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Watch and Burn

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Unfortunately, putting the next day out of his head didn’t make it approach any slower.

“The vertical brake,” Starscream explained, stood before Megatron on the flight deck. The vehicons were, by now, accustomed to being banished for the duration of their commanding officers’ sessions.

Starscream wouldn’t have minded – it was good, that they knew their place. But he’d sworn he’d seen a few of them elbowing each other, and turning their featureless faces between his leader and his own person in a manner that was hardly professional. Almost as if they were gossiping over their private comms...

His imagination, he was sure.

He rose his voice a little higher, carrying clearly through the crisp morning. This high in the atmosphere, the air felt brisk as winter, although the baking desert stretched for miles and miles below.

“The concept is simple. Say you are travelling at high velocity and need to either alter your course or come to a halt. Your thruster will power you forwards. To counter this, the simplest method is to adjust your angle so your thruster drives you backwards instead, thus finding an equilibrium between your forwards momentum and your –“

“Enough.” Megatron lumbered for the far end of the deck and stood there, arms crossed. “Demonstrate.”

Starscream was no flying monkey, performing for his Master’s amusement. But at the same time – well. He never shied away from showing the old mech what he could do.

“Very well. Stay right where you are. I would advise against ducking out the way, unless you want me to accidentally melt your faceplates.”

Megatron’s smirk had a smarmy edge. “Trust me, Starscream. I won’t flinch.”

Ugh. It would be tempting to plow right into him – if only Starscream didn’t know his own, far lighter plating would crumple on impact. Most likely, Megatron would laugh. “Very well.”

He jumped, twisting into his transformation. The wind scythed beneath his wings. Two neat trails streaked from his ailerons, as if they sliced the air itself. Starscream roared towards his leader. Then, at the last moment...

Whoosh. Nosecone up; flip beneath. His jet engine shot a plume of flames over Megatron’s head. Starscream fell backwards, out of his alt-mode. He turned a neat flip neatly and landed, almost-silent, with a delicate clink.

“See?” he asked. He was a little breathless – not from the exercise; he would hardly consider himself worthy of the title of Seeker Winglord if such stunts exhausted him. But it was a rare day Megatron invited him to show off. “Much lighter – a virtuoso expression of one’s air-agility!”

“If you have finished preening.” Megatron tensed his legs for another of his great, galumphing transformation-leaps. “My turn.”

Luckily, Soundwave interrupted them before Megatron could do himself an injury – or worse, Starscream. The spy stepped from the elevator, padding towards them, his disturbing wing-arms all but dragging along the floor. Starscream shuddered. At least Megatron made no attempt to distort his natural Grounder form in order to fit flier-components. The results were rarely pretty – not that Soundwave had ever shown much appreciation for aesthetics. What sort of bot removed their own faceplate?

“Lord Megatron,” replayed a clip of his own voice, sounding despicably servile. Soundwave did it to mock him, Starscream was sure.

The truly unfair part was that it could take breems of wheedling, scowling, and flapping his wings like a sulky sparkling before Megatron paid him attention. But of course, Soundwave got preferential treatment. Megatron dismissed all thoughts of vertical-brake training from his processor and clunked across to join his third lieutenant.

“Yes, Soundwave?”

Starscream could champ his dentae, clench his clawed fists, and imagine he had Soundwave’s neck cables gripped between them. Or he could sidle over and ensure he wasn’t left out of any potentially important intelligence briefs.

“You had better have good reason for interrupting our lesson,” he growled. “Lord Megatron has specifically ordered that we not be disturbed unless…”

A ping rippled across Soundwave’s visor. Ugh.

“…Unless you locate Autobot activity around an energon source,” Starscream finished. Fraggit. “Master, if you would permit me to deal with this nuisance?”

That would be the sensible option. But Megatron was smirking in a way that Starscream knew meant trouble.

“Um. Master?”

“Perhaps it is time I gave my new alt-mode a field test.”

