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The Perfect Song

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His partner often scoffed that the only way Prowl could get a date was by paying for it.

It was true.

Prowl was, especially upon first impression, thoroughly unlikable. Second impressions and onward tended only to get worse, though once or twice they had improved. Even dating networks like Connectix, which boasted the ability to cast a planet-wide net of mechs to match to his wants, needs and desires, often failed completely to find anyone who could tolerate Prowl’s abrasive nature, inability to understand social niceties, limited range of emotions (and even more limited ability to express them), and obsession with work. And those matches it did find for him, Prowl himself found thoroughly unlikeable. He did not want to date someone like himself (he couldn’t tolerate seeing those traits in others); he wanted someone adventurous and fun. Not to drag him out of his shell, but simply because if Prowl wanted a mirror reflection of himself, he’d plug into one of his own ports thank you very much!

In fact it had been so long since his Connectix account had made any real attempt to actually find him a match that Prowl often debated deleting it, like he had his other dating-site accounts. But Connectix offered something those other sites didn’t: mechs looking to sell various interfacing acts. Connectix wasn’t the only site that allowed customers to sell interfacing to other customers, but it was the only one that didn’t take a substantial cut of the transaction so it was the one Prowl liked best, and supported with his continued patronage. While the algorithms dedicated to finding someone who’d actually like Prowl for Prowl (and who Prowl would like in return) had long given up, those dedicated to matching Prowl to mechs with other criteria for a successful “date” were still giving occasional hits.

Once, while drunk, Barricade had asked why Prowl bothered. Every street corner had dozens of buymecha who’d sell the same thing for a fraction of the price. But Prowl didn’t want the hardened, hostile firewalls of experienced prostitutes. Even those slightly pricier escort services that boasted they’d give their customers a “feeling of complete openness” didn’t deliver an interface that could satisfy Prowl. The immense processing power his tact-net could bring to bear always revealed the edges of the partitions. No matter how skilled the courtesan was, to Prowl it always ended up feeling like a hostile interrogation (or like he was being studied again) rather than a mutual interface. Much less like he was the one in control, as he desired.

Given his dislike of overly developed firewalls, it was perhaps not surprising that even among those selling their services on Connectix he had gravitated to mecha selling a single thing: their virginity.

If he was going to simply outright buy interfacing, he might as well spend the extra and get something he’d enjoy.

And even though his purchases were obligated to stay and see the act through no matter how much they disliked Prowl, there was something else Prowl enjoyed about those encounters. They couldn’t leave him, it was true, but they were nervous, shy, or brazen over their fear and Prowl… liked, he supposed, that his efforts to calm and reassure them made it feel more “real” than purchasing a night with more experienced mecha did. When he succeeded anyway, it felt real. It wasn’t, and he knew it, but it was an illusion he clung to desperately.

He picked up his single touchscreen tablet computer as he settled onto the single stool in his modest apartment. Kitchen, washroom, berthroom — what else did a mech need? Barricade could give him a list, but Barricade had hobbies that didn’t include work, and didn’t have expensive interfacing habits.

He scrolled past his usual assortment of entertainment apps he couldn’t afford to keep on his own hard drive — a general internet browser, NetVid, StoryDrive, Discourse, and even a couples of tactical games like StarCraft — before reaching his Connectix app and opening it to see if it had anything for him. Even with a network of users and subscribers that spanned the entire planet, virgins looking to sell their first sexual experience were uncommon. Combine that with the algorithms sorting for ones either in Prowl’s area or willing to travel to it — which were the only ones reasonably available to Prowl — and Prowl only got a hit every few vorn or so. It never hurt to check.

This time Connectix did have a potential match for him and Prowl opened the mech’s profile.

He looked at the picture before he looked at the name and immediately Prowl’s fans kicked on. Sleek and dark — strong — with a blue visor peeking — innocent, vulnerable — flirtatiously over his shoulder tire and small doorwings, this mech had chosen a large format picture that showcased a view of his entire back, spinal panels pulled aside to show off his fully intact seals. Prowl ran his claws over the picture, tracing that sinuous spinal curve, already imagining the mech writhing under him. Held down, helpless, but uncowed.

A moment later he shook himself free of the fantasy. First things first.

His name was Two-Tone, which even Prowl thought was a boring name, and he was a stage technician in Polyhex. He was willing to travel. He described himself as young and shy and trying to raise money to make a change in his life. A significant change, if his asking price was anything to go by. Prowl almost rejected the mech’s offer as too expensive when he read just what he was offering.

Two-Tone wasn’t just offering his seals, but also complete servitude to his buyer for fifty vorn.

Fifty vorn.

After so long interfacing exclusively with virgins, Prowl certainly had developed a kink for seal-breaking, and it was true that Two-Tone’s seals would be gone after the first night. But for Prowl the most essential part of networking with a virgin was the lack of substantial firewalls. THAT the mech would retain for as long as Prowl was his sole partner (because, he was already thinking possessively, he wouldn’t let Two-Tone install anything else). He’d be able to interface every night, indulge all his kinks, not just the one… He checked his finances to be sure he could afford the mech, and clicked the button that would send a message to start the obligatory dance of assuring his purchase he wasn’t a creep, rapist or serial killer before any sensible mech would agree to meet.

*

*

*

Two-Tone got the message at work. It popped up on his HUD like dozens of others had since he’d put his offer up on Connectix, bright and cheerful and informing him that “A Potential Match Has Responded To Your Profile - Log On To Connectix To Meet The Mechanism Of Your Dreams. Connectix: Where Dreams Come True.”

He ignored it.

He was in the middle of a tricky job rewiring the stage speakers to tolerate the decibels tonight’s scheduled performance would hit. The band (unironically named Realm of Screams) had a reputation for blowing out speakers and Two-Tone was not going to let it happen to his babies.

The message sat in his inbox until his twin Ricochet woke up the next morning. Two-Tone had spent most of the night clinging to the stage lights, listening wistfully to the band and hadn’t gotten back until well after Ricochet had gone to bed. He’d been tempted to check out the message and his newest prospective buyer’s profile then, but he’d opted for recharge instead. Ricochet would have been mad if he’d read it alone.

It was Ricochet’s condition for allowing his twin to do this: that all of his prospective buyers had to satisfy Ricochet’s criteria for non-skeeziness. Two-Tone had told him that he was capable of taking care of himself, but Ricochet had scoffed. According to him, anyone who still hadn’t broken their seals, even to self-loop or plug into a pornload, was not capable of judging if a mech was skeezy or not.

Since Two-Tone really did want his twin’s support in this, he’d acquiesced. Together they’d already reviewed the Connectix profiles of over a dozen prospective buyers. They’d even gone as far as exchanging some messages with a few of them. Eventually they’d all said or done something that set off Ricochet’s skeezy-mech alarm bells and they’d broken contact. Two-Tone despaired of ever seeing the opportunity to have his dreams come true.

He was a good stage technician, but just because he’d been sparked into the technician caste didn’t mean that’s where he wanted to stay. Ricochet had gotten a new job and a new name… by proving to a military recruiter that he had a real talent for guns. Now Two-Tone wanted his chance! Unfortunately, no matter how much singing talent Two-Tone proved he had, transfering to the entertainment caste required more than a good singing voice. He needed to be able to sing, dance, play at least one instrument and preferably write his own music and choreograph his own routines. He needed a tutor, or lots of free time and access to practice music and an instrument, or (preferably) both… neither of which he was going to get on a stage technician’s shifts and salary.

Two-Tone had done the math. The minimum he needed to pay for a tutor and enough practice time to reasonably learn everything he needed to learn before he’d even be considered for a gig was thirty-thousand shanix. Preferably three times that, for a good tutor, and things like decent energon and rent in a neighborhood where he wouldn’t get raped and killed driving home from lessons, if he had to move away from Ricochet to live in the same city as his tutor. Ninety-thousand shanix. Two-Tone wouldn’t see that much shanix in his lifetime.

So Two-Tone and Ricochet sat at their shared breakfast table reviewing the message and “Prowl’s” Connectix profile.

The message was devoid of any sort of greetings, salutations or basic politeness. It was, quite simply, a proposed payment plan to deposit an amount into an escrow account every six kilocycles until he had paid the entirety of Two-Tone’s asking price of one-hundred thousand shanix (Two-Tone had expected to have to haggle a bit), at which point the proposed fifty vorn of service would be up and the entire account would be transferred to Two-Tone.

“Ain’t the best first impression a mech could make,” was Ricochet’s observation.

But not the worst. That distinction had gone to a mech whose first message had been a lurid and detailed account of just how he was going to tie his new slave down and rape him repeatedly.

Prowl’s profile was only marginally better than his initial message. The picture was okay, even if it looked a bit like the mech would rather be taking a mug shot. Praxan, enforcer paint. Enforcer job, according to the profile. The mech even described himself as unsociable and obsessed with work. Two-Tone was ready to reject him just on that, but for the first time Ricochet was the more hopeful.

“Skeezes want to be seen as attractive,” was his take. “The fact that he doesn’t try and present himself like that… he might just be lonely, desperate, and able to pay. That’s the sort of mech you want, if you’re still going through with this.”

“Am!”

“Then let’s see if he’s got a dating history we can check out.”

Surprisingly (at least to Two-Tone), Prowl did have a dating history. Or, more accurately according to the gossip section, a one-night stand history. Apparently Prowl exclusively bought virgins, played with them for a night, then turned them loose with their full payment. Comments ranged from I’ve never talked to someone who was so awkward, but it was the best first time I could have had to He’s paid for you, and knows it, but he’s willing to take the extra time to make sure you’re comfortable. There was one If you stick around for a second night, you’ll find out just how kinky he is. Up to you if that’s a good thing or not.

Again not exactly accolades, but the more Two-Tone read Prowl’s dating history and the comments the more they supported Ricochet’s first impression. Prowl was lonely and desperate and this was how he chose to buy his companionship.

Two-Tone would have prefered someone with whom he shared at least some interests, but Ricochet was of the opinion that he wasn’t going to get a better offer.

Together they composed their first response. Hoping not to put off a self-described unsociable mech, they kept it short. Terse, even, in Two-Tone’s view.

*

*

*

Prowl got the message when he got home from work. He didn’t keep the Connectix app on his own hard drive so that was only to be expected. It was fine, he could be patient, and it was better than being potentially distracted on the job.

To be honest, he hadn’t expected a response just yet. Statistically, in the past, if his initial overture wasn’t responded to within a breem, then it took an average of three cycles for a mech to get back to him. (After seven cycles, Prowl knew his offer had been rejected.) But this one had come the next cycle.

It was short and to the point; Prowl approved.

Proof of identity?

