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Slam's Short Story Collection

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Hound loved this part, sneaking up to the Tower that housed Mirage and climbing it to woo his star-crossed lover. Mirage had never complained about his romanticism and in fact had encouraged it, encouraged him. He suspected it was because he seemed to be the only one who had shown interest in the mech rather than his position. 

He tossed a crystal away from himself and projected an illusion of a mech peeking around the corner and running. The guard took chase with a vengeance, shouting. They were all too easy nowadays, and he really should ask Mirage to find better security. 

None of that nonsense mattered though as he climbed through his lover's open window. The scent of Mirage was poignant here, settled into every object in the room, and Hound invented dreamily. Mirage always smelled of expensive, sweet-smelling polish and refined energon like the energon goodies he was often given.

He approached slowly, pedes quiet to make sure he didn't wake Mirage loudly. Once by his side, he took in the other mech's features: beautiful face, aristocratic olfactory, sharp, defined features of a mech forged. He was gorgeous. A gentle servo cupped the other mech's cheek, and Hound called for him lightly.

"'Raj? I came. Should I let you sleep?"

Mirage stirred for a moment before his servo covered Hound's and his optics onlined dimly. " I am awake. I should sleep, but I've missed you terribly. Come," he patted his soft berth, lifting his extravagant mesh cover to accommodate Hound, "I wish for nothing more than to be held."

So Hound shifted under the mesh and pulled Mirage close, delighting in the warmth of his frame. Mirage's servo came up to his chassis, idly toying with bumper, and Hound's servo stroked his cheek. For a moment, they only gazed at each other, but then Mirage was moving his face closer and kissing him.

When they separated, Mirage cuddled in close, and his vents started coming more evenly, signaling that he'd gone into recharge. Hound chuffed lightly and pressed a soft kiss to Mirage's forehelm. He wished they could stay like this forever.

Laser fire rained down on them from all directions, and all Mirage could hope for was that he was quick enough—silent enough—to make it to the newest doomsday device before someone he cared about got hurt. Optics on his prize, Mirage vaulted over a section of the barrier, aimed his blaster, and fired. 

With his device ruined, Megatron called for a hasty retreat, and Mirage cheered with the rest of the Autobots until the powerful thrum of the fusion cannon bellowed and Hound went down in a burst of smoke. Mirage couldn't bring himself to burst over, knowing that Ratchet needed space to work.

Back at base, Mirage spent all of his time next to Hound's berthside, hoping that he woke up. Ratchet had said that he would, had promised even.

He knew Ratchet was one of the best medics out there; he was Optimus' own personal physician. That still hadn't kept him from worrying deeply.

He'd lost everything during this war. He'd lost his family, his home, his status. The only thing he had left was Hound, and he would clutch to him with both servos clamped tight if it meant keeping the other mech with him.

 It wasn't too long, thankfully, before Hound's optics started to online. Mirage set down the datapad in his servos and took one of Hound's to hold. "Careful. Your chassis took a tremendous blow from the fusion cannon. I have energon for you if you think you can drink it."

Hound groaned and rubbed his grill gently, skimming over the weld marks. "Yeah, thanks, 'Raj. Primus, you have no idea how much I appreciate you." 

Mirage guided the cube and straw to Hound's face, allowing him to drink from his servo so he could rest easy. He'd been truly scared that he'd lose Hound, but here he was, safe and no worse for ware. The whole ordeal had only made him realize how much Hound actually meant to him. 

Now all he had to do was ask. This would have gone so much differently had he still been in the towers. Courting was a serious ritual. Though, admittedly, he'd have never been able to court Hound because of the other mechs status.

On top of that, it was frowned upon to be intimate with someone one wasn't romantically involved with. Which was how their relationship had been for hundreds of years. Honestly, he'd been courting Hound unconsciously probably from the beginning. 

Hound's lips left the straw with a small 'smack', and Mirage smiled warmly at him. It was now or never, he supposed. "Hound. I'd like to talk to you about our relationship. I ask that you let me go first, please."

At Hound's perplexed nod, Mirage continued. "Thank you, dear. It comes to my attention that we have been...close for millennia. I would like to request that we take the next step. I realize I have been courting you subconsciously for quite a while; if that is not acceptable then I will spend as much time as it takes to prove my worth to you, but, if you wish to go further... I would be overjoyed to spark bond with you and take the Rites with you."

Hound chuckled softly and brought Mirage's servo to rest above his spark chamber. "Yeah, I'd like that a lot 'Raj. Pit, I thought you'd never ask." He weakly pulled Mirage in for a tender kiss, more loving than any they'd shared before.

Mirage laughed as Hound pressed him against his habsuite door and kissed all over his neck and chassis. The other mech was so excited, and it was becoming infectious. 

Mirage lifted Hound's helm from one of his headlights and moaned softly, bringing the other up for a soft kiss. His lips parted, and Hound's glossa waisted no time in wiggling into his intake and playing with his own. 

As Hound's servos wandered his chassis and waist, Mirage's traced glyphs into his shoulder and held his cheek. His panel was heating quickly, and Hound's was molten against his leg. He was thankful that Ratchet had finally cleared because he hadn't known how much longer he could've gone without Hound's attention.

A servo cupped his aft and hauled him up, and then he was being laid down on a berth like he was too precious to be treated roughly. Hound came down over him and just held him close for a moment before pulling back to look in his optics. 

"Are you sure, 'Raj? You want to interface and spark merge?" 

Mirage smiled gently up at his intended and nodded. "Yes, Hound. The only thing in this universe I want is you." 

Hound nodded and they both let their modesty panels open. He rubbed his spike along Mirage's bared array, picking up stray lubricant for his spike to slide in smoothly. Mirage gave a soft hum of pleasure as he was filled with his lover's spike.

Once Hound was fully seated, he took Mirage's lips in a tender kiss. He started slow, guiding his spike through Mirage's soft folds, ending as deep as he could before Mirage got frustrated and started pulling g his in with a pede on his aft. 

Still, he set a slower pace, focusing more on getting as deep as possible. Mirage's digits, blunt as they were, were digging scratches into his back as he writhed under him, hips working to help Hound deeper, even as his back arched off the berth.

He was panting into the kiss, his fans too overtaxed to cool down his body without help. Hound couldn't help it; he was unbelievably close, and Mirage was so beautiful and perfect and wanted to be with him for as long as their sparks endured. His chassis parted, soft blue light filling the room and casting Mirage in ethereal light.

