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Trial by Fire

Chapter Text

Day six of their forced proximity dawned. 

Hot Rod continued on as he always did, probably with his nose buried in one of the datapads he’d pilfered from Starscream’s library. Or perhaps he was in the training room, going through one of the numerous kata the trainer-bot had taught him. Or on the window ledge carving the discarded metals. Or even in the Astronomy room, cycling through the skyscapes, his optics wide with wonder. 

Starscream was left with the silence of his tower, save for the whoosh and rattle of the raging duststorm. Well, less raging now. The intensity was easing. It seemed his calculations were accurate. His predictive software approached perfection. 

Hot Rod would be gone tomorrow. Starscream had run out of time. 

He cycled a ventilation. He settled down into his chair – comfortable, not the stool – and plugged the code reader into the medical port on his wrist. He waited, on bolts and brackets, for the read out, and nearly sobbed aloud when it came back to him. 

Coding degradation at fifty-eight percent. 

He could, possibly, survive until Deadlock’s return. Not conscious, perhaps. Autonomics would kick in, preserve his spark for a few more days until that coding degraded. But Deadlock’s return visits were never guaranteed. It was within a two week period. He could be early. He could be late. 

Did he dare risk it? 

It was too late to contact Skyfire. By now, his clan was on the other side of the Manganese Mountains, out of reach of Starscream’s communicators. And heading to the cities in his current state was a deathwish.

Starscream removed the scanner and eyed the innocent device on his desktop. It was little more than a memory stick, and it contained a copy of the newest iteration of his substitute operating code. One he’d finished late last night, when he’d forced himself to stay online, working furiously to make up for allowing himself to be distracted. It was important. Necessary. Something that would save the spark of every Seeker on Cybertron if only he could get it to work. 

What did he have to lose by trying it now, save that miniscule chance Deadlock might show up early and spare him the embarrassment of begging the Firebrand for help?

He couldn’t take the risk. He had to trust in himself and in his work. Or at least trust that he’d survive the test. 

Starscream cycled a ventilation and grasped the memory stick. He stared hard at it, his port twitching at his hesitation, and his processor spinning around the numbers. 

Fifty-eight percent. Fifty-eight percent. Fifty-eight percent. Fif--

He inserted the stick and activated the coding software before he could convince himself to abort the process. He braced himself against the desk as dizziness made him sway. He felt the foreign code trickling through him, mingling with his own, bolstering and rewriting. It itched, like a rust infection he couldn’t reach. 

Starscream groaned. He flushed, felt hot all over, except for the chill deep in the pit of his tanks. His port ached. His processor spun into mighty circles. 

The upload finished. 

Starscream pulled out the memory stick with shaky fingers and set it aside. His vision wobbled. He couldn’t feel a difference, but the foreign code worked through him like hot slices of an energon blade. There was an… incompatibility. Rejection. The source code peered and disapproved. 

His tanks clenched. He clamped down on the need to purge. 

He plugged the scanner back into his port. He gripped the desk to keep himself upright, even though it felt as though his gyros were spinning. This… wasn’t right. He knew how it felt to have a coding boost from a willing donor. The surge of energy, of life, the unfurling of new data, new coding tricks. This was the complete opposite. 

The scanner beeped. It took Starscream a frightening amount of time to focus on the read out. 

Coding degradation at twenty-three percent. 

Damn it. Damn it

Starscream threw the memory stick away. It clattered across the table before sliding off the other end and bouncing across the floor. It likely broke. Not that it mattered. It was useless now. 

The coding upload had failed. Again. And worse, this time it had further corrupted what coding he’d had. 

Starscream dug furrows into the desk with his talons. His vents came in sharper bursts. 

He had no choice now. None. If he wanted to live, if he wanted to survive, to continue, he would have to ask Hot Rod. He would have to bow his head and submit himself, like he hadn’t in centuries, to the whim of another mech. 

It was only his self-respect, he reasoned. He could claw his way back to it again. But oh, how it stung. Such a heavy price to pay. 

It had to be done. 


Rodimus rounded the corner, unable to decide if he was excited he could leave for home tomorrow, or disappointed that he would be returning a failure. Part of him wanted to linger, to spend more time here in this laboratory, with Starscream as waspish as he was, and yet sometimes charming, too. 