Starscream’s wings hiked up in aggravation. Of course. Of course. The old buckethead could never take the slow road; he didn’t know the meaning of the word. “I – I fear that you are not yet ready –“

“Not yet ready? To take on the Autobots?” Megatron treated him to the usual cold sneer, that illicit promise of pain. “Mind to whom you speak, Starscream. And do not ever suggest that you are more suited to combat than myself.”

“Not at combat,” Starscream tried to argue. Not even his pride could justify such a boast. “At flying. Which we will need to do, to reach the mine.”

Megatron puffed out his chest. “I have flown.”

“Yes! From one end of the Nemesis to the other.” Starscream turned on Soundwave. “Tell him! You know I’m right. Considering our Lord’s progress, do you think it wise to dispatch him into a combat zone?”

They’d ordered the eradicons to leave the deck, not for Soundwave to cease his surveillance. Doubtless, he’d been observing from afar. This theory was proven when Soundwave turned to Megatron, and shook his helm.

Wait. What? Handbrake screech. Soundwave agreed with him?

Starscream was elated for all of a minute. Then Megatron had to ruin it. “Very well.”

Starscream’s mouth fell open. “So when tell you it’s a bad idea, you ignore me, but when Soundwave says it, you listen?”

Megatron's eyes flashed, red as the pits. “Soundwave says little, except when necessary. Perhaps you ought to follow his example.”

Fragger. As if Starscream would want to be like that creepy cold fish.

Starscream glowered at Soundwave, but could find nothing in his empty faceplate to focus on but his own expression. Sneering at his reflection rather defeated the object, so he desisted.

Megatron clanked away from them, hands clasped behind his back. “I shall accompany you within a shuttle, rather than by wing. Fly ahead, Starscream. Put that precious speed of yours to use; scout the area. I do not expect you to disappoint me.”

Starscream knew his part. With a last quick scowl in Soundwave’s direction, he dropped into an elegant bow. “When have I ever?”

He transformed and flew off before Megatron could enquire whether he wanted the list arranged alphabetically, or by date.

 


 

 

The energon mine lay within a herd of rocky knolls: steep, triangular protrusions that sprung up from the planet’s crust like an outbreak of rust-acne. They were about the same color, red scoria striped with bands of blue-black clay. No chance of Starscream blending in to the backdrop.

He could already hear the sounds of the conflict: the slashes and grunts as the Autobots engaged the vehicon workforce. No blaster fire. Not in such close proximity to the deposit. Clearly, the Autobots were not exercising tabula rasa tactics. They wanted this hoard for themselves. This was a basic raid of sustenance – which meant they must be running low on supplies.

Starscream flicked out of vehicular mode on the edge of the quarry, rubbing his talons to assure himself of their sharpness. He hoped the Bots were malnourished. Slow. That would work to his advantage.

Megatron had requested him to scout only, but from the sounds of it, the Vehicons fared poorly. Starscream was hardly going to sit back and kick up his feet while the Autobots swanned off with a motherload! Why, Megatron was far more likely to pummel him to scrap for such an offence, than for a trifling matter of disobeying his orders.

With that in mind, Starscream made to fling himself over the edge – then hastily scrambled back again, before his heels could skid on the loose shale.

Curses. They’d brought the Prime.

On second thoughts, perhaps it would be prudent to wait for Lord Megatron after all.

 


 

 

Optimus was in fine form. Sunlight played across his armour, highlighting the curves and angles of his build. His plating was red, white and blue; the same bright hues Starscream had worn in the early days, before he lost his trine.

Starscream couldn’t help but resent him, whenever he laid optics on that cursed color-scheme.

He hunkered low, wings dipping to avoid catching the sun and giving away his position. No sense taking to the air. He’d only be a target. But perhaps he could maintain his advantage of surprise…

Optimus spun, skewering three Eradicons on his arm-blade. Their bodies were lifted entirely off the floor, pedes twitching, before their circuits ran cold and they dangled limp, broken wires leaking energon to puddle at the Prime’s feet.

