Optimus had been noticing a marked change in his arch nemesis for some time now.
Something seemed to be distracting his usually driven opponent, playing on Megatron's mind more than thoughts of fighting and winning and victory. Optimus no longer had to brace himself for a savage tackle when he arrived at the scene of a raid, because Megatron now seemed to have better things to do than steamroll through his Autobots and wrestle him on the ground.
And now, it seemed, he had better things to do than even show up.
Optimus onlined his comm, ducking behind the cooling tower when a formation of seekers shot overhead. "Location on Megatron?"
Jazz answered first. "He-- headed east." The saboteur panted over the comm, his voice cracking with static and distorted by nearby gun fire. "Didn't engage. Must be-- to something-"
The comm crackled out, and Optimus shut it off with a frustrated hum. Overhead the Aerialbots had taken to the air and engaged in a dogfight against the seekers. Blaster fire was hitting the ground in sporadic bursts as they all tried to shoot at each other in one big mess of wings and nosecones. With a squint, Optimus noted Starscream was conspicuously absent and therefore unable to guide the less experienced flying gestalt.
Not the first time he'd left them to fend for themselves either.
And attempts at hailing Starscream's comm did little good.
He was lucky Megatron was elsewhere. His factions entire counter assault was in shambles and he could barely fight himself when every tactic they'd planned was useless without the proper air support. He and the majority of his ground troops had to remain under cover, shooting from their shelters lest they ended up a smoking hole in ground.
Without Starscream to chase the Decepticon seekers in circles, Thundercracker and Skywarp were picking them off like cyber-ducks sitting in tar.
Optimus was about to consider pulling back, waiting for Prowl to arrive with a wave of reinforcements, at the risk of the Decepticons having more time to steal and pillage and kill- when with a ground shaking rumble the wall beside him exploded with a fusion blast.
Optimus rolled with the blast, catching himself on his hands and knees and shaking loose shrapnel from his armour. Megatron was shouldering through the hole he'd created, fanged denta sparkling menacingly. Optimus surged to his pedes and launched himself at Megatron before the cannon could recharge.
But Megatron was in fine form, his optics bright and pedes light as he ran, dodged Optimus's kick and punched him in the side, a gleefully ferocious grin marring his face. He was in a disturbingly good mood.
"Slow today, Prime!" He laughed, circling him like predator on the prowl.
Optimus was no prey. He locked his mask tight to his face, axe at the ready.
Overhead the shroom of a jet's thrusters filled the air, too fast to be anyone but Starscream. The tri-coloured streak of armour fired off a volley of shots, scattering Megatron's seekers. Behind him the Aerialbot's reformed, and the odds shifted back in favour of good.
Megatron's optics flicked up, his mouth curling wryly when he too noticed the turning tide of the battle in the sky.
"This ends here, Megatron." Optimus dragged his attention back, pointing his axe at him.
Megatron rolled his shoulders, loose and ready, "It's only just begun, Prime."
They had won, eventually, but the Decepticons had made off with over a hundred cubes and inflicted millions of dollars worth of property damage. The humans weren't happy, and neither was Optimus.
Trudging back to the Ark with the others, Optimus held out a servo and stopped Starscream in his tracks.
As one of his best, and brightest, Optimus had never had reason to call Starscream's loyalty into a question. He had stood by his side for thousand of years, the lows and the highs. He was their airforce's saving grace, and invaluable in many ways. But-
"I showed up, didn't I?" Starscream snarked before Optimus had even had the chance to reproach him. He was stood with his arms across his chest, wings flicking with attitude and lip curled cruelly.
"'Showing up' isn't enough when it's your comrades' very lives on the line." Optimus used his most solemnly disappointed voice- though it rarely ever worked on Starscream.
"They're big boys now, Prime." Starscream adjusted his stance so his servos were on his hips. "They can look after themselves."
Optimus nodded absently, now taking note of Starscream's surprisingly dishevelled appearance. He had been absent for a great deal of the battle, and untouchable in the sky. He hadn't taken any hits, nor had he engaged any Decepticons in close combat. But for someone so renowned for taking pride in his appearance...