Said Seeker had spent the entirety of the day locked in his laboratory. He hadn’t even answered the door when Rodimus pinged it, hoping to lure him out with more treats. Rodimus had been left to entertain himself, which he had, but couldn’t shake the disappointment. He’d thought he and Starscream had become, well, not friends, but maybe they’d learned to respect one another. Tolerate one another? Come to an understanding? 


Starscream had gone back to the cold distance so quickly. Rodimus had hoped that he could leave tomorrow feeling as though he’d made a friend at the very least. Beneath that bristly exterior, Starscream was fascinating, and lonely, if Rodimus had a guess, and Rodimus knew something about what it meant to feel alone. 

It was probably all Rodimus’ fault. He’d made too much of a nuisance of himself, and a distraction both. He’d caused Starscream’s experiment to fail yesterday, and that must have been the last grit in the gear. 

He sighed, scrubbed a hand down his face, and then froze when he realized he was no longer alone. Starscream loitered outside of the room he’d loaned to Rodimus. The Seeker leaned against the wall beside the door, his posture casual, but the rest of him less so as his armor was clamped tightly and his expression unreadable. 

Rodimus tilted his head. “Um, what’s going on?” He hadn’t broken anything, he was sure of it. Behind him, Scuttle bumped against his heel and chirped indignantly. 

“Well, Hot Rod, it seems I am going to grant your wish after all.” 

Rodimus cycled his optics and drew down his orbital ridges. “What do you mean?”

Starscream pushed off the wall, dropping his arms from where they’d been folded across his chestplate. The motion seemed to draw the overhead lights toward his frame, highlighting paint that gleamed as though he’d been freshly waxed and polished. 

“You wanted to berth the Warlock,” Starscream said and rested a hand on his hip, frame angled as though to show off all his best features. “Here I am. But I want something from you in exchange.” 

Rodimus gnawed on the inside of his cheek. This was really weird and sudden, and he couldn’t help but notice how very twitchy Starscream was. The Seeker’s field, usually well contained, was all over the place, and pushing at Rodimus’ own. 

“What?” he said, maybe a little dumbly. Starscream wasn’t making any sense. 

Starscream sighed a ventilation, which he seemed to do a lot. “Must I spell it out for you?” He rubbed at his forehead. “You can frag me for whatever bragging rights your backward clan finds acceptable, and in exchange, I want to borrow your coding.” 

No. He still wasn’t making any sense. 

“You want to frag me,” Rodimus repeated slowly, and looked around for the cameras. Was Starscream recording this? Trying to humiliate him? “But you want me to let you copy my coding first?” 

“Look, it’s a simple exchange of favors, is it not?” Starscream demanded, his tone impatient. His wings twitched faster as the press of his field became more urgent. 

Rodimus shook his head. “I don’t understand. You’ve been turning me down since the solar cycle I woke up here. What changed?” 

“That’s none of your business!” Starscream snapped, and crossed his arms over his chestplate. “Are you going to take the deal or not?” 

It was Rodimus’ turn to fold his arms. “I don’t think only with my spike, you know.” He peered at Starscream, noticing the wan shade of the Seeker’s face and the tremble in his fingertips. “Is there something wrong with you?” 

Starscream’s ventilations stuttered, his lips curving downward in a frown. “You know nothing of Seekers, do you?” 

“Only the stories and I’ve learned that most of them are false now.” Rodimus shrugged. “There aren’t any in my clan. Never have been. Why would I know anything?” He peered at Starscream. “What am I missing?” 

Starscream stared at him for a long moment. He wavered on his feet and slipped back toward the wall, leaning against it. “Our coding deteriorates over time. Breaks down. Causes glitches. Instabilities and eventually...” 

“You die?” Rodimus’ optics flared with shock. “So wait. Is that why--”

“Yes,” Starscream interrupted with a long ventilation. “We need unmarred coding to refresh our own. Like a temp patch on a wound.” 

Rodimus shook his head, his processor spinning. This was a lot to take in all at once. “But you’ve been living here alone. For years.” 

“I’ve had visitors,” Starscream said dryly. “I’m going to spare you the details because you aren’t owed them.” He dropped his hand and gave Rodimus a long look. “Have I satisfied your curiosity enough? Are we in agreement?” 

