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"You were in a right state when I brought you in. Feel like sharing how that happened?"

"Not really," Ravage grunted. "Suffice it to say that this virus has completely destroyed all code strings responsible for rational thought for the time being."

"I'll bet. I could smell you coming a mile away."

The cassette's audios pressed back, and she cringed with a half-sparked growl. "That was a terrible pun. You're not allowed to talk again, ever." She shook her head at her companion's snickering and dimmed her optics, and after a long klik, she allowed her vocalizer to turn over. She had initially sworn that she would never purr again for the rest of her life after she had extricated herself from Astrotrain's valve - along with promising herself she would burn out all of her olfactory sensors and chemoreceptors or else she would never forget the scent and taste of being drenched in triplechanger fluids - but she supposed promises were made to be broken as her chosen Autobot's large, talented fingers worked at the tense cabling just behind her shoulder struts. Despite the burning need in her systems, Ravage had known she needed to relax at least a little if she hoped to make it through the last few cycles of torment. Unlike her Decepticon comrades, she could not simply pop open her panel and ride her Autobot's spike, mostly because she was just too small to be taken without proper preparation. To be properly prepared, she had to relax first.

Thankfully, they were not strangers to this arrangement.

"I'll give you forever to stop doing that, though," Ravage rumbled, earning a soft laugh beside her left audio and a black thumb pressed more firmly against a particularly tense cable.

"You realize we're probably both going to be court-martialed if anyone finds out why you picked me," Hound said. "I'm sure everybody's expecting you to pick Steeljaw."

Ravage turned her head to give her green companion a flat look with one optic. "Please - the mech probably wouldn't know where to stick it if I drew him a diagram. Besides, we've just been swapping paint for ten years. Motormaster and Silverbolt have been going at it a lot longer." She shrugged the shoulder not currently occupied by Hound's fingers. "They don't have to know why - just who, and I'm not even telling them who. Only Soundwave knows."

Hound grimaced. "I'm not going to get the talk again, am I?"

"You'd better not. He knows I started it."

"If you can call bonding over bad puns and wolf pack soap operas 'starting' anything," the scout laughed. "You know Loki sired the last litter, right? Grabbed Sif right out from under Thor's nose while Thor was out hunting."

"...well, I guess that was a foregone conclusion when we named that one Loki. I thought they looked too dark to be Thor's." Anything else Ravage may have added was cut off by a rolling purr as black fingers abandoned her shoulders to work tension from the cables of her hips. She stood to give Hound better access, and her purr deepened when she felt him bend down to nudge her tail out of the way with his head just before his tongue flicked against her overheated panel. Ravage lowered her front to the floor while pushing her aft further into the air and was rewarded with a low, hungry growl.

Any primitive-modeled mech knew what it was like to be fetishized, especially cassettes as they were more often modeled after mechanimals than not. Some mechs found the bestial forms attractive, though more got off on feeling it was "taboo" to frag or be fragged by a beast, and most of those mechs ignored or otherwise looked past the fact that cassettes were every bit as sapient as their bipedal counterparts. They were seen as a means to an end, a vibrator with fangs, claws, and talons. Those mechs disgusted Ravage, Astrotrain's bizarre proposition aside as he had been more focused on her size than her shape.

Most cassettes were mechanimal-shaped. It was just the way their sparks were encoded upon being split from the carrier's - Laserbeak and Buzzsaw's sparks told Soundwave "we need wings"; Ravage's said "I can't brain with two legs". It was the carrier's responsibility to listen to the cassette's spark during development in order to design the most compatible body, and if the spark chose a primitive design, there was no getting around it. Primus only knew what Ramhorn's spark told Blaster - Ravage often thought the look on his face as Ramhorn developed had probably been hilarious.

It was an archaic system that baffled all but spark splitters and their spawn and, unfortunately, supported the Functionist philosophy, but it worked for them - provided the carrier mech listened and designed the cassette's frame accordingly, it was extremely rare for a cassette to feel like a stranger in its own body, an unfortunately common problem with Vector Sigma-born mecha. Clutched mechs, of course, combined creators' nanites with their own sparks to build an ideal starting body, but those whose sparks came from Vector Sigma were placed in premade bodies for their start in life. The problems arose later on, when a mech who turned into a bulldozer insisted he felt down to his core he was supposed to have rotary blades, or another would not fly more than a few micrometers above buildings because he was terrified of heights, or still another constantly needed her wings repaired from rust damage because she insisted she felt most comfortable in the water. Otherwise healthy sparks were trapped in the wrong bodies, and society brushed them off, stating, "You have wheels, so you're a grounder; end of story. Deal with it. You are what you are." Alt mode therapy was still a controversial but highly studied practice, even during the war, and black market hospitals made fortunes off of those who took extreme measures to have their alt modes forcibly changed. Only clutched mechs or mutantly strong sparks could force their bodies to compromise with half-and-half forms or even more than one alt mode.

Cassettes, thankfully, almost never had to worry about that, but Ravage would not have been at all surprised to learn, should he ever choose to confide in her as such, that Hound likely suffered a similar form of alt mode dysmorphia given his own somewhat mechanimalistic tendencies and inclinations. However, unlike other fetishists she had indulged in the past, he never once dismissed her intelligence and always continued to treat her as an equal mech despite her form. It was why she did not mind indulging him - it was likely less a fetish and more his spark crying out for something "comfortable". It was exceedingly rare for a non-cassette mech's spark to call to a primitive alt, but it did happen - the Predacons and Seacons were proof of that. It did no harm to his psyche nor Ravage's ego to let Hound play gridwolf in lieu of his alt mode becoming one.

Hound rumbled at her scent, and Ravage's panel snapped open with barely a second thought. He would have made a fine beastformer. The first probe of his tongue against the slick edges of her valve sent a jolt of heat and need through Ravage's sensors. The next had her tail curl up and back over her hindquarters, and when Hound licked deeply and eagerly, Ravage's claws curled to knead furrows into the floor. Happy though she had been to simply lick herself to overload, it was good to finally be touched by someone else. Astrotrain had tried to reciprocate only to be largely unable to find her valve with his smallest cable without being able to see her, so while Ravage had not been able to fault him too badly, the experience had not been at all worth the humiliation. She rather doubted he would have been satisfying, anyway - not like Hound, who growled softly and sent subtle vibrations into her passage and turned her spinal struts into liquid heat.

