“It's just disgusting,” Starscream proclaimed, jumping to his pedes and resuming his pacing of the empty medbay for the fifth time in the last two minutes.
On the other side of the room, Thundercracker looked up from his datapad and heaved a sigh.
“So you've been saying for the past few months,” he rumbled.
“This shouldn't have happened!” his trine leader continued, looking like the universe itself had betrayed him. “I mean, I know he's an idiot—we all know he's an idiot—but this much of an idiot!? It's not that hard to keep track of when you're cycling!”
“Yes, well, it did happen,” his more stoic trinemate pointed out. “And the real problem is still—”
The sound of someone screaming in the annex cut him off. It was the raw, visceral kind of scream that a mech let out when he was in true pain. Both seekers in the main room winced as an echo of that pain reverberated through their trine bond.
“Is he going to keep doing that all night?” Starscream wondered as the sound subsided into a wail and then choked sobs.
“Probably,” Thundercracker shrugged. “It's not exactly a pleasant process from what I've heard.”
“So, you've never actually seen it, either?” Starscream sniffed.
“Of course not. It's not like I've had any more opportunities than you.”
The screams redoubled and Starscream turned to the annex door, expression torn between annoyance and horror.
“Primus! Can't they disable his pain receptors? Or at least his vocalizer! I don't think I can stand listening to that much longer.”
“I'm sure your comfort is everyone's top priority right now, Star,” Thundercracker muttered, going back to his datapad.
Starscream sneered at the nickname and stepped toward the door controls. “Well, I'm going to ask,” he announced as he slapped the command for the doors to open.
The room beyond was bustling with activity. All six of the constructicons had crammed themselves in, though Starscream suspected it was less out of necessity and more because none of them wanted to be out of the loop on such a juicy moment. On a berth in the middle of all of them was Skywarp, legs splayed wide and helm thrown back in agony. Starscream was blissfully spared the full view by Hook, who was crouched over and staring intently at the space between the purple seeker's legs.
“Scavenger, hand me a scalpel,” the medic ordered, thrusting an impatient servo at one of his gestalt mates. “We're gonna need to cut a bit.”
He caught sight of Starscream standing stricken in the doorway as he turned to receive the instrument.
“Can I help you, Commander?” he demanded, looking exceptionally irritated.
“I...just... Does he really need his pain receptors on for this?” Starscream stammered, trying and failing to look away from the spectacle that his trinemate had made of himself.
Skywarp apparently recognized his voice, and his helm snapped up, optics coming back online.
“Star!” he wailed, reaching his servos out for him. “Star, I take it back! Don't leave me; it hurts so bad!”
“If you'd gotten him in a bit earlier,” Hook managed to get in over the seeker's begging. “I might have gotten that done before the real labor set in, but if I do it now, it'll screw up the contractions and possibly hurt the sparkling. Did you want that?”
Starscream shook his helm fervently.
“Good. Now go away. You're too distracting.”
Starscream was just opening his mouth to protest that Skywarp was his slagging trinemate and he wanted Starscream there when Hook moved aside a bit and the seeker finally got a glimpse of the piece de resistance. Starscream blanched, his tanks rolling, and hastily turned to leave.
“Sorry, Warp. I'll send in T.C.,” he called as he fled the annex, wings low and taut.
He slammed his servo against the door controls and then leaned up against the wall beside them, venting hard for a moment.
“That good, huh?” Thundercracker jibed from the other side of the room.
“That,” Starscream told him emphatically, “is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen, and I've seen Megatron cleaning out the seams in his pedes! Why does anyone go through that when cold construction works just fine?”
“Supposedly, becoming a creator is one of the most sublime experiences a 'bot can have,” the other seeker shrugged.
“Yeah, well, you can go experience that sublimation firsthand, if you want. Warp was asking for you.”
“He was asking for you.”
“Only because he could see me,” Starscream snapped. “We both know he'd rather have you!”
Thundercracker gave him a judging look before slapping his datapad down on the berth and heaving himself to his pedes.
“Alright, alright,” he sighed, pushing Starscream aside so that he could access the door controls. The chaos of the annex sounded clearly through the medbay for a moment before the doors slid shut behind him.
Starscream hesitated, wringing his servos as he stared at the closed doors, before moving to sit on the berth that his trinemate had vacated. He thought about dimming his audial receptors so that he couldn't hear every time Skywarp's voice crescendo-ed in pain, but decided it wasn't worth it; he would still feel the other seeker's distress echoed back to him through their bond.
And to think that they'd originally thought he was coming down with the holoflu! Megatron had ordered the teleporter into quarantine for fear that all of his troops would go down with it by the end of the cycle otherwise. It had taken over a week for Scrapper to get suspicious and start running tests. If it had been anyone else, it likely would have taken several more months before he had thought to check for sparking, but with Skywarp...
