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They'd met on a rooftop on the hottest day of the year. Deadlock had always thought it fitting—like Hot Rod’s presence had scorched the whole slum. Just sitting next to him had left him burning up. Still did.

Hot Rod had offered him half his cube while they watched the sun sink below the city skyline. Among strangers, that was usually a kind of proposition: payment for services rendered. But when Deadlock had asked what the hell the mini was trying to buy with half a cube of cloudy low grade, he’d laughed.

“Nothing. Just thought you looked hungry.”

He wasn’t. He hadn’t been hungry since he’d earned his shiny new name. Hot Rod, on the other hand, looked as starved as everyone else in Nyon. Rust spots ate away at his pretty finish where his frame had been forced to burn up his protective coating in lieu of fuel.

What a pity. Properly washed and waxed, he would’ve been irresistible. As the low sun cast a red glow on him, though, Deadlock had realized he already was. He’d reached out and touched his cheek, trailing a hand down his throat and resting it on his chest over the warmth of his spark.

It would’ve been so easy to kill him.

“Oh, so that’s what you’re hungry for.” Hot Rod had laughed again, and his spark had flared beneath Deadlock’s palm, field warm and trusting and amused. “Guess that makes sense. You’re one of Megatron’s top guys. Guess he feeds you all right, then.”

“Can I have it anyway?” As if he couldn’t just take it.

“Sure,” he’d said easily. No trace of fear in his field—it was generosity. It was kindness.

Hand pressed against thin armor mere inches from the minibot’s spark, he felt hungry.

Hot Rod had taken the first sip as a show of good faith and held out the cube.

Terrible reason to fall in love, really, but nobody had ever accused Deadlock of good judgment.

***

They met on rooftops and in alleyways and outside of gladiatorial fights for months. Shooting the breeze. Watching the rat-race from on high. Taking in the sunset and lying curled together until dawn broke over the opposite horizon. He’d learned that Hot Rod forgave as readily as he shared his energon, that he laughed no matter how terrible a joke was, that he mumbled in his sleep.

After that first time, Deadlock had always been the one offering the cube. It would’ve been easy to drug him. To poison him. The little guy was too trusting—too friendly for the hard life he was leading.

It was selfish, sure, but watching a healthy glow spread over his armor—watching those colors come alive—left need burning in Deadlock’s lines.

“Can I have you?”

Hot Rod stopped to consider it. “Nah. I’m waiting for my sparkmate.”

“Waiting,” Deadlock repeated, incredulous.

“Yeah. I’m still sealed. I know it’s kinda ridiculous—I just want to wait until I find the right person.”

“I could be the right person.”

“You could be.” Hot Rod grinned up at him, and he imagined how those pretty lips would feel against his. What they’d taste like. How they’d look around his spike. When he ran a thumb over them, Hot Rod’s optics dimmed. “Sometimes I think you are.”

“Not everyone gets a choice when they lose their seals.” It could’ve been a threat, but it wasn’t. He hadn’t had a choice. No one he knew had.

“I know.” Hot Rod’s field softened. “And if it comes down to it? If I can’t wait? I want it to be you.”

***

Those words rang in Deadlock’s audials as he pressed a hand to the glass. The din of the other gladiators packed around the viewing room fell away as he watched the steam curling between Hot Rod’s parted lips as he panted and twisted in his chains.

Heat. They were pumping his scent out over the crowd, hoping to feed the blood frenzy, but they didn’t know Hot Rod’s scent. They’d never had their face buried in the crook of his neck as he laughed. They’d never pinned him to a back alley wall and stopped a micrometer short of his lips and craved him, ached to have him. They’d never scented him after a race through the slums, never dragged him into their arms and trembled as they fought to keep their hands from wandering where they’d been forbidden to go.

They smelled the heat. Deadlock smelled Hot Rod, and his whole frame vibrated with the sheer force of his need to claim him. To be his first and only. To protect him from the mechs who might take him and have no fucking idea what they had.