His hands smoothed over the plating of her hindquarters and teased the connectors where her rocket launchers normally rested, and she answered his hungry rumble with one of her own. Ravage gave an impatient snap of her tail against Hound's helm and earned a corrective nip to its base, but he got the message: she was plenty relaxed now. Her vocalizer shifted to a deeper purr when she heard the snikt of his panel opening followed by the metallic whisper of his spike unsheathing. Her back curved in an elegant arch as she lifted her front in time with Hound's retreat from her valve only for his familiar weight to brush against her back. Hound's engine rumbled against the plating just behind her shoulders for a brief klik before it shifted. Ravage's confusion was short-lived as Hound reached between them to feel for her link port and his own spark link cable fell against her plating. She was glad one of them remembered that - she had certainly forgotten in the heat of the moment.

Black plating between Ravage's shoulders slid aside to allow her spark port to align with Hound's cable, who carefully clicked their cables into place. As warmth prickled from the port and seeped into her wiring and toward her spark, Ravage hoped she could count herself lucky - their sparks, Vector Sigma-spawned and split-formed, were largely incompatible, leaving Ravage's chances of clutching the lowest of all her fellow Decepticons. Had she chosen a fellow cassette, the chances would have been much higher.

Connection established and spark energy crackling through it, Hound's weight settled against her back, and Ravage purred again when she felt his spike line up with her valve only to growl when one green arm curled around her middle to keep her from pushing back against him. He returned her growl with one of his own right beside her audio sensor, but just when she was about to make a genuine protest against his stalling, Hound's growl deepened, he bit down on the back of her neck, and he snapped his hips forward, and Ravage was finally, gloriously filled. Charge erupted over Ravage's circuits, her vision clouded with static, and her vents roared, her valve clamping down on the welcome intruder as the first thrust alone sent her over the edge in a rush of sensation.

When the static cleared and pure bliss washed over her systems, Ravage's vocalizer turned over in a loud, throaty purr which hitched with the rhythmic pitch forward and roll backward in time with the mech mounting her. Hound's jaws stayed clamped onto the back of her neck, rumbling his own pleasure into her plating. He stretched her perfectly, his spike just shy of hitting the aperture of her clutch chamber with each thrust. Ravage's optics dimmed so she could focus on the steady rhythm and the renewing charge crackling through her. Everything throbbed and ebbed in a rush of sensation, pleasure narrowing to two electric pinpoints behind her where he rocked against her and where his bite anchored her in place. She lifted one hind leg to barely paw at the floor, and he shifted his weight just enough to close that last gap. Hound hit the back of her valve with one sharp thrust, and her plating rattled as a second overload coursed through her. Ravage's spark port blazed with energy, her valve clenched desperately, and Hound drove into her with increasing fervor. He released the back of her neck only to bite down again in a different spot, and Ravage panted between pleased rumbles, the thin note of a whimper beginning to escape from her vocalizer. Hound's weight pressed down further against Ravage's back as he shifted once more to take her at a different angle, one black hand coming to rest on the floor next to her front paw for balance. Ravage lowered her front slightly to arch her back against him.

As a week of need and desperation and still steadily growing heat threatened to overwhelm her, Hound snarled and snapped forward one more time, and Ravage's optics blazed when she was finally, finally filled. Liquid heat flooded inside her, claws tore furrows into the floor, thrashing, roaring, vents hitching with bursts of static and pure relief and blazing white—

Ravage came back to herself slowly. She lay on her side, half-sunk into the padding of the berth she had been moved to in her incoherent, post-overload haze. Faint tremors still made her plating twitch only to be soothed by a gentle, black hand. Hound started at her jaw, gently rubbed his thumb behind her audio, then slowly, carefully smoothed down the plating of her neck, rubbed the dull ache where he bit and claimed her, over her shoulder, down her side, and came to rest at the base of her tail for a few nanokliks before his hand lifted away to start again. She stared at the wall past his shoulder and focused on the gentle touch as it eased her prickling, tender sensors. No words were spoken at first - none were needed. She purred, he rumbled, and they settled next to one another on the berth in sated quiet.

It was only after nearly a breem of petting and audio stroking that Ravage finally dared glance at her HUD, and her vents released a breath she had not noticed she was holding.

"Thank Primus."

Lying on his own side in front of her, Hound lifted his head from his arm, optics brightening from their lazy, dim glow. "It worked?" he chanced to ask, and she nodded.

"Yes - my core temp is the lowest it's been in a week, and it looks like it's still going down. It's over." The cassette reached out with all four limbs and bowed her back, claws flexing one at a time in a full body stretch that strained every cable until it protested, then she snapped into a curl and rolled onto her back with a contented sigh. Hound took the hint and moved his gentle stroking to her chest and abdomen, and Ravage's optics dimmed once more. They could share their success later. Right now, all Ravage wanted to do was enjoy the lack of need, the lack of desire, and finally rest.


Optimus Prime looked up slowly from his data pad and stared across the table where rhythmic thumping had been filling the room for the last breem. It was not as if he had not already expected it or known, but his spark still clenched in sympathy at the confirmation that dignity and self-control had flown out the window a very, very long time ago. Megatron, for his part, managed to sit upright and proud no matter how terrible he truly felt, though his utterly disheveled state and overly dull finish spoke volumes to his physical and mental state. To his right, a sour-faced Starscream had sprawled in his absolute best attempt to take up as much space as possible, wings flared, legs flung over the arm of his chair, one arm dangling over the side toward the floor, and even one foot propped up on the chair to his own right. He was unhappy and uncomfortable, and he was going to ensure everyone else knew it.


Seated in the chair Starscream used for a partial foot rest, Soundwave had discarded all manner of decorum and simply chose to voice his discontent by repeatedly lifting his helm and dropping his forehead against the surface of the table. For what it was worth, the display earned Soundwave all of Optimus' pity. Probably Megatron's too; Optimus doubted the Decepticon leader would have tolerated such a blatant lack of professionalism under any other circumstances.

For his part, Optimus was simply uncomfortable. The chair in which he was currently trapped was far too small for a mech of his shape and size, and every time he thought he was about to find some semblance of a comfortable position, it creaked in protest of his weight and wobbled, startling him out of his train of thought. It was usually Ratchet's seat - the medic claimed its inopportune twitches kept him fully aware during long, droning meetings. The remaining chairs, two of which were taken by Jazz and Prowl, were even smaller. As the largest Autobot to regularly sit for any period of time in the war room, Optimus had his own seat specially designed for his bulk with added cushioning to support his weight.