Mirage seemed dumbstruck for a moment before his own chest parted and then their coronas were swirling towards each other, pulling into a somehow familiar warmth. The instant they met, everything was bliss. 

Their entire lives passed between them, and all each could feel was love and home. Their charged peaked, and Hound overloaded with Mirage, both crying out and pressing closer together. They shared some more sleepy kisses as they parted and passed out from exhaustion.

Mirage pulled up the poor little creature delicately. He unsubspaced a cloth and went about cleaning clumsy little digits and round cheeks. Oasis wasn't very old yet, but she made messes the size of sparklings thrice her age. She was cute though and undeniably his. 

Once he was done, he hefted her onto his hip where she dug her sharp little claws into his armour seems to hold one. "That was a good snack, hm? Energon jellies are just perfect for you to eat. They fit your servos and you have fun biting down on them, don't you, dear?" 

Oasis giggled and babbled at him confidently, and Mirage nodded, walking to the washracks. "That's what I thought. What a good girl you are, always so good for your carrier and sire. We love you so much."

Mirage helped her off of him and started a bath for her, letting her use him to stand on her own. He praised her kindly and lifted her, placing her in the tub. Bathtime was a favorite of his; he simply enjoyed cleaning his femmeling and checking her for abnormalities. He felt as if it brought them closer. 

First, he started with her chubby arms and face, dipping his cloth in the water before running it over her frame with just enough pressure to clean. She never fused, happy to have her carrier's full attention. He took care of the rest of her body quickly and pulled the drain from the tub before grabbing one of their softest towels to dry her off. 

After that, he wrapped her in her temperature tarp and brought her to his berthroom for a nap. He laid her down first, sleepy baby blue optics already dimming, before he climbed in himself and curled around her, keeping her safe and warm. 

It was sometime later that he was woken up. Hound had been leaning over, kissing their femme's forehelm lightly before he locked optics with Mirage. "Sorry, I woke you," he whispered.

Mirage shook his helm and smiled, bringing Hound in for a kiss. When they parted, they nuzzled into each other as their emotions mingled over their bond. Love, home, family was pressed back and forth between them. This was everything they'd wanted back when Hound had to sneak in to see him. 

"I love you, Hound. Always."

Hound pressed another kiss to his cheek. "Ditto, sweetspark. Forever."

Chapter Text

Soundwave stood, surveying the battlefield. Megatron was locked with Optimus already, and Superion was losing horribly to Menasor. He allowed himself a moment of peace. His cassettes were safe inside of him. No one was starving, and it looked like today's raid would be a success too as Superion was forced to separate. 

He wasn't prepared when he heard the Autobot leap out of the trees next to him. He lifted his blaster and fired two, three, four shots at the other mech, each blast dodged in the nick of time. He wasn't expecting it either when the Autobot loaded different ammo into his gun and charged at him, firing point blank.

Pain bloomed in his chassis, his spark lurching. A warbled scream escaped his vocalizer as he crumpled to the ground. His last thought was protecting the cassettes.

When Megatron found him not too long after he'd gone down, he was crouching down, protecting his chest, knocked out. Megatron hefted him into his arms easily and commed ahead to the Nemesis to have them start the ground bridge. They didn't have enough resources on Earth to save him. 

By the time he was passed into Shockwave's capable hand, he'd spilled copious amount of energon. Megatron's form was saturated, and Shockwave directed him to the washracks as he took Soundwave to his lab, Hook hot on his heels. 

It was...hard to see Soundwave in such a state. He felt a kind of kinship with the seemingly only other logical bot around. Even Lord Megatron was often too rash to think clearly.

It was only when he peered into the gaping hole in the other bot's chest that he truly realized how dire the situation was. Six cassettes, all of them damaged greatly; it appeared as though a significant amount of the energon oozing from Soundwave had been theirs. 

"Hook, the cassettes require your immediate attention. They take priority. I will work on Soundwave."

Hook grumbled under his breath but manually opened Soundwave's dock and began to extract them. Once the first cassette, Ravage according to the coloring, was clear of Soundwave's frame, he lurched up, voice spitting static and servo grabbing Shockwave's arm.

"Kssht—atus! Casse—sshkt!!"

 Shockwave lay him back gently. "They will be fine. The damage is...minor." 

He hadn't known what had possessed him to lie; it was simply illogical, and could only serve to distance Soundwave from him. His optic was locked back onto the other mech though as Hook pulled out the last cassette, and Soundwave took a heaving intake. 

"Liar," he said exhaustedly before passing out cold again.

From there, he and Hook made considerable progress. Though severely damaged, all the patients were stable. Soundwave's dock took most of the damage, and the explosion from whatever the Autobot had used had only clipped his spark chamber. 

Shockwave finished what repairs he could, ensuring that Soundwave would make it until he'd had some recharge, and came over to Hook to check on the minis. He ran his hand lightly over Frenzy's forehelm, the way he'd seen Soundwave do a million times, as he passed him. He had been lucky, and had been in the back, taking less damage than the others; there was no doubt he'd be running around in no time. 

Everyone else had extensive repairs, arm replacements, and it seemed as though Buzzsaw's beak had to be completely torn off and replaced. Ravage had it the worst though. As Shockwave looked down on him, his processor told him that logically, Ravage would never online again, yet he hoped that wasn't the case.

The beastformer's chassis lay crushed and all his limbs were mangled scrap. His spark was barely spinning, but still, it seemed he clung to life. Shockwave petted him in the same way he did Frenzy, surprised to hear a small engine turn over in response. Later, he wouldn't remember saying it, but a solemn "Survive." would be something Hook would never be able to unhear.

Weeks passed and finally, four cassettes were awake and well enough to be up. Frenzy had come around first and seeing the state of his brothers had clung to Shockwave's chassis and cried until he was in recharge. He had been inconsolable at first but grew to like the freedom and entertainment Shockwave gave him. 

After him came Ratbat, Laserbeak, and Buzzsaw, each upset but less so once more of their brothers woke up. They even made a berth in Shockwave's lab so they never had to leave the side of their family. Seeing them all curled up together had woken many curious protocols in Shockwave's processor, and he found it easier and easier to care for them, bringing them fuel when he fueled and tucking a mesh blanket around them while they recharged.

Soundwave had woken before Rumble and Ravage, dazed but anxious until his creations had clambered onto his berth and lay atop his legs, mindful of his healing chassis. He looked for his other two before Shockwave stepped in. 