His claws screeched against the glass at the thought. Hot Rod’s optics came online—foggy and unfocused. Still, he sought out Deadlock’s face in the crowd. When they locked eyes, he parted his legs wider, exposing his slick seal. Hot Rod had told Deadlock that seals were semi-permeable—that they had to let lubricant out to avoid infection—but seeing the sheen on the pliable silicon as Hot Rod displayed himself, begged for Deadlock’s touch—

What would that feel like against his fingertips? Against his spike?

He forced his optics back up Hot Rod’s frame, taking in the soft glow of fresh wax—applied by drones to deny Hot Rod his heat imprint until the victor could claim him. Until Deadlock could claim him. He could vividly imagine the black streaks his claws would leave, marking who Hot Rod belonged to, warning off anyone who would dare try to touch him. He could picture the marks his fangs would leave in that perfect finish.

What would Hot Rod taste like, he wondered, looking at the exposed curve of his throat. How many times had he stopped short, the tips of his fangs just barely brushing the cables there? He knew intimately just how perfectly his mouth would fit in that achingly empty space.

Hot Rod’s optics remained on him, pleading. His hands had been bound above his helm to keep him from breaking his seal himself. He’d have no satisfaction whatsoever until Deadlock won.

And Deadlock would win. He scanned the crowd, assessing the competition. No one here knew what they were fighting over. No one here understood.

‘I want it to be you,’ Hot Rod’s voice repeated in his memory. ‘I want it to be you.’

Anybody who got in his way wouldn’t live long enough to regret it.

***

Hot Rod twisted in his chains, trying futilely to free a hand and ease the unbearable need between his legs. He hung with the tips of his pedes just barely able to support his weight; he didn’t have the leverage to move himself, to free himself. He’d learned how to escape bindings, but he just couldn’t remember

He stopped fighting and hung limp, panting, trying to cool down. Any touch—any touch at all, please, Primus, please

A flash of white, black, and gold drew Hot Rod out of his desperate prayers. He’d seen Deadlock in the fights before—been invited personally—but this felt different. These mechs were fighting over him. Even through the haze, Hot Rod knew that, knew it like he knew needed Deadlock inside him, filling him, claiming him.

He fought the chains again and whined. They didn’t have to fight. He’d picked. Let him pick! He strained toward Deadlock, aching, a sob welling up in his throat.

Deadlock struck down another opponent. Another. Hot Rod didn’t even look at them. His frame remembered the press of Deadlock’s hand over his spark. The way he’d reined himself in when he had Hot Rod against a wall, the way his hands had shaken every time they ran carefully along his sides. The same hands tearing through mechs had been so gentle against his frame. So protective.

Thrashing got him nowhere. Rocking his hips brought him no relief. He felt feverish with need, achingly empty. He sobbed and prayed for deliverance.

Deadlock threw aside what was left of the last mech standing. Their optics met.

The glass separating them slid out of the way.

***

Deadlock had been built for speed, and he used it as the glass walls of Hot Rod’s cage slid away. He ignored the cheering crowd, the roaring of his fans that usually left his energon hot, focused entirely on Hot Rod’s desperate expression, the trembling in his legs, the steam coiling off his perfect frame.

When he pushed past the too-slow walls, he was hit by the intensity of Hot Rod’s EM field. So fierce with need it felt tangible, so achingly hot and ready. He’d been left like this—they’d left him like this, left him to ache, left him to watch and want

Deadlock caught him by the chin and dragged him up for a burning kiss. Hot Rod weakly kissed back, shivering even as he vented steam. When Hot Rod swayed, unable to find purchase on the floor, Deadlock raked his fingers down his back, down the center of his spoiler, marking him all the way down to that flawless aft he’d been desperate to grab for so long.

It fit perfectly in his hand as he hauled Hot Rod up, releasing his chin in favor of pawing at his spoiler. Hot Rod buried his face in the crook of Deadlock’s neck and sobbed, exposing his throat and rocking his hips to grind against Deadlock’s spike panel.