Unfortunately, it currently held an irate seeker who somehow managed to spread out even further when Optimus gave it a longing glance. Megatron and Soundwave, both larger than Starscream, had of course been given Ironhide and Blaster's chairs to compensate for their own size. Optimus' initial objections to Starscream usurping his chair (including pointing out that Ratchet's chair, while too small for Optimus, was more than adequate for Starscream) had been met with a flat, unimpressed glare. None of the expected shrieking or whining or any indication that Starscream was willing to fight him for it. Just...a silent, baleful glare that dared Optimus to forcibly remove him. A pleading glance to Megatron was met with the warlord's hands going up in a "don't look at me" gesture before he promptly turned his own chair around to put his back to both of them. That was when Soundwave had started banging his head on the table, and Optimus surrendered to the inevitable discomfort of the next few cycles.

At least Starscream was sitting on a towel. Optimus had questioned that initially only to be firmly rebuked with the comment, "Expecting me to not leak everywhere is like trying to find a specific dog barking in a kennel." The Prime was sorry he had said anything.

The Autobot leader lowered his gaze once more to the data pad before him and tuned out Soundwave's thunks of misery. The pad contained a lengthy list of the Decepticons' demands for the peace treaty, and across from him, Megatron read through the Autobots' own list. Starscream and Soundwave were supposed to be reading their own copies, but either they already had or, more likely, they had zero scraps to give about it.

On either side of him, Prowl and Jazz also perused the Decepticons' list. Everyone had agreed that they would wait to discuss the contents until all members present had finished reading from beginning to end. Thus far, Optimus saw little he objected to; in fact, many of the first items mirrored or were at least similar to items on the Autobots' own list, though he found himself wondering if he was being too lenient - Prowl had made numerous annotations in the past few breems. Then again, Jazz had not even touched his own stylus, so maybe Prowl was simply being Prowl.

Then again, Optimus half suspected everyone in the room was taking longer than strictly necessary in order to stall the next inevitable step of talking to one another. He knew he was. The amount of sheer awkward in the room was nearly tangible and had only gotten worse since Ratchet left with Drag Strip to perform repairs and the three remaining Decepticons on schedule left to be "cured" after announcing their matches.

While Optimus still thought it was an invasion of privacy demanding the officer cadre know who was "treating" whom, he had to admit Prowl's argument had been sound. Knowing who was responsible for which Decepticon was the best way to ensure no Autobot abused the power he had been granted for the "procedure", though Optimus had put his foot down when Red Alert attempted to demand video surveillance to ensure no harm came to the Autobot as well. That sort of invasion of privacy was completely unnecessary; most of the officers, and even Megatron himself, doubted any Decepticon could think straight enough to put up a decent fight. No, there were no plans for mayhem for the foreseeable future, just a lot of activity Optimus truly did not want to know details about.

Now, if he could only concentrate on the data pad before him and stop imagining the writhing mass of shuttle cables that were likely filling Skyfire's quarters at that moment. At least Astrotrain had good taste in mechs, though Optimus supposed it was simply a preference for his own frame type. Unsurprisingly, Scrapper had chosen Hoist, and Drag Strip said his choice would be Sideswipe once he was cleared to leave the medbay. None of the named Autobots, though flustered, had objected, so for now, the "curing" process seemed to be running smoothly. Ravage had not been seen since her humiliating defrosting, but Soundwave assured Optimus that she had not only made her choice and was in the process of securing him but that he and the Autobot approved. As no one had approached the officers to complain of amorous advances by a feline cassette, Prowl decided there was little point in dwelling on the subject.

Overall, Optimus thought things were off to a promising start. While many Autobots had taken exception to the announcement at first, with many crying that this was a trap at best, their protests died the nanoklik the first Decepticons arrived and they saw for themselves their enemies' pitiful state. The three officers had clearly tried to better their appearance to salvage their own pride, but the polishing they had given one another had been half-sparked at best. There were still streaks of unbuffed polish along Soundwave's back and Starscream's wings, Megatron had not bothered at all with his legs from the knees down, and at this point, no amount of polish could hide the lubricant stains on the plating of their inner thighs. It would take a full repaint to finally rid themselves of that humiliation.

Of course, with the acceptance of the foreseeable future came a different sort of commotion. Optimus had been appalled when he stepped into the rec room and saw Smokescreen's betting chart and the swath of mechs making wagers on which Decepticon would pick which Autobot. The chart, to the best of his knowledge, was being kept highly secret from the Decepticons so as to not risk their influencing the odds. He supposed it was an improvement over anger and suspicion, but Optimus still felt it was taking advantage of the situation.

So, after making Smokescreen promise that the spoils for each wager would be split evenly with the Decepticon upon whom the bet had been placed, Optimus put himself down for four cubes that Starscream would pick Skyfire.

The door to the war room opened to allow Ratchet inside, who immediately went to the three silent Decepticons. His intrusion - right on schedule, Optimus realized with a glance to his chronometer - finally broke the awkward silence as he set down three large cubes of coolant in front of the miserable mechs and proceeded to scan them for signs of dangerous overheating. Soundwave stopped thumping his head on the table, though he only moved so far as to shift the position of his head to rest his chin on the table instead, crimson visor dull and listless as he stared at his coolant as if he could will it into his systems rather than sit up. All of Optimus' pity points - Soundwave had them.

"A lot of these points rely on being able to establish contact with Cybertron," Prowl spoke. "Blaster is working on establishing contact with Ultra Magnus to let him know what is happening and of the ceasefire, but even though Shockwave is currently silent, he and his tower are still jamming Autobot communications. We must find a way to contact him to take down the jamming frequency and ensure the Cybertron-bound Decepticons are also aware of the ceasefire." Prowl lifted his gaze from the data pad to look across the table. "When was the last time you heard from him?"

Starscream frowned as he thought backwards a nanoklik, then answered, "About a month ago; right after we—" His optics brightened, wings twitching upwards sharply. "Uh oh."

"'Uh oh'?" Optimus repeated. "Is that Shockwave-related or just another bark in the kennel?"

However, Megatron and Soundwave seemed to have caught onto Starscream's same stray thought as both visor and optics brightened in epiphany. "Well..." Megatron drawled, and Soundwave clapped a hand over his visor in frustrated embarrassment. "That explains the silence." Megatron mirrored Soundwave's gesture and grumbled as he scrubbed his hand wearily down his face. "The last time we had direct contact with Shockwave, we sent him the thermal collector's schematics to analyze and modify for possible off-world applications."

All three Decepticons looked literally anywhere but directly across the table where three Autobots could now only stare at them in a combination of disbelief, frustration, and pity. Even Ratchet paused in his assessment to stare at them in dawning horror.