There were scuffs on his knee pads, the sky blue armour now smeared with mud and grass stains, like he had landed heavily on them and skidded. A row of dents crinkled the underside of his right wing. They looked like finger indentations, as though someone had grabbed and pulled. There was a smudge on his cockpit too. A handprint, if Optimus didn't know any better. A big one.
He tilted his helm questioningly, and noticing where his attention had wandered, Starscream stepped back, arms wrapping around himself again. "If you're quite finished-"
"What kept you?" He asked, his disappointment curbed by concern. If Starscream had been kept from his duties by some sort of ambush, been hurt- "Starscream, you're not-?"
"Not what?!" Starscream got very uppity, as he always did when someone asked questions he didn't want to answer. "I can't stand around talking to you all cycle, Prime, I have work to do, new manoeuvres to prepare. Since those mechlings you call my 'airforce' are so incapable of thinking for themselves..."
Optimus frowned behind his mask, "Very well. But Starscream?"
The seeker turned, wings stiffening in a cringe. "What?"
"Don't let it happen again."
Starscream flashed him a smile, optics as sharp as daggers, "I'll try not too."
Starscream was sensible enough not to answer his comm until he'd made it to the privacy of his own quarters. He accepted the annoying little pinging hail with an optic roll, wondering what his needy little paramour could possibly want now.
"What happened to not using this frequency?!" He snapped, dropping to his berth and wincing when his carelessness jostled sore components. His quick pre-battle romp had lasted longer and been rougher than he'd planned. "What do you want?"
"Hello to you too," Megatron's rasping voice answered with faux charm. He sounded rather chipper for a mech who'd just had his tailpipe kicked in by Prime- Starscream had seen it happen from the air.
"I wanted to see how you'd faired. Prime looked beyond disappointed with his favourite little solider."
"Unlike you, I can handle Prime." Starscream smirked, unseen. "You were too rough again. He noticed."
There was a flustered sound on the other end of the comm. "Noticed what?!"
"Not enough to put two and two together," Starscream reassured. "But we'll have to be more careful in future. Practice some subtlety. I found a twig between my wings again..."
"I wouldn't have to resort to pinning you to trees if you accompanied me back to my ship."
Ah yes, the Decepticons' spaceship turned submarine. "Fix the leaks and I'll think about it."
He heard resentful grumbling on the other end.
"You could come here." Starscream pointed out, flopping back against his berth. He spread his arms out. "My berth is plenty big enough for a dirty old warbuild like you."
"And fall into one of your clever little Autobot traps? Nice try."
"If I were only doing this to try and trap you, I wouldn't be quite so liberal with what I let you do to my frame." Starscream pointed out, a little indignant, but mostly amused at Megatron's ridiculous paranoia. In the months they'd been... more than just enemies, he hadn't once given Megatron a reason to distrust him.
Wearing the Autobot badge was enough to keep him at arms length in Megatron's mind it seemed.
"I have energon to spare and the whole night to celebrate." Megatron continued, ignoring his little comment. "More than enough reason for you to come to me."
"Maybe I don't trust you," Starscream pointed out, only half teasing. Because the last thing he needed was to fall asleep in Lord Megatron's berth and wake up the next morning in the Nemesis's brig, being held ransom.
Would Prime even bother to negotiate him back? What would he say if he knew what he had been getting up to whilst his comrades had been fighting and bleeding to save organic lives?
"Somewhere more mutual." Starscream relented. "And private."
A low snort. "Fine." Megatron agreed. Then hung up, but a moment later a message appeared on Starscream's comm.
The usual place
He let out a little self satisfied hum, rolling onto his front on his berth.
Seeing Megatron twice in one cycle? Today was a good day.
Their 'usual place' was a small island near the west coast of a large fresh water lake. It was quiet, isolated, and impossible to drive to. If Starscream ever planned to ambush Megatron there, he'd be unable to rely on the help of his wheeled comrades.