*

*

*

The response came while Two-Tone was at work again. Despite his best efforts, Realm of Screams had damaged one of his speakers and he had to repair it before tonight’s performance started. He was in the middle of gutting a device twice his height and replacing the damaged components when the ping came up on his HUD again. He ignored it until he and Ricochet could look at it the next morning.

It was simply a link to Prowl’s information on Praxus’ directory of employees. Enforcers and lawyers didn’t have their addresses on the public directory, but the rest of his information was there. Suspiciously Ricochet explored the site, but eventually concluded the information was genuine.

It was time to start talking terms and expectations.

*

*

*

It took several exchanges for Prowl to conclude this was an ineffective method of trying to sort out such details. They both received the others’ messages while at work and were unable to respond to them. Further, Two-Tone had not said as much, but Prowl had concluded that he was also being vetted by an associate of Two-Tone’s. Someone who was determined to ensure his friend or batchmate didn’t get a raw deal. An understandable precaution. Prowl approved, even if it complicated the process considerably.

But it didn’t change the fact that they needed to get a lot of things done, and their current exchange of messages was inefficient.

His next message was his Discourse ID and a range of times during which he could talk.

*

*

*

It took another ten cycles, but finally Two-Tone and Prowl found a time during which they could meet on Discourse.

Two-Tone was nervous as he watched the Prowl’s ID indicator change from offline to online, but there was no going back now. Or well, technically there was. He hadn’t agreed to anything except to talk yet.

Silently Ricochet put his hand on Two-Tone’s back, encouraging, and Two-Tone smiled thankfully.

Then Discourse started chiming for attention and Two-Tone did his best to sound confident as he answered the call. “Hi!”

“Hello,” came the strut-melting reply. Prowl might be socially awkward but his voice was sure a treasure to listen to. “We have some details to discuss.”

“Yeah.” Two-Tone fiddled with the ball Ricochet kept on his computer table. “First I suppose is that you’re pretty far away. I need to find a job and apartment in Praxus before we can start.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Prowl almost snapped. “You will stay with me, and I will buy energon and anything else you require. My schedule is occasionally erratic; I do not want to be working around yours as well.”

“O~kay,” he exchanged a glance with his twin.

“S’pretty possessive of you,” Ricochet spoke up.

“My twin, Ricochet,” Two-Tone hastily introduced.

“I do not care how possessive it seems. The fact is that I am paying for fifty vorn of servitude. I do not want to be working around a second job of yours, especially if we would continue to have the scheduling mis-matches we’ve dealt with up to this point.” Prowl plowed on without acknowledging the introduction. “Further, a chance to indulge in possessiveness is part of the appeal.”

“Lock him up and throw away the key?” Ricochet growled, while Two-Tone reeled. The mech had described himself as unsociable, true, but… how!

Prowl seemed to realize he’d made a blunder at that point. “I’m sorry. Yes, I will admit to having some inclinations along those lines, but if he agrees to that, I would not have him cut off communication with you or any of his other acquaintances. You are free to visit, and I will be sure to schedule free cycles for him to explore the city or whatever else he wishes to do.”

“Maybe…” Two-Tone interrupted before his twin could get truly incensed and ruin what may be his only chance to be bought by someone who probably wasn’t a sadist. “Just tell me what you want from me mech. Then we’ll decide if it’s a thing I can do for fifty vorn.”

“Perfect availability,” Prowl started, “as I’ve already said. Which, I am willing to pay extra for in the form of providing room, fuel and medical care. I do want to control when you are allowed outside my apartment — negotiable. I want to be able to control what you have installed on your processor — specifically your firewalls. Non negotiable. You will not be expected to service, or allowed to have, other partners. Non negotiable, and for your own protection. With nothing more, and possibly less, than basic firewalls, promiscuity is a dangerous behavior. I want to be able to indulge in more of my kinks than my usual of seal-breaking. Said kinks do not include causing pain or damage in any way, shape or form.”

“You want to control his processor; what about his frame? What’s your plans regarding mods? And I wanna make sure my brother’s got recourse if you leave him with mods or programs that are expensive to fix afterwards. That ain’t coming out of his payment.”

“Of course not,” Prowl did snap that, sounding offended. “I currently don’t have any plans for, or kinks that require, permanent modifications to his frame. If that changes, I will ensure they are things he can live happily with before installing them, and have them removed before releasing him from our contract. Anything I install in his processor, I will help uninstall.”

“You said you’ll provide medical care. Playing doctor doesn’t count,” Ricochet said.

“I will register your twin as my peripheral spouse for the duration, which qualifies him for care from the Enforcer department’s primary care physician. I will send you First Aid’s credentials.” Another link to Praxus’ directory of employees, this one to the police department’s medic. Ricochet spent several moments reviewing the page.

“And if I’m not allowed to leave your flat, what am I supposed to do while you’re at work?” Two-Tone pressed while his twin was reading.

“Anything within the confines of my apartment. Read. Play games. Chat with your friends. Enroll in online schooling. Teach yourself a skill. I don’t care.”

Teach yourself a skill… Two-Tone twitched. Free time to teach himself a skill. Fifty vorn of learning and practicing while he waited for a self-admitted work-obsessed mech to get home and frag him. Ricochet looked over at him, and his suspicious expression eased up, fondness replacing it.

Ricochet leaned forward and typed in a notepad app where Prowl couldn’t see or hear the message, If you’re still going through with this, it sounds like this is your guy.

I’m going through with this, was Two-Tone’s response.

*

*

*

It grated on his sense of duty to do so, but Prowl made sure he took the time off work to meet Two-Tone and his twin at the train station. Barricade had tried convincing Prowl to let him come, but Prowl refused. Given how astute Ricochet had seemed in his interrogations into Prowl’s character, he was quite certain Barricade would not meet the gunner’s criteria for “non-skeezy”. Prowl had a high enough chance of ruining this — and causing Two-Tone to invoke one of the cancellation clauses Ricochet had insisted on — for himself without Barricade’s “help”.

Prowl would have been willing to pay some of Two-Tone’s moving expenses, but the twins had apparently felt that, given all the extra benefits he was providing, it would have been rude. Two-Tone wasn’t coming with much anyway. Prowl knew it was insensitive of him to be relieved by that so he managed not to thank them for it.

Finally the crowd of disembarking passengers thinned and Prowl saw the two small Polyhexians and got a good look at them in person. Ricochet was shades of black, a subtle camouflage pattern befitting his military occupation with a yellow optic band, but it was Two-Tone who occupied his attention. Two-Tone was also black, a velvety soft matte shade that made him blend into shadows, with a dim blue visor. He had the paint scheme of a mech who had been designed to fade into the background. The only luggage Prowl could see was a small case of some kind, which he kept clutched to his chest.

Two-Tone spotted Prowl finally and gave a shy smile. He shifted on his pedes nervously.

Tomorrow, Prowl reminded himself, would be different than his previous purchases, but tonight Two-Tone was just a virgin, like any of the others he’d had in the past. Tonight, he could be awkward, but he couldn’t be abrasive. He had to put Two-Tone at ease.

Not the easiest thing for Prowl to do, but he had a checklist of things that had helped in the past.

First - Start with a greeting. They’re useless, but mechs like them.

Second - Introduce yourself, no matter how illogical it seems since you already know each other’s designations, professions and other relevant facts through Connectix.

Third - Offer to carry any luggage. Even if they are perfectly capable of carrying it themselves.

Following the first three steps were easy enough. “Hello,” he offered as the twins came into conversational range. “I’m Prowl. Would you like me to carry your luggage?”

Two-Tone clutched the small case to his chest. “No. I’ve got it. I’m Two-Tone.”

Prowl stopped himself from saying I know that.

“Ricochet,” Ricochet almost growled. Prowl took a moment to parse it, but he identified Two-Tone’s twin’s stance as protective.

So Two-Tone was shy and nervous and his twin was brazen over his fear. For a moment Prowl floundered. Those were two different scripts! He couldn’t follow both!

Two-Tone was the important one, Prowl decided after a moment of panic. The contract was already signed, so Ricochet would have to leave Two-Tone in Prowl’s care before they got to his apartment tonight, meaning it was Two-Tone who had to be put at ease for their upcoming interface. That, he judged, had the highest chance of successfully acquiring his new toy.

If he were being honest with himself, which he usually was even as he did not allow that honesty to destroy his comforting illusions, that was another reason for solely purchasing virgins for interface. It was a common element, and the archetypes (if one allowed him to use that term) he had to deal with were limited. It meant he could write these scripts and, after much fine-tuning and practice, they worked. Yay, successful personal interaction. More experienced mechs had entire backgrounds — sexual and not — that had to be taken into account when conversing with them, much of which was not recorded in their Connectix profiles. More variables complicated his scripts. Even if he was paying for the interface, attempting any sort of personal interaction in the joors leading up to it made Prowl feel very much like a failure of a mechanized being. One of the few emotional responses he was capable of.

Even if he still got his interface, it had been ruined by his awkwardness beforehand.

So he’d gravitated to virgins, and their enjoyably uncomplicated firewalls, and being able to use his scripts (mostly) effectively.

Truthfully, as much as he was looking forward to the opportunity to have an available partner on hand when he got home from work, and to indulging his various kinks, the reality of more than one cycle was terrifying him. Sending his no-longer-virgins off with their payment was not complicated. Keeping a mech for fifty vorn could potentially be very complicated, and Prowl did not have any scripts prepared.

Of course he only realized he’d been standing in the station, staring at the two black Polyhexians like a complete and utter failure while he decided on a script to follow because his Stop-Staring-You’re-Being-Weird Timer (not his words, but he didn’t know what else to call it) pinged him a reminder that he, well, needed to stop staring because it was starting to be weird. Instead he needed to check number four on his list.

Four Stop standing around thinking and lead them to dinner. You remember that nice dinner you made reservations for? Right? Get to it!

Five Remember, you would be honored if they joined you. It does not matter if they have no choice!

“I made reservations for dinner,” he informed them, quickly averting his gaze so he wasn’t staring. “I would be honored if you joined me.”

“Sure,” Two-Tone smiled nervously. “Ain’t like we got anywhere else to be.”

Prowl led them out of the train station and idled at the curb until they had gotten that case Two-Tone was carrying situated (Prowl could have put it in his subspace, but Two-Tone had said no) and transformed.

This was the first time Prowl had been to this restaurant. He knew from experience that taking his “dates” to the usual cop hangouts was off-putting, but his favorite alternative — a small, clean outdoor cafe one of his more understanding previous dates had helped him pick out — was closed because the park where it was located was undergoing repairs and renovations. He’d been forced to search out someplace new. Not having any criteria of what was appropriate other than “nice,” “romantic,” and “within his budget”, he’d used a restaurant finder app to search for one fitting those criteria.