Well, half the faction was scrambling over themselves in terror that they'd be the unlucky sap that the coding tests pointed to in the end. Starscream had no doubt that a good many of them were crowded outside the medbay doors now.
Not that all of them had been reluctant. Ramjet, for one, had claimed in no small certainty that he was the sire and started insisting that he and Skywarp needed to move in together so that he could do his duty. Skywarp had told him that he would rather give birth to a ravening horde of insecticons than share quarters with him.
As for who the sire really was, apparently not even Skywarp knew. He said that there was one night around the right time when he'd had too much high grade and woken up in some field somewhere with telling signs of a hearty interface, but that was the night after Megatron had installed the Heart of Cybertron; not even Soundwave had been sober enough to remember what had happened that night.
Regardless, Skywarp had become insipidly overjoyed at the prospect of having a sparkling the moment he found out, even after Starscream dredged up some old holovids about birthing and every horror story he could find about raising a sparkling. He'd always known there was something wrong with his youngest trinemate's processor, but never until that moment had he realized just how badly glitched he might be.
He was also surprised at how willing Megatron had proven to indulge the expectant seeker, but then—as the warlord himself had pointed out—every potential new recruit counted at this point in the war. Starscream just worried that Megatron might get it into his head to start encouraging the rest of the troops to reproduce—or worse. The universe really didn't need more of the likes of Astrotrain or Motormaster.
Starscream wasn't sure how he felt about there being more of Skywarp in the world either, but uncertainty was a familiar state for him these days.
The medbay doors opened then, revealing the crowd he had suspected was out there along with Megatron himself. The Air Commander scowled at both as his leader strode toward him with those obnoxiously long legs of his, and then the doors slid shut and he had nothing left but Megatron to direct his irritation at.
“How long has it been?” the other mech asked without greeting or preamble.
“Nearly 10 hours since his inner seal broke,” Starscream replied, keeping his tone and posture pointedly formal. “About three since we got him in there.”
“He was grounded for a reason,” his commander growled. “What in the pit were you thinking taking him out in that state!?”
“That it's not healthy for any seeker to be trapped down here—least of all a carrying creator and his sparkling!” Starscream protested, dropping the formality. “Anyway, he was overdue, and we got him started, so there!”
The disappointment in Megatron's gaze didn't budge, and Starscream shifted uncomfortably beneath it. Even he knew that they could have seriously fragged up on this one, but... all's well that ended well, right? Skywarp's sparkling had not dropped in the middle of the Atlantic, and they'd gotten him to Hook before any kind of complications could arise. Sure, there was the bit about getting him in too late to do anything for the pain, but Starscream hardly felt he deserved Megatron's judgment to quite this extent.
“Anyway, what do you care?” the seeker huffed, folding his arms and turning his back on the other mech. “It's not like you're one of the potential sires.”
“Oh? And what makes you so sure?”
Starscream whipped around so fast he nearly cracked his neck.
“You wouldn't dare!” he snarled, fury and suspicion flashing in his optics.
“He'd be a better berthmate than you, I'm sure,” Megatron muttered.
“Shows what you know,” Starscream sniffed. “He's a stage four clinger, even for those of us not romantically involved with him.”
“Well, from what I've been unfortunate enough to overhear in the troops over the years, he more than makes up for it with technique.”
“Don't talk about my trinemate like thaAAGH!” Starscream's angry hiss morphed into a cry of panic and surprise as a particularly strong pain shot through his trinebond. His knees buckled beneath him and a pair of strong, black servos caught him under the arms before he could hit the floor.
“Is something wrong?” Megatron asked, peering intently into his second's face, all previous signs of annoyance gone.
“I'm fine!” Starscream snapped, swatting at his suffocatingly concerned leader.
“I wasn't asking about you in the first place,” Megatron assured him, scowling at the door through which Skywarp's redoubled screams were sounding. “It sounds like they're killing him in there.”
“He'll be fine,” Starscream insisted, sounding more confident than he felt. But then, if something were really wrong, Thundercracker would have let him know, right?
He was just wondering if perhaps he should swallow his squeamishness and go in there after all when the screaming suddenly petered out and came to an end. Starscream stood stock still, his wings pulled high as he waited for something—anything. There were so many things that could go wrong in a birthing after all, and he felt nothing but emptiness from either end of his trinebond for a moment that seemed to stretch for eternity.
And then, like a cool wind in a desert, a new cry came up—thin and hoarse and unlike anything he'd heard in millions of years. Feeling came bursting back through the bond; bright, exuberant, joyful feeling from both Skywarp and Thundercracker, and Starscream let out a spurt of relieved laughter at the sensation.