Around him darted that two-wheeler and her mouthy partner. Cliffjumper. He’d made a name for himself, bringing down Seekers, back in the early days after the war left Cybertron and Starscream’s people renounced their neutrality, their city having gone up in smoke. He used to shoot up with a high-octane jetpack, slap a charge on their plates and blow them out of the air. He’d crow about it after, as gory chunks of wiring rained down.

Starscream detested all Autobots. But if he had to pick… Well. He’d kill that one first.

He took aim. His arm-blaster exuded a bright red glow, but he hoped the distractions of the battle – and their own rumbling tanks – would keep the Autobots occupied. He lined up his shot, breathing steadily. Readied himself. And –

Megatron’s ship roared in to land, thrusters booming, making the ground judder under Starscream’s chest. His shot skewed wide, bursting the rock to the left of Cliffjumper’s pedes.

The Autobot leapt away. He immediately swung around, scanning for the sniper, and –

Curses. Starscream had been too busy glaring at Megatron to duck out the way. He was made.

Still, the old rustbucket only had himself to blame. Starscream could’ve brought him the cadaver of an Autobot on this day – albeit one missing a head.

Hmph. Some other time.

“Megatron,” came Prime’s growl from below. Pointing out the obvious must be an Autobot speciality, because Cliffjumper pointed to Starscream as well.

“He brought his pet. Little coward’s sniping us from up top. What’s wrong, Screamy? Too scared to come play with the big boys?”

The two-wheeler – Arcee – had trained her blasters on him. But at Cliffjumper’s taunting, she rolled her optics and swung them towards the true threat.

Megatron. He stepped from the airlock, wearing menace like squishie-cologne. Starscream had witnessed him intimidate his foes too many times for it to have any effect; he blamed the tight, hot clench inside him on fury.

His Master had ruined his shot, and his entrance. Typical selfish Groundpounder.

Megatron didn’t spare him a glance. As usual, as soon as it came to conflict, he only had optics for that slag-head of a Prime.

“Is this what you’ve been reduced to, Optimus? Snaffling from my stockpiles, stealing the dregs? Why, I thought you above such behaviour.”

“Unlike you, Megatron, I see no point in prioritizing pride over survival. Ratchet! The Ground Bridge! Cliffjumper, Arcee – get that energon to safety!”

Their prize lay in wait: several hundred cubes' worth, stacked on two hover-trolleys that the Eradicons had been in the process of ferrying to the drop point.

Curses. If they let them get away with a prize of that scale, it wouldn’t put a dent in their own reserves – they could always mine more, and as foul and gritty as this little backwater planet may be, it was certainly rich in stockpiles. But it would bolster the Autobots’ strength, and that Starscream couldn’t abide.

He saw Megatron’s lips contort back from his jagged dentae. Heard his roar of fury. The warlord leapt from the quarry’s edge, not bothering to transform. He merely shoved his sword arm into the wall, carving a gash in the rock. He braced himself and exploded forth, pushing off the splintering stones.

And barrelled straight into Optimus. Ignoring the two other Autobots currently stealing all his energon.

Of course.

Starscream ex-vented. “If you want something done right… Best do it yourself.”

And with that, he turned his back to the ledge and let himself fall.

 

 


 

 

 

A steep-sided canyon wasn’t the optimum territory for a flier, but Starscream didn’t let it put him off. He wheeled nosecone-to-the floor and assumed vehicular mode, strafing the ground around the Autobots’ feet. A risky enterprise, but worth it – the fools recognized the danger, transforming, backpedalling and reforming at safe distance.

Starscream performed a steep vertical brake (ha! See that, Megatron?) slowing his velocity enough that he could drop nimbly between the Autobots and their goal, rather than flattening himself against the rock. He shot a quick glance at Megatron, to see if he was impressed, and –

Glaring? What cause did the Mighty Megatron have to glare at his subordinate, after such an impressive display?

“Starscream! What do you think you’re doing? Firing live rounds around my energon?"

Starscream’s wings fell from their proud heights. He muttered his retort to his pedes. “I can aim, my Lord…”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

“He said he can aim!” called Cliffjumper, thereby cementing his position at the top of Starscream’s to-scrap list. His faceplate heated. Megatron said nothing – just gave him one of those patented, coldly-furious looks.