Rodimus reared back, his spark hammering in his chassis. “What? No!” 

“Why not? Is this not what you came here for?” Starscream actually looked insulted, his wings twitching faster. “Or am I too unappealing for you to bring yourself to activate your spike?” 

Rodimus shook his head so hard it left him a touch dizzy. All of the sudden his plating crawled, and he’d never been less aroused in his life. Somehow it just felt wrong. Wrong for Starscream to agree to ‘face with him only so he wouldn’t die. That wasn’t seduction. That wasn’t overcoming the odds to defeat or berth the Deathbringer himself. 

That was… well, it was just wrong. 

“Do we have to frag?” Rodimus asked. 

Starscream scoffed. “Apparently I am that unappealing.” He pushed off the wall again and turned down the hallway, away from Rodimus, but he stumbled in the midst of doing so. 

Rodimus chased after him and cut Starscream off, skidding to a halt in front of the Seeker. “That’s not what I meant!” he rushed to say and felt his face heat. “I just meant, you know, that you shouldn’t have to take my spike just to get something you need to live. You know?” He rubbed the back of his neck. 

There was no honor in it. There just wasn’t. He’d never live with himself if he accepted Starscream’s exchange. He’d never claim it as a victory. He’d always feel tainted by his own selfishness and dishonor. 

Starscream’s optics widened. His gaze flicked up and down Rodimus’ frame. “Wait,” he said. “What are you saying?” 

Rodimus dragged in a heavy vent. “You can copy my coding. You don’t have to frag me for it. I mean, not unless you have to be fragging me for it to work.” He rolled his shoulders in a shrug that was far from dismissive. “I just want to help.” 

Starscream stared at him. “Seriously?” 

“Yeah.” Rodimus swept his hand over his head, feeling like an idiot, the embarrassment burning in his cheeks. “I mean, it won’t hurt, will it?” 

Starscream shook his head. “No. Not at all. In fact from what I’ve witnessed and heard, it’s actually quite pleasurable.” His field evened out, turning warm and pliant. “It’s just data-sharing basically. A step up from med-cabling.” 

Rodimus cycled an unsteady ventilation. “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. I can do that.” He offered Starscream a smile, though it was probably shaky. “That is if it’s okay with you.” 

“I wouldn’t have asked you if it wasn’t.” 

“Or if you didn’t have any other choice, right?” Rodimus asked. 

Starscream’s wings twitched. “There are times when one must choose between survival and dignity. I have always favored the former.” 

That was terribly sad to hear. Rodimus was at once even more glad that he’d chosen to help rather than take the opportunity for what it was. 

He nodded. “So, uh, if we do this, you’ll be able to read my coding, right?” he asked as he mentally reviewed all that he knew about cabled interfacing, which amounted to very little. It wasn’t common in his clan. Or by any of them. Not when so many clanlings attributed it code-stealing Seekers. 

“To an extent,” Starscream conceded. He lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I won’t be able to alter or affect it, however. The integrity of your own frame is safe.” 

Rodimus cycled a ventilation. “Then you’ll probably find out that I lied to you,” he said, and flinched as Starscream’s expression darkened. “Not about something big,” he hastily added. “Just, I told you my given name, not my chosen name.” 

Starscream blinked, his forehead drawing downward in confusion. “Why?” 

“Didn’t want you to know who I was. Not that it matters because you still don’t.” Rodimus laughed, though it was self-deprecating. “My name is actually Rodimus.” 

“Fair enough.” Starscream tilted his head, the fire in his optics dimming. “It’s hardly the worst lie I’ve ever heard.” 

“Yeah, but it’s never good to start off with dishonesty. I should have known better.” Rodimus coughed into his hand and shifted his weight. “So do you want to do this now or later or in your room or what?” 

Starscream’s lips curved in something like a smile, a real one, and wow, it was kind of nice. Pretty cute, too. They were so rare that Rodimus wished he could take a picture, just to remember it. 

“If you are amenable, I would accept your assistance now,” Starscream said as the tight clamp of his armor eased. “I fear I am running short on time.” 

Rodimus nodded. “Okay then. Um...” He pointed to his door. “Come on in. Well, it’s your room to start with but you know, we should go in.”