He landed on the island's muddy edge, pedes sinking into the damp earth and ruining the thorough clearing out he'd just given them. Starscream often dragged finely manicured digits across his armour with disapproving tuts, and wanting to impress him, Megatron had made an effort today.
He felt rather foolish, scrapping his pede against the trunk of a tree in an attempt to remedy the situation, grumbling under his breath and glancing skyward.
"You're late." An oily voice called to him.
On the other side of the shore, perched coquettishly on a large overhanging rocking, Starscream was silhouetted against the setting sun. The orange glow of dusk dyed the pearly white of his armoured wings. He was reclined gracefully, full hips titled towards Megatron, helm propped up by his sky blue servo. A beckoning tilt of his helm and a flick of his wing, and Megatron was crossing the muddy shore to reach him, drawn by his wordless charm.
The still lake glistened fiery red behind him. Starscream rose into a seated position, wings spreading out. Angelic.
No. Deadlier. Like a siren luring him out to danger.
They met wordlessly, Megatron coming to stand between thighs that spread to accommodate him. He claimed Starscream's parted mouth with a rough, forceful kiss, noses squashing clumsily. Starscream was never easily subdued for an Autobot. He nipped back, sharp denta catching the soft derma of Megatron's lips reproachfully, but he stroked the back of his helm too, touch slow and endearing.
"Don't rush me." Starscream muttered, pulling back. "You said we had the night."
"We do." Megatron promised, stroking his narrow waist. He tipped Starscream's helm back and kissed the softer derma under his chin, then shifted down to suck at the cables of his throat.
He had to remind himself to take his time. So often their meetings were a spur of the moment, catching glimpses of one another across the battle field and struggling to find shelter away from prying optics.
He remembered their earlier days, when they'd been in denial enough to think they were still fighting, when they'd pin one another to the ground, grappling away from the battle but neither of them calling for help.
He was bigger than Starscream, yet he had always ended up with his back in the mud, Starscream pinning his wrists overhead.
He'd never seen the use in fighting himself free.
Starscream laid back across the slopping rock, letting his helm hang over the edge, towards the rippling water. His Autobot blue optics glistened up at Megatron as the snick of his panel sounded. Megatron kept his gaze, releasing his own codpiece.
He slipped inside hot, soft mesh with a hum, watching Starscream's optics flutter shut with a little sigh. His wings twitched in time with the callipers of his valve. Megatron purred, rolling his hips forward to sink in to the hilt. Starscream was compliant and supple beneath him. Megatron paused, taking a moment to relish the submission of an Autobot, one of Prime's favourites.
He thought about how often he had dirtied the red insignia's of Starscream's wings with his seed, and chuckled darkly.
Starscream's optics snapped open to roll condescendingly. "The sun is setting, stud. Are you going to frag me or not?"
"Eager?" Megatron arched a brow, and lowered himself over Starscream to press their frames close. He planted his servos on the flat armour of Starscream's wings and enjoyed the swell of his warm cockpit against his chest.
Starscream curled his limbs around him, servos running up and down his back, "Always."
After the rush of their earlier meeting that day, Megatron took things slow, rocking and grinding. Starscream's helm hung back again, his back arching and pushing his cockpit up against Megatron. Megatron kissed his neck, bit his shoulder, rubbed the heels of his servos against the painted insignias on Starscream's wings, as though his subconscious wanted him to rub them away.
Not for the first time he thought about how much nicer they'd look with purple. And that Starscream's optics would be so much more vibrant if they were crimson and dark.
Starscream's legs closed about his waist, crossing at the ankles. Warm thrusters pressed against the small of Megatron's back, urging him on.
Megatron reared up again, standing over Starscream and fragging him earnestly now, sharply. Starscream cried out with every shove, as though surprised by their intensity, his voice echoing across the still water until he jerked, and the stone beneath his aft darkened with lubricant.
Megatron dropped to his servos again and kissed him hard, hips still pumping. Dazed from his overload, Starscream kissed back lazily, mumbling and grunting until Megatron held deep, moaned into his mouth, and overloaded.