"They are repaired as much as possible. Their self-repair has been performing above average. It is assumed that they will online within the next two Earth weeks. I have been taking care of their fueling and monitoring their frames to ensure we are giving them what they require." He pushed Soundwave back down gently and let his servo linger on his blue shoulder. "You require rest. I will care for all your creations in your absence."

Soundwave's visor flickered, but he nodded once, accepting his need for recharge. "Shockwave? Thank you," he intoned softly.

The next few weeks went by in a daze for Shockwave. He monitored the status of Soundwave and his cassettes, caring for them methodically if not dotingly. It had been surprisingly easy to develop a relationship with Soundwave's creations; it had even become natural to let them rest along his chassis and recharge.

It couldn't last forever though, Lord Megatron requested Soundwave back to work very shortly after he had his peds back under him. He hadn't given a single thought to Ravage who still lay in a coma, body repaired. It had been hard for Soundwave to leave him behind, but with Shockwave's reassurance, he felt confident enough to go. He gave Ravage a last encouraging nuzzle and left through the door, the rest of the cassettes following behind him.

They communicated as often as possible, Shockwave always turning in a report on Ravage's condition even as it stagnated. He tried not to show it, but it was clear that Soundwave was grieving. 

He never made mistakes; he wasn't really acting much different, but something was off about him. Shockwave had encountered another emotion: sadness. He couldn't help Soundwave feel better, and he couldn't help Ravage. It was a curiously illogical emotion since he had done nothing wrong.

Eventually, though, he had good news for his friend. Ravage had awoken. It hadn't taken Soundwave long to convince Megatron to let him return to Cybertron, and as soon as he burst into the lab, Ravage was upon him, snuggling close.

The other cassettes lept from his chest and gathered around their brother, hugging him. He petted Ravage, and when he spoke, his vocalizer spit static before clicking on, "Ravage: in good health?"

"Thanks to Shockwave, yes. He was very accommodating."

"Soundwave: relieved. Soundwave: scared you would never online again." He pulled Ravage in for another hug, holding all the cassettes tightly. 

He stood, and the bitlits all gathered at his peds. He thanked Shockwave kindly and made his way towards the space bridge. Rumble stopped him short with a small servo on his leg, "Listen, Boss, I'm gonna say it! I really like Shockwave."

A chorus of "Yeah"s prompted the blue mech to bend down to his creations. Frenzy continued where his twin left off, "Yeah! He was always cool wit' us, and really helped me out when I first onlined!"

Laserbeak nodded, "We just don't want you to be lonely anymore."

Ratbat churred quietly, "Shockwave makes you happy, so he makes up happy!" He smiled brightly.

Buzzsaw tilted his head, "We know you love us and will always do what's best for us, but we think Shockwave is best for you. His chassis is warm and comforting just like yours...well almost."

Soundwave's visor glinted with emotion and he lovingly hugged all of his children again. "Soundwave: grateful, proud that creation's would think of him. Shockwave: cannot be Soundwave's partner, however. Shockwave: suffers from empurata, cannot feel emotions like us. Soundwave's infatuation will never be returned."

It hurt his spark to say so, but he had to keep himself grounded in reality. Shockwave could never come to reciprocate his feelings. It was cruel and sad, but it was the truth. He made to let go and get up, but Ravage's paw stopped him.

"That's not true. Shockwave told me himself that he favors you and all of us. In his own words, he 'believes he's come to enjoy our company immensely if not love it'. Soundwave, please, give it a chance. We want so badly for you two to be happy together."

Soundwave seemed to deliberate for a moment then nodded. "Alright, Soundwave: will ask. Cassettes: stay here, no spying." 

He couldn't deny that he was nervous, but Ravage had never lied to him, could never lie to him. He walked back through the lab door and stopped halfway through the room. He spoke before Shockwave could.

"Shockwave: would like to have a date with Soundwave? Intentions: romantic." He had to make sure the other understood exactly what he was asking for.

Shockwave turned in his chair and gave a regal nod. "Yes, Soundwave. I would be most happy to begin a relationship with you. Shall I comm you with the details?"

Soundwave nodded momentarily as he felt a smile overcome his face. "Soundwave: would appreciate that, will see you again." 

A loud chorus of wolf-whistling and the sound of his creations running away jolted him, and as he ran after them, he hoped that this budding new relationship would do everyone good.

Chapter Text

Being surrounded by seekers was nothing new for Bumblebee; during the war, he had been their plaything, their own little punching bag. Right now, however, was completely different. 

He hadn't expected Starscream to invite his trine into their interfacing this early, but wings were pretty, and he couldn't resist getting to ogle three sets. It helped that his—boyfriend?—partner was a sweet talker and promised that he would enjoy himself. 

Judging from how Thundercracker was writhing under Skywarp, begging for him to spike him harder while the purple seeker grinned, he would enjoy himself very much. Bumblebee was frozen by the moment, very much entranced by the slick slide in and out of Thundercracker's valve. 

Starscream, however, only scoffed and sauntered over, pinching Skywarp's cheeks as he brought him in for a kiss. Thundercracker moaned, whether from the scene his trine were making or the fact that Skywarp's hips had stopped, Bumblebee couldn't tell. 

When Starscream pulled away, he wiped the trial of oral lubricant from Skywarp's mouth with his digit. "I told you to wait until we got here. Look at what you've done to Thundercracker; he's a mess."

Thundercracker only whined in response, and Skywarp gave him a rough thrust. "I know, I know, but I couldn't wait! It'll be just like the Academy, all of us again, inviting someone new into the berth! Screamer, remember the time when you got Skyfire to agree—"

"Hush!" Starscream pressed his mouth firmly to Skywarp's again, lingering only a little. "Tonight is about Bumblebee. Let's show him what it's like to have three seekers at once."

He smirked and glanced over his shoulder at Bumblebee whose face flushed with energon. "Come on Little Bee, come play with us~" 

Bumblebee, unsure and embarrassed, came closer, standing at the edge of the berth while the three seekers looked him over. Starscream sighed fondly and hefted him up over Thundercracker so he was facing him and straddling the other mech's chest. He placed his servos on Thundercracker's shoulders and gave him a tentative smile. 

The blue seeker returned his shy smile and lifted his arms to hold onto the yellow mini's waist. Starscream's appreciative hum came from behind him, and before he knew it, Star was pushing him up more and more. "You know, Thundercracker looks innocent, but if you give him a valve to eat, he's wild. Give it a try?"

