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Crash and Carry

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As usual, Megatron woke up with empty arms and his pillows scattered on the floor. Starscream's spot in the berth wasn't even warm. Well, what had Megatron expected? It didn't matter if they fell into recharge tangled together, or with Megatron's limbs strategically pinning Starscream to the berth. Starscream always found a way to wiggle free without waking him.

Megatron levered himself to his feet, rolling his shoulders to loosen them. Really, it was considerate of Starscream to leave Megatron the whole berth to relax on after an energetic night. Megatron should be grateful, not resentful.

No, this was Starscream. Megatron should be both resentful and very, very, suspicious.

Megatron turned over Starscream's possible plots in his mind. The fool probably thought he could addle Megatron's mind with interfacing, but he would soon learn the costs of underestimating his leader. Megatron could recall Starscream's every action last night and he did so, looking for the tell-tale signs of mutiny. The moment when Starscream had twisted his cable in Megatron's port had certainly felt too good to be true. Megatron thought he ought to examine that memory several more times, just to be sure.

Megatron was humming to himself when he walked to the command center, feeling loose with satisfaction despite his attempts to maintain vigilance. He was unusually late to join the first shift, though none dared to point it out as he took his seat. If Starscream was merely plotting to distract him from his duties, Megatron would concede this small victory. He finally stopped humming when he realized Rumble and Frenzy were snickering and Soundwave was staring at his viewscreen even more studiously than usual. Megatron resolved to be more discreet in his contemplation of the previous evening.

Starscream was a petty, conniving fool, but somehow he also managed to be the best recreational activity on base. There was something about the way Starscream's screeches dwindled to gasps, then silence as Megatron pressed their plating together. The way Starscream’s wingtips trembled as Megatron gripped them, felt them bend to fit the curve of his hands. The way Starscream took Megatron’s cable eagerly, almost hungry to share Megatron’s processes—

“Be quiet,” Soundwave told Rumble, who had progressed to cackling. “Concentrate on your work.”

“Aw, leave him alone,” grumbled Frenzy. “Nobody else is working.”

Megatron glared at both Rumble and Frenzy until they subsided, and then raised his datapad and forced himself to present a good example. Energon consumption had been up over the last quartex. They needed to assign more mechs to basic maintenance and flood prevention. Starscream's fans hitched whenever Megatron touched his neck. No.

Megatron managed to stay focused on his tasks for at least a half-dozen breem before Skywarp burst into the command center.

Soundwave's helm snapped up. "Skywarp not scheduled for command duty."

"I need to talk to the boss," said Skywarp. "Can I borrow him?"

"You may absolutely not borrow me," said Megatron. "If you have a concern, we can—"

"Yeah, great, thanks." Skywarp bounded up to Megatron's chair and, perhaps predictably, warped them out of the command center.

Megatron stumbled as they landed somewhere outside the base, trying to regain his bearings in the unfamiliar location. It was one of the odd earthly sand-deserts, brightly lit by sun and with clear sightlines in every direction. Probably not an assassination attempt, then. As a great demonstration of the patience and understanding expected of a natural leader, Megatron put his fusion cannon on standby instead of blowing Skywarp's empty head off.

"What exactly do you think you're doing?" he asked with perfect calmness.

“I needed to, uh,” Skywarp hesitated. “Could you move that? I’m having trouble focusing.”

Megatron begrudgingly moved his fusion cannon from where he’d pressed it to Skywarp’s cheek.

"I needed to get you alone." Skywarp rubbed at a sooty mark the cannon had left on his face. “Away from the base.”

Megatron waited, arms crossed and fingers pointedly tapping the barrel of his cannon. Skywarp flinched and hurried to inadequately elaborate. "I just need you to fix this thing with Starscream."

Megatron tapped his fusion cannon again. "Explain. Fully. Until I tell you to stop."

Skywarp shifted uneasily, perhaps realizing it had been a rash decision to teleport his supreme leader to a deserted location where no one would ever find his, Skywarp's, body. The revelation was a little late, but perhaps Megatron should be gratified it had occurred to Skywarp at all. He would have been gratified, if it wasn’t so fragging inconvenient to be stuck here with no idea why and with Skywarp’s voicebox locked with fear.

"Start talking," ordered Megatron. “Now!”

"You're not fragging Starscream properly," blurted Skywarp.

Megatron froze, one finger raised just above the surface of his cannon.

"This has been going on for decivorns," said Skywarp. "And I can't fragging take it anymore. Last night I was recharging peacefully on my own, more or less, I mean Thundercracker was also there, but he understands when a mech needs his rest, and Starscream woke me up like he always does when you leave him half-charged and I had to spend megacycles of my downtime taking care of your mess. Megacycles! And then I missed my alarm and I was late for my shift and Onslaught gave me a really hard time about it even though I definitely outrank him. Or I have seniority. Or whatever. Anyway, it's Starscream's fault I was late and also your fault and not my fault at all even though I'm always the one who gets blamed for being lazy when Starscream keeps me up all night. Can I stop talking now? I don't really have anything else to say, just that you need to overload Starscream better or more or at least until he recharges in your berth instead of crawling into mine and it would be really great if you didn't eradicate the messenger—"

"Shut up." Megatron carefully picked out the essential facts from the blather. "Starscream is... unsatisfied?"

Skywarp snorted. "Yeah, duh."

Megatron felt an unfamiliar tendril of uncertainty creep into his processor. Starscream's overload last night had been as fast and hard as usual. He'd convulsed with it, his charge crackling over his plating and drawing Megatron in like a magnet to iron.

"What did he say?" asked Megatron.

"Starscream? Say something? Don't be ridiculous. I told you, he just elbowed his way into berth and kept me and TC up half the night."

The ground felt like it was moving beneath Megatron's feet, and sirens rang in his audio receptors. He'd never imagined Starscream seeking pleasure elsewhere. Nothing had been said before they sank into recharge, Megatron's hands on Starscream's waist and Starscream's face turned into Megatron's chest. Megatron had thought the silence nothing more or less than mutually exhausted passion.

Had Starscream fallen into recharge at all? Megatron had a vague and disturbing memory of Starscream's bright optics watching him as Megatron's own optics dimmed.

"But he overloaded," said Megatron.

Skywarp looked at him incredulously. "So? Don't tell me you're exactly as idiotic as Starscream always says."

On autopilot, Megatron reached out and caught Skywarp by the throat.

"I'm trying to help!" Skywarp wheezed through his constricted voicebox. "You don't want Starscream to break up with you, right?"

"He can't break up with me," growled Megatron. "We're not together."

"Oh Primus," said Skywarp hysterically. "Oh Primus. This is worse than I thought."

"I'm going to tear your wings off," said Megatron. Violence was the only thing left that made sense.

"I want to help!" Skywarp scrabbled at Megatron's hand, trying and failing to pull his fingers apart. "Before I waste away from recharge-deprivation!"

The sirens in Megatron's audials only seemed to be getting louder. The ground-shaking had become rumbling, the force of it enough to disturb the small piles of sand around them.

"Please let me help!" Skywarp's voice rose to a pitch reminiscent of Starscream.

Sand. Sand shouldn't react to an internal conflict. Megatron looked over his shoulder and saw clouds of dust rising in the distance. "Skywarp—"

"I’m here for you! I’ll teach you what Starscream like, I’ll tell you every secret for revving his engine, I’ll—"

"Skywarp, where are we?"

"Huh?” Skywarp stopped struggling. “Oh, we're in this cool dried up lake."

"Is there a human settlement in the area?"

"I dunno, I guess. They're pretty much everywhere."

"Do you think the flesh creatures might notice a few of their greatest enemies appearing out of nowhere? Perhaps alert the Autobots that Megatron is a sitting target, with only an unreliable seeker for back-up?"

"I dunno, I—"

"You guess." Megatron shook Skywarp. "Get us out of here right now, or—"

Skywarp teleported them out just as the first tank took a shot. The shell passed harmlessly through the spot they'd just been and went on to cause irreparable damage to the beautiful scenery about fifty yards further back.

---

Megatron refused Skywarp's offer of 'interfacing lessons,' first graciously, then pointedly, and finally with only the hum of his fusion cannon. He sought out Starscream instead and asked his opinion on the matter.

"Do you like this?" Megatron pressed Starscream against his quarters' wall with one hand and squeezed Starscream's wing with the other.

Starscream arched in response, cockpit brushing the wall and wings pushing into Megatron's firm grip. Starscream's face was turned to the side, and Megatron watched his full gray lips twist in agonized pleasure as Megatron reshaped his wing to his will.

"Tell me." Megatron brought up his other hand so he could pay his respects to both of Starscream's wings, leave dents in the shape of his fingers. "Tell me you love it. Tell me you need it. Tell me you want nothing more than to give yourself to me until I exhaust you."

Starscream’s mouth moved, but no noise came out. Charge crackled over the cables connecting them, and Megatron could feel Starscream scrabbling frantically for the smallest hold in Megatron's processor, a place to anchor himself against the sensations Megatron was forcing on his frame.

“Tell me,” said Megatron. He shoved Starscream’s processes fully into his own frame so he could properly appreciate what Megatron was doing to him.

Starscream managed a whimper. Yes. The words came over the cable link instead, almost incoherent through the scramble of Starscream’s feelings. Yes, yes, please—

Megatron sent a pulse through his cable, and Starscream stiffened in overload, carrying Megatron with him into the silence of perfect bliss.

"Tell me," said Megatron again, when they'd recovered.

"Hm?" Starscream burrowed a little closer against Megatron's frame in the berth. He'd already knocked two of the five pillows to the floor.

Megatron could feel his systems shutting into recharge, worn down by the hard overload. "Tell me you've never had anyone better."

"Never, Lord Megatron." Starscream murmured the words into Megatron's plating, his face somehow beatific with self-satisfaction. Finally appeased, Megatron allowed himself to rest. Secure in a job well and thoroughly done.

The next morning Megatron woke with empty arms. The only pillow still on the berth was wedged under his shoulder.

He'd only obtained the pillows in the first place because Starscream had whined for them. Frivolous scraps of Earth nonsense Starscream claimed were good for supporting his wings during recharge. Even if he never actually managed to keep the pillows under his wings. Even if he never actually recharged in Megatron's berth.

Megatron contemplated the continued lack of Starscream for a long moment, then hauled himself up and out to the command center. Starscream was out on patrol, but Skywarp was on command shift this deca-cycle. His finish looked dull, like he’d woken up unrested and warped straight to work without the time to spare for polishing. His glare, on the other hand, was bright with resentment.

Megatron hadn't got where he was today by ignoring things that slapped him in the face. "I'd like to take you up on your generous offer."

Skywarp looked at him assessingly. "Can I get off shift early for it?"

"No."

Skywarp sighed, but he pinged Megatron with a new appointment. His quarters, a few kliks after shift-change. Thundercracker jerked up from his post, staring at Skywarp, and Megatron realized he'd been cc'd.

"Does it take both of you to approximate one Starscream?" asked Megatron.

Skywarp waved a hand. "You can have some one-on-one time once I'm sure you know what you're doing. Until then you get one of us to practice on and one of us to instruct. And you need both of us for the live demo to start with."

Thundercracker was still staring, his expression poorly hiding his alarm. Soundwave was also staring, but Megatron didn’t need his input.

"Have you asked Thundercracker about this yet?"

"Believe me, we're talking about it now." Skywarp's optics flickered with exasperation. "He's sent me about fifty comms in the last micro-breem. Don't worry, he'll be there."

"Good," said Megatron, not at all sure if it was. But a general had to use any resources available. Even disrespectful nosy seekers and their reluctant counterparts.

Chapter Text

Thundercracker looked like he wanted to be anywhere except Skywarp's quarters, with anyone except Megatron. At first Megatron had felt equally uncomfortable, but Thundercracker's obvious anxiety was amusing. Now Megatron felt inclined to push this until Thundercracker forgot caution, duty and self-preservation in favor of pushing back. Megatron was betting they'd only make it halfway through Skywarp's first 'lesson' before Thundercracker escalated from anxiety to attempted murder.

"Starscream's going to be furious," said Thundercracker.

"You already said that." Skywarp guided (shoved) Thundercracker to sit on the berth.

"I didn't think you heard me."

"I heard you, I was just ignoring you. You're the one who told me to say something to Megatron."

"I said someone should say something," muttered Thundercracker. "I didn't want to get involved."

"Be the change you want to see in the world, TC." Skywarp sat in Thundercracker's lap, legs sprawled over Thundercracker's thighs and one wing nearly hitting Thundercracker in the face. "Now do me."