"The schematic," Prowl repeated, his tone the blandest Optimus had ever heard from his Second. "The schematic with the virus."

Starscream snapped, "We didn't know it had a virus at the time!"

"And once you did know about the virus - nearly a week ago at this point, I might add - you didn't think that might have explained the lack of communication before now?" Prowl pressed.

"Prowl!" Ratchet hissed, but his rebuke was too late. Despite the ungainly sprawl he had been in a nanoklik previously, Starscream was on his feet in an instant, the chair clattering noisily to the floor behind him.

"I'd like to see you try to string more than two thoughts together without difficulty after you've been subjected to this for nearly two frelling weeks!" the seeker screeched, and even Megatron and Soundwave seemed to agree with him if the baleful glares they now leveled at Prowl were any indication. Prowl opened his mouth to retort, but Starscream continued, his voice growing more shrill and optics glowing brighter and more distressed with each shriek. "You have no idea what we're going through! You have no idea how hard it is to think of anything but how hot I am, how desperate I am, how much every circuit and wire and bolt in my entire body hurts with every movement! Drag Strip nearly died, my spike has been cut off, and we've been forced to surrender our pride, our dignity, our entire Cause in the hopes that we can be cured! Slag you and your condescension for our processors being otherwise occupied!"

Ratchet scrambled backwards a step to avoid being struck by a wing as Starscream whirled to storm out the door, and an uncomfortable silence fell over the room. Optimus stared at the door for a nanoklik before he slowly turned his head to his right and joined both Decepticons and Autobots in the room in leveling a reprimanding glare at Prowl who, thankfully, had the courtesy to appear cowed by Starscream's outburst.

"Well, this is off to a great start," Jazz muttered.

"You will apologize to him once he's calmed down," Optimus chided.

"Yes, sir. And I extend that apology to Megatron and Soundwave." Prowl forced himself to look to the two glaring mechs across from him. "Starscream is correct - I do not have the experience required to fully understand your situation beyond verbal explanation." Megatron grunted, but the glare turned slightly less hateful, so Optimus counted it as progress.

"Soundwave: will assist Blaster in bypassing jamming frequency."

"Yes, it is probably best that we establish contact with Cybertron as soon as possible to make the ceasefire official on all sides; then, we can focus on negotiations without fear of unforeseen happenings on Cybertron." Prowl glanced between the other mechs present before looking back to Soundwave. "Shall we reconvene in a cycle to give you a chance to commune with Blaster?" When no one objected, Soundwave grudgingly grabbed his cube of coolant and forced himself to stand, and he left without another word to make his way to the communications hub. Ratchet fled immediately after him, leaving just one Decepticon remaining among three Autobots.

Glances were exchanged across the table, blue optics and visor meeting red in an impromptu waiting game to see who broke under the uncomfortable silence and left first. Prowl had already refocused his attention on his data pad, and Jazz was staring longingly at the door in the hope that he would be dismissed. That left just Optimus and Megatron in the most awkward stare-down the Autobot leader had ever had with his (former?) enemy. Or did it even count as a stare-down? One blue optic darkened slightly in confusion as Optimus realized that, while Megatron was looking in his general direction, the silver mech was clearly not actually seeing him. Elbows resting on the table and face partially hidden behind his folded hands, Megatron's crimson gaze was distant, almost glazed over. The Prime's hand twitched as he contemplated raising it to wave in Megatron's line of sight.

Just before he gave in to the temptation, Optimus' vents froze as the silence of the room was broken by the loudest snikt he had ever heard followed by every one of Megatron's own vents erupting in a single, abrupt whoosh. Jolted from what had clearly been one Pit of a wet daydream - not to mention being undeniably caught having it - Megatron's optics blanched a mortified white at the edges, and in the span of a single klik, he grabbed his cube of coolant, downed the entire thing in one long gulp, slammed the empty container back down onto the table, and bolted from the room without a word.

The chair was still spinning when the door closed behind him. Three Autobots stared at it until it stopped, choking on the awkward silence until Optimus finally dared to shut off his optics and let out a single, quiet whine.

"I feel like I need a shower now..."

In hindsight, he probably should have at least brought the coolant with him. Not that Starscream expected it to do much, but at least then he would have had some sort of internal cooling rather than trying to rely on external sources of relief. Unfortunately, he had been too angry and upset to think that far ahead, wanting only to put as much distance as possible between himself and the Autobots' self-righteous tactician. How dare he! Yes, Starscream realized now that the reason for Shockwave's silence should have been obvious, but he had been rather busy either trying to frag himself on every surface or being castrated, and it was not as if he was the only one who had overlooked such a simple explanation. So, how dare Prowl try to make Starscream feel stupid! Let him try it!

The snow had melted again, and once more, Starscream discovered he was sitting in a steaming puddle of water that was a few degrees away from boiling. Had he not known better, he would have blamed his temper. Sighing in frustration, he stood and trudged through the blanket of white to the next snowbank which looked deep enough for him, leaving behind his fifth crater. His frame was running so hot, the snow could only withstand a few kliks of his sitting in it. Even his legs created clouds of fog as he waded through the thick covering. It was fortunate that the blizzard from several orns ago had been as large as it was; it left behind a rather absurdly thick layer of snow and ice, far too deep for humans to traverse safely but just deep enough to be useful for a mech Starscream's size. At least for a few kliks at a time, anyway. New snow slowly drifted from the sky with barely a breeze to disturb it. Maybe it would repair the damage he had done to the landscape before he could return.

Starscream flomped down aft first into the next snowbank to an explosion of steam and, taking advantage of his solitude, allowed himself a long, pitiful noise of frustration. Starscream liked interfacing as much as the next mech, but this was ridiculous. His last heat cycle, long before the war, had been bad enough, and it had only lasted a few orns. Need clawed at his circuits, heat burned his wiring and fuel lines, and his valve constantly clenched and flexed to remind him it was oh, so painfully empty. The phantom twitching sensations of his spike had ceased only a few orns after its painful removal, likely because his valve was such a thorough distraction.

The seeker whimpered again, barely noticing as one hand rubbed at his overheated panel. It snapped open at the barest touch, and Starscream's whimper turned into a startled squeak as melted snow rushed just inside his valve. It felt no stranger than the ocean water and, thus, was quickly ignored in favor of plunging two claws as deeply as he could. Not that it would provide much relief, but he had little control over his actions anymore, especially in solitude. Just as he had little control over his own future anymore.