Starscream's clever, clawed digits came to press into his seams and tease his modesty cover. He couldn't help the hitch in his voice or the way his hips rolled forwards. He bit his lip and whined softly, wanting to pop his panel but too shy. 

"Open for me?" Star asked softly, pressing a soft kiss to Bumblebee's helm.  

Thundercracker nodded, feeling much like he thought Bee did. "It's okay. I would really like to eat you out. You don't have to be embarrassed." His face also flushed, and Skywarp positively cackled. 

"Oh, frag, T.C. it's so hot when you beg for valve. Makes me wanna go up there and give it to you real good~" Skywarp thrusted into Thundercracker and knocked Bee up more, close enough to feel the seeker's breath on his pelvis. 

His cover snapped back, almost catching Starscream's digits, and bared his wet, puffy lips. He gasped then moaned when familiar blue digits drug through his valve, pressing and rolling his node mercilessly. 

"Oh, frag," Thundercracker murmured lowly as Starscream spread Bee open for him. "Your valve looks so good~ Please let me eat you out~" 

Starscream chuckled low in his vocalizer and pressed his helm against Bee's. "He's begging for you, for your pretty little valve. You'll indulge him, right? Look at how bad he wants you~"

Bee nodded vigorously. "Please eat me out! Oh, Primus, Thundercracker!" 

Without preamble, Thundercracker drug him up and over his mouth, pressing broad strokes of his glossa through his core, lighting his sensornet up like wildfire. He threw his helm back and keened.

Thundercracker moaned into him and delved his glossa as deep as he could, seemingly intent on splitting him in half on his glossa alone. Nothing seemed to satisfy him. Bee overloaded once, twice, and again before Thundercracker took pity on him and nipped his node, crashing him through another intense overload. 

As he was manhandled off of the blue bot, more soft moans and keens bled into his audials. He turned his helm to see Starscream pressed up against Skywarp, their spikes in one delicate blue servo. As Starscream tugged, he was murmuring into Skywarp's audial, no doubt making fun of him viciously. 

The other bot was scrambling desperately at Starscream's shoulders, begging incoherently. Starscream pulled away, signature smirk plastered over his face as he tilted his helm towards Bumblebee and Thundercracker. "What do you both think? Skywarp's been so naughty. Should he be able to overload? I think he needs to earn it."

Starscream's digits splayed down Skywarp's purple spike until they called attention to the black ring around the base. "Naughty mechs have to wear the charge inhibitor. If you're good though?"

Blue digits traced down his yellow cockpit, down his white abdomen, and against his red pelvis. His other panel snapped away, and he delved two digits into his valve. "You can overload wherever you want." 

Bumblebee's vents blasted out a gust of hot air, making way for condensation to start forming on his frame. He crawled over to the two seekers and smiled up at Starscream. "Should we punish him more? I think he should watch us frag each other before he can join."

Starscream cackled maniacally, "Oh yes, Bee! That's perfect."

"Wha—! Star, noooo!"

Thundercracker tipped Skywarp off the berth and smirked down at him. "Good mechs are quiet, aren't they?"

Skywarp made a soft keen and rearranged himself, sitting up against the corner where he could still see the berth well. The red and blue seekers came over Bee to kiss languidly, and smooshed between them, Bumblebee took a grip on Thundercracker's spike while he trailed his digits through Starscream's valve.

As moans and panting sounded above him, Bee took initiative and bent over to take Thundercracker's spike into his mouth, sucking gently and bobbing as much as he could. Thankfully, he was amazing at multitasking, so as he sucked off one former Decepticon, he fingered the other mercilessly.

It was too easy for him to find Starscream's sweet spots, and he abused them until his thighs trembled and his overload shot through him. Bumblebee pulled away and focused on Thundercracker, using Starscream's lubricant to stroke what he couldn't fit in his mouth, and it wasn't too long before he overloaded, spilling transfluid down Bumblebee's throat. 

He swallowed it, save for a drop running down his chin which Starscream licked up before kissing him deeply. Bumblebee hummed into Star's mouth, enjoying that the kisses given to him were sweeter and softer. He'd never been too interested in rough interfacing, and it seemed Starscream was more than happy to oblige him. 

When they pulled away, their forehelms rested together for a moment as they gazed into each other's optics, but just like that, the moment ended and Starscream was pulling him into his lap. "I have an idea, but I wanted to make sure you were okay with it. I was thinking one of us could take Thundercracker and Skywarp at the same time. If you don't want to, I'd love to, but only if you're okay with it."

Starscream's claws traced his face gently, and he gave his cheeks an affectionate pinch. He was patient, as were his trinemates, and ultimately that's what helped Bee make his decision. "Um...I'll do it. Just...keep an optic out? I really don't want to have to comm Ratchet for help." 

Starscream smiled and squished his cheeks together before kissing him. "Of course, it won't hurt a bit, okay?"

He motioned for Skywarp, and he scrambled onto the berth, already whining and begging for the inhibitor to come off. Starscream tutted, but slowly removed it, scolding Skywarp the entire time. He was too busy watching the other two to notice Thundercracker until he was lifted and settled into the bigger mech's lap. "Thank you for agreeing to this. I know Skywarp seems like he's inconsiderate, but he won't let himself hurt you."

Bee blinked then smiled softly. "Thank you for being patient, and thank you for reassuring me." 

A small smile was gifted to him in return, and Bee found himself captivated by how handsome Thundercracker actually was. Feeling a little bold, he brought Thundercracker's servo down to his valve and bucked. The other mech exvented heavily, but got the hint, and started to stretch him, feeling out his tight channel. 

Thankfully, he adjusted quickly to three digits, and before he knew it, was actually taking most of Thundercracker's servo. He was beyond himself, whining at every pass of those digits against his calipers, loosening them. "Bumblebee, I...can I try to fit my fist in you? You're a minicon, but I swear it feels like your valve is trying to suck in my whole first."

Skywarp outright moaned into Star's valve, and Starscream looked over, just to check on his small lover. He needn't have worried though, because Bumblebee was nodding vigorously, practically begging. Thundercracker nodded and kissed the mini's cheek, murmuring to him softly. 

He pulled his servos out a bit and adjusted his digits before slowly, slowly pushing back in. To everyone's amazement, his fist went right in with barely any resistance. Bumblebee shuddered around him, and sniffed, making Thundercracker tense. 