Thundercracker's expression froze in a grimace, and Megatron revised his estimate of Thundercracker's forbearance. They wouldn't even begin the lesson. The real question was who Thundercracker would try to kill to save himself from further embarrassment: Megatron, Skywarp, or himself.

"It's the only way to teach," said Skywarp. "Through observation and experience!"

Thundercracker looked imploringly at Megatron. Megatron didn't bother to hide his smile, just settled back in his seat and waved an imperious hand.

The chair was too small for him and looked suspiciously like it had been stolen from the mess hall. At least it offered a reasonable view of the seekers from its position at the end of the berth. Megatron watched as Thundercracker raised a tentative hand, brushing his knuckles against Skywarp's helm, then down his neck and along his wingtip. Nervousness gave way to easy familiarity, and Thundercracker brought his other hand up to stroke the base of Skywarp's wings. Skywarp sighed and leaned back, pressing into Thundercracker's hands.

It was slow, delicate and deliberate. Megatron kept waiting for Thundercracker to get serious as he grew more comfortable, but the pace never changed and Skywarp didn't ask him to speed up. On the contrary, Skywarp offlined his optics and let his mouth hang half-open, squirming in Thundercracker's lap until Thundercracker’s hands were stroking smooth circles from his wing-base to his shoulder-blades and back. After a few more minutes, Megatron found himself shifting in his own seat, but with more a sense of impatience than of lust.

"How long does this usually go on for?" asked Megatron.

Skywarp onlined one optic. "What, interfacing?"

"No, the," Megatron gestured vaguely, "the massage."

Both of Skywarp's optics were brightly online now. "Wait, how basic do you need me to get? You've heard of foreplay, right?"

"Of course I've heard of—"

"Starscream would have broken up with you already if you couldn't do any foreplay."

"I can do foreplay." Megatron dearly missed his fusion cannon, which he'd reluctantly agreed to leave in his own quarters before joining Skywarp and Thundercracker here. At least Thundercracker looked appropriately horrified at Skywarp's disrespect. "I do lots of foreplay."

Once he had fought with Starscream for hours, first verbally, then physically, ending with Starscream pressed facedown over the great conference table, panting desperately as Megatron dragged his thumbs over the ports in Starscream's hips. It had been one of the best encounters in Megatron's admittedly limited experience of intimacy. It had looked nothing at all like this lazy stroking.

Thundercracker ran his hands down Skywarp’s sides, lingering over Skywarp’s hips, and Megatron thought perhaps— But Thundercracker trailed his fingers over Skywarp’s back instead, making for Skywarp’s wings again.

“Tell me what I’m working with here.” Skywarp’s optics were only half-lit, his incredulity faded. “What was the last thing you did with Screamer?”

Megatron thought back to the previous solar cycle, feeling both proud and frustrated. It had been glorious. Somehow it hadn’t been enough.

“I took Starscream to my quarters,” he said. “I kissed him first, let him feel my tongue in his mouth and my charge in his spark. I kissed him until his fans were singing for me and his cable was unspooling in my hands.”

“Okay, sounds fast but good so far.” Skywarp shivered as Thundercracker pressed a kiss to his wing, and he rubbed his own hands over his cockpit. “Keep going.”

“I plugged us in, let our processes mingle in heady frenetic bliss. I took a wing in each hand, felt the metal bend—”

What,” said Skywarp.

Megatron scowled at the interruption, but Skywarp didn’t seem mollified.

“You can’t just bend people’s wings! On purpose!” Skywarp tried to get up, but Thundercracker hauled him back down by the waist. “That’s what all those weird marks were from! I knew I shouldn’t have believed that story about a freak hailstorm.”

“I didn’t mangle him,” said Megatron. “Just a few light love-dents.”

Skywarp mouthed the word ‘love-dents’ a few times with growing incredulity.

“I won’t apologize for being passionate,” said Megatron, and Skywarp switched to mouthing the word ‘passionate’ until Thundercracker pinched his wings to make him stop.

“Ow!” Skywarp glared over his shoulder at Thundercracker. “Don’t tell me you’re getting ideas.”

Thundercracker leaned in and whispered something into Skywarp’s audial. Skywarp grimaced, drawing away, but Thundercracker grasped his chin and pulled him back to listen. Megatron tried to wait patiently as the steady Thundercracker explained the situation to the more volatile Skywarp. Clearly Starscream expressed only one side of himself to his trine. Megatron provided the rough grip he craved, and Skywarp and Thundercracker the gentle touches he had been taught to desire. No wonder Starscream sought out his trine to cool down after an ardent encounter with his leader. This was all a misunderstanding after all. Starscream was perfectly satisfied with Megatron, and now Skywarp would apologize and Megatron could graciously—

“I get it,” said Skywarp. “It’s not that you don’t know how to interface, it’s just that your frame is insensitive.”

Megatron bristled. “What did you say?”

“I thought you were just clueless, but Thundercracker—”

Thundercracker slapped a hand over Skywarp’s mouth. “Your frame was built to withstand a lot of pressure, right? It probably takes a pretty strong touch to get through the plating and stimulate your sensors. I’m sure when you interface with other heavy frames you enjoy pushing each other around.”

That seemed… well, it didn’t seem inaccurate. Megatron had relatively few opportunities for interfacing before Starscream had made himself available. He simply didn’t have the time to pursue flings when there was a war at stake. But he did remember a particularly good encounter with a gladiator who had used his glaive to—

Skywarp moaned, muffled by Thundercracker’s hand. Megatron lost his train of thought as he watched Thundercracker’s free hand glide over the glass of Skywarp’s cockpit.

“Seekers are designed for flight,” murmured Thundercracker, and Megatron leaned in to hear him better. “Our sensors are calibrated to detect small changes in windspeed and temperature. Just brushing them feels pretty good. Doing anything more can feel overwhelming until you're properly revved up. But once you are…"

Thundercracker dragged his fingertips down Skywarp’s cockpit, and the shriek of metal on glass was almost drowned out by Skywarp’s fans.

"You have to go slowly." Thundercracker moved his hand from Skywarp’s face to gently play with Skywarp’s wingtip instead. "You can't just grab hold and squeeze."

Megatron tried and failed to reconcile this with his experience. "Starscream likes it when I squeeze."

"Starscream likes lots of scrap," said Thundercracker.

"He's incredibly easy," said Skywarp hoarsely. "He'll take whatever he can get."

"But there's a difference between taking something and really wanting it." Thundercracker dropped his hands down Skywarp's sides again, finally rubbing at the port covers on Skywarp's hips. "And Starscream wants it hard even more when you're giving it to him soft. If that makes sense."

Megatron felt like he was getting tangled up in contradictions. Interfacing was supposed to be simple, instinctual. "I should give him what he doesn't want so he'll want something else?"

"Yeah, yeah, exactly." Skywarp's optics were offline, and Megatron wasn’t sure if he was actually part of the conversation anymore.

"Sometimes wanting it is more fun than getting it," said Thundercracker. "For a while, anyway."

Skywarp was shifting in Thundercracker's lap almost helplessly, rubbing his plating against whatever part of Thundercracker he could find leverage against. He turned his helm and mouthed over Thundercracker's cheek, whining until Thundercracker caught his chin with one hand and kissed him properly.

Megatron imagined himself in Thundercracker's place, with Starscream in his lap. He'd never seen Starscream so... needy, so hungry for touch. Maybe it was just Skywarp. Maybe Starscream would react to these little light touches with exactly the hostility Megatron expected.

It was worth a try, anyway. This was Starscream's trine; surely they knew what Starscream liked. It was irritating to think that Megatron didn't, but really it was Starscream's fault for not saying anything. There was a war on. Megatron was too busy to telepathically divine Starscream's intimate preferences.

Thundercracker brushed his thumb over Skywarp's jaw and Skywarp gasped into Thundercracker's mouth. When Megatron leaned forward he could feel the air around them teeming with electricity, tingles of static on the tips of his fingers and the edges of his hips. Skywarp was moving more deliberately now, every scrape of his plating against Thundercracker's generating another surge of charge. Thundercracker's free hand was still rubbing and rubbing at Skywarp's closed port cover. It was quiet, gentle, and mesmerizing.

You're here to learn, Megatron reminded himself. He couldn't imagine Starscream even allowing Megatron to keep him like this for so long. Surely Starscream would have twisted out of Megatron's grip by now, pinned him the berth and taken what he wanted instead of waiting for it to be given to him.

Skywarp arched and then sighed as sparks trickled over his armor. He broke away from Thundercracker's mouth, and a wisp of purple smoke escaped along with his gasp.

Megatron forced the surprise off his face. He'd never seen anyone overload just from touching, without even the suggestion of cabling. Maybe he was somewhat of a novitiate in interfacing, as painful as that was to admit.

"That was great," said Skywarp languidly. "You're a great teacher, TC."

Thundercracker smiled down at Skywarp. "Thanks."

"Ready to give Lord Megatron some hands-on experience?"

The long-lost anxiety returned to Thundercracker's face.

Megatron considered thanking the seekers for their time and walking away. He already had a lot to contemplate. Thundercracker certainly didn't seem eager to participate in further training, and Megatron felt there was a clear line between watching and touching. But Skywarp had already slid from Thundercracker's lap, ushering Megatron out of his chair and toward the berth.

Megatron tried to catch Thundercracker's optic, but Thundercracker turned to lie facedown on the berth. His wings were flattened stiffly to his back.

"Start here." Skywarp pointed to the base of Thundercracker's wings. "As light as you can manage. Definitely no bending."

Megatron looked again at the back of Thundercracker's helm. "Is that all right, Thundercracker?"

"Sure, whatever." Thundercracker's voice was half-muffled by the berth covers. "If you want."

Skywarp laughed. "TC doesn't get as enthusiastic as some of us do. Don't worry, it's not you. Well, maybe it's a little bit you. You're kind of big and intimidating, has anyone ever told you that?"

"It's been mentioned," said Megatron.

"Not intimidated," muttered Thundercracker.

"You just need to get in there and rev him up," said Skywarp. "Like he said. It'll be a good challenge."

The back of Thundercracker's helm remained unilluminating. Megatron leaned over the berth and brushed just his thumb against Thundercracker's back, down his spinal strut. Thundercracker's wings trembled, rising a little from their forced flatness. His fans clicked on too, the whirring loud in the close room.

Megatron used his fingers to trace Thundercracker's wings next, following the seams of his wing-flaps. The touch was oddly addicting, the light, tantalizing feeling of Thundercracker's cool metal under his hands. It certainly didn't hurt that Thundercracker's fans kept cranking higher, and Megatron's fingers were tingling with static again.

"Good initiative." Skywarp had to raise his voice a little to be heard over the fans.

Megatron had never touched Starscream like this. He'd tried to be gentle once, when he'd simply wanted to relax after a long and frustrating day of stalemate with the Autobots. Starscream had snarled at him and asked if he were getting soft.

Experimentally, Megatron increased the pressure of his hands. Thundercracker gasped pleasingly, but his frame stiffened and Skywarp actually smacked Megatron’s arm.

“No bending!”

“That wasn’t even close to bending,” said Megatron. “Didn’t it feel good?”

“Yeah,” said Thundercracker. “But too much.”

Megatron growled. This was supposed to be simple. Instinctual. Couldn’t he trust himself?

“Haven’t you ever been overstimulated?” asked Skywarp. “Like, a jackhammer on your port cover feels good for a few nanokliks, but then it starts to burn and—”

“Why would you ever put a jackhammer on your port cover?” asked Megatron.

“It vibrates!” Skywarp tapped one of his hip ports rapidly, apparently in illustration. “You’ve at least used a vibrator before, right?”

Megatron had no idea what he was talking about. “Of course.”

“Right, so, you could use a strong vibe and overload in half a breem, but wouldn’t you rather take your time and get one of those nice rolling overloads, you know, the ones that make you feel like your thrusters are coming off?”

Megatron felt like he was free-falling down a smooth-walled hole. There were probably pneuma-lions at the bottom. “Absolutely,” he said.

“Then let’s go nice and easy.” Skywarp drew a swirl over Thundercracker’s back, and Thundercracker arched off the berth. “I know you can do it if you try.”

Megatron tried. It was easy for him to seize hard and leave dents. Gentleness took concentration he rarely had to spare and time Starscream seemed unwilling to give. He flattened his palms against Thundercracker's wings, drawing them in slow circles up and down from slats to flaps.