He was nervous. He was babbling. He needed to stop before he looked like an even bigger idiot than he was. 

Starscream turned around without speaking and opened the door. Rodimus followed him inside, anxiety sending a low treble through his spark. Despite it all, Starscream was pretty much a stranger to him, and Rodimus had never crossed cables with anyone, not even his closest friends. Cable-crossing was miles above interfacing in terms of intimacy. The closest thing Rodimus could compare it to was shallow merging, and he’d never engaged in that either. 

Cheerful beeping attracted his attention. He looked down to see Scuttle surging ahead of him into the room, and two other drones milling around Starscream’s feet, bumping against his thrusters. 

Starscream must have heard them also, as he turned around and looked at the floor with a frown. “There is nothing for you to clean here. Back to your stations.” He made shooing motions at the three drones. 

Two flashed their lights at him and obeyed. They spun around Starscream in tight circles before changing course and zipping out the door. 

Scuttle, however, seemed to hunker down. It made an undignified blat noise, that Rodimus could only interpret as ‘frag you.’ 

Starscream huffed and planted his hands on his hips. “None of that now,” he said with a sharp look. “Out you get!” He pointed to the door. 

The sound Scuttle then made surely was not polite. 

Starscream’s optics widened as though he’d been insulted. Rodimus tried his best not to laugh as he crouched. 

“Scuttle,” he said, careful to make his tone stern. “You heard Starscream. Out you get.” 

Scuttle wriggled in place before it rose up and beeped, more positively this time. It spun around and obediently went out the door. 

Starscream huffed. “Obstinate sparkling.” 

Rodimus chuckled and stood back up. “I think Scuttle’s cute,” he said. “Well, all of them are, but Scuttle especially.” He pressed the panel so that the door would close. Suddenly, the room felt a lot smaller. 

He turned around to face Starscream again, the Seeker giving him an odd look, as though he were trying to figure out a complicated equation. 

“So, uh, how do you want to do this?” Rodimus asked.

Starscream hiked up onto the berth, his legs hanging over the edge. He looked at Rodimus, but there wasn’t as much confidence in his expression as Rodimus would have expected. 

“Whatever makes you comfortable,” he said with a shrug that felt like forced nonchalance. “We will need to be close, you understand.” 

“I trust you,” Rodimus said, and surprised himself with how much he didn’t hesitate at all. He hadn’t known Starscream very long, but apparently his instincts had decided it was long enough. 

Starscream’s smile broadened, even more sincere than before. “Then care to join me?” He patted the berth next to him as he pulled his frame further onto it, until he rested his back against the wall at the head of the berth. 

Rodimus climbed onto the berth, eying Starscream for a long moment before he decided to go with the flow and planted himself right in the Seeker’s lap. Starscream made a startled sound, his hands going to Rodimus’ hips, even as Rodimus scooted forward, his hands resting on Starscream’s shoulders.

“We have to be close, right?” he asked with a cheeky wink. 

“You continue to surprise me, Firebrand.” Starscream’s hands gently patted his hips before they swept up to his waist, warm and present against his plating. “Where is your port array? Mine is located on my lower back, below my wing hinges.” 

“Well, that’s inconvenient,” Rodimus said with a laugh. He patted his left abdominal panel. “Mine’s here.” 

Starscream smirked. “Then it appears neither of us are standard.” His wings fluttered in what little space was allowed between him and the wall. “You understand I’ll need to connect to you, yes?” 

Rodimus nodded, and in a show of trust, went ahead and triggered his panel to open, shivering a little as the warm air wisped over his connectors. He’d never bared them to another before, and it was strange how he felt shy about it. 

“Shiny and new,” Starscream murmured as his gaze dropped down to Rodimus’ port. One of his hands swept inward, fingers flirting over the connectors. 

Rodimus shivered, a low thrill shooting through his frame at the light touch. His spark throbbed with need, his fans spinning up to low speed. That had felt good. Like Starscream had touched his anterior node cluster or rubbed his spike head. 

“Either you’ve never done this before or you take scrupulous care of your equipment,” Starscream commented, the tips of his fingers brushing over Rodimus’ connectors again. 

A low whine eeked out of Rodimus’ vocalizer. He arched toward Starscream, his ventilations stuttering. 

