodimus waved a hand through the air, “I’m trying to get into some new ventures, but right now I’m mostly live streaming.”

Starscream hacked suddenly, coolant catching in his intake and causing him to choke. Megatron swiped the cube from him, “You have not had nearly enough to be rejecting this early.”

“You creatorfragger,” Starscream gasped, descending into a coughing fit, as Rodimus positively cackled.

“Figured it out, huh?”

Starscream buried his face in his hands and moaned, low and pained, “I’m going to die now.”

“Drama queen,” Megatron snorted.

“He clanked my trinemate!” Starscream hissed. Orion froze, peering around a wing to get a better look at Rodimus.

“Oh Starscream,” Rodimus purred somehow, “I clanked your trinemates.”

“You told me nothing happened after that one!” Drift accused, smacking Rodimus’s shoulder and sounding genuinely put out.

“It didn’t!” Rodimus yelped, “Put the sad optics away, Primus. It was like a decacycle later!” 

“Wait,” Megatron wasn’t sure if it was the engex, but he was having a hard time following, “You ‘faced Thundercracker?”

“Sorta?” Rodimus shrugged, “Skywarp fragged me and Thundercracker mostly watched but he did let me suck his spike so that was fun. He’s got a really nice spike.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about this,” Drift slapped at his shoulder again, “You tell me everything!”

“I tell you everything about my job,” Rodimus countered, “This was on my personal time.”

“Still related,” Drift said.

“Sorta,” Rodimus shrugged again, then addressed the gaggle of shocked expressions, “Oh, don’t worry, I don’t generally ‘face other streamers off screen. I know it’s unprofessional, Warp was just really nice, y’know?”

“That really wasn’t what they were making that face for,” Ratchet snickered.

“Hot Rod,” Orion said faintly, then buried his face in Starscream’s back, “You’re Hot Rod.”

“I’m mostly just using that as a stage name now, but yeah,” Rodimus said, then smacked back at Drift, “Primus, stop with the hitting, do you really want me to comm you every time I overload?”

“No,” Ratchet answered for him, while Drift folded himself in half, laughing near hysterically.

“Ratchet’s just salty about the nudes,” Rodimus stage-whispered to the rest of them.

“Sorry Rodimus,” Ratchet said, sarcasm dripping from his tone, “You’re right. It’s definitely not weird that you send Drift pictures of your panels popped at all hours of the fragging cycle.”

“Mechs pay good credits for those,” Rodimus said, “You should be so lucky to be getting my friends and family discount.”

“I can’t believe TC fragged a streamer with flame decals,” Starscream moaned, face still in his hands.

“He does live with a streamer, technically,” Megatron pointed out. He still wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but he’d decided to come out on the side of amused, “Also, you fragged Orion when he had those flame decals awhile back.”

“Please don’t bring me into this,” Orion said, finally emerging from between Starscream’s wings to gulp at his drink.

“You started it,” Ratchet said, “Asking Rodimus what he does, look at him, did you expect anything less?”

“That’s uncalled for,” Rodimus pouted, “My assistant helped me pick this new frame out, he said it was sixty-seven percent less slutty.”

“Minimus used the word slutty,” Drift said, not quite a question.

“I think his exact words were ‘more distinguished,’ but I’m a master Minimus translator.”

“Can we talk about literally anything else?” Ratchet asked.

“Well if someone would approve my proposal,” Rodimus said, and Ratchet rolled his optics, “I wouldn’t have to derail the night with the ‘I frag mechs on camera’ conversation.”

“I’m not giving you a spaceship,” Ratchet said, the response sounding rehearsed.

“Discrimination,” Rodimus sighed.

“I’m not giving anyone a spaceship,” Ratchet rolled his optics again.

Megatron leaned over to Orion, “If I proposed to Starscream again, do you think we could get away?”

“I think we could just skip right to him kicking you in the face,” Orion whispered back.

“Oh, can we joke about that now?” Ratchet interrupted, “Because I’ve got a few.”

Megatron opticked Ratchet warily. 

“No,” Starscream said, finally emerging from his hands, “I’m still delicate. Liable to fly off at any time.”

“Sure,” Ratchet snorted and downed his drink, “Fly off. If you could be surgically attached to one of their spikes you’d have four legs.”

“Ratchet!” Orion was turning a truly interesting shade.

“He’s more of a spike mech anyway,” Megatron mused, just this side of charged enough to not care. Orion continued to flush. Rodimus was clearly loving this.

“Now that’s a subversion of dynamic if I’ve ever seen one,” He leaned across the table towards Starscream, “Are all Seekers secretly spike mechs and just playing into the whole rumor, or is your trine just that weird?”

“Rodimus!” Drift hauled him back, “Inappropriate!”

“It’s demographic research! Do you know how hard it is to break into the Seeker viewership as a grounder?!” Rodimus said.

Their bickering devolved once more into a slap fight. Starscream didn’t seem to realize he still had coolant dribbling down his chin. Megatron had never seen that color on Orion before. He exchanged a look with Ratchet.

They got up to get another round.