"Oh. Oh, that's—" Thundercracker's voice was heavy and vague. He sounded like he was falling into recharge, but his fans were roaring.

Skywarp was staring at the places where Megatron touched Thundercracker's plating. "That's what?"

"Good," hummed Thundercracker. "His hands are so big, and warm..."

Megatron knew he ran hotter than most mechs, his engine working hard to keep up with his heavy frame. He purposefully dampened his own fans, allowing his core temperature to rise and radiate through his plating. After a few minutes of this, Thundercracker was pushing up from the berth, trying to press his wings against Megatron's hands.

"Yeah, that's, that's good." Skywarp didn’t seem to have any more advice. He leaned close enough that his nose brushed the tip of Thundercracker's wing, rubbing arrhythmically at his own port cover.

Thundercracker arched up again, hungry for touch, but Megatron pushed him gently back down to the berth. Keeping his palms light against the base of Thundercracker's wings and his fingers just ghosting against Thundercracker's ailerons. Keeping him wanting.

"Please," said Thundercracker, as Megatron with great daring took the tip of his wing in thumb and forefinger and pressed his fingers together. Not bending. Just giving the merest suggestion of the force that could bend.

"Please?" said Megatron. He let one of his hands leave Thundercracker's wing and sweep down his flank instead. Little sparks of half-realized charge followed in his wake. He wrapped his hand around Thundercracker's thigh and squeezed.

Thundercracker's fans screamed and he twisted until his wing almost did bend in Megatron's grip. Charge flared from his helm to his toes, and Megatron felt charge rising from him in answer, merging with and amplifying Thundercracker's surge. Thundercracker's wings snapped up as the overload hit him, almost catching Megatron in the chin.

It was just a small overload, enough to suffuse Megatron with satisfaction, but not enough to trip him into sympathetic overload. Still, not bad for a little touching.

"You're a fast learner," said Skywarp. "Guess I should have expected that."

Megatron tilted his head. "Thank you for the instruction. I hope Starscream will appreciate it." He straightened up, and Thundercracker shivered as Megatron's hands left his plating.

"Woah, woah, wait, where do you think you're going?" Skywarp caught Megatron's wrist and put his hand back on Thundercracker's wing. "We're not done yet. We've hardly started."

Megatron looked at him, fighting the instinct to throw Skywarp off. "You don't need to teach me how to overload myself."

"I'm not talking about you," said Skywarp.

Now Megatron did pull away. "Do you plan to lure Starscream in here next? I’m not interested in hearing your color commentary on the real thing."

"Oh Primus," rasped Thundercracker. "That would be a terrible idea."

"Yeah, no, it's really important Starscream never ever hears about this." Skywarp looked at Megatron suspiciously. "Why do you think we’re done? How many times do you normally overload at a go?"

Megatron was suddenly unsure of the obvious answer. "Once?"

Megatron quickly gathered this wasn't the desired response from Skywarp's spluttering.

Thundercracker sighed and rolled over, squinting at the others from between his own knees. "Frame types."

"I'm tired of this functionist nonsense," said Megatron.

"It's not—" Thundercracker briefly offlined his optics. "The recognition of one's vulnerabilities is not the admission of weakness."

"Wow, that's pretty good," said Skywarp. "Did you just come up with that?"

"I'm quoting," said Thundercracker.

Megatron never enjoyed having his own words thrown back at him, but of course he expected his soldiers to read his monographs. It was gratifying that Thundercracker, almost unique among the Decepticons, actually remembered any of it.

Still, Megatron deeply resented the juxtaposition of vulnerability and interfacing, especially when he was the mech concerned.

"Some frame types build charge more easily than others," said Thundercracker. "Given how much power it takes to keep you moving, I imagine it takes a lot of work to build enough excess energy for an overload. Flight frames generate lots of short bursts of high energy, for takeoff, acceleration, recreation..."

"And once you get us going we just keep going," said Skywarp. "Usually until we run out of fuel."

That made logical sense, and it also, shamefully, made Megatron feel a little better.

"Fine," he said. "One large overload for me equates several small overloads for you."

"I don’t know about equates," muttered Skywarp. Megatron ignored him. Quantifying pleasure was folly. Qualitatively, Megatron definitely got as much out of interfacing as any other mech and he didn't want to hear otherwise.

Regardless, he did want to clarify one minor and ultimately meaningless detail. "Exactly how many overloads are you capable of?"

Thundercracker hummed. "Skywarp, what was our record?"

"Fifteen," said Skywarp immediately. "And it definitely would have been sixteen if Starscream hadn't crashed."

"Fifteen between the three of you?" asked Megatron almost desperately.

"No." Skywarp grinned, exactly as smug as might be expected. "Each."

"That was a special occasion," Thundercracker reassured Megatron.

"Starscream thought you'd died in a cave-in," said Skywarp. "He used his presumed-commander powers to give us all the orn off."

Megatron remembered that. He'd dug himself out a few orn after the initial burial and returned to the Nemesis to find a curiously subdued Starscream. Megatron had thought perhaps Starscream had regretted leaving Megatron in the cave. He'd even believed Starscream's assurances that he hadn't slept for worrying about Megatron, and he'd taken Starscream to his berth and laid him over those ridiculous pillows, and—

"Normally," said Thundercracker, "it only takes about three overloads before we stop wanting to generate more charge."

"I can't believe you were only giving Starscream one," said Skywarp. "No wonder he's been keeping us up all night."

"Skywarp exaggerates," said Thundercracker. "It's usually only a couple groons."

Megatron felt entirely unreassured. He'd never interfaced with Starscream for more than a few breem, let alone an entire groon. No wonder Skywarp had become reckless with exhaustion if he was being pressed into servicing Starscream every night. It was impressive the seekers got any work done at all.

It had been a long time since Megatron had felt truly inadequate. Once, when he had first entered the arena, he'd watched a veteran gladiator fight a Glasrung Deathgator. The veteran had dispatched one of the most feared creatures in the universe in less than five kliks. Megatron had looked down at his blunt hands and feared he would never reach the same pinnacle of mastery. Only a vorn later, he accomplished the same feat in less time and with fewer moves. He'd never again thought to question whether he could do something, only how.

Megatron looked at Skywarp and Thundercracker and felt as if he was staring into the Deathgator's jaws.

How had Starscream remained unsatisfied for so long? Surely it was only because he expected nothing more of Megatron, and that rankled even more than the acknowledgement of Megatron's own inadequacy. Starscream had been so solicitous of Megatron’s inexperience. So gratified to be the recipient of Megatron’s rarely-given attentions. Looking back, Megatron could see the veneer of condescension lain over his every encounter with Starscream. How could Starscream fail to rebel against a leader who took his own pleasure while leaving his companion still desperate for charge?

"Lord Megatron?" Skywarp tapped gingerly at Megatron's shoulder. "Lord Megatron?"

Megatron had the impression that Skywarp had been trying to get his attention for some time.

"This is intolerable," said Megatron.

"Totally," said Skywarp. "Thundercracker's being super patient, but patience really isn't Starscream's thing so it would be good practice if we just—"

"This is a farce." Megatron resisted Skywarp's attempts to shove him back onto Thundercracker. "I have to break up with Starscream."

"Wow," said Thundercracker, still lying on the berth. "This is going even worse than I expected."

"You can't break up," said Skywarp. "You told me, you're not even together!"

"I need to avoid future intimate encounters with Starscream," clarified Megatron, unwilling to give ground. "I thought we were operating from a place of mutual understanding, and now I find that I have been taking advantage of Starscream's unaccountable passivity."

Skywarp gaped at him.

Thundercracker finally sat up. "I think we need to take a step back."

"Passivity?" shrieked Skywarp. "Starscream? Do you think Starscream would have ever bumped bumpers with you if he wasn't getting something out of it?"

"The alternative is worse," growled Megatron. "If Starscream has been mocking me for my inadequacy, gloating over my failures—"

Thundercracker was shaking his head, making an odd flapping hand gesture while widening his optics at Skywarp.

"Starscream hasn’t said anything to us," said Skywarp quickly. "Or maybe we would've done this earlier."

This sounded implausible. "Starscream has done nothing but complain his entire worthless life."

"Not about this." Thundercracker actually reached out and grabbed Megatron's hand to stop him shaking his fist. "Listen, have you noticed how little noise Starscream makes when he's interfacing?"

Megatron had noticed. Up until now, he'd found it one of Starscream's more attractive qualities. "I imagine he's just counting time until I fall into recharge."

"Primus." Thundercracker sounded exasperated, which was insulting, and fearful, which was flattering. "It's not about you. Starscream's like that whenever he interfaces."

"We said he was easy," said Skywarp. "But that’s only kind of true. Starscream likes most things okay."

"And he's nervous that he’ll mess things up if he asks for something he likes more," said Thundercracker. "I bet once you get started, he gets too overwhelmed to even try asking."

"Way easier to get whatever he can from you and then come and bug us for the rest," said Skywarp.

Megatron frowned. He’d envisioned something similar when it came to comparing rough and gentle touches, but it sounded implausible when it came to overloads. Brash, fussy Starscream panting for whatever scraps of pleasure Megatron deigned to give him, too nervous to ask for more charge? No. It couldn’t be. "You're his trine," said Megatron uncertainly. "You're lying to protect him."

"Starscream would murder us if he knew we'd told you," said Thundercracker. "Just imagine him, lying underneath you, desperate for your hands but too scared to ask..."

Megatron imagined it. He still couldn't quite reconcile that with his knowledge of Starscream, but it was a perfectly pleasant image nonetheless. Especially in comparison to the alternative of a malicious Starscream, cackling at Megatron's every failure as a lover. Anxious, yearning Starscream made Megatron feel pitying and protective, rather than violently offended. If Starscream would never ask for more, Megatron would need to learn how to give it to him anyway.

"If you break up with—I mean, if you stop encountering Starscream, that's just going to make everything worse," said Skywarp. "I'll never recharge again!"

“You’re sure that Starscream isn’t mocking me behind my back,” said Megatron.

Skywarp and Thundercracker hesitated.

“About interfacing,” clarified Megatron.

“Oh, no, definitely not,” said Skywarp.

“He’s way too shy about interfacing to talk about it,” said Thundercracker. “You wouldn’t think so, but, I mean, we’re his trine. If anyone would know it would be us.”

“Forget what I said about passivity earlier,” said Skywarp. “Passivity is definitely the problem. The problem we will solve through activity! Right now!”

Megatron finally nodded. "Fine. As a favor to you, we will move on with the lesson."

Thundercracker flopped back onto the berth, sighing with relief.

"First you'll have to get TC back in the mood," said Skywarp. "All that explaining isn't the best way to keep the overload train chugging."

Megatron was briefly caught by the imagery of the overload train, but he shook it off before Skywarp noticed and started pointing out Megatron's inadequacies again. He reached for Thundercracker's frame instead, more confidently this time. He ran his fingers down Thundercracker's throat and along his chest, brushing teasingly at his cockpit. Thundercracker shuddered, and Megatron did it again.

Megatron felt his mind begin to wander, but he doggedly forced his focus back to the task. He would do this for as long as it took, as well as he could. Even if it required an entire groon of patting at Thundercracker’s plating until he was aroused again.

On the other hand, his back ached from bending over the berth. Megatron didn’t think he could maintain this position for a groon, so he clambered onto the berth instead, pushing Thundercracker’s legs apart so he could kneel between his thighs. Thundercracker grumbled at the break, but he was happier in the end. The new position pressed Megatron’s chest to Thundercracker’s cockpit as Megatron reached for his wings. Thundercracker moaned at the shift of Megatron’s plating against his glass.

Megatron, feeling quite daring, leaned down to press a chaste kiss to the Decepticon crest on Thundercracker's wings.

"Oh, yeah," breathed Skywarp, leaning over Megatron's back to watch. "Nice. Find his ports, okay? Don't worry about plugging in yet. Just to touch."

The ports on Thundercracker's hips were in exactly the same location as Starscream and Skywarp's. Megatron rubbed his thumbs over the port covers teasingly as he set his teeth against the edge of Thundercracker's wing.

"I'm definitely in the mood," gasped Thundercracker. "Very mood."

"You can bite him," said Skywarp. "But gently, gently—"

Megatron just scraped his teeth over Thundercracker's wing, and Thundercracker arched, pushing his cockpit against Megatron's chest.

"Great, just awesome." Skywarp was rubbing his own cockpit against Megatron's side. Megatron wondered if Skywarp thought he was being sneaky, or if he hadn't even realized he was doing it. "Hey, TC, you'll let Lord Megatron jack in, won't you? You're not going to be a big wuss about it, are you?"