“Tell me you want this,” Deadlock begged against his neck, kissing and nipping and wanting so fucking badly to sink his fangs into the sensitive cables. “Roddy, tell me you want me.”

“Please.” His voice was staticky and raw. “Please, Deadlock, I picked you, I picked you, the chains, I couldn’t, I want you, I want you—”

Deadlock’s spike pressurized automatically, and Roddy wept against his shoulder as he tried to press against it, hooking his legs behind Deadlock’s back and grinding.

The seal dragged along the underside of Deadlock’s spike—pliable, soft, flexible enough to not snap at the first press of a spike. His own had been brittle and dry when it had been taken, and it had hurt, but this—this was right. His frame knew it. He rolled his hips experimentally, and the seal stretched as Roddy arched into the touch.

He squeezed Roddy’s aft and tried to stop himself from driving in, tried to focus, but the slick warmth of the seal as Roddy moved against him left charge burning through him. Thick silicon—thicker than he’d expected, more resilient, he didn’t want to hurt him—

“Please, Deadlock, please, please, I need you inside me, I need—I need you, please—”

Deadlock bit down on Roddy’s neck as he snapped his hips forward, and Roddy sobbed as relief rushed through his field, as charge raced over his frame, as Deadlock hilted himself and pulled back just far enough to drink in Roddy’s scent, to lap at the energon beading up in the bite mark. He tasted like fire and hunger. His field and frame worked in tandem to drag Deadlock in, begging just as clearly as his static-laden vocoder.

“Please, I need—I need—”

Deadlock released Roddy’s spoiler to reach up and snap the chains, shatter the cuffs. “Hold on,” he growled, and Roddy obeyed, hooking his arms around Deadlock’s back. Too short to meet on the other side, he held onto Deadlock instead.

Deadlock sank to his knees, deliberately surrounding him, blocking him from the view of the hungry onlookers. His. Not theirs. He brought his other hand up to pillow Roddy’s helm, to guard the back of his neck. Safe. His. He kissed the mark on his throat and shuddered. His.

His hips drove forward of their own accord, desperate for more sensation, frantic in their need to claim Roddy. To mark him inside and out.

Inside, Roddy was molten. Slick and loose and hot and more impossibly perfect with every thrust, too good, better than he’d ever dreamed when he’d spent late nights with his hand around his spike and visions of a bright and open smile in his mind’s eye. Nothing could compare to this. Every point of contact sang as their fields meshed, as Roddy’s entire being begged to have him, to be taken, to be claimed

Overload hit him hard, and Roddy’s chest began to part beneath him, opening to him, offering him everything.

“Not here.” He ached to say it. It hurt to press his hand down on Roddy’s chest to keep him from from exposing himself. “Not here.”

“Safe with you,” Roddy said, and the trust in his voice—in his field, in his frame, in his abject submission—nearly made Deadlock relent.

But no. “They don’t get to see you like that.” His hand shook on Roddy’s parted chest plates, shutting his optics against the lure of the glittering light peeking out between them. “You’re mine.”

Roddy whined but obeyed, painstakingly forcing his chestplates closed again. They lay together for a moment, venting steam, and Deadlock longed to take the spark he’d been offered. No one had ever bared themselves to him—it was reckless and dangerous to trust anyone that much. For Roddy to do it here—in front of thousands of spectators, exposed and vulnerable with only Deadlock to protect him—

His own chestplates pinged for permission to part, and he shut down that train of thought.

Clearly chest-to-chest was too tempting, too dangerous—and his knot hadn’t activated, wouldn’t activate until he’d emptied his transfluid tank. Amazing as it felt to have Roddy’s face buried in the crook of his neck as he moaned, they could still move. He dragged a reluctant hand along Roddy’s back, pulling them flush against one another. His spike ached for friction, but he kept his hips still as he mastered himself.

Despite Roddy’s grip on him, it was easy work to pin him to the ground and pull out. The minibot was stronger than he looked, but he was also trusting. He let Deadlock move him, obediently responding to each nudge and nuzzle as Deadlock rolled him onto his knees. He even automatically raised his aft to keep Deadlock’s transfluid inside himself.