I’ll deal with you later.

Starscream’s wings sunk further. Great. If he got out of this raid uninjured, but wound up in the medbay regardless, Knock Out would never let him hear the end of it.

“Aw.” Cliffjumper stuck out his lower lip plates. “Screamer gonna get a spanking?”

Oh, that was it. As Megatron and Optimus clashed again, Starscream turned back to the Autobot vermin and let the full force of his fury shine through his eyes.

“I am going to kill you,” he promised, lowly. “If not today, then another day soon after. Rest assured, you loud-mouthed cretin. I will not rest until I have plunged my talons into your spark.”

“Big words, Screamer.” Cliffjumper feigned a yawn. “Like to see you live up to them.”

Starscream flexed his claws, preparing to spring forwards. “Then why don’t you let me show –“

And that was when Arcee, who’d been skulking around to his blind spot, dove at him from the side.

Curses! They’d tricked him!

Blades sprouted from the two-wheeler’s forearms. She slashed Starscream’s left leg, forcing him to one knee. Just a mesh wound – thankfully. Starscream had little in the way of armour; had she nicked one of the exposed central fuel lines in his abdomen, this fight would’ve been over quickly, and his life shortly thereafter.

“How dare you –“

Cliffjumper barged in from the right. His pede swept up, cracking Starscream on the temple.

Frag.

His vision flickered. Everything whited out, then tilted back in at an alarming angle as his body was flung to one side.

“Shouldn’t be so touchy, Scream!" the garrulous Groundpounder crowed. "Your carrier never tell you sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?

“No,” Starscream choked, “because that is a pathetic human rhyme, and my Carrier was not a barbarian.”

“Killed ‘em like one though,” said Cliffjumper. “When we blew up Vos.”

Oh, Starscream knew what he was doing. He was trying to make him mad. Make him sloppy, imprecise. And Starscream also knew that it was working.

Soundwave would never let himself be so addled. Soundwave would never be caught off-guard.

But Starscream was not Soundwave, no matter how much his Master might wish it.

He flung himself at Cliffjumper. His furious shriek echoed off the stone walls of the great colosseum, which had been bored from the bedrock by Decepticon drills. Cliffjumper ducked back – not fast enough to avoid a new carving on his chest plate. “Woah there! He this noisy in the berth, Megatron?”

Press, press, press. Each of Starscream’s buttons, jammed with malicious glee. Because Cliffjumper saw him as the weak link, the easy target. And by rising to the bait, Starscream proved him right.

Arcee zoomed in again. She landed a new cut on his wing.

Scrap – Starscream had to stop forgetting about her. They made quite the tag-team: the noisy red Autobot hoarding all the attention, while the slim femme slipped up close and slit your throat from behind.

But now Starscream had seen the pattern, he could use it.

Megatron kept glancing at him. Starscream snarled. Focus on your own battle, fool. Whatever you might think of me, I can hold my own.

He’d gone quiet after Cliffjumper’s last tease. The bot must think he’d touched a livewire, because he shot Arcee a ballsy wink and went in for the kill. “Can’t see why else the old bucket-head keeps you around. Scheming little coward like you. What use are you, except a tight valve and a pair of pretty wings?”

Starscream knew what he wanted. He wanted him to lunge, so that Cliffjumper could evade while Arcee attacked from the rear. He obliged them. His swipe scraped a whirling blaze of sparks from Cliffjumper’s shoulder-guard – cosmetic, mostly, but no less painful for it.

A rush of air against his wings, a sudden sense of danger. Arcee was making her move –

Starscream twisted and caught her by the throat.

That’s why he keeps me around,” he snarled at Cliffjumper. He transformed his arm, pointing the blaster at the horned imbecile who dared to underestimate him. Arcee, he raised into the air, applying warning pressure to the vital lines that fed energon to her processor. “Submit?”