Thundercracker's port covers snapped open, almost catching Megatron's left thumb in the seam.

"Thought so." Skywarp kissed Thundercracker, slow and deep and incidentally climbing all over Megatron in order to reach him. Megatron grunted as Skywarp's knee dug into his back and Skywarp's hand pushed his face against Thundercracker's wing slats. Megatron opened his mouth to protest, but just the movement of his lips against Thundercracker's wing made Thundercracker shudder. His cockpit scraped loudly against Megatron's chest, and Skywarp moaned into Thundercracker's mouth and bucked his own cockpit against Megatron's back.

Fascinated, Megatron set his teeth back over the edge of Thundercracker's wing, then closed his lips and sucked.

Thundercracker jerked up, and Skywarp humped Megatron hard enough that he overbalanced and fell helm over thrusters to the floor.

"Plug in," said Thundercracker.

"This is amazing," said Skywarp, voice muffled by his own thigh. "I'm a genius. We're creating a monster."

"Plug in," said Thundercracker.

Megatron was already unspooling a high-volume data cable, unsure whether it would fit in Thundercracker's slim modern ports and completely certain he would make it fit, one way or another. Skywarp untwisted himself enough to grab it away, and Megatron glared.

"This is a lesson," said Skywarp. "A teaching opportunity, not a splooge your bearings all over Seeker Number Three opportunity."

"Seeker Number Two," corrected Thundercracker. "And he can learn by plugging in! You told me to let him!"

"You'll plug in eventually." Skywarp ran his hand up and down Megatron's cable, gently unkinking the wires hidden under the thick insulation. "Take your time to learn his ports first. Play a little. Make Thundercracker show you how much he wants it."

"A lot," said Thundercracker. "I already told you, a—"

Skywarp slapped his free hand over Thundercracker's mouth and grinned at Megatron. Megatron allowed himself to smile back. Admittedly he was swayed by both Skywarp's advice and Skywarp's fingers on his cable, but he did like the way Thundercracker was squirming, trapped by Megatron's bulk and still trying to arch off the berth to get closer. Thundercracker was the calm, steady seeker. Megatron could only imagine what Starscream would do when teased like this.

Thundercracker mumbled something despairing and Skywarp kissed his own hand over Thundercracker's mouth. "This is for that thing with the Boeing," he said tenderly. "I said I'd get you back, you slagheap."

Megatron pulled back a little to look at Thundercracker's open ports. Fortunately for everyone involved, they had universal adapter fittings. His first encounter with Starscream had been marred by a twenty klik break as Starscream had scrabbled around his laboratory, trying to find an adapter that would match both Vosian and Tarnian equipment. The second encounter had been much simplified by Starscream's retro-fitting of his own frame. Megatron was unsurprised the rest of the trine had followed suit. Starscream never liked finding something he and his couldn't do.

Universal ports were large by necessity, and Megatron had often wondered if he could fit even just the tip of his finger into one. He took the opportunity to find out.

Thundercracker made a noise somewhere between a squeak and a moan, and Skywarp spread his fingers over Thundercracker's mouth so they could hear it better. Skywarp also leaned closer to watch, letting go of Megatron's cable as he braced himself on Megatron's shoulder. Megatron ignored Skywarp's hot ventilations on his plating and the sudden cold air on his cable, concentrating on Thundercracker. He twisted his finger deeper, intent on achieving another noise. The port bent to accommodate him, and Thundercracker's next squeak had a high-pitched tinge of pain.

"Too much!" gasped Thundercracker.

Megatron tried to pull back and got caught on one of the delicate tines that were meant to connect to a jack and not be bent by an errant finger. He struggled to extricate himself without breaking anything while fending off Skywarp's 'help' and trying to reassure Thundercracker that he wasn't going to lose patience and rip his port out. It felt like a gigacycle before Megatron was out and rubbing apologetically over the port.

"I liked the idea." Thundercracker's voice was hoarse with static and still muffled by Skywarp's spread fingers. "The execution needs work."

So much for showing initiative. Megatron considered Thundercracker's port and tried to figure out what to do if he wasn't going to stick anything in it.

"You should lick it," said Skywarp.

Thundercracker bit Skywarp's hand to muffle his own moan. Megatron looked dubiously at Skywarp as he yelped and tried to get his hand away. Licking a wing was one thing, but ports were practically internals. You wouldn't lick someone's motherboard.

"Look, which of us has successfully crashed Starscream just by interfacing?" Skywarp tugged at his hand and growled as Thundercracker refused to let it go. "Just give it a shot."

Megatron tried to banish the images of Starscream limp from pleasure and focus instead on the task at hand. Or at mouth, as the case might be.

The port tasted like Megatron's own plating. There was already charge gathering in it, and his tongue tingled. Thundercracker moaned again, more urgently, and Skywarp yanked his hand free with a shout of triumph.

Megatron could see how it worked. The lubricant from his mouth bridged the port, giving Thundercracker a phantom connection even without a jack. It still felt a little too intimate, a little disgusting, but... yes. Megatron could see how that was part of the appeal. Megatron lapped over the left port a few more times, and then stroked the wet connection with his thumb as he switched his attentions to the neglected right port.

Thundercracker was almost spasming with little bursts of charge. Megatron could feel him on the cusp of overload, but he clearly needed a push. Megatron glanced at Skywarp, who was hunched over the berth and running his fingers around his own open port. No help there. Megatron would have to rely on his own apparently faulty instinct.

Lap, lap, rub. Thundercracker trembled, still caught on the edge of relief. Megatron fully considered the consequences of what he was about to do, and then went ahead and stuck his tongue into the port anyway.

Charge numbed Megatron's tongue, and Thundercracker shrieked his second overload. Megatron's hands clamped on Thundercracker's hips, barely restrained from denting them. Charge danced through his mouth, grounding in his teeth with a pleasantly raw ache. Megatron withdrew his tongue with difficulty—Thundercracker's port had clamped with the overload. Megatron tried to feel his tongue with itself, futilely searching for dents, but at least he couldn't taste energon.

Thundercracker was staring at the ceiling, riding out the aftershocks. Skywarp, charge crackling over his plating, managed to trip himself into overload with just the manual stimulation of his fingers on his port. He collapsed on top of Thundercracker, narrowly missing Megatron's head.

"Do you think Starscream would enjoy that?" asked Megatron rhetorically.

"I dunno." Skywarp's voice fuzzed around the edges. "I think I need to try it out first."

"Ignore him," said Thundercracker, still gazing rapturously at the ceiling. "Jack into me instead."

"Are you sure?" asked Megatron. "Don't you need more foreplay? Should I find a vibrator?"

"You should jack in right now." Thundercracker shoved Skywarp off and scrabbled blindly at his abdomen until he found the release catch and unspooled his cable.

"Oh frag, this is hot," said Skywarp from the floor. "This is the only nice thing Screamer's ever done for us."

Megatron retrieved his cable and pressed the jack to the port he had just explored with his mouth. He checked his firewalls as he opened a port in his neck, making sure there weren’t any obvious holes. Thundercracker certainly didn't present as much a threat to his authority as Starscream, but it would be foolish to offer him the opportunity to steal greater access. If the seekers were regularly interfacing, any secrets Thundercracker learned would filter through to Starscream sooner rather than later.

In fact... Megatron hesitated, avoiding Thundercracker's wriggling attempts to force Megatron's jack into his port. "How are you going to keep Starscream from finding out about these lessons?"

"We're all firewalled," said Skywarp. "Nothing goes through unless we let it."

I thought conjunx didn't do that, Megatron didn't say. He'd never bothered to find out whether trines were also conjunx, and he certainly didn't have any practical experience with conjunx even if they were. Skywarp looked up at him and grimaced at Megatron's blank expression.

"We're not living in a romance holo," said Skywarp. "We all have secrets. And Starscream has no sense of humor."

"Skywarp doesn't want Starscream to find his confetti stash," said Thundercracker. "We get it, no one trusts each other in the Decepticon army. Can we trust each other just long enough for me to get off again? I might actually offline if I have to wait." He heaved himself up with great effort, reaching for the port in Megatron's neck. Megatron preempted him, catching the cable out of Thundercracker's hands and completed both sides of the connection at once.

An invitation to initiate interface pinged Megatron's processor, and he accepted it without hesitation. Thundercracker must have accepted even more eagerly, because Megatron slid into his processor without any delay.

As far as Megatron could tell, cabling had only become more intense as he’d aged. He was increasingly in danger of overclocking his processors even with normal use, the old miner's hardware hardly capable of keeping up with each new demand he placed upon it. He'd installed half a dozen additional RAM and cache units in his frame in a piecemeal attempt to keep himself functional. His personality alone was overflowing his processor, and more than two-thirds of his memories were in long-term storage drives somewhere in his office. Adding an additional mech's personality functions into the mix was almost impossible, and forcing it pushed his hardware to the limit.

On the other hand, interfacing provided Megatron with access to the other mech's hardware. In Megatron's experience, almost no one used their processor to its full capability. There was space to claim, Megatron's cramped processes stretching to fill every available byte.

Thundercracker's fans stuttered as he fell back onto the berth, already on their highest setting and straining to cool his suddenly overworked processor. Megatron followed Thundercracker down, careful not to let the cables strain.

Interfacing with Starscream was a battle for territory. Starscream's processor was cluttered, literally full of his schemes (of which Megatron caught only glimpses) and his own ego (of which Megatron had more than enough). He just had to be the exception to every rule, the only mech besides Megatron who used as much space as he could. Megatron had to shoulder his way into Starscream's mind, pushing aside every useless thought in Starscream's cache until Starscream could think of nothing but Megatron.

Thundercracker's processor was significantly more organized, and already wiped clean by overload. Megatron squeezed a surprisingly large amount of his personality into Thundercracker's hardware, letting his processes sprawl luxuriously in the unaccustomed space. Thundercracker was doing something busily in the small corner of Megatron's processor he'd managed to wedge himself into. It felt like he was installing a simple feedback loop, connecting their processors more firmly. Megatron ignored it and stroked two fingers down Thundercracker's throat.

Thundercracker didn't make a sound, but his mouth was open and his optics were flashing irregularly. Megatron could feel the echo of his own touch on Thundercracker's plating, feel Thundercracker's reactions from within his own processor. He grinned and did it again.

"Fragging scrap," breathed Skywarp. "You do this to Starscream?"

It took effort for Megatron to find the connections to his own voicebox. It would have almost been easier to use Thundercracker's voice, but he imagined everyone would find that unsettling. "Occasionally," he said eventually. "It's not exactly the same. There's usually more shrieking involved at the start, and less talking at this point."

Skywarp ran his finger around Thundercracker's port, nudging Megatron's cable and sending a spark of charge jumping across the connection. "How does it feel?"

Thundercracker tried to say something, spit static instead, tried again and managed an incomprehensible string of binary. Finally, he managed a shaky thumbs-up.

Skywarp flipped his cable housing open without looking away from Thundercracker's face and offered his jack with an unmistakable look of pleading in his optics. Megatron graciously initiated the second connection using the small jack in his wrist.

There was more than enough of Megatron to fill Skywarp's messy processor too. The experience was somewhere in between filling Thundercracker's tidy processor and cramming into Starscream's stuffed one. The complex half-glimpsed schemes in Skywarp's cache might be more accurately described as pranks rather than coups, and there weren't nearly as many of them. Megatron cleared them out anyway, wanting more room for himself.

Skywarp gasped as the last of his independent thoughts were consigned to deep storage and Megatron filled every byte of his processor. Skywarp fell to his knees on the floor as Megatron eclipsed Skywarp’s motor control as well. His helm pressed against Thundercracker's dangling arm, charge already sparking over both of their frames. Megatron laughed and reached into Thundercracker's processor to initiate his overload.

He'd forgotten about the feedback loop Thundercracker had created. The ensuing burst of pleasure filled all three of their processors for a solid breem before crashing them entirely. Megatron slipped into the velvety dark of the crash with the satisfaction of a job definitively well done this time.

Megatron was the last one to regain consciousness. Both of his port covers were still open and his cable was lewdly unspooled. He retracted it while Skywarp and Thundercracker watched, their optics lingering almost uncomfortably on the slick movement of the cable over Megatron's plating.

"You do this to Starscream?" asked Skywarp again.

Never this well, Megatron didn't say. He just smiled and tried to look like a god of interfacing.