“Th-the former,” he stammered and felt his faceplate flush with heat. “Is it supposed to feel like that?” 

“Better,” Starscream replied. 

There was a distant click before Starscream’s hands faded away from his port array. Rodimus tried not to mourn their loss, even as he looked down to see Starscream awkwardly reaching behind himself. 

“Let me help,” Rodimus said, stirring himself into action. 

He leaned forward, slipping a hand behind Starscream, groping blindly for the Seeker’s cable array. He knew he’d found it when his fingers slid over connectors, and Starscream shivered, arching toward him. Taloned hands returned to his hips, squeezing gently. Starscream’s field bloomed with warmth and swelled over Rodimus’, tangling in all the edges of his and pulsing at him. 

Rodimus fumbled for several seconds more before he located the prongs of Starscream’s cables and was able to draw them free, one on each side of the Seeker’s chassis. They, unlike Rodimus’, reflected their frequent use. The metal of the prongs was a duller sheen, and the cables themselves were frayed. 

Nevertheless, Starscream shivered harder as Rodimus ran his thumbs over the prongs. He slowly unspooled the cables and drew them toward his own port array.

“You’ll help me, right?” he asked as he struggled to look down at himself. 

Starscream’s hands closed over his, gentle as they took the cable-tips from his fingers. “Yes,” he said and added, “because as charming as it would be to watch you fumble, perhaps that is better saved for another time.” 

Rodimus flushed and felt the heat all the way to the tip of his finials. “Another time?” 

“If there is one,” Starscream amended and focused his attention on Rodimus’ port array, his optics a touch brighter than they had been before. “Are you certain you want to do this? I won’t blame you if you don’t.” 

Rodimus shook his head. He was glad Starscream was willing to give him an out, but he couldn’t do it. He could feel the hunger in Starscream’s field. The desperation, too. Starscream hadn’t lied when he said he needed this. 

He curled his fingers around Starscream’s wrists and tugged the Seeker’s hands closer to his port array. “I’m sure.” 

Rodimus shivered as the tip of Starscream’s connector nudged against his receiving port, and a light shock of charge danced between them. It was like a bolt of unexpected pleasure straight to his sensornet. His engine hummed, armor loosening as his uncertainty vanished. 

“Very well then.” Starscream’s field pushed at Rodimus’, warm and fluid as it coated Rodimus in appreciation and gratitude. “Here I go.” 

Rodimus braced himself, his hands sliding up Starscream’s arms, from his wrists to his shoulders. He could see very little beneath the rise of his chestplate, but the sensation was more than enough. 

The light touch of connector to port. The tiny nips of charge exchanging between the two. And then the quiet click as the first cable snapped home, which was then immediately followed by another click. 

Rodimus waited, unsure what to expect. At first there was nothing, just the sensation of his ports growing warm as Starscream’s connector nestled within them. Then he felt Starscream’s presence tapping at his firewalls, a polite request for permission. 

“You needn’t drop them entirely,” Starscream murmured as his hands slid to cupping Rodimus’ waist, his thumbs stroking over the flat of Rodimus’ abdomen. “Shallow permissions are enough.” 

Rodimus nodded, unable to trust his words. He allowed Starscream access and shivered as he felt the odd sensation of an alien presence sifting into his system. It crept in warmly, cautiously, as though taking great care not to harm. 

Then came the first pulse of charge. It drizzled into his port like a snap of static electricity and Rodimus twitched. Heat pooled low in his abdomen, sinking toward his array. His grip on Starscream’s shoulders tightened before he made himself let go. 

Another pulse of charge lit up his port array. It was a languid pulse, like an afterthought, yet it still set Rodimus’ internals ablaze with need. 

“Primus,” Rodimus moaned as his backstrut arched, his hands clawing the air before they curled around Starscream’s forearms. Pleasure licked through his lines like dipping into a hot oil bath, and his vents stuttered. 

Starscream’s fingers stroked a soothing path against his mid-section, his thumbs tracing the port housing. “See,” he murmured, his vocals rich and syrupy and dancing in Rodimus’ audials. “Not painful at all.” 

“The complete opposite,” Rodimus gasped as his hips moved of their own accord, rocking toward Starscream, his array throbbing with an unexpected need. 