The waiter was not happy to see them, but Prowl did not care. He was there to serve energon, nothing more.

The twins’ reaction was much more important. They looked awed and unhappy in equal measures and Prowl looked around again as they were seated, trying to figure out the reasons for that.

Clean and not smelling like off-duty cops — Nice. Check. Chandelier — romantic. Check. Made of glass, rather than crystal — budget consideration. Check. Low lighting — Romantic. Check. Menu… menu pricy, but well within Prowl’s ability to pay — Nice. Check.

It was probably Prowl himself making them uncomfortable, he concluded as they bent over the same menu to discuss things. He watched them until his Stop-Staring-You’re-Being-Weird Timer went off again, then looked away. He had been firmly told that staring was weird, off-putting, and led to failed social interactions. Which led to failed interfacing.

“We’d like to split a sampler tray,” Two-Tone finally announced. “If that’s okay,” he added nervously.

Prowl opened the menu long enough to check the price. It was the most expensive, non-dessert item on the menu, but split between the two of them was still a reasonable price. Not that he was going to say no. Item ten on his checklist was Whatever your date wants to eat is fine. You don’t have any objections to it. Ever.

“Of course.” Maybe it was the fact that they were splitting something that they feared Prowl would object to? They were twins. What did Prowl know about twins? They were already bonded to each other; he remembered one of the lab techs at work complaining about that when he had been trying to date one of a pair of twins (the other twin had hated him, as Prowl recalled). Bonded mechs couldn’t sparkshare with other mechs, unless both bonded partners were part of the merge. Prowl did not like sparksharing, so that was not going to be a problem. But he could not remember anything else about how twins might differ from non-split spark mechs. Maybe sharing fuel was customary. Prowl hoped that being unable to share would not be a problem for both of them.

When the waiter took their order, Prowl ordered a plain midgrade mixed with silver without checking the menu. He only ever drank three things: the sludgy stimulant-laced mix served at the precinct, plain medgrade, and midgrade with silver.

He realized he had been looking at the twins in silence long enough for it to be awkward when his alarm went off again. He averted his optics.

Tentatively he held out his hand, laying it palm-up on the table. He made sure to keep everything about it relaxed. According to his script, this was an undemanding invitation to hold hands. Reaching out and grabbing someone was rude, but holding hands was soothing and put mechs about to engage in a sexual encounter at ease.

Two-Tone took the invitation, laying his hand palm-down on Prowl’s and smiled. Prowl forced his lips to quirk in response. He could smile, but not on demand and he’d been informed that his attempts to do so were frightening. Not reacting at all to another’s smile was just as bad though; quirking his lips was a compromise.

“Your profile said you were in mechaforensics,” Two-Tone said quietly. “What’s that? Is it interesting?”

“Yes.” Prowl answered. “My job is to reconstruct crime scenes to determine what happened, providing evidence the investigators then use to solve the crimes.” Fifteen - Your job is fascinating, but repeat after me: But you don’t want to hear the details. Tell me about you. “But you don’t want to hear the details. Tell me about you.”

Two-Tone brightened and started talking about sound systems and speaker maintenence and being allowed to climb up onto the light systems and listen to the bands play. Prowl listened attentively, occasionally asking questions. Information was always good, and he never knew when the minutiae of sound systems and other stage electronics would be useful for an investigation.

Even Ricochet relaxed enough to talk a little bit about sniper training.

All-in-all, not the most awkward conversation Prowl had ever had. By the time they left the restaurant, Two-Tone and Ricochet had relaxed. Ricochet had been willing to leave Two-Tone with the instruction to Call me tomorrow, and Two-Tone himself was touching Prowl and smiling in a way he classified as nervously flirtatious. Success.

Which meant Prowl needed to get on with the evening before it became not-successful.

This, Prowl thought about three breems later, after they’d arrived at his apartment and Two-Tone had divested himself of his case and the items he’d brought in his subspace, was the part he was actually good at.

Two-Tone writhed against Prowl’s chassis, gasping and mewing, while Prowl expertly drove every coherent thought from his processor. The younger mech tried returning the favor, but pleasure and the newness of that pleasure kept banishing his efforts and left him clinging to Prowl for support.

Already, Two-Tone’s three primary cords trailed from his wrist and ended in the topmost ports on Prowl’s spinal column; the others spilled out of his wrist beside them, twitching uncontrollably. His personality fluttered desperately against Prowl’s firewalls, unsteadily tugging at him with erratic waves of pleasure. Prowl though, stood against it, unmoved. Two-Tone was so close, it felt like he’d be one of those who—

Two-Tone screamed, overload turning every synapse to pleasure, as Prowl pierced the first seal with his claws. He thrashed, but Prowl held him still enough to guide the datacord already unspooled from his wrist to the corresponding port… Two-Tone’s firewalls shattered at the first touch of Prowl’s mind. Prowl groaned. Yesss… He revelled in free, unfettered access to the other’s processors. He pressed the tiny personality down, holding it and cradling it, and drowning them both in his own pleasure.

Two-Tone’s overload ripped through them again. Please, please, please… panted the overwhelmed processors.

Please, more. Please, it’s too much.

More, Prowl answered and broke the seal on the second port. This time Prowl slaved those open processors to his own, holding back the overload as the personality wiggled desperately for release…

MINE, echoed in Prowl’s thoughts, and Two-Tone answered, begging, yes, yes, yes, please! as Prowl ripped away the third and fourth seals together, occupying them almost instantly to increase the bandwidth of their connection. More of Two-Tone’s thoughts were open for Prowl to see, rearrange, play with. Charge crackled along both their plating, but Two-Tone was too far gone, too held and restrained within his own mind to move. Physical sensation was nothing against the onslaught of Prowl’s mental assault.

MINE, echoed again in Prowl’s thoughts as he plugged his final datacord into the available port. Two-Tone screamed, pleasure forcing a physical reaction, and then Prowl finally, finally, let them both overload, spiralling down into bliss.

*

*

*

Two-Tone’s alarm didn’t go off the next morning, and it was late in the first shift when he stirred. His back hurt and it took a moment to realize why. His seals! The memory of Prowl’s fingers and plugs and mind flooded back and Two-tone arched and twisted, electricity dancing over his plating as the aftershock ripped through his systems.

When it faded and he was left panting he laughed raggedly to himself. That first review they’d read from one of Prowl’s previous partners had been spot on: the most awkward mech imaginable to talk to, but frag was he good in the berth. Not that Two-Tone had much experience in the berth, this being his only experience, but nothing he’d heard or read had prepared him for the reality.

He shuddered, calming himself. He needed to get up. Call Ricochet… He should do that now… He went to bring up his apps on his HUD and gawked. All his apps were gone. Including the basic communications app. Email, Discourse, games, all his music… He had his operating system and that was it!

He bolted upright, flinging the blankets he’d been carefully tucked under aside, looking for Prowl.

Prowl, of course, was gone. He had work.

A quick check of his logs confirmed it: this morning, while Two-Tone had still been in deep recharge, Prowl had adjusted his settings to give himself administrative access to his new slave’s settings and programming, then promptly used it to delete all extraneous programs and data from his hard drive.

Something chimed.

Two-Tone glared at the tablet computer that had been left on the table beside the berth. Two-Tone was written across the screen in big glyphs. He snatched up the tablet and tapped it.

The big glyphs turned into a letter.

I don’t want you able to distract yourself when you’re with me. Do not try and reinstall anything. I’ve created a profile for you on this computer and loaded everything you had on your hard drive onto it. I’ve preserved your settings. I also gave you access to both my NetVid and StoryDrive accounts, since I did not see either of those in your browser history. I do not have a vid-screen, but I accessed the purchase information for your disks and made them available to watch on this computer. The basic browser has filters installed so you cannot access pornographic or any sort of interfacing material. If you wish to do research into interfacing or kinks, do it through the StoryDrive library — it is much more reliable.

I left a cube of fuel out for when you wake up. Don’t take any more from the dispenser.

Don’t try and leave the apartment.

Okay. Prowl had been honest that he was possessive and controlling, and had said that he wanted to control what was on Two-Tone’s processor. This had just been unexpected. He tapped the letter to indicate he’d read it. It brought up the choice between the two users: Prowl or Two-Tone

Curious, he tapped Prowl’s. It prompted him for a password and he gave up. Tapping his own also brought up a prompt for a password, but he took a chance and typed in one of his standard ones. The view changed to a customizable dashboard.

He’d play with that later. Right now he was looking for one of his communications apps. He needed to call Ricochet.

Finding his inbox, Two-Tone winced. There were about a dozen unheard messages from his brother. He didn’t take the time to listen to them and just called.

“Finally!” Ricochet answered. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. He just took all my apps off my hard drive and put them on his tablet. I wasn’t getting the notices.” He would have liked a warning, but he guessed he’d already agreed to Prowl controlling what he had on his processor. He hadn’t completely gotten rid of anything. Just moved it. “But I’m fine. It was…” Two-Tone settled for, “good,” even though that didn’t come close to describing it. “Fantastic,” he amended. “I just ended up sleeping in. He’s at work now.”

Letting the conversation run, Two-Tone answered questions about his well-being. His spine hurt, but that was expected, right? And his diagnostics weren’t showing anything wrong except the missing seals. No, he didn’t have any scuffs or dents. Yep there were a few scratches, but the mech had claws; he was fine. He started looking for his camera app so he could take a picture to send to Ricochet. He found the one he’d used for vorn, but when he tried activating it, it told him that this device did not have a camera installed. He huffed in annoyance.

“What?”

“This thing’s got no camera. I was going to take a picture so you could see for yourself I was okay.”

“That’s annoying.”

“Yeah.”

He found the door to the washrack and was relieved to see a mirror there, a full length one. Curious, he turned and looked over his shoulder, opening his port-covers to inspect himself. The last time he’d done this, he and Ricochet had been getting a picture that was both “sexy” and showed off all the seals. Now he moved and squirmed trying to see in the mirror.

“Huh. That’s weird.”

“What?” Ricochet suddenly sounded worried.

“Ain’t hurt or anything. I didn’t notice it last night—”

“If he’s any good in the berth at all you shouldn’t’ve had enough processor to remember your own name.”

“— BUT,” Two-Tone spoke over his twin, “he didn’t break the seal on the lowest one.”

“Maybe he’s saving it for later.”

“Maybe, just seems weird.”

They continued talking, Ricochet telling him about an amusing incident on the train going back to Polyhex. It hadn’t been amusing at the time, because he’d been tired, but sleep had changed his perspective. Two-Tone described the rest of Prowl’s apartment.