Lust dulled just slightly under a growing cloud of resentment and other emotions he dared not name. He knew what was coming. Estranged though he had been from Vos and his fellow seekers thanks to his desire to further his education and explore the cosmos, Starscream still knew the way his body functioned, if only because he had been forced to take a lecture course on interfacing habits his first semester in the Academy. His "advisor"'s reasoning had been so Starscream could avoid - how did that pompous aft put it - "the hazards of giving in to standard seeker whims" and how "the Academy does not wish to be embarrassed by any scandals caused by an unwanted clutch."

Rusted. Skidplate. As if it was his fault his body was wired with an overclocked reproductive system. As if he could control it. But if they wanted to be shapist rust stains, fine. Starscream had wanted his education enough to look past the prejudice and took the stupid, insulting course which had only told him what he already knew.

Seekers and shuttles had inordinately strong sparks as a general rule due to Cybertron's gravity, which was stronger than Earth's. They needed the extra power in order to break free for flight, shuttles especially in order to break the planet's gravitational pull entirely for interstellar travel and then power their bodies during interstellar travel. Unfortunately, the stronger the carrier's spark, the more likely the carrier was to clutch. Spontaneous spark ignition from the nanites alone was a little more common with a flight-gifted mech than a grounder to begin with, unless the receiving mech either had a spark patch or quickly purged his partner's nanites afterward. But combined with another mech's spark energy through an uplink?

Starscream had never wanted to clutch. Before the war, he had always been more focused on building his future, and caring for a clutch did not factor into the plans he had devised for himself - a long career exploring off-world, searching for new sources of energon, studying alien life, and maybe one orn settling down on Cybertron once more to teach at the Academy. Only then, maybe, would he have considered a clutch with the right mech - after all, genius such as his should be passed down to the next generation, though he had always envisioned himself siring rather than carrying. Of course, then the war happened, and even that far-fetched "maybe" scenario fled from his processors in lieu of commanding an armada, researching weaponry rather than alien life, and simply surviving.

Now, the war was finally going to end, and Starscream's internal promise of "maybe some orn with the right mech after a long and glorious career" had become "whether he was ready or not" - not even a chamber purge after the virus had been removed would prevent the inevitable. By the time he was able to initiate the purge, the spark or sparks would have already ignited, and removing the nanite-rich transmetal would only stunt the clutch's early development. Just because he had not wanted to clutch did not mean he wanted his impending clutch deformed or, at worst, dead. So, whether he liked it or not, Starscream resigned himself to his foreseeable future. Maybe he would take the Autobots up on their offer to leave the clutch in their care - he had time to think about his options.

Starscream scowled down at the snow. That thought only brought to mind his more immediate problem. Regardless of his unreadiness to carry, he did want the impending clutch to have the best chances he could give it. The problem was no one, as far as Starscream was concerned, was worthy of taking him. The mere thought of any dirt-licking Autobot mounting him made Starscream's plating crawl, and the very few flight-capable Autobots were somehow even more unappealing. He and Skyfire had too much history, not to mention the fact that Skyfire would probably rip him in half; the Aerialbots were all boisterous, immature, or simply idiotic; Blades was a rotor mech which was just another way of saying he only pretended he was flight-gifted; Powerglide was a mouth with wings; Cosmos was tiny and rotund, and Starscream was not even sure what he he was classified as under the Grand Cybertronian Taxonomy anyway; Tracks was an abomination;

That left only grounders, the vast majority of whom were ugly, mouthy, or otherwise unappealing on any number of other levels. Starscream could count on one hand the number of Autobots he could picture over him without feeling sick, and that was just aesthetics. The larger barrier to work through eliminated even those few, as well as nearly every Decepticon the seeker could name: trust. Starscream had never gone to berth with a single mech he had not trusted on some level, which was simply another way to say his list of past partners was very, very short. The farthest he was usually willing to go was heavy petting, toys, maybe oral on occasion - rarely beyond that. It was not as if he thought interfacing was something "special" or to be "treasured" the way a more saccharine mech might have thought; no, Starscream simply despised feeling vulnerable in any way, and mid-interface was the most vulnerable a mech could be short of outright unconsciousness. Even during the last nearly two weeks of torture, he had not joined his fellow Decepticons in their mutual desperation. To let down his guard with another mech long enough to interface was to allow his enemies the opening they needed to oust him. Starscream had a lot of enemies. It came with the job. And that was all before adding in the additional complication of spark energy.

At least they could use the uplink rather than going bare spark-to-spark. During the war, when procreation had been the last thing on anyone's mind, the port had usually been reserved for medical use, giving medics access to in-depth scans of the spark during the rare occasion when it was impossible to open an injured mech's chest without causing further damage. The matching cable, kept coiled around the port, was used even more rarely than the port itself, and both components were - so far as Starscream knew - the only single-use cord and port in a Cybertronian body. They provided non-invasive access to a mech's spark energy - that was all. Useful for medics and couples who simply did not want to be fully exposed, but not much else.

Well, and mutated viruses, he supposed.

With all that in mind, Starscream truly could not think of a single mech with whom he could let down his guard long enough to be cured, neither that nor a mech with whom he could stand thinking of siring his inevitable offspring. Of course, realistically, he knew he was going to have to make a decision soon no matter his feelings on the subject, but for now, the mere thought made him shudder with revulsion. Or maybe that was melted snow filling his valve as he pumped his claws into it with increasing fervor. Or both. Probably both.

White exploded around him as a massive amount of snow suddenly dropped on top of him. Startled, Starscream squawked and flailed and kicked at the snow only for another pile to join the first, weighing him down in his puddle of melt. He panicked at first, afraid it was an avalanche from the side of the volcano. While not fatal to a mech of his size, an avalanche had enough power to do significant damage to his wings. The fear was short-lived, though, as Starscream realized the snow fell in increments. An avalanche would have dumped a mountainside of snow in one fell swoop - this was several large piles dropped atop one another in succession.

Starscream ceased struggling after the third and simply sat buried for a long klik. The piling stopped at the fourth, and the seeker stared at the inside of his new, frosty cocoon, listening. Large footsteps crunched the snow around him, and at first, Starscream wondered how he could have possibly missed someone so large approaching him, distracted though his thoughts had been. However, he decided it ultimately did not matter. Being buried in the snow...actually felt really good, so the protest he had considered died before it ever had a chance to fully form in his vocalizer. Instead, he sat and listened.

Those were large footfalls; he found himself drawn to the sound and wondered who had joined him. There were not many Autobots that large; however, despite the mech's size, his actual footsteps were surprisingly light, and Starscream realized he may not have heard him easily at all if he had not been listening. No wonder he had not heard the other mech approach - it just went to show him how distracted this virus was keeping him. Who among the Autobots was that large yet still light on his feet? Probably the Prime, he thought. The sanctimonious cog had probably taken it upon himself to come "check on" the seeker after his outburst.