"Hey, Little Bee, is that good tears or bad? I need to know if it's too much." He stroked the mini's cheek and pressed his helm to Bee's. 

It wasn't too much longer before he caught his breath and whined, coolant still streaming down his face. "It's so much! It's so good!" 

Thundercracker exvented and slowly began curling and uncurling his first. "You're so cute, Bumblebee. Your little valve and flushed cheeks are too much, such a durable little thing. I hope Star invites us into your berth often; you're too much of a good thing to pass up on."

Thundercracker slowly pulled his fist out as Starscream's breath hitched into a soft whine. He hefted Bee up against his chassis, kissing his cheeks again and waited for Skywarp to come closer. They lined up, Skywarp holding their spikes together, and Thundercracker slowly dropped Bumblebee onto them.

Skywarp bit his lip and breathed into Bumblebee's audial, chuckling, "Primus, you're so tight~ So glad I waited! I can't wait to overload inside of you and fill you to the brim with my transfluid. It feels like your valve is trying to eat me, frag it's so good!"

Bumblebee couldn't respond, the stimulation almost too much as he cried relentlessly. Once he was fully seated on the spikes, Thundercracker and Skywarp took turns thrusting, each one hitting a different cluster of sensory nodes inside of him, making him insane. He wasn't sure when it started, but he could hear himself begging them, and they began thrusting erratically, chasing their own overloads. 

Skywarp came first, his transfluid dribbling down everyone's thighs, and Thundercracker came with Bee, making even more of a mess of his valve and the berth. They lay him down gently, careful of his doorwings, and pulled away, only to come together and kiss fondly. Bumblebee wasn't alone though. 

Starscream crawled on top of him and smiled down, kissing his chassis and face dotingly. "Think you can go for one more round? Seeing your valve all sloppy and your face so blissed out is such a treat."

Bee nodded lamely, too tired to talk. He wrapped his arms around Starscream's shoulders and spread his legs around his hips as far as he could. It felt amazing, and his charge climbed quickly, just like his lover's. Star's voice came out husky and ragged as he whispered sweet nothings to his small lover. 

When they finally overloaded, each were exhausted and a mess. They rested for just a moment before Starscream was lifting him up, letting him rest against his chassis. "Come on, you two. Let's wash away the filth and change the berthsheets so we can lay down together. We're all exhausted."

The last thing Bee remembered was three sets of servos washing him and drying him before helping him to lay down. He recharged better than ever, kept perfectly warm by the three frames in bed with him. When he woke up, he wasn't expecting another round, but the seekers had never pulled their punches before, so he felt he couldn't expect them to start now.

Chapter Text

Buster's distant barking woke Thundercracker up on time, every day. Okay...she woke him up early every day. He chuckled softly when his optics onlined to the sight of his cute little dog, jumping on him and yipping excitedly. 

No doubt she was ready to start the day and help take care of the other dogs. With a small stretch, Thundercracker brought Buster into his hand and stood, walking to the human-made energon dispenser to fill a cube for breakfast. 

He downed the cube in one go and let the field disperse before walking outside of the hangar he called home. The Earth's sun had yet to come up fully, but it was a little warm already, alluding to a hot midsummer day. He'd have to make sure that everyone had plenty of water today. 

He turned to the side and was met with a chorus of excited barking. Twenty-eight dogs, each a stray before he found them, began romping all around their enclosure. Thundercracker smiled. Buster had turned his life into something better, and he just knew all of these pups would do the same for someone else. 

He was pleased to find that a handful of his employees we're already inside, feeding and watering each dog. He'd made it a point to hire people no one else wanted to. After all, he was downtrodden and in disrepair once, too.

He made his way past the first fence and to the second set of fencing, individual kennels. These were reserved for dogs who needed rehabilitation. Food aggression, animal aggression, anxiety, all features that made them "unadoptable", Thundercracker worked hard to help these dogs overcome their issues. 

Typically only the first six kennels were occupied, but with luck and his strict training, only the first two were occupied anymore. The first, an anxious tiny dog who shook constantly and had no bladder control when having an attack. It had been weeks since she'd been brought in, and she was finally coming out of her shell. 

As he approached, she came out of her little doghouse and started wagging her entire body. She still wouldn't bark or yip, but she'd certainly become less anxious around people and animals alike. He collected the things he'd need to take care of her today, and as he did upkeep on her kennel, he rewarded her for good behavior. 

Soon enough, her kennel was cleaned and stocked, and she got plenty of treats for when she immediately bounded over to Buster to play. He stood and left the two together for a moment while he gathered what he needed to take care of the other troublemaker. 

A Doberman Pinscher, lean and malnourished, but aggressive, territorial, and unfriendly. He'd warmed slightly to Thundercracker once he realized he wasn't in danger, but he'd yet to be friendly or let himself be petted. He was beautiful though, especially now that he'd regained a healthy weight. 

As he entered, the sunbathing pup looked up through squinted eyes and harrumphed before laying back down. Thundercracker chuckled despite himself. This dog reminded him of Starscream in so many ways, in fact, he'd even caught himself calling the dog " Star" sometimes. 

He busied himself in the kennel, humming a light tune when he felt something rub against his plating. Curious, he looked down to see Star laying against him and looking up at him with a deadpan expression as if he was saying "I'm only doing this for myself, not you."

Thundercracker went to rub his finger against his head, but a sharp bark and a clank of teeth stopped him. He wouldn't rush Star to be friendly or show affection; he'd do that on his own time, it seemed. Hopefully, a family was out there that would be patient and doting. Until then, he had Thundercracker, and this time, nothing would stop the mech from taking care of his friend.

After Star's kennel was maintenanced, Thundercracker shifted slowly so that he didn't jostle the pup, and he stepped out. He scooped Buster out and met up with his team. Everything was cleaned and stocked, so all that remained was inventory and walks, both of which the humans handled for him. With that taken care of, he checked the shelter's web page for e-adoption alerts, and e-mails, all of which were taken care of promptly. 

It was two hours later that a couple pulled up and parked outside. Two men got out and walked into the hanger, each looking a mite nervous. One of them cleared his throat softly before speaking. "Mr. Thundercracker? Is it alright if we look at your special needs dogs?"

The bot looked up from his datapad before looking down at them. He pursed his lips before nodding shortly. "Yes, though you should know that we have an intense vetting system for adopting our special dogs."