It was… stark. That was the best word.

The berthroom was decorated in shades of white, over dark grey walls. A silver wall decoration was just a beautifully stylized glyph for Harmony. A sentiment Two-Tone could appreciate, even if his harmonies weren’t the ones the designer had in mind. It was minimalist and elegant, which Two-Tone found completely at odds with the mech who’d met them at the train station and awkwardly taken them to dinner.

During negotiations, Prowl had been abrasive, but in person he was… awkward. Two-Tone was reminded of watching a newly sparked actor reading his way through his first script, trying so hard to impress the play’s director, but without the practice or charisma that older, more experienced actors had. Everything he’d done was just… off. Mech wasn’t dancing to the same beat as the rest of them.

Moving out into the rest of the apartment and getting his first good look at it only affirmed his evaluation of the decor. Someone else had chosen the furnishings and decorations for Prowl. Probably a professional, someone who’d take the instruction of “simple, clean, no clutter or overuse of colors” and give him this minimalist, stark white-on-white on dark grey apartment back without caring that it made the room look cold and impersonal. Two-Tone wondered if Prowl even noticed the furnishings, or if he’d had a decorator in solely because he’d been told that decorating was something normal mechs did.

He found his viddisks, books, violino case and other belongings neatly stacked on the single table next to the cube Prowl had pulled out for him. Satisfied that Two-Tone was alright for the moment, Ricochet hung up and went back to bed. He only had a two-cycle leave pass, and he’d lost a lot of sleep travelling back and forth with Two-Tone.

Next to the cube was a sampler package of common additives. Two-Tone stirred in a slightly sour ascorbic acid mix and sipped, contemplating what to do with his belongings. Prowl hadn’t given him a place to put things, but it wasn’t like they’d get mixed up with anything in this stark, white room.

What did Prowl do for fun? Or did he ever even bother with pursuits outside of work?

Or was that what Two-Tone was here for?

There was a shelf with two globular white lamps, and an exquisite white crystal between them. Two-Tone took his disks and, after turning both lamps on and off a few times to check the lighting, arranged them artistically on the shelf, like that’s what the shelf was for, but it also had these other decorations. The crystal ended up sitting on top of a short stack of them. Two-Tone stepped back to survey the effect and nodded in satisfaction. Since Prowl didn’t have a screen, he wouldn’t be using them, and they made the whole room look much more lived in. More normal.

He debated where to put his books and games and other things. The viddisks looked fine where they were, but the room was so stark that even what little he’d brought with him risked cluttering the apartment.

The bedroom, he decided. He could put them on the side table. Prowl’s only furniture was the berth and a single stool at the table, and of the two Two-Tone imagined he’d prefer the berth for things like reading and playing games. If Prowl didn’t like his things there, he’d have to give Two-Tone an actual place to put them.

Last, he returned to the table and the case he’d left on it.

Reverently he opened it to reveal the gleaming, burnished metal of the violino within.

He’d cleaned out his savings to buy this, and he wouldn’t have dared if Prowl hadn’t indicated he’d have the time to learn and practice. It wasn’t a very high quality instrument. A student’s instrument. Mass produced. It wouldn’t have the deep, complex tones of masters violino. And  of course he had to buy a used one; there were several nicks and dents he could see marring the surface of the instrument. One of the pegs was bent, so the string wasn’t perfectly aligned with the others.

It was the most beautiful thing Two-Tone had ever seen.

He pulled the tablet over and opened a (dubiously legal) music lessons app. Immediately, basic instructions for cleaning, tuning and caring for a violino came on the screen. Two-Tone was immediately absorbed, and completely lost track of time.

*

*

*

Two-Tone looked up when the door opened and Prowl entered.

He put the violino carefully back into its case with one last wistful caress and closed down the app. Prowl wanted his full attention when he got home, and Two-Tone would give it.

Prowl stared at him, then quickly looked away. Two-Tone had noticed him doing that last night. It was decidedly odd. He didn't know Prowl well enough yet to guess the reason behind that particular tick though. He ignored it. “How was mechaforensics this cycle?”

“I spent two shifts calculating bullet trajectories and recording the ballistics information of bullets left behind at the scene. I determined, based on those two factors, that there were at least three different guns fired, which means—” he stopped. Looked back at Two-Tone. “But you don’t want to hear the details. Tell me how you spent your shifts.”

The impression of a mech reading a script was back.

“Nothing much. Just getting everything squared away. Starting to practice,” he patted the closed case. “Trying to learn to play it, y’know?” Realizing there was only one stool and he was still sitting on it, Two-Tone hurried to stand. “I’ve been sitting all shift; ain’t got a problem standing for a while.”

“Go sit on the berth.”

O-kay. Pleasantries were over then.

Two-Tone went and made himself comfortable.

A few kliks later, Prowl entered the room with a cube of energon. “You used the ascorbic acid mix for your morning energon. I made that for you again.”

Two-Tone grinned. He really would have prefered something milder, but, “That’s fine.”

Prowl didn’t acknowledge. He climbed up on the bed and straddled Two-Tone’s legs. Automatically the smaller mech tried pulling away — personal space much! — but he was pinned well. Prowl watched him for exactly three kliks, then looked away.

After another klick, Two-Tone settled. Prowl wasn’t squishing him, even if this sudden proximity was weird and intimate and a bit uncomfortable because of it. His systems were starting to take in the data — Prowl’s heat and weight and the gentle sensation of his fans washing over him — and anticipating other things. Two-Tone’s still aching spine heated up in anticipation. “This is nice but I would’ve appreciated a bit of warning. You gonna frag me?”

“Yes,” Prowl answered bluntly. “But first I am going to feed you.”

“Can feed myself. Right now I’d rather you frag me.”

“I want to feed you.”

Two-Tone didn’t have any counter-argument to that. Prowl had bought him to indulge his wants. Maybe this had been what that one reviewer had meant when they’d called Prowl really kinky for the second night? Was this kinky? Or was this just Prowl? Two-Tone didn’t even know enough to know whether this was a thing. “Kinky”, in his research prior to putting himself up for sale, meant things like being tied up and spanked. He’d seen some pretty detailed pictures of darkly colored “dungeons” with all sorts of various ways of tying up a mech and flogging him, or whatever. So far, Prowl’s apartment had been the exact opposite of a dungeon, airy and starkly white with only two pieces of furniture.

“Sure mech,” he acquiesced. It wouldn’t do any harm, and he could look up if feeding was a kink later.

Assuming he wasn’t about to get his crash course in Prowl’s various kinks.

With a hum, Prowl cradled the back of the smaller mech’s head. Unsure what to do with his hands, Two-Tone ended up holding onto the armor around Prowl’s hips.

“Open,” Prowl murmured. Two-Tone obeyed, trying not to squirm. He’d been unprepared for the feeling of complete helplessness. He couldn’t do anything but accept the sip of mildly sour energon Prowl poured carefully into his mouth. He couldn’t help but whimper.

Prowl set the cube aside to stroke down Two-Tone’s throat, which didn’t exactly help alleviate the helpless feeling. “Shh,” Prowl soothed. “Just swallow. Good mech,” he praised awkwardly when Two-Tone did so. “Relax. I want… to do things to you, with you, but I’m not going to hurt you. I will feel no pleasure from seeing you purge your tanks.” He petted down Two-Tone’s spine, which despite his current predicament, had the additional effect of reminding him they were going to frag. And his systems had decided last night that they really liked fragging. Charge crackled over his plating. “Good. That’s what I want you to feel. Let me do all the work for you. Open.”

Two-Tone still felt helpless, even uncomfortably so, but he was aroused too. Prowl brushed one finger from the hand cradling his helm over the protective plating of the smaller mech’s topmost port. With a moan, Two-Tone arched into the touch, the cover sliding aside to let Prowl’s pinky press against the port itself. His fans clicked on, buzzing in the quiet room. Prowl watched, almost motionlessly as the younger mech came undone with almost no effort on his part. Even his pinky stilled, providing a constant pressure on Two-Tone’s port, but nothing else. Desperately aroused, he wiggled trying to get some stimulation, but Prowl tightened his grip on his neck and helm, bringing those movements to a halt. Over his own mewling cries and plating-rattling shudders, Two-Tone heard the sound of all the covers over his ports sliding open. Shrrr-click! Shrrr-click! Shrrr-click! Shrrr-click! Shrrr-click!

Two-Tone’s hands clenched against the plating of Prowl’s hips. He was helpless, held securely in the grip of a mech who just wanted to prolong this torturous pleasure. Two-Tone looked up into Prowl’s optics to see them turn dark yellow with desire, though his expression remained otherwise unchanged. He was enjoying this, enjoying Two-Tone’s helplessness and desire.

“Please,” Two-Tone begged, doorwings beating the air as though he could get some stimulation from the air currents. He needed more stimulation. He could overload just on the friction of Prowl’s finger on the sensitive components of the port, but Prowl refused to provide anything but gentle, firm pressure. “Please.”

“Drink first.”

This time he opened his mouth eagerly, and the helplessness he felt as Prowl poured a sip in only heightened his charge. Sparks danced between them, pinging against sensors making Two-Tone pour out more heat, more arousal into the air, as he swallowed.

He was rewarded with that finger on his port moving, grinding, ever so slightly. It still made him arch in Prowl’s hard grip with a howl of pleasure.

Prowl waited until Two-Tone had gone limp and squirming for more before ordering him to “Open.”

Two-Tone gasped as he did so.

This time Prowl leaned in to press his face against Two-Tone’s throat as he swallowed, pressing sharp canine teeth against his intake tube — THREAT! went Two-Tone’s self-preservation subroutines, but he was so aroused, lost in pleasure that all he felt was warmth and touch and that helplessness that just pushed his arousal higher.

His vision was whiting out, optic-band going into protective shutdown.

“Open,” Prowl ordered again and with a gasp Two-Tone did so.

He was so lost, so desperate, he didn’t even notice when they finished the cube and Prowl set it aside. He did notice when the gentle pressure against his port was replaced by the snug, sharp prongs of a plug. Pressure was replaced by electricity and Two-Tone wailed in desire/relief.

Carelessly Prowl broke through his firewalls and Two-Tone was smothered by the immense processing power Prowl brought to the connection. It was like being held physically, helpless and aroused. Prowl’s enjoyment of his state became his own, smoothly integrating into his own desires as their processors synced.

This time, Prowl just held him instead of overwhelming him, feeding him the emotions/stimulation to drive their pleasure higher, deeper.

Overload for me, Prowl commanded.

The breakers tripped. Two-Tone screamed.

*

*

*

When Two-tone rebooted, he could still feel Prowl’s processors, though the mech was no longer holding Two-Tone helpless and helplessly aroused and unable to think. It was, he thought, the difference between seeing a mountain and being trapped under it.

