Starscream reached an altitude of twenty thousand feet, and still, he climbed.
Skyfire was behind him, struggling against the storm. He couldn't climb as fast. Too much weight. All their equipment. Starscream regretted being such a brat now. He should have carried some. Should have offered...
The clouds ahead seemed endless, but he knew they weren't. There was clear sky above them, somewhere, he just needed to reach it. Needed to lead Skyfire to safety.
They'd laugh about this later. Afterwards, safe and warm and far from this hellish organic cesspool.
"-ream- see you!" his comm crackled with Skyfire's voice.
He wasn't sure if it was his signal failing, or his partners. He set off a flare, hoping the shuttle could follow it through the storm. Thirty thousand feet now. The cloud was thinning.
"Almost there!" He yelled into his comm, ascending vertically now, rolling when he spied the end to thick dark snow clouds. The comm crackled with static.
He fired off another flare, then a second for good measure, but ahead he could see stars. The sky was drenched in them. He had made it. They had made it.
"Yes!" He cried, laughing with the rush of relief, rolling out of flight mode and into bipedal just so he could smile. They'd made it.
He turned to celebrate with his partner.
But the sky behind him was empty.
And he was alone.
And then he was awake.
A sharp pain shot through his wings and stabbed him in the back, dragging him from his nightmare and throwing him into a reality no better. He was fighting for his bearings in utter darkness as he tried to rise, panicked and confused. His wings held him back. Something had pinned them.
Covered, trapped from all sides, he realised there was a building on top of him. What looked like it anyway. Bricks and wood, disconnected steel pipes gushing water. He gasped and shifted, trying to assess how screwed he was, but every minute movement put more pressure on his wings.
He fought through the pain, denta gritted, and shoved at the oak beam lying across his chest-
-Not realising it had been the only support for the two tonnes of rubble waiting to drop on his wings.
He screamed, vocaliser sharp and hoarse. His wings crumpled under the weight, crushed like trash in a compactor. Panting in the aftermath, he swore and hissed. His vision blurred, like the pain was so overwhelming his frame couldn't remember how to function. His fuel pump accelerated. He couldn't breathe. There was no air-
And then the darkness receded. Salvation came. Someone was calling his name.
Through watery optics he watched as the rubble was lifted away and sunlight streamed down.
"Yes, I thought it was you." Megatron said.
Starscream moaned despairingly at the face peering down at him, haloed in light. The angelic-look did not suit Megatron's ugly visage.
"I'm stuck!" He called, in case Megatron hadn't already noticed. "Get me out of here!"
Megatron huffed and reached down through the rubble for him. Starscream took his wrist and Megatron took his weight. But his wings were still trapped, and the hinges pulled almost to breaking point,
"Ah-stop! Stop, idiot! My wings!"
Megatron let ago, frowning. He hummed wordlessly, then disappeared with no explanation. Leaving him.
"Megatron!?" Starscream called after him, spark throbbing as panic rose again. "Don't leave me!"
"I'm right here," Megatron's impatient voice called back from somewhere above. The sound of shifting rubble registered in Starscream's audials. "Stop squirming. Before you're crushed."
Starscream refrained from pointing out at he was already crushed and waited in silence, listening to Megatron lift and throw. Bricks clacked, wood groaned. Every so often dust would sprinkle down onto his frame. Every time he flinched.
"Are you still alive?" Megatron's voice drifted down to him.
"Yes!" Starscream snapped, mildly offended. He was only stuck. If he could leave his wings behind he would have saved himself by now.
"Almost there." Megatron said, huffing as he lifted something heavy.
Almost there. Starscream thought of Skyfire, getting lost in that blizzard. Almost there hadn't been good enough for him...
"Just hurry up!" He snapped, and wriggled, and shouldn't have. Something sharp dropped down and pierced his wing armour.
"Gaargh!" wanted to punch something. Preferably Megatron.
"Here," he heard Megatron, and then felt movement on his wing. Something heavy was lifted off, but somehow, that made it hurt more.
He grit his denta and rode it out, breathing sharply as sensors pinged him with error after error. He heard Megatron make a noise of concern. He closed his optics. He didn't want to look. Didn't want to see the mangled mess his wings had become.
Two servos slipped under his arms without warning and began to lift him. He hissed, struggled. "I'm perfectly- I can stand under my own power!"
Megatron let go of him with an exasperated shove, and Starscream dropped onto his aft on top of the rubble he'd just been trapped under.
His pain was forgotten momentarily as he took in the devastation of the area. It was a city apartment building he'd been trapped under, but the street was eerily quiet. A few emergency vehicles had been left on the street, but they were abandoned, a fire hose had been left to twist and spray unattended.
"Where is everyone?"
"Gone." Megatron said unhelpfully. Starscream glared.