"No wonder he keeps coming back for more." Skywarp leaned back against Thundercracker's arm. "I don't think my legs work anymore. Good thing we're already laying down."

Thundercracker grunted, optics already offline.

"I'm such a good teacher," crowed Skywarp. "Wait until Screamer gets to experience the new you."

"Once he does," said Thundercracker, and then cut himself off, mouth twisted.

"Go on," said Megatron. What did Thundercracker have left to be embarrassed about?

"Once he does," said Thundercracker slowly, "will you ask him if he'd share?"

Chapter Text

Starscream’s plating crawled, and he barely stopped himself from looking over his shoulder. He already knew Megatron was watching him. Megatron had been doing it the whole shift, not even trying to be subtle. If Starscream did turn, he wouldn’t see Megatron's optics flicking away, but blatantly staring. Megatron kept stroking his fusion cannon too, idly running his finger round and round the muzzle.

Thinking about it made the back of Starscream’s neck itch. Slag it, he had to see. He shifted so he could watch Megatron in the reflective metal of one of the consoles. Yes, Megatron was still staring and fondling his fusion cannon. Ugh, the anticipation was too much. Starscream turned his gaze to his datapad, but designing air maneuvers was a poor distraction when compared to wondering what Megatron was planning. He shifted again, sitting at an angle so he could keep one optic on his work and the other squinting at Megatron's distorted reflection. It gave him an ache in his processor, but at least he'd see it coming when Megatron decided to do whatever he was going to do.

At least the other Decepticons had noticed something was up. Ramjet and Shrapnel just looked confused, but Soundwave was looking pained in a way that usually presaged one of Megatron's especially bad ideas.

Megatron was—Megatron was ogling Starscream's aft and tapping his fusion cannon against his mouth. Starscream couldn't take any more of this. "Do you have something to say to me, Lord Megatron?"

Megatron raised his optics to Starscream's face. "Later."

Starscream felt cold. Which of his plans had Megatron uncovered? It had to be one of the especially clever ones if he was unwilling to discuss it in the command center. One of the plans that took advantage of classified knowledge. Probably the cloning project. Starscream would have to start completely from scratch, and Primus knew what he was going to do with the clone

Outwardly, Starscream tried to project righteousness. "You can say it to me here. Are we not all Decepticons, united by a common cause?"

Megatron merely looked amused, the smile twisting his brutish face. "Later."

If Starscream needed to initiate an emergency coverup he wanted to know now. "I demand a public hearing!"

Megatron actually laughed at him, laughed as if Starscream was simply being dramatic rather than asserting his legal rights as an officer.

"I don't think you want the public hearing about this." Megatron waved an overlarge hand. "But if you're determined to be so impatient, we can talk about it now."

Everyone was looking at them. Starscream braced himself for the drop.

"Clear command," said Megatron, quietly. "Until the next shift."

No one moved.

"Leave," said Megatron.

Surprisingly, Soundwave was the first out the door. Starscream expected him to hang around and eavesdrop, but maybe he already knew. Knew what line Starscream had crossed, and knew what Megatron was going to do about it.

Starscream was practically vibrating with anger and fear. If Megatron was willing to clear the command center for this, it must be especially damning. Especially dangerous. Not the clones, then, they weren’t even close to viability. It could be one of the smuggling projects, they looked suspiciously like treason if you looked at them with unimaginative and ungenerous optics...

Megatron's own unimaginative optics glittered ungenerously.

"I don't know what you're thinking," Starscream shrieked, "but I never—"

Megatron shifted his ungainly bulk out of his throne. "I've been thinking about what I want to do to you."

Starscream stepped backwards until his wings brushed the wall. Megatron merely followed him, looming close and caging Starscream in with his blocky shoulders.

"Thinking about getting my hands on you..."

"I've done nothing," hissed Starscream. He tried to decide if it would look better to glare from his feet or beg from his knees. "I am loyal to the cause, I—"

Megatron caught Starscream's chin in his massive hand and pulled him into a kiss.

It took Starscream much too long to shift gears, but Megatron seemed willing to give him as much time as he needed. The kiss was oddly light and unhurried. Megatron's lips were parted, inviting Starscream's tongue without demanding it. Starscream took the clumsy invitation, winding his arms around Megatron's neck and pressing up into Megatron’s mouth. His fans hummed when they broke apart.

"Was that all?" Starscream asked, letting his wings flutter coquettishly and his processor relax. "You're incorrigible."

Megatron took off his fusion cannon and set it to one side, the best possible sign that he was more interested in chasing Starscream's overload than crushing Starscream's ambitions. Starscream rewarded him with another kiss, chastely gliding his tongue across the seam of Megatron's lips before drawing back. He smirked at Megatron's vain attempt to conceal his disappointment that Starscream hadn’t pushed deeper. Starscream loved how Megatron always looked so baffled when he didn’t get exactly what he wanted.

Their shift was almost over, which was perfect timing. Megatron could have his gloriously wicked way with him, and then Starscream could go pester his trine into relieving the rest of his charge. Skywarp would be especially happy to deal with Starscream immediately after shift instead of in the middle of the night.

Skywarp should quit whining, anyway. What else were trines for?

Megatron was stroking his big blunt fingers over Starscream's neck. Starscream popped the port cover there, bending his neck to bare it as he extended a jack from his wrist.

Megatron rubbed his thumb over Starscream’s port but didn’t try to plug in or even open his own port. The contact with Megatron’s overheated plating felt nice, even muted by that ridiculous universal adapter. Nice wasn’t exactly what Starscream wanted from Megatron.

He flexed his port under Megatron’s hand and waggled his jack invitingly. Megatron laughed at him again. Starscream would have scowled, except Megatron was still caressing Starscream’s port with his blistering-hot thumb and the pressure was almost, almost enough.

"There's no rush," said Megatron.

Starscream didn't try to hide his skepticism. The last time Megatron had said 'no rush' they had ended up plastered again a wall, overloading after a very patient and measured five kliks. This time would be no different. The wall was already here and ready for them.

Megatron ran his fat fingers down Starscream's sides, framing Starscream's hips and leaning in to actually lick at Starscream's port. Charge rushed across the fluid bridge, and Starscream found himself arching off the wall, mouth open and voicebox already shorting out. He fought the glitch, trying to say something, anything, as Megatron laved at his port and smeared his disgusting fluids all over Starscream's pristine plating. Of course his body rushed to betray him. Starscream only managed a few cut-off clicking noises before his voicebox locked up completely, and one of his hands cupped the back of Megatron's helm instead of pushing him away. Megatron pulled back a little anyway and blew warm air over the wet mess he'd left on Starscream's neck.

"Good?" murmured Megatron with intolerable smugness.

Starscream shuddered.

"Don't worry," said Megatron. Every word was another gust of warmth over Starscream's rapidly cooling port. "You don't have to say anything. A nod will do."

Starscream glared instead. Megatron chuckled and reached out to grope at Starscream's wings. Except, for once, grope wasn’t the right word. Megatron gently traced each panel in turn, then reached back to stroke the sensitive base. This was worship, and oh, it felt good. Better than Megatron deserved. Starscream canted forward, pulling away from the wall to give Megatron better access. The movement brushed his cockpit against Megatron's hideously flat plane of chest, and Megatron encouraged the contact by pushing Starscream forward with a palm on his back.

Soon, shamefully, with Megatron's connivance, Starscream was rubbing his cockpit against Megatron's chest. There was a high-pitched scraping noise, and Starscream knew he was scratching his own glass. He didn't even have the satisfaction of scraping Megatron's finish in return. The old idiot didn't have any detailing to speak of, and the Decepticon brand wasn't made to come off.

Megatron was using both hands on Starscream's wings. His scarred, greedy, wonderfully warm hands...

This had to be a plot. To make Starscream show weakness, or to make a show of his devotion. Any minute now the doors to the command center would open and some lackey would bear witness to Starscream playing drone for their glorious leader. Air Commander Starscream keening soundlessly for Lord Megatron's touch. Air Commander Starscream frantically humping Lord Megatron's chest. Air Commander Starscream would be hopelessly humiliated by the ensuing gossip. The superiority of his leadership would be undermined by every joke, every snide comment—

Starscream couldn't make himself stop. Every tremble of his frame was encouraged and amplified by Megatron's implacably gentle hands on his wings. Starscream opened his mouth to either scold Megatron away from him, or demand more of his touch. All that came out were harsh clicks from his locked-up voicebox. The sounds harmonized with the high whining of his fans.

Megatron dropped his hands to Starscream's thighs and hitched Starscream up until Starscream was balancing unsteadily on the tips of his feet and Megatron could reach Starscream's neck with only the slightest bend. He lapped over the port again, dared to put his disgusting tongue into Starscream's port, and Starscream abruptly overloaded.

Humiliating. It was humiliating. Starscream had thought Megatron’s hands were warm, but his tongue. Megatron was playing him like an electro-fiddle, and Starscream couldn't make himself do anything but cling to Megatron's plating and force Megatron's helm closer in the hopes of getting a little more of that thick, searing tongue in his port. Static crackled over his plating, a protracted overload with no signs of dissipating charge.

Interface had been one of the few areas in which Starscream could decisively demonstrate his inherent superiority over Megatron. Megatron was eager in his ignorance, and his overclocked processor provided some unique sensations. But his habits were rough and unpolished, needing an experienced partner to finesse instinct into shared pleasure. Oh, he would have been terrible at interfacing if it wasn’t for Starscream’s masterful guidance.

The best part was that Megatron didn’t even realize he was being manipulated. Someday he would find out, and Starscream revel in Megatron’s disgrace. Until then, Starscream would fulfil his own cravings, both physical and mental. The journey was as enjoyable as the destination.

Starscream gleefully kept a list of every time Megatron blithely chased his own satisfaction with the unquestioning assumption that Starscream's satisfaction would follow without any special effort. Every time Megatron fell into recharge while Starscream’s engine was kicking into a higher gear. Every time Starscream had left Megatron's quarters to find his trine, ports aching in victory over his slumbering supposed lord.

It was a physical list. Starscream liked to read the datapad when he was feeling particularly discouraged by his continuing subordination to Megatron’s whims, easing his indignities by fingering his ports and remembering that Megatron didn't even know what wings were for.

Somehow, Megatron had learned. The path to Megatron’s disgrace was twisting under Starscream’s straining feet. Megatron was treating him like a toy, like a soft rag to wring pleasure out of until there was nothing left in Starscream except dry desperation.

Megatron pressed his rough mouth against the side of Starscream's helm. "Beautiful," he said. "You're always so elegant."

Elegant? Megatron had to be losing it. Starscream looked up at him, mouth still open and voicebox intermittently clicking, and was astonished to see that Megatron's smile looked almost... soft. Less vicious, at least.

"My gorgeous, deadly Air Commander." Megatron gave Starscream's port another long, open-mouthed kiss. "I'm pleased you forced my hand. I would never have been able to wait until the end of shift."

Despite himself, though he knew it was a trap, Starscream felt himself relax. Megatron wanted him. Megatron needed him. Megatron thought he looked good.

"You're as fascinating to watch in my hands," Megatron squeezed Starscream's thighs, "as you are in the air." Megatron closed his mouth over Starscream's port and sucked on the raised edges of Starscream's universal adapter like he was trying to drink Starscream's charge. Starscream surged into him, but Megatron simply tightened his grip on Starscream's thighs and lifted again, picking Starscream bodily off the ground. Somehow Megatron managed to maneuver them until he was sitting on the floor with his back to the wall, Starscream in his lap with his wings propped against Megatron's bent knees. Starscream was too busy clinging to Megatron's shoulders and arching his neck to beg for more of Megatron's mouth to worry about being dropped.

Once seated, however, Megatron simply leaned back and looked at Starscream. His optics scanned Starscream from helm to toe, and Starscream's port was so empty. Starscream squirmed a little, trying to decide if it was worth the effort to tip himself out of Megatron's lap and force Megatron to come after him, but he found he was just wedging himself more tightly against Megatron's plating.

Megatron watched every minuscule shift, and there was that vicious smile.

Starscream finally managed to get his voicebox back online. "What are you looking at?"

"You," said Megatron, unabashed. "It's very enjoyable."

Starscream's voicebox tried to catch, but he forced it onward. "Tell me again."

"What's that?" asked Megatron. "What would you like me to tell you, Air Commander?"

Starscream growled and hooked his fingers into Megatron's plating. His port was cold. He wanted to claw the smirk off Megatron's face. It broadened, taunting him.