Starscream stroked his helm, smile curving his lips. His engining was purring like a pampered house cat's. Megatron nuzzled into the side of his helm, inhaling his scent, vaguely Autobot-y, but mostly Starscream, perfect and delicious nonetheless.
He slipped out of Starscream and dropped to sit on another rock, unsubspacing the cube he'd promised from his subspace.
After a moment, and with a long, displeased groan, Starscream began to rise. Megatron held up the cube.
Starscream took it with a nod, rubbing at his back groggily. "You're heavy."
Megatron had heard that complaint a hundred times before. "Perhaps if you accompanied me back to the Nemesis so we can do this on a berth like a civilised couple-"
"Couple?" Starscream snorted condescendingly, taking a drink. "And why should I let you lure me to your underwater lair? The Ark is far more accessible."
Megatron good mood sunk. "It's too dangerous."
"And letting me prance about the Nemesis isn't?"
"You are not the leader of the enemy faction." Megatron reminded him, pointing his cube at him. "You cannot afford me the same protections I could you."
"I'm not going to parade you through the base!" Starscream snapped indignantly. "You won't need 'protections'. I'm perfectly capable of getting someone even as graceless and ugly as you past Red Alert's security."
Megatron shook his helm. It wasn't a matter of who was less likely to be caught, but what the likely consequences would be. Someone like Soundwave catching him in bed with an Autobot wasn't going to be pretty, whatever spiel he managed to put on it, but he'd at least be able to prevent Starscream being executed as a spy, perhaps even keep him out of the brig.
Whatever Starscream boasted, he could not promise the same. Should Optimus Prime discover him attempting to sneaking out Starscream proverbial bathroom window like a thief in the night, he'd be shot on sight.
And Starscream...? Not even as skilled a liar as he could get out of that one.
He finished his cube and stood.
"Think about it." He offered, cupping Starscream's cheek and pressing a rough kiss to the side of his helm. "My berth is silk padded. Wonderful on the wings."
Starscream looked contemplative when he took off, so maybe he'd convince him yet.
Starscream always hit the wash-racks upon his return to the Ark. Megatron's scent was distinct and masculine, gun power and oil and musky iron, and as much as Starscream enjoyed burying his nose in Megatron's neck cables and inhaling it, he'd rather not prance about the base reeking of his faction's four million year old nemesis.
That, and he could already feel the evidence of their... dalliance threatening to seep through his panel and leak down the inside of his leg.
Knuckles rapped against the doorframe and Starscream turned from the shower to see his oldest friend, Skyfire, in the doorway, smiling sheepishly. Starscream reciprocated with an awkward smile of his own.
Starscream turned away so Skyfire couldn't see his expression, shrugging noncommittally and scrubbing at the grey scape of paint spoiling the glossy curve of his cockpit with a little more haste.
"You missed the post battle brief." Skyfire added, propping his huge frame against the doorframe and folding his arms. "Again."
"Prime already spoke to me." Starscream muttered, resentment dripping into his tone. "I've listened to enough criticism for one day."
"He's just looking out for you." Skyfire was always very ready to jump to Prime's defence, and always had been.
Starscream was sure if his only friend hadn't been so blindly loyal to Prime and his cause then both of them might have fled Cybertron when the war broke out, stayed clear of it all. Stuck to science. Lived in peace.
A small part of Starscream was grateful though. War was surprisingly eventful.
"I know," he sighed to reassure Skyfire. "I just wanted some air."
Skyfire nodded understandingly. "Don't worry about it. I covered for you."
Starscream hid his smirk, wondering what Skyfire would say if he knew what he'd really been covering for. It was getting dangerous, this little hobby of his, with it's increasing frequency. Back when it had started it had just been the odd... slip, error in judgment, that Megatron at least, had seemed to resent for weeks afterwards. Then days. Then hours.
Starscream forgot to feel ashamed most of the time. He was too busy relishing the excitement of it. Megatron was so... Powerful. He could curl a fist around Starscream's throat and squeeze until his optics burst, ending him good and easy. And if he had any tactical sense, he would. If only to seize the air advantage over the Autobots.