"The human's ran screaming when I came to, there-" Megatron pointed to another section of the collapsed building, and now that Starscream looked, his leader was also covered in dust and dirt. He'd been trapped too. "And I cannot hail Soundwave."
Starscream tried to as well, but his comm was down. Just static.
He hated the noise. He switched it off quickly.
"Great." He muttered.
"Your wings." Megatron drew attention to them again, and Starscream had almost forgotten the excruciating pain he was in. "They'll need to come off."
Starscream's optics flared. He scooted away in alarm, knocking bricks and glass. "They what?!"
"They're dead weight." Megatron said simply, moving towards him. "And they'll slow you down-"
"No, no!" Starscream held his servos out. "Get away from me! You're not taking my wings, I need them!"
"To fly." Megatron agreed. "But they're not going to let you do any flying for a long time."
Starscream didn't want to look. He really didn't.
"Don't touch them-"
"-Don't you dare touch them!"
"Starscream you fool, they're hanging-"
Starscream clasped his servos over his audials, "No!"
Megatron began advancing again, an angry determined expression in his face. Starscream scrambled and tripped in the rubble. "No, no Megatron please-!"
"I am not going to suffer your endless complaints that they hurt." Megatron snapped, bending over him. Starscream tried to slap him away. "Roll over. When they're removed, the pain sensors will deactivate-"
Starscream planted a pede on his chest and tried to push him back. "Get away!"
"I'll be dead before I let you take my wings!" Starscream yelled, kicking and squirming despite his injuries. "You hear me!? Dead!"
Fifteen minutes later Starscream sniffed miserably as he watched Megatron tuck two ruined wings under his arm.
"There." He said, dusting his servos off, satisfied with a job well done.
Wings gone and sensors offline, Starscream was able to focus on the less serious injuries plaguing him- like the dent in his back from where Megatron's knee had just pinned him down. He wiped his olfactory with the back of his servo and glared at him.
"I hate you."
"Good," Megatron wasn't repentant. He shifted his grip on the wings and held them out, considering. Starscream watched him put them away in his subspace. He was thankful for that at least. They barely looked like his wings now...
"Are you injured elsewhere?" Megatron continued practically.
"Why? So you can dismember me again? What if I had a processor ache? Huh? Are you going to rip my head off next?!"
"It would certainly shut you up," Megatron rolled his optics. "Come now. Up."
Starscream didn't want to get up. He wanted to sit here and sulk until the humans came back or the Autobots found them. Maybe they could put him out of his misery.
He didn't have a choice in the matter. Megatron nudged him with a knee, then bent to take his wrist. Starscream slapped him off and stood under his own power, unbalanced by uneven footing and missing limbs.
"For Primus's-!" he swayed and had to catch himself against Megatron before he fell flat in his face. How did grounders have any sense of balance without wings?
Megatron seized the opportunity to manhandle him anyway, dragging him down from the hazardous rubble. Starscream clung to his wrist, knowing if the mountain of glass and brick shifted it could drag him under again. If that happened, he was taking fragging Megatron with him.
By the time they'd reached solid smooth tarmac they could hear sirens in the distance. The curtains of the neighbouring buildings were beginning to twitch. Humans. Urgh.
"We need to leave." Megatron said with a sense of urgency.
Starscream snorted and ambled after him at a far more sedate pace, frame aching, "Don't tell me the mighty Megatron is running from the squishies now?"
"Only when those 'squishies' are capable of summoning Prime and his rabble." Megatron threw back, ducking into an alleyway he almost couldn't fit into, out of sight. "Unless you're happy to fight them for me?"
Starscream was about to ask why Megatron couldn't fight his own battles, when he noticed his inconspicuously empty right arm.
"Where's your fusion cannon?" He snapped, shuffling after him a little more hastily now.
Megatron's huge shoulders lifted in a shrug. He stuck his helm out of the alley, looking both ways and waving him closer, "Quickly."
Starscream felt more than a little ridiculous, sneaking between tall buildings like this with Megatron. Boston- he believed it was called- was a densely populated city, and the idea that they could sneak out of it unseen by the humans was a little overambitious really. Humans were stupid, but they weren't blind.
"Megatron," he pulled him back for he made to rush behind another building. "This is taking too long."
"What do you expect me to do?" Megatron snapped, shrugging off his touch. "Neither of us are in any condition to fight. Neither of us have a way of summoning reinforcements."
"We just run, idiot," Starscream hissed back, finding it hard to take Megatron seriously when they were crouched in a dank little gap between buildings that smelt more than a little suspect. "Yes the humans will see us but by the time they're organised themselves we'll be long gone."
"On foot?" Megatron glared. "You seem to have forgotten you can't fly."
"I know I can't-!" Starscream realised he was shouting and stopped. "Fine. Do as you please. You always do. I'll be getting myself out of his oversized petri dish alive!"