More charge slithered into his port and while he dimly sensed the data transfer, it was secondary to the pleasure suffusing every inch of his frame. It was like Starscream was stroking him on the inside, featherlight touches that danced across every node and set his sensornet afire.

Rodimus panted for oral ventilations, feeling as though he couldn’t seem to ventilate otherwise. He licked his lips, resisting the urge to free his equipment, his spike and valve both throbbing in hungry demand. His spark was equally intrigued, spinning faster and faster within his chamber. 

And still Starscream continued. 

His thumbs stroked Rodimus’ port housing, occasionally dipping inward to caress where they were joined, each light touch sending another jolt through Rodimus. The data transfer increased in speed, each pulse along the cable like a tap to Rodimus’ nodes. He twitched, his hands squeezing Starscream’s arms to the same beat as the data transfer. 

“Hnngh.” Rodimus moaned and his face heated as he did so. But he couldn’t help it. The pleasure was consuming him. “I think – I might – I’m gonna--” Not complete a sentence apparently, but his vocalizer kept stuttering, and it was hard to focus on anything beyond the throbbing of his frame. 

“It’s all right,” Starscream murmured. “It is quite common for mechs to overload. Do not hold back on my account.” 

Rodimus struggled to lift his head, and barely managed a sheepish grin. “H-holding back… isn’t an option,” he struggled to say before another shudder danced down his spinal strut and his valve clenched on nothing. 

He hoped he wasn’t leaving a mess on Starscream’s lap. It was all he could do to keep his panels closed, even as his spike throbbed in its housing, and his valve cycled faster and faster. 

He hung his head, unable to keep it up any longer. His optics shuttered, vents coming sharper. Thoughts and awareness turned inward, to the hot and languid pulses of data, as Starscream fed off his coding. 

Dimly, he realized that Starscream trembled beneath him, that he was no less affected by the transfer. Only, he was better used to it, and maintained better control. Yet, his frame exuded heat, and charge crackled in his seams, and his field caressed Rodimus’ like a lover might. His vents, too, came in faster bursts, his frame moving beneath Rodimus’ in little shifts and twitches. 

It was actually pretty hot. 

Rodimus lifted his gaze and drank in the sight of Starscream’s face flushed, his optics brighter if not unfocused. Starscream was nibbling on his bottom lip, his wings twitching behind him. Yet, he trembled as he held back, his vents fluttering and the turbines on his chest spinning a little. 

Rodimus wanted to kiss him suddenly. Wanted to press his lips to those swollen ones and taste Starscream’s surprise with his glossa. He wanted to scoot forward, drop his aching valve on Starscream’s spike, and drown in pleasure. He wanted to ride Starscream while they were still connected until he couldn’t see straight. 

He wanted…

Rodimus’ hands tightened on Starscream’s arms and he prayed he didn’t dent the armor with his fingertips. His backstrut arched again, hips rolling forward, the heat coiling tighter and tighter in his abdomen. 

“I am almost done,” Starscream murmured, but it sounded like it came from a distance, a buzz in Rodimus’ audials. 

If he’d had the energy to spare for it, he would have chuckled, would’ve remarked with something cheeky like “so am I.” But all the processing power he had left was focused on pleasure, on the tiniest pull of Starscream’s presence in his systems, slurping up a copy of his code as though it were the finest of engex. 

Each tug felt like a stroke to his spike. Each trickle of charge was a lick to his anterior node. Each careful sweep of Starscream’s fingers was a caress to his sensor net. 

Rodimus moaned again, something staticky and broken, and lost his fight with gravity. He sank fully into Starscream’s lap, hips moving of their own accord. He arched, again and again, rocking toward Starscream’s chassis in mimicry of interfacing, while his array pulsed and pounded behind the locks he’d set up to keep his panels closed. 

Need tightened and tightened within him, like a wound spring, until it abruptly burst. Rodimus threw his head back, gasping out a ridiculous sound as he overloaded, pleasure pounding through his lines with all the force of a sandstorm. It whirled around him, swept him up, sent him spinning through space. 

Rodimus came back to himself ventilating unevenly, his chassis lurched forward and resting against Starscream’s chestplate. His head was pillowed on one of Starscream’s shoulders, his hands clutching Starscream’s hips. Little jolts of charge radiated through his frame, making him shiver. 