Then again, it was not exactly Optimus Prime's nature to callously dump snow atop another mech. Maybe. Starscream honestly could not say for certain one way or the other, but it did not seem like the Prime's style. That seemed more in line with the medic's rather prickly sense of humor. He was of a size as well, though the crunching snow sounded like it was being crushed under larger feet than Ratchet's.

Skyfire was out of the question - Starscream knew for a fact that the shuttle was busy with one of his own kind, and even if he were not otherwise occupied, Skyfire held an understandably visceral aversion to snow and ice. Ever since the massive mech's unearthing from the Arctic, Soundwave's spy network had reported that Skyfire all but went into hibernation this time of year. He simply did not leave the Ark in winter. Period. No one in the galaxy noped away from frozen water harder than Skyfire.

The cocoon of snow melted steadily, leaving Starscream soaking in his very full crater of water. He glimpsed movement through the rapidly thinning sheet of snow in front of his optics, and when it finally lost the battle against gravity and broke away from his face, crimson optics met large blue. Starscream blinked in surprise. Powerful legs shifted just slightly to more fully face the seeker, claws buried deep in the thick white, and Starscream had just enough time to fully process who stood in front of him before those fang-filled jaws scooped up another large mouthful of snow and, with a flick of his massive head, dumped it on top of the prone mech once again.

At a loss for how to take all of this but unable to deny that being encased in the snow did feel good against his overheated plating, Starscream could only give a muffled mutter of, "...thank you."

Grimlock chuckled, and the ground jolted as the Dinobot flomped into the snow to make himself comfortable. The snow covering the seeker melted faster this time, no longer four layers thick as well as having been dumped atop an already steaming pool of water. When a window opened in the frost again, Starscream looked out at his unexpected company and frowned.

Grimlock largely ignored him now, instead focused on shuffling in the snow a few paces away. He was still in his alt mode, belly flat to the ground as he pushed himself along through the thick white with his massive legs. The momentum rolled snow up onto his head, which the Dinobot then jerked upward to fling the snow onto his back. The movement worked better than Starscream would have expected, clearly well-practiced, and by the time Starscream's snow had completely melted, Grimlock had an adequate covering of his own, blue optics dim with contentment.

This was actually the first time Starscream had been so close to the Dinobot without fearing for his wings. Normally, when Grimlock was unleashed on the battlefield, the seeker stayed high in the air, well away from those lethal fangs. He had seen the kind of damage Grimlock could do with fang and claw and brute strength - Mixmaster, Scrapper, Swindle, Wildrider, and Breakdown all had permanent welding scars thanks to Grimlock. Brawl only escaped permanent damage by virtue of his much thicker combat-grade plating - Swindle was not nearly so lucky.

The Dinobot had learned long ago that the weakest point of any Decepticon team in its combined form were the mechs who became the legs. Devastator, Bruticus, and Menasor were not a threat without legs to support them. Snarl and Sludge simply ran around the battlefield to be tripping hazards; Swoop tended to be preoccupied with aiding the Aerialbots against the seekers; Slag's strategy was to wait for the teams to uncombine then charge and burn his way through them. Grimlock, however, was the Dinobot who brought down the combiners for the others, and he did it with brutal efficiency.

It was very strange to watch the lethal mech now, a few paces away and happily attempting to bury his bulk in the snow. No Decepticon was quite sure what to think of the Dinobots, Starscream included. They were dangerous, deadly mechs who behaved like simple-minded beasts, but without warning, something in them could change as if with the wind, and they were suddenly cunning predators capable of taking out entire combiner teams with near-surgical precision. The fact that no one understood just how they came to be only made them that much more unnerving. Did they even have sparks? If so, how did Wheeljack and Ratchet acquire them? Vector Sigma had been dormant until after the Dinobots appeared on Earth. And there was no way they had been clutched - not with those alt modes.

Whatever their true nature, Starscream had always been wary of their leader. He was not the largest or fastest of the five, but he was certainly the deadliest, especially as the years went by and his frame changed.

Starscream remembered the Dinobots' first frames - they were large and clumsy with stiff, tree-like legs and tails which dragged along the ground, and Grimlock's head had resembled a duck's more than a Tyrannosaurus'. Then, as human paleontologists' science progressed, so too did Wheeljack and Ratchet's understanding of their creations' bodies, and the Dinobots had received numerous upgrades over the years to match, making already lethal mechs even faster and deadlier. Sludge and Snarl's tails, stubby things once more tripping hazards than anything else, became deadly whips, Snarl's as efficient as any spiked flail and Sludge's capable of snapping across the battlefield to sweep away Decepticons or knock down combiners. Swoop's speed and agility in the air increased with his knowledge of how his alt mode's inspiration flew; Slag was now a flaming battering ram who could outrun all but the fastest Cybertronian on the ground.

Grimlock's shift was the most jarring, from his flat muzzle's transformation to a boxy, fang-filled maw, to his powerful, taloned feet, to his massive, flexible tail. Starscream had actually once questioned whether or not Wheeljack had decided to throw scientific accuracy out the airlock when it came to his creation in favor of simply redesigning the mech to make every last body part an instrument of destruction. Then the seeker read the most recent scientific findings on Grimlock's long-extinct inspiration, and now Starscream was uncertain whether he should have been relieved that Wheeljack's imagination was not actually that sadistic or scared that Earth's evolution was that insane. For the most part, he went with both.

One large, bright blue optic stared at him through the blanket of white, jolting Starscream out of his thoughts, and he forcibly looked away. "What?" he asked to break the uncomfortable silence. "Did Prime send you out here to 'check' on me? Or Red Alert, maybe? To make sure I wasn't up to anything?"

The mound of snow shifted, powder sliding down to the ground as Grimlock lifted his head enough to grunt, "No. Grimlock like snow." Ugh - and there was why Starscream could not take the Dinobots seriously despite their lethality. All the upgrades and remodels they had been granted over the last few decades, and they still could not talk like normal mechs. "Grimlock like snow, so Grimlock come enjoy snow," the Dinobot continued, either oblivious to or ignoring Starscream's glare to the side. "See you Starscream getting too hot - Grimlock help."