But he never did.
Starscream blinked himself back to the present, wiping the silly little grin from his face.
"What?" He snapped, annoyed at the interruption in his musings.
Skyfire studied him carefully, a frown hardening his usually soft expression. "...Nothing." He said after a moment, "Just... I'm starting to worry about you. Disappearing during battles. Staying out late. It's not like you."
"Yes it is." Starscream snorted.
"Yeah, when were you a mechling," Skyfire shook his helm. "You know you can always tell me if there's something wrong. We're friends, Starscream."
"Trust me, Skyfire," Starscream flashed him a smile, lying through his denta. "If there as a problem, you'd be the first to know."
Invading and stealing from a dam with such poor security should have been a quick in-out job. Steal what stored energy they could and make off with it before the Autobots caught wind.
But some ridiculous ongoing squabble between Motormaster and Scrapper meant that when the two gestalts combined to form Menasor and Devastator, instead of acting as deterrents to ward off the fleshling authorities as per their plan, the two combiners decided instead to fight each other.
Getting between them was suicide, so the best Megatron could really do was shoot over their helms and yell.
Menasor managed to punch Devastator square in the face, causing the huge combiner to stumble back, trip over a wailing police car, and land aft first onto the dam's security hut, crushing it flat. The humans started screaming and shooting their pathetic little guns at them. Neither combiner seemed to notice.
Megatron threw up his arms and left them to it.
Inside the dam they faired no better. Skywarp, after struggling to work the controls for some time had decided to shoot at them to get them working. The only mech with the know-how to repair and work them so they could get any energon out of place was Soundwave, who was currently waylaid, attempting to fish Rumble out of the dam's reservoir after another of the cassettes had pushed him in.
Voice hoarse from yelling, Megatron stomped outside and sulked atop the dam, wishing he had a spare officer that could shout at and wrangle the rest of these idiots and give him a break for once.
By his estimations the Autobots would be arriving in five to ten minutes, and honestly, at this point he hoped Prime just shot him and put him out of his misery.
He tilted his helm up, looking for the silver lining in this disastrous situation that he so desperately needed- when it chose that moment to arrive, bursting through the fluffy white clouds, sun shimmering on his underbelly.
He would have been a welcome sight... if it didn't mean the rest of his ilk weren't far behind.
Megatron watched as Starscream transformed and landed lightly on the other side of the dam, just shy of the tree line. He said nothing, simply meeting Megatron's gaze knowingly and slipping into the woods.
Megatron considered his situation. His attempt at a raid was in shambles, and likely couldn't get any worse. Prime and his Autobots were on their way and he had a duty to remain by his mechs, help them hold the fort.
But he wouldn't have needed to fight back Autobots if the blundering idiots hadn't wasted so much time screwing around.
Let them suffer in directionless panic for a moment or two, Megatron decided, steadily making his way across the dam. It was the least they deserved.
"This had better not be an ambush." He warned, brushing aside a branch and revealing Starscream's hiding spot, propped against a tree.
"You say that every time." Starscream sassed him.
Megatron glanced back the way he'd come. The dam was still visible through the trees, which meant they weren't as hidden as he would have liked. He took Starscream's arm and tried to lead him on.
Starscream shook him off. "Prime will arrive any minute," he reproached, like Megatron didn't already know. "What are you still doing here?"
"Waiting for my subordinates to pull themselves together," he snapped, taking some of his frustration out on Starscream. "What do you care?"
"Why do I care if you get blasted to pieces?" Starscream snorted sarcastically. "Maybe because I don't want them rifling through your memory files afterwards and learning what we've been doing?!"
Megatron griped his wrist again and shoved him against a tree. The entire thing shook, leaves and twigs rained down from above. Starscream was scowling.
"You seem awfully sure of my demise."
"Well you are pretty predictable." Starscream snarked nastily.
Megatron's grip on his shoulder tightened. He could tell it was uncomfortable for Starscream, but he was too angry to care about a smug little Autobot's feelings. Behind them there was an explosion. The Autobot's had arrived.