“Interesting analogy,” Prowl murmured.

Two-Tone fast-booted his optic band, to stare at Prowl incredulously. Rude!

Prowl sighed. “I usually am. Unfortunately.”

“If you’re gonna stay networked,” Two-Tone snapped before Prowl could respond to the thought, “at least stop answering me before I speak.”

Prowl’s head tilted in a manner that was more mechanimalistic than mech-like. “Why?”

Two-Tone knew he didn’t have a really good answer to that question. It was like asking why do you yawn when you see other people yawn? There just wasn’t a reason, except you did.

“I don’t yawn when I see other mechs do so,” Prowl said matter of factly. “I never have seen the purpose. So if you think I should wait for you to speak before responding while we are networked, you will have to provide an actual reason.”

“How about because I said so?” Two-Tone snapped again, preempting Prowl’s response to his thoughts.

“I currently own you, not the other way around,” Prowl pointed out. “You will need to come up with a different reason.”

Two-Tone didn’t have another reason. He wished he did, because it was bad enough to have Prowl invasively looking at his every thought while — he scratched uselessly against Prowl’s firewalls — Two-Tone couldn’t see even a hint of what went on in Prowl’s processor. Having Prowl respond to those thoughts instead of having a normal conversation made Two-Tone really uncomfortable.

Prowl’s expression didn’t change, but his doors lowered. “That is a reason. I do not wish to cause you true discomfort.”

Really? There was an uncomfortable beat of silence while Two-Tone expected Prowl to respond, but Prowl didn’t.

Apparently really.

“So why are you still networking with me?” Two-Tone finally asked the question he’d woken up with. “I thought interfacing was just… plug - data exchange - overload - unplug.”

“It usually is, if literature is to be believed,” Prowl said. Which Two-Tone knew because he’d been reading all he could. Ricochet’d warned him that anyone who bought him wouldn’t explain things to him, even though he was a virgin and as such had no experience to draw on. “This, however, is how I experienced data exchange for vorn while various scientists analysed my thought processes, followed my development, reviewed my abilities, and ultimately attempted to figure out what my flaws meant for the viability of their design. I have been told that constant networking should have been traumatizing for me and made me wish to avoid any prolonged contact with others’ minds, but instead I find it comforting. Familiar.” He paused, tilting his head in that mechanimalistic manner again. “I refuse to be the subordinate processor; I suppose that could be considered a form of trauma avoidance.”

Two-Tone supposed this was just a thing he’d have to get used to then.

“Come here,” Prowl ordered, though they were still very close. “Here,” he said more emphatically, patting the space directly next to his thigh. Two-Tone moved to that spot. “Kneel, hands on your thighs.” As soon as Two-Tone had done so, Prowl put his hand behind his neck and pushed him down. “Turn your head,” Prowl murmured as Two-Tone’s face met the white plating of Prowl’s thigh. The whole position put him off-balance and he flailed. Prowl caught his hands, and with a rev of his engine pulled them behind his back. It was an awkward, borderline painful stretch, mostly in his doorwings, which had to be pushed up so his hands could be pulled in place. “Give me a safeword.”

“Neon,” Two-Tone blurted out loud and over their connection. He was mildly uncomfortable and uncertain, but this was more weird and possessive than frightening. Then he realized he didn’t know why that state was neon and flailed, more mentally than physically.

“Good. As you’ve noticed I’ve made a few edits to your automatic reactions,” Prowl said. His tone wasn’t soothing, but Two-Tone was receiving the packets of attempting reassurance data Prowl was sending him. They were only mildly successful. “I haven’t deleted anything, but from now on when I ask for a word, you will give me one of four responses. Helium if you are perfectly fine and comfortable mentally and physically. Neon if what I am doing makes you physically or mentally uncomfortable but you are willing or desire me to continue. Argon if you wish me to stop that particular activity but do not wish to bring an end to all activities altogether. Caesium if all activities need to stop immediately. In addition to now being programmed to answer with these words if I ask, you may at any time use them, verbally or via network connection, to communicate those conditions, even if your current orders are not to speak. Understand?”

Yes.

“By your own request, you must speak out loud.”

“Yes,” Two-Tone gasped out.

“Good. Spread your knees a bit more, you will be more comfortable in this position.” As Two-Tone did so — and yes that was somewhat more comfortable, his torso didn’t feel so squished — Prowl changed which hand he was holding the smaller mech’s hands in place with, then stroked down his spine over the covered ports with the other. “Open these for me.”

Electricity crackled over his plating as Two-Tone obeyed. They’d just finished fragging a breem ago!

“If that is an objection, you need to say something, or formulate it as one of those four safewords.” Prowl played his claws over the delicate components.

Zing! went Two-Tone’s entire sensor net. Nope! No objections.

He wiggled — tried to wiggle, but Prowl’s grip held him firmly. That was becoming a theme, he thought raggedly — as Prowl worked his way downward.

This was different. Mentally Prowl kept his distance, focusing on driving Two-Tone crazy with pressure and friction and gentle pricking of his claws. Gasping and twitching, Two-Tone was pushed closer and closer to overload. Fans roared.

Two-Tone panted.

Suddenly Prowl pushed against the still-sealed lowermost port, just above the end of his spinal struts. It was… different, muffled, and Two-Tone arched into it, trying for more stimulation. Sparks flew. Two-Tone’s hands clenched and pulled, but Prowl still held them tight. He was close, he was sooo close. Distantly he felt Prowl’s pleasure at his state. Prowl wasn’t following him to overload this time, drawing pleasure solely from the control he had over Two-Tone’s reactions.

Then all thoughts of what Prowl was feeling were forced out of his processor when Prowl drove his claws through the thin mylar. Pain/pleasure sparked along Two-Tone’s neural net and he howled.

When the electric onslaught faded Two-Tone found himself sprawled across Prowl’s lap, bleeding heat into the air. Prowl regarded him, mentally and visually, the image of himself slumped awkwardly echoing down their connection. There was nothing awkward in how he smoothed his hands over the smaller mech’s plating, intimate and soothing, a siren’s song to just lay there and recover.

“Not that I’m complaining,” Two-Tone rasped a few kliks later. Recovery was all well and good, but curiosity came more naturally to him. “Why’d you save that one for last?”

“There was no point in piercing it last night,” Prowl answered. “Because of a factory defect, I only have five cords. However I need it open eventually, and equally I saw no point in waiting. I thought you enjoyed the minor encore.”

Ooooh yeah he had.

He was also very much enjoying being sprawled across Prowl’s lap while the white mech petted him. Prowl might be completely inadequate at things like conversation, asking permission, and personal space, but he was fantastic at post-coital cuddling. It made Two-Tone sorry he’d missed it last night after being knocked offline by the amazing overload he’d gotten when Prowl had finally plugged into him fully.

Two-Tone was starting to get how this worked. Prowl was as unsociable, abrasive and possessive as he’d self-described himself in his profile. Two-Tone would just have to live with him being presumptive, grabby and bossy. But if he tolerated Prowl’s quirks and did what he was told to do, he was going to have a fantastic time the next fifty vorn.

That is my intent, Prowl sent down their networked connection. In the post-overload bliss, Two-Tone didn’t even care that it was mildly invasive. He would get used to it.

Even with Prowl’s impenetrable firewalls, Two-Tone could feel the mech’s possessive pleasure, the edges of fantasies unformed. Holding him down and tying him up and making him scream in pleasure. Learning to play him like Two-Tone was looking forward to playing the violino in the case.

Two-Tone shuddered, but let himself be lured into recharge by the mech’s current gentleness. He yawned.

That’s right. Sleep.

*

*

*

Two-Tone didn’t so much wake, as was forced to reboot. Surprise and… mostly surprise, had him flailing as he suddenly went from offline in recharge to entirely awake under someone else’s control.

“Wake up,” Prowl commanded unnecessarily. “You have an appointment this morning.”

“You couldn’t have told me this last cycle?” was Two-Tone’s groaned answer.

He onlined his optic band to see Prowl, already standing next to the berth, tilting his head as he regarded his… what did Prowl think he was? A slave? Probably. Distantly he felt Prowl’s processors, those blank fortress walls cutting him off from seeing what was inside and resigned himself to never knowing, because he wasn’t going to ask and Prowl was adhering to his promise not to respond to Two-Tone’s thoughts.

Instead of answering Prowl responded to the verbal question he’d been asked with a question of his own: “Why?”

That just made Two-Tone groan again. He had a feeling that “because it would have been polite” was not a good enough reason to affect Prowl.

Breakfast was energon with ascorbic acid again for Two-Tone, poured into his mouth — gently and carefully — while held down and helpless again, though this time Prowl refrained from turning it more sexual than necessary. Maybe because he still hadn’t unplugged from last night.

Constant networking wasn’t too bad, really. It was just weird and invasive. Was that what that one reviewer had meant when they’d called Prowl kinky on the cycle after? His refusal to disconnect immediately after if his lover stayed with him? Was that “kinky”?

Prowl was gentle when it did come time for him to disconnect so they could leave. He held Two-Tone close, like he was something precious and breakable, and carefully pulled the plug from the port at the top of his neck. He held Two-Tone silently through the resulting tremors, providing a comforting engine pitch that was soothing to hear/feel. Wow… invasive and uncomfortable, true, but he actually missed the sense of Prowl’s mind casually riffling through his own.

“Follow me,” Prowl ordered as soon as Two-Tone was alright to stand on his own again.

Prowl didn’t bother explaining what sort of appointment he could have. Two-Tone didn’t figure it out until they pulled up in front of a small clinic and transformed. Prowl had scheduled him for a medical checkup?

They breezed by the other cops in the waiting room — the precinct must be nearby. One of them catcalled as Prowl and Two-Tone passed, calling for him to leave the frigid psychopath for someone who actually knew how to set up a proper tandem network connection. Prowl ignored him; Two-Tone tried to, but ended up hurrying up so that he could use Prowl’s somewhat larger frame to hide.

“We have an appointment,” Prowl announced to the nurse at the check in station. Two-Tone put Prowl between himself and the rest of the room.

“Of course,” the nurse smiled and didn’t seem bothered when Prowl didn’t return it. “On time as always. I’ll take you to a room.

Two-Tone was glad not to have to stay in the waiting room with the other mechs. They were police officers! They couldn’t be bad, not like the mechs he and Ricochet had screened and who hadn’t passed Ricochet’s criteria of “non-skeezy”, but that comment had made him uncomfortable.