The darker haired laughed amicably. "We wouldn't expect anything less." He had a genuine smile on his face and seemed truly glad that Thundercracker cared so much about the dogs.

With that thought in mind, he followed them out and watched them as they interacted with Star first. The blonde man bent down and tried to entice Star, but after a sharp bark and a deep growl, he didn't push. They simply moved on to the littlest rescue. She apparently warmed up to them right away, judging by how they both laughed and held their palms to the fence.

They checked out the other dogs on their way up, but it seemed they had their eyes set on a different pup. When they returned they smiled and the brunette addressed him. "We'd like to adopt the little lass."

Thundercracker nodded. "Alright. I need your information for a background check. There are a couple of classes that I'll need you to attend, unless you are already certified, and I'm going to send one of my employees to your home, to make sure that it is properly dog-proofed."

After getting the information and explaining more of the fine details, Thundercracker set up all of his appointments and churned out a schedule for the adoption. They seemed rather eager, so he assumed it wouldn't take them long to get their end sorted.

While that was being taken care of, his employees closed up shop for him and bid him goodnight. Done with the day's work, Thundercracker lay in his berth and continue a script for his next movie, falling asleep with Buster tucked safely in his cockpit. In the end, his cockpit was big enough for two, if Star never got adopted. He was sure Buster could bring him around eventually.

Chapter Text

Drift shambled into their shared hab on the Lost Light and flopped onto their couch—"80° towards the left corner, Ratty, it wards off negative emotions!"—obviously worn out from whatever fresh pit Rodimus had said or done. It must not have been too awful; he hadn't gone immediately to meditate. Still, Ratchet pressed home and safe through his field. He put down the datapad he'd been reading and rose to sit on the other end of the couch. 

"Do you wanna talk about it, Sweetspark?"

Drift's helm shifted to the side, and he peeked up through dimmed optics. His face looked solemn, but as soon as he caught Ratchet's optics, he couldn't help a tiny smile from forming. He exvented softly and shook his helm. 

"No, Ratty. Thank you for asking though. Today was just really stressful. Rodimus is still...not in the best headspace."

Drift shifted and sat beside Ratchet, looping their arms together to seek comfort. The old ambulance linked their fingers and pressed a soft kiss to his intended's forehead. They sat in silence for a moment, just pressing love and comfort back and forth. 

Ratchet wanted nothing more than to lay Drift down and worship him, his body, his spark, his mind. Drift deserved that at least. He always worked so hard and was so selfless. Ratchet pulled Drift tighter and spoke against his helm. 

"How about we lay on the berth and cuddle? That should make you feel better, love."

At his lover's nod, Ratchet stood, telling Drift to stay seated, and arranged the berth so that all the pillows and the softest tarp they had were on Drift's side. Satisfied that Drift would be comfortable, he came to the couch and bent down. 

"Wrap your arms around my neck," he murmured softly, pleased when Drift complied. Wrapping his servos under Drift's thighs, he hefted him up into his arms easily and nuzzled into his helm as he walked them to their berth.

"You'd better be careful, Ratty. You aren't as young as you used to be; you might pull something," Drift snickered.

Ratchet swatted his aft and growled playfully. "Please. You're such a small-fry, I doubt anyone would be burdened by lifting you."

Ratchet lay Drift down gently, nestling him among his luxurious comforts. He made sure every joint was supported and that his lover was comfortable before laying his frame atop the speedster's. It used to be that he was too afraid of crushing the other mech or making him uncomfortable, but with Drift's encouragement and frame upgrades, he'd become laxer. 

The old ambulance pulled up their softest, thickest metal-mesh tarp around them and smiled down at Drift warmly. He took a second to really take in the beauty of his lover. Drift had a wonderful face, sleek and elegant, with a cute pointed nose. His optics were just shy of matrix-blue but still, the most beautiful optics Ratchet had seen. 

He leaned down slowly and lightly pressed his lips against Drift's. They kissed gently, slowly, more to be close than anything. Pressed together, with the tarp trapping the faint heat of their cooling fans, they melded in languid comfort. This had become the greatest solace Drift had ever experienced. Like this, nothing mattered but that he and Ratty were together, finally.

Ratchet broke the kiss first and trailed down Drift's chin to his shoulder, still placing sweet smooches along his intended. Drift's servo shifted along his only to link their digits together. He squeezed lovingly back and shifted his gears. 

Drift had known that Ratchet had only wanted to cuddle, but being this close never failed to crank his shaft. His panel was already warm, and he pressed it against Ratchet's belly, whining. He pulled Ratchet's digits up to his lips to kiss and mouth at them.

"Ratty, please. Can we do something? Anything? I really want you."

Ratchet looked up and caught optics with Drift, pressing his thumb against those soft lips, wet with oral lubricant. He chuckled but gasped when Drift suckled his thumb. 

"Yeah, Sweetspark. How about this: can I eat you out? I want to feel you overload on my tongue, and I want to taste you."

Drift moaned at such dirty things being said to him and nodded. "O-only if you want to! Please, don't do it unless you really want to."

Drift knew, logically, that some bots actually enjoyed servicing others. He also knew, from experience, that Ratchet was one of them; he loved to make his partner feel good, but some part of him still believed that no one could enjoy using their mouth for something as dirty and unkosher as eating valve or sucking spike. 

Catching on to Drift's anxiety, Ratchet kissed down his frame and waited at his codpiece before locking optics with him. Deliberately, he drug his tongue from one end of Drift's array to the other. He nuzzled the heated armor and pressed an open-mouthed kiss against it. "Open up, beautiful."

Drift moaned lowly and nodded, his panel transforming with a wet snikt. Ratchet wasted no time, delving into his lover's soft folds delicately. He moaned at the decadent taste of Drift's tangy lubricant. Primus, he could live like this, just servicing Drift. Optics shuttered, he moaned again and laved inside of the speedster's core.

Drift twisted a servo into one of the soft pillows next to his helm and whimpered. There was no doubt that Ratty loved doing this to him, each moan af his sent sweet sensation through his sensors. It felt glorious, almost spiritual. Nothing in his life ever felt as good as the times when Ratchet made love to him, and now, with his intended slowly but surely revving him towards overload, was definitely one of those times. 

He couldn't help the servo that reached down to cup Ratchet's helm. "Oh, Ratty! Please don't stop! Ratchet! Oh, Ratty!"