Megatron's comm pinged with a message, likely warning him of the fact. He dismissed it and offlined the comm.
"You should probably retreat." Starscream sneered, arching a clever brow.
"I should probably hold you ransom." Megatron threatened- and not for the first time.
Starscream was aware how empty that threat was. His mouth curved playfully. He touched Megatron's chest, digits picking at the purple insignia. "You couldn't capture me if you tried."
"Then what do you call this?" Megatron pressed close, pinning Starscream against the tree with his hips. He felt a thigh twitch against his own. Starscream's optics were suddenly brighter, filled with excitement.
Delicate servos caught his chin and tilted it down. Starscream leant forwards, stretching up on his toe pedes to kiss him lightly, exhaling softly through his nose. Megatron's chest was still hot and tight with frustration, and he released some of it when he kissed back roughly, enticing little huffs of annoyance from Starscream.
Just to be contrary, Megatron ducked his helm and bit him on the neck, hard. Starscream shouted and hissed, swatting his shoulder. Megatron purred and sucked the crumpled fuel line into his mouth, glossa licking to soothe.
He drew back and cupped Starscream's cheek, letting their noses brush-
Prime's bellow sent a shock of panic through Megatron's frame faster than a strike of lightening. Battle protocols triggered in a snap and before his processor could catch up he was shifting his grip from Starscream's cheek to his throat. Starscream choked, his servos flying up to pull him off, claws scratching, optics bright with genuine fear. Megatron could feel the flutter of his fuel pump against his palm, picking up speed rapidly.
Megatron tugged him away from the tree and thrust him out in front of him, using him as a shield between himself and Prime's blaster.
Megatron!" Starscream wheezed, not desperate but furious, his claws carving deep stinging furrows in Megatron's armour.
"Silence." He snarled, needing him to shut up, but having no way to do it gently. He couldn't compromise his farce and he couldn't reassure Starscream of his intentions.
"Let him go, Megatron." Prime ordered, moving between the trees so he was stood just metres away now, blaster at the ready. The safety was off.
"Back off, Prime." Megatron snarled, "Or I'll snap his neck like a twig."
Starscream's optics flared. "You treacherous-!"
Megatron shook him lightly, silently projecting his desperation. Shut up. Shut up and let me handle this. He could still get them out of this.
Prime's readiness to rescue his air commander meant it was unlikely he'd seen much, if any, of the canoodling occurring before he had announced his presence and drawn his weapon. Besides, what reason had he to think his loyal subordinate would have willing walked into their enemy's arms?
"You don't want his energon on your hands, Megatron," Prime continued. "Your Decepticons have been driven back. There's nothing for you here. Don't end his life over nothing."
Starscream was still struggling, and cut in with, "I trusted you, you-!"
Megatron slapped a servo over his mouth and tugged him back, pinning him to his chest. Luckily, Prime thought Starscream had been addressing him, and his optics dimmed with regret.
"It'll be alright, Starscream."
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Prime." Megatron snarled, and pinched Starscream so he would wince, making it look like he was being hurt more to play on Prime's soft fondness for his soldiers. "Drop your blaster, or you'll be taking him home in pieces."
There was a long pause, Starscream breathing harshly against his palm, before finally, Prime lifted his servo in defeat and let his blaster hang from his digit.
"There." He took a step back, "Now let him go."
Megatron couldn't, obviously. Starscream was furious with him and he was outnumbered by the two of them. He kept his grip tight on Starscream and began to drag him back. "You'll have him. In time."
Starscream started to thrash, but Megatron knew releasing him now meant he'd fly off and likely never return to him, and he had, rather unwisely, become accustomed to his company. He needed to clear the air with him, away from prying Autobot audials.
"Megatron!" Prime yelled.
But Megatron was already jumping in to the air, hauling Starscream with him. He opened his comm to call for a full retreat, regroup at base.
Starscream had voiced a reluctance to visit the base before, but perhaps he'd be pleasantly surprised- once he calmed down, of course.
If he calmed down...