"Hn. Well, I...appreciate it." Though annoyed he was expressing his gratitude to a Dinobot, the words did not taste as bad as he thought they would, possibly because it had helped a little. Unfortunately, the snow had only helped with the heat - it did absolutely nothing for the need. Only now did Starscream realize his fingers were still buried deep in his valve. And Grimlock was still looking right at him. The seeker thought maybe he was hidden enough by the steaming water in his little snow crater, but that was too big a "maybe" to ease his embarrassment.

His plating gave a slight shiver that had absolutely nothing to do with the snow. Now that Starscream was once again aware of his fingers, he could not bring himself to pull them free. They did not fill him in the way he desperately wished to be filled, but it was still better than the alternative of utter emptiness. His valve rippled around his claws, and he just barely bit back a whimper, unable to stop himself from pumping them a few times.

Frustrated and humiliated, Starscream tried to think of something else - anything else. His gaze drifted over the white landscape only to come to a rest on the half-buried Dinobot once more. He wished Grimlock would go away - it was distracting seeing a mech so massive that close to him. Sure, there were large mechs among the Decepticons - truthfully, depending on one's perspective, the Decepticons sort of had the monopoly on large mechs, especially if one counted the combiner teams separately as well as the mech they formed. Astrotrain and Blitzwing, by virtue of their status as triplechangers, dwarfed all but Megatron himself, and then after Megatron were Blast Off, Motormaster, Onslaught, and Long Haul. In contrast, of the primarily Earth-based Autobots, only Skyfire outmassed the Dinobots. Even among the Dinobots, Grimlock was only second largest, outmassed by a wide margin by Sludge.

When Starscream reflected on the other mech that way, he wondered why he felt so dwarfed. Grimlock was actually nearer to the middle of the scale when compared to the entire list of Earth-based mechs, Starscream realized; still leaning more heavily toward the "large" side of the scale and still, of course, much larger than Starscream himself, but he was not that intimidating in terms of sheer size. So, why was Starscream fixated on it?

Starscream frowned when his observations pointed to something odd: Grimlock was no longer looking at him. If he had not been sent by the Prime or Prowl to keep an eye on Starscream, he could have gone to another area after burying the seeker, so the real question was why Grimlock was still there.

On his way both to the war room and back outside, all the Autobots Starscream passed had either refused to meet his gaze, looked upon him with unmistakable pity, or avoided looking at him and the other two Decepticons entirely out of potent second-hand embarrassment. A select few, of whom Starscream cared not to remember the designations, had cast suggestive leers toward him, particularly on his way back outside when he was alone. The seeker was not afraid of them - they knew the consequences of trying anything and, in all likelihood, had only been trying to goad a reaction out of him. Though, if it continued, Starscream would at least mention it to the Prime - particularly loathsome individuals could, and would, take silence as a dare, if not an invitation. He knew.

Still, Grimlock was pointedly not looking at him. The only visible optic's glow was dulled in contentment, its gaze distant and unfocused, and he sat under the snow in perfect silence. Had it not been for his mass - he may not have been the largest mech on Earth by any stretch, but there was no denying that Grimlock was truly massive - and the lethality Starscream knew he was capable of, the Dinobot's presence would have been entirely non-threatening.

Another rush of heat distracted him from his thoughts, and before he could think better of it, Starscream plunged his claws deeper into his valve, and the only thing that stopped the seeker from rocking into his hand was the knowledge that it would draw Grimlock's attention back to him. That thought made his attention drift, and Starscream found himself trying to envision a red visor just barely visible through the snow instead of the dinosaur's blue optic, tried to imagine what the mound might look like if it were hiding the mech and not the beast. Why was Grimlock still just sitting there? Did he know what Starscream's hand was busy doing? Could he smell the seeker through the melt? How sensitive was the Dinobot's olfactory suite? Starscream had often wondered that - he had seen Grimlock track fleeing Decepticons by their scent, and the seeker wondered if his ability was as powerful as Hound's legendary senses. If so, could he scent Starscream as the seeker tried desperately to reach his innermost nodes? If he could, he was doing a remarkably convincing job of pretending otherwise.

Starscream's gaze drifted over the mound of snow, and he once again tried to imagine the mech instead of the dinosaur hiding underneath. Slag, he was big. He knew Grimlock's alt mode was overall larger than his root mode, but he also knew the Dinobot's root mode was no slouch when it came to size either. And, unlike many oversized mechs, his frame was proportionate - many large mechs had overly large shoulders and arms paired with smaller heads or hands than strictly looked "right" for the rest of their frames, but Grimlock had been designed properly. That was probably Wheeljack's perfectionism showing; overzealous the engineer may have been, but when he set his mind to a task, he did it right. Starscream bet that attention to detail was thorough - he bet, underneath the snow and underneath the protective plating, every part of Grimlock's design was proportionate, even down to—

Oh, slag.

Heat erupted through the seeker as his imagination went rampant before he could stop it. Grimlock probably was sized to match his frame, which meant his spike could only come in one size: huge. Starscream pictured Grimlock sitting back in the snow, powerful thighs parted for an unobstructed view of his red pelvic plating, and his spike jutting proudly into the air. Could the average mech even fit a spike that large inside himself? It was probably as big as Starscream's forearm. No - surely Wheeljack was not that sadistic. Or perverted. Or maybe he was.

Actually, now that Starscream thought about Wheeljack's attention to detail when it came to Grimlock's updated design over the years, what if the engineer's desire for authenticity did not stop at just Grimlock's alt mode? Was his spike even modeled after a normal mech's? What did a Tyrannosaurus' spike even look like?

The melted snow was just a few degrees away from boiling now, but Starscream did not notice. He could not see any of his surroundings anymore, crimson optics bright and staring ahead at the image his processors supplied him. If it was modeled after the beast's instead of the mech's, maybe Grimlock's spike was shorter than would be proportionate for the mech - shorter but probably thicker. Was it ridged? Oddly shaped? Starscream wondered if it looked like other, similar reptiles' spikes. Oh, Primus - did he have two like a snake?! Wait - no...dinosaurs evolved into birds. What did a bird's look like? The seeker's study of Earthen zoology was thorough, and he knew he should know this, but thinking was suddenly difficult. All he could do was rock his hips into his claws and wish instead he was being filled by—

A flash of blue froze him where he sat, and his claws stilled as if he had been paralyzed.

Grimlock had lifted his head and now stared pointedly at the seeker, blue optics bright and knowing. He knew what Starscream was doing - he probably knew what Starscream was thinking, that the seeker was thinking about him.

And Starscream could scarcely find the will to be ashamed of himself.