The room had a place for the patient to sit, and a place for the medic to sit when he came in. There was no place for a partner or caretaker to sit. Two-Tone smiled, watching Prowl do what Ricochet — who often bullied his way into the room when Two-Tone had gotten checkups back home — always did and lean against the wall, protectively hovering over Two-Tone to glare at the as yet unarrived medic.

Unlike Ricochet, Prowl didn’t offer any conversation or similar to help Two-Tone deal with his nervousness.

The medic, when he came in, was a blocky, red and white modified medical model. He couldn’t smile, because his face consisted of a curved mask set below a pair of optics, themselves covered by a clear protective shield. It didn’t matter. He smiled at Two-Tone anyway. “Hello. I’m First Aid. You’re here for me to get a baseline for your general health and wellness.”

“Hi, I’m Two-Tone.”

First Aid smiled again. “Pleased to meet you. This is pretty unusual but you’re registered as Prowl’s peripheral spouse. He’s already told me how this came to be. Do you have anything to add to your records?”

“I’m a spark twin. Split.” Two-Tone fidgeted. “I don’t know if he would have mentioned that.”

“He had, and I’m familiar with, and have informed him of what that means. Are you aware?”

“Yeah. I can’t bond or sparkshare unless Rico’s with me too. We talked about it.”

“Alright. Let’s get started.” First Aid looked at Prowl, suddenly much less friendly. “You. Out. Wait in the hall.”

Two-Tone braced himself for the objection. Ricochet would have exploded at being ordered out of Two-Tone’s examination room. But Prowl obeyed silently, running a possessive hand down Two-Tone’s arm on his way past. The door closed and Two-Tone looked back at First Aid to see the medic glaring at the closed door.

But he shook it off and sighed. He smiled again, this time feeling much more serious, at Two-Tone. “Are you okay?”

What? “Yeah. There a reason I shouldn’t be?”

First Aid sighed. “I need to access your diagnostics.” Medical scans only used the ports on a mech’s back in emergencies; otherwise medics were oathbound to use a barrier device that both mechs plugged into from one of the cords on their wrists. The device provided auxiliary firewalls, blocking the patient from the medic’s mind and limiting the medic’s access to the patient’s. While First Aid retrieved the device — which just looked like a black box with a pair of blinking lights and a vent on the side to disperse heat — and Two-Tone unspooled the longest of his cables, First Aid sighed and answered the question.

“I can’t go into the medical details, because of privacy, you understand. The same reason I kicked him out during your check up…”

“I understand,” Two-Tone said, thinking that, while he appreciated the thought on First Aid’s part, Prowl was just going to peruse the memory at his leisure later so it had been a mostly useless gesture.

Which definitely fell under the category of weird and invasive. Ricochet might have occasionally made a habit of practically stalking Two-Tone’s every move in the name of protecting him, but at least his thoughts and memories had been his own.

“Prowl has a… I guess you could call it a personality disorder. Without going into details, it makes him self-centered, unable to connect socially with other mechs, and disconnected from his own emotions. I’ve been worried about you. You’ve already been in his life two cycles longer than any of his other,” something about the medic’s tone or posture spoke of distaste (and what was wrong with selling the only thing he had that was worth anything to try and change his life?), “partners. I just wanted to make sure he hadn’t frightened or hurt you.”

“He’s been okay, I guess. Bossy, but he hasn’t scared me at all.” The weirdest thing was the constant connection, and Prowl’s tendency to just install or delete minor things from his processor without warning, but they’d discussed processor control before signing the contract. Two-Tone would have liked some warnings, but he figured he’d technically agreed to it already. Nothing at all like all the horror stories Ricochet had told him when his twin was still trying to talk him out of putting himself up for sale.

“Alright. It’s not like it’s my place to protest as long as you’re alright with whatever he’s doing, just remember you do have rights. You can tell him no and he is legally required to abide, no matter what sort of contract the two of you have signed.”

“Okay.”

“Two-Tone. I’m serious. He does not have the right to force himself on you, or hurt you in any way, no matter what your current arrangement. Tell me you understand this.

It was a lecture, but Two-Tone could tell First Aid actually cared about this. “I get it. I understand.”

“Good.” They both plugged into the device. “Let’s see your diagnostics.”

Unlike Prowl, whose access was unfettered, and as such he made Two-Tone feel like he was either being smothered by Prowl’s processing power, or like he was being observed through a sniper’s scope, First Aid’s simply was a polite window on his HUD with the text from his diagnostics scrolling by.

First Aid poked and prodded Two-Tone’s frame, matching his reactions to the diagnostics to make sure they were accurate, and asked all the same questions any other medic ever had, then asked for the name of Two-Tone’s normal primary care physician in Polyhex so he could have the medical files forwarded.

“No advanced firewalls. Still factory standard,” First Aid commented. “Now that you’re sexually active, I should install some.”

“He’ll just take them off.” Two-Tone said, shifting uncomfortably. “We agreed that I wouldn’t have any while I belonged to him.”

“Hmm… I can’t say I’m surprised.” First Aid sighed. “I can assure you that his processor is scrupulously free of viruses. Don’t take any other partners until you’ve had proper firewalls installed. Without them you’ve got no protection against anything they might be carrying.”

“Yeah we’ve covered that.”

“I’m going to give you my number,” First Aid said, pushing a contact request file across the connection. “If you have any trouble, I want you to call me.”

Without the software to operate his onboard communications, Two-Tone could save the file but not open it as a contact. He couldn’t even open a note-file to put a sticky on his HUD to remind him to save the number to his contacts when he next had access to Prowl’s tablet because he did not have the notes app. “Could I get that written on a data chip?”

*

*

*

Prowl didn’t have one script for dealing with Barricade.

Prowl had exactly two thousand seven hundred and forty three scripts for dealing with Barricade. Two hundred and twenty one of them were for randomly running into his current partner and superior officer in a hallway, indexed by location and circumstances. He had thirty one scripts regarding dealing with Barricade in some sort of medical context.

None of them quite fit this situation.

“Break your new plaything already? That has to be a record,” Barricade said as he sidled up to Prowl, outside First Aid’s examination room.

Prowl wanted to snap at him. Two-Tone belonged to him. But Barricade was his partner and superior officer. Prowl had no less than six reminders on his HUD not to snap at superior officers for any reason. And an additional three reminding him that if he lost another partner, he was going to be evaluated for reconditioning. Again.

“We are here for his initial medical assessment,” Prowl informed him evenly.

Barricade leered.

Which only made Prowl want to rip his face off. Two-Tone was his. The thought of Barricade touching Two-Tone made him… Prowl didn’t know what that thought did to him, other than if it happened he was going to murder Barricade, threat of reconditioning or no.

There was, in his evaluation, no further point in actually talking to the other officer, since he couldn’t just tell him to go away.

Barricade obviously felt differently. “So how is he? You take all of them at once, or are you going slowly since you have the time? One by one?”

Prowl didn’t care about privacy, much less Two-Tone’s privacy, but he did not want to talk about his new toy with Barricade at all. “None of your business.”

“Maybe I should ask him.”

Script. Prowl needed a script. Because he was quite certain that “Don’t talk to him,” was not in any permutation of any appropriate script.

Barricade only smiled wide. “Can’t tell me what to do,” he sing-songed. “Maybe we should ask him together, hmm? Find out just which one of us he prefers. Like there’s any doubt, since he wouldn’t even be in your berth if you weren’t paying… how much are you paying again? I’m curious how much such a sweet looking backside goes for right now. Maybe he’d like to make some extra.”

Prowl’s optics narrowed, but his truly impressive growl was interrupted on the first note by an undignified squawk as he was yanked backwards by his doorwing. He barely had time to register Barricade’s smirk before he was thrown into the exam room’s chair and First Aid slammed the door, cutting Prowl off from the hallway.

Attacking medics was not allowed, on threat of reconditioning, so he settled and looked at First Aid curiously. What was this about?

“There are some things you do not uninstall from a mech’s hard drive for any reason, Prowl,” First Aid hissed.

Prowl blinked. If he didn’t know better he’d think First Aid was angry. But First Aid didn’t get angry. Forceful occasionally, but true anger was something Prowl hadn’t thought him capable of. What was he supposed to say?

Two-Tone was still sitting on the examination table, just as confused.

Apparently silence was not the correct response. “What if there’d been an emergency? Even completely setting aside for the moment the likelihood that you’re the one he’d need help against, he needs to be able to call in case something unexpected happens!”

Prowl did have a script for dealing with First Aid. One script. It was all he needed: on threat of reconditioning, agree with everything the medic says. But Two-Tone was his. “The tablet—”

“Isn’t enough,” First Aid interrupted. “What if it’s lost, or broken, or otherwise unavailable? The tablet does not cover every contingency. And let’s return for the moment to the case where you are the problem.”

Prowl did not think he was a problem or danger to Two-Tone. He wasn’t going to damage his toy, had given him the safewords and ensured he’d use them. Two-Tone belonged to him though. He could do what he wanted, within what was allowed by the law, as long as Two-Tone didn’t use a safeword to object. “I am not a threat to Two-Tone. I bought him. I am not going to damage him.”

First Aid actually growled. Interesting. “That level of helplessness is not allowed. You may have bought him — which itself I find morally questionable — but that does not entitle you to treat him like he is solely your plaything. The fact that you are forbidding him from installing firewalls is bad enough!”

“You are well aware of my kinks regarding mental openness.”

“I am aware, as much as I sometimes wish otherwise. Sealbreaking is your kink,” the medic scoffed. “A lack of firewalls is your fetish.” Prowl had no counter argument to that, given the respective definitions of the words. “And I am not objecting to that because you have already both discussed it and taken appropriate precautions to protect him.” Mine, Prowl thought. Even if the firewalls hadn’t been an issue, he would not have allowed his toy other partners while he owned him. “But this sort of helplessness is not allowed, you hear me? There are certain programs you do not uninstall from a processor. Ever.”

When he’d taken the programming for communications, Prowl had considered emergencies, but thought that leaving Two-Tone access via the tablet was enough. After all, there would be no emergencies while Prowl was present, and Two-Tone would have access to the computer the rest of the time. But First Aid did have a point, even if that (very logical) objection did not seem to be what was upsetting the medic. He liked helplessness in his sexual partners, holding them down, drowning them in pleasure, and playing their frames until they screamed and past experience (including the experiences he had already had interfacing with Two-Tone) had indicated that they enjoyed the treatment. But First Aid seemed to think he had gone too far this time.

Okay, new rule: There are certain programs he was not allowed to uninstall from a mech’s processor under any circumstance. Using prisoner protocols to block access to them, however, should still be alright, as long as said protocols weren’t in use while Prowl was not present and would deactivate if Two-Tone used the caesium safeword.

All he needed now was to know which programs were off limits. “Do you have a list?”