Cliffjumper squared his jaw, but his optics betrayed him. They kept glancing to his partner. “You shoot me, I dodge. You hit the energon, it blows.”

“I fly away,” Starscream purred. “You bots can perish together. Would you like me to slit the two-wheeler’s lines before or after this mine goes up in smoke?”

“Don’t you dare blow up my mine!” yelled Megatron, which rather put a crimp in Starscream’s bluff. His wings flattened against his back.

“Master, I had it under contr –“ A flash from behind Megatron. Frag! His distraction had gotten the better of him. Starscream’s optics popped wide. “Master! Behind you!”

His grip slackened in shock. Arcee took the opportunity, as much as it presented itself, sinking her blade half a metre into Starscream’s arm.

He shrieked.

Megatron kicked to the rear, catching Optimus in the abdominal plating and barging him backwards before he could bring his sword up in a swift, spark-puncturing thrust.

Starscream didn’t notice. Arcee whirled around him, a tornado of sneers and sharp edges. She dropped onto his back, between his flapping wings, her sword-extensions prickling at his throat.

“Gotcha.”

“You – you fragger! You cheat!”

“Big words,” drawled the two-wheeler. “From a Con.”

Blades met: a ringing report of steel on steel. Warlord and Prime glared into each other’s eyes. It was all very macho. Starscream would’ve enjoyed the show, were it not for his Autobot surfer.

Cliffjumper grinned, then cupped his hand to his mouth. “Oi, Megatron! We got your flyboy-toy. You want him back in one piece, you best back down!”

Starscream considered his options. He could fall back, stun Arcee so she released her grip. That might work. Or she might open his lines. He could shoot Cliffjumper – but not before his wicked little partner cut him. Still, tempting.

Eventually, he settled on a snort. “You are foolish if you think Lord Megatron would ever call a retreat for –“

“Optimus.” Their blades remained locked, pressed together with equal but opposing force. “Take half.”

Starscream’s jaw dropped. From the corner of his eye, he saw the two-wheeler react similarly. Unfortunately, he was too busy processing his own shock to do anything about it. “M-Master?”

“Guess he really does like them wings.” Cliffjumper sprinted towards the trolleys. “We’ll be taking both though, if you don’t mind...“

Megatron leveled his fusion cannon. His other arm, from which the blade sprouted, bore down on Optimus’s chassis, too heavy for him to force away. “Do not test me.”

He was the one who slagged-off Starscream for threatening to blow the mine – but now wasn’t the time to voice such shrill indictments. Cliffjumper swallowed; Starscream saw the bob in his intake. He raised his hands from the trolley handlebars.

“Optimus?”

Optimus never let his optics stray from Megatron. He had his battle mask up, but there was something inscribed in those warm blue eyes, something Starscream despised. It almost looked like… approval. “Take half, Cliffjumper. One trolley only. Arcee?”

The blade dipped from the danger zone. Pedes slammed Starscream’s back. He grunted, staggering forwards – and Arcee leapt backwards, turning a neat one-eighty flip and landing on her feet, some distance behind.

“Be seeing you, Con,” she told him. Her smirk was the frost to her partner’s fire. Then she rammed the other side of the handlebars to get the cart moving, the high-stacked pyramid of energon vanishing after Cliffjumper into the revolving green vortex of the groundbridge.

Optimus stepped back from Megatron, wary. “I was not expecting such a result.”

Megatron smirked. “I said that your Bots could return with the energon. I did not say they could return with you!”

He lashed out. Optimus deflected – and on it went. Starscream, rubbing his sore throat cabling, found himself a rock to perch on and spectate.

The giant mechs parried back, forth, back again. The whole while, Optimus was giving ground, reversing his way towards the portal. Megatron pressed forwards, aware it was not so much an advantage as a controlled retreat. Still, he was quite the sight to behold: armor glistening, vents wobbling the air with hot exhaust. He pummeled his arm blade against the Prime’s as if he meant to chip them apart.

Perhaps the war would’ve ended there and then, had Megatron not have done so many high-speed flip-transformations the day before.