Starscream didn't care if he followed or not, he stepped out onto the street in front of cars and all chaos in the form of horns and yelling broke out. Oh, how he hated automobiles.
"Get outta the street, ya freak!" Some specimen had the nerve to lean out of a window and shake their fist at him.
Sneering, Starscream kicked the car. It flipped over onto it's top, wheels in the air. Pathetic.
That's when the screaming broke out. Starscream let himself smile. That was a far more appropriate reaction to seeing a Decepticon warrior.
A servo landed on his shoulder, and Starscream realised with growing fury that the screaming was because Megatron had followed him out. He didn't have time to dwell on what was so fearsome about Megatron and so... not about him, because an arm was around his waist and dragging him away from the huge traffic jam he had effortlessly caused.
"Move!" Was snarled in his audial. The sirens were back, and yes, Starscream supposed it was probably a good idea to get in gear.
Two hours later found them somewhere outside of the city, in an industrial park. It was abandoned if the rust and derelict buildings were any indication.
Tired from running on thrusters that weren't exactly designed for cross country, Starscream cleared dirt and crisp leaves away from the top of a parked truck and took a seat on it's trailer. It groaned under his weight but didn't collapse. He crossed his legs and watched Megatron limp in front of him, locking his armour down against the chill of winter.
Ridiculous planet and it's seasons.
"What do we do now?"
Megatron paused, looking up at the sky. Starscream followed his gaze and frowned at the thick cloud overhead.
"I can't fly." He reminded Megatron, perhaps unnecessarily. Which meant any travelling would have to be done on foot because Megatron's alt mode was utterly useless and immobile. "How far are we from base?"
It took Megatron a while to answer. Which meant it wasn't good.
"....about three thousand miles."
Starscream wasn't initially worried. That was, what, less than three hours flight time for him?
Or six weeks walking.
He dropped his helm into his servos. "We're going to rust out here."
"We're not." Megatron sounded closer. The trailer dipped suddenly, and Starscream lifted his head to find he had company. "These aren't the badlands. This planet's terrain is easy to navigate. So long as he avoid Autobots, we'll face little problems walking back."
A cold wind blew in. Starscream shivered, thinking of thick snow clouds and an unanswered comm.
"Only a fool would underestimate this planet," he growled, rising from the trailer.
Megatron tilted his helm questioningly, but Starscream didn't feel the need to explain himself. It would be dark soon anyway, and they needed a shelter. They needed fuel. He had lost a lot when his wings-
"Lets go." He muttered.
It was dark, late into the night when they finally found cover away from human habitation in a park, with open fields and climbing trails, but tall forested areas. The trees had lost their leaves in the cold, but it was past midnight and good enough.
Starscream ignored the fatigue brought on by the emptiness of his tanks and sunk down onto a large boulder. Megatron dropped to the filthy ground with a thunk.
"Go somewhere else." He snapped, not wanting to have to listen to Megatron snore all night on top of everything else.
Megatron threw him a scathing look and leant back against a strong, thick tree, long legs stretched out in front of him. There was oil and grease on the inside of his knee, leaking out from beneath the armour. Probably what had been causing his limp.
Starscream didn't have wings though, so he hardly sympathised.
Since Megatron wasn't going to move, he shuffled to the other side of his boulder, lying across it on his front. His back was still sensitive, unused to the contact or texture of something other than his wings. He felt vulnerable without them. Unprotected.
Through the tree canopy he could see the stars. He remembered them being brighter, more vivid, on his last trip to this planet. Light pollution likely, from the humans. He sneered and offlined his optics, tucking limbs in and closing his vents, keeping warm air in.
The night was long and the temperature continued to drop. Starscream remembered the chill that went down his back from falling snow, shielding his optics from it when it blew from all directions. He couldn't see for all the white. He was blind, frozen, digging through it with stiff digits. Was Skyfire buried beneath it already?
The wind blew hot and suddenly he was awake with a shout, arms thrown out. His fist knocked armour and a clang rang out. Megatron grunted.
Starscream blinked away his panic and looked up into Megatron's narrowed gaze.
"...Get off my rock!" He snapped.
"You were shivering." Megatron said simply. Which meant he'd been watching him. "And calling out."
"I was not." He turned onto his side petulantly.
Armour scrapped against rock as Megatron began to settle down. Starscream's mouth fell open at the audacity of him. "I said, get-"
"You'd rather waste more fuel freezing?" Megatron rumbled in the darkness. "I'm hardly asking for us to huddle together. Just lay still."
Starscream pressed his mouth together and shut up. No. He'd rather not freeze, and Megatron's frame was gushing warmth. He laid his helm down on his arms, facing away from Megatron.
"Just don't touch me."
Starscream offlined his optics again. It was still cold, the wind still blew, but the dream didn't return.
And Megatron's snoring made him too angry to think of much else anyway.