First Aid made a sound of frustration. Which was interesting because, like anger, Prowl had never seen First Aid frustrated by anything. He wasn’t sure what First Aid could be frustrated at though; Prowl had agreed to the new boundary.

In a manner that looked tentative, Two-Tone reached out to touch the medic’s arm. “Hey,” he said quietly. “No real harm. You put the essentials back, he doesn’t take them away again, and we’re all good, right?”

That deflated the medic. He turned back to his patient. “Two-Tone, sweetie, this is serious. Why are you okay with it?”

Two-Tone was looking at Prowl, which as far as Prowl knew was a breach of conversational etiquette. You looked at who you were talking to, but you didn’t stare. “Because he’s trying, and I don’t want to go back.”

First Aid didn’t have anything to say to that and finished the check up, and started pulling out backup copies of whatever he deemed “essentials”. Prowl started to get up out of the chair, but First Aid snapped at him to stay right there mister, so instead he pulled up the arrest protocols that would cut off a suspect’s access to communications and other programs and made a copy to start modifying.

Right now they were set to activate upon being installed and deactivated only by the jail warden’s authorization code, upon which time they would self-delete when the suspect was released. This did not suit Prowl’s purposes. First he got rid of the self-deletion commands then turned his attention to the trickier programming of activation and deactivation triggers. Proximity was not a valid trigger. Time, however, was. He programmed it so that Two-Tone could not access anything during the joors where Prowl was home, with several breems on either side as a grace period in case Prowl needed to leave early or got home late, or to allow Two-Tone to exit a conversation gracefully when Prowl did arrive. Then he programmed both his own authorization code and Two-Tone’s use of the caesium safeword as deactivation triggers, which would not allow the restrictive programming to become active again until Prowl’s authorization code was used to reactivate it. Then he set his tactical systems to analysing and debugging the new program right as First Aid was finishing up and giving Two-Tone his contact information.

“And remember not to hesitate to call me if you need anything,” First Aid glared in Prowl’s direction. “I mean it. Anything.”

“Okay.”

Prowl had hoped Barricade would have lost interest in harassing him while First Aid said his piece, but nope. As soon as he opened the door, there he was: lounging against the wall looking smug and gleeful.

His smile widened when he saw Two-Tone following behind Prowl. “Hello!”

Prowl almost snapped again, but First Aid glared. Right. Social interaction was healthy, and overly possessive behavior in public was not. Even if Barricade was talking to his toy.

“Hello,” said the smaller mech.

“I’m Barricade. I work with Prowl.”

“Oh,” Two-Tone brightened, looking more confident. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise. Let me give you my number, that way you can call me and we can talk later,” Barricade smiled and Prowl felt his own claws dig into his palm and forced himself to unclench his hands.

“Okay. Thank you.”

Satisfied, First Aid ducked back into the exam room, leaving them to it.

As soon as the door had closed, Prowl grabbed Two-Tone’s arm and pulled him away from Barricade and down the corridor. “Goodbye, Barricade. We have another appointment soon.”

Only partially a deception. It wasn’t precisely an appointment, but Prowl had scheduled time to perform association training for Two-Tone in regards to tolerating Prowl’s desire to be constantly networked.

“Of course,” Barricade leered where Two-Tone couldn’t see. I am not allowed to rip my partner’s face off, Prowl reminded himself. “I wouldn’t want to make you late.”

“Hey,” Two-Tone protested when they when they turned the corner, out of Barricade’s sight. “That—”

“Don’t talk to him,” Prowl ordered sharply.

“Why not?”

Because I said so, which to Prowl was more than enough reason. Two-Tone was his; he should obey. Because it was what Prowl wanted should be all the reason Two-Tone needed. He suspected his toy would want additional reasons, however, and fortunately Prowl had them, and if providing them would be of any help in keeping Two-Tone away from Barricade and vice versa, then it was only logical he do so.

“His MO is to rescue young, impressionable, inexperienced mechs,” like you, “from the attentions of a more forward sexual aggressor,” like me, “then leverage one-sided network connections with his victim in exchange for his help.”

“You’re talking like he’s some sort of… sexual predator.”

Prowl had never applied that definition to Barricade before, but found the term extremely apt. “The fact that what he does is legal does not make the behavior any less predatory.”

Two-Tone trotted a few steps so he was walking next to Prowl. “What about what you do? It’s legal too, but is it predatory?”

“First Aid thinks so.”

*

*

*

“…After that we just went to a nearby park, one with lovers’ nooks,” Two-Tone finished up narrating his adventure with the doctor’s visit to Ricochet. His breakfast had been waiting for him again, this time on the table next to the berth. “I thought he was gonna frag me there but he just found an empty nook where we just sat under one of the crystal formations with me kinda laying across his lap and he networked, just like I was his favorite tablet, no making sparks. He petted me for almost two shifts, then we came home. He fragged me then. ALL the sparks. Hasn’t said more than twenty words.”

“So you’ve got communications now?”

“Communications, contacts, subspace access, camera and screenshots, navigation, alarms, diagnostics display, HUD reminders. Still none of the fun extras; they ain’t allowed. He installed this program that locks it all down just after he gets home from work, then unlocks it just after he leaves.” Two-Tone hummed happily. StoryDrive, one of the two apps Prowl had given him access to on the tablet that he’d never heard of before, had turned out to be a subscription to both Praxus’ and Cybertron’s main digital libraries, complete with the ability to text-chat live with a librarian. Which is what he was doing now, trying to track down a book or six on the violino. Orion was great help! Already he had three, mostly on the history of the instrument. “Supposedly I can turn the blocker off if needed, unlock my apps, but if I do so outside an emergency then there’ll be consequences.”

“But you’re still okay?”

“More than,” Two-Tone said. “I don’t really get what First Aid and you are so worried about. He’s possessive and weird, but so are you, bro.”

“Protective,” Ricochet corrected, voice turning a bit tinny as the tablet’s speakers adjusted. Despite having access to it, Two-Tone thought he really shouldn’t be using his onboard comsuite. First Aid had gotten it back for him so he could call in case of emergencies. Prowl had acquiesced, seemingly just because the medic was upset, and come up with a new way to enforce his will. Two-Tone thought that if he voluntarily refrained from using those programs as much as possible, he’d be doing his part to keep them both happy. “I ain’t possessive.”

“But you don’t deny you’re weird.”

“Che.” In the background Two-Tone heard the shower switch on; Ricochet was definitely using his onboard comsuite to talk while he got ready to report to training. “You have any plans for this cycle? At least until he gets home — after that your plans are to indulge his every whim and frag as many times as possible.”

Two-Tone laughed. “Well, yeah. Wouldn’t you take advantage, if you were me? Whatever his failings, he is fantastic in the berth. As for before he gets home: first I’m supposed to put everything I’ve currently got piled up on the table next to the bed in a box that fits under it, then I,” he made a happy rev of his engine, “have reading to do. About the violino. I have,” he checked his library queue and saw the librarian had added another book, “ four books, all about this wonderful, marvelous instrument. History, construction and maintenance, basic skills. The librarian has a bunch of suggestions for things on NetVid that might help too.” More happy revving.

“Well I’m glad to see things are working out for you.” The shower cut off. “Call me if you get in trouble. You know I will come out to Praxus and beat his aft if I need to.”

“Yeah I know it. Later Rico!”

“Bye Two-Twit.”

Two-Tone didn’t even let the old, obnoxious nickname bother him; he had a pile of books to read and vids he needed to watch!

When Prowl came home — several breems late; Two-Tone had been taking notes, but he’d had just enough warning to save his notes before his HUD was blanked by the restriction program — Two-Tone was curled up on the bed watching a violino soloist swaying to something jazzy. He couldn’t wait to be able to do that!

He didn’t even notice Prowl had actually gotten home until the larger mech sat on the bed next to him, placing his hand possessively between Two-Tone’s smaller doorwings. Willing and eager, Two-Tone slid his panels aside, waving his doorwings happily. “I’ll turn this off.”

“Finish it,” Prowl ordered, unspooling one of his cables with a soft hiss and plugging into Two-Tone’s topmost port. Immediately the weight of Prowl’s regard pressed against Two-Tone’s mind. Two-Tone got the strange double image of looking down on himself from Prowl’s perspective, and could feel Prowl watching the violino player through his optic band.

Two-Tone hummed contentedly when Prowl started to pet him. He had to wonder if that’s what the previous cycle at the park had been for.

Then, like now, they really hadn’t done anything physical, just sat there — not too differently than they were now — and connected. Two-Tone had almost just dozed, sprawled over Prowl’s lap, and enjoyed being petted. The park had been sunny and warm and pleasant. He’d even enjoyed Prowl’s casual riffling through his thoughts. He had watched as Prowl installed the restrictions on the apps First Aid had restored. It had been the opposite of unpleasant. And now Two-Tone looked forward to feeling Prowl’s mind against his.

Possessive and restrictive and invasive as Prowl was, Two-Tone was starting to feel like a favored pet rather than a slave.

It’s a good word. Prowl’s mental voice was no longer disturbing, though Two-Tone still had issues with Prowl responding verbally to unspoken thoughts. Descriptive and as potentially accurate as “slave”, but with different connotations. Would you prefer I use it?

Two-Tone had been prepared to be called much worse than even “slave”. Sure, mech. Anything you want me to call you?

Prowl.

That settled that.

Of course Prowl couldn’t let the moment pass without doing something weird and invasive.

Two-Tone felt the mech’s remaining cables spill from his wrist out over his back. They wiggled and twitched, looking for his ports of their own accord but mostly only succeeding in dragging themselves over the sensitive and sensitized components teasingly. Two-Tone shivered, electricity starting to build beneath his plating in anticipation. Even the sight of himself, top port filled, through Prowl’s perspective, was wanton and erotic.

Mine.

And, oh right. Owned.

It wasn’t enough to drag him away from watching the violino player, not if Prowl wasn’t going to demand his attention. She looked so serene, so consumed by the music and movement… That was what he wanted, more than anything in existence.

Prowl was making a good case for runner up though, in Two-Tone’s desires. Even absorbed in watching the complicated bow work, he mewed and his fans clicked on to spill excess heat when Prowl started guiding his cords in their search for Two-Tone’s ports, opening up the bandwidth between them. He couldn’t help but hiss, or gasp or mew as each one clicked home, filling him up. He could distantly feel Prowl’s desire, his own arousal at what he was doing, but it wasn’t an all-consuming onslaught of electric sensations that blocked out the physical ones, and for the first time Two-Tone could really feel how the sharp prongs sat in his receptors, snug and tight. He felt the hair-thin feeler-wires (which so far Prowl had held back during casual networking) unfurling from the sides of those prongs and wiggling into his circuits, intertwining with his nervous system, making him physically as well as mentally one of Prowl’s systems.