Behind his knee plates, something grated. Megatron gasped.

The reprieve was all Optimus required. He ducked the next blow, folded into his truck form and accelerated away, leaving Megatron’s choking on his dust. The groundbridge fizzled out. Nothing left but dead Eradicons and another sour victory.

Any other time, Starscream would’ve laughed – at least, in the privacy of his helm. Not today. Today, he dared teeter closer to his Master, placing his thin feet carefully on the blast-bored rubble.

“Are you –“

“Fine,” grunted Megatron. Still, he issued a pained hiss as he flexed his leg. “Knock Out will attend to me upon my return.”

“Good, good. Um, excellent.” Starscream resisted the urge to sketch circles in the dust with his pointed toes. “Master?”

“Yes?”

“What you did…”

Megatron scowled down at his knee, as if offended by its betrayal. “I have further use for you, Starscream. You are teaching me to fly, remember?”

Starscream clicked his claws together, wings hanging. He was aware that he’d let his guard down. That he’d let his opportunity to snuff an Autobot spark slip between his talons. And usually, he wouldn’t give two whits about disappointing the Warlord who’d raised him up and battered him down. But somehow, today…

“I am… sorry.”

That got Megatron’s attention. He set his pede flat on the floor, grimacing ever-so-slightly, but forcing it to bear his weight. He peered at Starscream like he expected the apology to be pre-emptive, followed by an attack.

One wasn’t incoming. Starsceam’s wings drooped lower. “I – I let them bait me. I let my anger at their words get the better of me, and then I was distracted by your battle, and –“

Megatron took a step towards him. Then another. His wounded knee let out an ominous creak, but it held. Starscream, meanwhile, skittered back like a spooked turbofox, until the mine wall clonked his wings.

“I – uh… Master?”

No response. Megatron kept walking. Starscream gabbled faster.

“I – I should’ve cut her throat, Master! I had her, I had her in my grip! My – my greatest shame is to have failed you in battle, and –“

“Shut up Starscream,” said Megatron, and kissed him.

 


 

 

To call it a romantic gesture would be a touch overgenerous. In order to get Starscream at a level where the old mech didn’t have to bend in half and throw his back, Megatron had wrapped one ridiculously oversized hand around his waist and picked him up.

Starscream assumed his Master had finally lost patience and was going to take a chomp out of his neck cabling, finishing Arcee’s job for her. He did the only thing he could think of and screamed in his face.

Which left a nice big open intake for Megatron to shove his glossa into.

He almost lost it, when Starscream’s mouth snapped shut in shock. He yanked his tongue out the way of his closing dentae, just in time.

Starsceam boggled up at his Master, seeing his huge, red eyes reflected in his armour. The curve warped his mirror image grotesquely, a Quintesson squeezed until its head popped.

“I – uh – you – ah – me – you – “

Megatron raised a leg, propping his pede on a handy nearby boulder. He dropped Starscream to straddle his thigh – who instinctively clutched it, wings flicking.

“I kissed you,” he told Starscream, whose processor was struggling to fulfil its ordained purpose. Then, gripping his shoulder guards to keep him still, he swooped in and did it again.

Starscream made a pathetic noise, somewhere between a squeak and a sob. He wrapped his arms around Megatron’s neck and kissed him back.

He didn’t think of the pain the hands spanning out across his wings had inflicted. Didn’t think about the degradation, the constant down-talking, the low, simmering resentment that had been building in his tank for the last century, ever since they brought their farce of a relationship to an end. Calcifying, hardening, wedging inside him, a blockage no amount of high-grade could dissolve. Which no purging or overcharge, or rough, angry interfaces with whichever bot volunteered cleared away.

He let it all fade, lost to the tongue rubbing slick on his own. The potent tang of flier-energon on Megatron’s breath. The warming fuzz of his ex-vents, the caustic stink of his solvent, the – oh scrap – the whirr of his own cooling fans, spinning online.

“Master–“

The leg between his hitched up. Dragging against – skies.