So that was what an uncomfortable Tyrannosaurus looked like. Massive claws dug into the ground as powerful legs pushed Grimlock's heavy frame up to stand, and he took one step before—

"Wait!" Starscream's lines ran simultaneously hot from the virus and cold from humiliation as the word blurted from his vocalizer and Grimlock froze. The seeker's optics finally cast downward to the steaming water in shame, no longer able to look at the other mech. It was not fair that Starscream was forced to wait so long for an end to this insanity, but Primus - was he truly this desperate? Was he truly so pathetic as to beg for relief from the first capable mech with whom he found himself alone? Even one with a frelling beast mode?


"Please," the seeker whimpered. "I can't think - it hurts - I need—!"

"Him Prime say you Starscream have to wait," Grimlock rumbled, and though Starscream could not lift his gaze from the ground to check, he somehow knew the Dinobot was not looking at him either. "Talk just started. Starscream must wait longer."

"H-How am I supposed to negotiate when I can't think beyond...beyond this?!" Starscream demanded, though there was little strength behind his voice, the words coming out in a shaky murmur. He could no longer stop himself from pumping his claws into his valve, his thumb rubbing desperately against the over-sensitive node between his valve and empty spike housing. No matter what he did, it was not enough - between the water and copious lubricant, his valve was too slippery for his fingers to generate enough friction, he could not reach any deeper, and his node was nearly painful to the touch yet still did not generate enough charge to provide release by itself. He could feel the other mech's gaze on him now, and Starscream's vents hitched miserably in hopeless humiliation.

The world lurched - so focused Starscream had been on his hand and valve, he had not noticed the ground shaking with Grimlock's approach. Snow and water and fangs filled his vision as something dug underneath him and lifted him into the air. The seeker squawked in alarm and jerked his hand out from between his legs so he could flail for purchase to keep from falling. His arms wrapped around a solid presence at his front, claws scraping to secure himself, and once he was satisfied he was not going to fall, Starscream reset his optics to clear the haze of static.

He hung in the air, supported from the waist down by a gaping maw. Water sluiced between impossibly sharp fangs which formed a surprisingly careful cradle around him. A few settled against his back and wings but did barely more than scratch his plating. The matching upper fangs framed him and barely rested against him despite the way Starscream clung to and squeezed the Dinobot's snout for balance. Grimlock had his head tilted back enough to keep gravity from forcing his teeth to press hard enough to damage the seeker's plating.

Starscream registered his position and what had happened in a few alarmed glances before he moved his gaze around the curve of Grimlock's snout to meet one of the Dinobot's own blue, over-bright optics.

The broad surface of Grimlock's tongue brushed slowly and meaningfully over Starscream's exposed valve. The tapered tip flicked just past the rim.

"Tell. Me. To stop," Grimlock snarled. His words quaked through every last circuit and wire in the seeker's body. Somehow, Starscream knew he would stop if told.

He lifted one leg to hook his thruster over Grimlock's snout, opening his valve further.


The Dinobot's tongue laved Starscream's dripping opening, slowly at first, drawing a needy whimper from the seeker, but just when Starscream rocked his hips to encourage more, Grimlock plunged the tip of his tongue into him, and Starscream threw back his head and screamed.

Primus, but it felt glorious to be filled by something other than his own claws or some cold, inanimate toy. Grimlock's tongue was no spike and was still just a temporary relief, but at the moment, Starscream did not care. It stretched him and reached deeper than Starscream's claws could, the tapered tip stroking over nodes which had been neglected the last few weeks. Grimlock lapped at the seeker's fluids, cleaning him of the copious lubricant to generate wonderful friction over the heated inner lining. He pulled back to press against the sensitive exterior node and growled, and Starscream cried out again as the noise made the other mech's tongue vibrate against him.

His claws scratched at Grimlock's snout as he writhed in the Dinobot's jaws. Starscream's spark thrilled with the danger those fangs presented - at any klik, Grimlock could close his jaws, and Starscream had no doubt they were powerful enough to bite him in half, and Starscream would be helpless to prevent it. But Grimlock simply cradled him, shifting his stance and the angle of his head with Starscream's writhing to keep Starscream from hurting himself on his fangs as best he could. His vocalizer's constant rumble buzzed his fangs over the surface of Starscream's wings, and his tongue once again plunged into the seeker's depths. On some level, Starscream was mortified at the amount of fluids he knew he must have been coating Grimlock's tongue and flowing down the Dinobot's intake, but more than the embarrassment was the relief and the overwhelming sensation of how good it felt, and he knew it couldn't last - wouldn't last. His world narrowed to a pinpoint between his thighs, the slick thrust of the other mech's movements, the buzzing fangs against his back, growling, licking, snarling, begging, oh, Primus, please

Static slowly began to fade as sensation returned to Starscream's extremities. The world shifted again, and snow hissed against his back as he was carefully lowered to it. His arms and legs were heavy; he had no strength to continue clinging to Grimlock's snout. The Dinobot deposited him onto the cold ground, and Starscream's hands fell limply to the snow.

The sound of a transformation sequence sent a sharp jolt of need from Starscream's spark straight to his throbbing valve. He did not bother to fight back a needy moan and tried to find the energy to part his thighs further. He was equal parts afraid and intrigued to see the answer to his questions earlier - how large was Grimlock's spike? Was it different from a normal mech's? A mix of nervousness and exhaustion kept him from looking away from the sky to see for himself. All he could do was force his legs apart to try to make room for the massive mech's bulk, vents hitching in anticipation.

Another moan tore free of his vocalizer when he felt a large hand move between his thighs, and Starscream's optics flickered offline as he rocked his hips upward to meet the other mech's fingers. One large claw hooked into the seam of the seeker's panel—


Starscream's optics flared online again.

Wait — what?

Did Grimlock just close him?

His head shot up to look at the other mech in alarm only to be met with a red visor watching him, glinting in what was unmistakably a mouthless grin.

"That should help you Starscream think for a while now," Grimlock grunted and pushed himself to his feet.

"Wha— You—!" Starscream stammered and pushed himself upright, and, to his shock, the Dinobot had turned to leave. "Get back here! How dare you leave this unfinished! How dare you leave me unfinished!"

"Him Prime say you Starscream next-to-last," Grimlock countered with a cheeky wave over his shoulder. "Starscream still want Grimlock then, Starscream come find Grimlock then." Starscream shrieked at Grimlock's back and began to extricate himself from the snow only for his irate shriek to cut off into a startled squawk at an explosion of white in his face when Grimlock spun around and threw a miniature avalanche of snow on top of him.

By the time Starscream managed to kick and flail and swear his way back out of the snow and steam, Grimlock was gone.