"Do you like it when I tell you what you are?" Megatron looked like he thought he already knew the answer. "My spiteful, scheming soldier. My arrogant, grasping—"

Starscream did try to claw at Megatron's face, but Megatron caught his hand and kissed the palm. "Shh, I'll play nice if that's what you want. My pretty, clever, cable-hungry—"

Starscream used his free hand to scrabble at the port cover on Megatron's neck, but his fingers couldn't fit inside the seam and Megatron was keeping the cover clamped shut. Starscream hissed in frustration. Megatron's own free hand was on Starscream's hips, teasing at one of his port covers. Starscream let it snap open, hopeful for reciprocation, but Megatron didn't even jack in. He just thumbed over it, murmuring filthy back-handed praise until Starscream was almost vibrating with charge. Starscream switched tactics and lowered himself to mouthing at Megatron's port cover, but Megatron retaliated by pushing the tip of his smallest finger into Starscream's hip-port. Starscream found himself panting uselessly against Megatron's cover as he tripped into a second overload.

Perfect, perfect agony. Full, but not full. Starscream tried to force more of Megatron's finger into his port, desperate for anything that could even simulate a connection, but Megatron was being careful with him. He steadied Starscream, bringing their joined hands to rest against Starscream's hip. He teased Starscream's port with just the barest hint of his finger, and Starscream's thrusters tingled as the overload went on and on.

Without even the semblance of a connection, the overload only increased Starscream's charge. His thoughts were hazy with desire, foremost among them the desire to see Megatron electrocuted from his unforgivably clever fingers to his disproportionately small head.

"Do you want my cable now?" asked Megatron, his voice penetrating the fog. "I'll let you have it if you ask."

Starscream was collapsed in Megatron's lap, head resting against that ugly yet conveniently broad chest. Any control he'd gained over his voicebox was permanently lost. Surely he'd never speak again.

Megatron was still holding his hand. Their fingers were interlaced, Megatron's frumpy rectangular digits between Starscream's delicately tapered ones.

"Do you want to connect?" asked Megatron with a parody of kindness. "Just nod."

Starscream nodded jerkily, the movement rubbing his face against Megatron's plating. A few astroseconds later it occurred to him that he could have waited to agree, drawn it out and made Megatron squirm. But he wanted Megatron's cable more that he wanted Megatron’s impatience.

Megatron let Starscream squirm for an agonizingly long time, but finally he allowed his port cover to open. Starscream plugged in before Megatron could change his mind. Megatron took a little longer to make the reciprocal connection, fussing with his cable and pressing it slowly to Starscream's hip just so he could watch Starscream's port sluggishly transform to accommodate the outmoded girth of his jack. Starscream knew that was why it was taking so long because Megatron was narrating it to him, taunting him—

Starscream pulsed a little of his excess charge through his jack into Megatron's port and Megatron stopped mid-sentence and initiated the interface protocol.

Soon but not soon enough Starscream felt Megatron's inefficient, clunky subroutines nudging into the free space in his own processor. After two hard overloads Starscream almost felt like his processor was nothing but free space, all of it open for Megatron to claim. Certainly Megatron was doing his best to take it. It almost felt like they were merging into one mech, Starscream's base components overlaid and interlaid with Megatron's until there was almost no way to differentiate between them. Starscream's optics were offline, but he could feel himself rocking slowly against Megatron and he summoned enough energy to feed his tactile inputs into the shared processor space. Megatron rumbled in response and that felt good in a more subtle way, so Starscream hooked his emotional inputs into the shared space too and enjoyed the resulting groan. Megatron stroked his thumb over Starscream's knuckles with something close to reverence; he stroked Starscream's wings with tentative wonder. Perhaps Megatron was only allowing the flattering emotions to bleed through their link. Perhaps he had hidden reserves of disgust for Starscream's wantonness hiding behind his firewalls. Starscream was beyond caring. He arched into the touch, and his voicebox ground and scraped with his need.

Megatron kept stroking and stroking at Starscream's wings, feather-light touches that reverberated through both their frames. Cruelly deprived of flight, Megatron had clearly never understood exactly how good wings could feel. Now he was learning it all first-hand. Haha. Primus, Starscream felt like his processor was melting. Was he overheating or was it just a sensory ghost from Megatron’s heavier frame? He didn’t care.

Starscream found he had access to Megatron's own tactile input and he drew that into the shared processor space as well. All at once he could feel a mouth licking at the place where his jack connected with Megatron’s port and it was his mouth. He moaned, and Megatron shuddered. Starscream could feel the charge building under Megatron’s plating from the inside, slowly fueling one of those overpowering overloads that Megatron was usually so frantic to reach. Best of all, Starscream could feel his wings, cool and smooth under Megatron's fingers, and feel Megatron feeling them, and feel himself feeling Megatron feeling them, the recursion building to impossible heights.

It should have been overwhelming, except there was nothing in Starscream’s processor except this, and nothing in Megatron’s processor except for Starscream. Every diode in both of their frames was devoted to routing charge.

"Could it always have been this good?" asked Megatron, sounding almost helpless. Starscream scratched a long gouge in his own cockpit as he tried to press closer to Megatron, close enough that they could be one body along with one mind. The sharp pain/pleasure/desire bloomed across their shared connection, and when Megatron overloaded it carried Starscream through approximately a thousand vorns of ecstasy before finally, mercifully, his processor crashed.

---

Someone was petting his wings. Starscream struggled his way into consciousness through a haze of error messages, shivering and over-sensitive, but didn't pull away from the touch. His face was mashed against acres of warm, comfortable plating. A powerful engine was rumbling contentedly underneath him. Starscream loved heavy frames.

It would probably be best to never move again. That felt like a reasonable and responsible decision.

"Again?" asked Megatron.

Starscream jerked fully awake with the force of his incredulity. "Absolutely not."

"I don't want to leave you unsatisfied," said Megatron with a tinge of acid. Where did he find the energy for these emotions? Starscream couldn't find the strength to move his limbs, let alone feel bitter about Megatron's domination of his frame.

Ah, never mind. There was the bitterness. Starscream never ceased to surprise himself with his own resilience.

Starscream managed to draw himself up a little and was placated by the glazed dimness of Megatron's optics. The idiot was just running on automatic. Automatic hostility in his voice, automatic circles drawn by his fingers on Starscream's wings.

Leave it to Starscream to soothe Lord Egotron. "I had a wonderful time," he purred. "Perhaps tomorrow—"

"That's all you want?" Megatron frowned. "I was told—"

Megatron caught himself, but it was too late. "Told?" Starscream's voice rose to his full volume. "Told what?"

"Only that you normally—"

"Normally?" Starscream cross-referenced the extremely short list of possible informants against the much longer list of Decepticons with a death wish. "I'm going to tear Skywarp's spark out through his thrusters."

"You will not," said Megatron. "He's invaluable to the Decepticon cause."

"For his skills in wing massage?" Starscream smiled without a hint of amusement. "Tell me, did he give you a practical demonstration?"

Megatron's optics brightened a little, like he was trying to feel his way down a dark path. On a cliff side. With sharp rocks at the bottom. "Skywarp and Thundercracker may have—"

"I'll feed Thundercracker his own wiring," hissed Starscream. "I'll feed him Skywarp's wiring."

"—suggested you needed more overloads to exhaust your charge."

“So you thought you’d aim for five.” Starscream’s ports tingled at the thought, but he wasn’t sure if it was in anticipation or dread. Megatron could be so… goal-oriented.

“That seemed an adequate number, based on reports.”

"Skywarp and Thundercracker’s reports.” Starscream sneered. “If they think I need five overloads, it’s only because they’re so inept at giving them."

Megatron tilted his head questioningly.

"You can infer what I mean," said Starscream. "I shouldn't have to spell it out."

Megatron tilted his head further. Of course he didn’t get it, which was fine with Starscream. Let him wonder. Except Megatron’s ridiculous tilting bared his neck, and Starscream’s optics were drawn to where his jack was still lodged in Megatron’s port. Two conflicting impulses warred in Starscream’s processor.

Megatron’s hands weren’t petting his wings anymore. Starscream’s indignation at that finally tipped the scales.

"Fine," snapped Starscream. "No one overloads me as hard as you do. Is that what you want to hear? Is that enough to flatter your nonsensical self-regard?"

Megatron's smile was a study in superiority. Starscream would have loved to study it with a scalpel, or possibly a chainsaw.

The abrupt drain of charge from Starscream's systems had sapped most of his motor control, but he managed to flap his hand against Megatron's flank in lieu of the damage he wanted to deliver. Megatron slapped his hand against the base of Starscream's wings in response, and Starscream jerked back reflexively. The movement tugged his cable, and he shivered at the odd pulling sensation under his plating. Despite himself, oversensitivity was starting to shade back into desire. He carefully disengaged his jack, trying not to squirm as the cable retracted into his wrist. Megatron didn't clench his port or catch at Starscream’s cable. He even angled his neck to make the withdrawal easier. But his optics were fixed on Starscream's face, and he didn't move to disengage his own jack.

"Stop looking so pleased with yourself," said Starscream.

"But I am pleased." Megatron rubbed at the place he had just slapped. "With myself. With you. With your trine..."

It was a small mercy Starscream's processor crash had triggered the interface failsafes and cut their connection. Otherwise Megatron would surely be rummaging through Starscream's pleasure center, setting off random diodes until Starscream was wordless with desire again. Until Starscream couldn't remember ever wanting anything except Megatron—

Starscream reached up and yanked Megatron's jack out of his hip before he could be tempted to initiate interface again. Megatron grunted, a pained look flashing across his face at the rough handling. Good. He almost looked attractive when he was off-balance. Starscream intended to keep him that way.

Starscream looked sideways at Megatron as he ran his thumb over the cable's connector, then darted out his tongue to taste the warm metal, the burnt taste of lubricant singed by their overloads. Megatron jerked under him in much the same way Starscream had jerked under Megatron's hand on his wings.

At this rate maybe Starscream could needle a second overload out of the aged behemoth. Even the score a little before Megatron could get any more exaggerated ideas about seeker libido from the more insatiable and traitorous members of Starscream's trine.

"You've convinced me. Perhaps just one more..." Starscream leaned forward to capture Megatron's mouth, but Megatron stopped him with a hand on his cockpit.

"Not here. The next shift is waiting to get in."

Now that Megatron mentioned it, Starscream could hear the awkward clattering of Decepticons shuffling in the corridor outside. That made it even better. Maybe someone would finally get impatient and come in, see Megatron writhing as Starscream pinned him bodily to the floor...

"Who cares? I want you now." Starscream pushed petulantly against Megatron's hand, but Megatron didn't move a micron.

"The war doesn't wait for interfacing."

"That's not what you said when you cleared the command center."

Megatron laughed. "That was mostly to preserve Soundwave's modesty. What would you have done if I’d asked you to come to my quarters instead?”

About five scenarios flitted through Starscream’s processor. Three were plausibly violent, one was utterly frivolous, and the fifth was unbearably filthy. Jacks definitely weren’t supposed to go there. Starscream blamed Megatron for infecting his simulation circuits with this trash. Or he could blame Megatron’s hand. Megatron’s firm, implacable hand which was wide enough to cup and hold his cockpit in place.

“Balancing the competing needs of one's staff is one of the most difficult parts of command,” lectured Megatron, apparently oblivious to Starscream pushing against his hand again. “I'm sure you've experienced this in miniature with the air corps."

Starscream froze at 'in miniature,' but the mention of the air corps distracted him from his irritation. At least, his irritation with Megatron. He needed to determine the most appropriate punishment for Skywarp and Thundercracker's unwarranted interference in his private and personal affairs.

"In any case," said Megatron, "we've monopolized the command center long enough."

"Fine." Starscream sat back against Megatron's legs, arching to display his scuffed cockpit. "I suppose we should go back to work. Are you going to tell the next shift they can come in or should I?"

Megatron looked at the scratched glass under his fingertips and said nothing at all.

"Lord Megatron," called Scavenger, muffled by the door. Starscream supposed he'd lost the argument over who should interrupt. "Uh, hi. Hello? Should we go away?"

Megatron shoved Starscream out of his lap with the air of a mech overcoming a great temptation.

It took several minutes for Starscream to wobble onto his feet and help his fearless leader maneuver his way upright with the help of the fusion-cannon-cum-crutch. Then Starscream tried to strut out the door, but almost tripped on his own feet as one of his knees tried to give way. In the end Starscream limped out, half supporting and half supported by Megatron. Starscream glared haughtily at Scavenger and the rest of the second shift as he passed, daring them to comment. And, oh, there was Thundercracker, how convenient.