Prowl’s mind expanded into Two-Tone’s processors, using his pet’s random access memory to run his own programs.

And yet when Two-Tone sent the thought that maybe he should be paying attention to Prowl, to whatever he was using Two-Tone’s hard drive for, instead of the sensuous curves and lines of a stranger dancing on the tablet’s screen, he got back the sharp command to finish watching his vid.

So he was a part of Prowl that laid there, enjoying, nearly lost in the music. Prowl… shuddered, his own fans clicking on and armor flaring to show off the play of electricity over his struts and wires.

It sounds different, listening through your systems… The thought, no different than hundreds they had exchanged in the park, no different than the ones they had just previously exchanged, trickled down the wide-open connections as data that set fire to sensors and pushed both their charge higher. Music, sensation, data… it was too much for Two-Tone. He overloaded as the song hit its crescendo.

Prowl kept him from crashing and requiring a reboot, refusing to allow whatever he was doing be interrupted, so instead Two-Tone lay there, dazed and twitching, trying to remember which way was up.

He did cry out when Prowl popped open the cover on his right wrist and started pulling his cords out. They wiggled, curling and twisting together, winding around Prowl’s fingers without directed purpose. Even if the tiny myomer muscular wires had been strong enough to lift and heft themselves over Prowl’s shoulders or around his waist, Two-Tone didn’t have the control. They responded to electricity automatically, but Two-Tone didn’t have the circuits to control the electric flow down the wires sheathing his data cables. The myomer wires were expanding and contracting in an almost random manner depending on data flow and EM fluctuations in their fields. Two-Tone had heard of mechs with thicker, more developed data cords, who had circuits running down their length to control them consciously, and armor to protect those circuits, turning them into truly prehensile limbs, but he wasn’t one of them. His design left the thousands, hundreds of thousands of myomer wires exposed to Prowl’s gentle claws, making the still mostly-insensate Two-Tone scream as his entire neural network was turned to pleasure.

Prowl hummed in satisfaction, that too thrumming through Two-Tone’s mind and making him writhe.

Desperately he scratched at Prowl’s firewalls, weakly trying to flay the other’s mind and expose his inner workings as much as Two-Tone was exposed to his owner’s mental gaze. But all he succeeded in doing was eliciting an amused chuckle that vibrated across abused audios and circuits.

He screamed as it became too much and electricity erupted from his every wire and circuit, playing almost painfully across his plating. Darkness clawed at him but Prowl, relentless controlling Prowl, kept it at bay. Pleasure and pain became a single thing, a single sensation, and Prowl only hummed in pleasure.

Prowl wasn’t interested in taking Two-Tone’s cords and plugging them into his own back; the thought brought him no pleasure Two-Tone could see. Instead he played with them while his pet screamed and writhed. He separated them out, two and two and two, and braided them together, whiting out Two-Tone’s optic band in the process. He couldn’t even gather together enough processing power to beg. Prowl was using most of it, and occupying the rest with pleasure. It was an entirely different sort of helplessness, mental instead of just physical, one he couldn’t even pull together enough coherence to dislike.

He overloaded.

This time when he could think again, he could hear nothing but the twin roars of their overheated systems, Prowl panting hot breaths over his audial horn.

Mine, the thought bled into Two-Tone’s ragged and scattered ones. Mine. Mine. MINE.

He saw himself, Prowl’s vision imposing itself fully in Two-Tone’s sightless perceptions, pulled across the larger mech’s lap. Pleasingly helpless, owned, completely MINE to do with what he willed. Charge danced as constantly over Prowl’s plating as it did Two-Tone’s as he… the vision shattered into thousands of fantasies and Two-Tone’s systems couldn’t take it any longer…

He overloaded one last time, and this time even being slaved to Prowl’s systems and will couldn't keep him from crashing down into darkness.

*

*

*

Don’t move.

Two-Tone tried to obey as he finished his reboot sequence, but pleasure-pain shot through his cords. He twitched, sending that sensation cascading up the full-stretched- filled ports along his spine and pulling on endostructure and joints of his torso arms and doorwings. Pulling and aching, and then finally exploding with pleasure that sent him into an overload that was only partially aftershocks.

Beautiful.

Their fans roared in the quiet. Possessive-gentle, Prowl petted down the black plating of the smaller mech’s chest. Every circuit still felt electrified and raw and Two-Tone started to arch, lean into the touch, begging for stimulation but Prowl pressed on his bumper, holding him down.

Still. Let your systems recover, or you will hurt yourself. You are oversensitized and low on energy. Calm, and I will feed you.

Two-Tone let himself go limp in Prowl’s arms, who resumed his soothing petting after a klik.

As his systems calmed he became more aware of his position, and why every shift or shudder or twitch of doorwings sent pleasure/pain skittering down his sensornet and made it impossible to calm fully or convince his fans to shut off. Prowl had fully extended his cords from his wrist and braided them — he remembered that — and then used them to tie his hands and arms behind his back, knots climbing their way decoratively up his arms, through the (very sensitive!) gap at the edge of his doorwings where they locked to his side when he transformed, over the base of his doorwings, and to his shoulders. All four limbs were tied in a stretching, borderline painful position. Every time the cords crossed over his spinal struts, Prowl had knotted them to his own, locking them into the plugs. Two-Tone could feel the feelers on his own prongs digging into the treads of one of his tires, trying to find wires and circuits to tap into.

Prowl was holding him against his chest, wrapping his arms around the smaller mech to pet the central seams of his chest.

As soon as Two-Tone had taken in his position, evaluating the pleasures and pains of what Prowl had done to him while he’d been rebooting, Prowl asked for a word.

Argon, Two-Tone thought back, because he was tied very tightly, in a very intimate way and if he moved carelessly he could damage himself and he didn’t think he had the peace of mind or ability to stay still to tolerate Prowl doing anymore of… whatever this was, even if he didn’t have any more cords for him to use. Right now, though, he was tingly and mostly fine. He didn’t need Prowl to stop.

Belatedly realizing he still hadn’t turned on his optic band, he did so now, looking up into Prowl’s desire-darkened gold optics.

Good pet. Claws petted soothingly over his chest again. No more ties tonight. Fuel first, then I have other plans.

What sort of plans Prowl could still have with Two-Tone tied up like this, he couldn’t imagine. But Prowl’s desire sent shivers through his endostructure, and sparks of pleasure-pain through his doors, arms, plugs and cords.

Calm, Prowl reminded him. Calm, and open your mouth so you can drink.

Two-Tone obeyed and was rewarded with a gentle sip of ascorbic acid flavored energon. Suddenly fuel-hunger overwhelmed pleasure, pain, even the fact that his systems were still near-overload; all that mattered was getting that fuel. His fuel levels were only at 19%, but now climbing slowly, as long as he lay passively and let Prowl feed him.

He couldn’t even squirm at his own helplessness. If he squirmed, he sent electric sensations through his entire neural net and Prowl took the cube away until he calmed and their fans quieted.

He found himself slipping into a mental state that was almost trancelike, aroused and hovering on the edge of pain and helpless, with nothing to focus on except Prowl’s calm and soothing petting, claws stroking over his neck cables and intake tubes, and the cube of sour fuel.

Good pet.

When they were done, Prowl fed him a second, exactly the same. Good as it was, it kind of pulled Two-Tone out the trance… why did Prowl keep feeding him ascorbic acid flavored energon?... but the thought was dim and unformed and Two-Tone let himself float back into pleasure.

Perfect, Prowl purred possessively. Now… Two-Tone looked up into Prowl’s dark gold optics, and Prowl’s thought was stuttered to a halt by whatever he was seeing reflected in Two-Tone’s optic band. Mine, he thought instead. Prowl’s overload slammed into him down their wide open network connection without any further warning than that. Two-Tone howled as Prowl’s engine downshifted into a roar. Mine.

Their overload faded more slowly than before.

Perfect, Prowl thought again when they could both think coherent thoughts. Too perfect to keep calling you Two-Tone.

Wha’s wrong with m’name, Two-Tone slurred even in his thoughts, too many of his circuits still overenergized to support real data.

Nothing. It’s a perfectly good name, that Two-Tone could feel was a lie; Prowl’s disapproval was discernable despite his thought-words, but it’s not a pet’s name. He stroked down Two-Tone’s chest plating. He shifted, pushing Two-Tone off his chest and holding him up so he could slither out from behind him. Two-Tone tensed. Relax. I won’t drop you. Just stay calm and let me move you.

It was a conscious effort, because Prowl’s movements kept tugging gently at the cords secured in the ports on his back, which tugged at the network of knots woven through them that secured his arms and doorwings in place, which in turn made Two-Tone gasp and moan at the stimulation to his cords.

“Beautiful,” Prowl whispered when he had Two-Tone arranged to his liking, in much the same position he had held him the other night, kowtowing, hands bound and ports vulnerable… except they were already filled, very filled, with Prowl, who rested his own, partially restrained hand on the sixth, unoccupied port, covering it possessively. You’re beautiful, the thought was accompanied by an image of him, restrained and quivering. The cords were the gleaming black of myomer against the matte black of his plating. Sparks danced over his frame, glowed through the gaps in his armor. Prowl’s emotions leaked through with the image. To him, Two-Tone was a study in strength and vulnerability and completely and utterly his. One fantasy gained strength and substance and finally overlaid itself on Prowl’s vision with enough clarity for Two-Tone to see it: Prowl wanted to weave more wires and cords around him, tie down his legs, weave wires through his rear axle assemblies and artistically put knots on every erotic joint and seam until Two-Tone was completely entwined, unable to move; a work of art, a study in Prowl’s control. “What shall I call you pet? It needs to be a name as beautiful as you are right now.”

Possibilities started flitting behind those firewalls, and Two-Tone panicked. Frame, processor — he’d agreed to Prowl controlling those, but not his identity. Not his sense of self. That was too much! Two-Tone was trying to remake himself, yes, but not to Prowl’s design!

JAZZ! He yelled across their network connection, not really knowing why the panic had brought melodies of the performer from earlier so strongly to the forefront. That, that performer dancing on the stage, so confident, in control and skilled even as she gave herself over to her instrument and the music… that was who he wanted to be. Not whatever Prowl was planning on making him into. If Two-Tone ain’t gonna cut it, you will call me Jazz.

Prowl’s perception of Two-Tone as strength controlled increased, electricity starting to crackle over him, beneath his white plating… Jazz then… and Prowl’s overload dragged them both into darkness.

*

*

*

Two-Tone — Jazz woke up in a collar. Of course he did.