Oh, it had been so long. The need pulsed through him, wet and greedy, and – frag, frag, it would be so very easy to give in.

A low growl of his designation. The frame pressed to his was hot as his own. And large, so large. Huge enough to pick Starscream up and frag him as Megatron willed, on the berth, the consoles, the schematics table; any other vaguely horizontal surface they passed by. To grip his wrists two-to-one hand and pin him while that thick, glorious spike pushed in.

More, more, more. Straining his valve, stretching him open, deeper, fuller, until Megatron was all he wept, all he tasted, all he knew…

Starscream heard a faint scraping sound. He looked down to discover his pelvis rocking against Megatron’s thigh. Fluid oozed from under his panel, lubricant the color of rose quartz. A glistening bead trickled along Megatron’s transformation seams.

“Ah – oh – “

Megatron scooped one of his slim legs, hooking it on his waist instead. He lifted Starscream the rest of the way, no discernible effort, as if he weighed no more than air. Which, he supposed, compared to Megatron, he didn’t. And – oh, fraggit.

A hot spike panel throbbed under Starscream’s aft.

Megatron could frag him like this. Rough and dirty, scraping his wings raw against the rock. Down in the mud, surrounded by dead troops and spilt energon.

The thought of it sent a pulse through his valve, callipers wringing on nothing. Drops of lubricant ran down his inner thighs, hot as molten steel.

“Meg – Megatr –“

His Warlord leaned in, nuzzling bared fangs around Starscream’s much-abused neck. “Perhaps,” he said, in that low, snarling purr he always let creep into his voice before a fragging, “we should take this back to my cabin.”

And –

Starscream –

Broke.

They finished this for a reason. War had this tricksy habit of inverting things. Righteous activists to tyrants. Pacifist librarians to warriors. Lovers to mortal enemies, locked in an eons-long grudge match.

And Megatron wanted to fix it with – what? A kiss? Some – admittedly mind-blowing - sex?

No. It wasn’t enough. Not for the beatings, the constant, spark-shivering fear, the long-haul mission that had lost Starscream his trine mates, and, a century before, the bomb that had fallen on his city.

Autobot firepower, it was claimed. Starscream had always had his suspicions, as that last battle, the loss of Vos, had given Megatron exactly what he wanted. It gave him, him.

Starscream was not ready – did not know if he would ever be ready – to willingly offer himself again.

“Stop,” he whispered.

Megatron didn’t hear him, or chose not to. He nibbled the lip of the collar on his chest armour, pinching his wings. Thick fingers pressed between his legs, stroking his valve panel, petting, probing, teasing it open as Megatron had done so many times before. But while his valve slicked and his spark burnt bright, Starscream felt nothing but revulsion.

“I said stop!”

Megatron stopped. His cooling fans roared; a constant, dull drone. He looked into Starscream's eyes, the two of them, for once, on the level.

Starscream didn't cower, although Megatron's expression transitioned swiftly from amor to anger. "Starscream..."

"I can't do this." Starscream gripped Megatron's wrist. The Warlord's hand was still between his legs. No longer touching him, but the warmth from his plating still percolated, still violated; left him throbbing with need.

But not want. No desire. There hadn't been any of that, not for a very long time.

As Starscream's claws pressed in, that hand moved away. As did Megatron. He stood, Starscream all but crumpling off his leg. He hit the ground hard, bouncing on his aft. "Ow!"

Megatron said nothing. He turned, crossing the quarry's base. Then, as Starscream pushed himself to sit, scarcely daring believe that his spark still beat in his chest, he dug his claws into the wall, and started to climb.

He didn't look back. No scathing commentary, no last words.

Starscream watched his progress for what felt like a vorn, numb as if he'd been patrolling the Arctic.

A wet well of lubricant had gathered behind his valve panel. It was starting to go cold. A tepid trickle ran down the inside of his leg.

Starscream shuddered. Shook his helm.

He jumped, transformed, and roared up, past Megatron, honing on the Nemesis's coordinates. If his Master had nothing to say, Starscream didn't see why he ought to break the silence.