Starscream let go of Megatron and swayed close to Thundercracker, trying to make his stumble seem natural and his hands on Thundercracker's plating seem threatening instead of a necessary prop to his stability. "I'm not going to kill you," murmured Starscream. "I'm going to make you wish I had."

Thundercracker looked annoyingly unperturbed. "Sure, Screamer, you can thank us later."

"Thank?" Starscream leaned a little more of his weight against Thundercracker, wishing he was larger and could simply knock Thundercracker over instead of just pushing at him. "I don't thank reckless violators of my trust and confidence. I don't thank—"

Megatron tugged on Starscream's arm and kept walking, and Starscream quickly decided that it was better to let himself be pulled away rather than topple over. He made a rude gesture as they walked away, just so Thundercracker knew he wasn’t off the hook. Thundercracker grinned and flipped him a salute.

"I am not thanking anyone," Starscream told Megatron.

"No, of course not," said Megatron. “Except me.”

“I’m not thanking you either.” Starscream tried and unfortunately failed to tread on Megatron’s foot. “Where are we going?”

“My quarters.” Megatron guided Starscream into a turn. “But didn’t you enjoy yourself?”

“I enjoyed myself before,” said Starscream. “In… different ways. You can’t expect me to be grateful just because you bothered to try this time.”

“If you didn’t like it, we don’t have to do it again,” said Megatron. “Do you want me to take you back to your quarters instead? Down this corridor, isn’t it?”

“No!” Starscream grimaced at his own tone. “No, no, let’s go back to yours. You’d fall over if I wasn’t here to support you.”

“And then?” pressed Megatron, who never let anything go until he’d squeezed the life out of it.

“And then I want another overload,” muttered Starscream.

“Hm?” They were at Megatron’s door, and he leaned the fusion cannon against the wall as he entered his security codes. “What was that about overloads?”

“I want one more,” said Starscream. “Just one, whatever Skywarp and Thundercracker told you. And I don’t want to hear anything else about them until we’re done.”

Megatron’s door opened. “I like your trine.”

Starscream dug his fingers into Megatron’s arm. “What did I just say?”

Megatron freed his arm and curled it around Starscream’s shoulders as he dragged Starscream into the room. “Thundercracker wanted me to ask—”

“After the overload.” Starscream gathered his strength and managed to shove Megatron toward the berth. “If you make it good, maybe I’ll consider it.”

Chapter Text

Starscream surveyed his quarters and sighed with satisfaction. Everyone was exactly where they should be. Megatron tied hand and foot to the chair. Thundercracker tied hand and foot to the berth. Skywarp suspended upside-down from the ceiling. It was perfect.

"This is the worst orgy ever," complained Skywarp as he swung pendulously, chains clattering.

"It's the only orgy you're getting," said Starscream. "Shut up and enjoy it."

Megatron was shifting uneasily, making the chair creak. He wasn't actually the greatest fool in the universe, so he'd probably recognized the opportunity for Starscream to take advantage of this situation. Unfortunately for him, he'd let Starscream tie him down first. Fortunately for him, charge was already crawling through Starscream's system, and the advantage he wanted to take mostly involved shoving Megatron's mouth against his ports until Megatron's tongue was burnt black.

But Starscream wasn't quite ready for that, so he tried to pacify Megatron for now. "Of course, those ropes won't withstand mighty Megatron," he purred. "I'd be so grateful if you restrained yourself. I’ve learned from your example—patience makes the overload so much sweeter."

"Of course." Megatron relaxed his shoulders, making a patronizing show of submission. Starscream wanted to climb into Megatron’s lap and teach him what it meant to really obey, but not yet. Not yet. He had a plan.

Skywarp was swinging faster now, twisting at the waist to build his momentum. Starscream stopped him with a foot against his head, and Skywarp tried to bite him.

"Be patient," said Starscream. "I'll get to you."

"Will I like being got?" asked Skywarp. "I noticed you didn't promise me any overloads."

Starscream looked down his nose at Skywarp. "Do you think you deserve an overload?"

"I deserve three," said Skywarp immediately.

"Didn’t you tell Megatron that seekers always need five?" Starscream made a show of checking his chronometer. “I don’t think I have enough time for you if that’s what it takes to exhaust your charge.”

“I didn’t—we didn’t tell him that! We said minimum three, which is all I’m asking—“

Starscream looked suspiciously at Megatron, ignoring Skywarp’s babble.

“I’m never satisfied with the minimum,” said Megatron. “You should know that.”

“And do you think Skywarp deserves even one overload?” Starscream tapped his lower lip thoughtfully. "You convinced me to allow this orgy. Maybe you could convince me to take Skywarp all the way—"

"I'll convince you!" Skywarp tried to twist up, but his head bounced off Starscream's foot again.

"—Later." Starscream turned away to the berth, ignoring Skywarp's growl. "What about you, Thundercracker? Any complaints?"

Thundercracker grinned into Starscream’s pillow. "I never thought you would actually share."

Thundercracker was face-down on the berth, his wings spread and in easy reach. Starscream flicked one with two fingers. "This isn't sharing. You're mine, and Skywarp's mine, and Megatron's—" he hesitated, catching Megatron's greedy lean forward in his peripheral vision, "—here too. And if I want to have you all at once, it's only efficient."

Thundercracker was still grinning. Starscream flicked his wing again, but that just made Thundercracker moan, the reprobate. A small flare of charge sparked over Thundercracker's plating, and Starscream snatched his hand away.

"Am I going to have to put on gloves just to touch you?" he asked.

"Probably," admitted Thundercracker. "I've been half-charged since you strung up Skywarp."

"Aww." Skywarp tried to swing toward the berth, missed, and bashed himself against the wall on the backswing. "Ow!"

"Gloves?" asked Megatron, watching them with voyeuristic fascination.

"None of your concern." The heavy insulated gloves were in a box by Starscream’s berth. Starscream took them out and turned so his hands were hidden from Megatron as he drew the gloves on.

Starscream hated them, the way they made his hands bulky and clumsy and wrong. They were also a particularly garish shade of orange. But he needed to stay in control of this, even if it the orange clashed with his paint. He needed his voice.

Anyway, by now his trine had something of a fixation on the gloves. As soon as they came out, Thundercracker’s wings shivered and Skywarp stopped wriggling and let himself swing gently as he watched.

“Are you sure you want to go first?” Starscream asked Thundercracker. “Maybe it would help the quality of your charge to listen to Megatron scream for a little while.”

“I don’t scream,” said Megatron.

“Please just touch me.” Thundercracker angled his wings, practically begging for it. “I’d grovel for you, but I’m a little tied up.”

Starscream clicked his tongue, but he did climb up onto the berth, knees straddling Thundercracker’s legs but careful not to let their plating touch. Despite Thundercracker’s shameless display, Starscream didn’t even look at his wings. He reached down to stroke Thundercracker’s sides instead, laughing as Thundercracker groaned with frustration.

“Are gloves normal in interfacing?” asked Megatron. Trust him to be fixating on the unimportant details.

“Yes,” said Starscream.

“No,” said Thundercracker.

"They’re a weird Starscream thing,” said Skywarp. Starscream aimed a kick at him without looking around, but his foot connected with air as Skywarp easily swung out of the way. “He’s trying to keep Thundercracker’s charge from fritzing up his voicebox. He got banged up pretty good in a battle vorns and vorns ago, and it's been sensitive to charge ever since."

"It's an injury?" Megatron looked uncharacteristically nonplussed when Starscream glanced at him. It almost made him attractive. “Have you consulted a medic?”

"I already saw Hook about it." Starscream slipped his gloved hands underneath Thundercracker to grope at his cockpit, enjoying the way Thundercracker squirmed as the insulated rubber stuck and pulled on his glass. "He wasn't able to help."

"Hook couldn't fix a simple voicebox?" Megatron sounded dubious, bordering on suspicious. Like Starscream could possibly have a plot that hinged on losing his voice during interface.

Starscream didn’t give Megatron the satisfaction of looking at him again to see if Megatron could seriously believe that. "My frame is more sophisticated than his amateurish skills can—"

"Hook told Starscream he needed to recreate the problem before he could fix it,” gasped Thundercracker. “Starscream slapped him."

Starscream pulled away from Thundercracker’s cockpit and Thundercracker twisted, trying to follow Starscream’s hands but held in place by the ropes. "Oh, did you want those?" asked Starscream. "I thought you were busy talking to Megatron."

"I'll shut up," promised Thundercracker. "Do my wings next."

Skywarp made no promises to be quiet, and probably never would. "It's kind of a good thing," he said. "We used to get so many noise complaints back on Cybertron."

“I can’t imagine Starscream being loud,” said Megatron.

Thundercracker cackled. Starscream shoved his head down into the pillow and held it there in a vain attempt to muffle him.

“During interface, I mean.” Megatron cleared his voicebox. “Starscream, Thundercracker did offer to be quiet if you paid his wings some attention.”

Thundercracker raised his wings invitingly. Starscream glared at them, trying to figure out how to reassert his authority. If he played with Thundercracker’s wings and Thundercracker stopped laughing at him, that would remove one source of insubordination. On the other hand, he would be following Megatron’s advice, allowing Megatron further demonstrations of his newfound mastery—

Starscream gave up and took Thundercracker’s wings in hand. Hesitation was the greatest weakness of all.

“I suppose you thought your prowess rendered me speechless.” Starscream pointedly didn’t look at Megatron as he delicately traced the detailing on Thundercracker’s panels. “Or perhaps you thought I was shy?”

"Well," said Megatron. “Your trine said—"

"Oh wow, that's so hot!" said Skywarp loudly. "You're really good with wings, Screamer! Maybe you should unchain mine, and—"

"Quiet." Starscream’s hands stopped moving, and Thundercracker whined. "Both of you! I want to hear what Megatron has to say."

Megatron appeared to weigh the consequences of his words and then, as usual, decide he didn't care. "Your trine implied you were overwhelmed and overstimulated by interface. Often unable to ask for what you wanted. Too insecure to—"

Thundercracker yelped as Starscream's hands clenched on his wings.

"So much for firewalls," muttered Skywarp. "We should have firewalled Megatron's mouth."

"I'm defecting to the Autobots," said Starscream. "Just as soon as I tear both your wings off." He pulled on one of Thundercracker's ailerons, testing its strength. There must have been something wrong with Thundercracker, because his plating abruptly heated and he bit back a moan.

"Come on, it's not like we lied or anything," said Skywarp. “Don’t maim Thundercracker just for that.”

"You can't distract me." Starscream carefully bent the aileron back and forth, back and forth. "You'll get your turn for mutilation."

"It's not like we could tell Megatron the real reasons you were letting him fumble at you," said Skywarp. “We were just trying to help!”

“Real reasons,” repeated Megatron. “Fumble.”

“Skywarp doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Starscream. Hopefully. His spark felt like it was burning through his chamber. “As should be obvious by now.”

“I know all kinds of things,” said Skywarp. “For instance, I know all about the time you two were getting frisky in one of the lower storage levels and you didn’t even notice there was a leaking bulkhead until the saltwater started conducting your charge through the whole room. And then the magnesium stockpiles caught a spark…”

Starscream froze, fingers jerking convulsively on Thundercracker’s aileron. Thundercracker’s fans kicked up a setting, and Starscream fought to think past the noise. He hadn’t told anyone about that particular tryst. The fire had taken five mega-cycles to extinguish completely, and Starscream knew that he’d be the one blamed if he pointed out Megatron’s role in creating it. He’d tried to warn Megatron about the water at the time, but admittedly he hadn’t tried very hard. His voicebox had been glitching as usual, and Megatron had been in the middle of pushing his unfashionably thick jack into Starscream’s straining port…

No, he hadn’t told anyone about the origins of the fire. But he had written it down.

"You shouldn't leave your diary lying around," crooned Skywarp.

"My journal is on an encrypted datapad in my subspace," said Starscream.

"Well, you shouldn't recharge where I can get at your subspace," said Skywarp.

"Don't worry, that won't be a problem in the future." Starscream risked a glance at the uncharacteristically silent Megatron and flinched at the stormy look on Megatron’s face. "I'm sure the Autobots will be happy to give me a well-guarded room of my own."

"A cell! That's a cell, Starscream."

Megatron finally spoke, his face still clouded with the dangerous anticipation of anger. "What did this datapad say?"

Starscream considered bolting for the Autobot base now, without waiting to tear anyone’s wings off. A cell might be preferable to this.