Ratchet reveled in the times where Drift could only call his name. So, ha, take that Primus! He hummed lowly and nosed at Drift's node, coming up to lap at the little nub before suckling it. He sent Drift shouting and whining and backed off just a bit to let him recuperate. 

Instead, he used his servos to pull the lips of Drift's valve apart, watching him clench on nothing before smoothing his servos up his lover's thighs to press them into the bed on either side of him. Drift was gloriously flexible and even more expressive spread open. He moaned and twisted his helm away, into the pillow. 

Enamored, Ratchet delved back in with gusto, trying to bring Drift to overload as fervently as he could, and bless him, Drift perfectly fell apart under his mouth. He keened and howled before his thighs snapped shut on Ratchet's helm.

He rode Ratchet's mouth and tongue as he overloaded, grinding into him and moaning loudly. Ratchet could almost feel his helm creaking, but he just held onto those thighs and massaged them, gently lapping at Drift to clean him and bring him down. Slowly, but surely, he unclenched and relaxed back against the bed. 

Ratchet came up and the sight of his sparkmate drooling and limp twinged his spark. He surged up and wrapped himself around Drift, whispering tightly into his audial, "I love you. I really love you, kid."

He felt Drift clutch him back just as tightly and nuzzle into him. "Love you, Ratty. More than anything!" 

They pulled away slightly to stare into each other's optics. Blue met blue, and their EMFs tangled together with love/adore and protect/cherish. Uncaring of his lubricants still on Ratchet's face, he cupped the other mech's cheek and leaned in.

They smooched softly, sharing tender kisses back and forth until they finally were too tired to continue. They lay, comforted by each other's steady vents and warm frame. Legs and breathing tangled, just like their lives, Ratchet drifted off with the comfort of knowing that he and Drift would be together for a while yet. As Drift's servo shifted over his spark, Ratchet nuzzled his helm closer. It wouldn't be long enough, couldn't be, but he'd spend all of the rest of his spark's spinning with Drift, loving him and being loved in return.

Chapter Text

Kup hadn't been surprised to find Rodimus at his door so late in the night-cycle that it was early morning. He had been surprised to find him curled up on his side, recharging, in a puddle of his own purge. Without saying a word, he hefted the mech into his arms and brought him inside. He lay him down in his berth and grabbed an old grease rag which he used to clean Rodimus up. Quietly, he pulled a tarp over him and tucked him in.

It was only a servo-full of hours later that Roddy stirred to life and sat up. He winced immediately and pressed his servo to his eyes. Thankfully, he no longer had the urge to purge, but he had one helluva helmache. Getting out of the berth was easier said than done, but he managed. He had no idea where he was, but he put on his daredevil face and stepped around the corner.

Only to see the one person he didn't want to have this conversation with. Kup sat on his earth-style recliner, reading a datapad and listening to some soft, calming music. He appeared rather at peace, and the thought that Kup saw him at his lowest and didn't care sent a pang of hurt straight through his spark. He hadn't a chance to react before Kup set his seat up, out of reclining, and pulled a chair to face him, close enough that he could presumably touch the other person in the chair. 

"Come'ere, lad. We gotta talk. Ya know it as well as I."

Rodimus cleared his vocalizer, but hung his helm, spoiler sagging, and sat in the other chair. It was surprisingly comfortable, and he couldn't help but relax a bit. "That's it m'boy. This doesn't hafta been tense and terrible. Now tell ol' Kup what's makin' ya so upset that ya overcharge and pass out on my doorstep."

Roddy winced and fiddled with his digits, tugging them so hard, the paint started to peel. He spoiler jumped with anxiety, and Kup knew that he could only watch, that it was something Roddy had to come out and say himself. It was hard to see Rodimus like this, burdened even as Hot Rod, only now, he felt even more ashamed to admit his faults. Kup sighed softly.

"Ya know I love ya, lad," he started, placing his servo on Roddy's thigh. "Nothin' ya say can make me stop carin' for ya."

Rodimus seemed to close in before he just exploded, crying and reaching for Kup, who pulled him up into his lap and rubbed his back soothingly.  Hiccuping sobs and whimpers left the poor boy even as he buried his face into Kup's shoulder. Kup hummed up and old war-tune, one he knew Rodimus would remember from when he was still a youngling and kept comforting him through his break down.

How many times had he held Hot Rod like this? Rodimus finally took a few steady vents and was able to pull back enough to speak, laced with static as it was.

"Drift hasn't called me, and I know something bad happened, but every time I try to comm him or message him, he sends it back unanswered. Yesterday he told me to leave him alone, and then Thunderclash told me that he thought I was a good friend, but I'd really said some mean things about him, and I was trying to lay off the engex to get better, but when Drift told me to go away, I couldn't help it!"

Kup shushed Rodimus softly before rubbing his finials and patting his spoiler. "Oh, lad. Y'are just a right mess, aren't ya? That's alright. Drift will come to ya on his own time. He's always been that kinda mech. I can promise that if anythin' he's just tryin' to get his bearin's straight before he hurts ya."

He pulled Roddy's helm to rest on his shoulder. "Ya also know that Thunderclash sees so much good in ya because it's there. Thunderclash knows that ya don't mean the things ya say, and he forgives ya. Now it's up to ya to do right by him and change your ways. Start with the engex, Roddy. Throw it all out. Stay away from it."

Rodimus whined, and Kup relented with a soft sigh. "I know it'll be hard, but it'll be worth it in the end. You'll make everyone proud, and then ya gotta go to a therapist. Ya've got a fine one aboard your ship, Rang? No, Rung. He'll be able to help ya, Roddy. Ya ain't broke, but your motherboard needs some mending. Ain't no shame in needing a little help, alright?"

He felt Roddy nod and smiled. "Alright, lad. Lemme get up, and I'll fix us both a hot mug. Still like copper and titanium shavings?"

Rodimus sipped carefully from his mug, an old way to drink energon but comforting and warm in his servos. For once, he wasn't anxious. He just felt safe, warm, and loved here with Kup, who even let him snuggle close in the love seat. Roddy fell asleep to the warmth of Kup's vents and the scent of his military polish, mug finished and drooping from his loose servo. 

He woke up in Kup's recliner, feeling great. The soft mesh tarp he was under was keeping him at just the right temperature, and his HUD was blessedly silent. No alarms and none of Magnus' disappointed messages. His fuel levels were pleasantly high, and it helped serve to better his already good mood. Today, he'd go to Rung and talk to him, really talk to him. 