Deadlock took a moment to stroke Roddy’s aft and watch him shiver—with need, with anticipation. Even without the heat coding, he’d be irresistible.

How long had he wanted Roddy exactly like this? Begging for his spike? Presenting for him? He ran his hands over Roddy’s thighs—slick down to his knees, evidence of how much he wanted this.

“Please, Deadlock,” he whispered. “I’ll be so good. I promise. Please.”

He stroked his spike twice to make sure he’d fully recovered from his overload and then mounted him.

Instinct took over as he slid into his mate. His mate, the mate he’d earned, the mate who’d chosen him—chosen him before heat coding left him desperate. The mate who clawed the ground and moaned with every thrust. Who’d waited for the right person and decided it was him.

His fangs found the back of Roddy’s neck and bit down. Instinct left Roddy strutless and pliant beneath him the moment he was scruffed—his back curved, slack, and suddenly Deadlock was deeper.

He rutted into him, chasing overload after overload. His claws tore through the shiny wax and pretty glamor paint, marking his mate as surely as the bites he couldn’t help but leave along his neck, his shoulders, his spoiler. No one else would touch him. No one.

One hand gripped Roddy’s hip, anchoring them both, keeping him at the right angle. The other slid to rest gently on the small swell of his belly. Primus, Roddy was so small, his armor thin enough that Deadlock could feel the bulge of his spike through him. And with every overload, he could feel the press of his increasingly full gestation tank against his palm.

“Gonna fill you so full you can’t walk,” he growled. “Keep you in a pretty little den. Bring you your fuel—everything you can drink.” He could picture it—his beautiful mate curled in a safe underground den. Flyers and their ridiculously exposed nests—a den could be defended. A den was safe. “Fill you up every fuckin’ night. Give you everything you need.” He could picture that, too—picture them chest to chest, sparks merged, one being in two frames— He overloaded with a howl but couldn’t stop the frantic rutting of his hips. “Mine. Mine.”

“Forever,” Roddy said. “Please. Please.”

“Should’ve had you on that rooftop.” He sucked on a bite mark and a shudder wracked his entire frame, throwing off his rhythm. “Should’ve had you in every alley. Should’ve known you were mine the moment I had my hand over your fuckin’ spark—”

He overloaded again and yet his charge spiraled impossibly higher.

“I love you,” Roddy said, and it was his undoing. Everything in him roared—he slammed his hips forward and knotted himself deep, so deep he could feel the lip of the gestation tank as it irised open to take everything Deadlock had left to give.

When he came back to himself, he found he was already pressing shaky kisses to Roddy’s throat. Roddy’s field was soft and sated, though the heat scent in his fresh energon told Deadlock it was only going to be long enough a reprieve to get him somewhere safe. Somewhere private and protected. Somewhere they could merge.

He shivered, running his fingers over the marks he’d left. No one would touch Roddy, not marked like that. Not when this whole stadium knew who they’d be answering to.

“Gonna carry you to a den,” he murmured. “Gonna take care of you.”

“I know.” Roddy was trembling beneath him. “Hurry? I want to give you my spark.”

He shut his optics against the tired rush of charge. He was spent. He’d need time to make more transfluid—fuel, too. His hideout wasn’t compromised yet, and he had a stash of cubes there. It’d work as a stopgap until he could make a real den.

“Tied up at the moment,” he said, and his spark felt warm and fluttery as Roddy laughed at the joke.

The audience might want to watch the whole heat in the stadium, but he kept a few hidden guns on him at all times. Anybody who got in his way was getting triple-tapped. He could shoot one-handed while carrying his mate against his hip. Get him to the hideout. And then he’d wash the filthy scent of the arena off Roddy’s frame and mark him with his own scent instead.

And there—clean, safe, and fueled—he could finally give Roddy the spark that had been his since they’d shared that sunset high above the city.