"Lucky for you I have the best parts memorized!" chirped Skywarp.

A cell would definitely be preferable.

"Here, this one was in the middle of the data. Our supposed-lord Megatron deigned to touch me again today. Disappointment as usual. His hands are too clumsy and overlarge to find my most sensitive seams, and he has little understanding of how to pleasure a mech who has sophisticated interface subroutines instead of a simple overload circuit. Watched him fall into recharge afterward and then sought out my amazing trine who are really good at overloading me senseless. Megatron snores."

"I didn't write that," said Starscream. His hand was tightening on Thundercracker's wing again.

"Oh, I think I can tell which part you didn't write," snarled Megatron. "This is much more your style than the coquetry you’ve been plying me with. What else, Skywarp?"

"It's mostly the same thing over and over and over again," said Skywarp. "That's why I figured I had to do something, you guys were stuck in a rut. But Thundercracker's favorite bit was the first time you tried to cable Starscream with your ancient, outmoded firehose of a cable, and Starscream had to desecrate his port with a universal adapter so you could foist your personality subroutines onto his processor."

Megatron tried to rip out of his bonds. The cables strained, but held. What kind of fool did Megatron think Starscream was?

The kind of fool that would waste a scientific break-through in tensile strength technology on this, perhaps. It had seemed a sensible precaution, and Starscream felt somewhat vindicated. But it would have been a better use of resources just to gag Skywarp.

"Hey," said Skywarp brightly, "do you want to hear all of the synonyms for 'ugly' Starscream uses to describe your face?"

Megatron broke the frame of the chair and collapsed to the floor. Starscream tensed, ready to spring for the door, but Megatron’s hands were still tied securely behind his back and the cables were too tight for Megatron’s stout frame to wriggle out of. Starscream stayed on the berth, his hands still clamped to Thundercracker's wings. There had to be a way out of this that didn't involve actually defecting.

"You know he means it as a compliment," said Skywarp. "Screamer's always had a thing for the bigger, blockier bot. I remember I once walked in on him and Skyfire, and Skyfire's thumb was all the way up—"

There was a snapping noise, sharp and abrupt enough to cut through Skywarp spilling Starscream's every embarrassing secret. Starscream looked down and realized he'd managed to break off the edge of Thundercracker's aileron.

Skywarp swung toward the berth, angling for a look. "Did you just do what I think you did?"

"It's fine!" Starscream cradled the broken piece and stroked the jagged edge of Thundercracker's wing anxiously. Thundercracker’s fans were roaring with pain. "It's fine, it's fine, there's no energon—"

"What are you blathering about?" Megatron was face-down in a pile of chair shrapnel. "What's happening?"

"Starscream maimed Thundercracker," said Skywarp. "Just like he's been threatening."

"Thundercracker is vital to the Decepticon cause!" roared Megatron.

"He's fine!" Starscream carefully set the piece of Thundercracker's wing on the berth and stripped off his gloves. He carefully probed the break, but it really was just a cosmetic injury. There were a few internal sensors exposed, but nothing serious. Thundercracker’s fans were still rising, reaching for their highest setting.

"Then why isn't he saying anything?" demanded Skywarp.

“I don’t know!” shrieked Starscream, and accidentally brushed an internal sensor as he tried to sooth the break. Thundercracker shouted something that had probably never been words and overloaded harder than a primitive computer in a thunderstorm.

For several astro-seconds there was only the clinking of Thundercracker's cooling armor and the whirring of Starscream's fans.

"Holy Primus," said Skywarp, and teleported directly out of his chains and onto the berth. "What did you do?"

Predictably, Starscream's voicebox was fried. He just pointed at the bared sensors and let Skywarp figure out for himself exactly how sensitive they were.

Megatron managed to flip himself over, which helped his viewing angle not at all. "Is Thundercracker injured?"

Thundercracker was whimpering his way to another overload as Skywarp gleefully teased the sensors. Starscream opened his mouth to inform Megatron in an appropriately sarcastic manner, then winced at the scratched clicking that came out. He prodded Skywarp, who completely failed to update Megatron.

"Hey, Starscream," said Skywarp. "I think you should kiss it better."

Starscream cycled his optics and pointed at Megatron again.

"Yeah, yeah, warlord on the floor, we'll get to him later. I need you to put your lips on this sensor right now."

"Please," groaned Thundercracker.

Megatron was definitely going to lose patience and try to kill them in a nanoklik, but fine, that was Skywarp's problem. And Starscream did feel a little guilty about breaking Thundercracker, even if it was a very small, really insignificant amount of damage.

“Come on,” said Skywarp. “You always look so good with Thundercracker’s plating in your mouth.”

Just a short indulgence, and then Starscream could figure out what to do next.

Starscream lowered his head and pressed a kiss to Thundercracker's bared sensor. There. He looked up at Skywarp coyly and mouthed happy? Skywarp looked down at him, optics bright, and Thundercracker shivered. His plating was already hot with charge again, and Starscream parted his lips for the second kiss, just enough to let the tip of his tongue graze over the sensor.

Now Skywarp's hand was on Starscream's helm, not pushing him but holding him in place. Starscream pushed back, just to show that he could, but deepened the kiss against Thundercracker’s sensor and listened to his trine moan. Maybe this would be a long indulgence. It would be a shame to leave Thundercracker like this when it would be so easy for Starscream to take him to another overload.

Starscream’s leg jerked when something touched his thigh, and he cursed himself for forgetting Megatron. But astonishingly, Starscream was not yanked from the berth and attacked and/or ravished. Instead there was just the firm pressure against his leg as Megatron leaned against him, Megatron sitting up on the floor with his hands still bound behind him. Like he was trying to see.

Well, then. Time to put on a show.

Starscream took the edge of Thundercracker's wing into his mouth. He laved at the break with his tongue, let his teeth scratch lightly at Thundercracker's panels. Charge numbed his lips. Skywarp's hands were all over his helm, occasionally drifting to stroke Thundercracker's wing and draw designs in the lubricant that spread from Starscream's mouth.

Megatron was crowding Starscream's own wing in his continued quest for a better view. Starscream pushed his wing down into Megatron’s face and instead of backing off Megatron rubbed against it, the friction causing sparks of pleasure. Starscream found himself twisting, draping himself over Thundercracker’s back to lower his wing so Megatron could reach more of it.

Starscream could feel the hum of Thundercracker’s fans vibrate through his frame. Skywarp still held him in place with one hand on his helm, but his other hand was wandering across Starscream’s left wing now, scratching the panels with the tips of his fingers. Megatron was a warm presence against Starscream’s right wing, warm enough to make Starscream boil when Megatron pressed his open mouth against Starscream’s plating. Starscream moaned static, which made Thundercracker arch, his aft bucking against Starscream’s cockpit. In retaliation, Starscream closed his lips over the edge Thundercracker’s wing and sucked.

Thundercracker tipped over the edge and dragged everyone else down alongside. His charge rushed over Starscream's frame and resonated with Starscream’s arousal until Starscream was shaking, his optics strobing in and out of functionality. Their combined overload spread to Skywarp's hands and Megatron's helm until all four of them of them were a gasping overstimulated mess, huddled on the berth and spilling out onto the floor.

At least Starscream was in the middle of it. Where he belonged. He carefully disengaged his mouth from Thundercracker's wing, smiling as he licked his lips and tasted carbon.

"I am living my best life," said Skywarp, sprawled with his feet on the floor, his aft on Thundercracker's legs, and his torso pinning one of Starscream's wings. Starscream tried to squirm out, but the effort wasn't worth it.

"I have the greatest ideas," continued Skywarp. "Thundercracker, do I or do I not have the greatest ideas?"

"They're pretty great," said Thundercracker hoarsely.

"They're surprisingly adequate," said Megatron, from where he'd collapsed on top of his bound hands on the floor. "Starscream, release me."

Starscream cleared his throat and his voicebox sputtered back into life. "I don't know. Are you going to drive a fist through my spark?"

"I don't know," said Megatron. "Does Skywarp have any more revelations to share?"

"Starscream's trying to replace you with a clone," said Skywarp.

Starscream tried to claw out Skywarp's traitorous throat, but his wing was well and truly pinned, and Thundercracker kept moving his legs to prevent Starscream from twisting free. He readied his null-ray instead, but he didn't have a clear shot at anyone.

"It's just creepy!" said Skywarp. "It doesn't have a proper face yet, and it doesn't do anything, it just floats in its tank and—"

"Starscream, if you release me I will not murder you," said Megatron. "I will try to forget that you are a perverted frame fetishist, and I will deal with your ridiculous scheme appropriately if and only if you actually manage to create a viable clone."

Starscream held his breath, waiting for the catch. Megatron would use this as leverage, force a concession that Starscream would have no choice but to give. Starscream’s total obedience for at least a vorn, perhaps. Starscream praising Megatron’s every plan in officer briefings and telling Soundwave how lucky they were to serve such an infallible leader. Starscream kneeling before Megatron’s throne, struggling to accommodate three of Megatron’s fingers stretching his lips and threatening to unhinge his jaw—

"After all," said Megatron, "the most important thing is that I was right about you."

Starscream cycled his optics, trying to shake off the, the fantasy, no, the nightmare. "Excuse me?"

"Your trine tried to convince me you were pathetic and helpless, desperate for my attentions but unable to ask for them," said Megatron. "But I knew all along you were a conniving, back-stabbing, traitorous—"

"You guys are ruining the afterglow," said Skywarp.

"You ruined it first," muttered Thundercracker.

"What are you trying to say?" snarled Starscream.

Megatron sat up again, his blazing optics regarding Starscream over the edge of the berth. "I prefer this version of you. The unvarnished warrior."

"Oh." Starscream felt the smile crawling over his face again. Skywarp sat up a little, and Thundercracker's legs suddenly ceased to be obstacles. "Then I can certainly free you from those chains."

"Good, I'm glad we understand—"

"Later," said Starscream, and tumbled himself from the berth and directly into Megatron's lap.

---

Later, Starscream laid exhausted on top of Megatron. It was preferable to laying on the floor, but only marginally so. One of the pillows had fallen from the berth, offering a hint of comfort, but Megatron was resting his own head on it and Starscream didn’t think he had the energy to fight him for it.

Starscream looked up at the berth, but it was much too high to even contemplate reaching. He let his gaze drift down, optics dimming. Then they brightened again, and he shifted over a little, angling for a better look.

“There’s something under the berth.”

“Ugh,” said Skywarp. He’d untied Thundercracker halfway through the second round, and now he sounded as worn out by Thundercracker as Starscream was by Megatron. “Let’s not do this right now.”

“Is that,” Starscream peered closer. “Is that confetti? Is this where you’re hiding that fragging confetti? Under my own berth?”

“It’s just pieces of paper,” said Skywarp. “It’s not that big of a deal. If you ever cleaned your quarters you’d have found it already.”

“I’m too busy running an army to clean,” snapped Starscream. “And it’s just paper that you keep stuffing into my vents when I recharge. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it was when we had to go into battle halfway through my recharge shift? The Autobots went into hysterics every time my fans kicked in!”

“It was pretty funny,” said Skywarp, who clearly had underestimated Starscream’s energy reserves and his desire to tear Skywarp’s arm out of its socket.

Unfortunately, Megatron stirred himself to trap Starscream with one thick arm. “Stop squirming.”

“Skywarp’s contraband is—“

“I don’t care,” said Megatron. “I’m lying here until I can get up, and you’re going to lie with me.”

“I want to—“

“No.” Megatron used his huge, awkward, perfect hands to stroke Starscream’s plating, and Starscream found himself turning to accommodate them, to get the hands onto his wings where they would do the most good. He felt himself melting into Megatron, his helm pillowed by Megatron’s chest and his cockpit tucked to Megatron’s waist.

“All right,” murmured Starscream, as the buzzing in his mind faded to a contented drone. “I suppose it can wait.”

“Whipped,” said Skywarp. Thundercracker snored. Starscream ignored both of them, and slowly drifted into recharge with Megatron’s hands on his wings. His trine could keep. Starscream wasn’t going anywhere.

“Thank you,” said Megatron, very quietly. How unusually yet gratifyingly polite. Starscream should always be thanked after interface. Starscream nuzzled Megatron’s handsomely broad chest as a reward and curled himself a little closer against Megatron’s frame.

“You’re welcome,” said Skywarp, and that was the last thing Starscream heard before morning, when Megatron woke up shouting and overheating because his vents were absolutely filled with confetti.

Starscream knew there was a reason he kept Skywarp around.