He onlined his optics and shuffled to get up when he spotted Kup passed out on the loveseat, holding a datapad with a half-finished text. Curious, Roddy picked it up and read through it, unaware that when he reached the end, he was a little choked up. Kup had fallen asleep begging Rung to talk to Roddy. Rodimus went ahead and deleted the message and wrote one for Kup while he was at it.

Thanks for everything, Kup. You're the coolest old bot ever, seriously. I'm gonna talk to Rung, promise. You can even comm him after I've left. Next time I come over, I won't be overcharged. I'll make you proud to call me Prime. Love ya, old-timer.

Chapter Text

Blitzwing soared back to base, quick as he could. He might not have been faster than the average seeker, but thankfully he made it back in record time. With a quick debrief and a lot of shouting, he managed to get away from Starscream and into the washracks.

While the solvent sluiced down his frame, Blitwing considered his evening. His processor jumped to Astrotrain. The other triple changer was free, but Blitzwing didn't know if he was free right now. In any case, he still needed to have lunch, and Astrotrain was a great lunch companion if only because he wasn't annoying.

With a quick comm and a flick of his wrist, Blitzwing was done with his shower and got to work on his polish. He always liked to look a little better for the spacebus since the other liked it so much and put out so well because of it, and Blitzwing was fine doing a little extra maintenance if it meant he got a little extra with interfacing. 

On his way to the mess hall was where he was pinged with Astrotrain's urgent blip. Figuring it was nothing serious, he kept on going to the mess to get his rations and pinged Astro back. Moments later, his comm pinged with a message.

He ignored it in favor of grabbing his ration, and Astrotrain's, before heading to his hab. On the way, he peeked at the message, a little startled by the urgency of the other triple-changer's text. Whatever Astrotrain was going to tell him was definitely more than just, "Something came up can't interface".

Astrotrain's pedes kept him pacing back and forth. What was he gonna do? He couldn't keep the new spark; it was too dangerous for him and the new life unless he could somehow convince Megatron or Soundwave that it could be helpful. Primus, that's not even counting how Blitzwing would feel.

Nervously, he checked his comm only to see that Blitzwing had actually seen his message, and told him he was on his way. Blitzwing wouldn't want to want to have anything to do with the life pulsing within his chassis, and for some reason, that really tore up Astrotrain's spark. If he was going to have a bitlet, he wanted the little one to have two parents.

Overwhelmed, Astrotrain sat on his berth and put his helm in his servos. He didn't wait long before his hab's door was opening and Blitzwing was walking through. He looked up and took the offered cube with a quiet " Thanks". He didn't want to waste time, so he figured he had one real option; he took a big swig of his cube. 

"Blitz, I'm sparked; It's yours. If you need time, take it, but I'm already kinda far along. If you want me terminate, then I need to know soon."

Blitzwing was silent for a moment then just shook his helm. "Nah. You don't gotta terminate unless you want to. Is that something you want?"

Astrotrain shook his helm quickly. "Primus, no. It's amazing, having this new spark. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to raise it with me? We wouldn't have to be exclusive if you didn't want, and I wouldn't try to force you into this. I gotta have your transfluid though. The newspark needs it so my forge can build the frame."

Blitzwing looked away, clearly considering what to say before he finally nodded sagely. "Can't say I'll be a good sire, but I'll try. 'Sides, I get to 'face you for a reason now, huh?"

He smirked and leaned over to press his mouth against Astrotrain's, who reciprocated eagerly. They tangled together for a moment before Blitzwing started to push the other triple changer down to the berth, and Astrotrain went smoothly, careful in every movement, and now that Blitzwing was looking for it, Astro really moved like he was with spark.

Blitzwing's engine growled as his libido soared. Creator protocols or not, knowing his favorite piece of aft was going to carry his spawn was really hot, and frag, Astro was rubbing his hot chassis against his; he could feel the searing heat of the newspark's. As long as he got to 'face with Astrotrain regularly, maybe he wouldn't mind settling down.

"You're so fragging hot, Astro. I wanna 'face you rough and fast from behind like you like so much, but I can't." Blitzwing ran his digits across the seam of Astrotrain's chest plates. "It's driving me crazy; I love it." 

Astrotrain grunted a not-quite whimper and pressed his chassis closer to Blitzwing's servo and frame. The wet sound of a panel snapping back lingered between them until Blitzwing pressed close to Astrotrain again, gentler this time, careful of his precious cargo. He kissed Astrotrain soundly, licking into his mouth with sensual abandon. 

Blunt digits dug into his transformation seams, plucking sensitive wires, and he broke out a moan and found himself looking at Astrotrain's lopsided smirk. 

"You can frag me as hard as you want, Blitz. The newspark's safe in my chassis." He flipped over from under Blitzwing and presented his aft and dripping valve, even going so far as to reach back and spread himself lewdly. "Spike me, please. I need it so bad!" 

With a growl, Blitzwing mounted Astrotrain and pressurized directly into his valve. He pressed his servos against his new mate's on the tarp and started a punishing pace, thighs clanging against Astro's aft hard enough to leave paint transfers. He nuzzled down into the back of Astro's neck and rested his frame on top to get even deeper inside of his lover.

Astrotrain's soft gasps and noises turned into loud keening wails until finally, his calipers circled down on Blitzwing's spike, pulling him even deeper until his spike head kissed his gestation seal. Overwhelmed, Blitzwing pressed close as he could and spilled inside of his lover, all his transfluid jetting through Astrotrain's seal and into his forge. 

Together, their fans rattled and they gasped breaths through their intakes to cool their heated systems. Blitzwing linked his digits with Astrotrain's and pulled out of him, tipping them so the lay chassis to back struts. He curled an arm around the other triple-changer's chest, rubbing lovingly. 

"Maybe, it won't be so hard to stay with you and raise a bitlet. Think it'll be a triple-changer?"

Astrotrain chuckled and shimmied closer. "'Dunno. It's pretty rare. Wonder if it'll fly or not."


They cuddled together as long as they could, tangled legs and arms, breathing into each other and kissing almost tenderly. A weight had been lifted off of Astrotrain's shoulders, and he had virtually no worries about the newspark now. The only thing left was to tell high command and get them to agree to let him keep it. Warm and protected, Astrotrain fell asleep thinking about appealing to Soundwave first; everyone knew he had it soft for bitties.