He relaxed, and it was only then that he felt the servo Megatron had put on his back, no doubt in an attempt to comfort him. Giddiness made him bolder than usual, and he found himself turning to leap into his leader's arms, mashing their mouths together with sloppy enthusiasm. Megatron stumbled back beneath his weight for a moment before collecting himself and folding his arms under the seeker's backside with an appreciative hum.
The annex door slid open, and Megatron hastily dropped his second-in-command as Hook came striding out into the main medbay, wiping energon-stained servos on a towel.
“Lord Megatron,” the medic acknowledged with a tilt of his helm before throwing a judgmental glance in Starscream's direction.
The seeker sneered back. Everyone in their faction seemed convinced that he was the one climbing needily into Megatron's berth night after night.
“What's the news, Doctor?” Megatron asked, trying his best to look dignified with the marks of Starscream's dentae on the corner of his mouth.
“It's a seeker mech,” Hook announced. “Slightly larger than expected, but initial scans are good. Too soon to tell who the sire might be just by looking, but I can start running coding samples tomorrow.”
“And Skywarp?” Starscream wanted to know, trying to peer around the other mech to see his trinemates. He could hear them cooing over the new arrival, and coding Starscream hadn't thought he still possessed had him itching to join them. Provided all the messy bits were out of the way, that was.
“Go for it,” Hook sighed, stepping aside.
Starscream hesitated only a second longer before shooting past him like a cannon blast.
The other constructicons were busy cleaning up the mess on the floor and doing other medical-y things that Starscream didn't really care about. Bonecrusher looked up when he came in and threw him a sly grin.
“Bet you're next, eh, Screamy?” he said to the sniggers of his fellows.
Starscream sneered at him, but was too distracted to do more.
Skywarp was propped up on the berth, covered to the waist with an insulation sheet and a small bundle of smaller sheets nestled in his arms. He looked utterly exhausted, but there was a joy in his face as he stared down at that little bundle that was more insipid than anything Starscream had ever seen there before. Thundercracker had climbed up onto the berth beside him and curled around the younger seeker, his own expression somewhere between wonder and the same thing Skywarp was projecting.
“I believe it is customary to offer congratulations on such an occasion,” Starscream huffed, trying his darnedest to keep such ridiculous emotions from overtaking his own expression.
His trinemates looked up, Thundercracker disapproving and Skywarp ecstatic.
“Star!” he gushed, shifting his sparkling so that he could extend one eager servo toward his trine leader. “Come see, come see!”
The other seeker hesitated again before stepping forward to find out what all the fuss was about.
Inside the blankets lay a tiny lump of gray armor, its scrawny, out of proportion arms fidgeting jerkily as its creator tilted it a bit so that Starscream could see. It made a little grunting noise and Skywarp's spark pulsed with pride and delight at his trinemates.
“I thought sparklings were a bit more...chubby. And rosy-cheeked,” Starscream remarked.
“Hook says all of them start out kind of small and funny-looking,” Thundercracker explained, reaching for Starscream's wrist to tug him closer. There wasn't really room for all three of them on the berth, but they made it work by shunting Skywarp into both of their laps.
“What'll you call him?” Starscream asked when they'd settled.
“I still haven't decided,” Skywarp yawned, nestling his helm against his trine leader's shoulder. “I mean, he'll have that name his whole life, so it's gotta be good.”
His trinemates hummed in agreement, and Starscream looked down at the newspark again. All at once, almost like the break of dawn, its optics snapped open and Starscream found himself staring into twin crimson universes, endless and full of life undiscovered. He reached out a digit toward one of the still-waving servos. The sparkling found him and latched on, digits far too small to be allowed encasing his own.
“He likes you,” Skywarp chuckled tiredly.
“Must not be a very good judge of character,” Thundercracker teased.
Starscream looked up to scowl at him and caught sight of Megatron standing in the doorway, watching them with a softness that no mech who had been partially responsible for the destruction of an entire planet had any right showing. With an awkward cough, Starscream started disentangling himself from his trinemates.
“Where are you going?” Skywarp asked, sounding disappointed.
“I have things to do,” Starscream muttered, resisting the urge to take one last look at the sparkling before he swept out of the room, slapping his leader's groping servos as he went.
Back on the medbay berth, Skywarp sighed and leaned over into his other trinemate.
“He'll get over it,” Thundercracker assured him, though he honestly had no clue what 'it' even was.
“I know,” Skywarp mumbled back, and moments later, he was deep in recharge against the other seeker's cockpit, perfectly content in almost every way.