Despite it all, he felt good. Sated. Languid. Like he could recharge right here and now. He nuzzled into Starscream’s intake as the dimmest sense of connection still buzzed between them. 

Starscream was petting his back. Short, soft strokes of his palms down Rodimus’ armor. His engine purred softly. The cables hung limp between them. 

Rodimus mumbled something that might have been words. He heard Starscream chuckle, the amusement rumbling within the Seeker’s chassis. 

“Welcome back,” he said. 

Rodimus groaned and forced himself to sit back up, though it made the cables pull between them, giving a light tug on his port array. It was enough to make him shiver, his backstrut tingling. 

“That was intense,” Rodimus said as he reached down, fingers brushing his array, exploring where cable met port, resulting in another warm shiver. “Is it always like that?” 

“It depends on the mech. And how often you participate,” Starscream replied. His vocals were light, careful. As though he were afraid of Rodimus’ reaction. “Here. I’ll disconnect myself.” 

Rodimus shook his head. That wasn’t what he was trying to imply at all, but the words wouldn’t come, his thoughts far too fuzzy. Starscream disconnected before Rodimus could get them out. The loss of his datastream, however much of a trickle it had become, was dizzying, and Rodimus swayed in Starscream’s lap. 

He grasped Starscream’s shoulders, and cycled a long, slow ventilation until the dizziness faded, leaving nothing but sated exhaustion in its wake. Primus, what he wouldn’t give for a soak in the oil bath, a cube of midgrade, and to fall into recharge here in this berth. 

“Are you well?” 

“Well enough that I so wouldn’t mind doing that again,” Rodimus admitted with a little laugh. 

He squirmed on Starscream’s lap, feeling the mess behind his panels. He couldn’t believe he’d overloaded without so much as a touch to his spike or valve. That was incredible. 

Starscream quietly retracted his cables. “I’m relieved I haven’t scarred you for life,” he said wryly. 

“Far from it.” Rodimus palmed his port array closed. “If anything, you’ve given me something new to do in the future.” 

Starscream genuinely laughed. “Hedonist,” he said, and gave a little squeeze to Rodimus’ hips. “Now if you don’t mind, my wings are cramped, and I’m in need of energon and recharge.” 

“I am, too,” Rodimus admitted and shifted his weight to the side, letting Starscream scoot out from beneath him. 

Primus, he was exhausted. Maybe he’d skip the energon and go straight to berth and worry about the rest later. He’d felt like he’d engaged in a night of marathon interfacing, not a single instance of cable-swapping. It was the good kind of exhausted, but still!

Starscream slid off the berth, and Rodimus stretched across the space he abandoned, sinking onto his front with an exhausted huff. He felt wrung dry and worn out, and recharge sounded really, really good right now. 

“What happened to wanting energon?” Starscream asked, sounding amused. 

Rodimus groped for the nearest pillow and tucked it under his head, folding his arms beneath it. “Maybe later,” he mumbled, rubbing his face against the softly woven mesh. “’M tired.” 

Starscream chuckled again. “That is not uncommon.” A hand rested on Rodimus’ shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. “Recharge as you will. I’ll leave some energon on the table for you.” 


“It is I who should be thanking you.” Starscream’s field brushed up against his, warm with gratitude. 

“Pfft.” Rodimus turned his head, peering at Starscream through slitted optics as the Seeker headed toward the door. “You kind of saved my spark, so I guess that just makes us even, right?” 

Starscream paused at the door, and he turned back to look at Rodimus. He couldn’t read the Seeker’s expression, but Starscream’s lips did curve into the smallest of smiles. 

“Yes, I suppose it does,” he said and dipped his head in a nod. “Recharge well, Rodimus.” 

“You, too.” 

The door clicked shut behind Starscream, and Rodimus wriggled to get more comfortable on the berth. His entire frame still thrummed from the aftermath of his overload, but it was the good kind of hum. A satisfied kind of hum. 

His engine purred, and he squeezed the pillow beneath him. 

A part of him wished he didn’t have to leave in the morning. He wouldn’t mind trying that again, but more than that, he felt he’d really built something here. A friendship, or more perhaps. Something he was now loathe to lose. 

Rodimus sighed and offlined his optics. 

No point ruminating on impossibilities.